Rolling blog: another Friday foray…

12:00.

Having pretty much been staring at four walls all week (OK, and looking at lots of colourful pictures, but that’s not the point) I’ve made an escape from the office to try and get some contemporary library shots. Unfortunately the weather’s nowhere near as nice as last Friday, exactly the opposite in fact. We’ve low, grey clouds and drizzle, so I’m leaving the confines of the Calder valley to head West for a change of scenery and (hopefully) weather.

After strolling down to Sowerby Bridge station I was just in time to join some of the local rail enthusiasts who were waiting for a pair of DRS Class 20s which were heading to York in readiness for a railtour, which nade a nice change. As I was heading for Preston and the Blackpool North services have stopped calling at Sowerby Bridge I caught a late running Chester service to Hebden Bridge to make the connection. Fortunately, the Chester wasn’t so late that the Blackpool was put out ahead or I’d have been kicking my heels for another hour.

I’m now on a rather careworn and unrefurbished 2-car Class 158, having drawn the short-straw rather than having a new Class 195 on the route.

12:17.

We’re now at Accrington, an archetypal former mill town with its rows of terraces climbing up the hillsides the the railway gives a fantastic view of as it bisects the town on a viaduct. I keep meaning to take a day out here to explore as there must be several different shots to be had of the juxtaposition of town and railway. Now the new trains are more common this is the year to make the idea a reality.

14:21.

I’m now on my way from Wigan North Western after leaving Preston to continue my way West. Preston was interesting as the forms of traction really have changed in just a few months. Last year it was a nexus for driver training on Northern’s new trains. Those runs till appear, but now many of the new trains are in service, having taken over from the old BR units that were a staple of the Northern fleet. I’d hooed I might have found some of the new TPE sets in service but it wasn’t to be. Nir did I bag any Pendolinos in Avanti livery but hey ho…

Instead, I’m heading to Liverpool in search of photo-opportunities there as the weather seems to be picking up. I’m currently on one of Northern’s new 3-car Class 331s which have taken over services on this route. They’re a far cry from the pedestrian diesel units that worked the line untol it was electrified. These are old haunts for me as I grew up not far away in Southport and spent many a weekend travelling these routes back in the early 1970s. How things have changed!

My chariot from Preston to Wigan.

16:56.

Liverpool Lime St was interesting. The station’s changed so much since I first got to know it in the early 1970s. Now it’s busier than ever with new trains, new platforms and new services, like the Transport for Wales route to Chester via the long-abandoned Halton curve. It’s cleaner too as many of the services tgat used diesel units are now electrically operated. That said, there’s a bit of an odd throwback in the shape of the Trans Pennine service I caught to head back East. 5 coaches hauled (or pushed) by a Class 68 diesel locomotive! I’m not going to be too critical as the extended sets mean that I can get a seat unlike on the 3-car 185s. They’re comfortable vehicles too.

Sadly I had to bail out at Manchester Victoria where I transferred to a Northern service to get me back to Sowerby Bridge. The 3-car Class 158 I’m on now is rammed. They always are as far as Rochdale but with this being a Friday we’ve also got a complement of hen parties and other folk heading for nights out along the route.

Why single-issue campaigners are part of the climate-change problem, not the solution.

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As the countdown to the Government making its final decision on building HS2 the opposition has ramped up their anti HS2 PR, the latest being today’s overly-long 34 page report from the Wildlife Trusts.

It’s a masterpiece of speculation and scaremongering. Long on apocalyptic predictions of what HS2 will do the UKs flora and fauna but woefully short of facts. It also ignores the critical question. If not HS2, what?

The report’s been collated using responses from 14 Wildlife Trusts and a number of conservation and landowning organisations along the full route of HS2 who’ve all been busy staring into their crystal balls in order to predict a future where HS2 has supposedly laid waste to this green and pleasent land. Here’s some examples. Here’s this from the Executive summary.

“HS2 will result in the loss of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodlands, veteran trees, wood pasture, old meadows, mires and wetlands. A total of 108 ancient woodlands are known to be threatened with loss or damage under current plans. Many other important wildlife habitats will be negatively impacted by the construction of HS2 and will not recover their existing biodiversity value, under the timescales used in HS2’s calculations

At the risk of being flippant, the old expression “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs” springs to mind here. The idea that we can build anything on the scale of HS2 in the UK without affecting something or someone is pie in the sky. The point is to ensure the least damage is caused as possible, to mitigate the losses and to ensure there’s replacements for what has to be lost. Because (make no mistake) there’s something much bigger at stake here. It’s called planet Earth – but more of that later….

Here’s some more examples.

“1.3 Species at risk
It is anticipated that HS2 will impact a wide range of wildlife significantly”

Anticipated? By whom? This is a good example of the language used throughout the report. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen the words and phrases “risk”, “potential risk”,”jeopardised”, “may”, “likely”,

Then there’s these classic bits of daft scaremongering from the introduction.

“HS2 is a huge infrastructure project, which will cut and divide England’s natural habitats in two, from London to Manchester and Leeds”…”HS2 will cut right through the heart of England, slashing a large part of the countryside in two”.

Err, hello? This is a railway, it’s not the Berlin wall! And, it’s a damned sight more permeable for wildlife than the alternative – more motorways. It’s this sort of blinkered thinking that is so frustrating, because at no point in the report are any alternatives considered – or a comparison of the destruction they would cause even mentioned. Because – if you did that, the effects of HS2 on the environment would look very different indeed to the bleak picture painted by these groups.

