Category Archives: Public Transport

Bike rental scheme to launch on 1 September

From The Argus

Brighton’s bike rental scheme will launch on September 1.

A total of 450 bikes will be stationed around the city for the start of the month at 30 docking stations.

A further 20 stations are still to be built.

The scheme, which is officially titled BTN BikeShare, has cost £1.45 million with Brighton and Hove City Council contributing £290,000.

To use the bikes customers will have to sign up via the official app or online – with registration already open.

The bicycles will cost the equivalent of 3p per minute to use, but there is a minimum of £1 per journey, meaning that an hour’s ride on the bike will cost £1.80.

Regular users can also get a year’s subscription for £72. However, this does not allow unlimited cycling and only allows the use of the bikes for one hour every day for the year.

The scheme is being operated by a company called Hourbike.

Owner Tim Caswell, said: “The scheme will be a very positive addition to the city, and has already largely been embraced by the community. We have seen how successful our bike share schemes have been in Reading, Oxford, and Liverpool – and these are cities that don’t have the same green credentials as Brighton and Hove, or the same bike technology.”

Speaking to The Argus, he added: “There’s a real buzz about Brighton and Hove and we are incredibly excited to be launching here”.

The majority of the docking stations are along the seafront, up towards the station and then further out towards the universities.

The bikes, which are designed by Social Bicyles (SoBi), are sponsored by Life Water UK. They feature a locking and GPS system meaning that cyclists will not have to find a docking hub to lock them up.

Among the groups to back the scheme is Coast to Capital.

Chief executive Jonathan Sharrock said: “The scheme will deliver a multitude of environmental and health benefits, create new jobs and provide an excellent green transport option.”

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Rail union suspends strikes

From Brighton & Hove Independent

The RMT has suspended strike action by both drivers and guards on Southern Rail after being approached for direct talks with the Secretary of State.

The RMT union has suspended the industrial strike for guards planned for Tuesday, August 1, after the union’s general secretary was invited to meet with Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for transport.

A driver strike on Tuesday, August 1, Wednesday, August 2, and Friday, August 4, has also been called off.

“We instruct the General Secretary to arrange the meeting and to place back before this NEC an update on the progress of the talks by Tuesday, August 1,” a spokesman said.

“RMT will be making no further comment at this stage as we arrange details for the talks and allow them space to take place.”

Electric bus trial to commence

From The Argus

Brighton and Hove Bus Company will begin trials with this electric bus.

Bosses have given the green light for a plan to pull the petrol and run their first trial of electric buses.

Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company has announced the emissions free vehicle will begin running along the city’s streets from this week.

It is the latest move designed to reduce air pollution in the city – which exceeds EU safe standards along major bus routes in Lewes Road and North Street as well as Rottingdean High Street.

The company is following in the footsteps of The Big Lemon company who are working to convert all their cooking oil fuelled vehicles into electric buses having received funding to create a solar powered recharging point at their depot.

Previously plans for electric buses had been on hold because of concerns over whether electric vehicles would be able to cope with the city’s steep hills.

Under the trial, a small single-deck electric bus known as a Streetair is being trialled this week on the number 50 bus route which runs between the University of Sussex and Brighton Railway Station.

The trial is designed to explore the right fuel options for the city in the short, medium and long term and will run on the city’s streets for a couple of months.

The electric bus, which has come from Northern Irish-based bus manufacturer Wrightbus, will be charged overnight and feature messages informing passengers and residents about the trial.

Passengers will also be able to pick up the environmentally friendly bus at Churchill Square, the Old Steine, Theatre Royal, Royal Pavilion, Jubilee Library, Brighton Museum, Brighton Pier and the Sea Life Centre.

Last year the company, which was founded in 1935, phased out all of its remaining 100 Euro 3 emission standard vehicles and has spent millions on the highest-standard Euro 6 buses while converting other vehicles to lower-emission technology.

Managing Director Martin Harris said: “We are excited to start this electric bus trial so we can see how the vehicle copes with the city’s topography and high passenger volumes.

