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The Brexit omnishambles continues.

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Well, what a day it’s been! We’ve had the sight of Nigel Farage’s ‘MarchtoBrexit’ stumble into day three with a dwindling cast that doesn’t include any of the High Command. Farage himself’s nowhere to be seen and neither is any of the Brexity MPs who turned up for the photo opportunity on the first day, then promptly buggered off back to London. Instead, a few sad souls continue their ‘trek’ – although it’s clear that much of the trip is a sham and they travel between locations by coach! They’ve been mercilessly trolled on social media, so much so that many of them don’t even bother using the #MarchtoLeave hashtag on Twitter as it’s all to embarrassing. They’re followed by ‘Led by Donkeys’, a crowdfunded group which is doing some excellent working exposing the hypocrisy of Leave leaders through the devastating use of posters and social media. Here’s a couple of gems from today.

donkeys 1

Yes, that’s right, the 200 ‘strong’ march has petered out by day three to be just 60 people. When you consider how many of these will be stewards and organisers, you have to ask, how many ordinary people (who paid £50 for the privilege) are actually there? Here’s another gem as marchers use one of the Donkey’s mobile poster vans as a place to rest their weary bones!

donkeys 2

The march is a perfect metaphor for Brexit, but the day got even more interesting later when the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, ruled that Teresa May couldn’t have another bite of the Brexit cherry and re-introduce her motion for the third time. Bizarrely, this seemed to take the Government by surprise, despite the fact many Parliamentarians and constitutional experts knew that this was a real possibility thanks to the provisions contained in Erskine May, the bible of Parliamentary practise.

So, now all hell’s broken loose in Parliament! If it wasn’t so bloody serious it would be hilarious! We are 11 days away from crashing out of the EU with no deal of any sort in place and no-one’s got a clue what to do! The fact that a developed nation and long-established Parliamentary democracy can descend into such a farce should be an object lesson to all nations and a lesson in how arrogance and complacency – oh, and some pretty shit politicians on all sides of the spectrum – can cripple a country.

What next? At the moment no-one has a clue. People are throwing around all sorts of fanciful scenarios and suggestions. All we know is the clock’s still ticking. Older readers may remember an American comedy called ‘Soap’ which ran from 1977 to 1981. Each episode began with a catch-up of the shenanigans in that last one, then the voice-over announced ‘Confused? You will be – after the next episode of Soap’

I think their writers came up with Brexit…

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Oops! Stophs2 did it again…

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The other week I blogged about the latest doomed attempt to start an anti Hs2 petition on the Government website dedicated to providing them. At the time the petition was being ignored/slipped in under the radar of sole surviving official group, aka Stophs2. It had taken several months to get a measly 1154 signatures, then a couple of regular stophs2 tweeters spotted and pushed it, so finally, on March 14th Stophs2 jumped on the bandwagon and publicised it too.

stophs2 punting petition

Bad move! Now they’ve officially endorsed it I feel I can give it some more attention.

So, how’s it done now if it had reached ten grand on the 14th and it’s now been given the blessing of Stophs2? The answer is – not very well – at all. Here’s today’s ‘scores on the doors’! as at 17:46.

petition. 18.3.19

Wow! Two thousand signatures in 4 days eh? There’s only one slight problem. It needed more than that every single day! Here’s some number crunching. Including today, the petition has 38 days left to run. That means that (from tomorrow) it needs 2,373 every single day to have a hope in hell of hitting the 100,000 target. That’s a figure it’s never, ever hit. If you look through the most popular petitions you see that the more populations get in a couple of hours what this needs in a day, which rather exposes the lie that so many people are upset about Hs2!

petitions

It gets worse for Hs2 antis, because these petitions come with a handy little map which shows which constituencies signatures come from. Now, Hs2 antis swear blind that StopHs2 is a truly national campaign and that they’re not ‘really’ Nimbys, oh no! The map blows that claim out of the water. See if you can guess by looking at the concentration of signatures where Hs2 just might run?

nimby map

The biggest number of signatures comes from Buckinghamshire with 1,165. (or 1.15% of all constituents). So, not Nimbys at all!

bucks

Why Hs2 antis still continue with these crazy petitions is a mystery as all they do is cause them harm, but hey ho! Let’s see what the final shambolic total is next month as last time they didn’t even make the 30k mark.