It’s that lack of a bigger picture that makes organisations like this part of the Climate Change problem, not the solution. They’re single-issue campaigners. They daren’t look at the bigger picture, because if they did it would make people realise that they (literally) can’t see the woods for the trees.

Great, say they managed to stop HS2. What then? The need for it won’t go away. Instead, the Government would have to come up with an alternative and the only obvious alternative is more motorways. The old axiom ‘be careful what you wish for’ is very appropriate here. If ‘green’ groups think building a new railway is too higher price to pay, what price is several hundred miles of new motorways?

Of course, the stock answer you get from groups like the Wildlife or Woodland Trusts is “not my problem Guv, we’re only here to campaign about UK trees, or newts, or bats”.

Which brings me back to planet Earth – if only I could bring these groups back there too!

Transport is one of the biggest emitters of Co2. If we’re serious about tackling GLOBAL climate change we need to get modal shift from road and air to the greenest form of mass land transport: Rail. But we can’t do that without the vastly enhanced rail capacity HS2 gives us as our existing network is full and can’t be expanded in any meaningful way. Oh, we can tinker around the edges, removing a few pinch-points here and there, but the truth is we need a new line. The rest of the world has realised that High-Speed rail’s the solution, but many here are too blinkered, too conservative and (seemingly) incapable of grasping the scale of the problem.

Great, we get to ‘save’ a tiny patch of ancient woodland. For now. But in doing so we put the whole ecosystem at risk. Not just in the UK but across the planet as there’s a clue in the name ‘Global Warming’.

This is ultimately my frustration with these supposed environmental groups. Their inability to see and deal with the bigger picture won’t save anything. Just the opposite! There’s another hypocrisy here. ‘Green’ groups constantly shout about the ‘climate emergency’ and the need to act NOW! Yet, when it comes to building HS2 they say “not so fast, we must go back to the drawing board”, thus delaying the means to enable modal shift for several years if not decades. Some ’emergency’! It’s taken us 10 years to get to this point, yet HS2 still won’t be ready for years!

I could spend hours critiqueing the rest of the scaremongering in this report, but I think you get the drift. I want to see the environment protecting too – after all, I’ve got to live on this planet as well. I just wish we had a decent environmental and truly ‘green’ party in the UK, because what we’ve got now is just doing the road lobby and oil companies jobs for them.

Despite all this there has been one very refreshing thing and that’s HS2 Ltd finally taking the gloves off by starting to challenge these factual inaccuracies and spin rather then leaving it to people like myself and Gareth Dennis. Here’s a sample of their ripostes on Twitter.

This challenging of factual inaccuracies and willingness to stand up for the project rather than rely on people like myself, Gareth Dennis and RAIL’s Nigel Harris amongst others is long overdue but nevertheless welcome. Maybe now we can start to cut through the crap and talk about the serious issues as construction of HS2 gets underway.

UPDATE: 16th January.

I know I’ve been a stern critic of the environmental movement in this blog, but I’m going to share this with you as evidence of why this is. Here’s a tweet from Craig David, who is the CEO of the England and Wales ‘friends’ of the Earth (FoE).

This mind-numbingly banal and intellectually bankrupt comparison is the best that a CEO can come up with? Seriously? If anything makes me worry for the future of the planet it’s the fact that these people are the ‘leaders’ of the ‘green’ movement. Talk about out-gunned and out-manoeuvred. Christ on a bike…

Stormy weather…

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We’ve had a fun 24 hours here in the Calder Valley due to storm Brendan which has brought with it lashes of rain and high winds as well as dismal skies that have reduced us to half-light. The camera has stayed firmly in its bag and apart from forays on foot to go shopping and get some exercise I’ve been pretty much glued to the office.

This morning I was up at 6am as Dawn had an early start. This gave me the opportunity to try and integrate back into the library some of the old slides I had back from picture agencies a couple of years back. They’ve gone back into the albums they were taken from in an effort to give me some continuity. In order to save space (and time) I’m weeding out duplicate images. The problem with slides was that I used to back up pictures by taking 2-3 shots that were exactly the same. This served a dual purpose. If the original got damaged or lost I had a back-up. I could also send one to a picture library whilst keeping another version for myself. Of course, in the digital age such redundancy is, well, redundant! Now I can duplicate an image with a click of a mouse!

The stuff I’ve had returned covers many different subjects. Apart from all the travel shots and rail images one of the libraries I contributed to was a social issues picture agency based in Brixton called Photofusion. The stuff I placed with them covered a rainbow of subjects, from Housing (which I still worked in at the time) to UK travel, politics, demonstrations like the miners strikes or Iraq War and festivals like Gay Pride. Looking back at the pictures makes me realise that – if nothing else – I’ve certainly had an interesting life and covered an awful lot of things in my time! I’m looking forward to getting most of them scanned, although a few are destined for the bin as the things they covered have little relevance today. It’s a sad waste and another advantage of digital. When I consider how much each of those mounted slides cost me to take and the mountain of plastic waste they’re reduced to I wish I’d switched to digital long before I did.

Here’s a few of today’s scans spanning the years from the early 1990s to the 2000s, just to give you an idea of what I have in the archive. First up is a May day protest in central London back in 2001. These events could get out of control quite quickly so the police always turned up dressed up in full riot gear to make a point. As a photographer it could get quite hairy as you were in the thick of it, with police on one side and demonstrators on the other. This photo shows a stand-off between protestors and riot police outside the John Lewis store in Oxford St. As you can see, the copper to the left wasn’t too pleased to see me!

