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It’s cold up North!

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Actually, I don’t think it was just the North that was suffering from plummeting temperatures in the past 24 hours, but the mercury’s certainly dropped here in the Calder Valley! The pair of us has another early start and I was in the office before sunrise – glad of the fact the heating and associated electronics were generating some warmth as I slaved away over some more old slides. I didn’t think I’d have had time but I’m keen to get as many done as possible at the moment as I don’t know when I’ll get the time again and the ones I’ve been adding are relevant to some of the rail franchise and fleet changes we have coming up shortly. Looking back at them I realise how time has flown.

Here’s a example. This was one of the first passenger runs of a Virgin Pendolino, On the 30th April 2002 Virgin ran a press trip from Euston to Manchester Piccadilly to highlight the trains would be used on trips from London to the Commonwealth Games in July. It was a high-profile event that included Richard Branson, Brian Souter, John Armitt and many others. You can find the rest of the pictures in this gallery. In those days Pendolinos were only 8 cars, hence them fitting into photographs with the trains they were replacing.

The day wasn’t entirely devoted to nostalgia as I had to nip into Halifax to do some chores so I took a slight detour up to Bradford Interchange in order to be able to add a couple of modern shots to the archive, such as this. Here’s one of the new CAF built Class 195s pulling out of Bradford Interchange en-route to Manchester Victoria.

This evening the weather’s dropped back to miserable temperatures, so the pair of us are having a quiet night in. Despite the temptation, I’ve resisted watching the political ‘Leaders debate’ on ITV tonight. There’s several reasons. Neither of them look remotely like ‘Leaders’. I won’t learn anything new that I’ve not heard before and I can follow each camp putting their own gloss on things via social media – as well as see the honest commentary from those with no party – political axe to grind. The idea that these two jokers are the best the English political establishment can offer up is too depressing for words. My only hope is that by the time it comes to voting, enough people say “a pox on both your houses”…

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Clearing the decks for another week…

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Monday started at 6am as Dawn was up to get into work because Network Rail have taken over the area outside the ACoRP office as a secure compound. They’re using it as a base for kit they need for the rebuilding and refurbishment of Huddersfield station, which was unfortunate timing as ACoRP are having their own contractors carrying out work to the water tower!

Once the alarm clock went off I made coffee then sought refuge in the office to finish of scanning a load of old slides and gave Dawn free rein on the bathroom. There are advantages to working from home. It means one of us gets priority over the ablutions!

The early start allowed me to clear yet another old slide album and prepare the next for scanning by weeding out all the duplicates. By lunchtime I’d added another 40 plus images to my Zenfolio website which you can find by following this link. There’s a real mixture of rail stuff from 2003 but the next album steps back in time to 2002. Here’s a sample of the 2003 slide images. It was this job that persuaded me to bite the bullet and go digital. I was on the train with a freelance photographer who was working for the Telegraph newspaper. Whilst I had a Nikon F5 and F801s loaded with colour slide and high ISO black and white, he had a digital Nikon D1 and it was obvious to me he could get shots it was impossible for me to take. That’s when I realised that it was a case of ‘adapt or die’, so I started saving for the camera kit to allow me to make the transition, which I did a few months later in March 2004.

Remember the old Travelling Post Office trains? Here’s a shot I took on board 1C00, the 23.18 London – Carlisle, the famous ‘Night Mail’ which was immortalised in the poem by WH Auden.

I’m not sure I’ll have time to scan any more slides this week, but there’s lots of pictures in the queue – from the launch of Virgin Trains Pendolino services to the building of High Speed 1 into St Pancras.

Having cleared my desk of lightboxes and slide gubbins I nipped out for a couple of hours to make the most of the gorgeous winter sunshine we were blessed with today. The hills are too high and the shadows too long around Sowerby Bridge so I nipped over to Todmorden to get a few pictures like this to add to the library.

CAF built 195119 working a late running Manchester Victoria – Leeds service.

The pair of us have another early start in the morning so I’m going to call it a day. Sadly the weather’s not predicted to be as good, so I’ll have to play things by ear as I’ve a queue of subjects and locations to photograph as well as all the mundane stuff like paperwork. Whatever happens, expect more pictures – old and new soon!.

