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Rolling blog: out and about again…

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What a stunning autumn weather for getting out and about! I’ve moved office for a couple of hours to base myself in Grand Central’s excellent 1st Class lounge in the renovated Wakefield Kirkgate station.

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I arrived from Huddersfield (where I’d popped into the ACoRP water tower) on one of Northern’s ‘new’ Class 158s that have been transferred from Scotrail.

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I’ve had to spend a while on the phone negotiating a new rolling contract with one of the major players in the rail industry and the waiting room was a fine place to use as an office whilst I did it. Once the ink’s dry on the contract I’ll let you know who it is. Now I’ve another couple of emails and phone calls to make before getting out and about for a couple of hours, so watch this space…

15:00.

I’m now in the lovely town of Knaresborough, with it’s equally lovely railway station. The old station building has been converted to mixed uses. There’s arts and crafts and a smashing cafe called ‘the old ticket office’, so no prizes for guessing where that’s located! I’ve popped out this way as the Harrogate loop (as this line is known as) is currently the preserve of the former Scotrail Class 170s that have been cascaded to Northern Rail.  Most are still in Scotrail colours, like this one that brought me from Leeds. They’re certainly a step-change in comfort from the Pacers that were a staple on the route.

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22:37.

I’m now back at home. The day didn’t quite go to plan as I ended up dealing with a lot more work phone calls, but I’m not complaining as there’s some exciting new opportunities on the horizon. In the meantime, here’s one or two more pictures from my travels.

Here’s the main building at Knaresborough station. It was built in 1865 by the North Eastern Railway, replacing an older structure. It’s grade 2 listed. The end nearest the camera contains a rather fine café.

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The café is in the old ticket office. The old ticket window’s still in situ but has been blocked off and replaced with this painting.

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On my return I passed through Leeds at rush-hour, with rather nice light, thanks to the fact the sun’s now dropped at this time of year.

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The twilight of the Class 313s (part 1)

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*this blog is still under construction*

In the next few years several familiar types of train will disappear from the UK network. One such fleet is the BR built Class 313 EMU which is currently the oldest surviving electric multiple unit on the UK mainland. The class were a development of the experimental PEP EMUs tested on the Southern region. Built at York, the 313s were introduced to the newly electrified East Coast Main Line in 1976 to work inner suburban services from Kings Cross and Moorgate to Hertford North, Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth Garden City.

Now, 42 years later, they’re about to be replaced by the new Siemens built Class 717s, which will offer a step-change in comfort. This blog will look back on the 313s lives and times and some of the services they’ve operated across London (and elsewhere) over the years…

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The first of the 64 strong fleet was 313001. Now numbered 201 and owned by Beacon Rail who’ve repainted it into a version of the original BR livery, the unit works Southern services along the South coast, along with 19 of its brethren.  It’s seen at Shoreham-by-Sea on the 8th June 2018.

Let’s take a look at the units working the services they were originally built for, the Great Northern services.

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NSE liveried 313061 calls at Harringay station on the 12th February 2004

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Catching the 16:20 to Stevenage from Moorgate on the 19th April 2004. Note the new high back seats fitted in place of the originals.

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313053 stands at Stevenage after working in from Moorgate on the 6th May 2004. The unit’s still in NSE livery although most of the GN units were in white undercoat by this stage.

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On the 10th August 2004 Undercoat liveried 313039 trails one of the handful of NSE liveried units through Alexandra Palace on their way to Moorgate.

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313043 arrives at Harringay on the 24th September 2004. This was one of 5 units advertising the WAGN family travelcard.

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313058 sits at Moorgate before working a service to Hertford North on the 6th January 2005.

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Sporting WAGN’s new deep purple livery, 313036 calls at Crews Hill on the line from Hertford East on the 12th August 2005.

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A year later on the 24th July 2006 313052 calls at Hitchin en-route to Moorgate. The units in WAGN liver but sporting First Capital Connect branding. FCC had taken over the franchise in the 1st April 2006.

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Fast forward to the 11th June 2008 and all the 313s had FCCs ‘Urban lights’ vinyls applied. I’ve always thought this livery suited them very well. Here’s 313063 and 313042 passing at Alexandra Palace.

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On November 11th 2009 313027 pulls away from Harringay with a service for Welwyn Garden City.

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After 23 of the fleet were converted for duties on the North London line, 313018 became the lowest numbered 313/0. It’s seen here arriving at Old St on the 22nd April 2010 whilst working a service to Moorgate

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Here’s the interior of 313134 with the original low backed seating on the 1st April 2014. This is one of three ex NLL units that were transferred back to GN services after the units were displaced by Class 378s. The two others are 313122 and 313123.

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On the 14th July 313054 waits to work back to Moorgate from Welwyn Garden City

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313030 and 313029 stand at London Kings Cross on the 21st September 2014. This shot shows of the flat front ends to good effect.

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How many passengers saw the 313s. An unidentified unit pulls into Highbury and Islington on the 12th December 2016.

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13th December 2016. 313043 stands at Drayton park on the Moorgate branch. It’s at this station the units switch over from the overheads to the 3rd rail (or vice versa).

