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Rolling blog: Sunshine Saturday…

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10:56.

Unusually for a Saturday I’m on the rails again today to take advantage if what may be the last sunny day for a while as the forecast has changed. Yesterday was stunning as I made my way back to Yorkshire from London and the National Rail awards. As usual, I didn’t get chance to talk to half of the friends and colleagues I’d hoped to because it’s such a huge event with 1200 people in the room.

I’m hoping to get some of the pictures online this evening. Right now I’m Breadford bound after a slow start due to the valley being shrouded in cloud and mist which only burned off in the past hour. I was down in Sowerby Bridge by 10:00 to photograph the passing of one of West Coast railways charter services which was working from Preston to Scarborough.

11:30.

My next choice of destination was made up for me by the fact the next two Northern services West were cancelled, so East it was! I caught a York bound train as far as Bradford, then walked across from Interchange to Forster Square. Sadly, the city has lost both its magnificent old train sheds and neither replacement is a showcase to match some of the lovely old Victorian buildings like this, the Midland hotel.

The graceful trainshed and massive goods yards that it fronted have been replaced by a tiny station that’s all the aesthetic appeal of a car crash.

I’ve added some links that show you what the city’s stations used to look like. Here’s Exchange station, that was demolished and replaced by Interchange. There’s a lot more on Bradford’s railways here.

12:08.

I’ve moved on as far as Shipley where I’ve changed trains. Whilst I’ve been here I’ve noticed this footbridge and the damage caused to it by our outdated insistence on using rock salt for gritting in the winter. Look at the state of this..

14:34.

From Shipley I stopped briefly at Bingley to pick up a snack for the next leg of my trip, which was out to the pretty little village of Cononley aboard one of what I was hoping to photograph, a new Northern Class 331. On arrival in the village I trekked up the back road towards Skipton that climbs the valley side, allowing some great views across the valley – and the railway. Conditions are perfect today, so this is where I’m spending the next half hour before walking on into Skipton – which is all downhill!


17:27.

I’m on the homeward leg via Bradford, retracing my earlier route, only this time I’ve stopped off in the city centre for a quick drink and to get some pictures. This is nothing to do with the railways, this is street photography and architecture. Bradford has some beautiful buildings and today, the square by the Town Hall us oacked with people of all ages, colours and religions making the most of the sunshine and the fountains. I’ll add some pictures later. I don’t really know this city at all as I’m normally just passing through, but I’m encouraged to learn more and make some more photographic forays. One thing that does stand out is this is a resolutely working class city nowadays. This isn’t the affluent South-East. The amount of casual ‘effing and jeffing’ you hear is noticable, even if you don’t have delicate ears! Oh, and did I mention the bloke who’d turned up on a horse which had a habit of knocking over and slurping up people’s alcoholic beverages?

18:16.

I’m now heading home on the voyage of the damned, otherwise known as the 18:02 to Chester. Only it’s 12 minutes late due to the Constabulary having to be called to remove an incontinent drunk earlier. Other passengers who left at Bradford didn’t seem to be in much better state. For some mysterious reason they’ve left the wheelchair area of the train scattered with dog biscuits. Fortunately, two genuinely disabled people (both with white sticks) arrived to take their place. They say love is colour blind. In this case they’re genuinely blind – and a lovely couple they make too – and it shines though…

22:30.

It’s time to say goodnight folks as I’ve been settled down at home for several hours, getting to grips with editing the pictures. As promised, here’s a couple from the camera..

One of Northern’s new Class 331’s works a service from Skipton to Leeds through the Aire valley.

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Rolling blog: all dressed up with somewhere to go…

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07:30.

I’m packed and ready to head down to London for tonight’s National Rail Awards. It’s going to be a long day but it’s always a great event and chance to catch up with friends from the industry as well as watch others get well-deserved awards for their hard work and service to the industry. Dawn is already ‘down South’ so we’re arranging to meet before going to the hotel to prepare. The cufflinks and bow-tie are all packed and the shoes polished, so let’s see how the day goes…

08:20.