Not the day I expected…

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The pair of us have had a quiet weekend at home for a change, mainly because Dawn’s been recovering from a bout of the lurgi and migraines, another two of which struck last night leaving her feeling drained today. Even so, we’ve managed to get some things done – if not everything we intended.

I’ve found myself concentrating on scanning old slides which is good in one way as I’m finally getting the pictures onto my website. I’ve almost finished an album of images from 2003 and it’s been a nostalgic experience as I was a rookie pro photographer who’d suddenly found themselves doing all sorts of unusual stuff with famous people like Richard Branson, Stirling Moss and Prime Minister Tony Blair to name but a few. It was the year before I made the leap from film to digital and looking back, I wish I’d done it sooner, but isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing? 2003 was packed full of really interesting events. Here’s just a small selection from the ones I’ve been scanning over the past few days

On the 27th September 2003 the first section of High Speed 1 from Fawkham Junction to the channel tunnel was officially opened by a press trip from London to Paris on a Eurostar. When passengers arrived we were greeted at Waterloo International by acrobats performing on the concourse.

We were then whisked across to Paris on a Eurostar set specially branded the ‘press express’ and fitted with TV screens which relayed the view from a camera placed in the cab. Here we are passing through Kent on HS1.

Then, in October…

Virgin Trains were maximising the publicity they could get from rolling out their new Pendolino train fleet. On the 20th October their PR people commissioned me to accompany Richard Branson and the Virgin team up to Liverpool where 390031 was to be named “City of Liverpool”. Amongst the VIPs joining in on the event at Liverpool Lime St station was the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Louise Ellman MP (2nd left) and Miss Merseyside (right).

It’s funny looking back at these pictures now and seeing just how the railways companies starting to regain their confidence after the turbulent Railtrack days and the spate of fatal accidents that helped see the organisations demise. It was still a rocky road as tragedies were still to happen but it was clear that things were improving. How different things look now, when the main problem the railway face is the lack of capacity!

I’ve added over 60 slides to my Zenfolio website this weekend. You can find out which galleries the rest of them are in by following this link. There’s still another 40 slides from this album to add which should be done this next week. After that, it’s time to delve into the storage box and see what comes to hand next…

Stophs2 think they can unseat Boris Johnson by Joe Rukin dressing up as a tree!

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No, seriously! That wasn’t a typo…

The Stophs2 campaign is going from farce to worse and yesterday has been an outstanding example. The ‘intellectual’ wing of the campaign collapsed several years ago when the folk involved in the ‘High Speed 2 Action Alliance’ (who were essentially a bunch of Chiltern Nimbys) gave up the ghost in 2016. The anti Hs2 ‘flame’ then passed to the sole surviving group known as Stophs2 who were always the ‘Mickey Mouse’ end of the campaign, as yesterday has proved in spades!

Stophs2 have been struggling to stay relevant for a long time now as their Chair, Penny Gaines has buggered off to Bournemouth whilst their Campaign Manager, Joe Rukin remains in Kenilworth. They get wheeled out as rent-a-quotes to various sections of the media who still have them in their contacts lists, but that has no reflection on their actual influence, which is zero. They weren’t even part of the HS2 phase 2a petitioning process.

But you can always rely on Joe Rukin to come up with a Cupid Stunt. Sorry, I meant to say a cunning plan! His latest brainwave was to dress up as a tree in the Uxbridge constituency of Prime Minister Boris Johnson along with some Extinction Rebellion protesters. Quite what Rukin was thinking this would achieve is unfathomable, but I’ll explore that more later. First, here’s a screenshot from the StopHs2 Facebook page that shows you this farce.

If you’re on Facebook and want to view this complete car-crash in all it’s glory, feel free! Here’s another snippet from their FB page.

Interestingly, some StopHs2 supporters were less than impressed by the spectacle, as the comments on Facebook show.

There’s also this little revelation that makes it clear the stophs2 grassroots really aren’t all that keen on getting involved in direct action. A stopHs2 sticker in the back of their 4×4 is one thing, joining a protest is another!

Despite the latter claim it’s clear that Rukin was in Uxbridge with Extinction Rebellion who were presumably hoping to entice people to vote for the Green party with this cringeworthy spectacle. Now, let’s get real for a moment and look at some facts.

