The Department for Transport (DfT) has hired consultants KPMG to examine whether franchising might be an appropriate model, and if candidate locations exist.At the same time, Labour has announced plans to hand local bus services to ‘not-for-profit’ operators including community transport in a plan to â€œend the market dominanceâ€ of the ‘big five’.The DfT’s wide-ranging review of England’s bus market, outside London, comes as the north-east looks to implement a Quality Contracts Scheme (QCS) and Manchester has been offered new powers over buses by the Chancellor George Osborne.Six key questions are being asked in the KPMG study, and the aim is to allow ministers to gain an understanding of costs, benefits and the commercial consequences of a ‘mosaic’ regulatory model.The study will consider under what circumstances a change in the current de-regulated model would be a better option for passengers and taxpayers, and if there are locations where such circumstances currently exist.A progress report is expected in early March, with a final report in June, after the 7 May General Election.Meanwhile, an incoming Labour government would â€œgive councils the power to award local licencesâ€ and make it â€œmuch easier for non profit-making groupsâ€ to run services. Labour says the move will â€œthrow a lifeline to rural areas left isolated by the loss of services,â€ where mileage has fallen by 23% since 2010.Labour shadow Transport Secretary Michael Dugher says: â€œLike the energy market, the bus market is broken. Developing a thriving not-for-profit sector is one way Labour will rebalance our bus market. The significant development of the not-for-profit model will help city and county regions break the stranglehold that the big private bus operators currently have.â€œThere is a proud and growing British tradition of community transport in the UK. It is a sector that serves both rural and urban areas, often operating in areas the commercial operators have turned their back on. In government, Labour will ensure that communities cannot be held to ransom by operators threatening to pull buses and cut services.â€According to the latest DfT figures, passenger journeys in England increased by 2% to 4.7bn in the year to March 2014, the highest figure since the mid-1980s.
The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) is urging operators of low-floor double-decker buses that satisfy PSVAR, but do not yet have an accessibility certificate, to move sooner rather than later if they intend to use them on regular services after 31 December.All double-deckers used on regular services require a PSVAR certificate by 1 January 2017“There are a lot of buses than comply with PSVAR but lack an accessibility certificate,” says Coaching Manager Andy Warrender. “We are already hearing about backlogs of appointments for them to be seen by a Certifying Officer, and that is only likely to get worse later in the year.”All double-decker buses used on regular services where a fare is payable must have an accessibility certificate from 1 January 2017. That includes many school routes, regardless of whether BSOG is collected.Mr Warrender adds that there have been a small number of problems since implementation of the requirement for all single-deck buses used on regular services to hold accessibility certificates earlier this year.Some comply fully with PSVAR but lack certification to that effect. While no instances of DVSA enforcing the regulations have yet been reported, use of a single-deck bus without an accessibility certificate on a regular service is technically a criminal offence, and may also be reported to the Traffic Commissioner.
Think Hampshire and few would think of Gilbert White. But nestled in the village of Selborne is his house – a fantastic group-friendly attraction that is a must for any Hampshire itinerary. Jessica Sludds visited the museum, organised by Steve Reed Tourism, to find out what’s there for groupsFew of us have heard of Gilbert White. But, in fact, he was a very fascinating man.As a pioneering naturalist and ornithologist, his book The Natural History of Selborne is one of the most published books in the English Language.He was also a curate and remained unmarried, committing his life to exploring and documenting the countryside around him.Living a simple life in Selborne, Gilbert White was a dedicated gardener – growing melons among a whole host of plants and produce – and even had a tortoise called Timothy.But behind this man lays a long and extremely important legacy.The museumGilbert White lived in the house, called The Wakes, from a young age until his death in 1793. Visitors to the house learn all about who Gilbert White was and the discoveries he made as they make their way around the different rooms on a free-flow tour. Groups can also take advantage of an introductory talk, which is offered at no extra cost.The rooms have been restored following descriptions in Gilbert White’s own correspondenceThe museum is on two floors and displays many pieces that belonged to Gilbert White, including his desk which is inscribed with ‘GW 1755’ and a collection of The Natural History of Selborne can be found in the Great Parlour, including the first edition which is bound in the skin of Gilbert