Here’s an earlier shot taken in 1992 – although it looks like it could have been the early 1980s. This is a miners demonstration in London, protesting about the mass closure of some of the remaining UK pits – strange as that might seem now when climate-change is the most important issue that faces us and the days of ‘King Coal’ are long gone. In the photo is Tony Benn MP, NUM President Arthur Scargill and Dennis Skinner MP. Like the May day demonstration I’ve a large archive of pictures of this event to scan (one day). The miners were very well organised and also media savvy. A group of them worked with photographers to ensure you got the shots you both needed. They’d escort you out in front of the procession leaders and guide you so that you could face backwards getting the shots you wanted before moving you on so the next photographer could get their shots.

Of course I should mention that in the days when these photographs were taken I’d no idea that I was eventually going to change career and become a professional photographer. Then I was a rep for my trade union (NALGO, the local Government Officers Union, or ‘Not A Lot Going On’ as it was sometimes referred to!) and involved in producing the newsletter. I took these pictures because I was interested in photography and social issues, not for a moment thinking that one day this would become my career.

– and now for something completely different, and a lot more camp! Lynn and I would often attend the annual Gay Pride parade in London with friends. When I first met Lynn she worked for the AIDs charity the Terrence Higgins Trust. Needless to say, we made a lot of friends through her work and ‘Pride’ was always a good day out and chance to catch up with people. In 1995 the parade used Victoria Park in East London not far from where we were living, so naturally, we dropped in! This particular couple were spectacular, and this was before Elton John got married in similar style 9 years later…

Time to go back to trains for my final picture which shows how much the railways have changed. Here’s an old Class 508 electric train used by Connex arriving at Maidstone West on the 7th March 2002. Built by British Railways for suburban services out of Waterloo they were transferred to Merseyside. Some surplus units made the trek South once more and ended up working South-Eastern services, first for Connex and later South-Eastern Trains. The SET units remained in service until 2008.

I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane and through elements of social history. If you want to see the full selection of pictures you can find them on my Zenfolio website. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I get around to scanning the rest but as I’ve 1000s to get through we may all need to be patient. I’ve spent a few hours tonight weeding out duplicates from another travel album which includes shots from New Zealand, the UK, India and Denmark. They might not get scanned for a while, but at least they’re taking up a lot less room…

Why the StopHs2 Harvil Rd debacle is the gift that keeps on giving.

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Yet again social media has rather blown up in the faces of those opposed to HS2. This time because of an unguarded comment by one of their own. You may remember they’ve been desperate to talk up the opposition to HS2 on the ground by pretending there’s some sort of groundswell of opposition that’s seen protest camps spring up all over the phase 1 route of HS2. Of course (as usual) the truth is rather different. Students of history may remember the way Allied forces in World War 2 used inflatable models of tanks and aircraft to fool enemy reconnaissance aircraft. Stop Hs2 seemed to be trying the same stunt at Harvil Rd by setting up tents, hoping that people might then assume there were more protesters than there really were. When the Bailiffs arrived to evict the camp they counted over two dozen tents and structures. There was only one problem (for the protestors at least). Sod-all were occupied. How do we know? Firstly, because all the video’s released of the evictions by the protesters show hardly any protestors present. Then this slipped out on Facebook today.

“only seven people were on site”…

Not exactly what you’d call much of a protest, is it? Just seven people, and two of them are the same old names – Mark Kier and Sarah Green. That leaves just five others holding the ‘fort’ (and I use that term loosely) as those two are often away playing silly buggers at stunts/court appearances around London, or when Kier was meant to be election campaigning in Uxbridge!

Considering that Harvil Rd is a stones throw from London, this is the best they can do? Half a dozen people and a few ‘weekend warriors’? Yet over 2.5 million people live in the constituencies Phase 1 of HS2 passes through.

Whichever way you cut it, it’s clear these protests are not going to stop HS2 in the slightest. They’re more like flea-bites, minor irritations that are soon dealt with. Many of them, like Chris Packham’s middle-class stroll along a muddy footpath with a few hundred people the other week, are just PR stunts, not a serious attempt to interfere in the building of HS2.

I can’t see the other four camps having any greater success as the same will happen. One day the Bailiff’s and Police will turn up without warning to take possession of the land and then it’s ‘Goodnight Vienna’ for the protest.

Somehow, I don’t think anyone in the corridors of power, or at the Department of Transport in Westminster or HS2 Ltd in Birmingham are going to be losing much sleep over these protests. Apparently, this coming weekend a four day long series of protests is meant to be held at what’s left of the Harvil Rd camp in a classic example of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted!

Talking of protests, there’s also this one in London on January 22nd, although I can’t see this setting the world alight either. I’ll be interested to see how many people actually bother turning up.

Meanwhile, in the real world, a decision from the Government on giving HS2 the go-ahead is expected any time now. The latest round of speculation is that the Oakervee review and the go-ahead for HS2 will be announced at the same time at the beginning of February, just after the UK has formally left the EU and the clock begins ticking on the transition period. Let’s face it, the Government’s going to be desperate for some good economic news once that happens and announcing the fact we’re going ahead with HS2 would fit the bill.

Another trip down (travel) memory lane…

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Despite it being a Sunday I’ve had a busy time in the office scanning old slides as I continue my efforts to wade through the archive and get everything on to my Zenfolio picture website.

Eschewing the recent series of rail pictures I picked out some old travel slides that I’d placed with the old ‘Lonely Planet’ picture library back in the 2000s before they were sold to the BBC and then on to Getty. The world of travel pictures was very different then and it was rather a nice income stream. Those days are long gone. I had the original images returned by Getty a few years ago when they joined the rest of the archive awaiting scanning. This morning I scanned a selection from Indonesia taken on my travels in 1992 and 1998. Here’s a look at a few of them.