In the 2016 EU referendum Uxbridge voted 57.19% to leave the EU. Boris Johnson held Uxbridge at the 2017 election with a 5034 majority.

The Green Party’s candidate, Mark Keir, who has been involved in various anti HS2 stunts, is not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer or obvious Parliamentary material who would be seen as attractive to ordinary voters (see this blog). He came last in 2017 and saw the green vote fall by 1.3% to 1.9%. The only person within spitting distance of Johnson was the Labour candidate, who increased their vote by a sizeable 13.6%. This year Labour have put up a different candidate but Keir is yet again standing for the Green party. So, who is StopHs2 backing? Keir! The one man who is guaranteed not to win and whom voting for will help keep Labour out and Boris Johnson in!

The StopHs2 campaign has been a tragi-comedy for some time. Informed sources tell me that Joe Rukin has been looking for a proper job for some time. Perhaps with his experience in ‘story-telling’ and dressing up, he should consider getting himself an Equity card, after all, he’s clearly got a talent for Pantomime and that season’s fast approaching!

Another days mixture…

There was no time for blogging yesterday as I was still in ‘nurse’ mode as Dawn remained under the weather and a lot of my time was taken up with to-ing and fro-ing from the kitchen to the bedroom with a supply of hot water bottles, cups of decaffeinated coffee and Marmite crumpets!

The rest of my time was taken up with working within earshot in the back office, scanning old slides and sorting through emails and paperwork – although I did manage to nip out for an hour or so and get some exercise. This being the Calder Valley, a walk around here has a certain profile. Flat, it ain’t – which is great for working off a few calories and getting in my five a day. No, not vegetables – miles!

Meanwhile, here’s a couple of yesterdays slide scans, which all date from an album I took in 2003.

On the 3rd September 2003, 150245 waits to work the 15.10 to Ipswich from Lowestoft. In those days local rail services were run by the Anglia franchise which ran from January 1997 until March 2004 when it was merged with First Great Eastern to form a franchise that covered the whole of the route through from London Liverpool St to East Anglia. This particular Class 150 is now working out of Cardiff for Transport for Wales

A few weeks earlier, on the 15th August, 4-CEP number 1590 leaves London Victoria working the 13.11 to Dover Priory. At that time services out of Victoria in the old BR South East and South Central areas were operated by French company Connex. It wasn’t a happy marriage. Connex were stripped of both franchises. They never re-entered the UK market afterwards.

Where does the time go?

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Yesterday was our second wedding anniversary, but it didn’t go entirely to plan due to the fact Dawn’s gone down with the lurgi. Of course, this follows straight on from a fantastic weekend with friends where we (belatedly) celebrated my 60th birthday, which was last month. 15 of us congregated in London at Café Spice Namaste for what was a lovely evening.

On Sunday we made our way back from London to Yorkshire. Sadly, it was all a bit of a rush, but that’s because a few of us had a lie-in after staying up until 02.30. We were staying in a hotel in London’s Eastern Docklands and the weather was so good on the Sunday Morning we couldn’t resist taking a minor detour on the Emirates Airlines cable-car across the Thames to North Greenwich. This left us with little time to get the train our friends had booked from Kings Cross to Yorkshire, so I ended up doing my best London travel guide impression, using my knowledge as a former Londoner to navigate our way across the city’s public transport system. Here’s how things looked from the cable car.

The O2 arena in the foreground with Canary Wharf behind it. To the right in the background you can see the City of London and skyscrapers like the ‘Walkie-Talkie’ and the ‘Gherkin’.
The ever changing face of East London and the area around Bow Creek, with Stratford in the background.
Where Bow Creek joins the Thames is another hive of construction activity with the skyline dominated by tower cranes.

Our trip back home was made easy by a straight-through trip on Grand Central to Halifax, where we caught up with our friends for a last drink in the Big 6 before home. Yesterday was far more relaxed as, apart from slipping out to get some shopping, we stayed in all day. Dawn wasn’t feeling 100% and the weather was filthy, so there was no incentive to venture out apart from me having a dental appointment to pick up a shield. It seems I’ve started grinding my teeth in my sleep. After nearly four years of the shambles that is Brexit I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised. Biting my tongue during the day and grinding my teeth at night seems entirely normal behaviour under the circumstances! To prevent excessive wear and tear I’ve now got a shield for my lower teeth which is to be worn at night. If only a solution to the Brexitshambles was that simple…

So, instead of the pair of us venturing out we spent the evening cooking. Dawn prepared a Flemish beef stew with beer before retiring to her sick bed, leaving me to take over and prepare all the veg and finish the cooking. I have to say, the stew was delicious!