 

One of those days…

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But in a good way! There’s been so much to blog about but I’ve been taking it easy instead as it’s been a very convivial weekend. Yesterday we were out celebrating a friends birthday which meant today was always going to be a little ‘relaxed’. I’ve spent most of it scanning more old slides like this one. The railways often (rightly) complain about road vehicles striking railway bridges, but for once the boot was on the other foot and it resulted in this ‘italic‘ Class 08…

06480. 08898. Stored in the Down sorting sidings. Bescot. 29.3.97crop

This is what happens when people don’t check loading gauges. The loco concerned was photographed when it was dumped at Bescot (Birmingham) in 1997. It ended up looking this way because it had been used on the Burry Port and Gwendraeth Valley Railway in South Wales, which had some extremely low bridges. So much so that the locomotives used on the line had to have cut-down cabs so that they fitted. Only no-one checked 08898 had when they used it to deputise for one of the regular locos…

I’ve dozens more slides ready to scan but they’re not going to get done tonight. You’ll find them being added to my website over the next few days. Instead I’m going to have some quality time with my other half. Catch you all tomorrow!

You’ve got to laugh!

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The weather forecast was spot-on. It’s never stopped raining in the Calder Valley today. As it’s so bad I’ve stayed in and got on with scanning some more old slides whilst keeping one eye on social media – which has provided a real laugh to brighten up a grim day! Nigel Farage began his ‘MarchtoLeave’ today and it’s provoked some real fun on Twitter as only 200 people have turned up. You can find a report of the event here

Presumably dreamed up after a few too many sherberts in the pub, Farage’s pro Brexit march was meant to be a recreation of the famous Jarrow march of the 1930s – apart from the fact he didn’t start in Jarrow, he’s not walking all the way to London and they’re bussing some sections between towns!

The official hashtag (#Marchforleave) has been subverted and someone has started the #GammonballRun hashtag, which is producing some absolute gems! Here’s a couple.

gammonball1

gammon 3

gammon 4

The march seems a prefect metaphor for Brexit. It was a bad idea poorly executed that’s over promised and under delivered! I expect it will provoke a lot more fun before it either fizzles out or actually makes it to London.

Meanwhile, here’s one of the old slides I’ve been scanning. I’ll add caption details later.

06463. 150201. Southport - Chester service. Southport. 26.1.97crop

Right now it’s time to get changed and head out as we’re out with friends in Sowerby Bridge this afternoon, having tapas to celebrate Tony Allan’s birthday. I’ll add some pictures later.

22:34

We’ve had a lovely night celebrating Tony’s birthday at the Engine in Sowerby Bridge.

The food was great and the company sublime. Now it’s time to call it a day.

Rolling blog: What a wonderful world?

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This morning I woke up to the tragic and horrific news from New Zealand, where 49 people have been murdered by right-wing extremists in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch. For me this is no far away incident as I was in Christchurch in January. It’s a city that’s no stranger to suffering as it was devastated by earthquakes several years ago, but this latest tragedy is entirely man-made.

What it highlights is the rise of right-wing extremism, which is something we’re seeing everywhere, even in the UK. We have the likes of Yaxley Lennon (aka’ Tommy Robinson’) peddling his hate and door-stepping at midnight anyone who has the temerity to stand up to him or expose him. We have the far-right ‘yellow jackets’ who abuse MPs and ordinary people on the streets of London and cities like Manchester. Sadly, nowadays, far too many people are apologists for these fascists. It’s about time ordinary, decent people rejected these extremists. We need to become intolerant of intolerance.

14:49

After a few hours based at ACoRP towers in Huddersfield I’ve nipped out for a couple of hours in order to make the most of the sunshine whilst we have it as the weather forecast for tomorrow looks awful, so I expect to be stuck indoors.

Right now I’m on a busy Trans-Pennine service heading to Leeds, which us standing room only as usual. I’m looking forward to their new ‘Nova’ trains entering service later this year as then I might be able to get a seat!

16:21

Whilst in Leeds I managed to track down one of Northern’s refurbished Class 333 EMUs (013) and take a trip out to Ilkley and back. I have to admit, they look very smart.

