Monthly Archives: January 2015

Defiance Cycle Ride Swansea, Easter Sunday …

On Easter Monday in 1885, a momentous event took place in south west Wales. For the very first time, a modern, chain-driven bicycle was ridden all the way from Glanaman in the Amman Valley to Swansea and back. No-one had seen anything like it before, and thousands of people came out to line the route to see the strange machine pass by.

The bicycle was manufactured by William and Arthur Williams who had set up in business founding the Defiance Cycle Works at their farm, Gelli Fawnen, overlooking Glanaman in the Amman Valley. This was the first – and only – cycle manufacturing company ever in Wales.

Easter Monday in 1885 was on the 6th April, and Easter Monday 2015 is once more on the 6th April. So we are celebrating the 130th anniversary to the day of this unique piece of history by organising a ride from Gelli Fawnen Farm to Swansea and back, retracing as much as possible the original route taken by Arthur Williams on his historic ride.

Full details at

The ride is approximately 36 miles in total and is a Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC) event. It is not a sportive, or a race, but a touring ride to be enjoyed at leisure on a mix of roads, quiet country lanes and traffic-free cycle paths.

Brian Lister …

The Times 14 Janaury 2015

Carmaker whose curvaceous Lister-Jaguar swept all before it on the racing circuits of the late Fifties until a tragic accident

Having built what was arguably the most successful racing car of the 1950s, Brian Lister turned his back on the sport at the height of his success when the other half of one of British motor racing’s most celebrated partnerships was killed while racing in one of his cars in 1958.

The Lister-Jaguar was virtually unbeatable on British circuits after its introduction in 1957 and the meteoric success that it brought to Lister’s small manufacturing plant near Cambridge caught the public’s imagination. Consistently outperforming bigger constructors, such as Aston Martin, Lister’s front-engined one-seater swept all before it. Affectionately known as “the knobbly” for its curved body work, it also made a star out of the driver Archie Scott Brown — a charismatic figure with a curled moustache who beat a severe disability which effectively rendered him partially lame and one-handed to climb to the top of the sport.

Scott Brown’s death after crashing a Lister-Jaguar during a race in Belgium in 1958 caused Lister to retire from the sport. Lister was particularly hurt by criticism that the Lister-Jaguar was unsafe. When asked about the car’s reputation for poor braking as he careered around corners, Scott Brown had responded, “I’ll carry on without them old boy”. Soon after Scott Brown was killed when he crashed at a corner while vying for the lead with his great American rival Masten Gregory. The car had burst into flames and Lister received further criticism that its ultra-light magnesium-alloy bodywork, which fitted snugly around the tubular ladder chassis, was inflammable.

An RAC investigation found no faults with the car, but Lister’s grief was such that he began to withdraw from the sport. However, a commercial version of the car went into production in 1958 with great success.

Brian Lister was born into an engineering family in 1926 and attended Perse school in Cambridge. His father’s business, George Lister & Sons, specialised in manufacturing torpedoes, and Brian was apprenticed there in 1942. He spent most of his spare time tinkering with car engines, starting with an MG, and emerging covered in grease when being called to dinner.

He developed his first racing car with an MG engine in 1954, entering it into a race in Snetterton and winning with Scott Brown behind the wheel. The successful entry of the small unheralded team put plenty of noses out of joint in the racing paddocks. Fellow drivers, who did not take kindly to the prospect of losing against a driver who they regarded with disdain rather than admiration because of his disability, complained that the Lister was a safety risk and Scott Brown’s licence was temporarily revoked.

However, Lister’s father was impressed at this early success and agreed to diversify the family firm into a racing team. When Jaguar decided that its D-type — which had won the Le Mans 24-hour race for three years in a row — needed replacing with a new model, its boss William Lyons donated the engines and gearboxes to Lister. Lyons believed that Lister could adapt the engine into a winning car and keep the Jaguar name in the forefront of racing and at little cost to Jaguar. It proved to be a masterstroke.

Lister was remembered as an unfailingly courteous man with a predilection for colourful bowties. He was described as diffident and could not have been more different than his flamboyant friend, Scott Brown. However, Lister was transformed into a different beast altogether with a drum kit in front of him, playing with his jazz band, the Downbeats.