This is an image taken at Lake Maninjau in West Sumatra back in June 1992. I spent several weeks on the island which was a fantastic place to travel. In those days you could enter the island by ferry from Georgetown on Penang Island Malaysia. A hydrofoil would carry you across the Straits of Malacca to Belawan in Northern Sumatra which was the port for the main city of Medan. In those days backpackers like myself would travel overland and the next stop for most (including me) was the volcanic Lake Toba. But, I’d been tipped off by other travellers I’d met heading in the opposite direction to me that there was an even more amazing and magnificent volcanic lake – Maninjau – in West Sumatra. They were right. As much as I enjoyed Toba and the Batak culture, Maninjau and the local Minangkabau people were even more interesting. Ever visited a matrilineal Muslim community before? No, neither had I! The lake itself is 16 km long, 7km wide and averages a depth of 105m. It sits at the bottom of a volcanic caldera and it’s an amazing place to arrive at when you reach the lip of the crater then drop down a road with 44 hairpin bends before you reach the main village on the edge of the lake. The picture as taken from the back deck of the little homestay I was residing in. You could bask in the sun, have a swim and then watch the weather change like this, as a rainstorm crept in from the West and boiled in over the crater edge. You knew you still had 20-30 minutes before it reached you. It was a beautiful place to stay, kick back and relax and enjoy activities like walking or cycling around the lake – or just sit and read a book before heading out for some delicious Padang food. I’d love to go back as I was last there in 1998.

This picture was taken on the same trip. I left West Sumatra by ferry from Padang and headed to Java, making my way slowly Eastwards across the island by rail and bus until I arrived here at Mt Bromo.

It’s the most incredible landscape as it really doesn’t look like it belongs on this planet. This is the view from the edge of the original volcanic crater which was taken one sunrise in June 1992. Three smaller volcanos sit in the ‘sea of sands’ inside the original crater. It’ll take you 45 minutes to walk across to them. The volcanoes are still active and have erupted several time in the past 20 years the last time being 2015. Indonesia is famous for its volcanoes, many of which remain active. I visited several but Mt Bromo has to be the most spectacular.

Here’s something a bit different from another trip Lynn and I did across Indonesia back in 1998. This shot was taken at a big cremation ceremony in Ubud, Bali back in October 1998. I’ve long admired the way the Balinese have managed to hang on to their distinctive culture despite mass tourism and being part of an overwhelmingly Muslim country. You might not see much of it if you stay in the tourist traps of Kuta and Sanur on the islands most Southern tip, but get into the hills and it’s very different. The reason I took this shot is because of the juxtaposition of the traditional and modern. Here’s an important and wealthy man in traditional Balinese dress who’s helping run the whole ceremony and he’s on his mobile phone. This is 1998 remember. In those days only 1 in 5 people in the UK had one. Lynn and I were still communicating with most people via ‘snail mail’ and poste restante letter drops as the few places you could find internet access in Indonesia were Post Offices where you used slow, expensive and unreliable dial-up internet. How things have changed in 20 odd years!

If you want to view the rest of the pictures from Indonesia, click on this link.

– here for one day only…

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The sunshine, that is. Yesterday’s glorious weather appears to have been a flash in the pan. Today dawned in the traditional pattern with low cloud and haze obscuring the view of the valley. Remarkably, considering the thunderous grey clouds that clung to the horizon like an invading army, we didn’t get any rain until just before dusk. Then, the heavens opened! I wouldn’t have minded so much if we hadn’t been out food shopping, so we got caught in the downpour. It’s remarkable just how wet you can get when you’re making a 100 metre dash with shopping bags!

Having got home neither of us have any intention of venturing out again. Instead, I’m happy in the kitchen, trying out a new curry recipe from Rick Stein’s Indian book. Right now the chicken’s cooking slowly and there’s a wonderful smell of cinnamon, star anise fenugreek and garlic permeating to house – with just that tang of chilli catching your nose and throat when I open the kitchen door.

Whilst Dawn was visiting friends this morning I’ve not been idle. I managed to get through editing all yesterdays pictures, so here’s a couple more samples. You can find the full collection on my Zenfolio website if you follow this link.

Here’s the changing face of the railways in the North. One of Trans-Pennine Express new ‘Nova’ 2 5-car bi-mode trains leaves Leeds bound for Liverpool Lime St. It’s passing one of the new CAF built 3-car diesel trains built for Northern. Despite what you hear about a lack of investment in trains in the North these two train orders come to over a billion pounds. Both reflect an increase in train lengths and the number of seats on offer, as well as free wifi, plug sockets and more.

The rebuilt main entrance to Leeds station. The concourse has been ‘de-cluttered’ and the roof rebuilt to allow in far more natural light, whilst the gate-line beyond has been widened and moved forward to allow more circulating space for the millions who use the station each year.
A Trans-Pennine Class 185 sits under the magnificent roof at York near sundown.

Of course it’s not just TPE and Northern that have brought new trains to Yorkshire, so has LNER. their new ‘Azuma’ fleet has already taken over the majority of services From Leeds Harrogate, Skipton and Wakefield to London.

5-car ‘Azuma’ 800207 accelerates out of Leeds station on its way to London.

Sadly, looking at the weather forecast for the week I’m going to be lucky to find such good weather anywhere near to home. Even further afield is looking iffy, so I you may be treated to more old slide scans until the weather picks up.

