On the road again

I’m currently enjoying the hospitality of Grand Central trains as I’m on my way to London for a couple of days. I’ve a job photographing some new trains  on a franchise that was announced to be changing hands today! Stagecoach have run the SouthWest Trains franchise since February 1996, making it the longest running UK rail franchise. It’ll come to an end in August when a joint venture between First Group and MTR take over. The SWT franchise is a good indicator of how rail traffic has grown. When it started, their trains were carrying 108 million passengers a year. Today, that figure is over 230 million! As is common in new franchise deals nowadays lots of new trains are in the pipeline. This time it’s going to be 750 new vehicles (90 ten or five car trains.) as well as 18 refurbished and re-tractioned 5-car Class 442s for Portsmouth services.  I can’t help cracking a wry smile at the news. After all, those opposing Hs2 always insisted that the project was sucking up all the money from the existing network!

I saw further signs of that investment on the Journey from Halifax. There are grand plans to completely rebuild the station with an extra platform, demolish the existing station buildings and entrance and transform it into a major transport interchange. Meanwhile, Network Rail and its contractors have been busy trackside. Track’s been renewed at the West end of the station and there’s more evidence of progress on the resignalling scheme. New concrete cable troughing is appearing all over the place – along with a new trackside depot at Greetland Junction, complete with hardstands for RRV’s to access the track. Lineside trees have been cleared in many places, opening up a railway which was getting quite overgrown in some places.

I’ll look forward to reporting on progress over the next few months.

More on the Calder valley line

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As the weather was meant to be good yesterday I took a little trip down the Calder valley line to Mytholmroyd, one of the towns which was badly hit by the Boxing Day floods of 2015. Nearly 15 months later, Mytholmroyd is still struggling to recover from the devastation. Although both the pubs have reopened, they’re still showing the effects. The Shoulder of Mutton’s beer garden backs on to Cragg Brook which burst its banks that day, flooding the whole area under several feet of water. Here’s what the brook and beer garden look like today. Giant ‘Lego’ blocks act as a bulwark against the brook, but take up all the beer garden!

DG267761. Flood repairs. Mytholmroyd. W Yorks. 23.3.17

The Environment agency is currently working on strengthening the towns flood defences, so I’m hoping that this is only a temporary measure.

It’s not just businesses that suffered in the floods. I passed several homes along the brook which are still empty as the owners are waiting for them to be renovated or dry out. Whilst the floods no longer make the news it’s clear the effects linger, even if the TV cameras  don’t.

The reason for my visit  wasn’t to gawk at the damage caused by the floods, it was to have a look at another of the worksites on the railway West of the station as a follow up to my earlier blog on the Calder line modernisation. There’s several footbridges on this stretch. Most of them have been renewed over the past few years and replaced with high sided metal structures suitable for electrified lines. What they’re not good for is photography – unless you’re carrying a ladder. However, one stone arch bridge remains at the end of Erringden Rd. Wide enough for a road, it’s now just a footpath. It cuts right across what will be one of the sites for where track renewal will be taking this coming weekend (25-26th March) – as you can see from this shot.

DG267764. Preparing to relay the track. Mytholmroyd. W Yorks. 23.3.17

Looking back East towards Mytholmroyd station. The Up line on the right was renewed back in January 2014. Lights and matting have been left in the cess next to Down line which will be renewed this weekend. New rail has been dropped in the four-foot of the Up line. In the background is one of the new footbridges. The two signals seen here are controlled by Hebden Bridge signalbox, which will be abolished as part of the resignalling scheme. No new cable troughing has been laid in this area but the existing troughs have had broken or missing lids replaced.

For reference, this next view was taken back in January 2014, looking back to the bridge I was standing on today.

DG168579. Relaying the Up Main. Mytholmroyd. 19.1.14.

Renewal of the Up line in January 2014

Whilst I was in the area I had chance to get a shot of one of the new freight flows that use the line. Last summer, GBRf started hauling stone from Arcow quarry on the Settle-Carlisle line through to Bredbury or Pendleton in Manchester. The trains run as Q services (Q=as required) and have several different paths allocated for them to use in the timetable, so they’re a bit unpredictable. I only found this one was running a few hours before it did. Here’s 66725 hauling 6M38, the 11.25 Arcow quarry to Bredbury.