We fell in love with this rich dish when we were in Bruges last month. With the weather being so miserable it seemed like the ideal comforting food to prepare, although we eschewed the traditional chips for a mixture of roast potato’s and red cabbage as an accompaniment.

Today I’ve been on nursing and shopping duties as well as working from home. There’s been plenty of news to catch up on, hence this blog on HS2 I penned this morning. I even managed to venture out for an afternoon constitutional, although I’ve not been breaking any records today! Hopefully tomorrow the weather (and Dawn) will begin to pick up…

Another bad week for those opposed to HS2…

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The past couple of days have seen news come out that will have the remaining folks opposed to HS2 either crying into their cornflakes or banging the breakfast table in frustration. More realistically, a few of them will take to social media to spout the usual inane or splenetic nonsense they’ve been trotting out on an endless loop for years. But enough of them, let’s look at what really matters.

A new independent report has been published that was commissioned by High Speed Rail Industry Leaders (HSRIL) and produced by Ralph Smyth, the man who formerly led the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s (CPRE) engagement on HS2. Called ‘HS2 – towards a zero carbon future’. Amongst a number of things, it looks at the most recent evidence of how much carbon will be generated by building HS2, how HS2 is crucial to the Government hitting its zero carbon target by 2050. It counters many of the myths and canards spread by HS2 antis with forensic precision, expert data and facts. Here’s some excerpts. You can download the full report here.

This completely demolishes the antis propaganda that HS2 will be carbon positive for the next 120 years. The report goes on to say…

And..

This highlights something that those who’re opposed to HS2 resolutely refuse to face, the fact that they have no credible alternative to HS2. The report hammers this home on a number of occasions in different ways, such as this, pointing out that HS2 has the same capacity as a 10-lane motorway. So, which would you prefer running through the countryside?

The report goes on to detail why the original (pessimistic ) calculations of how much carbon would be generated by building HS2 are woefully out of date now many aspects of the route design and construction has been finalised.

There’s more…

The last paragraph pointing out the tiny amount of ancient woodland being lost is “remarkable” puts the Woodland Trusts scaremongering into perspective. I’ve blogged about the WT’s dishonesty and distorted figures here.

Another common anti complaint about the speed of HS2 is neatly skewered here…

I’d recommend reading the full report as there’s an awful lot more in it. I just wish the Green party would do so but they’re too dogmatic and hidebound to do so, which is a great shame as this report exposes (in great detail) just why their opposition to HS2 make them part of the problem, not the solution to Climate Change. We desperately need a change of policy from them if they’re going to retain any credibility, but they’re very good at finger-wagging and lousy at listening.

To add further to Hs2 antis woes today’s Times newspaper has published what it claims is a draft copy of the Oakervee review into HS2. Spread over the lower part of the cover and pages 6-7 (plus the pro HS2 Leader on page 29 it’s a well written and in-depth article. The gist of it is that there will be no major changes proposed to HS2 and speculation that the Eastern arm to Leeds would be axed was incorrect. However, earlier suggestions that Phase 1 and 2a should be merged have been accepted. The report reinforces the HSRIL report on the carbon benefits of building HS2, the lack of any credible alternatives and also stresses the positive economic impacts to the North of building the full Y network. It also suggests that Oakervee is keen to see an updated business case that look much further into the future than the current conservative modelling which cut off after 60 years. There is one very curious assertion contained in the page 1 story (albeit carried on to page 7). It claims “Hs2 is due to run through Uxbridge and South Ruislip, the seat Mr Johnson held (held? He still does! Ed), where the StopHS2 campaign has 5000 supporters” Sorry? It has what? This seems to be a glaring typo as the StopHs2 ‘campaign’ doesn’t even have an active action group in the constituency! They’ve clearly confused StopHs2 ‘support’ with Johnson’s 5034 majority at the last election! Here’s how many people in Uxbridge signed the last StopHs2 petition. Just 232!

