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Wednesday, 29 May 2013

More New Buses for London


Today we announced that route 11 will be the second bus route in London to be operated by the New Bus for London.

This second route will commence in September. It will be operated by Go Ahead and the vehicles themselves are already in the process of delivery.

In this blog I seek to dispel the rumours which are active cross cyberspace.

The decision making has nothing to do with any of the following: tourism, buses passing Windsor House, cascade consequences, or any such nonsense.

Quite simply, I was keen to allocate the NBfL to two complete routes this year. This means that the routes needed to be at the smaller end of the scale. Sorry to disappoint the fantasists, but the choices and order of conversion are based on practical and economic reasons.

There are, of course, much larger routes in the program but they will wait until 2014 when the delivery rate is faster. The arrival of New Bus for London with its tremendously low emissions will bring air quality advantages to the areas it serves.

Meanwhile LT1 remains in the USA. Tonight it is in Boston and has further destinations in the USA and worldwide as it continues to demonstrate British technology and innovation. There remains considerable interest overseas which may in time translate into export orders for the bus and for its constituent parts.

We are delighted to be rubbing shoulders with other great British innovators and businesses as they seek to sell their wares overseas, and to confirm, of course, that our participation is at no cost to our taxpayers.


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Saturday, 18 May 2013

New York photos now on this site

I have now been able to upload photographs to the blog so see the two previous instalments!

MTA5261 passes LT1 on W 15th Street New York
Two iconic vehicles in Manhattan




Tuesday, 14 May 2013

More from New York

At 1300 separate helicopters brought HRH Prince Harry and David Cameron to the west side heliport in New York.  There they were whisked aboard LT1 - the very first New Bus for London - for a short drive through Manhattan traffic to the Milk Studio in the Meatpacking District.

After photographs from the platform, they joined a busy reception where British technology and innovation was being showcased. 

Prince Harry was amazed we had managed to bring the bus across the Atlantic. The Prime Minister acknowledged the huge help we had received from the NY authorities in order to allow the bus to move around the city.

Afterwards, the parked bus outside remained a huge attraction for the media and visitors. Eventually it was time to proceed under escort back to the bus' parking location. It has several more guest appearances to do over the next couple of weeks, promoting tourism and everything British.

Central to this of course is the showcasing of tremendous British technology and innovation. There was also huge interest at the prospect of export business for not only the bus but what makes it special inside and underneath.  Wrights' top team was on hand to demonstrate this and explain to an eager audience.

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New Bus for London in America!

 A red London bus is again gracing the streets of New York.

A New Bus for London is today travelling along the streets of Manhattan as it undertakes a special assignment conveying HRH Prince Harry and Prime Minister David Cameron to a major event promoting British innovation and technology.

LT1 was already back in the factory at Ballymena for upgrading to prototype standard when the assignment to send a bus to the USA arose. It was therefore further prepared with special vinyls and taken amidst great secrecy to Southampton for shipment to New York.

It was unloaded on Friday 9th May where a team was ready to receive it. Thanks to extensive co-operation by the City and State authorities, this vehicle (which is overheight, and out of compliance for operation here) then began a series of test runs and driver training. (One stipulation of the insurance is that a US licensed driver is at the wheel).

Later today our VVIPs will arrive aboard the bus and visit the GREAT Britain event here in the Meatpacking district of Manhattan.

Right now the final polishing and cleaning is taking place and the guests are assembling.

More later!

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Friday, 10 May 2013

Boris in Ballymena


The Mayor Boris Johnson returned to Northern Ireland today. During his previous visit, he personally drove the first New Bus for London off the production line. Today he opened the brand new chassis plant where all the chassis for these vehicles and the single-decker Streetlite are now being assembled. The new site is in Antrim, some 15 miles from Wrights’ HQ in Ballymena.