White’s spaniel, Fairey Queen.Coaches can drop-off and pick-up outside the house and there is a recently extended coach park just a couple of minutes’ drive away.Gilbert White and The Oates Collections is just four miles from Chawton where Jane Austen’s House Museum is located, so the two museums go hand-in-hand for any Hampshire itinerary.The secret gardenThe property has 25 acres of parkland and five acres of restored garden to explore and a garden tour is available for £2 per person, which is well worth the extra cost.Find out what gardening in the 18th century was like on a garden tourHead Gardener, David Standing, took us on an informative and engaging tour around the garden. He has been working at the house for over 30 years and has worked tirelessly to uncover the original layout of the garden, by studying a variety of Gilbert White’s written accounts, to recreate it.David and his team of gardeners are on hand to reveal what gardening in the18th century was like and their information comes from a trustworthy source – Gilbert White’s diary called The Garden Kalendar, which outlines his gardening activities.For as much as possible, the garden is in keeping with how Gilbert White would have had it, including the growing of melons and as many plants and produce from the period as possible.Groups also find out about Gilbert White’s frugal ways, including a statue of Hercules made from an unlikely material.Don’t forget the OatesThe second part of the tour takes you to the Oates Collections exhibit, which concentrates on the lives of two members of the Oates family, Frank and Lawrence, both explorers of the natural world.The first half focuses on Frank Oates whose first significant expedition was to Central America and North America in 1871. Here he collected bird and insect specimens in Guatemala, which can be seen in the museum.Perhaps the most striking artefact here is Frank Oates collection of stuffed birds of Central America – many now extinct.Part of Frank Oates collection of birds of Central AmericaThe exhibit also centres on Frank Oates’ expedition to Africa and reveals the territories and tribes he encountered on this trip.The second half focuses on Frank Oates’ nephew, Captain Lawrence Oates, best known for his part in the Scott Antarctic Expedition – a journey of discovery to the South Pole in 1911.Visitors learn of Lawrence Oates’ tragic demise, sacrificing his life in the hope of saving his comrades by leaving the tent in a blizzard with the famous last words “I am just going outside and may be some time”.A collection of stuffed birds from the Arctic is also displayed here, including the latest edition to the flock, an Emperor penguin called Aurora and a chick called Pepper – lovingly stuffed by ‘Steve the Stuffer’ in the Falkland Islands.Shopping spree and teaThe museum concludes at the gift shop. It stocks a wide variety of gifts and books for all ages, including gardening tools, scarves and gloves, jams and chutneys, and more.Three different editions of Gilbert White’s book, The Natural History of Selborne are also on sale.The museum offers catering options in its award-winning Tea Parlour offering light lunches, homemade cakes and speciality teas. The area is a little snug, for now, but serving lunch in two sittings can accommodate groups. For groups wishing to sit together, the museum does have other options that can be discussed and arranged.In the futureGilbert White’s House has been successful in its bid for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.Gilbert White’s original modest home has been expanded over timeUndertaking a £1.7m development project will enable the development of the house, museum, shop, restaurant and parking area. Areas such as the stable yard and brew-house will also be restored, as well as a refurbishment of The Oates Collections exhibit.“We are still open for business as usual,” explains Marketing Manager, Kimberley James.“Even though our new plans will really improve the facilities on offer to groups – such as a large new restaurant, improved shop and entrance – we are of course as busy as ever welcoming groups to Gilbert White’s House.”2017 at the House27 May: Nature FestivalA day of activities and stalls from organisations from all over the country that have been inspired by Gilbert White, from the Natural History Museum, Wildlife Trust and the South Downs National Park to local poets.17-18 June: Unusual Plants FairIn its 25th year, the fair will be even bigger and better than before, with more stalls, more suppliers of fascinating plants, and more garden experts on hand to help with any gardening questions.6 August: Gilbert GamesEnjoy a day of good old-fashioned fun with games and sports from the past, including stool ball, ferret racing and Aunt Sally.Group stayHoliday Inn Winchester makes for an ideal base for groups when visiting Winchester’s attractions and surrounding villages. It has 141 bedrooms, eight of which are accessible with wet rooms.The trip included a stay at Holiday Inn Winchester and transport courtesy of Lucketts TravelThe 4 star hotel is located just two miles from Winchester and all the city has to offer, 16 miles from Gilbert White’s House and the Science Centre is just a two minute walk away.Groups can enjoy lunch or dinner at its AA Rosette awarded Morn Hill Brasserie. The area is so spacious that groups can even dine together if they wish. In fact, the entire hotel is very light and spacious with many areas for groups to relax and enjoy a drink.Situated on the edge of the South Downs National Park, countryside views can be enjoyed from the brasserie’s terrace courtyard garden when dining alfresco in the warmer months.Complimentary wi-fi is included and there is ample free parking. Call 01962 670700 or visit hiwinchester.co.uk.The group admission price for 10 or more people at Gilbert White’s House and The Oates Collections is £7.50pp. Coach parking is free. Call 01420 511275, email [email protected] or visit gilbertwhiteshouse.org.uk
