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The Oakervee Hs2 review panel’s announced. Here’s a look and some thoughts

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On 21st August the Transport Minister, Grant Shapps MP announced the composition of the Oakervee Hs2 review panel. The deputy chair will be Lord Berkeley whilst the panel will consist of Michele Dix, Stephen Glaister, Patrick Harley, Sir Peter Hendy, Andrew Sentance, Andy Street, John Cridland and Tony Travers.

The members are both pro and anti Hs2, politicians, rail leaders and academics who’ll examine all the claims and counter claims made. It’s a well-balanced panel as academia will be tempered by real world experience and those who understand the issues and need to deliver results on the ground.

Progress will have to be rapid as their report is expected in the Autumn. I expect to see off some of the wilder claims and ‘alternatives’ and focus on why we’re building Hs2 in the first place. I expect the claims that HS2 can be terminated at Old Oak Common seen off once and for all. I believe that making Lord Berkeley, a man who’s been a constant critic of HS2 whilst proposing a number of impractical ‘alternatives’ himself as Deputy Chair to be a clever move as he’s going to have to sign up to the report’s conclusions.

Let’s have a look at the panel in greater detail.

Doug Oakervee

Oakervee has decades of experience in delivering major civil engineering projects. A former President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, he was the Executive Chairman at Crossrail from  Dec 2005 to May 2009 and non-Exec Chairman of Hs2 Ltd from March 2012 until December 2013.

Michèle Dix

A Chartered Civil Engineer and former board member of construction company Halcrow, Michele joined Transport for London in 2000 where she had responsibility for the congestion charge. In 2007 she became Managing Director of Planning. She was responsible for leading the planning strategy on the future transport needs of London. In 2015 February 2015, Michèle left Planning to become the Managing Director of Crossrail 2 and is now responsible for developing Crossrail 2 and gaining funding and powers for it. Her depth of understanding of the impact of Hs2 in London and its transport network will be extremely valuable.

Professor Stephen Glaister

Glaister is Professor of Transport and Infrastructure in the Centre for Transport Studies at Imperial College London. He’s a long-standing advisor to government on transport issues and economics and contributed to the Eddingtom report. He’s a ‘soft’ critic of HS2 who tends to see both side of an argument without reaching any firm conclusion. He was interviewed by Halligan for his ‘Dispatches’ hatchet job on Hs2. Halligan asked him “is it (Hs2) good value”? Glaister replied “nobody knows”! I expect Glaister will offer the same non-committal advice to this committee.

Councillor Patrick Harley

Harley is a Conservative Cabinet Member at Dudley MBC and former Council Leader as well as a member of the W Midlands Combined Authority. He’s been a backer of transport initiatives in the West Midlands, including Hs2 which is important to the area.

Sir Peter Hendy CBE

Hendy needs little introduction. Currently the very active Chair of Network Rail, he’s a former bus man, having started his career in the public transport industry in 1975. He was appointed to the position of managing director of Surface Transport for Transport for London in 2001. In 2006 he was appointed Commissioner of Transport for London before moving to Network Rail in 2015. Peter has enormous experience of running the sharp end of public transport and the need for a strategic vision for both London and the UK.

Andrew Sentence

Sentence is a business economist. Formerly Senior Economic Advisor to PWC from 2011 to 2018, previously he was an external member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee from 2006 -2011. He’s also a former head of economic policy and director of economic affairs at the CBI who has an interest in the low carbon economy. He is also a former member of the Commission for Integrated Transport (2006–10). I suspect he’ll bring a balanced look at the economics and Hs2’s potential to tackle carbon emissions.

Andy Street

Andy’s a former MD of John Lewis who’s currently the Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands and a strong pro Hs2 voice in the Tory party. He’s an unabashed ambassador for the W Midlands and the positive economic benefits better transport links like HS2 bring to the area.