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The 313s have carried commuters in all weathers for over 40 years. Here’s 313033 in a snowstorm at Alexandra Palace on the 28th February 2018.

If you want to know more about the new Siemens Class 717 trains that are replacing the 313s, have a look at this blog. I visited the German factory where they were build and also had a run on one on the Wildenrath test track.

The fantasy world of Joe Rukin and Stophs2

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I’ve been a bit busy recently so I hadn’t seen this load of rubbish from StopHs2’s pet windbag. No, not ‘Ellie’ the inflatable elephant, but their laughably titled ‘Campaign Manager’ Joe Rukin!

Stophs2 have been punting this YouTube video of Rukin lying through his teeth on ITV – not that it’s doing very well as it’s only had 70+ views.

Rukin doesn’t ‘genuinely believe’ any such thing. He’s a practised liar who’ll claim anything and he’s lots of form for trotting out outrageous porkies in the hope people are gullible enough to fall for it. Remember his previous lie that Hs2 will cause £8.3bn of ‘cuts’ to rail services that I exposed here?

So, no rail investment for the next 20 years “anywhere on the network”eh? That will come as a huge surprise to Network Rail who’ve already got an ambitious programme of work planned for Control Period 6 (CP6) which starts in 2019. Back in October 2017 the DfT published the SoFA (Statement of Funds Available) which says “we expect around £47.9 billion to be spent on the railway across control period 6”. Earlier in July 2017 they also published the High level output specification (HLOS).

Not that Rukin will have ever read any of these of course. I doubt he even knows they exist as they show what a liar the man is. The SoFA contains this statement.

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Oops! Joe’s fallen at the first hurdle here. The announcement of ‘new enhancement’ schemes rather gives the game away.

Meanwhile, what’s in Network Rail’s Strategic Business Plan which was published earlier this year? Well, lots of enhancements actually. There’s a huge investment in digital signalling for a start. Oh, then there’s the £237m remodelling of Kings Cross station approaches, which is planned for 2020. Not to mention the £3bn Trans-Pennine route upgrade which begins next year.

Did I mention Scotland? The Scottish Government has committed to a rolling programme of route upgrades and electrification, including Aberdeen-Inverness. and bringing high-speed rail to Scotland. In Wales the new franchise is introducing lots of improvements between now and 2024 which includes new trains, stations and depots.

Oh, there’s also a small matter of fact that there’s 1000s of of new train cars either already being delivered or on order. So, as you can see, Rukin’s bare-faced lies sinply don’t stand up to any form of scrutiny – and that’s without me shredding him any further by mentioning East-West rail, the ECML Peterborough ‘dive-under’ at Werrington Jn, the Midland mainline upgrade and many, many more…

Rukin reminds me of the old joke about politicians. How can you tell when he’s lying? His lips move! Even his ‘fans’ must be getting sick of being deceived by now.

But it’s not just that. This highlights why I’m unhappy with some of my fellow journalists and their standards. Rukin was allowed to broadcast this travesty of the truth thanks to ITV who had no-one ask him the slightest question – much less any of the one’s I’ve highlighted in this blog. Where was the professional (informed) journalist challenging him on camera and saying “but hang on Joe”…This is why we’re in such a mess now. When did the mainstream media like the BBC and ITV let this rubbish pass through their filters? Since when did journalism get this lazy?

That said, we’re in the throes of the Brexit shambles, which the BBC seems to have aided and abetted, so maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised….

 

Rolling blog: the Talgo tango…

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It’s going to be a looong couple of days that will take in Wales, England and Scotland, but I’m here in Cardiff ready for the first press conference where Spanish train builder Talgo are ready to announce the shortlisted sites for the factory they intend to build here in the UK. I’ll be blogging throughout the day, so stay tuned.

Here’s the view from the room in the St David’s hotel where we’re holding the event.

The shortlisted site in Wales is at Mostyn, a port on the North Wales coast.

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From L-R, Jim o’ Toole, MD of Mostyn port. Jon Veitch, UK MD, Talgo and Carlos de Palacio, President of Talgo

You can read more about what we’re up to in this article on the RAIL website. Here’s Rail’s Richard Clinnick having an exclusive interview with Jon Veitch.

11:34

Phew! We’re all packed up and the 5 of us are off to the second event of the day. We’re travelling on a Cross-country service to Birmingham, where the English part of the shortlist will be announced. These are sites at Chesterfield, St Helens and Leeds

Whilst we’ve been travelling, the news has broken that two sites in Scotland have been shortlisted, these are Longannet and Hunterston.

13:50.

We’re ready to rock and roll in Birmingham now. The stage has been set..

Oh, and the views out of the windows are amazing!

Now we’re waiting for the rest of the guests to arrive. Here’s material produced by two of the potential English sites. St Helens and Chesterfield.

17:10.

The Birmingham event was very well received. Here’s a couple of pictures.

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Carlos de Palacio, President of Talgo, speaking in Birmingham

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L-R Sir Simon Hughes, Talgo Strategic UK Advisor, Jon Veitch, UK MD, Talgo and Carlos de Palacio, President of Talgo

19:23.

