New buses ushered into service early


First invests £3m in Bath to Bristol service

First West of England has introduced new buses on its X39 route linking Bristol with Bath. The move is ahead of their planned launch as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The £3m investment in 12 new Alexander Dennis Enviro400 buses has also seen the route receive the new ‘Aquae’ brand – latin for ‘waters’ – with a special aqua green livery.

James Freeman, Managing Director at First West of England, said: “This upgraded fleet with its shiny new brand was scheduled to launch over Easter, but due to the current coronavirus crisis, we’ve bought a number of these buses into service now.

“The Bath to Bristol service has proved incredibly popular, with passenger numbers up year-on-year. In recent years we’ve improved the reliability of the X39, so it is now up to around 95% punctual and transports people right into the heart of both Bristol and Bath city centres.”

The introduction of this new ‘Aquae’ vehicles forms part of a significant programme of investment by First West of England, which has seen £30m spent over the past two years.


Free bus and tram travel in West Midlands for NHS staff

West Midlands bus operators and the West Midlands Metro have teamed up to allow anyone working in hospitals and frontline medical facilities to travel for free during the Covid-19 outbreak – simply by showing their NHS pass.

Children of key workers travelling to school are also eligible for free travel on production of their personalised letter allowing them to continue to attend school during this period.

The free travel offer comes after Transport for West Midlands launched free shuttle bus services for NHS and social care staff serving key locations, by redeploying the existing ring and ride minibus fleet.

Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands, said: “We want to do as much as we can to support our NHS workers at this difficult time, and I am delighted that our bus companies and the Midland Metro have stepped up to offer free services.”


Southern team set up hand sanitiser bottling plant

Staff at one of train operator Southern’s depots have turned their hands to bottling hand sanitiser gel in order to help keep services running during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Set up in response to the crisis in a matter of hours when normal suppliers started struggling to deliver, bulk deliveries of hand sanitiser have been decanted and packed into 1,000 bottles by the Horsham Maintenance Depot ready to be sent on to hubs across the Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern networks. Empty bottles are returned for recycling.

“We make sure each delivery we get is spread as far afield as possible, and in a few hours the team were able to run like a factory production line,” said logistics manager for Southern Tessa Holme. “We’ve been crazy busy, flitting between bottling, forklifts and deliveries. The team has been great, showing great diversification.”

Once decanted the team distributes to locations from Gillingham, Ashford to Barnham, Brighton and London. Deliveries are also made to Thameslink and Great Northern’s Letchworth Distribution Team for onward delivery to keep their teams stocked up.