DG267801. 66725. 6M38. Arcow Quarry - Bredbury stone. Mytholmroyd. W Yorks. 23.3.17

If you want to see the location on google maps. Use this link.

 

London and the aftermath of yesterday’s tragic events

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When I wrote my last blog entry about living in London during the IRA days of the IRA’s bombing campaign I never imagined that 24 hours later London would be the scene of another tragic attack which would cause the death of 3 innocent people.

Of course, as soon as it happened we had wall to wall media coverage and acres of speculation. Some sections of the right-wing media (especially in America) ramped up the hype and hysteria, aided and abetted their followers who hope to sow division and fear amongst people. Here’s an example of their bullshit.

Phares

No. One man didn’t ‘shut down a city’. No-one has ever shut down London, not the Luftwaffe, not the IRA, nor the far right bomber David Copeland – and no-one ever will.

I lived in London for nearly 25 years. At heart, I’m still a Londoner. The city made me who I am and I’m eternally grateful for everything the city gave me. I was still living there the last time their was a major incident, the 7th July bombings on 2005. I covered that horrific day for a magazine and I vividly remember the reaction of Londoners as events unfolded. It was one of stoicism and resolve. The resolve not to be cowed, not to be beaten. I was intensely proud of my fellow Londoners that day, I still am. I’ve no doubt that they’ll be showing those same strengths today.

People of many different faiths and nationalities were killed on 7/7. The same may well be true of yesterday as the killers really don’t care who they kill. All they want to do is spread terror – and that’s the one thing we must never let anyone do – including their right-wing friends in the media. So here’s a hat-tip to people like James Cleverly, who’s taken on the poisonous Katie Hopkins

MP

This is the true spirit of London, not ‘Hatey Katie’s’ warped vision.

tube message

 

 

Working from home, and other thoughts

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– and it’s not a bad place to be today! The Spring weather’s taken a turn for the worse up in’t Pennines. There’s a chill wind, rain and threats of snow (in fact, as I typed this, it started hailing), so I’m happy to be catching up on paperwork, picture-editing and listening to the news – most of which is depressing.

The death of former IRA leader Martin McGuinness features in many reports. Understandably, his memory generates strong feelings from some, but there’s no doubt that , without the willingness of him and others to reject the bullet for the ballot box, ‘the troubles’ would still be with us. I lived in London for nearly 25 years and experienced first-hand the devastation that the IRA wrought. In 1996 I was still living in the East End. I was at home the night the massive South Quay bomb detonated. We lived over a mile North of the explosion in Bromley by Bow, but we though our windows were going to blow in. The blast rattled the hell out of them – and us. I’m glad to see the back of those times which were far more dangerous than today’s hysteria around Islamic extremism. The IRA killed for more UK citizens than Islamists ever have. So, I’m grateful to McGuinness for being part of bringing those days to an end. There’s a lesson in what he did for anyone who wishes to learn it. Who would have thought that two implacable enemies, McGuinness and the Unionist firebrand the Rev Ian Paisley  would form such a rapport that they would earn the sobriquet ‘the chuckle brothers’?

Right, enough of philosophising, I’ve work to do…

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The Calder valley line sees £100m of improvements

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Whilst most attention is focussed on the various electrification schemes across the North-West and Pennines, other work to upgrade lines in the North is going ahead with little fanfare. One such scheme kicked off this month with work starting on upgrading the Calder Valley line across the Pennines.

Work’s already been completed between Manchester Victoria and Rochdale, the highlight of which was the opening of a new Western facing bay platform at the end of October 2016. Now the focus moves East from Littleborough towards Bradford. Between now and August 2018 a series of work that includes station improvements, resignalling and track lowering (as well as the opening of the new station at Low Moor) will see speeds raised from 55-60mph to at least 70mph (and in some cases 90mph, although I’ve been told these could be too short for drivers to take advantage of). Whilst there’s been extensive track renewals along the line in the past decade, with the remodelling and renewal of Bradford Mill Lane Junction, renewal of Dryclough Jn and long lengths of the Up line either side of Mytholmroyd, some plain line still dates from 1966.