“We foresee that ‘electric’ will form part of a multi-pronged strategy for a sustainable transport system for the future, and are currently exploring a number of fuel options for the short, medium and long term.”

Government paying Govia Thameslink £38m for ‘disastrous’ performance

From Brighton & Hove News

The Department for Transport (DfT) is paying £38 million to train company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) despite “disastrous outcomes” over the past year.

The payment is flagged up in a critical report by the House of Commons Transport Committee which spells out shortcomings in the official handling of railway franchises.

The cross-party committee of MPs said that the DfT had “failed to take responsibility for some of the failings in handling the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) franchise”.

Louise Ellman, who chairs the committee, said: “The government has serious lessons to learn from the management of the TSGN franchise.

“Our committee exposed serious deficiencies in the department’s monitoring and enforcement of this franchise which has already led to a change of policy on performance reporting.

“This can only help to hold serially underperforming operators like GTR to proper account.

“If GTR is officially found to be in breach of contract – and the committee is still pushing ministers for an answer on this – the Department for Transport should consider restructuring the franchise.”

Click here for the full story.

Southern Rail reintroduces emergency timetable

From The Argus

Buses are set to replace trains in parts of the county as Southern Railway announced the implementation of a new emergency timetable.

Southern announced that from Tuesday until further notice, services between Lewes and Seaford are all cancelled.

Bus services will operate between Seaford, Bishopstone, Newhaven Harbour, Newhaven Town, Southease and Lewes.

It is not the first time passengers on the Seaford branch line has had its services axed. Around 80 per cent of trains on the route were axed in July.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union on Southern will strike for three days from Tuesday in protest at changes to the role of conductors.

The drivers’ union Aslef is due to start an overtime ban on Southern from Tuesday ahead of strikes later in the month and in the new year in a row over driver-only trains.

Southern is taking legal action to try to stop the strikes, but if the action goes ahead, services will be crippled.

Southern warned passengers to expect “severe and significant” disruption to Southern and Gatwick Express services every day from Tuesday.

Southern is advising that Aslef’s continuous drivers’ overtime ban will severely affect services every day.

On RMT strike days this will result in only around 50% of the full timetable being able to operate. If the Aslef strikes go ahead, no Southern services will operate, with only Thameslink services to Three Bridges and Brighton and a limited service on Gatwick Express.

Southern director Alex Foulds said: “Regrettably, because of this wholly unnecessary and unjustified industrial action, there will be severe and significant disruption on our network from Tuesday and customers are advised that stations will be incredibly busy.

“If passengers can make alternative travel arrangements they should, and if they don’t have to travel they shouldn’t. If the drivers’ strikes go ahead, there will be no services on Southern and customers should not attempt to travel.

“We’re doing everything we can to stop the drivers’ strike and that’s why we are seeking an injunction in the High Court.

“This industrial action is a clearly co-ordinated and cynical manoeuvre by the unions to bring yet further travel misery to passengers as well as having a detrimental impact on the regional economy when it least needs it.

“If the unions are listening to passengers then they will call off all industrial action now and give hardworking commuters and their families their lives back.”

Thameslink is not directly affected by the strike action, although its services are expected to be extremely busy.

Other operators’ services are not affected, but are likely to be busier.

Business travel by train to Brighton up by 230 per cent

From The Argus

Brighton has become the fastest-growing hub in the country for budding entrepreneurs and enterprises – but the current rail chaos could put an end to that.

Business travel by small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) has increased by 230 per cent in the last four years on rail routes between Brighton and London.

Brighton topped the list of emerging business hubs from across the UK, followed by Swindon and Oxford. Often referred to as Silicon Beach for its ability to attract creative and digital talent, Brighton has emerged a business hub boasting more creative SMEs and start-ups per capita than anywhere else in the UK.

The data from in a report by Trainline for Business -a train booking website – also shows SME rail business travel across the UK has increased by 65 per cent since 2012.

But this may now be at risk due to the current chaos on our rail network with the ongoing bitter dispute between management and workers showing no sign of ending.