John Cridland

John’s a former Director of the CBI (an organisation that supports HS2). He’s currently Chair of Transport for the North (TfN) and well placed to know the real issues. TfN have made it clear that HS2 phase 2 is essential to delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Professor Tony Travers

Tony’s another academic. He’s currently Visiting Professor in LSE Department of Government and Director of of the London School of Economics who’s advised the Government on a number of occasions. A critic of HS2 but someone who focusses on costs of the project rather than the practicalities of it. Hardly surprising, as that’s the beauty of academia, you can ‘umm and ahh’ safe in the knowledge that it’s not your neck on the line.

The review’s remit

Importantly, each member will focus on a specific area, feeding into and being consulted on the report’s conclusions, without having a right of veto. I expect the academics to do what academics do – and the politicians and business leaders to draw up the conclusion. After all, it’s the elected politicians whose necks will be on the line, and there’s plenty of experienced people on the panel to pose the question, “if not Hs2, what’s your plan B, and you’d better come up with it PDQ!”

I would be surprised if the review delivers a major policy change on HS2. The phase 1 project is too far down the line to be sent back to the drawing board as that would result in chaos on the railways at huge additional cost. On the (potential) eve of Brexit it would also deliver entirely the wrong political message. Don’t expect Hs2 to be cut back to Old Oak Common either, the technical problems with such an idea are huge.

What could be possible is for elements of phase 2 to be changed. Imagine if some of the funding for the sections around Leeds and Manchester was diverted to Transport for the North to deliver (at an earlier date) the elements of Hs2 that would be integral to Northern Powerhouse Rail? This budget reallocation wouldn’t stop Hs2, but it would address some of the cost issues and politically, it would show a real commitment to the North that the Prime Minister has already stated. Then, when Hs2 phase 2 is built it can simply link up with existing NPR infrastructure. Of course, all this is entirely speculative. We’ll have to wait until the autumn to see what the review decides.

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The Woodland Trust can’t see the woods for the trees!

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The past few weeks have seen the charity The Woodland Trust finally break cover and come out in opposition to Hs2. This is due to the fact they’re very much a single-issue campaign who really can’t see the woods for the trees. Forget the wider issues of climate change, they’re all about woodland, and Hs2 will cut though some ancient woodland which simply can’t be avoided except at huge cost. For the WT, cost doesn’t come into it. In their view ancient woodland should be protected at any cost. But then, when it’s not your money you’re spending, that’s easy to say!

When I’ve challenged the WT on their opposition to HS2 they’ve come over all pained and said that they don’t object to HS2 ‘in principle’ – only in practise! Frankly, this hypocritical stance doesn’t fool anyone. They want to see HS2 delayed, or cancelled, as their latest campaign makes clear. According to them “Any transport system that destroys irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland can never be called ‘green'”.

Notice the use of the word “destroys”? There’s a lot of emotive hyperbole in their writing about HS2. They also describe it as “smashing” through ancient woodland. If you believed their rhetoric you could be forgiven for thinking HS2 was more like Genghis Khan and the Mongol hordes sweeping across the country rather than engineering companies that are building something and have to adhere to strict environmental standards that are legally enforceable.

There’s also another problem. Exactly how much is HS2 allegedly “destroying”, and how? You won’t get any firm answers from the WT, they’re extremely coy when it comes to detail, as this tweet demonstrates.

What exactly does “facing damage” mean when it’s at home? It’s meaningless. Emotive, but meaningless. Look at this statement from their latest petition against HS2.

“It’s a terrible situation – we could lose many of our greatest national assets for no reason at all”

“Many”? really? Let’s try and get some perspective here and I’m using the Woodland Trusts own figures to supply it.

The WT estimate that there’s 450,000 hectares of ancient woodland across the UK.