He is survived by his wife Josephine Prest, and by their daughter. He sold the company in 1986 and the new owner Laurence Pearce revived the Lister-Jaguar marque with a new range of cars based on the concept of souping up already rather racy Jaguar XJS’s and giving them an eye-watering top speed of 200mph.

Lawrence Whittaker, managing director of Lister Cars, said: “Brian Lister was a wonderful man who was always incredibly modest about his amazing achievements. Whenever I met him, I was left with the lasting impression of his passion for British engineering.”

Brian Lister, owner of Lister Cars, was born on July 12, 1926. He died on December 16, 2014, aged 88

Geely set to build £150m UK plant for green taxis …

The Times 2 January 2015, Leo Lewis

Geely, the quirky Chinese carmaker that began life as a manufacturer of refrigerators, is poised to announce a new £150 million factory in Britain to produce the next generation of energy-efficient London taxis.

Plans for the plant, which have been under deliberation since late 2013 and have received heavy coaxing from the British government, are expected to be announced soon.

It is understood that Geely’s favoured location is Ansty Park, an industrial estate on the outskirts of Coventry seeking to establish itself as a home of technology and innovation. The site is also close to the existing headquarters of the Geely subsidiary Manganese Bronze Holdings, which, trading as The London Taxi Company, builds the famous black cabs but had to be rescued by Chinese investment two years ago.

A formal decision by the Chinese before May will come as a relief. Geely’s reported intention to invest heavily in UK manufacturing was touted as one of the prizes of David Cameron’s visit to China in December 2013 — a trip that broke more than 18 months of diplomatic frost between London and Beijing but was noticeably short on deals.

Since then, the Chinese company’s silence has become ominous, particularly as Geely’s profits have been hit hard by the Chinese slowdown, difficult export markets and, more recently, the plunge in the Russian currency.

In its eagerness to persuade Geely to come through with the investment, the UK is understood to have offered a selection of possible sites. Although Ansty remains favourite, Geely sources said that other options had not been ruled out.

The chief focus of the new factory will be the TX5, an upgraded “green” version of the classic London cab scheduled to enter the market in 2018.

The existing TX4 plant apparently is not up to the demands of the planned next generation of taxi, which will draw on some of the technologies acquired by Geely when it bought Volvo Cars.

Geely’s Hong Kong-listed shares have fallen by about 30 per cent over the past month, with most of the damage done in the past few days.

Li Shufu, the billionaire president of the company, warned last week that full-year net income would fall by 50 per cent on heavily falling sales volumes and unrealised losses on the tumbling rouble.

John Scholes Transport History Essay Prize 2015 …

The John Scholes Prize, of up to €275 (275 Euros), is awarded annually to the writer of an unpublished paper based on original research into any aspect of the history of transport and mobility. The prize is intended to recognise budding transport historians. It may be awarded to the writer of one outstanding article, or be divided between two or more entrants. Typically, the prize is awarded for research completed as part of a PhD.

Publication in the Journal of Transport History will be at the discretion of the Editor and subject to the normal refereeing process.

The prize is funded by the Transport History Research Trust in memory of John Scholes. John was the first Curator of Historical Relics at the British Transport Commission. The prize is awarded by the International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic and Mobility (T2M –


Entry is limited to researchers who, at the time of submission, are not yet in or have just commenced a permanent / tenured academic (or equivalent) position, and who are just starting to publish research.


Essays (in English, double-spaced) must not exceed 8,000 words (including footnotes). Sources must be documented fully. Entries must be submitted electronically, to arrive no later than Friday 26 June 2015. They should not bear any reference to the author or institutional affiliation.

Senior scholars will judge entries against criteria of originality, thoroughness and excellence of argument, source use, composition and illustration. The process is ‘double-blind’. The judges will not enter into correspondence.

A cover letter and a one-page CV must demonstrate eligibility for the prize.

Entries for the prize should be sent to the JTH Editor at The subject line of the message should read ‘John Scholes Prize entry 2015’.

Bus services facing ‘crisis’ says Campaign for Better Transport …

BBC News 12 January 2015

Budget cuts by councils have left bus services facing a crisis, a report by the Campaign for Better Transport says.

The group says half the councils in England and Wales have cut funding for buses in 2014/15, amounting to more than £9m when compared with 2013/14.

The CBT said its figures came from Freedom of Information Act requests.

A Department for Transport spokesman said decisions about buses were best made locally but the government provided “substantial funding”.