The Association of Group Travel Organisers (AGTO) Showcase Weekend will be held at the Park Royal Hotel, Warrington on 15-17 September.The Showcase will bring together 200 of AGTO’s group organiser and associate members to network, with a weekend of business and social events. The highlights include:Fam trips to local attractionsDestination and business sessionsAGTO Branch AGMs and meetingsDinner and entertainment.Mike Bugsgang, Chief Executive of AGTO, says: “We are really excited to be staging our Showcase Weekend in the north of England. We will be working with VisitCheshire to put together some fantastic itineraries for the fam trips and our headline sponsor, Made Tourism Marketing, is arranging special entertainment for the Saturday evening.”
Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr. will make his UK stage debut, taking on the role of Billy Flynn, in Chicago at the Phoenix Theatre from 26 March.He made his Broadway debut in the 2013 revival of Horton Foote's The Trip to Bountiful.Film credits include Jerry Maguire, Pearl Harbor and Gladiator.
One of a number of Iveco-based midicoaches that are challenging the status quo is the Noone Turas 600s. Dealer Minis to Midis has high future hopes for the vehicle, which seats up to 25 passengersMinis to Midis expects to sell 20 Turas 600s to UK operators during 2018German chassis’ dominance of the front-engined mini and midicoach market is starting to wane thanks to an unprecedented challenge from Iveco. One such vehicle making inroads is the compact Noone Turas 600s.It is built on a 7,200kg GVW chassis and it complements the similar but larger Turas 700. While the latter targets capacity, the Turas 600s is aimed at buyers that require a high specification, and it has seen sales success in the eight months since launch.“The Turas 600s is a winner; it ticks many boxes for operators and it is well-suited to some who are looking to replace 16- or 19-seat Sprinter-based minicoaches,” says UK supplier Minis to Midis Sales Executive Richard Brooks.“We sold 10 in the first six months of it being available and we will be disappointed if we don’t hit 20 in 2018.”Appeal to some Sprinter buyers – and particularly those that take coachbuilt models – comes via the Turas 600s’ compact dimensions. It is 8.01m long – little more than many Sprinters – but it is 2.39m wide, allowing up to 25 seats in a 2+2 layout.Thanks to that, Minis to Midis expects that around half of its projected 65 sales in 2018 will be Iveco-based. Last year, that share was around 30%.Why so popular?Other things contribute to the Turas 600s’ popularity. Although it is tilted at the luxury end of the market, it is still competitively-priced, and to standard specification, net price is £110,000.That’s more than the most closely-comparable Sprinter. But, adds General Manager Paul Gardner, the Turas 600s is able to handle a wider variety of work.As well as hires for 16-19 passengers, it is equally competent with 25 people aboard. An unladen weight of around 4,800kg gives a significant luggage tolerance of around 25kg per passenger when fully loaded. The body is built with that in mind, and it has 4.3m3 of space in the boot.Kiel and Sege seats can be fitted to the Turas 600s, the former in leatherThe Turas 600s has already secured repeat business from at least one operator, and Minis to Midis has quoted on one super-luxury example with 16 500mm-wide captain’s chairs in a 2+1 layout.In 2+2 specification, two seat types are available. A Turkish-made Sege type, produced exclusively for Noone, is standard, but also offered is a product from Kiel. The latter can be specified in a variety of shades of full leather. A toilet can also be fitted.Other items that are included as standard include a courier seat, heated windscreen and mirrors, a reversing camera, a rear emergency exit, wood-effect flooring and Turas-branded sidewall USB ports.A broad churchAlthough Minis to Midis believes that the Turas 600s is a feasible Sprinter replacement under some circumstances, Paul adds that demand formerly satisfied by Varios and even the Caetano Optimo are other targets.“The driveline is a further reason why it has been well-received. The engine is well away from the saloon and it is refined, meaning that noise intrusion is minimal for a front-engined chassis.