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Monday, 29 November 2010

Experience THE RIDE

Now you do have to see this.

New York's latest sightseeing offering is a fleet of coaches all specified (at what is quoted as $1.3m each) for a brand new visitor experience.

The coaches have glass roofs and deep side windows on the offside (that's facing the road not the pavement). The whole interior is like a cinema or theatre and the three rows of seats are arranged longditudinally so the whole audience sits facing sideways.

There are 3000 mood-enhancing LED lights, state-of-the-art surround sound and floor shaker system. It's like an IMAX theatre on wheels and you are watching a show.

There are three tours daily on the current schedule which start in Times Square - competing with more traditional sightseeing tours using double-decker buses. Tickets cost from $59.

It certainly is odd to see a window of people sat theatre-syle drive past you whilst the experience on board is sensational.

This is a brave attempt at a new, more dynamic sightseeing tour. We know that in world-class cities there is an insatiable demand for traditional tours and where more specialist ones have been tried at higher rates they have had a high failure rate. This one comes with huge technology to help.

Take a look at the website and see for yourself!


Saturday, 27 November 2010

New York, New York

Dawn over Manhattan
 Well I'm sorry there has been such a long gap since the last blog but thanks for all the hugely positive comments about the Safe Journey Card all of which are being fed back internally for the future.

Passenger Safety Month ends this week and has been a great success.

I am in New York so thought I would start this message with a picture of dawn over Manhattan this morning which I took at about 11am UK time. Yes my day is just starting.

As you will know the UK Bus Awards took place last week - indeed we won London Bus Driver of the Year which was a great boost for us and for our winner Phil Hiett. Paul is a 26 year serving bus driver. He has a record of commendations, including being awarded our own Superstar award for dealing with an elderly lady pedestrian who, clearly disoriented, he took to the nearest Police Station.
Phil Hiett and Regional MD Adrian Jones

There are a number of awards during the year. We just had the RouteONE Awards during the Euro Bus Expo and there are also the National Transport Awards, London Transport Awards and others. What do people think of these? it is a great boost for the staff involved, it highlights our achievements in a world where the negative stories nearly always are prominent, and it inspires others to do better. On the other hand is there a risk we convince ourselves things are good when in some places they are not? And what about a notable and regular award winner where citing such continued success, the Trade Union went for strike action as the spoils of success were clearly not been shared with them, they said?

I would welcome all our views - privately or on this blog - as we prepare for another season!


Thursday, 18 November 2010

Passenger Safety Month

Yes it is PASSENGER SAFETY MONTH here at First and our companies all over the UK are doing it.

No, this is not about hard hats or high-vis jackets, it's about reinforcing the message in these wintry months of rain, snow and darkness that we don't want out staff or passengers hurt in any way at all.

So what are our companies doing? Well we are working with schools, senior citizens, and other groups to make them aware of the hazards and make sure they all take extra care.

One of our initiatives is the Safe Journey Card. This is a neat idea. Many of our passengers have special needs which are difficult to detect - poor hearing, poor eyesight, lack of local knowledge, etc. But in the few seconds they have with the driver it can be difficult or embarrassing to have that discussion with the driver.

So our Safe Journey Card fits into your wallet alongside your regular bus pass or day ticket. When you show the driver your pass you show him this too - and it just says what your difficulty is and how he can help. He nods, and there we are. (There is nothing to stop passengers buying individual tickets using them too).

They are in huge demand and you can download them from the internet.

There are a range of standard ones ("I am hard of hearing") and some blank ones for passengers' special messages including asking to be told when to alight.

We are passionate about safety - not just this month but every month and every day and when it comes to injuries - we aim for zero!


Monday, 15 November 2010

Another five years

Yes I am going to say it again. About five years ago there were those people who said that once the huge excitement about the ending of 'proper' Routemaster operation was over the 'Heritage' part of routes 9 and 15 would be quietly dropped. Well here we are half a decade further on and those two routes start their second 5-year contract. Yes - they were serious!

In the case of route 9 the long called-for extension westwards to a decent destination in Kensington has been granted and today there was a special first journey using RM1005. It performed its first ever departure from Kensington and carried Daniel Moylan, Deputy Chairman of Transport for London who had personally supported the westward extension.

Peter Hendy and I were the crew and the bus (itself the very first Marshall Routemaster refurbishment) ran to the new eastern terminus of Trafalgar Square where it meets the heritage service on route 15.

Quite a different "Monday morning feeling" for us and for our passengers, we hope!

Photo shows Daniel Moylan (who is also Deputy Leader of Kensington and Chelsea) and Sir Merrick Cockell (Leader of Kensington and Chelsea) with Peter Hendy (in cab).

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Well, what did you expect?

Today was indeed the launch of the mock-up of the New Bus for London. It is now residing in the London Transport Museum Depot at Acton where it will be used for stakeholder visits to further refine the design features for the first prototypes which are being built.

The Mayor of London, TfL officials and the Directors of Wrightbus all warmly welcomed this new product - the first dedicated bus for London for over 50 years.

The vehicle looks deceptively real - you really believe you could run it in service tomorrow. In fact it is only a mock up made of wood and resin and construction of the first real vehicles has some way to go yet.