The CBT said local authority funding for bus services had been slashed by 15% since 2010, or £44m, with more than 2,000 routes being reduced or withdrawn entirely.

Its report also says that:

  • Rural areas have been worst hit by cuts, seeing average budget reductions of 19% this year
  • In 2014/15, nearly 500 bus services were cut, altered or withdrawn
  • 22 councils cut bus funding by more than 10% in 2014/15
  • The overall reduction in Wales in 2014/15 is more than £900,000, with 86 bus services having been cut, altered or withdrawn

CBT public transport campaigner Martin Abrams said the government needed to “wake up to the crisis facing buses”.

“Across the country, bus services are being lost at an alarming rate.

“Year-on-year cuts to budgets mean entire networks have now disappeared, leaving many communities with little public transport and in some cases none at all.

“It’s very worrying that further steep cuts in budgets are threatened next year and beyond. The government must introduce new initiatives which recognise the vital social, economic and environmental role buses play.”

‘Poisonous cocktail’

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: “This shocking new report lifts the lid on the trail of misery left strewn across the country as multimillion-pound cuts to bus services condemn hundreds of thousands of people to lives of isolation and imprisonment in their own homes.

“The poisonous cocktail of cuts and privatisation reinforces our call for bus services to be taken back into public ownership with the resources required to run as a comprehensive public service.”

The DfT spokesman said that it regarded bus services as “vital”, especially for many older and disabled people.

“That is why the government provides substantial funding, protected until 2015/16, to bus operators to help more services run and keep ticket prices down.

“A further £1bn a year is provided for the free national bus pass.

“Decisions about bus services are best made locally in partnership between councils and the companies which run the buses.”

The Early Years of the DVLA, 31 January, National Waterfront Museum …

Big Data Comes to Wales: the early Years of the DVLA 1965 – 1975

Saturday 31st January 2015, 2pm – 4pm. Admission free.

The National Waterfront Museum, Maritime Quarter, Swansea SA1 3RD

In the mid 1960s the Government decided to centralise Driver and Vehicle licensing, a function at that time undertaken by Local Authorities across the UK. A subsequent decision to computerise the records and licensing processes resulted in the creation of the DVLA, a groundbreaking major public service data processing operation. This event will explore the challenges and achievements of the early years of the organisation, and welcomes contributions from the floor in an open discussion.

The Institute of Welsh Affairs is hosting this event in partnership with Swansea University. The Department of Computer Science and the Information Services and Systems Department of the University have a History of Computing Collection, charting the history of computing and data processing, especially in Wales.


2:00pm          Welcome,

Delith Thorpe, Secretary, IWA Swansea Bay Branch

2:10pm           CLP/DVLC/DVLA – A History,

Professor John Tucker, Computer Science, Swansea University

2:45pm           Centralisation and Computerisation – In the beginning,

Mike Robinson, former Director of IT Services

3:00pm          Open discussion,

Chaired by Prof. John Tucker

4:00pm          Close,

Delith Thorpe

Bristol hybrid buses trial given £1m government grant …

BBC News 9 January 2015

Hybrid buses that automatically switch from diesel to electric power in areas with poorer air quality are to be trialled in Bristol.

The city has been given a £1m grant from the government to buy a number of hybrid buses, to coincide with its year as European Green Capital.

Bristol City Council will launch a competition to select a bus operator to begin the trial in the summer.

The exact areas of the city the buses will operate in has yet to be decided.

The new diesel-electric hybrid buses will use “geo-fence” technology – which uses GPS or radio frequencies to define and recognise geographical boundaries – to automatically switch to zero emissions when entering particular areas of the city.

The “trigger zones” will be set in places with poorer air quality and the council will use the data collected to evaluate the benefits for the city environment.

Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said the ground-breaking trial would “make a real difference in improving people’s lives in Bristol”.

‘Most liveable city’

“The DfT’s £1m funding will provide greener buses to help tackle poor air quality across the city,” she said.

Bristol Mayor George Ferguson said it was “perfect timing” for the city to test such advanced technology.

“We need to exploit these new technologies to help us reach a future where we can all enjoy cleaner air, and a healthier future,” he said.

“Air quality improvements improve health and bring a higher standard of living which will contribute further to Bristol’s reputation as the most liveable city in the UK.”