Monthly Archives: January 2016

Swansea Bus Museum under threat …

New Year message from our Chairman:

First of all I wish you a very Happy New Year! May 2016 look favourably on us all!

2016 is a make or break year for us. As you may be aware, our lease expires at the end of this year and we have been notified that it is highly unlikely to be renewed under the same favourable terms. Our building sits within the SA1 Local Development Area, which is set to evolve rapidly following the opening of the new Swansea University campus last September. It’s only a matter of time before our former industrial site will be consumed for residential and/or leisure use. In the short term, increased occupancy of adjacent units has pushed up rents.

You may recall that we carried out a business planning exercise with Landsker Business Solutions Ltd. in 2014. Key to the execution of the plan ls the securing of our own property, either through direct ownership or a very long term lease. Such an arrangement will make it easier for us to obtain grant funding, something we have had only limited success with so far. Our present site arrangement does not fit the criteria to achieve this.

We’re presently investigating several alternative sites in the Swansea Bay area and will place renewed urgency on the situation now that Christmas is behind us. In the meantime, you may have noticed that the museum is currently closed to the general public. This is due to a major housekeeping exercise underway in the spares area at the far corner of the museum in preparation for the move. The need to create space to work in that area has meant that some vehicles have needed to be moved into the public display area, restricting movement there. For public safety reasons the trustees decided on the closure during this quiet time of year. The museum will reopen to the public for the Swansea Historic Vehicle Autojumble on Sunday February 21st , when our vehicles will be on display outside, before our own Running Day on the following Sunday, February 28th.

I’m making a heartfelt appeal for as much assistance as possible from members and volunteers on Sundays during this “down” time. The future success of the museum depends on all of us, while failure will see the break-up of the collection and the likely loss of many historic vehicles to the scrap man, something we have worked hard to avoid over the years. We really need to be pulling together now!

To this end I request that as many of you as possible attend the next monthly members’ meeting at the museum on Sunday January 10th at 11am.

I trust that I can count on your continuing support at this crucial time.

Alan West
Chairman, Swansea Bus Museum

Robot buses lead way to turn science fiction into reality …

The Times, 29 December 2015, Elizabeth Rigby and Nic Fildes

Robot buses in rural communities, satellite navigation systems to help shoppers find available parking spaces and virtual reality sets to beam Nobel prize winners into classrooms could become reality, according to Whitehall.

The ideas are being drawn up as part of a five-year digital strategy to ensure that the government is not left behind in the digital revolution.

Ministers from every department will be asked to come up with policies for education, transport and healthcare, as David Cameron establishes new digital ambitions for the remainder of this parliament. “This is cross-government,” one Whitehall official said. “It is about how we push the boundaries and make sure every bit of government is digital and policy is more digital.”

The strategy reinforces the government’s efforts to boost the digital economy, which began in 2010 when Mr Cameron launched the “Tech City” initiative to promote the cluster of high-tech businesses around Shoreditch in east London.

Latest official figures show that the digital sector accounted for 7.5 per cent of the economy, or £113 billion, in 2013, putting Britain marginally ahead of Germany.

The digital economy is also outpacing other sectors, growing seven times faster than the wider economy between 2008 and 2013. “From driverless cars to deliveries by drone — the future imagined by far-fetched science fiction films from only a few years ago is rapidly coming true,” Ed Vaizey, the digital minister, told The Times.

“New technologies are changing every aspect of our lives. We need to make sure that wherever government is involved — as the service provider, regulator or a major buyer — we are making the most of it.”

Mr Vaizey said that the government intended to develop more open online courses in schools so that leading educators could be beamed into classrooms.

The NHS will also be asked to develop and use technology to predict illnesses and to take pre-emptive action. “A patient might have a wearable monitor — a FitBit [activity tracker] for example — which monitors their vitals; real-time data might pick up a risk of diabetes, and preventative action is taken,” one official explained.

Ministers will also try to realise the promise of a smartphone state by making it easier for people to fill in tax returns and renew driving licences. “Government services need to be as good as the best consumer services,” Mr Vaizey said. “Renewing your passport should be as easy as buying a book online.”

The government’s plans for a fully fledged digital economy have been hampered by the debate about the quality of broadband and mobile networks.

People in rural areas have become frustrated that the services envisaged by the government will not be available to them, given the lack of improvement in broadband speeds.

The government has set out an ambition to connect all citizens to a minimum speed of 10Mbps by 2020, but telecoms companies say that promises to speed up improvements to the networks, by reforming the rules governing mast installation, have not come to fruition.