That’s 450,000 hectares out of a grand total of 3.19 million hectares of woodland across the UK. OK, so how much ancient woodland is HS2 going to affect? The Woodland Trust’s own figure is 40.2 hectares but they don’t define what ‘affected’ is. We don’t know what percentage of that is cut down, or what HS2 might come near and supposedly “damage” in passing. It’s all very nebulous and the WT refuse to come clean over what any of this actually means in practise. So, here’s the numbers crunched. If there’s 450,000ha of ancient woodland and only 40.2ha is affected by HS2, that’s just 0.008%. Now, what was that the WT said, oh yes “lose many of our greatest national assets” 0.008% is “many”? Someone’s not being honest with people here…

There’s also one very large elephant in the room that the WT point-blank refuse to see. If we’re serious about cutting carbon emissions from transport the only way we can do that is by vastly increasing our rail capacity to cope with the modal shift needed to get lorries and cars off our roads. That means building HS2 (which the WT oppose). If we don’t do that, it won’t just be ancient woodland affected by climate change, it will be all 3.19 million hectares of UK woodland. The WT really can’t see the woods for the trees. The sad truth is that – like many single-issue campaigns – the WT’s blinkered approach is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Rolling blog: All change in the East Midlands…

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07:00.

I’m here in Derby for the launch of the new East Midlands rail franchise, which sees Abellio take over from Stagecoach, who’ve run the franchise since 2007. There’s lots to look forward to in the new franchise, which includes a replacement their train fleet with either brand new or cascaded trains. There’ll be lots of events happening throughout the day which I’ll blog about here…

08:33.

EMR are kicking off the new franchise by giving out free cupcakes to passengers at many of their major stations. Here’s some of the folks at Derby.

The trains are being rebranded with two separate identities – Intercity and Regional. Here’s one of their Class 153s at Derby. These units will be replaced by larger trains cascaded from other franchises.

This is how the Class 222s look. All these trains will be replaced. EMR have ordered 33 five car bi-mode units from Hitachi at a cost of £400m.

It’s been a very busy day with launches at bother Derby and Nottingham. Now the re-liveried train is on it’s way to London, couple up on the rear of a normal service train. The main launch event was held at the Roundhouse opposite the station, with speakers from Abellio, EMR, Network Rail, Transport for East Midlands and also the Dutch embassy. Here’s few shots from the day so far.

Guests at the EMR launch

19:29.
It’s been such a busy day I’ve really not had time to blog. After the events at Derby and Nottingham we travelled on the rebranded train to London where there was a final stakeholder event at St Pancras. The train attracted a lot of attention from enthusiasts whilst the launch was busy with the mainstream media who were willing to pick up and run with a good news story. Let’s face it, a £600m investment in the new franchise is certainly that!
After the event was over and my job was done I wandered over to Euston to have a look at progress on HS2. The  demolition phase is well underway now and it won’t be long before it’s completed. Even the big tent that covered the old graveyards starting to come down. I’ll add a few pictures later.

I headed back North up the Midland Main Line as I wanted to get shots of progress on the route rebuild so I stopped off at Wellingborough where the 4th platform’s being reinstated.
Of course, the irony of all this is that Network Rail are having to spend vast sums reinstating infrastructure that British Rail ripped out in the name of rationalisation and balancing the books…

After Wellingborough I made a brief stop at Kettering where I transferred to a Sheffield bound service. Sheffield’s where I am now, waiting for Cross-Country’s 20:21 to take me to Leeds.

20:39.

My Cross-Country service turned up on time and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was worked by one of their HST sets – only this one’s had the slam doors replaced by automatic ones. They certainly seem to make a difference to the ambience inside the vehicle. To my mind it seems quieter and without the same pressure pulse when you enter tunnels or pass other trains. You still notice passing but it doesn’t have the same impact on the ears! Unfortunately, a family travelling in my coach with a young child have undone any benefit…

I’ll add a few more pictures from today’s events later or in the morning.  I’m posting this from my mobile so don’t have the facilities. I’m looking forward to having a day working from home tomorrow as I’ve a shedload of pictures to edit and get out to clients in readiness for the next jobs.