17:08

Now I’m back in Leeds, having joined the throng hoping to get on the late running 17:06 back to Huddersfield. We’ve all made it on and now there’s 12 of us occupying the vestibule as well as folk stood in the saloon as ‘poets day’* is in full swing.

*Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday!

Day 3 of the Brexit omnishambles in Parliament…

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I’m just leaving this here as I’m not going to try and keep a running commentary on this as it would take up to much of my day to distil any sort of sense out of what’s happening at the moment. I’ll try and do that this evening when we know what people might actually be voting on.

Suffice it to say that it’s utterly bizarre and a sign of just how broken politics is tin the UK that we’re not allowed a second referendum on a decision that was made with a majority of 52/48 (and let’s not even get into the criminality and the fiddles inherent in that vote) yet Teresa May is pushing for Parliament to be given a THIRD chance to vote on her deal, despite it having been rejected TWICE, once by a majority of 231 and the second time by 149!

18:33

The votes are over and the farce continues, only now it’s guaranteed to last even longer as Teresa May is having to go back to the EU and ask for an extension of Article 50 beyond the 29th March, the date we were meant to be leaving. After watching some of the charade in Parliament and the votes on various amendments I only have one conclusion. Half the people in Parliament are certifiable. They have no sense of shame at what they’re putting this country through or the absolute shambles they’re making of it. Businesses must have their heads in their hands as they haven’t got a clue where they stand. Our EU neighbours must be looking on with a mix of bemusement and horror at the fact Parliament still can’t work out what it wants to do about Brexit.

So, what do we know? Two things. We know that Teresa May will be making another attempt to get her deal through Parliament next week in a ‘third time lucky’ bid. We also know that she’ll be going cap in hand to the EU summit to ask for an extension of Article 50.

What don’t we know? We don’t know if she’ll get her deal through Parliament on the third attempt so we don’t know what position she’ll be in when she goes to the EU summit. We also don’t know how long and extension of article 50 the EU will agree to give us, or even they’ll agree – as it needs unanimity from all 27 members. If her deal fails again, an extension until June is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard.

Still, we’ve ‘taken back control’ eh? God help us, as each day passes that slogan becomes more and more hollow.

The tragic thing about today’s votes was that MPs rejected a cross-party plan to allow MPs to take control of the Brexit process by the tiny margin of two. My particular ire is directed at the old Labour dinosaurs like Dennis Skinner and the mad Kate Hoey, who voted with the government. Once this mess is finally put to bed I fervently hope there’s a reckoning at the ballot box…

Meanwhile, the agony and uncertainty continue. I wonder how many more businesses are triggering their relocation plans now?

 

Down memory lane: Stratford lunchtimes in 1997

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I’m currently continuing the marathon of scanning all my old rail and travel slides, which has led me up to memories of March 1997, 22 years ago…

Back then I was still living and working in London. Lynn and I had moved from Bromley-by-Bow in the East to a new home in Crouch End in North London, but I still commuted daily to Bow as I remained working in social housing in those days. Rather than use public transport I’d cycle as it was quicker, cheaper and healthier. Having my bike at work meant that it was easy for me to pop down the road from Bow to Stratford at lunchtimes and get some pictures at the station. I was keen to do this as we were leaving the country for 18 months later that year and I knew so much would have changed when we got back (as it had when I left the UK between 1991 – 1992). Here’s a few pictures from those lunchtime sessions. One of the great beauties of Stratford (apart from the fact it was always busy) was that you never quite knew what would turn up!

06413. 86220. 13.30. Liverpool St - Norwich. Stratford. 12.3.97crop

Here’s class 86 no 86220 passing through Stratford with the 13.30 Liverpool St – Norwich on the 12th March 1997. 15 of these former West Coast workhorses had been transferred to the Anglia region when the line to Norwich was electrified in 1986. 86220 remained in service until 2002 when it was withdrawn due to a transformer failure. The rest remained in use hauling passenger trains on Anglia until 2005.

06407. 37046. Stratford. 12.3.97crop

On the same day EW&S operated ‘split box’ 37046 hauled a short civil engineers train through the station, heading for the North London line. These locomotives has a long association with the area, with many based at the old Stratford shed.  They still pop up today, 60 years after they first entered service. This particular loco was transferred to Europe for a few years to work on contracts building high speed lines in France. It returned to the UK in 2007 and was scrapped by CF Booth Rotherham in 2009.