As well as adding capacity for extra services the work will reduce journey times, meaning that a Bradford – Manchester trip (with four stops) will come down from 58-61 minutes to 53-54 minutes. Whilst the time savings are modest at present, the increased linespeeds and smaller sections between signals will increase the resilience of the service and reduce delays.

Four signalboxes will be abolished and control of the line will be transferred to York ROC. The boxes to close are Hebden Bridge, Milner Royd Junction, Halifax and Bradford Mill Lane – where the junction will have new crossovers installed to enable more parallel moves and facilitate increased services between Halifax, Bradford and Leeds.

Network Rail has already confirmed dates for some of the work taking place between now and June. These are;

Sowerby Bridge and Luddendenfoot (26mp to 29mp)

25/3/17 – 27/3/17 Preparatory work for track lowering at Sowerby Bridge

01/4/17- 03/4/17 Track Lowering at Sowerby Bridge station (gauge clearance).

10/4/17 – 14/4/17 Sowerby Bridge follow up works

29/4/17-30/4/17 Prep works at Luddendenfoot

6/5/17-8/5/17 Track renewal at Luddendenfoot (West of Sowerby Bridge tunnel) and follow up work at Sowerby Bridge

13/5/17-14/5/17 Follow up works at Luddendenfoot

22/5/17-26/5/17 Follow up works at Luddendenfoot (Mid Week nights)

3/6/17-4/6/17 Follow up work at Luddendenfoot

Work on a new footbridge at the listed station of Hebden Bridge is expected to start in January 2018. The bridge (which will be fitted with lifts) will make the station fully accessible as the current subway ramps don’t meet the required standards. At a later date, the Down platform will be extended West to allow trains to stop within the modern signalling overlaps. As more dates are announced for other work, I’ll try and post them to this blog. There’s clearly a lot more work to do. Strings of new rail have been dropped just West of Milner Royd Jn and the ‘Orange Army’ have been busy around Halifax over the weekend. Sowerby Bridge has seen a lot of lineside vegetation clearance and there’s many sites in the Calder valley where new cable toughing has appeared.

Meanwhile, here’s a series of pictures of what you can expect to see, and what you already have…

DG168543. Relaying the Up Main. Mytholmroyd. 19.1.14.

Relaying the Up line West of Mytholmroyd station in 2014. Now the old ballast base has been  dug out and replaced the Road Rail Vehicle (RRV) moves in to drop new concrete sleepers into place.

 

DG19352. Relaying track. Bradford Interchange. 23.10.08.

In 2008 Mill Lane Junction at the approach to Bradford Interchange was replaced, with capacity added. A decade later, it’s going to be rebuilt to have yet more capacity added – allowing multiple entries/exits at the same time. This is a good illustration of how the railways have gone from rationalisation to expansion. In the background is Mill Lane Jn signalbox which will be abolished under the resignalling programme.

 

DG19303. Milner Royd Junction signalbox. 17.10.08.

Milner Royd Jn signalbox is of historical interest as it’s the only surviving example of the work of a small company called Smith and Yardley. The box was built in 1878 but will be made redundant in the next couple of years.

 

DG12731. 158791. Hebden Bridge. 25.9.07

The listed station at Hebden Bridge is a delight. The platform I’m standing on (the Bradford bound side) is the one that’ll be extended in the direction of the photo.

 

DG231394. Signalbox repainted. Halifax. 14.10.15.

Halifax signalbox (formerly Halifax East) was built by the Railway Signal company in 1884.

 

07070. Hebden Bridge SB. 7.8.99.

Hebden Bridge signalbox was built in 1891 by the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway. It’s a great example of their standardised, prefabricated design produced at Horwich. The box is listed Grade 2.

 

DG235206. Clipping new track in place. Luddenden. 22.11.15.