2124.

Back to earth with a bang! My final train of the day is Northern’s 21:08 from Leeds to Brighouse and it’s being worked by a rather tired and unrefurbished Class 150 – my least favourite train. Actually, the train’s going to Huddersfield, but they don’t display that on the screens at Leeds in case folk get the wrong (slower) train!

Rolling blog: destination Derby

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Bliss! The pair of us actually had a lie-in this morning! Last night we went round to some near neighbours for a very convivial meal and a few drinks and didn’t get back until 01:30, so this morning we both thought ‘bugger it’ and slept until late, enjoying the comfort of our own home after our Irish sojourn and constant change of rooms.Normal service has now been resumed and I’m busy packing and sorting out my camera kit to head off for a night in Derby, ready for the new East Midlands Railway franchise launch tomorrow. It’s going to be a busy day. meanwhile, I’ll be blogging about today’s travels as they happen, so stay tuned…

17:29.

Slightly later than provisionally planned I’m now on my way to Derby. The reason for such tardiness is the fact I was enjoying being at home and spending time with my other half – even tho’ we were both busy. That said, we did find time to to a detour on the way to the station to nip in to our local pub for a ‘swifty’. In Dawn’s case this was an alcohol-free Beck’s Blue, whilst I had one of these. People who know me will guess which end of the row I gravitated to!

Right now I’m on a TPE service from Huddersfield to York. The station was jumping because at the weekend the Kings Head pub on the Leeds end of the station has live music and the band obviously have a bit of a following. They were belting out old rock and roll classics that I could hear whilst waiting on the platform!18:18.I’m now on one of those services that are a hangover from the BR era that survived the Strategic Rail Authority cull of Virgin Cross-Country services after the problems of “Operation Princess”. In other words I’m on a 10 car Cross-Country Voyager from Glasgow Central to Guildford! I can’t help wondering about the operational value of such services in 2019. I mean, is there anyone on this train that’s going all the way?

19:34.

Isn’t social media such an amazing thing? Whilst I was on the XC service I tweeted about how good the Train Manager in the rear set was. Almost immediately I received a private message from a friend – who happened to be the Train Manager of the front set! We met long enough to say hello at Sheffield whilst I was changing trains.

19:39.

I’m now on my first East Midlands Rail service of the new franchise – and it’ll be one of the first to go.

20:53.

Having checked into my hotel which is right outside the station as it was built by the Midland Railway I’m having a quiet point in a local with a railway theme. No doubt some of my friends will know exactly where I am!

Being here for another new franchise launch has made me introspective as I’ve seen so many. Yet this is very much the passing of the old guard. We’ve seen several owning groups grow, then shrink, and Stagecoach is yet another example. The loss of the East Mids franchise marks their departure from the rail industry after being part of it since they won th very first franchise (Southwest Trains) way back in 1996. They’re not alone. At one point National Express were the biggest owning group with (IIRC) 7 franchises. Now they have none. Nowadays, the ‘big beast’ in the franchise jungle is the Dutch owned Abellio. Tomorrow will be an interesting day…

No time for blogging…

Today’s been our first day back in the disunited Kingdom after our time in Eire. Despite it being a Saturday I’ve had little time to relax (or blog) as there’s too much to do. Most of today’s been taken up editing hundreds of wedding pictures from last weekend as well, as trying to collate all the rail and travel pictures I snapped during our time in Ireland. This has kept me glued to a computer screen all day but at least I’ve broken the back of them now, which is just as well as I have to be in Derby tomorrow night in readiness for the launch of the new East Midlands Rail franchise first thing Monday morning – which means there’ll be some rolling blogs to come as well as yet another batch of photos to add to the queue for editing. At least I’ll have managed a couple of nights at  home this week…

This evening the tempo changes as Dawn and I are heading round to some friends for a meal and chance to catch-up with people after having been away, so expect me to be absent from the internet tonight!