Walking to the station with the Calder Valley hidden beneath a thick layer of cloud.

09:05.

After walking to Halifax station I’m now on stage 2 of the journey aboard Northern’s 09:00 to Leeds. It’s a York service made up of a 2-car class 158 instead of the more normal 3-car, so it’s already busy. This is one of the unrefurbished sets, which is clean, but tired.

09:20.

After our reversal at Bradford Bradford Interchange where a sizeable chunk of folk deoarted I extricated myself from the luggage shelf and found a seat before the next horde boarded. We’re already full and standing but we’ve still got two more calls before Leeds including New Pudsey, which is always busy. This coukd get cosy!

The murk that covered the Calder Valley is totally absent here. Instead, we have clear, crisp blue skies without a hint of cloud.

10:40.

I’m now flying down the East Coast Main Line (ECML) aboard one of LNER’s old Mark 4 sets pushed by a Class 91 locomotive named “Skyfall” after the James Bond film. We’ve just rushed through Retford at 119 mph and show little sign of slacking. I’m in the quiet coach at the back of what’s a very busy train, but here I’ve managed to find an unreserved table to set up my laptop on and crack on with some work. The weather outside remains stunning – I actually wish I was out with the camera, making the most of it!

11:05.

We’ve just been brought to a stand at Helpston, North of Peterborough, which I assume is because of congestion at the station. We’re on the move again now but crawling along to the next signal at a sedate 17mph. I’ve just taken the time to have a wander through the train to use the loo and noticed how tatty these Mk4 sets are getting now that they’re in their final months of service. The loo door wouldn’t shut properly and the lock was decidedly dodgy. Belay the congestion bit, the Train Manager’s just been on the PA to explain our speed is due to a trespasser on the line. At least our slow speed is giving me time to admire the construction work on the new Werrington dive-under. I must get down here to photograph is properly soon.

11:30.

We called at Peterborough and now we’re accelerating across the Cambridgeshire Fenlands running 10 minutes late due to the trespass incident. The trip recorder on my phone is showing us hitting 123 mph right now as we flash through Huntingdon, leaving the station a blur…

12:53.

Despite the dekay I had plenty of time to stroll from Kings Cross to Euston in the glorious sunshine before catching the tube to Waterloo. Now I’m wating for Dawn’s train from Farnham to arrive…

16:05.

After meeting up with Dawn in Waterloo we nipped down to Roupell St for a ‘swifty’ in a time-warp area of London hidden in the shadows of Waterloo East’s elevated platforms. It’s an area I knew well from my days living in London as a friends mother lived here and I helped redecorate her house.

The interior of the Kings Arms in Roupell St.

Moving on we decided it was far too nice a day to be stuck on the tube a minute longer than we had to be so we walked back to Embankment tube via the South Bank and the footbridge at Charing Cross. The view was stunning.

Now we’re in our hotel in Bayswater, getting changed for tonight’s black-tie event.

Rolling blog: another escapade…

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17:35

Having been too busy sorting pictures out at home for a client whilst eyeing the indifferent weather, I’ve finally made it out of the house for a few hours in order to get some exercise – and a few pictures.

Now that the nights are drawing in other photographic oportunities arise, such as dusk or nightime long exposure shots. With that in mind I’m heading over to Bradford for a little while in the hope of capturing some. Let’s see how it goes…

18:08.

I’m now on a half-empty Northern Rail service bound for York as far as Bradford. This 3 car train will have carried commuters home from Preston to Blackburn and the Lancashire towns before heading across the Pennines. At Bradford it became busy again with folk hwading to Leeds, whilst I decamped to see if there were any decent shots in the offing…

19:02.

