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Stagecoach becomes 1st UK bus operator to invest in national roll out of new bridge alert technology

STAGECOACH has announced that it will become the 1st bus operator in the country to invest in the national roll out of new bridge alert technology across its fleet.

The ₤4m project will strengthen existing measures in place to prevent bridge strikes and build on Stagecoach's industry leading use of the GreenRoad driver safety and fuel efficiency system.

GreenRoad's core safety system is installed on all of Stagecoach's 8.000 buses in England, Scotland and Wales. The technology also serves professional drivers from companies across:- Europe, the Middle East, America, Australia and New Zealand.

Using a simple traffic light like LED system on the dashboard, the GreenRoad system gives drivers instant feedback about their driving manoeuvres, encouraging smoother, safer, more fuel efficient driving that is more comfortable for passengers.

Stagecoach has been in discussions with GreenRoad over the past eight months on how to extend the telematics technology to further improve safety for its fleet; including:- 3,800 double decker buses; around low bridges.

Data from Network Rail shows that there were 1714 railway bridge strikes across the country in the 2019 to 2020 financial year. Most of these incidents involve heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), with between 40 and 50 a year related to buses.

As well as the potential for serious injuries, bridge strikes have significant financial and other costs for the country. On average, a single bridge strike costs more than ₤6,000 and in 2019 to 2020 these incidents resulted in more than 7,800 hours of delays for rail passengers alone.

The intelligent GreenRoad system will use GPS vehicle location data and mapping services to alert the driver to nearby low bridges. If the technology determines that the bus is heading towards a low bridge, it will sound an in cab alert, allowing a safe exit route that avoids the bridge.

Following a 16 week software development phase, the technology and associated speakers will be installed on Stagecoach buses across the country by summer 2021.

It will enhance a range of existing safety measures in place, including the design of bus routes to avoid low bridges, detailed classroom and practical route training for drivers, and ongoing work with authorities to ensure the placement of appropriate signage and other alerts.

Stagecoach Chief Executive Martin Griffiths said:- "Everything we do starts with safety: for our customers, our people, pedestrians and other road users. Buses are already one of the safest forms of travel. But every year we invest millions of pounds in training our professional driving team and new technology to make our public transport operations even safer. Our country's infrastructure includes many railway bridges designed in an era before modern transport vehicles went on the road, creating a safety risk. We have been working for many months with GreenRoad to design this important Low Bridge Alert enhancement to their proven safety technology, and are now implementing it to bolster the extensive measures we already have in place. We look forward to delivering the benefits from our investment across the country."

The industry leading initiative has been welcomed by Network Rail, which works with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), highways bodies, and road transport providers to help prevent bridge strikes.

Network Rail's Chair, Sir Peter Hendy CBE, said:- "Bridge strikes are an unnecessary burden on our railway. They pose serious safety risks, cause hours of delays for rail passengers and road users and swallow up public funds which should be used on upgrading and improving our network. We've seen encouraging signs of incidents declining recently thanks to our engagement work with industry partners, drivers and operators, as well as the introduction of technology which assists drivers, but the transport sector has to continue working together to make bridge strikes a thing of the past. I commend Stagecoach on taking the initiative with the roll out of this technology and I hope to see other operators take a similar proactive approach to tackling the issue in the near future."

Stagecoach's bus drivers have been leading the way in GreenRoad's global performance measurement programme for the past five years. More than 5,000 of Stagecoach's 15,000 drivers have been awarded GreenRoad's Fleet Elite status, reflecting the company's approach to consistent improvement in safety and ongoing investment in driver training.

To gain Fleet Elite status, drivers must achieve an average of five or fewer events, such as harsh braking or acceleration, per 10 hours of driving over the entire calendar year. More Stagecoach employees have gained Fleet Elite status than any other company in the worldwide scheme.

David Ripstein, GreenRoad's President and CEO, said:- "We are pleased and honored to continue assisting Stagecoach in addressing some of its most significant safety challenges. We view ourselves as a safety technology leader that forms long term partnerships with our customers, leveraging our best in class safety telematics solutions, together with our many years of experience, to help them reduce accidents, improve operations and minimise risk. We look forward to continued close cooperation to help Stagecoach reach the uncompromising standards of safety that they have set for themselves."

Southport's Botanic Gardens Aviaries to undergo repairs

SOUTHPORT'S Botanic Gardens Aviaries; home to a range of exotic birds such as parrots and parakeets, as well as rabbits, and guinea pigs; are set to undergo further repair works this month. Back in 2020, Sefton Council refurbished the parakeet Aviary and the guinea pig area. Now further works work will take place to repair and improve the infrastructure that houses the animals to ensure the Aviary remains fit for purpose.

The Council's Green Sefton team works in partnership with the Botanic Gardens Community Association (BGCA) to maintain the Aviary. The BGCA has raised ₤8,000 to support the works, which will include new and improved flooring, roofing and drainage.

The Aviary closed to the public in December 2020, in line with national restrictions for an on going avian flu outbreak and remains closed under national lockdown guidance. The birds and animals remain at the Aviary, but for safety are being kept in their indoor accommodation during the outbreak and while the Aviary undergoes repair works.

The Aviary will reopen to the public after the completion of the works and dependent on the latest Government advice on both the avian flu and Coronavirus restrictions.

Cllr Ian Moncur, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said:- "It is important we maintain good standards of animal welfare at the Aviary and these latest works are part of our annual programme of repairs and improvements to ensure that the exotic birds and small animals continue to have a comfortable place to call home. We remain committed to maintaining the RSPCA Five Freedoms measures which ensure our animals are kept safe and well. In the future we will be offering opportunities for people to sponsor pens and birds to help maintain these high standards."

People can find out more about the Aviary on its dedicated Facebook Page.

Cllr Moncur also extended his thanks to the BGCA members:- "I would like to acknowledge the tremendous support and dedication of the BGCA members who are committed to working alongside Green Sefton to maintain and improve the park and gardens, so that everyone can continue to enjoy them."

People can find more on the Borough's parks, play areas and open spaces managed by the Green Sefton team, with support from volunteers and partners, by visiting the Sefton Council website.

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