In the meantime, here’s a taster of some of the Irish pictures that’ll appear on my Zenfolio website next week. First off is a view of Cork’s famous English Market

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Meanwhile, over to the East of the city centre, here’s a shot of the railway station, showing a Midleton service waiting to depart from platform 1 which is worked by one of the InterCity DMUs from Mitsui and TCC(Japan). 8 of them were supplied to IR in 1993. The Midleton route only reopened in the past 10 years and it’s been a fantastic success. In the adjacent siding stands one of Irish rail’s 34 strong Class 201 locomotives built by General Motors in 1994. These are used to push/pull the Mk4 coaches on the express workings to Dublin.

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I’ll add the rest of the Irish pictures just as soon as I can. You’ll be able to find the travel ones here and the railway ones here. Oh, I nearly forgot! I’ve also taken quite a few merchant shipping shots around Ireland, If they float your boat (so to speak) you can find them here!

Rolling blog: the Rovers return…

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07:05.

We woke up at 6am this morning to the sound of rain tapping on the window here in Tramore, County Waterford. Sadly, our last day in Ireland looks like it’s going to be a wet one which is a bit of a bugger as Dawn’s driving us back to Dublin today as we’re catching the 14:50 Stena ferry back to Holyhead and home. Hopefully, our crossing won’t be suffering the sort of seas we saw here yesterday!

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Despite the vagaries of the weather we’ve had a wonderful time here in Ireland. It’s been fantastic to catch up with old friends and make some new ones, but the focus of today will be travel. Let’s see how it goes…

08:05

We’ve packed and are getting ready to leave. To be honest, we’d much rather stay! The Airbnb we’re in is a lovely self-contained flat that would make an ideal base for a few days exploring the Copper Coast and the old railway that’s been converted to a greenway. if only we had more time and the weather was better…

09:00.

We’re on the road again! The ferry doesn’t sail until 14:50 but we’re giving ourselves plenty of time to get to Dublin because of the conditions – although the mucky weather isn’t exactly conducive to sight-seeing as visibility’s reduced to a few hundred metres!

10:21.

We’ve stopped for coffee and cake in Carlow which us an odd little place. It has a castle, well, the remains of one. Apparently, most of it was ‘accidentally’ blown up in 1814 when it was being converted into a lunatic asylum. No, really!

Considering the fact it’s Friday, Carlow is remarkably quiet. You have to wonder why many of the shops have bothered to open as the streets are deserted. The one place we found that had some life was a stylish cafe and bar called Brooks, where we’ve called in for coffee and cake.

Their home-made scones are certainly substantial…

We’ve arrived in Carlow at the right time as the weather’s broken and the rain’s stopped, although a blanket of low cloud sits over the town, blocking out most light, leaving the day feeling like a damp dusk in December.

11:12.

Having fuelled up ourselves we’ve done the same for the car. I’m beginning to warm to Carlow. Once you see past the number of empty shops it’s actually a friendly little place with a variety of cafe’s, bars and restaurants. Shame we couldn’t have stayed and explored…

13:30.

After an easy drive into Dublin and an amble around the city on the North Circular Rd we’re now waiting in line at Dublin docks, ready to board our ferry.

The weather’s remaining mixed with threatening skies but for the moment it’s dry and warm. This is Dawn’s chance to relax for a bit after driving 1180 miles since we left home last Wednesday. This is how the Dublin skies looked as we eased out of the port and headed out into the Irish sea.

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18:06.

After a crossing that was nowhere near as rough as we feared we’re about to dock at Holyhead.

20:41.

After getting off the ferry we zipped through Holyhead and the bad weather to enjoy a vintage run along the North Wales cost on the A55. The sun shone, the traffic was light and all was well with the world until we crossed the border into England when we caught up with the rain! Right now we’re navigating the M6 motorway before joining the M62 to head back to Yorkshire. For a Friday, the traffic’s remarkably light, which means we *should* get home by 21:40…

Ireland. Days 7 and 8.