06425. 365534. 315803. Stratford. 17.3.97

I popped back to Stratford on the 17th March when I snapped this unlikely combination. 315803 leads 365534 through the station en-route to the depot at Ilford. The BR built 315s were used on the Liverpool St – Shenfield services and are only just being replaced by the new Bombardier built Class 345s now. The 100mph Class 365s were the last BR built EMUs, having been constructed in 1994-95. The first 16 of the 41 strong fleet were used on the Southern region whilst the remaining 25 were used on services out of Kings Cross to Peterborough, Cambridge and Kings Lynn.

06427. 90138. Stratford. 17.3.97crop

EW&S operated 90138 heads for the North London line with a train of cars and vans from the docks at Dagenham or Tilbury. Stratford was and still is an important freight route, funnelling traffic from the Eastern ports through to the North and West. 90138 was eventually given its old number of 90038 back. It’s been stored unserviceable at Crewe since July 2005 and faces an uncertain future. To the right of the picture is my trusty bike, which I still use today!

06430. 47702. Stratford. 21.3.97crop

I was back to Stratford on the 21st March. Engineers trains often produced oddities such as this. 47702 has fallen on hard times. This former passenger locomotive was built in 1966, originally for BR’s London Midland region before being transferred to the Western region. In 1979 it was converted to ‘push-pull’ operation and worked high-speed (well, for then) services between Edinburgh and Glasgow. In 1990 it moved back down to the Western, working Thames valley services before they went over to DMU operation in 1992. It then ended up working Network SouthEast trains out of Waterloo before being transferred to Stratford in 1993. After being downgraded to a freight pool it was part of the fleet purchased by EW&S. In the picture it still carries the cast depot plate depicting the Stratford shed symbol of the ‘cockney sparrow’ although it was allocated to Toton by now! Whilst in Scotland it was named “St Cuthbert” but in this picture it carries the “County of Suffolk” nameplates previously worn by 47584. After a long and varied career the loco was stored at Toton in 2000 and used a source of spare before finally being cut up in January 2005.

The farce in Parliament rolls on.

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Following yesterday’s political theatre in Parliament, today brings part 2 of the farce. MPs are to be given a ‘free’ vote on the no-deal scenario. There’s just one tiny problem, it’s all utterly pointless. The BBC has reported that the wording of the motion will be this.

BBC

“Declines to approve” is meaningless, as by simple operation of law, we crash out of the European Union on March 29th. MPs have already approved this by triggering article 50. Unless that’s revoked it’s automatic. Barrister David Allan Green (another long time legal observer of this shambles) explains.

David Allan Green

&

dag2

So, what now? How do we stop the Brexit clock ticking? No-one seems to have the answer to that other than by somehow hoping to move the hands on the clock back a few hours. Meanwhile, we have May still playing games by offering meaningless votes and ‘Magic Grandad’ Jeremy Corbyn pissing off more Labour MPs and supporters by blank refusing to carry out his own party policy and banging on pointlessly about a general election he’s unlikely to win. And all the time, the clock’s ticking…

The physical storm that’s battering the UK today is nothing to the economic one that our politicians, in their stupidity and weakness, have triggered, and unless something serious happens in the next two weeks, that storm will arrive at 11:00 on the 29th March 2019.

UPDATE.

Events move on and unfold. This tweet from investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr outlines the machinations going on behind the scenes from some of the spivs who funded the Leave campaign and who stand to benefit.

carole

This was always the danger. The UK can ask for an extension of article 50, but it needs all the EU 27 to agree. Meanwhile, the EU is also making its position clear.

ver

Now, can any Brexit supporter explain how any of this sounds like us taking back ‘control’? I’d love to know…

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE.

It’s now Wednesday evening and Parliament’s been voting. The farce turned into a circus as motioned were agreed, then withdrawn and amendments rose and fell. The upshot was explained by Robert Peston.

peston

Or, as David Allan Green put it,

DAG3

And there’s the issue. We now have Schrödinger’s ‘no deal’, where it’s been taken off the table whilst remaining on it.