Right, it’s time to eat. Whilst I’ve been scribbling this the chicken curry has cooked – and it’s looking good…

Rolling blog. The camera bag's packed…

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09:00.

I’m preparing to venture out on the rails for the first time this year – which is rather a long gap for me, but then 2020’s been a busy year so far. The sun looks like it’s going to play ball even if the trains possibly won’t. I’ve just looked up the real time performance of my two local operators and seen that Northern is currently running 84% of it’s services on time whilst TPE is propping up the bottom of the national league with just 63% on time and a whopping 25% either cancelled or more than 30 mins late. There’s a very useful website which uses Network Rail data to track the different companies performance throughout the day. You can find it here.

Let’s see how I get on today, and where I end up. I’ve a list of shots I need in mind, how many will I manage to get I wonder…

10:40.

The walk into Halifax this morning was gorgeous due to the crisp weather and glorious sunshine. Here’s how the station looked this morning, with one of Northern’s new Class 195s arriving on a service to Blackpool.

The new units were much in evidence today. I’m now on the 10:38 to Leeds which is made up of a pair of 2-car 195s. So far I’ve only seen one old BR unit – a 153 working the Bradford – Huddersfield shuttle.

Of course this step-change in the quality of trains goes unremarked in certain political arenas. If you listened to some of the elected Mayors you’d think the Pacers were still prevelent.

11:05.

I abandoned the CAF trains at Bradford Interchange and strolled across this much-maligned city to Forster Square, admiring the city’s magnificent Victorian buildings on the way. I love the quality of winter sunshine with its richness and warmth. It’s without the harshness or blue tones of summer sun and it was showing off Bradford’s buildings to their best. I paused en-route to grab a couple of pictures and I’ll add one later as an illustration.

Right now I’m sat on one of the venerable Class 321 electric units which will ship me to Shipley. Despite the arrival of the CAF 331s these remain in service.

11:49.

Sadly, by the time I got to Shipley tragedy had struck. A person had been struck by a train in the Skipton area, so many Aire valley Leeds services were being cancelled. The next two for Leeds were, so I’m now on a 322 that was turned back at Keighley.

I’m assuming (but don’t know) this was a suicide as January’s always a bad month for such incidents on the railways. My thoughts go out to the unfortunate train crew and the families involved.

13:00.

Having spent the best part of an hour getting pictures at Leeds I’m on the move again, this time to York aboard a Trans-Pennine Express Class 802. Unlike their trains I’m used to, this one has plenty of spare seats. I’ve even managed to bag a table to myself.

Leeds was interesting because of the sheer variety of traction you can see there. I suspect it has more variety than almost any other UK station, especially now Northern and TPE have diversified their fleets.

15:00.

York was enjoyable as the winter light made for some great photo opportunities, plus there was plenty of traction variety that allowed me to tick off a few library shots. Rather than keep repeating the same images I also nipped down to Church Fenton but didn’t stay as the shadows were lengthening, making the pictures I wanted difficult. Church Fenton’s an odd place as it seems like it’s little more than a dormitory town for York or Leeds. It still boasts a four platform station as it maintains its status as a railway junction. In fact, it’ll grow in importance in that regard as this is where the spur of the new HS2 line from Leeds will join existing tracks to take HS2 service on into York and up to Newcastle. Several years ago there was a small StopHs2 ‘action’ group here but like most such groups they’ve faded away. I’ve not seen anything from them for years now.

17:00.

I’m now heading back to Halifax on Northern’s 16:57 to Bkackpool North which is being worked by a totally inadequate 2-car Class 158/9. It’s absolutely rammed with 15 of us wedged in the leading vestibule gehind the driver’s cab.

I’d be interested to know where it stops but the onboard PIS tells me nothing useful apart from the fact we’re going to Blackpool North. The rest of its time is taken up with pointless stuff about security, reading safety information and telling you not to vape. The Conductor’s not made any announcements either. Thankfully, we stopped at New Pudsey, where the sardine-like conditions eased.

19:00

And relax! I’m back at home, plugging in the camera to the computer ready to download today’s pictures and add a few to the blog shortly. Despite the fun and games it’s been an instructive day. Despite the doom and gloom you hear about trains in the North there’s real signs of improvement. The hated Pacers are rapidly being displaced. I only saw a handful of sets today, a couple at Leeds and the same at York. There’s more and more of the new CAF units about, taking over routes like Blackpool North – York and many Leeds – Manchester services where they run as four cars. The 4-car electric version’s appearing more and more too. Its the same story on Trans-Pennine where the loco hauled 5-car sets are being rolled out, along with the Hitachi built Class 802 bi-modes working more Newcastle-Liverpool Lime St services. All these new trains are providing extra services and more seats, but the downside is the fall in reliability and punctuality. the problems due to staff training and unfamiliarity with new trains will soon pass (as they always do). The big problem is the infrastructure constraints and timetables that can’t be delivered because of that. What our politicians of any political hue won’t admit is that changing the name of the operator on the side of the train won’t fix the problems.

Here’s a selection of pictures I promised.

One of TPE’s loco hauled sets speeds through Church Fenton whilst working a Scarborough – Liverpool Lime St service.

Meanwhile, back at York…

155341 basks in the sun at platform 1 at York.
The old order clings on (just) at Leeds. LNER DVT 82215 and Northern Pacer 144001 side by side in the evening rush hour.

Thursday thoughts…

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Today’s been yet another day that’s seen me ensconced in the office at home trying to sort out the archives and get together a complete picture library of a clients entire train fleet. To say it’s time consuming is rather an understatement as they’ve rather a large portfolio! Still, it’s given me chance to search through the archive and spot potential gaps that will need filling in the future.