Needless to say, these leaks have sent the remaining HS2 antis into a meltdown on social media, although the reaction’s very subdued compared to previous years for the simple reason that so many of them have given up and moved on, figuratively and literally! Another interesting thing is the way there are far more pro HS2 voices sticking their heads above the parapet nowadays, and these are organisations with both a physical and political reach, like this tweet from Adam Marshall the DG of the British Chambers of Commerce.

Add Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

In contrast, we have the usual infantile ramblings from individual Nimbys opposed to HS2, along with a few hastily reprogrammed pro-Brexit bots like this!

Quite how this tiny band of Nimbys and pro-Brexiters are going to stop HS2 is never adequately explained. Mainly because they have absolutely no idea, they’re just going through the same motions that they have for years. They’ve no political clout and their organisation’s collapsed. There’s no national strategy and they’re so skint there’s no anti HS2 advertising, not that it’s made any impact when there was. Their empty threats to vote for Farage’s Brexit Party have been rendered even more laughable by the man’s decision not to stand in Tory seats (which is what the majority of HS2 runs through on Phase 1! Even poor Peter Deeley is starting to realise he’s been shafted by Farage…

HS2 antis are going to have a terrible election. I can’t see the likes of Arch-Brexiters such as Deeley voting Green and damaging Tory chances so I’m looking forward to crunching the post – election numbers in constituencies HS2 passes through – such as the Chilterns, Warwickshire and Tatton!

Until then the voting’s over, stophs2’s tale of woe will continue…

Crazy anti Hs2 campaigner of the week. No 24.

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With the general election campaigning in full swing it’s been fun resurrecting this feature as we could all do with a laugh at something, and the tiny anti HS2 campaign is certainly providing a chuckle or two thanks to their bizarre insistence that (God knows how) they’re actually some sort of electoral force to be reckoned with! It’s completely bonkers of course. Their influence is so small they couldn’t even get 25,000 signatures on their recent Stophs2 petition. Still, here’s the latest in laughable delusion, this time it’s from another old favourite, Stephen Leary, who lives in NW Leicestershire constituency. You can find him on Twitter as @MeashamHS2Actio

Leary gave up his one-man campaign against HS2 last December but he’s recently returned to continue his programme of self-promotion. He no longer claims he’s going to set up a new StopH2 ‘action’ group, but he does still advertise the non-existent website of the defunct local group (MAPA) which is was a minor member of before it went to the wall.

Here’s one of today’s Tweets, which is a hilarious miscalculation and misunderstanding of party political support!

Green party candidates in Eddisbury and Congleton, eh? Leaving aside the fact the Greens aren’t predicted to win a single extra seat in the general election and are bobbing around at 5% in the polls, we’re expected to believe that the few Shire Tory Brexit supporters who oppose HS2 are going to vote Green to stop HS2? Especially when the incumbent Tory, Antoinette Sandbach, has had the Tory whip removed over Brexit and has gone off to join the Lib-Dems? I mean, seriously? Has it even occurred to Leary that they just might have other considerations on their minds when it come to placing their X’s on the ballot paper? Obviously not, but then that’s typical of these people as their knowledge of politics never normally gets beyond Parish Council level.

To illustrate just how ridiculous and out of touch these claims are, here’s the 2017 election result for Eddisbury. That’s not a hill for the Greens to claim, that’s bleedin’ Everest!

Meanwhile, what of Congleton? This is a real true-blue Constituency which is held by Fiona Bruce with a majority of 12,619. Here’s the 2017 result.

Why Leary’s even bothered with this one’s a mystery as it’s not on the route of HS2! Just 62 people living there signed the last stophs2 petition, that’s 0.065%! The Greens vote dropped last time too, leaving them last on the board.

You have to laugh! Electoral maths clearly isn’t Leary’s forte. Nor has it occurred to him that even if by some miracle, people were persuaded to change their vote because of HS2 and help unseat the incumbent MP, it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference to anything because HS2 has cross party support from Tory, Labour and Lib-Dems (plus the SNP in Scotland) so it doesn’t make any difference if the seat swaps between any of the major parties – which is the most likely outcome.