“The Hi-Matic gearbox is excellent and the entrance to both the cab and the passenger area is good. Additionally, if service is required from Iveco, its dealers are not frightened by the chassis; it is exactly the same as that used in goods applications and they are familiar with it.”Significant improvements have more recently been made to the Turas 600s’ cab thanks to a major investment in CAD technology by Noone. That has seen a redesign of the dashboard. To the offside is an improved bank of controls for the body, while on the left, the optional fridge adjacent to the door is integrated in a much more satisfactory manner. It is well incorporated into the doorway, offering no obstruction to the opening.“The original dash was inoffensive, but the revised design is integrated more fully into the rest of the vehicle,” says Paul. “This is Noone’s first foray into CAD, and it will be used for continual improvement across the range going forward. The revised dash is fitted by Erduman Otomotiv in Turkey during the build process and we believe that it is a significant improvement.”Revised switch bank to driver’s right has been produced with CAD techStock availabilityMinis to Midis works closely with Noone and both parties meet on a regular basis. A recent development was the opening up of stock held at both locations to all buyers regardless of their location, which is a major benefit, says Paul.“It is part of the arrangements that we made after my father Alan White passed away to ensure business as usual.“Between ourselves and Noone, we continually have vehicles on the production line. They are all built to a standard specification that can be added to or subtracted from, either during build or after they are shipped.”Increased cooperation between the two dealers means that flexibility has improved for British customers. An additional benefit for them is that more than half of Noone’s sales in Ireland are of Ivecos. As a result, it has good stock availability of Turas 600s.That allows buyers in the UK to benefit; Minis to Midis will not hesitate to move a vehicle from Ireland should an operator here require it, and it can do so very quickly. “Every Monday we receive a consolidated stock list,” says Paul. “We know exactly what is available and where it is.”Is Iveco the future?As will be seen elsewhere in this issue of miniplus, Iveco-based small coach packages at Euro 6 are proving popular. When the Turas 600s is considered it’s not difficult to see why.The chassis is key. Its driving experience is good, helped by the class-leading Hi-Matic gearbox. The engine is quiet but it still delivers good performance, and it is also very smooth.But many other items are also in play. Options are numerous on the Turas 600s and the standard of finish, both inside the saloon and on the outside, is high. Passenger and driver acceptance has proven to be good, and the midicoach also has a strong value-for-money argument.“I see a growing market for Iveco-based products. That’s not just based on what I think; it comes from listening to what customers tell us,” says Paul. “In the long term, the Turas 600s could represent around a third of our sales, such is its appeal.”www.ministomidis.com
The DCARB machine is claimed to improve fuel economy by up to 4%Hydroflex has launched DCARB, which cleans an engine’s internal workings within 30 minutes.Thanks to decarbonisation, the power unit delivers greater power, torque and fuel efficiency.Stress and wear are both reduced as the engine need not work as hard to overcome internal resistance. An average fuel saving of 4% has been reported.The machine initiates electrolysis, creating hydrogen and oxygen vapour that is piped through the running engine via the air filter. That oxidises and ‘incinerates’ carbon, forcing it out of the exhaust.www.dcarb.com
London’s latest zero-emission Optare Metrodecker EV bus enters serviceMetroline has added the Optare Metrodecker EV double-decker to its growing fleet of zero-emission electric buses. It is the vehicle’s first deployment outside of demonstrations.The electric Metrodecker can carry over 90 passengers and has a claimed range of over 150 miles on a single charge. The first buses entered service on Monday 19 August.Metroline now has almost 100 zero-emission buses to its name, including a fleet of 37 BYD ADL Enviro400EV buses for its Route 43 line. The operator plans to maintain a fleet of 31 Metrodeckers on route 134. Buses are charged overnight and during periods of low local demand by purpose-built power supplies installed at Potters Bar garage.Together, the two lines make London’s first end-to-end fully-electric double-deck bus routes. Metroline claims that as the UK increases its reliance on renewable sources, the benefits of the vehicles will also increase.Sean O’Shea, CEO of Metroline, says the firm is committed to electric buses. “We continue to lead the way by delivering London’s first completely zero-emissions, all-electric routes,” he says. “This launch marks a significant step forward for Metroline, and London, as we continue to deliver greener and environmentally cleaner solutions for our customers on the London bus network.”Optare CEO Graham Belgum adds that “Optare is thrilled to partner with Metroline in delivering one of TfL’s first zero-emission double-deck routes,” with the launch of the latest Metrodecker bus being the “culmination of four year’s work for the company and a major milestone in its zero-emission journey.”