Sadly, things haven’t panned out due to a combination of clear skies and too many Pacers and other trains in the old Northern livery, so I’m moving on to Leeds – and possibly Huddersfield. I’ve got a coupke of usable shots ‘in the can’ as it were, but not what I’m after. This location would be better on a wet winter’s night. I’m heading to Leeds on another of Northern’s unrefurbished Ckass 158s which is almost empty, i’m not used to this as I’m not normally swimming against the tide but caught up with the flow of commuters heading home from Leeds! It certainly makes a pleasent change.

20:47.

I’m now in Huddersfield and heading home, having finally got the type of picture I wanted. There’s plenty of opportunities at Leeds and I’ll return later when the nights have drawn in more but I need a pitch black night there for what I had in mind. Huddersfield proved to be a challenge due the old-style lighting installed on the platforms which flares quite badly, but other shots and angles were available which worked – as you’ll see later. Right now I’m spending the next half an hour on this!

It’s midnight and time for bed, but I thought I’d add just a couple of pictures from tonight’s foray.

A pair of Pacers compete to enter Bradford Interchange. The leading unit is working from Leeds to Huddersfield, the unit in the background in the opposite direction. Both will reverse here. The line to the right is to Halifax, that to the left to Leeds.

Two TPE trains cross at Huddersfield,

The UK’s ‘green’ movement isn’t fit for purpose.

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It’s been one of those days where just opening a single newspaper has highlighted why the UK’s ‘green’ movement simply isn’t fit for purpose. They’re more part of the problem, not the solution. I say this with a huge amount of regret as I see myself as someone with a real concern for the environment with a fear of what we’re doing to the planet, but the past few years has seen me look at these groups with fresh eyes.

Let me explain. I saw a paper copy of yesterday’s Guardian earlier. On one page it carried a story reporting on a new report from the Office of National Statistics that says traffic on our roads has increased by 33% in the past 30 years. Here’s a link.

The article by Gwen Topham quoted someone called Jenny Bates, from (what are supposedly) ‘Friends of the Earth’, who said “Despite noise made by vehicle manufacturers about cleaner petrol and diesel technology, transport is still the most climate-polluting sector and it’s clear petrol and diesel sales have to stop as soon as possible…The only way to stop transport from leading us to further climate breakdown is to drastically cut the miles travelled by car. Cleaner options such as bicycles, buses and trains need to be made more accessible and more affordable” .

Perhaps FoE could explain exactly how they propose we can do this when they actively oppose building the high-speed 2 railway (HS2), the only way our increasingly overcrowded rail network will ever be able to cope with a modal shift from road to rail?

To add insult to injury and highlight just how much environmental groups in the UK have totally lost the plot, the opposite page carried a piece on how the Woodland Trust have secured delays to clearing some of the tiny pockets of UK woodland that will have to be cut down to make way for HS2!

I mean, seriously? They’re going to take the fundamentalist approach that ignores the bigger picture? Every single tree and patch of UK woodland is inviolable. Forget tackling global climate change if it means a single hectare here has to be sacrificed for the greater good…

This is why I’ve no time for UK environmental groups like the Woodland Trust or ‘Friends’ of the Earth. They’re not part of the solution, they’re part of the problem. They’ve no real answers to anything. In fact, they oppose the only workable solution we have to vastly increase capacity on our railways and tackle Co2 emissions from transport! This is through the looking-glass stuff! The road lobby and oil companies must be pissing themselves laughing at the way ‘Green’ groups are doing their job for them. What annoys me is the mealy-mouthed statements we get from these groups, where they say “Oh, we’re not opposed to high-speed rail in principle” (just don’t ever try to build it in practice, because we’ll scream blue murder!).

I’ve written about the hypocrisy of the Woodland Trust in this matter before here. Since then, myself and a few other people have been doing some digging and it turns out their hypocrisy verges on the downright dishonest. I’ll be blogging about that in greater detail soon. So, next time you get bombarded with requests for money from these people via Facebook or whatever, just pause for a moment and wonder, are they really offering any solutions, or are these campaigns just a cynical way to raise more money?

Meanwhile, here’s an illustration of the problem. These are the Medway viaducts in Kent, where the M2 crosses next to HS1.

The M2 requires two massive viaducts, each one far wider than that used by HS1. In the background you see an electric train capable of 140 mph that can carry 352 people seated (and many more standing). Unlike the 60-70mph vehicles on the motorway, it can be carbon-neutral. Yet green groups oppose this as a way to link our major cities…

Just another manic Monday…

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After a reflective weekend I’m back into the fray with a vengeance. I’ve been playing catch-up with editing last weeks rail and travel pictures to get them up on my Zenfolio website, which happened this morning. If you follow this link, you can see which galleries have been updated with new images. Here’s a couple of samples to whet your appetites. Anyone passing through the Calder Valley by train will probably have looked up at the hills above Todmorden and noticed Stoodley Pike plus the monument atop it. This was completed in 1856 and replaced an earlier one that was constructed to commemorate the end of the Napoleonic wars. 121 feet tall, it has an observation deck 41ft above ground that’s reached by internal stairs. It looks impressive from a distance, but it’s even more so close up. I can’t imagine what it must have been like as one of the people trying to build such a structure in such a windswept and desolate place with the tools available at the time.

Seen from the balcony of Stoodley Pike, a new Northern Class 195 makes its way across Lobb Mill viaduct outside Todmorden as it heads from Huddersfield to Blackpool North.

That done, I’ve been busy sorting out other pictures for a couple of clients as well as trying to prepare for the week ahead. It’s a busy week as I’ve got a lot of travelling to do, catching up with the ever-changing rail scene as the introduction of new fleets ramps up and the withdrawal of old trains escalates as a consequence. There’s some major changes happening out there at the moment and that’s going to continue for some time. I’ve also a blog on the Trans-Pennine route upgrade to update after attending a Network Rail consultation over the weekend as I’ve a lot of new information to add.

As if that wasn’t enough I’ve got to dust off my ‘penguin suit’ ready for Thursday’s National Rail Awards in London.

After working as the event photographer between 2003 and 2017 I’ve been honoured to be a VIP guest for the past few years along with my wife, Dawn. Now I can relax and spend time with friends and enjoy the awards rather than be on duty, wondering just how many people will turn up on stage to collect each trophy. Don’t get me wrong, I loved working there, but it wasn’t without it’s stresses when you knew you had to deliver great pictures of such a prestigious event. It’s good to see Huw Edwards returning as presenter this year, he’s been one of the best. That said, we’ve had some great ones over the years and it’s always been a challenge to get pictures of them as they pace the stage.

As you can see, there’s going to be plenty to blog about over the next few days – and that’s without the long-running farce that is British politics and the Brexitshambles. The latest tragi-comedy has taken place in Luxembourg where Johnson’s utterly stupid remarks comparing himself to the cartoon character the ‘hulk’ have backfired in spectacular fashion. Here’s a headline from Rupert Murdoch’s ‘Wapping Liar’ – sorry – the ‘Sun’

The reality? Johnson went from ‘Hulk’ to sulk and ran away from a joint press event with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel! Christ on a bike, how stupid we look to the world right now, and it’s all our fault, despite the blame game the Brexiters are desperately playing. This is the political equivalent of “a big boy did it and ran away” – and the rest of the world knows it. In fact, everyone does but the Brexiters. Start stockpiling those foodstuffs folks. This has no happy ending – unless you’re a millionaire hedge fund manager…

In memoriam…

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Today’s not a day for blogging. The things I want to say are far too personal and complex. What I will say is that today would have been Lynn’s 60th birthday, but one that she never got to see. To celebrate her life and remember her Dawn arranged a day full of activities and events, including breakfast at a café, walking up Stoodley Pike outside Todmorden and shortly, a meal at a famous Indian vegetarian restaurant near Bradford – all things Lynn would have loved.

“Let’s love, listen, take time when time is all we have.
Let’s be unafraid to be kind, learn to disregard the bad if the good outweighs it daily.

Let’s make a gift of silence, the day’s hushing into dark, and when we hold each other let’s always be astonished we are where we want to be”

“Let’s hope to age together, but if we can’t, let’s promise now to remember how we shone when we were at our best, when we were most ourselves”

Happy birthday beautiful. x

Rolling blog: on the run…

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08:40.

The skies are blue today so I’m making a bid for freedom from the office to head out hunting some of the new Northern trains that were introduced into public service from Monday. The Class 331 electrics have spread their wings from operating solely on the Leeds to Doncaster route. They’re now on diagrams between Leeds, Bradford and the Aire Valley services. They’re also out and about on the Blackpool North to Liverpool Lime St route, displacing more old diesel units to allow more Pacers to head to the scrapyard. I’ll update this blog throughout the day. Let’s see what happens and where I get to…

10:35.

I thought I was being clever by hitching a lift into Huddersfield with Dawn, but it’s all gone pear-shaped at the station. Track-circuit failures at both East and West mean hardly anything is running to time. Delays are averaging 15-20m. My next service to Leeds is 16m late, leaving me lots of time to admire Northern’s shiny new Class 195s which are stood idle in the sidings.

11:08.

My trip to Leeds was spent standing in a vestibule aboard a 3-car Class 185, so no change there then! The service was busy with holiday makers including a gaggle of middle-aged professional women who were already on the Prosecco, but they were very well behaved, so no bother to anyone. Once in the city I caught the first available train for the Aire valley, the 11:12 to Bradford Forster Square which is worked by a refurbished Class 333. In fact it’s the first of the class – 001!

11:30.

My first port of call was the new station at Kirkstall Forge, a brownfield site that’s rapidly redeveloped. As I stand here all I can hear is the clanking of catapillar tracks and the warning horns of earthmovers. A new 7-storey office block immediately outside the station’s already open for business.

12:18.

I’ve moved on a couple of times now, first tk Shipley, then down to Bradford Forster Square for a brief photographic stop before returning to Shipley, which is a rare beast on the UK rail network. It’s a station built in the middle of a triangle of railway lines that has platforms on each side of the triangle. Only one other exists, at Earlestown on Merseyside. There did used to be several others, including nearby Queensbury, but they’re long gone. Shipley still has 5 out of the original 6 platforms as well as an old Midkand Railway station building which contains a booking office and traincrew depot.

14:10.

After several stops heading West up the Aire valley I’ve pitched up in pretty Skipton for lunch.

Frustratingly, the only Class 331’s I’ve found are all here – laid up in the carriage sidings! On the bright side, I’ve git several decent library/client shots and recorded the imminent demise of the trains Northern will be surrendering – the BR built Class 321/322s, known affectionately as “dusty bins”.

Skipton still retains most of its classic Midland Railway platform canopies

They have an interesting history. The Class 321/9 fleet were bought by the local passenger transport Executive especially for Aire Valley and Leeds-Doncaster services. The 322/4s have had a peripatetic existence. Originally built for ‘Stansted Express’ services from Liverpool St in London, they were displaced and ended up in Scotland where they worked Edinburgh – North Berwick services. Displaced once again, they ended ul being transferred to Leeds Neville Hill depotto strengthen services in the Aire Valley.

15:02.

Having ‘acquired’ copies of the two diagrams Class 331s are meant to be operating it’s clear that there are a few issues. I’ve found one running at Skipton but that’s on a training run to Shipley, which is where I’m going to head for as almost everything passes through there!

16:37.

