June 2018 - what a month!
Whilst we were busy finishing off the Stagecoach South East Fleet Handbook quite a lot has happened, so we thought it time to catch up.
Firstly we had the introduction of new rail timetables for Northern and GTR (Great Northern and Thameslink). Oh dear, what a fiasco. Lack of clarity and delays in the planning process was accompanied by a delay to and a lack of preparation. Result = chaos. Trains were cancelled or heavily delayed without warning. The timetable was a work of fiction.
There was an attempt to return to normality. It didn’t work and despite pre-planned cancellations the temporary timetable seemed unworkable. Now we are promised another temporary timetable from GTR.
Over at Northern the decision was taken to suspend Windermere branch trains. At least with the support of the Department for Transport private operator West Coast Trains pulled a rabbit out of a hat and ran a shuttle service on the branch to supplement the slower rail replacement service.
This is not the first time a new timetable has failed to deliver, and I doubt it will be the last. I remember all too well the changes that were made, on the DfT’s instructions, to the Virgin CrossCountry ‘Operation Princess’ timetable less than six months after its introduction. It was too ambitious given the train fleet and train crew availability. For the most the extremities were cut from the CrossCountry network.
We have also said goodbye to Virgin Trains East Coast. Now operated under the LNER banner by an Operator of Last Resort appointed by the DfT. Lots of pre-handover activity saw station signage replaced and a start has been made replacing the Virgin logos on the trains with LNER ones. And presumably tonnes of Virgin-branded print (including many thousands of timetable books) will be pulped as LNER quickly issued its own branded material.
Stagecoach East has put its six Wrightbus Gemini-bodied open top Volvo B5TLs into service on the Cambridge City Sightseeing route, where they have replaced former London Dennis Tridents which were themselves converted to open top for the work.
Further north at Stagecoach East Midlands a fleet of Enviro 400MMC double decks have been put to work on the Pronto service and are based at Mansfield. The first time that double decks have been used on the Pronto network.
We have to say that we didn’t see it coming, and as we understand neither did the staff at East Yorkshire Motor Services. In mid-June the family-owned bus company was sold to Go Ahead, becoming part of Go North East.
A major rail replacement operation takes place this summer whilst Network Rail undertakes re-modelling work at Derby station. Stagecoach Yorkshire is one of the contractors who will be providing rail replacement services during the work.
The start of July has been relatively quiet, but we have been able to obtain details of Stagecoach’s new bus order for the current year, which you can find over on our Fleet Ramblings page.
We will now start work on new editions of our Stagecoach East Midlands and Stagecoach East Fleet Handbooks.
Steven Knight is a Transport Specialist who has over 40 years experience in the bus and rail industries as well as in specialist transport journalism. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists.