Bus passengers across South Tyneside are the first to benefit from a transformational new multi-operator smart ticketing scheme that means they can catch the first bus to their destination.The SmartZone initiative gives customers the flexibility to use one smartcard to travel with multiple operators and offers unlimited travel from less than 1.80 per day.The development comes just months after Britain’s biggest bus operators pledged to deliver smart ticketing to millions of customers across England during 2015.It is part of a multi-million-pound investment by the UK’s largest bus operators in what is believed to be the biggest smart ticketing project in the UK’s history.The technology can also allow smaller bus operators to be included in multi-operator schemes and provides a platform to extend the system to other modes, such as trams and trains.The scheme â€“ which uses Government standard ITSO technology â€“ was launched by Stagecoach North East and Go North East, which believe it will deliver even better value, hassle-free bus travel for local people.It follows successful trials of the new ticket last month and is now officially part of the Stagecoach North East and Go North East ticket ranges. South Tyneside SmartZone tickets are valid on buses in South Shields, Harton, Whitburn, Cleadon, Boldon, Bill Quay, Hebburn and Jarrow.Passengers can purchase SmartZone tickets directly on the bus or online, depending on the type of ticket selected. A one-week ticket can be bought onboard or online and costs 13 and the four-week ticket at 50 is only available online.Tickets can be added onto a Stagecoach Smart card or a Go North East Key card, and all valid products on smartcards will be accepted on any Stagecoach or Go North East service in South Tyneside, within the SmartZone boundaries. Customers simply hold their card over the card reader on board the bus to record their journey.In the north east, it is predicted that additional operators will join the scheme later this year as work continues on delivering multi-operator smart ticketing available across the wider north east.In a joint statement, Phil Medlicott, Managing Director, Stagecoach North East, and Kevin Carr, Managing Director Go North East, said: â€œIn line with our promise to customers, we’re delighted to be launching smart ticketing across different operators.â€œBus operators are committed to developing services within the region and to enhancing every aspect of the customer experience. Tyne and Wear has the highest customer satisfaction rating of the UK’s metropolitan areas.â€œThis is further evidence that by working together, and with the region’s local authorities, bus operators can make our buses even better.â€
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has confirmed that a decision its predecessor organisation made last year (June 2013), to ban the ferries Berlioz and Rodin from Dover for 10 years, is to be upheld. .It has told Groupe Eurotunnel, owner of MyFerryLink, that it will have six months from the date of its official decision (expected in around a month) to stop running the ferries.If carried out, 600 jobs would be lost, as Groupe Eurotunnel is also banned from selling the ferries to anyone else.All bookings for MyFerryLink are being honoured and there is no immediate threat to the service.Groupe Eurotunnel is considering a further appeal, arguing that the decision is the opposite to that made by the French competition authority. Because the size of the business is under the threshold, it is too small to be considered by the European competition authority.The current market shares by operator – Eurotunnel: 37%; P&O: 29%; DFDS: 24%; and MyFerryLink: 9% – show that the competitors in the ferry market have strong positions that are in “no way threatened” by MyFerryLink, argues Groupe Eurotunnel.Groupe Eurotunnel believes that by removing one competitor from the market, the CMA is creating a de facto ferry duopoly, leading to increases in prices.Jacques Gounon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Groupe Eurotunnel, says: “The decision by the CMA is a denial of the reality of the situation. It penalises consumers and puts 600 people out of work without any real justification.”
For a number of years, operators looking for an ultra-high capacity bus have been limited to second-hand vehicles that become available increasingly rarely. Ensignbus is aiming to change that with its Chinese-assembled, 98-seat Enterprise tri-axle, as Tim Deakin reportsFirst five Enterprises seat 98, are air-conditioned and to a bespoke specBreaking from the norm and ploughing your own unique furrow in an already competitive market for new double-decker buses is a big decision, but that’s what Purfleet-based dealer and operator Ensignbus has done by importing five high-specification, completely bespoke tri-axles.Marketed as the Ensign Enterprise, the PSVAR-compliant, air-conditioned buses are 12.5m long and significant additions to the UK marketplace. They are built by Australian manufacturer BCI at its Chinese assembly plant and shipped complete.Moreover, the Enterprise’s 98 seats mean that three classes of school children can be carried at once, and Ensign is confident that it will sell the model in reasonable numbers.All of BCI’s double-deckers are produced at its Xiamen assembly plant and any concerns around build quality are misplaced, says the manufacturer.The facility builds for export only and has extensive experience with the Australasian market, and thus BCI’s buses are designed to Western standards from the ground up.A new dimension“We know that some operators need very high-capacity vehicles, and while we’re not planning to move hundreds of Enterprises, I expect us to sell a reasonable number,” says Ensignbus Chairman Peter Newman of a bus that was first built for the New Zealand market.To Ensign’s specification, the imposing Enterprise is much a hybrid of a coach and a bus, and it targets a niche in the market that the Essex business has exploited before in its dealer capacity.In the past Ensign capitalised on the demand for high capacity by reimporting a large number of mid-life tri-axle double-deckers from Hong Kong. It carried out the work necessary for them to satisfy UK regulations and many are still in service.A repeat of that venture is not on the agenda for numerous reasons, but in some ways, the Enterprise is a continuation of that earlier business. In others it definitely is not, and as Ensign begins to offer the model to operators large and small, Engineering Director Brian Longley is at pains to explain that, like the five already here, further examples can be built exactly as the buyer wishes.“The first are very much to our specification. We were looking for a bus with 98 comfortable seats that is suitable for private hire and rail replacement work. That is what we have got, but BCI can meet almost any other requirement.Of the five initial Enterprises, one has been sold to Aintree Coachline“It is a highly accommodating builder and no request is resisted if it is technically achievable. For example, we asked for a curved staircase rather than a straight one, and it moved the front axle forwards by around 100mm to accommodate that.“It also increased the height of the bus to meet our needs. Almost anything can be done and nothing is too much trouble.”A good startEnsign has made an excellent start with its initial batch of Enterprises. Four will join its own fleet (and be made available for demonstration as required), while the fifth has already been sold to Liverpool operator Aintree Coachline, where it will enter service in September.Examination of the Enterprise, and a ride on it, shows that to Ensign’s specification, it is well able to handle some tasks that were previously the sole domain of coaches and beyond other double-decker buses on the market.All of its forward-facing, high-backed seats have three-point belts, and the Thermo King air-conditioning unit – mounted atop the engine – vents above the windows on both decks, maintaining a comfortable saloon temperature.Additionally, the Enterprise is also capable of sustained motorway cruising at a limited 62mph, making it a useful proposition for high capacity, short- to medium-distance private hire work. Its competence at speed is not surprising. Power comes from an 8.9-litre Euro 6 Cummins ISL engine that develops 380bhp and drives through a ZF EcoLife gearbox.Mr Longley confirms that both Allison and Voith transmission alternatives are available, while the longitudinally-mounted engine can even be rotated to sit transversely if the buyer wishes, although doing so adds around £4,000 to the purchase price and the necessary angle drive will impose a slight fuel consumption penalty.Unladen weight of the Enterprise to Ensign’s specification is 16,285kg and GVW is 24,000kg. It rides on 315/80 tyres all round; this is made necessary by the substantial 8,500kg front axle rating, which banishes any worries of overloading it. The third axle steers, aiding manoeuvrability.The list is almost endless…Ensign is not marketing the Enterprise as a cheap alternative to European double-deckers, and Mr Newman explains that it has not been brought to the UK simply as a cost-effective solution to the operator’s own needs.“We are not importing the Enterprise to save ourselves money. The model is not merely built to a price; instead, it is manufactured to European standards and to a high overall quality.“The difference between BCI and some other manufacturers is that it will build exactly what the buyer wants. On our rail replacement work, the driver can be with the bus for 12 hours or more, so the cab has been designed with that in mind, with a lockable compartment, charging point for a phone and a lot of room behind the seat,” he says.The depth of options available from BCI means that a much simpler version of the Enterprise can be built if required.Over 100 seats are possible if PSVAR compliance is sacrificed, while air-conditioning can also be deleted and simpler seats fitted. Racks or a partitioned area at the rear for luggage are also among possibilities for future vehicles.High specification suited to private hire included coach-type seatsAnd coming nextBCI manufactures 52 different coaches and buses, and while Mr Newman says that Ensign has no interest in bringing its coach products to the UK, he has confirmed that 12 two-axle double-decker buses will arrive before the end of 2016.The smaller buses will be 10.8m long, and like their big brother the Enterprise, they have come about as a result of Ensign’s inability to find exactly what it wanted on the domestic market.“We required 80 seats in a 10.8m bus, and that is not something that we could find here,” says Mr Newman. “We can’t go any longer because of access issues on a number of housing estates that we serve, but nobody was able to build a bus to our requirements until we asked BCI.”10 of the two-axles will enter Ensign’s own fleet and the other two will be available for sale.Reflecting their intended use on stage carriage work they will have Cummins ISB6.7 engines – like the Enterprise, mounted either longitudinally or transversely – and Mr Longley confirms that the Enterprise’s three gearbox options will also be offered.Also set to be part of the line-up in time is Vantage Power’s cost-effective hybrid propulsion package.Mr Newman confirms that discussions between BCI, Ensign and Vantage are at an early stage, but an announcement of its availability is likely soon. With the potential for 4km of engine-off operation (see p36-37), that will be a tempting proposition – and even more so in a bus that, like the Enterprise, will be built exactly how that buyer wants.routeONE commentEnsignbus has a long reputation of not doing things by halves, and right from the business’ beginning in the 1970s it has maintained a track record of identifying opportunities that prove commercially successful while also satisfying a niche in the market.At this early stage, there is little reason to doubt that its venture with BCI will be any different. Ensign has not rushed into the Enterprise project, is not setting sales targets, and does not have a yard full of stock examples that it needs to sell.Never will the Enterprise be a model that finds employment with all operators, but if you have the work to justify it, BCI will happily build one to your exact specifications. And you can’t ask for more than that.
Public transport operator First Bus has been named the best large organisation for employee learningThe accolade, presented by the Campaign for Learning, recognised the company’s contribution to the Learning at Work Week, a national initiative that took place in May.First Bus also won the Employers Working in Partnership Award in a joint entry with Unite – the UK’s largest trade union.HR Director Karen Doores learns to drive a busThroughout the week, thousands of colleagues at 60 nationwide sites benefited from online learning courses and e-learning tools.Giles Fearnley, First Bus MD, says: “The vast majority of our staff are on the road, in pit lanes or managing the traffic office.“From a development point of view, this obviously presents logistical challenges. However, thanks to our partnership with Unite, we were able to reach a great many locations and open our colleagues’ eyes to the learning opportunities available.“I was impressed by how many of our front line staff accessed IT improvement courses; skills that will benefit them not just at work, but also in their home lives.“We are looking forward to building upon the appetite for learning that was created during the week.”
First South Yorkshire has offered free travel to those who take part in the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme in partnership with EFL Trust.CaptionMore than 100,000 young people are taking part in NCS this Summer across the country.Allan Riggall, Head of Commercial at First South Yorkshire, says: “The Partnership has allowed young people still in education to travel safely, conveniently and free, to the activities.”
Of the three new EVM Sprinters, two are Elegances and one an X-ClusiveGoldline Car Services, of East London, has taken delivery of three new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter minibus conversions, supplied by EVM Direct (0845 520 5160).Two are 22-seat Elegances and the third is a 17-seat X-Clusive. All are based on the 516CDI chassis with 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic gearboxes and they arefinished in Mercedes-Benz Metallic Silver.All three have Eberspächer saloon air-conditioning, and the X-Clusive has panoramic double-glazed saloon windows; the two Elegances have single panes.A DVD player and front monitor is fitted across the board, and the X-Clusive further benefits from Freeview TV.
Adonit’s auto-clamping wireless phone charger will suit sat-nav usersAdonit has launched an auto-clamping wireless phone charger, which it says is suitable for drivers that use satellite navigation on their smartphones.It charges compatible wireless devices rapidly and it has a fully-automatic user experience that recognises a smartphone for docking and Qi wireless charging.A mount kit is included and the charging unit can be placed on either an air vent or a suction mount. A telescopic arm and ball socket allows for tilting and the smartphone can be flipped from horizontal to vertical to suit.Rubber-lined grips ensure that phones are kept safely in place during driving. Minimum screen size is 4.5in and the maximum is 6.3in.Devices that work with the charger include the iPhone X/MAX/XS/XR, iPhone 8/8Plus, Samsung Galaxy S9/S9 Plus, S8/S8 plus, S7 and Samsung Edge Note 7/8.The unit is available at an RRP of £74.99, either directly from Adonit or from Amazon.www.adonit.net
Alison Prince has joined GM Coachwork as Minibus Sales SpecialistGM Coachwork has appointed Alison Prince as Minibus Sales Specialist. She will be responsible for the midlands and the north of England, along with Scotland and Northern Ireland.Say MD Nigel Collins: “Alison joins us with an immense amount of experience of the industry and a wealth of skills honed over the years from dealing with different areas of the minibus sector. I’m sure that she will make a positive and immediate impact.”Adds Mrs Prince: “I’m very excited to have joined such a successful and growing business. GM Coachwork has a great reputation in the industry.”