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WARNING: This blog’s going to take a couple of day to write, so here goes. When it’s finished I’ll remove this caveat.

We’ve had a really busy couple of days for two reasons, the number of things we’ve seen, but also the amount of ground we’ve covered. Right now I’m scribbling this from our new AirBnB in Tramore which is on the coast South of Waterford. It’s our final stop before heading back up to Dublin to catch the ferry back to the UK tomorrow.

Yesterday we had a really interesting day around Cork and Cobh, which was our first port of call (if you’ll pardon the pun) yesterday morning. Cobh – formerly known as Queeenstown – is famous for two things. Firstly, it was the place where hundreds of thousands of people left their homeland as part of the Irish diaspora. Few left voluntarily. Most left through force of circumstances. Many left because of the famine, others because they were deported as criminals. Nowadays Cobh seems like a lovely place. It’s a massive natural harbour and the town itself is a major tourist attraction that attracts people from all over the world because of another tragic story – that of the ill-fated luxury liner, the Titanic. Queenstown was the Titanic’s last port of call. It was never seen again because four days after leaving Ireland it struck an iceberg and sank with the loss of more than 1,500 lives.

Wandering around the town nowadays it’s difficult to imagine the way the town was the centre of so much human stress and misery. It’s a jolly place full of bars, restaurants and buskers entertaining the crowds. It’s only when you visit the excellent Cobh Heritage Centre which is located in the old railway station that you start to realise the enormity of the town’s history. Their exhibition is a real eye-opener. It documents the history of Queenstown which includes immigration, imperialism and the history of the Trans-Atlantic Liners, including the Titanic. All of the exhibitions are fascinating, but for me as a photographer, the pictures of the Titanic taken by Father Francis Browne are of especial interest. Their quality is superb and the scenes they capture are incredibly powerful as he had no idea that he was documenting the last days of the ship.

Today’s West Coast/Hs2 franchise award exposes Joe Rukin’s lies yet again

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A few days ago, StopHs2 ‘Campaign Manager’ Joe Rukin was given a platform by the Independent newspaper to spout his usual dishonest rubbish about Hs2 without the slightest challenge. There was no interview, just a polemic written by Rukin. In it, he doubled-down on some of his old lies, such as the claim that there will be billions of pounds worth of service cuts on the conventional network to fund Hs2. Here’s the quote.

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Rukin knows this is a lie as it’s been pointed out to him over many years by many people. But he can’t resist retelling it, just like his many others, because Rukin will never admit his dishonesty and dishonesty is all he’s got left now their ‘campaign’ is up shit creek without a political paddle. I first exposed it here way back in February 2015. Of course, in those days, Joe claimed it was only £8.3bn! Here’s what I wrote at the time.

Joe’s totally unsubstantiated claim that this means “£8.3 billion of cuts to classic services” might be considered suspect by the most innocent of readers. And they would be right. It is true that in the Economic Case analysis (table 9 on page 78) is a figure of £8.265 billion, labelled “classic line savings”. So what’s that all about? Well first, it refers to the full network in Phase 2, not Phase 1. Then, it’s a Present Value, that is, 60 year’s worth of annual sums all rolled into one. So the annual figure relevant to Phase 1 will be a lot – and I mean a lot – smaller. Which is why Joe doesn’t quote it.

But whatever it is, is Joe right to paint this as “cuts”? Got it in one, no he isn’t. Go back to the beginning, and remember that, apart from the new Curzon St services, the HS2 service for Phase 1 is basically the present Virgin pattern unplugged from the WCML at Handsacre and plugged into HS2 to Euston instead. So we have, for instance, an HS2 train every hour that runs from Liverpool, calls at Runcorn and Stafford, and then on to Euston on HS2. The cost in terms of fuel, maintenance, crew and fleet leasing should be charged to HS2, no-one would dispute. But that train replaces a Virgin service that calls at Runcorn and Stafford, then to Euston on the WCML. So of course the saving from replacing that train with the HS2 service should be deducted from the cost of running the HS2 train. Same stations, same destination, and faster. What has been “cut”? Nothing.”

