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Saturday, 26 June 2010

Catch up

It has been a whole week since I have updated this blog but I have an excuse.

I have got so fed up with keeping my PC afloat I have bought an iMac and have had a great deal of fun getting it into action. So have been busy, as you will imagine.

I'm dedicating this blog to my good friend Dean Friedman - he's a genuine rock star and if you are as old as me (also him) then you will remember 'Lucky Star' and 'Ariel' as some of his hits in the UK.

He's a great friend of mine and he continues to make music and perform in concerts in the USA and UK. So I'm going to send you across to his website at so you can see what he's up to, listen to some of his stuff, and, most importantly, book tickets for his UK tour which starts in July.

This is a great time to take your loved one and make like you were dating all those years ago and feel young again. If you can't make it to the concerts at least buy a CD and play it at home.

After Alice and I got married secretly in Las Vegas in 1999 (apart from TfL's Mike Winter and family who guessed what we were doing, turned up and were our witnesses!) we had a party in London at the Tower Thistle Hotel to make it up to everyone else. Dean and his wife Alison came of course and Dean duly sang a couple of songs for everyone. We don't have a video of that but you'll find plenty more (and an open top Routemaster!) over on his site.

So please if you're in that part of your life where nostalgia isn't what it used to be then take a trip over to Dean's website, and, if you can, show up to one of his concerts and pretend you were 20 years younger!

Dean has a neat treehouse in his garden in New York State where he sometimes gets his inspiration. This is me in front of it contributing absolutely nothing musically.


Saturday, 19 June 2010

Stars of route 9

Our long serving and outstanding Staff Manager at Westbourne Park Monoleto Hutchinson celebrated the end of 40 years' service by conducting a Routemaster on route 9 driven by the Commissioner for Transport in London Peter Hendy.

'Hutch', as he was universally known, was of course already in residence at X when Peter ran this business, originally for London Buses and later when CentreWest London Buses was the first of the LBL companies to be privatised.

When I first came to CentreWest Hutch was already an institution. He knew all of the staff personally, managed their time, granted favours, or applied a form of discipline by the careful use of his ascerbic wit. He nearly always referred to drivers and conductors as "Mr..." - a tradition from the olden days which he carefully retained.

He was never ruffled and took the annual Notting Hill Carnival in his stride despite the enormous disruption it causes to this garage (the Carnival passes the door!).

He belongs to a tradition of busmen we won't see the likes of again and we wish him well in his very well earned retirement.

(Hutch and Peter Hendy before taking to the streets of route 9)


Friday, 18 June 2010

The new Bristol Flyer

We now have our great new fleet of Volvo B7RLE single-deckers for the Bristol Airport Flyer service and they are ready to enter service.

Based on our standard Wrights product these vehicles have leather seats, air conditioning, luggage racks and a great new livery advertising the service.

They replace the current fleet of coaches on this service which is operated on behalf of Bristol Airport.

Research has shown that passengers on this service would prefer the easy step-free entrance and the security of on-board luggage over the current arrangement on coaches. There is no motorway used on this service so there is no benefit to the higher speed of coaches whilst the faster boarding especially in the congestion of Bristol Temple Meads station will be beneficial.


Sunday, 13 June 2010

Bristol centenary

Well it's not very often you get a story and photos from an event before it is over!

One hundred years ago Sir George White founded the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company. In due course it became the Bristol Aeroplane Company and eventually the British Aircraft Corporation.

I can't do justice to the history here. The Bristol company produced aircraft, engines, lorries, buses and cars. Its Beaufighter was critical to World War II, the Bristol Britannia a cornerstone of civil avation history. Critically the Bristol company did much of the groundwork for supersonic passenger transport - its Type 223 a fundemental part of the development which led to Concorde which, of course, was built at BAC's Filton facility and where today's centenary event took place.

As is well known Bristol produced buses - mostly for the nationalised THC ('Tilling') companies - until 1983 when all production moved to Workington under British Leyland.

