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31 October 2014

Railway Week : Hitches a ride

Bit of a rail theme this week as I attempt to catch up on some of the railway news from the last few weeks

HST 43175, or at least a little bit of it on the back of a truck back in March...

Belcher Cammack BX07OTA

Another HST arrives by truck, only this time there is rather more of it!

Allelys T300AHH

July 2014

Meanwhile HST 43163 carries this rather smart Plymouth branding...

Visit plymouth power car 43163 Liskeard 8/8/14

Visit plymouth power car 43163 Liskeard 8/8/14

Photo credit: Thomas Guppy under Creative Commons Licence.

In The News

  • THE GUARDIAN 11 MAY 2011: Operator orders 24 Wrightbus StreetDecks ahead of launch Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company, part of the Go Ahead Group, has ordered 24 Euro 6 Wrightbus StreetDeck integral double deckers ahead of the vehicle's official launch at the Euro Bus Expo show next month (4-6 November, NEC, Birmingham)

30 October 2014

Railway Week: First Stay Put

Bit of a rail theme this week as I attempt to catch up on some of the railway news from the last few weeks

First Great Western (FGW) is to be offered a new franchise which could last up to four-and-a-half years, the Department for Transport (DfT) says. The train firm currently has a short-term extension to its franchise which runs out in September 2015. The new franchise would cover the entire period of upgrades taking place on the Great Western network. It is also likely to include a replacement fleet of suburban trains for the Thames Valley. The deal means that the current FGW management team will remain in place throughout Network Rail's electrification programme, the new multi-billion pound fleet of intercity trains - to be built by Japanese firm Hitachi - and the launch of Crossrail services to Reading.
No financial deal has yet been agreed, but FGW's parent company FirstGroup, the leading transport operator in the UK and North America, will be the only bidder.
FirstGroup chief executive Tim O'Toole said "a period of detailed negotiation" would now follow but that the operator was "very pleased" with DfT's offer of a direct award of three-and-a-half years, with an option to extend for up to one year.
Tony Miles, of Modern Railways magazine, said having the same, "most experienced" team in charge of the upgrades would be most beneficial for passengers. "It's the most sensible decision to take while Great Western is undergoing this period of massive change," he said.
BBC News 10 October 2014
class 43 hst first great western Plymouth

Photo credit: Lee Bristol under Creative Commons Licence.

FirstGroup’s continued tenure is controversial as the transport operator had cut short its contract in 2011 in order to avoid paying more than £800m in premium payments to the government. However, DfT plans to retender the contract had to be scrapped in the wake of the West Coast mainline fiasco. Instead, FirstGroup was offered an extension until 2015 on more favourable terms as the government kept the franchise system ticking over, with the DfT confirming a further extension until 2019 on Friday. The DfT argues that with a long-term programme of works on the route, including electrification of the track and the introduction of a new fleet of IEP trains, it would prove too disruptive to change operators. The uncontested deal will maintain some foothold in rail for FirstGroup, which has been beaten to a string of contracts, including losing its former First Capital Connect franchise to the new Thameslink franchise, and the shock loss of Scotrail for the Aberdeen-based group to Dutch firm Abellio.
The transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said: “Throughout this period we will continually be looking at new ways to improve the service for passengers including developing proposals for a half hourly service between Plymouth and Penzance which could also serve Exeter.”
While the terms of the latest extension are to be negotiated, figures obtained by the shadow transport secretary, Mary Creagh, showed that FirstGroup’s payments to the government had plummeted from £169m a year in 2013 to £17m a year under the first direct award granted under the coalition, which sees FirstGroup run the line until mid-2016.
THE GUARDIAN 10 October 2014

Further Reading

  • THE GUARDIAN 11 MAY 2011: FirstGroup to quit Great Western rail deal early FirstGroup is handing back its £1.1bn Great Western rail contract three years ahead of schedule after admitting that the deal, one of several £1bn-plus franchises struck at the height of the credit boom, had become unsustainable.
  • THE GUARDIAN 31 JANUARY 2013: West coast mainline fiasco was caused by 'irresponsible decision' The west coast main line fiasco was rooted in an irresponsible decision to rush into a complex programme of railway refranchising with a depleted staff, a cross-party group of MPs has reported. The transport select committee found that civil service errors compounded this "recipe for failure", which eventually led to the award of Britain's most lucrative rail franchise to FirstGroup scrapped after Virgin's legal challenge.

Recommended Reading

  • EAST NORFOLK: Need A Loan? Part Two ~ Syd To the Rescue! I see you gave poor Gemini 37146 YN06UPZ a poor write up, well I want to stand up for her! Lowestoft PBJ2F Update Another email from Syd Eade awaited me in my inbox this morning, updating the situation as regards Leyland PD2 PBJ2F
  • STEVES BUS AND TRAIN PAGE: Ipswich Interrupted However, as interruptions go this was unexpected and rather good. Carters recent acquistion 915 was sitting gleaming in her all red paint job. A classic 1997 Volvo Olympian R915 RYO.