Since Rukin first told this lie many new rail franchises have been let. Most recently the Greater Anglia, Northern Rail, SouthWest Rail, Transport for Wales, East Midlands Rail franchises and from today – the new West Coast partnership which will cover the west Coast Main Line and phase 1 of HS2 as the new franchise will run until March 2031.

So, where are Joe’s cuts? Not a single franchise that has been let since HS2 was first mooted has contained ANY service cuts. Exactly the opposite in fact, they’ve all introduced new services and new trains. In the case of Greater Anglia they’re replacing their entire train fleet! It’s the same with many others, who are expanding, not contracting their fleets! So, where are the cuts, Joe? Take this snippet from todays West Coast announcement. Some of these new services will be run by brand-new bi-mode trains!

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Whichever way you look at the evidence, it’s clear that Rukin’s a serial liar who will say anything. Oh, you might have noticed something else. This new franchise covers the West Coast Main Line and HS2 phase 1 until 2031. Why would the Government let a franchise for a new railway that it’s about to cancel?

Joe has a big problem, he can lie as often as he likes about these things, he can ignore the facts – but the facts keep coming back to expose him for what he is – a man whose pants are perpetually on fire!

Ireland: day 6.

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Today’s been very much governed by the rain which has put the mockers on a lot of things, including any walking and also the change to get any decent scenic pictures of what’s a beautiful bit of Ireland. To be honest, the day started slowly anyway as poor Dawn went down with a migraine yesterday evening, which left her feeling woozy, so she had an early night and a late morning start. At first, the weather looked promising, so we stuck to our plan of driving over to pretty Kinsale on the River Brandon. But then we pushed our luck and ventured further West. Our first stop was at Courtmacsherry which is an attractive little village that’s spread out along a single long street on the southern shore of Courtmacsherry Bay. We stopped for coffee and cake (a rare holiday treat) at the Travara Lodge, a B&B with a lovely café on the ground floor and a garden on the banks of the Bay. You have to admit, the cakes do look tempting and the Pecan pie was gorgeous.

Like many places in Ireland, Courtmacsherry once had a railway station. The Timoleague and Courtmacsherry Railway finally closed in 1960 after many years when it was only used for summer excursions and freight. Part of it remains as a footpath which is marked by an old semaphore signal arm on a makeshift post.

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Looking towards Courtmacsherry

The old station building in Courtmacsherry survives as a residential property.

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The village also contains a memorial to the sinking of the liner Lusitania which was torpedoed in May 1915 and sank in 20 minutes, with the loss of 1,198 lives. The ship went down not far off the coast from the village.

Taking a gamble and really sticking our necks out we ventured further West through Clonakilty and Skibereen as far as Baltimore, a village with a harbour that serves as the ferry terminal for boats to Cape Clear, Sherkin and Hare Islands, as well as trips around the famous Fastnet lighthouse. The area’s popular with boaters so the harbour’s busy with yachts and other small craft. In the right weather it must be an absolutely stunning bit of coastline. Today was not that day! As usual, we arrived the same time as the rain which cut visibility to a few hundred metres. We cut our losses by taking up refuge in the local pub which had been recommended by a friend. Bushe’s Bar overlooks the harbour and contains a vast array of nautical memorabilia including lifebelts from some of the ships wrecked in the area over the years. The place is popular with both locals and visitors and serves food as well as a good selection of drinks. It’s certainly worth a visit. On a sunny day the barrel tables outside are especially popular.