I’ve not been missing much by being stuck indoors as the weather here in the Pennines has hardly been conducive to photography. We’ve been suffering from the tail end of the gales that have been a feature of Northern and Scottish weather these past few days, but at least they’ve kept the rain away – even if the clouds have been the colour of thunder! As I normally escape to sunnier climes this time of year I’m starting to miss the warmth and sunshine. I don’t mind the odd dull day, but this is getting monotonous.

I’m hoping to make a bid for freedom for at least a few hours tomorrow as I need to get some shots that will fill a hole in the library. The railways are changing at an accelerated rate at the moment. What was current just six months ago is rapidly becoming dated and that process is likely to quicken through the year. Who knows what the railways will look like by this time next year with so many franchises in financial difficulties, despite (or even because of) the introduction of new trains.

Whilst I’ve been slogging through the archives I’ve also been keeping one eye on the debacle of the anti HS2 protest camp at Harvil Rd. It’s all over bar the moaning now as despite the histrionics and squeals of outrage about ‘illegal evictions’ from the tiny band there, it’s obvious it’s all ended with a whimper, which has set me thinking.

I’m no stranger to these events myself, having attended various demonstrations and protests since the late 1970s right up to the present day and the rallies against the Brexitshambles. I’ve a large archive of pictures on social issues that have never seen the light of day, from miners demonstrations with the likes of Arthur Scargill, the infamous poll tax riot in London in 1990 to the Iraq war demonstrations of 2003. I’ve been ‘kettled’ with demonstrators in central London and dodged missiles in Trafalgar Sq, as well as experienced curfews and general strikes in Kathmandu and India and protests for reform in Indonesia. Oh, and that’s without mentioning the ‘free festival’ circuit in the UK back in the 70s-80s, all of which make Harvil Rd look so ridiculous and so pathetic.

Which brings me back to my point. What a shambles that protest camp was. Compared to the protests about road building in the 70s-90s it was nothing more than a joke. They had 2 years to dig in and prepare for an eviction and at least put up some sort of a struggle. Instead, they gave up meek as lambs as it was clear they were woefully unprepared. It was more playing at being ‘eco-warriors’ rather than being serious about it. They spent more time swanning off to poorly attended PR stunts than actually organise a credible camp. Their reliance on and belief in social media was also part of their undoing. During the eviction Keir was busy filming it all to stick on Facebook and constantly appealing for all those armchair activists who were watching (which in truth was sod all) to ride to their rescue like the cavalry. They never turned up. Why? Because much of social media is little more than voyeurism. I’ve documented many StopHs2 events over the years and there’s one common denominator, how few bodies there are at them! It’s something they’ve never understood. Keyboard warriors and Twitter trolls and bots never turn up – because most of them don’t exist in the real world.

When I’ve had chance to do some research and scan some old pictures I’ll write a blog devoted to examining the difference between environmental protests 40 year ago and today. There’s a rich irony. 40 years ago the internet didn’t exist. The best protestors had was Xeroxed newsletters and telephone trees, yet they managed to organise on a far more impressive scale and attract national attention at some real stand-offs with the authorities. At Harvil Rd they were too busy thinking their endless tedious videos on their cosy Facebook groups or on Twitter, Instagram and suchlike actually meant something. They played to an audience of imaginary friends and basked in the fact they had so many hits or likes, as if all those voyeurs were actually contributing anything worthwhile. If they’d spent half the time they had on social media onanism they might have actually achieved something, but that’s always been a weakness of the anti HS2 campaign. Some of them genuinely think that MPs are going to be swayed by a few anonymous Twitter trolls spouting inane rubbish.

I can imagine someone getting a really interesting thesis out of this…

Anyway, enough of this for now. Hopefully tomorrow will see me back on the rails for the first time in 2020. If it does, expect a rolling blog documenting my travels and travails…

Stop Hs2 evictions at Harvil Rd. The wibble continues…

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It’s now 24 hours since the Bailiffs successfully evicted the protestors from the Stop Hs2 ‘protest’ camp at Harvil Rd just outside Ruislip, West London. For those not familiar with the area or what’s happening, here’s a map.

The two circles show the extent of the work that the protestors have utterly failed to stop. The field which contained their little camp is marked with an X. Just out of the picture to the right is Ruislip, in the opposite direction is Denham Country Park.

Since the eviction the StopHs2 website and antis social media pages have been full of utter nonsense about the legality of the eviction. Their supporters have been spreading the mischievous myth that this was illegal as the protestors were protected from eviction by Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act 1977. This is an old squatters favourite as it protected them from unlawful eviction. Section 6 was enacted to stop unscrupulous landlords who (on finding one of their properties had been squatted) would get a few blokes together and turf out the squatters without resorting to the hassle of going through the time-consuming process of taking legal action in the courts. Back in the 1970s when squatting was a big thing illegal evictions were a real problem and various legal groups lobbied the Government to give legal protection to squatters to stop it happening – hence Section 6. as an aside, the 1977 CLA’s an interesting bit of legislation because of some of its other provisions. Section 52 redefined cannabis to include cannabis resin after a successful appeal due to a loophole in the 1971 MODA (Misuse of Drugs Act 1971). See R v Goodchild [1977].