Mr Vaizey said that the government remained on track to provide superfast broadband to 95 per cent of the country by the end of 2017, adding that it was crucial that Whitehall embraced the next phase of the digital revolution.

The deadline for submissions for the government strategy paper is January 19, with the document set to be published by the spring.

Go-Ahead on the road to Singapore with bus deal …

The Times, 24 November 2015, Robert Lea

The Singaporean invasion of the British passenger transport market has been partially reversed, with Go-Ahead Group announcing a £230 million, five-year contract to run buses in the Asian city-state. Its contract covering the Loyang district is the first foray in the Singapore market by a British bus and train group.

David Brown, Go-Ahead’s chief executive, said that the group had pushed its status as London’s largest bus operator during the bidding. “We have a strong track record of providing passenger transport in busy urban areas,” he said.

In recent years, the flow of deal traffic has been largely in the opposite direction. Metroline, for example, one of London’s largest bus companies, is owned by ComfortDelGro, a Singapore-listed group that also runs Armchair and Westbus coach operations in the southeast and CityLink in Scotland, plus taxi operations in several cities.

Shares in Go-Ahead dipped 20p, or 0.8 per cent, to £25.73.

It’s grim up north for FirstGroup …

The Times, 10 December 2015, Alistair Osborne: Business commentary

Tourists are always asking: can you direct us to the Northern Powerhouse? And the honest answer is no chance, mate — and not just because it’s north of Watford. It’s because it’s a figment of the chancellor’s imagination.

So, how nice to see one of George Osborne’s cabinet colleagues admitting as much with his award of two rail franchises: one to a state-owned German outfit, dressed up as Arriva, the other to FirstGroup. The pair are ready to deliver “a world class rail service that would make the Northern Powerhouse a reality”. Or so said transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, immediately dispatching a junior minister, Andrew Jones, up north to unfurl a Northern Powerhouse banner — before putting it back in his bag.

There you have it, then. The whole powerhouse thing’s basically a flag. So it’s dead lucky everyone was so distracted by the shock of FirstGroup actually winning a rail franchise: TransPennine Express. True, winning slightly overstates things, what with the transport group having run it already for 11 years. But at least it’s not another loss, the main forte lately of chief executive Tim O’Toole, who lost Thameslink, ScotRail and the Caledonian sleeper while failing to replace them with the East Coast or vomit comet (Essex Thameside).

Astonishingly, it’s First’s first win since 2012’s West Coast bid fiasco — and now, instead of getting a subsidy to run TransPennine, it’ll have to make £400 million of premium payments and invest £500 million by 2023. That will produce the new trains to increase capacity by 55 per cent between the likes of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield — enough, First reckons, to maintain the pace of passenger growth, up from 13 million to 28 million since 2004. Better, First won’t have to share profits with its former partner, France’s Keolis, which switched sides to bid with Go-Ahead and lost.

Anyway, it was enough to lift First shares 1 per cent to nearly 104¼p, still a bit below the 119p ex-rights price where the group raised £615 million in 2013. But at least First had a better day than rival Stagecoach, which lost the TransPennine bid, pulled out of the one for East Anglia and tried to blame Isis for its rubbish figures, so getting a deserved 14 per cent share price spanking.

As for Mr Osborne’s pet project, think-tank IPPR North reckons “between £15 billion and £65 billion is required to transform the north’s transport infrastructure”. What’s a gap of £50 billion, except, of course, lots of Northern Powerhouse flags.

Research enquiry – Hindustan Motors and Morris Motors

Dear RRTHA members,

I am currently engaging on research for a postdoctoral project on the history of India’s automotive industry since the 1940s. One of my interests is in the collaboration between Hindustan Motors and Morris Motors roughly since the time of the Second World War. The production of the Ambassador car, which was modelled on an earlier Morris car, has only just ceased in 2014.

I think I have found a number of relevant material on this cooperation, but I would like to dig some further and uncover new documentation which could also bring up new perspectives on this cooperation.

My question is whether members of your association know more about the Morris company and its interests in the Indian market. Where could I find more information on this specific connection to India? Are there any publication by Morris on India or its cooperation partner? I would be very grateful if you could let me know.

I am currently in India, but will be doing research in UK over the next year for longer periods.

With best wishes from New Delhi,

Stefan Tetzlaff
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Centre for Indian and South Asian Studies (CEIAS)

EHESS-CNRS, Paris, France


Stefan Tetzlaff
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Centre for Indian and South Asian Studies (CEIAS)
EHESS-CNRS, Paris, France
+91 728 999 7706

Affiliated Research Fellow
Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), New Delhi
Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (CSSS), Kolkata