Liverpool City Council’s controversial suspension of bus lanes has begun, despite criticism of the nine month pilot project from Bus Users UK, CPT and Arriva, amongst others. Former Transport Minister, Norman Baker, expressed fears over the experiment, claiming it could lead to a fall in bus passenger numbers and congestion. According to newspaper reports, Liverpool Mayor, Joe Anderson, the man responsible for the initiative, has used Twitter to attack Arriva’s claims that it was not consulted on the removal of the bus lanes.
Work to deliver a bus priority route along the East Lancashire Road (A580) between Salford and Manchester has begun. The first phase includes a series of utility diversions before construction can start next year. Dedicated bus lanes are to be created at key stretches of the road between Ellenbrook and Irlams o’th’ Height as part of the Leigh-Salford-Manchester busway. Alongside new stretches of bus lane there will be two lanes of general traffic in each direction. A new signalling system that responds to traffic levels on the road will also be installed to improve traffic flow at junctions. The 14 mile bus priority route from Leigh into the heart of Manchester city centre also includes a 4.5 mile guided busway between Leigh and Ellenbrook in Salford. Construction work started on the busway last month. Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and Salford City Council have developed the scheme to improve access to key destinations by more reliable, punctual bus services with shorter journey times.
Chair of the TfGM Committee, Cllr Andrew Fender, said, ‘The improvements planned along the East Lancs Road are just part of one of the largest investments into the Great Manchester bus network in decades. By enabling more reliable and punctual bus services with shorter journey times we will make it much easier to get to key employment, education and healthcare destinations on the route and into the city centre and beyond.’
Preston Bus Station has become a Grade II listed building. The move means the New Brutalist construction will not be demolished as part of plans to build a new shopping centre. The decision to remove the building had come in December 2012 on the basis that it costs £300,000 a year to maintain and is in need of significant capital investment estimated at between £17m and £23m to refurbish it and bring it up to modern standards. Lancashire County Council and Preston City Council are now considering the impact of the listing decision, assessing their options and next steps.
However, according to National Heritage, listing will not prevent changes being made, provided that the architectural significance of the building is protected. The organisation says it is aware that Preston City Council faces challenges in maintaining the structure and integrating it effectively with the city centre. It intends to continue to explore with the local authority how these challenges can be addressed so that the building can play a key role in the life of the city.
Leader of Preston City Council, Cllr Peter Rankin, said, ‘Obviously it’s not the outcome we were hoping for. We’ve always said the bus station is too big, provides relatively poor facilities for bus passengers and costs Preston taxpayers over £300,000 a year to maintain. We will have to take some time now to consider the listing decision and the options for moving forward. In particular, we need to look at costs and the impact on budgets and how it affects Preston taxpayers. We will work closely with Lancashire County Council as transport authority to consider the next steps.’
Sittingbourne based Chalkwell Coaches has appointed former Metropolitan Police traffic officer, Alasdair Thain, as a driving assessor. Since his appointment, the company claims there has been an improvement in driving standards. It has noticed fewer incidents, reduced maintenance costs due to greater driver awareness and a better level of candidate applying for positions. His role is to take drivers out and give them an hour long assessment on different types of roads. Following his retirement after 31 years in the police force, Alisdair worked for Kent County Council, assessing its drivers and training them to HGV and PCV standard. While he was at the council, he met Andy Bates, now Chalkwell’s Operations Manager. The two of them put together a plan to solve accident problems involving public service vehicles and minibuses. After working for the council, Alisdair decided to retire for a second time, but was persuaded by Chalkwell to work for them on a part time basis.
Alasdair said, ‘Although a candidate may already hold a PCV licence it doesn’t necessarily mean they will meet Chalkwell’s standards. Feedback I am getting from prospective employees and drivers is this is something they haven’t come across before. As a former Kent County Council HGV and PCV instructor I am looking at Chalkwell’s drivers as an examiner rather than a supervisor in the industry. Everyone will have their driving assessed once a year. If there is anything I am not happy about I will offer advice and assess drivers in three months or six months to ensure they are improving. Coupled with that, if anyone has an accident which is blameworthy and are culpable they will come out for a bus accident assessment. That involves going back to the scene of the accident, talking through what happened and forming an opinion on how the problem may have occurred, working on the problem for half an hour before, provided they take everything on board, seeing them again in six months. Hopefully, I shall then see that whatever the problem was has been corrected. I shall also carry out end of probation driver test assessments.’