At today's event there was probably just about all of the surviving examples of Bristol lorry production, plus a huge range of cars and buses. The oldest vehicle - the newly-restored single-decker Bristol H of 1933 vintage from Colin Billington, and the 1940 double-deck Bristol K5G from the Bristol Vintage Bus Group were amongst the many vehicles which were on display at Filton. Later they would take part in a road run to Bristol city centre and back.

It wasn't quite possible to have Concorde in the background (the last ever flying Conconrde G-BOAF is on display nearby) but nevertheless there were many examples of Bristol engineering history nearby.

The 1940 Bristol K5G referred to in the text, a 1958 Bristol MW5G portraying the 1960s City Centre Circle bus route in Bristol, and Robin Masters' Bristol HG6L lorry new to BRS in 1955.


Saturday, 12 June 2010

New Temsa bus launched in Bradford

Yesterday in Bradford we launched our new Temsa single-deck demonstrator.

For the next six months in the city we will trial the ‘Avenue’ bus which is manufactured in Turkey. Numbered 63000 in our fleet the ‘Avenue’ bus weighs just under 10 tonnes, almost 1 tonne lighter than average thanks to the extensive use of composite materials on the roof, floor and body panels.

We are very excited about trialling the bus - the combination of weight advantage and First’s DriveGreen technology could make this bus the most fuel efficient on the road.

The use of composites has been pioneered in the aviation and automotive industries, in particular Formula 1, and its use in the bus industry is something we are keen to explore.

Reducing our carbon footprint is a key strategic aim for First UK Bus. In our 2007 Climate Change Strategy we made a commitment to reduce our carbon emissions by 25% by 2020. If we were to roll out these types of buses, we would make a serious impact on our own carbon footprint, not to mention the obvious savings that we could make on our fuel costs.

At the launch today Left to right are: Dave Alexander, First UK Bus Regional Managing Director (North), Omer Sozutek, Temsa International Relations Director, Wim Van Hool, Temsa Executive Board Member, David Liston, First UK Bus Business Efficiency and Engineering Director and Deniz Cetin, Temsa Regional Co-ordinator.


Wednesday, 9 June 2010

First news today

Life is all about change and in this blog I am letting you all know that our PLC Director Nicola Shaw who has been responsible for Bus in UK, Germany and Ireland, has left the business after five very busy and successful years.

The full statement also announces that former London Underground MD Tim O'Toole, who is already a non-executive Director of FirstGroup will become the new Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Executive.

The full statement is available on the FirstGroup website.


Friday, 4 June 2010

The Trade Press

It's in print now - what I said about the New Bus for London in New Transit was:

Purpose-built buses for London have a history of success and cost-effectiveness. The new one certainly is impressive and has all the hallmarks of Wrightbus' adventurous styling together with clever features to maximise the space, the light and passenger amenity. We will never get the passenger to weight ratio that came with the original Routemaster neither will we provide all those lower deck seats now we have to have a wheelchair space, and more than one door.
Nevertheless we have got a great looking vehicle which people will be keen to ride on and with more than a nod to its ancestry.

Passenger popularity is one thing. I also want it to run 22 hours a day, 28 days a month without constantly needing skilled attention – that’s one attribute of the old Routemaster we do still need.

I hope you agree!

Whilst we're talking about the Trade Press, and echoing what The Omnibus Blog has said yesterday about social media, Coach and Bus Week has run an entire article based on a report of mine a week or so ago. (Yes you had it first!). It's about the malicious complaint in Potteries alleging that an Eastern European driver had tried to exclude from our bus a small boy who was wearng an England T-shirt.

We find no evidence this incident ever took place. "Witnesses" turn out to be unobtainable or defective in their recollection (like when and where). Meanwhile our staff continue to be accosted and threatened by those who heard the original story but haven't caught up with the latest news.

I will reiterate what I said then. We will always act if we find members of staff have acted illegally. Such behaviour has no place in our company.

But equally we will always rigorously protect them if we feel people are maliciously blaming staff for the purpose of extorting compensation from us and making trouble.
Fortunately we have sources of information like CCTV for protection. Indeed some cases of one person's word against another have now been proven in favour of the employee - the most dramatic cases have been those passengers who claimed they were hurt following an abrupt stop and our DriveGreen equipment has confirmed beyond any doubt that no harsh braking took place at all.