To add to the general merriment, Nigel Farage has announced that his Brexit party won’t be standing in any Tory held seats, so that’s really going to rain on the HS2 anti’s parade as there’s no-one else left who opposes HS2 to vote for other than the Greens, who are dead set against Brexit. I’m sure we can expect more laughable nonsense like this from the few remaining HS2 antis over the next few weeks, but there’s no doubt that HS2 won’t be an election issue – despite their desperate and fantastical claims – just like every other election since 2010.

Rolling blog: Travel blues…

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It’s another of those ‘fun’ days on the railways. We were meant to be travelling from Halifax to London on Grand Central’s 10:36 service, but it was cancelled due to a shortage of drivers. Not the greatest of starts as the railways are under pressure this weekend because of the floods and engineering work which meant East Coast services were being diverted via the GN/GE joint line via Lincoln. Instead, the four of us (we’re travelling with our friends Fran and Aubrey) caught a Northern service to Manchester which was bound for Chester. It was one of the few that hadn’t been cancelled, so we knew that it would be busy. I’d hoped we’d have got a 3-car Class 195. Instead, Northern threw out an unrefurbished 2- car Class 158! It was already rammed by the time we left Halifax. We managed to find some space in a vestibule which became more and more crowded as we stopped en-route. It got especially ‘cosy’ when a chap with a bike got on at Todmorden! There were some grumbles, but when he explained that he really needed to catch that train as he was on his way to work (with disabled kids) in Manchester, folk made room for him. Quite why Northern could only spare a 2-car to work this service is a mystery. It certainly didn’t enhance their reputation with many of the passengers.

On arrival in a freezing cold Manchester we opted to get a tram across town to Piccadilly where Fran and Aubrey had booked seats on the 12:15 Virgin Pendolino to Euston, which is where I’m typing this now. Piccadilly was packed with travellers and late-running services. A check on Real Time Trains showed me that many Virgin services were running late. The inbound working for our service was 25 mins down. Quick work by Virgin staff turned the train around rapidly, meaning the Southbound working was only 5 minutes late departing.

We’re now enjoying a few drinks on the train, glad we’re not driving as the road conditions down South are pretty miserable!

16:17.

Having negotiated our way from Euston via the tube and the Docklands Light Railway we’re now relaxing at our Docklands hotel before heading out to meet up with the rest of the gang before going for a meal at the superb Café Spice Namaste. Once thing we didn’t expect to find was this. It seems the AA are now interplanetary!

West Yorkshire weather woes…

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Yesterday’s torrential rains are causing ripples (if you’ll pardon the pun) today as rail services in the Calder valley are still disrupted. For once the line didn’t flood at Walsden but over in Lancashire. It finally reopened earlier this afternoon, but services are still chaotic with many trains cancelled. This morning, trains from Leeds were being terminated at either Hebden Bridge or Todmorden and nothing was running at all East of Manchester Victoria. This screen at Todmorden says it all…

I’ve ventured out as far as Walsden to have a look and get a few pictures (which I’ll add later). We’ve had very little rain so far today although the skies are constantly changing and threatening another deluge. Sadly, Valley folk are having to become accustomed to floods nowadays. Climate change is here and it’s real, and local human activity up on the moors is exacerbating it by allowing the rain to run off much more quickly.

Trying to protect our Victorian rail network from Climate Change is a huge task. What were once considered once in a century events are now happening with monotonous regularity – and there are no quick fixes or easy solutions as land around railways has been buried under roads or encroached on by housing and commercial developments. This is one of the reasons I’m such an advocate for building HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. We cannot expect to rely on Victorian infrastructure forever.

OK, as promised, here’s a few pictures from today.

The old Pacer’s still soldier on. Here’s 142079 which should have been working to Manchester but was terminated at Hebden Bridge instead
Nearly 30 mins after the Pacer, this arrived. Optimistically bearing a Chester destination, this service was only going as far at Todmorden, where it would reverse and high-tail it back to Leeds.
12.55. Journey’s end at Todmorden as the driver changes ends and prepares to head back to Leeds as the flooding in Lancashire precluded getting any further West for the next few hours.
Finally, at 13.30 this pair (150118 and 156459) were sent West on an exploratory mission to see if the line was safe to reopen and all the signalling systems worked. They’re seen here approaching Walsden station
The first passenger carrying train to make it through was this, 150102 working 1D76, the 1138 Leeds to Chester.