Monday, 29 June 2009

First Group makes move for National Express

FirstGroup, the Aberdeen-based bus and rail group, has made a secret bid approach to National Express, its embattled rival, in a move that could transform Britain’s transport industry.

Martin Gilbert, First’s chairman, made the offer in a letter sent to the home of John Devaney, his opposite number at National Express, last week. It arrived a day after the breakdown of talks between National Express and the Government aimed at resolving a long-running, multimillion-pound dispute over services on the East Coast Main Line.

A combination of the two companies would create a public transport powerhouse, running large parts of the UK bus and rail network and a sizeable chunk of America’s yellow school bus services. The companies would have a combined turnover of about £9 billion and a stock market value well in excess of £2 billion.

National Express, which has its headquarters in Birmingham, is expected to reject the approach. It has a trading statement on Wednesday, but may issue a formal rebuff before then. Both companies declined to comment last night.

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Friday, 19 June 2009

Branson accused of patronising rail staff

Sir Richard Branson has been accused of patronising rail staff after dressing as a station cleaner for a TV advert.

The billionaire Virgin boss appears with forearms covered with fake tattoos and blacked-out teeth as he empties bins at Glasgow's Central Station.

The RMT rail union said it demonstrated a patronising attitude to staff who had worked hard to make him a fortune.

Sir Richard insisted the advert showed how proud he was of Virgin Trains employees.

In the advert, designed to promote improvements to the West Coast line, Sir Richard wears a bright orange fluorescent jacket, heavy boots and is seen driving a refuse cart through the station.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow commented: "Richard Branson treating the hard-working rail employees, who have earned him a fortune in recent years, as some sort of excuse for getting out the fancy dress box is patronising in the extreme.

"The blacked-out teeth and fake tattoos say a lot about the attitude of Virgin Trains to our members who work under enormous pressure to make the services tick."

Sir Richard said the advert showed his appreciation of his workforce.

"I am so proud of all of our Virgin Train people and if dressing up in disgustingly dirty clothes, having my teeth blacked out and getting covered in tattoos was what it took to provide it, I was delighted to oblige," he said

Southeastern high speed ‘preview’ service

Southeastern today confirmed that a limited high speed ‘preview’ service will begin on the 29 June. The preview service will run on High Speed 1 between Ashford International, Ebbsfleet International and St Pancras International from Monday to Friday.

The preview service will offer passengers the chance to experience what the UK’s first high speed service will be like when it is fully introduced on 13 December.

The preview services will also allow Southeastern to continue testing, training, adjust to passenger feedback and ensure that the full introduction of the service runs smoothly.The high speed service will radically improve travel times for many passengers, using the High Speed 1. Journey times from Ashford International to London will be just 37 minutes and from Ebbsfleet International the journey will take just 17 minutes.

Charles Horton, Southeastern managing director said, “These preview services offer many passengers the opportunity to reduce their journey times and experience what it is like to travel at up to 140 miles an hour on the UK’s first ever high speed line. This is an extremely exciting time for the whole rail industry and we are pleased that we are able to provide this preview service six months early and offer our passengers greater choice.”

The cost of travelling high speed will be more than the existing Mainline service. For example a Mainline single fare from Ashford International costs £22.20 compared to £26.60 for the new preview high speed fare, an addition of £4.40. For existing Southeastern ticket holders the additional supplement can be purchased at any station and all first class ticket holders are able to travel on the high speed service for no extra cost.

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Friday, 12 June 2009

Network Rail campaign celebrates completion of West Coast upgrade

Network Rail is rolling out a £2.4m campaign to promote the completion of its £9bn upgrade of the West Coast main line, which runs between London and Glasgow.

The campaign, created by iris runs across TV, press outdoor and cinema. The ads carry the strap line ‘Built in the 19th century. Rebuilt for the 21st'.

Activity pays tribute to those who built the original railway line and celebrates how a great 19th century achievement has been rebuilt for the 21st century - highlighing British engineering at its best. Regional press and poster campaigns along the West Coast corridor also thank rail passengers for their patience during the last 10 years, whilst the line has been upgraded.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Now that's what you call desperate to catch a train!

A teenage American tourist says he spent two hours clinging to the side of a long-distance train as it sped across the Australian outback in the night.

Chad Vance said he had to leap onto The Ghan as it left the station at Port Augusta, South Australia, after he had disembarked during a 40-minute stop.

He became cold and tired as the train reached speeds of up to 110km/h (70mph) on the journey to Alice Springs.

Engineer Marty Wells finally heard his yells and applied the emergency brake.

Mr Vance, quoted in the Herald Sun, said: "I feel very lucky to be alive."

He thought he had timed his return to the station accurately, but as the train pulled away he ran after it along the tracks.

When it stopped soon afterwards, he said he spent five minutes trying to attract the attention of passengers on board by shouting and banging the windows.

"People were looking at me but did nothing," he said.

The good Samaritans obviously thought he was trying to fare-dodge!

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