Scottish Transport Minister calls for devolution of train services

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Photo credit: Cormac Rae

The devolution of rail services in Scotland could be a step closer, after a report released today by think tank Reform Scotland harshly criticised ScotRail for failing to deliver an acceptable standard of service.

Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf, renewed calls for devolution of responsibility for Scottish train services, to the Scottish Government.

The Minister said:

“Network rail should be devolved to Scotland. That’s a call I’ve made, that’s a call my predecessors collectively have previously as well, and now it seems Labour politicians are making the same case as well.  I welcome that [agreement] from Tom Harris and welcome that [report] from Reform Scotland.”

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Quantas ground all Airbuses after engine explosion

By Michael Mckeand

The remains of one of Flight QF32s engines after a mid-air explosion meant it had to make an emergency landing in Changi Airport, Singapore

Quantas last night grounded their fleet of six A380 Airbuses after an explosion ripped apart an engine on flight QF32.

The aircraft was six minutes into its flight from Singapore to Sydney and was at 6000 feet. It was flying over the Indonesian island of Batam when parts of the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine ripped through the wing of the plane.

Ulf Waschbusch, one of the passengers on the flight, told journalists there was a boom and “a little bit of fire”.

“Something ruptured the left-wing; it was a small rupture,” the Singapore-based technology executive said. “Everyone was surprisingly calm on the plane. We were not going crazy at all.”

He continued by saying, “The crew helped tremendously. I felt in good hands. Qantas did a great job in keeping us safe.”

The aircraft landed safely at 11.46am back in Singapore but damage in the wiring meant engineers were initially unable to get near the damaged engine. Five hours later, the passengers were escorted to coaches ready to take them to Singapore hotels.

Debris also hit Batam City in various locations including the roof of an elementary school, but watching students all escaped injury. Principal Sarifah Masnawati said, “We heard an explosion and students and teachers ran outside where we saw the plane circling. ”

“We got all the children back into the school because there were pieces of metal falling in the grounds, the biggest one or two kilos.”

“Thank God there were no victims.”

Concerns that the incident was caused by volcanic ash from the Mount Merapi eruptions,  have been downplayed by Indonesian aviation authorities.

Quantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said the airline were working with Airbus and Rolls-Royce in investigating the reason behind the incident and to ensure there were no problems with the other A380s in the Quantas fleet.

Mr Joyce denies any problems with the maintenance of the aircraft. “This is an aircraft that is relatively new, this aircraft is only two years of age, these engines are new engines,” he said. “So this is not a maintenance issue, this is actually an issue with the manufacture of the aircraft or the engines.” He was also full of praise for the flight and cabin crew stating that they did “a fantastic job” handling the incident. He also added that Quantas still retained the lowest rate of engine failures in the industry.

Peter Marosszeky, a senior visiting fellow of the University of NSW‘s department of aviation, said photographs of the plane suggested a massive internal failure of the engine, possibly a gas generator, turbine or bearing. He Said, “this type of incident has been seen previously, but it was a long time ago and with much older planes than the A380.

As a result, Quantas have grounded all their A380s, three in Los Angeles, one in Sydney and one in Frankfurt. Singapore Airlines though have stated that they will continue to fly their eleven A380s, despite Mr Joyce’s warnings that the explosion was an issue for all operators of the aircraft.

Investigations into the incident are ongoing.

Tram project set to move on after setback

by Sean McLennan and Oliver Hughes

The chairman of Transport Edinburgh, Lothian buses and TIE ltd, David Mackay, this morning made an executive decision to step down from his position at the three organisations. His resignation will come into immediate effect after his growing frustration over the progress of the controversial tram system.

Press officer, Lynn McMath of Transport Initiative Edinburgh (TIE) stated, “We are sad to lose him, but we understand the reason he had to leave. Edinburgh tram project will continue with the strategy that David implemented. The board fully endorsed his strategy.” Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, Councillor Jenny Daw told the press “Urgent steps will be taken to ensure that we build upon the very substantial foundation that he has built.”

David McKay came under particular pressure with regard to TIE’s relationship to German contractor ‘Bilfinger Berger’, who he referred to in a recent interview with the Scotsman as delinquent contractor’. A statement with a notably different tone to his speech given in today’s press release.

“This project has been an enormously absorbing one and as such there was never going to be an entirely ideal time to step aside. In the past few months I have been keen to see a number of milestones set in place and this I have now done. I believe that for every Chair there comes an important juncture when the most powerful action you can take is to pass the controls to a successor and to then watch that organisation develop further under a new champion.

“The last few years have been stimulating and challenging and I believe that considerable progress has been made across many fronts and particularly, on Trams, where our imperative to protect the public purse has been notably successful.

“The time has now come when it is appropriate for me to move on which should allow me to refocus my energies on to a better, and probably much overdue, calmer work/life balance.

“I would particularly like to pay tribute to the many colleagues and peers I have worked with and those at Edinburgh Trams in particular who have shown remarkable resilience and energy in the face of what has been at times, a very difficult and complex situation”.

The German contractor is placed at the centre of many problems surrounding the project ranging from overflowing budget that has risen from 545mil to an estimated 600mil and the projects lack of  progress. McMath commented: “The dispute is centered around Bilfinger Berger but the negotiation team are currently looking for a solution to the problem.”

The advancement of the project now suspected to rest in the hands of chief executives Richard Jeffrey or Iain Craig though no single predecessor has been officially announced.

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