Despite my best efforts 331s in traffic proved elusive. Services were’t performing well today so it was very muuch the luck of the draw. However,  my luck did hold at Keighley where I managed an interesting historical comparison which I’ll upload this evening. As it’s Friday I called it a day early and headed into Bradford. A sprint between the two stations meant I made the 16:30 from Interchange back to my starting point in Huddersfield. It’s worked by one of the Pacers formerly based up at Heaton in Newcastle, so I’ve a vintage ride home and chance to enjoy one of these old workhorses before it takes its final trip to the scrapyard.

Weather report.

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There’s not much blogging from me today as I’ve been spending another day cooped up at home for most of it, trying to get catch up on DIY, chores and paperwork. Add to this the fact the weather here’s been ‘mixed’ and there’s been little opportunity for photography. Here’s the view across the Calder Valley and Sowerby Bridge earlier when I wandered out to do some shopping. The latest rain shower’s sweeping up the valley from the West.

I do love the view from here. It’s a cobbled hill just above our home. You’d recognise it if you’ve ever watched the opening episode of the TV series “Gentlemen Jack” which is based on the life of Ann Lister. Let’s face it you don’t often get views like this walking to and from the supermarket – or the local pub!

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be out and about again. Let’s see what happens…

We live in interesting times..

As the old Chinese curse goes, “May you live in interesting times” – and we certainly do. So far today the Scottish Court of Session has ruled that Johnson’s proroguing of Parliament was unlawful, Meanwhile, the government is refusing to publish details of communications between No 10 aides about Parliament’s suspension, despite MPs voting for their release.

Now remind me, what was the Brexiters slogan? Oh yes – “take back control”. I wonder how many of the mugs who fell for that now feel that they’re remotely in control, never mind Her Majesty’s Government! In the space of a few short weeks we’ve go gone from a Brexitshambles to an complete clusterfuck. Johnson’s proved how utterly incompetent he is and the whole edifice of Parliamentary democracy has crumbled and fallen. And all for what?

In other news I’ve been working from home today but I managed to brave the gales in order to nip out and get some shopping whilst traversing the scenic woodland route to the supermarket to get my exercise steps in. What I didn’t do (for once) was get any pictures, so this blog is presented to you in glorious black and white text. Sorry about that folks!

I’m hoping to renew normal service over the next few days as there’s lots of exciting trips and events lined up right now. Right now I’m busy juggling the work/life balance, so this is all you’ll hear from me tonight. Cheers folks!

Analysing another load of anti Hs2 tosh…

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Regular readers may know that I’ve a cynical streak when it comes to academics. Sadly, there’s a number of them who seem to think their undoubted expertise in specific fields makes them a sage on all things, including complex subjects they know absolutely nothing about – not that this stops them pontificating!

The latest to come to my attention was this load of unmitigated tosh from Professor Dieter Helm, who’s an economist and lecturer at the University of Oxford and also an advisor to the Government.

Sadly, the professor seems to think that his knowledge of economics means that he doesn’t need to do any proper research when it comes to writing about the railways and HS2. If he had, he would have been very quickly dissuaded from writing the nonsense he’s produced. He starts badly, then rapidly goes down hill from there!

Here’s his opening stance:

“What is the question or questions to which HS2 is supposed to be an answer?” Do go on? “When it comes to HS2, the search for a justifying rationale has gone through many episodes. Only one, the original idea, has some merit, but HS2 is no longer an answer to it.” Really? And that original idea was what, exactly? “The original idea, the good one, was to integrate the UK into a European increasingly interconnected high-speed network” Err, Professor, if you’d bothered to do the slightest bit of research you’d have known that’s complete cobblers. Helm is talking about the link between HS1 and HS2 that was dropped by the Higgins review back in 2014.

In fact, that was never “the original idea” at all. HS2 came about because the then Labour Government asked Network Rail to look into the need for new rail capacity. The study, “Meeting the capacity challenge: The case for new lines” was published in 2009. Here’s a link to it. But the idea wasn’t new even then. An earlier feasibility study by W.S. Atkins was commissioned by the Strategic Rail Authority in 2001.

the 2009 Network Rail study considered four corridors and came to the conclusion that the best value option and the one that addressed future capacity constraints was a new high-speed route from London to Scotland.

