Saturday 17th December 2022
How’s your memory recall of 2022?
Find out with my annual round up of news and developments from across the bus and rail scene over the last 12 months as well as the industry’s most sought after Awards recognising exceptional service during the year. Today’s blog is a bit of a marathon read, so make yourself comfortable with a cup of tea or coffee and enjoy a half hour’s reminisce of the past year.
But before we get started why not try your hand at the ever popular BusAndTrainUser Quiz of the Year testing your memories of what was hot and what was not in 2022? It’s been extended this year to 20 questions…..
Quiz of the Year 2022
There are no prizes and if the answers don’t become obvious from the commentary that follows, they’re all listed at the very end, but no peeking till you’ve had a go.
1. Name the only National Rail station that was renamed in 2022.
2. How many season tickets did Southeastern have in circulation when it ended First Class travel this month.…. (a) 28, (b) 280, (c) 2,800 or (d) 28,000?
3. How many members of staff did the Secretary of State announce HS2 employs in 2022.…. (a) 28, (b) 280, (c) 2,800 or (d) 28,000?
4. What’s the Odd One Out from …. Braintree; Leicester; Lewes; Nottingham?
5. What Connects … DigiGo; Pingo; Fox Connect and The Robin?
6. Aside from tendered bus routes, partnership routes and TrawsCymru routes the following commercially operated bus routes are “jointly operated” by two bus companies: 1, 8, 30, X38, 88, 271/2, 350, 685. But which one of these ceased being jointly operated in 2022 and what route not listed was introduced as a joint operation but lasted for just three months between July and October?
7. What’s the Odd One Out from … Canterbury; Guildford; Maidstone; Reading?
8. What Connects … West Midlands Metro CAF built trams; Metropolitan line Bombardier S Stock Underground trains; First Aberdeen and Metroline’s Wrightbus hydrogen powered bus fleets; Metroline and First York’s Switch Mobility built electric Metrodeckers?
9. Why would your feet be impressed if you travelled on First Potteries route 3 from Crewe to Hanley during 2022?
10. What’s the Odd One Out from … Northern Powerhouse Rail; Stagecoach managing director Edward Hodgson; Reading Buses route 7; HS2’s eastern leg.
11. What Connects … Greater Manchester; West Yorkshire; Merseyside; the Isle of Man? (also, Bristol, Bath and South Yorkshire)?
12. What was unusual about route 46 being extended to the Oxfordshire village of Great Milton on an hourly frequency until 02:00 in June?
13. What’s the Odd One Out … from 6 Victoria; 11 Waterloo; 16 Paddington; 23 Aldwych?
14. What Connects … Edgbaston; Woolwich; Barking Riverside; Reston.
15. Why did TfL introduce a new route numbered 733 in January?
16. What’s the Odd One Out from … York to Bridlington; Staines to Windsor; Potters Bar to New Barnet; Bromsgrove to Birmingham?
17. What Connects … Gidea Park; Maidenhead; Plumstead; Shenfield.
18. The number of passengers using Watford’s Arriva Click DRT operation in 2022 was reported to be what percentage of that assumed in the Business Plan…. (a) 10%, (b) 30%, (c) 50%, (d) 70%?
19. How much did the Report commissioned by Prime Minister Johnson into the feasibility of linking Scotland and Northern Ireland with a bridge (as well as “connectivity within the Union”) cost…. (a) £900, (b) £9,000, (c) £90,000, (d) £900,000?
20. What proportion of costs were covered by revenue from passengers in the first year of North Yorkshire’s YorBus DRT operation centred on Bedale…. (a) 6%, (b) 26% (c) 46% (d) 66%?
So, how did you do? If any of those stumped you, read on … and enjoy the BusAndTrainNewsOfTheYear round up for 2022…
The story of 2022
Whereas 2020 and 2021 were dominated by the pandemic, 2022 has felt like a time warp trip back to the 1970s with the economy characterised by rising inflation and higher interest rates coupled with manpower shortages and strikes, all providing an unstable backdrop to reduced passenger numbers, increasing ticket prices and reform on the railways always being talked about but never actually happening.
The continued after effects of Covid has seen passenger numbers average around 80% with five-day-a-week commuting on the railways and concessionary passengers on buses noteworthy for being well down on pre Covid levels.
While Government has taken on the full revenue risk of running the railway, support payments for bus companies have reduced such that cuts to services were becoming the norm by the Autumn as the harsh financial reality of reduced revenue began to hit.
One side effect of reduced service levels has been the need for fewer bus drivers and therefore easing what’s become known as the “national shortage of drivers”. This shortage together with a Covid related backlog of training and competency has also had a dramatic impact on parts of the railway, not least at Avanti West Coast which slashed its timetable to just four trains an hour serving Euston leading to the bizarre situation of a heritage railway company running journeys on a Friday to supplement the lack of trains. As a consequence Avanti was given only a six month contract extension and ordered to improve performance.
TransPennine Express as well as Northern also suffered from driver shortages and of course the whole sector has been blighted by industrial action on and off since the summer. Strikes also hit the London Underground as well as a number of bus companies throughout the year, notably Arriva, parts of Stagecoach and First Bus as well as Abellio and Metroline in London as wage negotiations struggled in a climate of 1970s style rampant inflation.
There was good news and bad news in London with the former undoubtedly being the long awaited and much delayed opening of the Elizabeth line in May followed by Bond Street station in October and through running in November but all was not well with TfL’s finances and the year saw protracted negotiations with the DfT over a “long term funding settlement” which when finally emerging at the end of August turned out to be for just eighteen months and with a number of strings attached. Having delivered both the foregoing, Transport Commissioner Andy Byford reckoned he’d done all he could, handed in his notice and was off.
Meanwhile devotees of London’s long standing bus termini and traditional route numbers were alarmed at proposals to do away with route 271 and its trolleybus heritage turning arrangements at Highgate Village as well as the demise of route 168 publicised early in the year. However these turned out to be just a soupçon for far more significant proposals released in the summer to eradicate beloved icons including routes 4, 11, 12, 14, 16, 24, 31, 72, 74 and 78 as well as the two remaining former Red Arrow routes 507 and 521. Historians breathed more easily when it was announced in November almost all these cuts had been abandoned “at this time” save for the 507, 521 and a clever renumbering of route 332 to become 16 leaving everyone to guess which one was actually being withdrawn (it’s the latter) together with frequency reductions on many key central London corridors.
Many bus networks elsewhere were subject to rationalisations as bus operators struggled to get service provision into line with post pandemic demand and reduced driver availability. Oxford and surrounds was the first area to succumb in January with some sensible sharing out of reductions between Oxford Bus and Stagecoach under the partnership arrangement with a similar scheme around High Wycombe later in the year between Carousel and Arriva. Other reductions in Devon and Cambridgeshire saw former Stagecoach routes picked up by smaller bus companies and notably in Bath, Brighton based The Big Lemon, picked up routes shed by First West of England as well as HCT Group’s Bristol Community Transport’s former routes, while in November First Bus announced the shock news of a complete withdrawal from Southampton next February.
As if staffing levels and rates of pay for bus, tram and train operators weren’t enough of a challenge this year, mechanical issues also impacted several fleets with vehicles withdrawn for checks and remedial action. Worst hit was the West Midlands Metro after cracks were discovered on its fleet of CAF built trams resulting in the network being shut down for three months between March and June.
Other fleet withdrawals for precautionary periods included Wrightbus manufactured hydrogen powered buses operated by First Aberdeen and Metroline in London to replace a suspect mounting bracket while Metroline’s Switch Mobility built electric powered fleet of 90 MetroDeckers as well as similar vehicles with First York were withdrawn as a precaution for a few days following a vehicle fire at Potters Bar bus garage in May; the fire later found to have been caused by “human error”. Many Metropolitan line S stock trains were withdrawn from service following wheel problems in April causing widespread disruption to the service for a few days.
2022 has also been dominated by corporate takeovers not least the battle for Stagecoach which found a suitor in DWS (which trumped an offer from National Express) but lost its own Souter in the process as the Group was delisted from the London Stock Exchange and Sir Brian retired, while Go-Ahead shareholders accepted an offer from Kinetic and Globalvia thereby also losing its PLC status. First Group resisted an offer from I Squared investment fund while the For Sale board remained firmly up at Arriva but another year passed with no takers.
Meanwhile Stagecoach expanded in London by buying HCT Group’s TfL bus contracts as well as taking over Tower Transit’s bus garage at Lea Interchange while in turn Tower Transit filled the gap left behind on Jersey and Guernsey by the collapse of HCT Group. Rotala were also busy in the year acquiring Johnson’s Excelbus, the bus operations of Claribels and Burton-on-Trent based Midland Classic while Xelabus bought Seaview on the Isle of Wight as well as Yellow Coaches in Bournemouth, McGills bought First East Scotland and last month Go-Ahead bought Dartline Coaches in Devon. Finally down in south west Wales a small piece of re-nationalisation of sorts occurred earlier this month with Pembrokeshire Council buying out Edwards Brothers of Tiers Cross, Haverfordwest.
New electric buses coming on to the market at the same price as a diesel bus sounded like one of those too good to be true propositions, which duly turned out to be too good to be true when part Russian finance backed new manufacturing company Arrival announced it had put development of its revolutionary electric bus on the back burner and the order for 50 vehicles from First Bus went with it.
A Good Year for ….
1. Lumo the upstart First Group owned open access operator on the East Coast Main Line which celebrated its first anniversary in October promoting its impact on switching carbon guzzling air journeys between London and Edinburgh to rail, and by November celebrated carrying its one millionth passenger.
2. Vectare: the go getting East Midlands bus company with a management team all under 30 grew significantly during the year picking up tenders for Park and Ride in Chelmsford, DRT and routes in Leicester, DRT in St Neots as well as tenders in Peterborough and Epping.
3. Grant Palmer: the Flitwick, Bedfordshire based entrepreneurial bus company picked up bus routes left behind by Stagecoach East and turning them into attractive travel propositions with quality publicity and investment in new buses.
4. Wetherby residents: who welcomed the arrival of Transdev Blazefield’s Harrogate Bus Company on their direct bus route into Leeds with super comfortable buses wearing the Sky Class themed livery and interior decor from the withdrawn Cityzap route after First Bus threw in the towel on routes X98/X99.
5. Mick Lynch: the articulate, straight to the point, says it as it is, General Secretary of the RMT who shone in media interviews and encounters with politicians as he justified continuing industrial action on the rail network.
6.Cornwall’s fare paying bus passengers: who enjoyed a long heralded Government funded, Council organised, bus company implemented, reduced fares package across all the county’s bus routes with an attractive maximum multi operator day ticket priced at £5.
7. Crossrail/Elizabeth line: which finally opened for business in May with Bond Street joining the fun in October and through running in November.
8. Locomotive Services Ltd: which began operating an InterCity branded loco hauled train between Crewe, London and Manchester on Fridays filling gaps left by Avanti West Coast.
9. Go South Coast: with morebus mopping up routes in Bournemouth left behind by the collapse of Yellow Buses in a frenzied but highly professional 48 hour enactment and sister company Bluestar set to do the same in Southampton in a few weeks when First Bus exit that city.
10. Transport for the Commonwealth Games: which saw hundreds of Stagecoach buses descend on Birmingham in late July and early August to transport spectators and officials successfully to the venues and other locations.
A Bad Year for …
1. Avanti West Coast: which took an axe to its timetables in August and faced up to over reliance on driver goodwill to work overtime to maintain schedules as never going to be sustainable in a continuing negative industrial relations climate. And it was no better at First Group sister company TransPennine Express which joined the Annus Horribilis gang of TOCs suffering cancellations aplenty including 74% of journeys between Cleethorpes and Manchester over three days in October.
2. Rail replacement buses: or in some cases no rail replacement buses as Network Rail pressed on with its programme of weekend engineering work despite Train Operating Companies unable to source alternative transport due to “the national shortage of bus drivers” leading to at least Northern advising passengers “Do Not Travel” and South Western Railway telling passengers to source their own taxis.
3. Serco: which lost its contract to run the Caledonian Sleeper from next Spring after Transport Scotland declined its offer to pay a greater subsidy.
4. The Royal Train: usurped by an RAF jet to bring the body of the late Queen Elizabeth II from Edinburgh to London.
5. Yellow Buses being the first of three high profile corporate failures of the year.
6. HCT Group: being the second of three corporate failures of the year.
7. VivaRail which was unable to get its Class 230 trains into service on the Bidston to Wrexham line then went into Administration in November, making for a hat trick of high profile company failures.
8. The Marston Line: passengers using London & NorthWestern’s trains between Bletchley and Bedford all too frequently finding buses acting as replacements but last month’s demise of VivaRail which maintained its Class 230 trains led to buses returning for an indefinite period.
9. Cambridgeshire Busway: with its northbound running lane between Addenbrokes Hospital and Cambridge rail station closed for safety reasons. A subsequent Mott McDonald report concluded there was a need for improved signage and a 30 mph speed limit but the busway remained closed.
10. Stagecoach passengers around the country in late July and early August: facing cancellations in service because hundreds of buses and staff had been sent to Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games. There was some consolation for passengers in Exeter who gained free travel as compensation on two weekends this month ordered by Traffic Commissioner Kevin Rooney.
Goodbye and good luck
It was another year for farewells to managing directors including Ben Ackroyd (c2c), Andy Bydford (TfL Transport Commissioner), Jeremy Cooper (Go-Ahead East Anglia), Julian Edwards (West Midlands Trains), Nigel Eggleton (First Midlands and South Yorkshire), Michelle Hargreaves (Stagecoach Regional Director North), Martin Harris (Brighton & Hove and Metrobus), Phil Medlicott (Stagecoach Yorkshire), Jane Reakes-Davies (First Cymru), Elizabeth Tasker (Stagecoach Manchester), Phil Whittingham (Avanti West Coast), Steve Wickers (First Eastern Counties) and Helen Wylde (Lumo); some due to retirement, some to spend more time with their family and some as per the usual euphemism “to seek other career opportunities”. Edward Hodgson left Stagecoach South to take on new responsibilities for inter-city coaches and we also saw Sir Brian Souter leave the Stagecoach Board and saddest of all, the very sad news of the deaths of DRM Bus’s very own, larger than life David Morris and just this week the passing of the hugely respected Adrian Shooter, legendary founder of Chiltern Railways.
Bus businesses disappearing as already mentioned included Bournemouth Yellow Buses, and HCT Group, but also Durham based Scartland Band with Midland Classic selling to Rotala, First East Scotland to McGills and Abellio ending its ScotRail franchise (with the Government taking back control) and later announcing it was quitting all its British bus and rail businesses with a management owned Transport UK Group Ltd destined to take over in early 2023 while in Pontypridd it was goodbye to the short lived Street Bus from Clayton Jones.
2022 also saw the end of both GWR and bendy buses in Brighton, Hulleys of Baslow buses over Snake Pass, MP Travel running express buses between Runcorn and Liverpool, Fflecsi DRT operations in Newport, Suffolk’s Katch branded DRT “pilot” in Wickham Market, a bus service linking York and Bridlington, Reading and Fleet, Potters Bar and Barnet as well as Bromsgrove and Birmingham.
More goodbyes to….Teesside Airport station’s westbound platform (the eastbound closed five years ago) effectively meaning the station is now closed, Cityzap, First Class on Southeastern, Arriva Click in Lubbesthorpe, Showbus, class 455 trains with Southern, Class 317 trains with Greater Anglia, almost all Class 315 trains with TfL Rail/Elizabeth Line, Chiltern Railways West Ealing to West Ruislip Wednesday only Parliamentary train (replaced by a bus), HS2’s Golborne link, Gibson ticket machines on route 339 in Epping, Maidstone’s complete Park and Ride operation and nearby Canterbury’s Sturry Road Park and Ride also left us while Kings Ferry’s Kent commuter services gasped their last on Christmas Eve 2021 too late for last year’s round up.
It was also a record year for Secretaries of State for Transport with a goodbye to Grant Shapps; a hello, and just 49 days later, a goodbye to Anne Marie-Trevallan followed by a hello to Mark Harper.
Hello and welcome
More managing director musical chairs occurred in 2022 and after last year’s shuffle round at Stagecoach, this year it was First Bus’s turn for a mesh up linked to a rather odd decision to create new “Local Business Units” where “Local” was redefined as anything over 100 miles, but I’m sure First Bus’s new leaders from outside the industry know what they’re doing. So it was hello and an expanded welcome to Duncan Cameron looking after the local area called Scotland, Doug Claringbold who’s local patch in Bristol also had South Wales stretching to Swansea, Llanelli and beyond, as well as Worcester thrown in for good measure, as you do, while Simon Goff went all local from Penzance to Plymouth with a local add on of Somerset, Dorset, Hampshire and Berkshire (but minus Southampton from next February). Penzance to Slough and Heathrow Airport is very much the new local at First Bus. Long experienced Piers Marlow added Suffolk and Norfolk to Essex and Ian Humphreys added Midlands (Leicester and Stoke) and South Yorkshire to Manchester and York before his upcoming retirement early next year. News is awaited on West Yorkshire which looks oddly like a logical local area and still under the control of veteran Paul Matthews at the time of writing, although is said also to be retiring imminently. Meanwhile First Group gained a new chief executive in Graham Sutherland who joined from the telecom industry and before we finish with First, Marc Reddy moved from managing director to become a Bid Director.
Elsewhere it was good to see David Cutts announced as managing director of Go-Ahead London from next month stepping up from Operations Director with John Trayner taking his hands off the company’s day to day running after many years in that role while Martin Dean became Regional Bus Managing Director for the Group, Phil Southall was seconded to a role at Group head office with Luke Marion backfilling into his managing director job at Oxford Bus on an interim basis and Gavin Smith took over as managing director of Go East Anglia. Martijn Gilbert made a modal shift from Go North East to Lumo leading to Nigel Featham adding Go North East to his Go North West portfolio of managing directorships and Ben Gilligan becoming a fully fledged managing director of East Yorkshire while in my old stomping ground Ed Wills took over Brighton & Hove and Metrobus.
Over in Stagecoach Janine Summers came with (presumably, highly thought of) experience of Virgin Media and Sky to take on the role of Regional Director North, stalwart managing director Peter Knight moved from Stagecoach Bluebird to the other end of the country at South West ready to replace Michael Watson who announced he was stepping down in the New Year while Matt Kitchin became managing director at Stagecoach Yorkshire. At Stagecoach South Gordon Frost became interim managing director while a successor to Edward Hodgson is selected who in turn became account director for inter city coaches. Back up in Scotland it was congratulations to Sarah Boyd who stepped up to become CEO of Lothian Transport. More new managing directors included Rob Mullen at c2c moving over from Train Services Director at Great Northern/Thameslink and Ian McConnell at West Midlands Trains moving over from Chief Operating Officer at ScotRail with Angie Doll moving from managing director at Southern to Chief Operating Officer at GTR.
Out in the field it was a hello to ‘opportunity charging’ via a pantograph installed at Go-Ahead London’s Bexleyheath bus garage for buses on TfL route 132, the Sprint bus priority project took shape in Birmingham (albeit not the new bendy buses yet), the Leicester Bus Partnership got going, Go Devon Bus began as a thing, Sheffield Connect started, Routemaster buses returned to central London; reduced fares in Cornwall began as did £2 maximum fares in a whole host of places including Greater Manchester, Merseyside, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Bath, Bristol and the Isle of Man. Meanwhile in London TfL fares increased following protracted negotiations between the Mayor and the DfT with the bus fare rising 10p to £1.65 and a number of enlightened local authorities flirted with free fare weekends in school holidays as well as the run up to Christmas including Swansea and West Berkshire (again) and over in part of the Solent area a new Waterside Wanderer ticket covering bus, train and ferry was launched.
More magic money tree madness surrounded the DfT’s Rural Mobility Fund with a hello to DRT schemes launching in Norfolk (Fleibus+), Essex (DigiGo), Berwickshire (Pingo), Warwickshire (IndieGo PLUS), Leicestershire (Fox Connect), Nottinghamshire (Notts 2 Go), High Wycombe (Pick Me Up), Forest of Dean and Cotswolds (The Robin) with Staffordshire upgrading its long standing Moorlands Connect to be ‘appified’ and Arriva Click handing over the keys of its Lubbersthorpe operation in Leicestershire to Vectare which rebranded it Novus Flex while Stagecoach handed over the Ting operation in St Neots also to Vectare.
It was hello to Discover Dundee the new open top tour run by McGills owned Xplore Dundee and First Cymru brought us a Tenby Coaster while First Hampshire introduced open top Southsea Coaster route 50 during the summer as well as a new Solent blue livery for its Portsmouth operations.
Hello to Transdev Blazefield’s Team Pennine branding route 502 between Halifax and Keighley as Great Northern as well as taking over routes X98/X99 from First Leeds between Leeds and Wetherby while White Bus introduced new route 440 between Windsor and Staines and a group called ‘Climate Action Strathaven’ began a new express route between Strathaven and Glasgow with First Kernow introducing new Copper and Sunseeker brands in Cornwall.
Hello to newly rebuilt bus stations in Braintree, Leicester (St Margarets), Stevenage, Nottingham (Broadmarsh) and Welshpool while Lewes lost its bus station and Slough’s burnt down.
New railway stations opened in Reston and Barking Riverside (the latter including an extension to the London Overground) and new Elizabeth line stations between Abbey Wood and Paddington with Bank Underground station enjoying the fruits of a £700 million upgrade with a new Northern line southbound platform, new escalators, lifts and moving walkway and there were revamped stations in Coventry and Perry Barr while elsewhere on the tracks it was hello to new Class 196 trains built by CAF for West Midlands Railway and similar Class 197s for Transport for Wales.
Back in the West Midlands extended tracks brought trams to Edgbaston on the West Midlands Metro (but not quite yet to Wolverhampton rail station) while down in Southend two new trains albeit beset with teething problems arrived for the Pier railway and Scotscalder (a request station just south of Thurso and Georgemas Junction) on the Far North Line gained a new system called ‘Request to Stop’ for alerting drivers you’re wanting the train to stop.
And on the subject of rail projects not quite working out as planned, the siding at Bedwyn especially extended to take GWR’s 5-coach Class 800 IET trains running direct to Paddington was rendered a complete waste of money when GWR stopped running 5-coach Class 800 IET trains to Bedwyn with journeys from Paddington cut back to Newbury and the expense incurred in creating a depot for Trans Pennine Express Class 68 locomotives at Scarborough became a white elephant when it was announced Nova 3 sets will move away to another route following complaints of engine noise at nights from neighbouring residents.
Bus Service Improvement Plans continued to be developed with none actually receiving any money in 2022 but next year promises to be a bus bonanza for those lucky areas able to persuade the DfT to hand over the funds.
Rail Replacement Success in 2022
Just to balance the adverse comments about rail replacements, here’s a series of photographs showing the work done during the Brighton Main Line blockade in February 2022 to replace a footpath crossing just north of my local station Hassocks, with a substantial underpass.
Numbers of the Year
6 buses destroyed by a fire at Potters Bar bus garage in May.
6% of costs covered by fare revenue on YorBus DRT according to figures released by North Yorkshire County Council.
8 years of no dividends paid to First Group shareholders ended with a 1.1p per share pay out.
10% of expected passenger numbers using Arriva Click’s DRT in Watford.
28 passengers across Southeastern’s entire network had a First Class season ticket when it ended this month.
30% of eligible young people applied for free bus travel in Scotland when the scheme was extended to under 22 year olds.
45% of trains operating between Manchester, Sheffield and Cleethorpes cancelled in the four weeks between 10th October and 4th November by TransPennine Express (74% cancelled between 26th and 28th October).
211 bus shelters to be axed in Portsmouth.
733 number used for a Moorgate to Oval bus route while the Northern line was closed.
28,000 people now working on HS2.
£120,000 worth of complimentary bus travel from Stagecoach for residents of Exeter over two weekends this month as ordered by Traffic Commissioner Kevin Rooney.
£150,000 spent by National Highways infilling a road bridge over former North Eastern Railway tracks at Great Musgrave.
£150,000 to be spent by National Highways removing the infilling once retrospective planning permission was refused.
£900,000 spent on a feasibility study ordered by Prime Minister Johnson into a bridge linking Scotland and Northern Ireland.
1,242,521 Delay Repay claims settled by Train Operating Companies between 1st April and 23rd July (over four times higher than the same period in 2021).
1,300,000 rail tickets sold between 19th April and 2nd May for travel between 25th April and 27th May in the “Great Ticket Sale”.
£23,500,000 fine for Go-Ahead Group over financial irregularities at Southeastern.
£23,500,000 funding for a four year low fare trial on Cornwall’s bus routes got underway.
£25,000,000 spare cash found by Mayor Khan last month enabling most of the proposed bus cuts to be called off.
£1.2 billion “long term funding deal” for TfL agreed in August to last until March 2024.
£1.23 billion unsolicited bid for First Group by I Squared Capital.
The BusAndTrainUser Awards of the Year
And finally, it’s that much anticipated moment when I’m once again delighted to announce the winners of the industry’s most prestigious and sought after Awards. The entries have been flooding in, the judges have spent hours, days and even weeks in deliberations; the trophy makers have been busy crafting this year’s special handmade bespoke commemorative plaques; the sealed envelopes containing the lucky winning names are all ready to be opened; Tina Turner’s Simply The Best theme is about to play; the mood lighting is about to be switched on; the video featuring happy smiling employees, passengers, pristine clean and smartly liveried buses and trains is now playing on the large projector screen …. so let the ceremony begin….
Our first Award this year is one of the most hotly contested categories ever. It’s the….
Most Waste Of Taxpayers Money Of The Year Award
The Bronze Award goes to ScotRail for submitting a cracking entry explaining how since introducing two of its five Class 153 Highland Explorer trains in July 2021 the other three trains converted at huge expense to take cycles and more luxurious seating have sat idle every since.
The judges were unanimous in agreeing the Silver Award should go to the DfT for consistently funding new Demand Responsive Transport schemes around the country during the year which have no hope of continuing once the Rural Mobility Funding ceases, noting that Gloucestershire County Council’s Cotswolds based The Robin deserves its own special commendation for managing to carry just one passenger making one return journey during its first two weeks – and that turned out to be the bus company’s owner’s daughter.
But the winner by a long piece of straight track with a well deserved Gold Award is a joint entry from Network Rail, LNER, GTR and a host of other operators on the East Coast Main Line for kicking the can down the tracks for the introduction of the much vaunted higher frequency timetable made possible by all the mega projects worth £1.2 billion including remodelling the throat of Kings Cross and reopening the eastern Gasworks Tunnel bore; building the Werrington dive under north of Peterborough; and upgrading power at the northern end of the line. The promised improved timetable originally expected in May 2022 has now been postponed “until 2023 at the earliest”.
One other entrant receives a Highly Commended certificate – the Island Line which got going again just over a year ago having had £26 million spent on an upgrade including a new passing loop at Brading, except the intended half hourly service throughout the line proved impossible to operate so a timetable change during the year saw only alternate journeys continued to Ryde Pier Head reducing that end of the route to hourly with experts pointing out the passing loop had been put in the wrong place. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Running The Most Late And Still Not Introduced Award
Entries for this Award were being received well after the closing date but after the disqualification of previous multi year winner, Crossrail, following it’s much delayed introduction in May, the judges decided to allow all entries to be considered especially as each is a worthy winner of this timely award to take over the baton as successor to Crossrail.
The well deserved Gold Award winner is South Western Railway’s Bombardier/Alstom Arterio trains (aka Class 701). Originally planned for introduction in 2019, the £1 billion fleet of 90 new trains continues to languish in sidings across the network with the company’s 2022-23 Business Plan giving no commitment to when they’ll be introduced.
A close runner up and worthy Silver Award winner is plans by Transport for Wales (TfW) to introduce a half hourly service on the Wrexham to Bidston line with Class 230 (former London Underground D Stock ) trains with Network Rail now suggesting the plan is an “aspiration” rather than a definite (a description not recognised by TfW). Following VivaRail’s demise it doesn’t look very promising for any Class 230 trains to enter service, ever.
And the Bronze Award goes to Luton Airport’s DART people mover originally scheduled for introduction at the end of 2020 but announced a few weeks ago not now commencing operations before Spring 2023.
The judges also wanted to give a Highly Commended certificate in this category to Cardiff City Council for its delayed replacement bus station – originally planned for 2017 and now expected next summer, and to the Welsh Government and Transport for Wales for the delayed introduction of new TrawCymru route T22 between Caernarfon, Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog originally announced for introduction in October 2020 but still awaiting a suitable depot location and electric vehicles and not now expected until next Spring at the earliest.
PR and Marketing Own Goal of the Year Award
Another hotly contested category and the judges decided on joint winners of the Gold Award as they couldn’t choose between the two most impressive entries.
First up is Network Rail for promoting car use and ownership with a display on the concourse at Kings Cross station at the same time LNER was bombarding its social media channels encouraging motorists to switch from car use to the train. The judges were particularly impressed by the absence of joined up thinking between the two campaigns in the same location not least when they heard a Network Rail manager suggesting that electric car use is perfectly fine to encourage as it isn’t a competitor to rail. And just to rub it in, the promotion moved in November to Waterloo, Britain’s Most Used Railway Station in 2021/22 to tempt all those thousands of commuters out of the train and on to the roads. What an Own Goal deserved Gold winner.
Our second winner which impressed the judges is Arriva for allowing mega rear advertising campaigns on its buses in a number of locations – Merseyside and West Yorkshire for sure – promoting car sales with a special mention of Stagecoach who joined in the fun in Merseyside which as the judges observed made for truly enhanced partnership working for the conurbation.
Missed Opportunity Award
A new category for this year and no shortage of entries. Winner of the Gold Award for Missed Opportunity in 2022 is TfL for its pathetic coordination at the expanded Abbey Wood station once the Elizabeth line opened in May. It managed to produce an updated ‘Spider Map’ showing bus routes serving the station with their amended routes and display a copy immediately outside the station exit, but along the extensive bus shelters just to the left of the exit served by six bus routes the judges found three panels still showing faded out of date maps on their mystery shop visit just a few weeks ago. At least local graffiti vandals have tried their best to obliterate the outdated and misleading information. The judges wryly observed that at least panels in the shelter in the opposite direction were devoid of any maps and useful information.
A worthy runner up and taking away the Silver Award is South Western Railway in association with Network Rail for closing the Island Line between Ryde Esplanade and Ryde Pier Head from the end of October for many months into the New Year for track repair works. The judges were highly impressed this work wasn’t done during the (extended) closure of the whole line during most of 2021.
The Lies, Damn Lies And Rail Statistics Award
This new Award for 2022 goes to TransPennine Express for literally taking the “p” with the public by massaging its journey cancellation statistics by making what’s known in the trade as “p-code” cancellations each evening up to 22:00 so that the timetable for the next day has many journeys (around 60-70) unable to operate due to staff shortages simply removed from the timetable as though they were never there and thereby don’t count to the cancellation statistics nor allow passengers to claim Delay Repay. The Gold Award also goes jointly to the Office of Rail and Road who reckon it’s a legitimate way to compile statistics for the railway. What a “p-take” and what a well deserved Award.
Most Inappropriate Out-Of-Touch Tweet Of The Year Award
Lots of entries for this ever popular award giving the judges an unenviable task selecting the Gold Award winner but after much deliberation they are pleased to confirm it’s a humdinger from the centralised Tweet deck run by First Bus who sent out a bullish bright sounding Monday morning welcome to all followers of the First Manchester account just after 07:00 back in January….
…. only to realise three hours later (once Manchester based passengers had let them know….) that (aside from routes V1/V2) all buses were off the road for two days due to strike action. The judges unanimously agreed this was a classic of its genre demonstrating how useful centralised customer contact centres are for the bus industry. Well done to all concerned, and a well deserved Gold winner.
And finally to the very important people awards… there are three this year…..