First Glasgow has announced a £14.3m investment in 89 new ADL Enviro300s. The new buses will support the operator’s new network, SimpliCITY. The first 27 of these buses will begin service in June. The remaining 62 will enter service from September and will be spread across the network, with most running on new SimpliCITY routes. They will be fitted with leather seats, Wi-Fi and modified interiors for easier buggy and wheelchair access. This latest announcement brings the company’s investment in new vehicles to around £25m since November 2012; a total of 151 buses.
First Glasgow’s new SimpliCITY network will begin on 26 May. It will provide buses every ten minutes or better during the day, with many routes enjoying a frequency of every five minutes. It will also see Wi-Fi on more of its buses and a simplified network, with many routes altered and re-numbered to make it easier for passengers. The operator has launched a specially designed Information Bus to promote the new network.
MD of First Glasgow, Ronnie Park, said, ‘This is good news for our customers. We are investing heavily in our fleet, which means more modern and better buses, cleaner buses and more environmentally friendly buses. It also means that by the end of the year more than 300 of our vehicles will be fitted with complementary Wi-Fi. The arrival of brand new buses supports our plans to improve our network. The launch of SimpliCITY will significantly improve and simplify bus travel for the overwhelming majority of our customers. The investment in our fleet gives customers confidence that they will be boarding a modern, comfortable and user friendly bus. Ultimately our overall £25m investment in 151 brand new buses reflects our aim to improve services for our customers and our commitment to encourage more people to use our services and to use them more often.’
VOSA has launched a consultation on proposals to change fees for PSV testing, operator licensing and associated services, as well as tachograph calibrator approvals, amongst others. The proposed changes for statutory services aim to create fairer fees by removing the remaining cross subsidy of VOSA test facility costs from users of Authorised Testing Facilities (ATFs) and charging the cost of extra VOSA resource to service ATFs to ATF users. The planned alterations are also targetted at meeting additional running costs of interconnection throughout the EU of national registers of operators and their transport managers and more active monitoring of those committing most serious infringements as required by EU regulations. They are also aimed at ensuring the financial sustainability of VOSA. The consultation also includes a proposal on fees for Reduced Pollution Certificate inspections carried out by the Driver and Vehicle Agency in Northern Ireland and an increase to charges for voluntary services provided by the Agency. The largest changes result in re-distributing costs between those using VOSA test facilities and ATFs.
VOSA Chief Executive, Alastair Peoples, said, ‘After four years with no general fee increases, VOSA will continue to absorb most costs and keep general rises to a minimal 1%. This is good news for our customers as the increase is far below inflation. I am also pleased to be able to propose a fairer allocation of costs between customers having their vehicles tested at ATFs and VOSA test stations. I am keen to hear the views from customers on our proposals.’
Visit http://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/fees-for-hgv-and-psv-testing-operator-licensing-other-vosa-services-and-some-dva-services to see the full consultation. It is open till 11 June 2013.
TLC Travel of Keighley, West Yorkshire, has added its first Optare Solo SR SlimLine to its fleet. The 7.2m bus has 23 Ster 6MS seats, a CCTV system and Mobitec LED destination display equipment. It is powered by a Mercedes-Benz OM904LA Euro5 engine matched to an Allison 1000 Series five-speed automatic transmission. It is being used on the 915-918 circular route, connecting Keighley with nearby rural locations.
TLC Travel’s MD, Trish Lambert, said, ‘These routes include numerous narrow country roads and this called for a more compact bus. We were already familiar with the Solo product, of which we run over 20 and when the new SR version at 7.2m long and only 2.3 metres wide became available we felt that this would be ideal. The fact that it is a low floor bus and fully DDA compliant, with a wheelchair ramp and bay, was also an important factor in our choice, especially as many of our passengers are elderly with mobility problems or young mums with buggies. This bus represents a significant investment for us in the Keighley area, where we have only recently started to operate. We will be watching with interest how the Solo SR is received by our passengers and how it performs on these routes.’
The bus was supplied by Optare Sales.