An RRV moves a rail into place on newly laid sleepers at Luddendonfoot in November 2015

The modernisation of the Calder Valley route reflects its new importance as a vital freight artery as well as a growing passenger railway. The last year has seen the line used by biomass trains from Liverpool Docks to Drax power station, stone from Arcow quarry on the S&C to Manchester and waste from Knowsley (Liverpool) to Wilton. There’s also daily trains moving the remaining coal stocks from the closed Ferrybridge power station to Fidlers Ferry.

DG257854. 66610. Mytholmroyd. 4.10.16

66610 hauls an empty rake of coal wagons from Fidler’s Ferry to Ferrybridge past Mytholmroyd.

 

DG257869. 66082. Mytholmroyd. 4.10.16.JPG

DB Schenker’s 66082 passes Mytholmroyd with domestic waste from Knowsley (Liverpool) to Wilton on Teeside.

Of course, it’s not just freight. The Calder Valley is an important diversionary route for Trans-pennine services when the Diggle route is closed for engineering work. When electrification of that line starts, the Calder valley’s enhanced capacity will be extremely useful.

DG249423. 185136. 185151. Sowerby Bridge.7.8.16

A pair of TPE class 185s pass at Sowerby Bridge station on the 7th August 2016 when the Colne valley route was closed for engineering work.

 

Crazy anti Hs2 campaigner of the week – N0 20

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It’s a long time since I’ve highlighted one of these but I couldn’t resist this one!

Step forward Stephen Leary, a member of MAPA (Measham, Appleby, Packington, Austrey  HS2 Action) in Leicestershire. This group seems to represent about 1% of the local population. I’m being generous here as that’s roughly how many turned up to their inaugural meeting. Leary is the self-appointed keeper of their Twitter feed, and he’s hilarious! Check out @MeashamHS2Actio to see. The group claim that their aim is to “To make a coordinated response across the villages to HS2 issues affecting our communities” and to “To collect information and research the case against the HS2 Measham Re-Route”. But Leary spends most of his time retweeting any old rubbish that opposes the whole concept of Hs2 – 95% of which has absolutely nothing to do with or relevance to Measham and communities or the phase of Hs2 they’re part of (2b). Leary also seems rather obsessed with the number of views his tweets get, hence tweets like this.

Leary. 17.3.17

Quite what Crewe, which is on a completely different leg of Hs2 to Measham has to do with “our communities” is a mystery – as is how advertising that the number of folk engaging with your tweets is tiny will persuade anyone to take you seriously! Still, I’m sure the people who follow him (hardly any of whom live in the Measham area) will be inundating the Phase 2 Hybrid Committee with petitions to get the Leicestershire route of Hs2 changed. Or perhaps not. Here’s some of his 70 followers…

leary followers

 

I’m sure they’ve both been terribly busy drafting responses to the consultation- as were all the Chiltern Nimbys who follow him…

I can’t help laughing at a campaign this inept. They’re spending all their time re-running the same tactics that failed to stop Hs2 phase 1 – as if it’s suddenly going to work second time around. The way they’ve woefully misunderstood how social media works is rather amusing too. A few folk shouting at each other on Twitter was never going to change anything. Leary has added his own unique contribution by not understanding how hashtags work, which means his  multiple tweets are reminiscent of the comedian Norman Collier. His routine was based around someone talking into an intermittent microphone!

MAPA may well have a short life. The consultation that closed on March 9th will soon reveal whether local residents back or oppose the route change. If the result is that more people support the change than oppose it, then MAPA is irrelevant.

Spring’s in the air

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There’s been no time to blog today despite the volumes I could’ve written about the continuing political farce. We saw the wheels come off Brexit when David Davis was forced to admit how woefully unprepared the Govt was to a Parliamentary Committee, as well as having to answer awkward questions to reveal some of the tariffs we’d face in the future (link).  Meanwhile, despite a hugely embarrassing Govt U-turn on NIC and a massive open goal to aim for, Jeremy Corbyn added another excruciatingly bad PMQs to his list (link).