The Mayor, accompanied by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Teresa Villiers, toured the facility. Walking around he spoke to numerous Wrights employees involved in the building of the New Bus for London fleet before making a spectacular speech from the platform. This wasn’t any platform, of course, it was the open platform of LT17 which was positioned in the factory for the occasion. Afterwards he unveiled a plaque commemorating the occasion. 


The entourage then boarded a brand new vehicle and we all headed to the main Wrights facility. On arrival the Mayor walked the production line and gave numerous media interviews. 

Our next stop was at a local country house hotel where 200 members of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce had assembled together with numerous members of the NI Assembly and other dignitaries. 

Once again the Mayor’s speech made some hard-hitting remarks including forceful commentary on local, national and international issues whilst simultaneously charming and entertaining the audience.

In particular he reminded the audience that investment in London ripples through the economy of the whole country bringing jobs, investment and confidence. Whilst much of the NBfL is built in Northern Ireland, the engines are made in Darlington, the flooring in Cornwall, the destination equipment in Manchester and so on.

Production of the New Bus for London is now in full swing with two lines producing vehicles. The vehicles for route 24 – due to be converted on 22 June – are now all complete and the batch for the second route is well underway.

It can now be revealed that the buses will be registered in Northern Ireland and carry consecutive registrations in a special series granted to us by the authorities. They will all be registered in a series commencing LTZ1001 which includes the reregistering of all of those which have previously been registered with UK marks for testing and training purposes.

The allocation of these marks – some 20-30 years ahead of when they might have appeared naturally in the system – is thanks to the co-operation of the DVLA in both Swansea and in Northern Ireland.



Sunday, 5 May 2013

Tunnelling under London


London is full of tunnels. The latest additions are for Crossrail and I was really pleased to be invited to see them for myself. We walked from Limmo Penninsula to the Tunnel Boring Machine ("Elizabeth") headed west. 

Crossrail is Europe's biggest construction project right now. It will be a 73 mile long railway linking Essex with Berkshire with 24 trains an hour running underneath central London in 26 miles of newly dug tunnel. Different to our current infrastructure, these deep level tunnels are much larger than on the Underground’s tube lines, for example they are some 60% larger than the Victoria line. 

Crossrail’s long history can be traced back to a stillborn project in the 1880s. The idea re-emerged towards the end of World War II. After that it was very much "off" and "on" from mid-1970s. It features in the 1974 Rail Study, and again in a British Rail discussion paper in 1980. A Bill to build Crossrail was rejected in 1994. Subsequent studies and reviews continued to outline the benefits which would accrue to London if it were to be built. 

The London East-West Study by the SRA in 2000 reconfirmed the need for an East-West cross-London railway. After much discussion over the funding model, the current Crossrail project emerged. Finally after all these years, trains will be running through the new tunnels in 2018. 

The scale of the Crossrail works is incredible. Eight tunnel boring machines are working their way under London. These 1000 ton machines are at work day and night - indeed you can see their progress at http://www.crossrail.co.uk/route/near-you# 

After our safety briefing we were taken down in a lift at the vertical shaft and then walked some considerable distance to where TBM 'Elizabeth' was working. As the TBMs tunnel further their power supply is lengthened and their spoil extraction arrangements increased. It is warm and dry underground. But the progress is fast: 100m a week. 



I stood in a mostly finished 7.1m wide tunnel, some 40m deep underground which for the last billion years or so has been solid earth. As I reflected on this with a construction worker I asked him how long ago this particular place was solid London clay. 

"Tuesday" he said...... 

Back on the surface we saw the consequences of the work. Spoil from the tunnels is removed and shipped away by rail or water for re-use. A new nature reserve at Wallasea Island in Essex in a joint RSPB project is the main beneficiary. 


And no matter how glossy the brochures or snazzy the videos are about Crossrail in the near future - the current reality is that heavy industrial machines and serious labour are digging under London and shifting the spoil onto trains and into ships. 

Digging will be complete in 2014 and then follows the complex task of fitting out, laying the tracks and building a railway......