Morebus has named Leaf (Leukaemia Educating and Fundraising) as its official good cause for 2020.It will spend the year raising money and awareness for the charity to help it support patients and their families in Dorset and Hampshire who are diagnosed with Leukaemia.Morebus’ Joe Quinlan says: “Leaf is crucial to many local people and their families in the areas where we operate bus services – and we are keen to support this vital community resource in any way we can.“The charity provides social and welfare support to ease the huge burden placed on families with a patient in treatment, and this is of enormous benefit to many people living in the area.”
Officials have proved reluctant to pre-empt the views of their political masters and some have expressed the view that it would be premature to come to any firm conclusions before work is completed on a number of pieces of research being carried out under the auspices of other European aviation organisations.Debate has also centred on member states’ varying interpretations of the difference between operational ATM functions and regulatory questions. The Commission is determined that there will be a clear separation between the regulator and the provider of the service.But early discussions have underlined the fact that certain member states, notably Germany and the Netherlands, are much keener on a more centralised approach than the UK and France, who are concerned not to delegate too much sovereignty over running their airspace to outside authorities.Portugal and Finland are also believed to have concerns, which centre, in the latter’s case, on its location at Europe’s periphery and the fact that it is not a member of Eurocontrol.There is, however, a general acceptance that the situation of Europe’s airspace is becoming more critical and that action of some sort is desirable.Some EU governments are still wary about the idea of the Commission becoming a fully-fledged member of a revamped Eurocontrol, doubting that it has the expertise to do so since responsibility for ATM has traditionally resided with the member states. The principal problem facing attempts to improve the system is the number of overlapping organisations seeking a share of the action. Eurocontrol includes 20 European countries, but not all of the EU’s 15 member states are signatories.At the same time, the ‘INSTAR’ working group of the 33-member European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) is also working on future policies to improve ATM.With evidence that 18% of European flights were delayed by more than 15 minutes in 1995 – at a cost to the airlines of up to 2 billion ecu – the Commission proposed three possible scenarios for improving the situation in a White Paper published late last year.But it expressed doubts about redesigning Eurocontrol to take both operational and regulatory decisions or establishing a new Union agency, preferring an approach “building up from as broad a geographical base as possible” to “increase the scope for regional subgroupings to integrate further their airspace if they so wish”.The Commission has suggested that a strengthened Eurocontrol, in which it would represent the EU’s member states, could possibly coexist alongside a mooted European Aviation Safety Authority.Although ministers will only give their initial impressions of the initiative when they meet next week, one member state official suggested Kinnock would be “disappointed if there was no general consensus on the way forward by December”. Ministers will have their first opportunity to look at Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock’s plans for a strengthened Eurocontrol with more streamlined decision-making procedures at their meeting next week.Kinnock wants the Commission to become a full member of the organisation to ensure a more coordinated EU approach to air traffic control.But discussions in Coreper (the Committee of permanent representatives) have so far been fairly inconclusive.