Unsung Hero Who Spent Hours Of Wasted Time Award
This new Award for this year recognises the supreme effort by a team of hard working staff behind the scenes at TfL’s Palestra offices in Southwark who put together a whole raft of proposed cuts and changes to over 70 central London bus routes which became public through a high profile consultation launched in June and extended to August, then spending three months reading and sifting through 21,528 replies before writing a 369 page report explaining why most of the proposed changes and cuts will no longer go ahead “at this time”.
It was a truly masterful performance of wasted hours and the team’s dedication is suitably rewarded and recognised by this special Award, and secondly ….
…the ever patient Brigg Line Rail Group who receive the
So Close To Receiving A Rail Service Again From Northern But Not Quite Yet Award
This Award recognises the fortitude of the Group’s members who use stations in Brigg and Kirton Lindsey in Lincolnshire. They only receive a very limited service on a Saturday (three journeys each way) but this hasn’t run since January due to staffing issues post pandemic but in good news announced by Northern last month the timetable was reinstated from the 11th December timetable change making today, 17th December, a day to celebrate for the return of the much missed rail service. But the excitement proved to be short-lived when RMT announced today would be a strike day meaning no trains will run. Never mind, there’s Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve to come and I hope receiving this Award will make up for any disappointment.
An Impossible Job So The Best Of Luck Award
Our third and final people award goes to Simon Goff, managing director of First Bus South/South West who’s expanded Local Business Unit now stretches for 266 miles from Penzance to Heathrow Airport, or to express it geographically in a straight line from Portsmouth northwards, Simon would look after everything from the south coast as far as north as Harrogate. Good luck Simon, especially cultivating meaningful relationships with all the local authorities and stakeholders along the way.
And that’s it for another year for our prestigious Awards and we’re already looking forward to next year’s ceremony and presentation. Remember if you don’t mess up during the year, you won’t stand a chance of winning.
And finally, for this marathon blog, here are the answers to the BusAndTrainUser Quiz of the Year.
1. Dunfermline Town was renamed Dunfermline City on receiving City Status from King Charles III in October. 2. Southeastern had just 28 First Class season tickets in circulation. 3. (d) 28,000 employees work for HS2. 4. The bus station in Lewes closed but Braintree, Leicester and Nottingham all received new rebuilt bus stations/interchanges. 5. They’re all new DRT brand names launched this year. 6. Arriva withdrew from route 1/1A between High Wycombe and Amersham leaving the route exclusively to Carousel Buses while route 373 between Tiverton and Cullompton began at the end of July operated by Stagecoach and Dartline Coaches but Dartline withdrew at the end of October . 7. Maidstone lost all its Park & Ride operations whereas Canterbury, Guildford and Reading only had selected Park & Ride car parks closed with others still operating. 8. All were withdrawn for temporary periods due to suspected mechanical problems or cracks. 9. The flooring of the 25 Streetlites used on routes 3/4 received a Minton tiles style makeover. 10. HS2’s eastern leg was cancelled, but the others all performed U-Turns with Northern Powerhouse Rail postponed by Johnson but reinstated by Truss only to be postponed again by Sunak; Edward Hodgson publicly announced his retirement as managing director of Stagecoach South only to change his mind (but later in the year moved jobs anyway) and Reading Buses withdrew route 7 to Fleet only to reinstate it a few months later (as far as Riseley). 11. All have introduced a maximum £2 bus fare. 12. French chef Raymond Blanc subsidised an hourly extension of route 46 to Great Milton so staff could get to his Michelin Star restaurant Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. 13. TfL announced the 6 would go to a new terminus at Victoria, the 11 to Waterloo and the 16 to Paddington all for the first time whereas the 23 will revert to terminate at Aldwych which it’s done before. 14. They were all new train stations or tram stops (Edgbaston) introduced during the year. 15. To provide a replacement between Moorgate and Oval for the closure of the Northern Line through Bank. 16. Staines to Windsor gained a new route 440 from White Bus whereas the others all lost their bus connections. 17. They’re all sidings where Elizabeth line trains are stabled overnight. 18. (a) 10% 29. (d) 900,000. 20. (a) 6%.
How did you do? 16-20: Excellent; you win the Gold Award for BusAndTrainKnowledge; 10-15: Brilliant; you’re a BusAndTrainExpert. 5-9: Good; you have the makings of a BusAndTrainExpert. 0-5: Poor; you need to start subscribing to my blog.
And that’s it for 2022, except for the release tomorrow for your Sunday viewing pleasure of the annual Video of the Year on YouTube featuring 100 Bus And Train Events from 2022. Have a lovely Christmas and thanks for reading during 2022.
Blogging timetable: TThS with occasional Su including tomorrow’s annual vlog.