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We hung around for a couple of drinks, hoping the weather would clear, but it wasn’t to be, so we gave up and headed back to Kinsale to eat at another recommendation, Fishy Fishy is (as the name suggests) a seafood restaurant just back from the River Bandon that specialises in locally caught fish. The menu isn’t huge, but what you get is delicious. I went for this, pan cooked Hake.

Suitably stuffed, we’re now lounging at our Airbnb before exploring Cork and Cobh tomorrow – and praying for better weather!

Rolling blog. Ireland day 5 – From Limerick to Cork the long way round

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09:00.

The weather here in Limerick has been (to use the local vernacular) ‘shoite’ It’s been chucking it down overnight and the forecast remains mixed for the rest of the day although the sun is breaking through to defy predictions. Undeterred, we’re embarking on a bit of a tour today, taking in some of the historical, cultural and railway sites as well as the scenery on a roundabout trip that will eventually see us end of in Cork where we’ll base ourselves for the next few nights. Keep popping in through the day and see what we get up to. For now, here’s a shot from Limerick showing the 13th century King John’s castle.

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As you can see from the fullness of the river Shannon, there’s been plenty of rain recently!

11:10.

We left Limerick just as the heavens opened, treating us to a torrential rainstorm that’s left roads and pavements awash and us warm and dry in the car as we head for out first stop of the day: Foynes.

15:10.

The Gods have smiled upon us and the weather’s brightened up, making our visit to the Flying Boat museum in Foynes much more pleasurable. This is an excellent museum that documents when the River Shannon played a pivotal role as a base for the air-bridge across the Atlantic to America when flying boats dominated the trade before the war and subsequent advances in aviation technology killed it off in 1945. As well as a fascinating mixture of memorabilia there’s also the full size recreation of the fuselage and interior layout of the largest of the flying boats, the ‘American Clipper’. If you’re in the area I’d recommend a visit. The museum also hosts a section on the Irish-American film star Maureen O’ Hara (who was married to a pilot who flew flying boats in and out of Foynes during the war), the origins of Irish Coffee and also a look at the history of Foynes harbour. Here’s a few pictures from our visit.

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Memento’s, trinkets and even the remains of a crashed flying boat in one of the museum galleries.

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The replica of one of the luxurious Boeing B314 flying boats used by both American and British companies on the Atlantic crossings.

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Interior of the B314 replica

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The spacious flight deck of the B314 which could accommodate seven people.

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Fold-out beds in the cabins of the B314.

16:00.

Moving on from Foynes to Listowel we visited another museum, but to a very different era and very different technology. This one was a dead end – the Lartigue monorail system that was used on the 10 mile long Listowel and Ballybunion railway between its opening in 1888 until its closure in 1924. The museum was opened in 2008 on the site of the former broad gauge railway adjacent to the original route of the L&B. It has a 500 metre demonstration track complete with the unique turntable switches used on the monorail, along with a replica of one of the engines and some carriages. The replica engine is actually a diesel hydraulic as building (and maintaining) a steam replica would be prohibitively expensive. In the former goods shed is a museum to the line which has some excellent quality old photographs of the line, plus a superb old newsreel which was filmed on the route back in 1916. The whole site is run by volunteers who give you a warm welcome and an informative tour.  Here’s some of what we saw.

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Yes, the headlamp really was that big!

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One of the switches in action. They’re curved as that way they can connect with lines closer to each other than if the track on them was straight, but you can’t turn locomotives on them. That’s only done on straight turntables.

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The museum inside the former board-gauge goods shed has some really excellent quality old pictures of the L&B as well as a selection of railway memorabilia.

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22:13.

After leaving Listowel we essentially ran out of time to explore. Instead we drove down to Tralee for a late lunch, then headed on Down to Cork where we’ve booked 3 nights in a lovely Airbnb, which is where we’re relaxing now. Tomorrow we’re up early and heading out to explore the coast as the weather forecast’s looking promising, so expect another rolling blog.