When my properties (see below) were squatted you’d often find that the squatters had a printed S6 notice stuck to the front door, thinking this was some sort of magic charm that protected them from eviction. It didn’t. It merely made it illegal to evict them without due process and a court order executed with a warrant by officers of the court (Bailiffs). Of course, since the 1977 CLA, the eviction process has been speeded up considerably, but the anti HS2 protesters seem to think they’re still living back in the 1970s-80s!

I have to admit to a certain amount of interest and previous experience here. In a previous life back in the 1990s I was a Housing Officer for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets before taking on the same role at Tower Hamlets Housing Action Trust when 3 estates in Bow (E London) were transferred to that organisation. Evictions were part of my job and I (along with the County Court bailiffs) carried out many over the years. One day, if I ever get the time I’ll blog about some of the stories, which whilst both funny and tragic they’re worth relating. But I digress.

Here’s the latest misinformation and spin on the Stop Hs2 website from that renowned ‘legal expert’ Joe Rukin.

There’s only one problem with this. Joe is completely clueless about the reality of the law. As I pointed out earlier, S6 only protects people from illegal eviction.

This was not an illegal eviction.

Why? Because it was carried out under the conditions of a Compulsory Purchase Order. The fact the squatters claimed they allegedly had ‘permission’ from the previous tenant is irrelevant, they didn’t have it from the new owners of the land. In yesterday’s blog I linked to an excellent explanation in plain English of CPO powers in this situation. You can find it here. But in this blog I’ll make it easier by copying it and spelling out the relevant sections. The beauty of this link is it describes enforcing a CPO in EXACTLY these circumstances.

So, let’s rebut (point by point) the StopHs2 claims.

“protestors had legal occupation of the land under the Criminal Law Act 1977”.

No. They didn’t. the 1977 CLA only provides protection from illegal eviction. It doesn’t confer any right to occupation. By purchasing the land from the previous owners under a CPO HS2 Ltd had legal rights over the land, not the protestors. All it means is that HS2 Ltd had to go through due process to remove the protestors from the land, which they did.

today HS2 Ltd decided they could evict the entire camp under Compulsory Purchase Oder (sic) powers, despite the supposed protection of the CLA, which suggests this is an illegal eviction“.

It ‘suggests’ nothing of the sort. Rukin doesn’t understand the CLA, or the powers granted by a CPO.

“In this video, the man in charge of the eviction admits there is no eviction order, and the eviction is being conducted under a compulsory purchase order, despite the fact the land is covered by a notice of occupation under the Criminal Law Act”.

Here we go again…

Forget the CPA, we’ve already dealt with that. “there is no eviction order” because no notice is required, as the guidance explains. In fact the Bailiff went to great pains to explain his powers in detail (as the video on the StopHs2 Facebook page shows). The only problem is the likes of Sarah Green and Rukin simply weren’t listening!

The acquiring authority may apply to a justice of the peace to a warrant which will entitle them to exercise the power given in the CPO. The justice of the peace can only issue the warrant authorising the use of force if he or she is satisfied that persons are preventing or are likely to prevent entry and that it is reasonable to use force to remove them.

Once the warrant has been issued, this is the instruction to the HCEO to deliver possession of the land to the acquiring authority. No other court order is required.

The warrant confers the powers the HCEO will need to execute it, including the right to enter the land or premises and to use reasonable force. The HCEO will be wholly responsible and personally liable for the execution of the warrant.

So, the warrant having been issued, there’s no need to give advance warning of its execution and enforcement. Why? This explains.

Giving notice

Whilst the acquiring authority does have to give notice of the CPO and their intention to take possession (via a notice to treat or a vesting declaration), the HCEO is not obliged to give notice of the enforcement of the warrant.

However, should the circumstances indicate that it would be more appropriate to serve notice, perhaps because children are on the premises, then they can do so. In the case of protesters, particularly environmental protesters, serving notice might carry the risk of more protesters being brought onto the site.

This last sentence spells out exactly why no notice is needed or was given.

As for this nonsense about the police acting illegally by not intervening. Here’s the reality. The police have a statutory duty to assist.

The police

The police has a statutory duty to assist the HCEO when executing either a High Court writ or a compulsory purchase order warrant – Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 sec 140 (10).

Hopefully people will find this useful in dispelling the StopH2 myth-making, disinformation and spin around these evictions. I doubt it’ll have any influence on the protestors themselves, many of whom seem to live in an alternate universe to the rest of us judging by the stuff they’ve been coming out with, but this is why they’re on to a loser. Their bubble bursts when it comes into contact with the real world – especially the legal world!

Not that this stops some of StopHs2’s supporters coming out with some hilarious, paranoid old rubbish and conspiracy theories that really are away with the fairies. Take this example from the StopH2 Facebook page today.

Quite how this tinfoil-hat nonsense is meant to Stop Hs2 is a mystery. Sadly, it is a good illustration that we have a real problem in this country with people peddling rubbish and who really can’t tell fact from fiction. Here’s another absolute classic from the StopHs2 Facebook page!

Oh, the irony!

This afternoon various Facebook groups were still spreading rubbish about the legality of the eviction (and more), like this one. But notice how few people have shared it, never mind actually responded.

On that note I thought I’d conclude this blog with a picture taken at the last Facebook friends of StopHs2 annual meeting…

Another stopHs2 failure as the Harvil Rd 'protest' camp is evicted.

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Earlier this morning the Court Bailiffs and police moved in to evict the oldest and largest of the StopH2 protest camps at Harvil Rd near Uxbridge. You can view the farce via a video posted on the StopHs2 website here.