Note that there was no mention of a link between the new line and HS1. This came about later.

The Network Rail study was the basis for HS2. It was taken forward by the Labour Government under Lord Adonis who’d already set up HS2 Ltd. HS2 Ltd reported back at the end of December 2009 and the then Transport Secretary, Andrew Adonis, published the Government’s response in a Command Paper, ‘High Speed Rail’, in March 2010. It was only then that a possible HS1-HS2 link was suggested as an option. It was never the “original idea” at all. That year, Labour lost power and the new Government confirmed the HS1-HS2 link as a firm proposal, until it became obvious it was a non-starter.

So, Helm’s fallen at the first hurdle. Let’s have a look at some of his other claims. Having got the first one badly wrong he claims that

First, it is not true that the existing lines could not be upgraded and carry more capacity. Railways are basically empty for almost all of the time, and the distance between and number of trains depends upon stations and signalling.  Standing on a mainline station platform at say Didcot Parkway, staring at the empty lines, reflects the fact that for most of the time there are no trains”.

Where to start with this nonsense? No-one has claimed that existing lines can’t be upgraded. Clearly, Helm has no idea that we spent £9bn upgrading the West Coast Main Line just 12 years ago! The point is that upgrading the Victorian network is complex, expensive and disruptive and it adds very little extra capacity compared to building a new high-speed line!

The next one’s even more laughable! Railways are “basically empty for almost all the time” Are you serious? This is weapons-grade nonsense. As for standing On Didcot Parkway, what on earth is that meant to prove? The levels of ignorance of how railway capacity actually works here is stunning. It would be laughable from an ordinary member of the public, but this man’s an Oxford Professor!

OK, let’s have a look at those ’empty railways’ in the real world. Here’s a copy of today’s actual train workings from ‘real time trains’ for Roade, which is on the two track section of the West Coast Main line South of Rugby. This is the section that phase 1 of HS2 is designed to relieve. This is what passed between 07:00 and 08:00 this morning. A note for those unfamiliar with this, the times in the two right hand columns show first the working timetable times, then the actual time the train passed.

There were 31 trains out of 32 scheduled, as one was cancelled. There’s 16 trains heading for Euston alone, that’s roughly one every four minutes. Some “mostly empty” railway, eh? Right, let’s have a look at the next bit of nonsense.

Few mainlines carry trains less than 10 to 15 minutes apart. Existing lines could be upgraded, and they have the great merit of already existing and require much less extra land and demolitions that the new line must have. For £100 billion, the existing rail network could be upgraded almost everywhere, with comprehensive modern signalling, station enhancements and a coherent fibre enabled communication system to run it

Yet again the Prof falls flat on his face in the first sentence. How many other main lines do I need to provide real-time running information to expose this nonsense on stilts? Has the Prof any idea of how much of our railway network HAS already been upgraded over the past few years, or how the fact Network Rail’s spending record amounts doing more?

How does any of this remove the need for HS2? It doesn’t. For example rebuilding Reading at a cost of £1bn a few years ago has done nothing to add capacity to the WCML, only HS2 can do that. OK, let’s plough on.

“Far from dispersing growth to the north from the south, it could easily work the other way around. Furthermore, it is not obvious that the economic growth problem in the north is caused by lack of connection to London, or that the £100 billon spent on HS2 is the best way of increasing the northern growth rate”.

Here we see the usual obsession with London, ignoring all the other places HS2 connects. But let’s tackle this one head on as I’m a perfect example of why this is a fallacy. I live in West Yorkshire but I often work in London. Where do I spend the money I earn in London? Most of it in West Yorkshire, where I live, not where I work. When I get the morning Express to London and home in the evening there are hundreds of other Yorkshire folk doing exactly the same, only now it’s getting increasingly difficult to work on the trains as they’re full. If I get the Grand Central service from Halifax to Kings Cross I’ll be lucky to get a seat, even in First Class, making me less productive. This is the difference between economic theory and reality. Right, next..