Politicians and the industry have paid tribute to the efforts of coach and bus drivers to keep services running during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.Coach drivers have been recognised for their efforts in keeping key workers moving, transporting supplies and collecting those returning to the UK from abroad. Bus drivers have been acknowledged for delivering journeys to and from work and enabling users to make other vital trips throughout the pandemic.The Confederation of Passenger Transport will be sharing messages of support for the industry via its Twitter feed, @CPT_UK, throughout Tuesday 5 May. It is encouraging people to add their own story or message of thanks by using the hashtags #ThankYouCoachWorkers or #ThankYouBusWorkers.CEO Graham Vidler has paid tribute to drivers’ efforts throughout the crisis. Mr Vidler adds that without the industry’s team effort “the emergency network for key workers would grind to a halt.”Politicians have also thanked drivers for their efforts. Transport Minister Baroness Vere says: “The coach and bus industry is absolutely vital in our fight against the virus: Helping to transport staff to the front line, ensuring people can make essential journeys to pick up food and medicine, and delivering essential supplies across the country.“To all our coach and bus drivers, along with all the teams working hard behind the scenes to ensure that every journey is clean, safe and on time: Thank you.”In Scotland, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson adds: “I thank all coach and bus operators for all they are doing to keep people moving on essential journeys.“I know there are countless examples of staff going above and beyond to help respond to this outbreak. We are grateful for all of your efforts.”Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street has also paid tribute to the efforts of staff. “Buses in particular are the backbone of our public transport network. I want to say a huge thank you to every driver, engineer, cleaner and manager who is out on the front line helping others.“It is an incredible challenge, but thanks to the hard work and dedication of so many unsung heroes like our transport workers, we will get through this.”
“If you had a ban, any belief this would lead to a sudden acceptance of allthe things the animal welfare people want is mistaken,” he insisted.The Commissioner said the deal not only ensured improved trapping normsoutside the EU, but also introduced for the first time humane standards forthe hundreds of thousands of animals trapped as pests each year in theUnion itself.Brittan confessed that he would have preferred a deal guaranteeing ashorter killing time than the 300-second limit written into the draft, butstressed that the time-limit should be viewed in the context of the overallcompromise.“The agreement foresees that this 300-second limit should be reviewedwithin three years in order to be lowered to 180 seconds,” he said, addingthat traps which kill animals more quickly needed to be more powerful andcould pose dangers for trappers and members of the public.Brittan considered that the immediate phase-out of leghold traps was amajor success, and pointed to the tightening of the deal after environmentministers expressed concerns about the initial draft last December.“Any trap which does not reach the standards for humaneness will be banned. Speaking just days before EU environment ministers are due to decide theissue, Brittan told European Voice: “The deal means a major improvement inanimal welfare which would not be achieved by a ban on the import of fursfrom the countries concerned.”The Commissioner accepted that the agreement to be presented to ministersnext Friday (20 June) was “not one that secures absolutely every objectiveone could possibly think of”.But he said that, as a first step, it represented a substantial improvementand would achieve considerably more than an import ban. But for now, the Commission’s main task is to persuade environmentministers to accept the first two texts next week. With officialspredicting the outcome will depend largely on the ‘chemistry’ in themeeting, the appointment of radical Green Dominique Voynet as the newFrench environment minister could play a decisive role.Meanwhile, MEPs are keeping up the pressure on ministers to reject theagreement, with a report drawn up by Portuguese Liberal MEP Carlos Pimentaclaiming that it is completely inadequate. He says it will allow legholdtraps to continue being used for another four years, while “legitimising”some forms of this trap as humane, and claims the standards fail to takeadequate account of physiological suffering.He also says substantial derogations “cast doubt on whether even the smallcommitments made by Russia and Canada will produce much in reality”. That is the main principle which has eluded us for many years ininternational negotiations: a definition of what the standards should be,”he said.He also argued that a major factor in securing agreement was the pressureimposed on Canada and Russia by the threat of a ban. In this, he says, theregulation agreed in 1991 has fulfilled its purpose.“The regulation did not say there should be a ban, unless there was noagreement on standards. Its purpose was not to ban the fur trade but tobring pressure to reach an agreement,” he said.Brittan rejected MEPs’ charges that the Commission had reneged on its dutyto implement the 1991 agreement earlier, saying: “We are complyingcompletely with the proper procedures and there is no question of therebeing any shadow of impropriety.”Apart from the bad feeling an import ban would cause, Brittan believes thatrejection of the deal would leave the Union open to attack in the WorldTrade Organisation. It would also expose the EU to accusations ofhypocrisy, given its opposition to extra-territorial legislation such asthe US Helms-Burton law.Negotiations are continuing with the US, which has so far proved unwillingto sanction the unconditional phase-out of leghold traps. “Our strategy hasbeen to conclude a deal with the Canadians and Russians because we thinkthat will make it easier to secure a deal with the Americans,” explainedBrittan.