It’s interesting for several reasons. Firstly, it shows how few people are actually there. Whilst there’s a rag-bag of 20 odd tents very few of them seem to be occupied. It’s like they’ve been left there by ‘weekend warriors’ just to make the camp look bigger and busier than it really is. In fact, very few protestors can be seen on camera, just the same old faces such as Mark Keir, the serially failed Green Party candidate, plus Sarah Green, the ‘star’ of various PR stunts the antis have tried to pull. One of the things I found fascinating about these videos was just how poorly prepared these camps were for the arrival of the Bailiffs. They knew they would come one day, so what the hell have they been doing these past two years? Remember the old days when protesters dug tunnels to hide in and had aerial ropeways between treehouses so they could resist for as long as possible and make life as difficult as they could for the police and bailiffs? This camp was a shambles in comparison, a few scattered tents and pallets used as walkways across the mud. It looked more like the place where people went to hang out, drink beers and smoke dope whilst recording endless boring social media video’s where they’d bluster about how they were going to stop Hs2.

In the background to the videos you can hear what the protesters have utterly failed to stop – HS2 contractors continuing to build access roads for construction of HS2.

As usual, you have people like Green trying to argue black is white with the Court Bailiff, claiming that the eviction is ‘illegal’. Unsurprisingly, the Bailiff refuses to get drawn into a pointless argument. As it’s now almost afternoon and no more videos have appeared – much less a victorious one from the protesters) it’s probably safe to assume that they’re too busy packing their bags! I’ll update this blog when I have more news.

There’s an even more telling video which stophs2 haven’t put up on their website but you can view it on their Facebook page. It’s a 22 minute long cameraphone video filmed by Mark Keir. You can find it here. In it, you can hear him describing the police and bailiffs as ‘scum’, whilst (hypocritically) being nice as pie to people’s faces. In contrast, the Court Officers are unfailingly polite and helpful, offering the maximum co-operation and concern for the protesters whilst executing their duties and the court order. There’s an even more ridiculous video from Sarah Green here where Green rants on and on about the eviction being ‘illegal’ like a broken record as a protestor is restrained and removed with police observing. I can’t help but think of the old expression “Barrack-room Lawyer” every time I hear Green spout. Meanwhile the man being removed calls everyone “scum” and “criminals” in between his theatrical screams. What Green and the others completely failed to understand (despite the Bailiff explaining it to then very patiently) was that he was enforcing the eviction under the terms of a Compulsory Purchase Order warrant and this confers the legal right to evict them and no notice or ‘eviction order’ is necessary. A good clear explanation of the law regarding CPO evictions in exactly these circumstance is here.

In his video Keir constantly calls for assistance from imaginary Facebook/social media friends, bemoaning the fact that there are so few people at the camp as Twyford Down this ain’t! One of the great weaknesses of these protests is they’ve always been tiny in comparison to the efforts of the anti road building protests of the 1980s-90s. Partly because the protesters have fallen for their own social media hype. They’ve confused Twitter trolls and keyboard warriors with genuine support, then are incredulous when these ‘people’ fail to materialise in real life! There’s something else that’s telling. I’ve always said that social media is a double-edged sword. It can expose your weaknesses or highlight your strengths. As always with the anti HS2 campaign, it’s the former, not the latter. Look how few views or comments any of these videos posted to social media have!

Is this the end for the Harvil Rd protest? Probably. I doubt there’s anywhere else left for them to set up camp nearby without them rapidly being evicted. No doubt some of them may drift off to another of the handful of poorly supported camps on the route, but the end result will be the same. What have they stopped? Nothing.

Meanwhile, the Government has announced that infrastructure will be one of the main planks of its policies over the next Parliamentary term. Chancellor Savid Javid has promised an ‘infrastructure revolution’ in his March budget. Now, does that sound like a Government that’s about to cancel HS2 to you? Can you seriously imagine Javid standing up in a packed House of Commons to say “I would like to talk to you about my infrastructure revolution, but first I’d like to announce that I’m cancelling the biggest infrastructure project in Western Europe!”

UPDATE (17:13).

The protesters friend in the media have now picked up on the story with The Guardian carrying it on their website. According to the Graun’, three protesters were arrested during the eviction. I’m assuming these will be for obstruction, so unless they’ve done something really stupid they’ll probably be released without charge as there’s little point in wasting the police and courts time prosecuting them – which is no bad thing. Misguided they may be, but they have a right to protest as long as they stay within the law and it’s important that right is upheld in a democracy.

Harvil Rd camp was the biggest and oldest of all five anti HS2 protest camps. It was set up in October 2017 but it’s achieved nothing. It’s never stopped work on the site, merely delayed it a few times. It certainly hasn’t stopped HS2. All it’s really achieved is keep a tiny corner of social media alive with pointless videos, polemics, conspiracy theories and fake news.

The irony of the Guardian covering this is that the newspaper has a very good gallery of the Twyford Down protests in 1992-93. These were against the building of the new M3 motorway and they really put today’s tiny StopHs2 ‘direct action’ protests into perspective. You can find the gallery here.

I suspect this setback is going to be quite an important one for the anti HS2 campaign. ‘Direct action’ was their last resort, but it’s clear that the number have never amount to anything more than a minor nuisance. With the forthcoming announcement on HS2 going ahead expected very soon this could well break the back of what’s left of their campaign. Whilst a few stragglers may remain around the camp it’s clear that their days are numbered as they’ve completely failed in their objectives. It seems some of the locals will be glad to see the back of them too, as this comment on the StopHs2 Facebook page to todays news shows!

Looks like StopHs2’s Joe Rukin better stop playing at being ‘Swampy’ and redouble his efforts to look for a real job!