29 October 2014

Railway Week: New Gates

Bit of a rail theme this week as I attempt to catch up on some of the railway news from the last few weeks

THE Plym Valley Railway station at Plympton is set for a revamp. Brand new iron gates will welcome visitors as part of a plan to give the Coypool entrance a facelift.The organisation that runs the heritage railway has submitted a planning application to Plymouth City Council for the site. The first part of the old railway opened in 2001 as part of a plan to restore part of the former Great Western line between Plymouth and Tavistock. The Plym Valley Railway Company also wants to put up an entrance wall and railings along part of the track at the Tavistock junction freight yard. Some of the railings came from the Royal Citadel, which was getting rid of them. A public consultation period ends on November 18 EVENING HERALD 25 OCTOBER 2014
Plym Valley Railway
© Claire (cc)
Plym Valley Railway

Recommended Reading

  • FOCUS TRANSPORT: DATE SET FOR NEW ALL NIGHT LONDON UNDERGROUND SERVICE Trains will run through the night on Fridays and Saturdays on five lines to coincide with the tournament to ensure it starts amid a party atmosphere as fans stay out late to watch the games. With less than a year go until the historic, first 24-hour Tube operations, transport chiefs unveiled details of the service 'YEAR OF THE BUS' IN LONDON DRAWS TO A CLOSE All the RT buses are at least 60 years old and restored to the highest standard. Each will be operated by a traditional driver and conductor team and commemorative tickets will be issued. All heritage buses will be free, except the original 1939 prototype RT1 that will charge a fare of £5.
  • PUBLIC TRANSPORT EXPERIENCE: Revised Romsey Routes [1] But what are they? Observant blog readers will, after due concentration, conclude that these news items are remarkably similar. Who copied from whom is not recorded but fbb would (were he a betting man) offer low odds on Hampshire County Council simply reprinting what Stagecoach sent them. Revised Romsey Routes [2] So What IS Happening? There's a red dotted route and a red dashed route, both of which are covered by an explanation on the map. Which leaves the pink line, a complete secret from Stagecoach. The timetable is clear, to a point.
  • NORFOLK SCENE: Out and My Weekend Visit ~ Cambridgeshire & London As you're most probably aware, I went away for the weekend. I had a great time and here's a post regarding the journeys to/from Cambridgeshire and into London
  • GREAT YARMOUTH SHIPPING: Bright Sky's Moving down the river to my surprise was Blue Carmel who has come in to load up with scrap metal, a noisy and dirty old process. Thought it time something came in to take the scrap away as the pile has started to look like mount fuji.
  • DENNIS BASFORD: Buses ‘Scene’ in the ‘Southwest’ ‘First Hampshire & Dorset’ (FH&D) are the dominant operator in the area with the usual mixture of old and new buses in old and new liveries. ‘Barbie’ is now getting on in years but she is still alive and well......
  • SOUTHAMPTON UPDATE: Hampshire County Council cuts: details of routes affected Hampshire County Council are yet again slashing their budget for subsidised bus services and have revealed the next wave of services to be cut

28 October 2014

Railway Week: All Available Options

Bit of a rail theme this week as I attempt to catch up on some of the railway news from the last few weeks

A plan to reopen the train line from Tavistock to Plymouth as an alternative to the vulnerable Dawlish line is still under discussion, the Transport Secretary said today. The Transport Secretary has said “all the available options” will be examined in an effort to avoid another disaster on the Great Western coastal route at Dawlish

A report by Network Rail, which manages the tracks, appeared to rule out building an alternative or additional mainline railway in Devon because it lacked value for money.

But minister Patrick McLoughlin signalled a cross-country link remained on the table after being pressed by West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox in the House of Commons.

During Transport Questions in the Commons, Mr Cox, Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon, said the area wanted the line through Okehampton to Tavistock and Plymouth to be re-opened and preferably electrified.

He asked: “Will he examine closely the compelling case for the reopening of the line via Okehampton on the grounds of cost and resilience and of the economic benefits that it would bring to a wide swathe of economic areas?”

Mr McLoughlin replied: “As we all saw last winter, resilience for the South West is incredibly important, and I am determined to look at all the available options.”


In all reality this is a bit of a non-story as the minister is not committing to anything or ruling anything out. Nothing has changed. Nothing is happening!

Snow Tunnel

Tim Peters (cc) The old line through Tavistock January 2010

Recommended Reading

  • PUBLIC TRANSPORT EXPERIENCE: The Case of the Confusing Combinations [2] ... Just One More Thing. As in a Columbo episode, we know who "dunnit"; Arriva North East has re-organised inter urban routes based on Peterlee, County Durham. the new services started yesterday and the evised links are shown on this fbb map.
  • FOCUS TRANSPORT: WELL DONE READING BUSES “The special visit really has been a dream come true for Harry who has autism and is obsessed with Reading Buses because of the different colours of the buses,” she explained.
  • STEVES BUS AND TRAIN PAGE: SB&TP - The First Year Of course what motivates me to get my backside out of bed everyday is the knowledge that there are people appreciating what I do by reading the blog. That's actually pretty humbling, and to see viewing figures grow week in week out never fails to give me a thrill
  • EAST NORFOLK: Bus & Coach Preservation ~ November 2014 The November issue of Bus & Coach Preservation contains content of much interest to the local bus enthusiast
  • GREAT YARMOUTH SHIPPING: The Day After But after remembering to put my clock back to winter time i got up early as i had my first training session at the National Coastwatch Institution on the end of Gorleston pier, great bunch down there and i look forward to being passed out as a watchkeeper. Have put some photos from this week for you all.
  • LANCASTER OMNIBUS: Winter Timetable for the 555 Stagecoach's mighty 555 service, that links Lancaster with Kendal, Ambleside, Grasmere and Keswick starts its Winter timetable on November 2nd.