Instead, I’ve been busy whittling down my email inbox before enjoying some of the beautiful pre-spring sunshine by wandering down into Sowerby Bridge to get a few photo’s. One of the beauties of buggering off to Asia for a couple of months is that I’ve missed the drab and dismal early months of the year and slipped straight into March instead – and today was a glorious showcase for the month. The countryside is actively throwing off winter’s hibernation. Birds are busy gathering nesting material whilst plants are industriously sprouting new life. There’s a sense of expectation and optimism in the air – well, amongst the flora and fauna anyway, this is still Yorkshire after all!

Whilst I was in town I popped in to a Network Rail event in a local Church hall. It was purpose was to brief residents about the upgrade works to the Calder Valley line which are taking place over the next couple of  years. The work includes track renewals and remodelling as well as signalling replacement and line-speed improvements. Stations will be improved too. For example, next year Hebden Bridge will have a footbridge (complete with lifts) installed.  I’ll blog about the whole project another time.

Tomorrow I’m off to Huddersfield for a social gathering at the ACoRP office, so I’ll blog again as soon as time permits.

Hostages to political cowardice

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Parliaments craven cowardice by caving in the ‘will of the people’ (well the 37% of all voters who were allowed to and voted to leave the EU) without securing the rights of EU citizens who’re residing in the UK is one of the most shameful chapters in recent political history. It’s created millions of hostages. EU citizens whom have had the right to live, work and settle in the UK for 40 years now face years of uncertainty – and growing levels of intolerance and abuse. How the hell have we come to this?

The UK calls itself a thriving democracy, yet it sinks to depths of political cowardice and cynicism where it’s Government in prepared to use people who’ve contributed to its success for decades as human bargaining chips. If this wasn’t bad enough, what happens to them if (as is looking increasingly likely) we crash out of the EU in ‘hard Brexit’?

The UKs reputation for tolerance and fairness (all those attributes Brexit fans love to boast about) is in tatters, frankly. Many EU citizen are leaving, or planning to leave, leaving us poorer culturally and financially. We will find them hard to replace. After all, why would anyone come to a country that’s clearly and very publically thrown away the welcome mat as it sinks more and more into isolationism, xenophobia and downright fantasy?

Meanwhile, the hard political realities that the Remain campaign warned about but were labelled ‘project fear’ by the Leave campaign are coming home to roost. The break-up of the union is looking increasingly likely. The Scots are looking at a second independence referendum. In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein have called for a referendum on joining Eire. The Irish border problem is one Quitters  have resolutely refused to deal with, preferring to stick their heads in the sand rather than tackle it. It’s a timebomb that won’t go away.

More and more we seem to be living in a political fantasy world. We always said Breixiters didn’t have a plan. They never had. All the promises of what wouldn’t happen, all the claims that we’d still have access to the single market et al were hollow. Now, the ‘plan’ seems to be to crash out of the EU, and blame the EU for it! It’s the political equivalent of ‘a big boy did it and ran away’.

The old World War 1 adage needs to be updated for the modern age. Now we’re donkeys led by donkeys.

Jeremy Corbyn – beyond parody…

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As I scanned the news this morning I found one snippet that summed up perfectly why the current political situation in the UK is beyond parody, especially the hapless and hopeless leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn.

Apparently, later today Corbyn and his sidekick, the shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell are to lead a demonstration in Parliament Square to ask that Teresa May guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.

Wait a minute, aren’t those the same rights that Corbyn issued a three-line whip on his MPs to block? Not once, but twice? Both in the Commons and the Lords? Where were the amendments he could have proposed to guarantee these rights? They never existed.

So we now have a beyond parody situation of serial rebel Corbyn protesting against himself.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the fact Jeremy blithely ignores these contradictions and how they appear to ordinary voters. Some ‘man of principles’. This is more Groucho than Karl Marx and that famous quote, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others”

Whilst the country is in desperate need of a credible opposition to what is increasingly looking like a Tory party heading for ‘hard Brexit’ we’re left with this…

UPDATE.

Just when you think things could get any more surreal, news comes in that Corbyn didn’t turn up to his own protest. Mind you. he wasn’t the only one. It seems that only 100 did…