Former Brighton and Hove City Council leader Jason Kitcat, micro-business ambassador for Chorus – a free membership organisation launched to provide support, advice and to campaign for the needs of the UK’s micro-businesses – said the train situation is causing real problems every day.

He said: “Rail chaos over an extended period of time is a huge problem for everyone.

“That includes freelancers, contractors and micro-business owners who rely on the rail system to get them to client meetings in good time, and back home again in time for dinner.

“The current rail system just isn’t delivering, it’s definitely time for change.”

The new report shows that SME rail business travel across the UK has increased by 65 per cent since 2012.

Dr Alasdair Rae, senior lecturer in urban studies and planning, said the growth in travel to and from Brighton suggests a growing appetite for more companies to be based outside the capital.

He said: “Trainline’s data on rail business travel provides a compelling and timely insight into the geography of SMEs across the country.

“It’s clear that something significant is happening in terms of the growing number choosing to do business outside London.

“With cheaper rents, quick access to the capital and highly skilled local labour markets, many SMEs appear to be taking advantage of cities across the UK, with Brighton proving particularly popular.

“Yes, the capital remains the brightest star in the UK economy, but there is a constellation of smaller towns and cities upon which our economy also depends.”

‘Taxi Wars’ as Uber arrives

From The Argus

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Taxi wars are set to take hold of Brighton and Hove as Uber hits the city today.

The controversial taxi-hailing app will launch in the city at 4pm Friday 28th October.

It comes as Southern Taxis – which runs Brighton and Hove cab company City Cabs – launches its own mobile phone app also enabling passengers to hail cabs with a click from their phone.

It is set to spark a price-cutting war between the two firms as Uber drivers set their own prices and can undercut competing Hackney Carriage cabs.

Both apps will enable customers to pay by card and track their vehicles’ arrivals on a map.

Uber was given the green light to roll out across the city last October after four days of deliberation by Brighton and Hove City Council.

Uber’s private hire vehicles are distinct from hackney carriages in that they must be booked in advance. They cannot ply for hire in the street, wait at cab ranks or be hailed by passers-by.

But that means they can set their own prices.

The introduction of Uber is set to spark a price war amongst the city’s taxis. Whilst Hackney Carriage cabs have to charge a set tariff of prices ranging from £2.80 to £5.60 for the first 320 yards and any subsequent 160 yards.

Most of the city’s existing private hire cabs also charge the same rates – meaning Uber could bring in stiff competition.

Fred Jones, Uber’s general manager in Brighton, said: “We are a smart phone app through which you can book licensed private hire vehicles.

“There are lots of cool features to improve safety. You can see a picture of the man or woman coming to pick you up and the make and model of the car and the registration details so you can be 100 per cent sure they are background checked.

“In Brighton the private hire companies run off the Hackney Carriage fares. This is one of the only places where private hire rates aren’t cheaper so it’s really exciting to be introducing that level of competition.

The company was only granted its licence by the council’s licensing committee on the grounds that they abide by all the conditions in the Blue Book – a set of guidelines for the local cab trade.

All Uber drivers will have to hold the same licence as any other private hire driver, which includes a check by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), successor to the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).

Uber has always stated they want to be treated the same as every other operator in the city and they will only be allowed to send Brighton and Hove-registered drivers to pick up customers.

The launch of the app also means that licensed drivers already working in the city will be able to move over to working for Uber.

Neither of the city’s two biggest existing taxi companies City Cabs or Streamline wished to comment on the launch of Uber.

In relation to their new rival app Andy Cheesman, managing director of Southern Taxis, said: “As a local, independent company, we are delighted to launch this new app which means our customers can now pay for their journey by debit or credit card while also taking cash and account bookings.

“In addition, it also means they can see the exact whereabouts of their taxi so this will improve waiting times. “Finally, and most importantly, when they use the app to book a taxi, they can do so in the knowledge that all our drivers are DBS checked and all our taxis have state-of-the-art CCTV.”

Click here for the full story.