Promoting the economic growth prospects in the north is much more about connectivity within the north” The Prof seems blissfully unaware this is exactly what HS2 does. If we take “the North” as being out of the M25! The current rail services between Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester are slow and not fit for purpose. HS2 will cut journey times between B’ham and Manchester by 52% and B’ham and Leeds by 58%! It will make a huge difference in connectivity between those major cities – and many more.

“In transport, there are two main alternative options. The money could be spent on upgrading the existing rail network, with smart signalling and metering, and smart system coordination, better smarter stations, better access to stations, more and better stations, and better rail lines”.

Frankly, some of that doesn’t even make sense. What on earth is “smart signalling and metering“? If he’s referring to digital signalling like ATO, he’s clearly unaware of the limited capacity gains it offers on mixed traffic railways like the West Coast Main Line (the busiest in the EU). It’s estimated by signalling experts that digital signalling could offer around 15% extra capacity on mixed traffic lines. At the current rate of growth, that would be eaten up in just a few years. Then what? We’re back to square 1. In contrast, HS2 offers a massive capacity increase by moving non-stop express trains off the existing lines onto dedicated lines where digital signalling really can help because all trains are running at the same speeds. It also frees up lots of capacity on our existing network. Not just on the WCML but also on the East Coast and Midland main lines.

” If autonomous electric vehicles develop, controlled by smart systems, and powered by low carbon electricity generation, then roads may be better than rail in the future, having greater flexibility and able to take denser traffic.”

“If”? We need solutions now, not play wait and see! As it is autonomous vehicles have been overhyped and underachieved. I may not see eye to eye with the commentator Christian Wolmar on HS2, but he’s done some excellent work debunking the hype around driverless cars. Even “if” they did arrive there’s no way we’d be seeing what the Professor is suggesting as every vehicle on the road would need to be autonomous before you’d see this pipe-dream happen. But just say it did. Electric vehicles are still far more polluting than trains. Oh, and how an electric car carrying a max of 5 people and limited to 70mph will be ‘better’ than a 200mph train carrying 1100 is stretching reality to breaking point. This is no ‘alternative’ to HS2.

Finally, we get this old cherry.

“If the counterfactual is the infrastructures more generally, then the first candidate would be fibre and broadband. This would cost less than £100 billion to complete and one of its impacts would be to reduce the need to travel and hence the demand for travel.”

Really? As we’ve had fibre and broadband for many years now, perhaps the professor could say when it’s ever reduced travel demand? Rail passenger numbers are still growing and hitting record numbers. Here’s West Coast operator Virgin trains figures. Virgin has grown passenger numbers from 30.4m in 2012-13 to 38.3m in 2017-18, an increase of 25.98%!

Here’s the statistics for the other West Coast operator, West Midlands Trains. They’ve grown numbers from 60.5 million in 2012-13 to 74.9 million in 2017-18, that’s a growth of 23.8%. So much for broadband reducing travel…

In fact, it’s arguable that improved wireless communication and technology has helped increase, not cut, travel as less and less people are tied to their offices – hence so many people working on trains! OK, next…

“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the future is more likely to be cars and vehicles than trains”

No, it’s really, really not, this is more nonsense on stilts. High-speed rail is the land transport of choice in the 21st century, which is why so many countries are investing in it. China has built 25,000 km already in just a few short years. Now we have Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia and Morocco added to the list. Soon there’ll be Indonesia, India, Thailand the USA and many others.

Like the professor, I could go on, but there’s little point. I think my job here is done. It’s a great shame when academics get so carried away with themselves they trot out stuff like this. I could call it badly-researched, but it’s not. It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that he’s not done any research.