Under the skin the power unit and arrangements for the new vehicle are also revolutionary and will bring the latest in hybrid technology. We can expect to see this fully tested on more conventional vehicles before long.

There is a fine selection of photographs across at

These (and the one above) were taken by my good friend and Photographer-for-Rent Colin Evans at Kapture-It and you can see more of his work across at He does  photoshoots, events, stuff like that so if you have need of a photographer give him a shout, please!


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Euro Bus Expo 3

Well, some photos from others are filtering their way into the system and I am delighted to include this shot. CPT President Steve Whiteway (left) and I are declaring open the Omnibus Systems stand at Euro Bus Expo last week.

We are on the platform of RM1152 just a few days earlier despatched from BusWorks at Blackpool after an expert restoration. It formed the centrepiece of the Omnibus Systems stand and was, yes, the most fuel efficient, lightest and cheapest bus at the show.

So what about Omnibus Systems? Well, yes, years ago schedulers toiled away at a specially-designed desk and with special graph paper, to manually prepare bus schedules. I was especially lucky during the 1980s to enlist Paul Dipper from Southend Transport whose extraordinary scheduling skills were the key to our successful tender bids in London. Across at CentreWest, Michael Steward was doing similarly. Their eye for opportunity, efficiency, and fair play gave us schedules which were economic to operate and reasonably able to be delivered.

They may be amongst the last of their generation - during the 1990s we were persuaded that computer software could deliver us the most efficient schedules and optimise them taking into account our labour agreements and desire for economies. Not only could we create one compliant schedule, we could deliver several and review their resilience. Our top team spent less time creating and more time reviewing. Across the whole of the UK we gained the capacity to review numerous schedules and benchmark them.

The team at Omnibus Systems delivered us a friendly but streamlined package. It was rolled out across UK Bus after a brief review of its value. Moir Lockhead only had one complaint - if it was so good why had we taken so long?

There are several systems available - we like the Omnibus Systems product because it is cost-effective and because the people there understand our issues and work to accommodate them.

As I said at the opening of their stand, for the last 20 years they have made it possible for passengers to have lower fares because they have helped us deliver the service more efficiently.

And it gave us an edge. When you are in business, it's good to deal with decent, honest and friendly people!

(Go take a look at

Photo - thanks to Mel Holley at RouteONE


Saturday, 6 November 2010

Euro Bus Expo 2

I wrote last time about the number of KMB vehicles at the Show demonstrating another fashion of single-deckers for Hong Kong.

There was however a double-decker on the Wrights stand built on Volvo B9 chassis.

Here we can see two quite different but equally senior representatives of the manufacturers – Hakan Karlsson, President and CEO of Volvo Bus Corporation (second left) and William Wright, now aged 83 but still very much the father figure of the business founded by his own father and now known as The Wright Group, together with senior representatives of KMB.

The Wright Group  has made extraordinary progress since it first entered bus production only some 40 years ago. It pioneered what today we call a midibus, was first to the UK market with a proper low-floor single-decker in production and also right at the front in developing hybrid technology for buses.

It also has developed a huge reputation for excellent quality products, great styling, and outstanding customer service. Deservedly, it won the TfL contract for the New Bus for London and soon we will see much more of how it will look.

And at long last the story has been told – Jack Kernohan, now retired, but who served Wrights for 50 years latterly as Sales Director – has written the definitive Wrights story and here at the show we can see the book being launched. (The real book, by the way is not this big!).

More Euro Bus Expo pictures and news across at the Omnibuses blog site (link right).


Thursday, 4 November 2010

Euro Bus Expo 1

Now I do have some rather good pictures from Euro Bus Expo but they are all taken by others so I am afraid they will have to follow. Until the photographers are home and connected to their systems I don't have them to use!

Meantime however the end of a great show, hugely tiring but very rewarding. In the middle of it the RouteONE awards just to make sure everyone was on the go until well past midnight. So just a quick update tonight and more to follow.

There will be various claims to be the 'star' of the show - in fact there were several. Particularly notable were the examples of new single-deckers for KMB Hong Kong. Many years ago we (as one of the bus operators there at the time) introduced single-deckers but before long as part of a Government desire to reduce the actual number of buses they were replaced by a smaller number of double-deckers. The First New World air-conditioned Darts came back to UK. We demonstrated one to London Buses in Victoria Coach Station but in the end they were spread around other First UK subsidiaries.
Now again Hong Kong is introducing single-deckers - some 70 examples for use at less busy times to save fuel and maintenance costs.

Also at the show was the first MCV double-decker on Volvo B9 chassis. You have seen this vehicle before - it is a rework of the two-door example built to London specification earlier this year. It is quite notable to have a new double-decker product into the marketplace.

But of course you've guessed it - the lightest, cheapest and most fuel-efficient bus at the show was a Routemaster - this was RM1152 and it was the centrepiece of the Omnibus Systems stand having just been outshopped from Blackpool BusWorks following an excellent restoration.

Here we have, then the oldest and newest models at the show and in a couple of days I'll have some more photographs and stories from the show.