Parliament has decided to reject ‘No Deal’ in a non binding vote. They’ve expressed their ‘will’ but no-one’s defused the Brexit bomb and the clock’s still ticking, with the thing due to explode on March 29th…

 

 

Our self humiliation continues

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Today, Teresa May will (in front of the whole world, which is both agog and quietly laughing to itself), stick lipstick on her pig of a EU withdrawal agreement and try and sell it to Parliament, despite them having resoundingly rejected it only a few weeks earlier.

The lipstick is her claim that she’s secured ‘legally binding’ changes to it regarding the backstop. Anyone with half a brain can see this is nonsense, but such is the level of delusion in our politicians – and sections of the media, some will swallow it. Those in the  legal profession, such as the blogger David Allan Green haven’t. As he’s pointed out.

david

david2

Will MPs fall for it? Who knows? It’s a farce that the whole of the UK and the rest of the EU is caught up in because our politicians have neither the guts nor brains to put a stop to it and say ‘this is madness’.

UPDATE.

The Attorney General has published his legal advice to the Government, which piles on Teresa May’s agony.

ag

There is no ‘legally binding’ new agreement, that bollocks has been exposed. So, what now for May’s deal?

UPDATE, 19:26.

So, there we go. May’s ‘deal’ is dead. It was rejected in a vote by 391 to 242, that’s a majority of 149. There was a dull inevitability about this, the only question was how many votes would go against her. Now the farce continues tomorrow, with Parliament voting on a motion that could see ‘no deal’ finally taken off the table. It was always an empty threat that frightened no-one in the EU as they were always far more prepared for the consequences than we were as their politicians weren’t living in cloud-cuckoo land over what the consequences of such a step would be. Many of ours never were – and still aren’t.

What next? Despite the complete absence of a backbone in many MPs nowadays I really can’t see them voting for us to leave without a deal. They may be weak, they may be deluded, but the instinct for self-preservation and the knowledge that history would excoriate them must be felt in their bones.

It now looks like the can will continue to be kicked down the road, with the UK having to ask the EU for an extension of article 50. All the Brexiters claims of us ‘holding all the cards’ and having ‘taken back control’ are exposed for what they were. Lies. It’s up to the EU to decide if they will give us that extension. In theory, they could refuse. They could say, ‘Nah, we’re so sick of your childish political games and arrogance that it’s time you faced the consequences of your actions, so screw you’. They won’t of course, but as the ball’s in their court they can set the time limit on the extension. But, what if they did refuse to extend the time limit, and the UK’s MPs have voted that we can’t leave with no deal. What then?

“Take back control” eh?

Of course, there’s one huge problem with this scenario. That clock’s still ticking, as Jolyon Maugham QC has pointed out via Twitter.

maugn

For those of you who don’t know Jolyon, he’s a QC who’s been at the centre of some very interesting court cases around Brexit. We are not out of the Brexit woods yet. There is one delicious irony in all this. It could be the Brexit extremists in the ERG who (by rejecting May’s deal) might have just killed off any chance of Brexit.

 

Rolling blog: Sun, snow and Sheffield

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08:00

This was the view from our bedroom window this morning as the snow had returned late last night and this time it had crept down further from the valley tops.

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Thankfully, the roads below us remain clear so we shouldn’t have any problem driving over to Huddersfield to meet up with other members of the ACORP team before catching the train to Sheffield. Watch this space…

09:12

Away we go! After a quick visit to ACORP towers we’re now bouncing our way to Sheffield via the scenic Penistone line aboard a Pacer.

09:47.

It’s a beautifully sunny day here on the Penistone line as we bounce and rock towards Sheffield, where the weather’s not looking as inviting. We’ve been in and out of the snowline several times already. Initially the train was quite empty but we’ve picked up passengers at every stop, especially at Penistone and Barnsley, the main population centres along the line. Now this 3 car train’s earning its keep.

11:15

Despite my earlier concerns about the weather the sun’s beating down on Sheffield, making it ideal for a spot of photography before the conference starts after lunch. Here’s one the the unique tram-trains. Hopefully this trial will be a success and we’ll see vehicles like this become a common sight. Ironically, I came to Sheffield for an Acorp conference on tram-trains way back in 2009. After years of plans changing and procrastination, the trams finally started running in 2018!

15:03.

The conference is in full swing right now. The event was opened by the Mayor of Sheffield, Dan Byles MP, who welcomed everyone to the city and spoke about the importance of community rail.

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