We’re now over the border and heading for Edinburgh aboard a Virgin Pendolino. It’s been a fascinating day but we’re all looking forward to getting to our hotel. Tomorrow the fun and games starts again with a series of radio interviews before the main event.

Because of this – and for the sake of continuity I’m going to roll this blog over into tomorrow. Right now I’m going to enjoy a glass of wine and catch up with the world..

Meanwhile, next to me, Carlos, Simon and Jon are doing the same and chatting about the day.

Day 2

10:00

We’re all set up and ready for the Scottish event which is being held in a hotel with a fabulous view. I took this from the balcony of my room this morning!

Here’s the event set up to go. As well as being the Talgo photographer I’ve been mucking in to do the stage setting. Here’s one I made earlier…

11:57

Phew! Event over!

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It’s been a very hectic few days but also hugely enjoyable. I’ve learned a lot about Talgo and I’m looking forward to visiting their Spanish factories in the future. Right now I’m looking forward to a few days at home in order to catch up with some writing and picture editing.

Rolling blog: at least my shirts are clean…

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After one night at home I’m on the move again, this time heading for Cardiff via Manchester with a suitcase full of clean shirts and chinos, ready for the next couple of days events and travels.

Due to the vagaries of the Passenger Information Screens i’m not sure if my first train is late or not. One minute it’s shown as 3 minutes late, the next it’s on time! Looking at the Real Time Trains website I can see it left Leeds 5m late.

Let’s see what happens…

12:11.

My train has entered the twilight zone. It’s dropped off the PIS screens so it no longer exists as far as the system’s concerned.

Instead a Pacer speeds past in its path without stopping. Finally, at 12:12, four minutes late, a pair of Pacers arrive.

We finally leave 5 mins late with no announcements, no apologies and no explanations. Still, at least I didn’t have to worry about getting a seat!

We’re now merrily bouncing our way through to Lancashire. Autumn’s in full swing now and the depth and variety of colours in the leaves is joyous – even if the temperature isn’t. I’m looking forward to having a bit of time free to get some lineside shots in the woods that surround my home.

12:49.

We’ve just left Rochdale, running 7 minutes late. I could still make my connection at Manchester Victoria to Piccadilly but – as that’s also running a couple of minutes late it doesn’t give me enough time to collect my tickets before catching the 13:31 to Cardiff. The option now is to get a tram or leg it to Piccadilly. As I’m dragging a suitcase it looks like the tram wins. This is why Network Rail & the TOCs need to seriously get a grip on late running now. It makes connecting journeys a real hassle as you always have to have a plan B.

13:11

By the time we arrived at Victoria we were 11 late. There hadn’t been a single announcement by the guard, never mind an apology or explanation. More time was lost as we arrived at platform 4 so I had to swim against the tide to ascend and descend the footbridge, which meant that I arrived at the tram stop just in time to see a Piccadilly bound tram leave! My next one is in 7 minutes. Hopes of making my train are looking very slim indeed – and the tram’s taking its time…

13:33.

I made the train with a minute to spare. Luckily, there were no queues at the ticket machines and my train was only a short sprint away. Now I’m sat on the first of Alstom’s Class 175s, number 001 which is a busy 2-car. It’s one of the unrefurbished sets, so it has no power sockets – but it does have Wi-Fi. I’ve been lucky enough to bag a table seat (reservations weren’t available on this train) which means I can catch up on some writing between now and Cardiff…

14:03

This journey gets more surreal. As I had so little time at Manchester I couldn’t pick up any cash or buy food for the trip. No worries I thought, there’s a trolley service and I can use my credit card. What could possibly go wrong?

Everything!

When the trolley came round the young lady explained that she couldn’t take cards, but the conductor could and he’d sell me a £5 voucher. I could then use it to buy food and get the difference back in cash. So, what would I like? “What sandwiches do you have”? I asked. “Ah” came the reply. “They’ve been on the trolley for 5 hours and at this temperature I’m only allowed to sell them for 4” Then (bizarrely) “but even if I could they’d have all gone by now anyway”

Righto – I now have a 3 hour journey sponsored by Weight watchers…

15:54.

We’ve just left Hereford, the train’s now full and standing and my laptop’s battery is exhausted after a couple of hours scribbling so I’m a window gazer now! I’m also rather hungry and extremely tempted to break my journey at Newport just so that I can get something to eat! I ventured through the sea of bodies around the vestibule to use the loo and wish I hadn’t bothered…

The more I think of it, the more changing at Newport seems like a good idea – and I never expected to write the word’s Newport and ‘good idea’ in the same sentence!

17:06.

Burp! Hunger pangs have been sated thanks to a WH Smiths chicken butty from the kiosk at Newport. Now I’m Cardiff bound again, this time on one of Arrive Trains Wales refurbished class 158s. They have power sockets, so the laptop’s been plugged in to recharge for a bit, leaving me free to admire the series 1 electrification masts which have sprouted all over the place like mushrooms (just not overnight)!

Pausing for breath – but only momentarily…

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After a fantastic few days up in Scotland at the ACoRP awards and some of the wonderful events that Scotrail (and Abellio) arranged for us I’m back at home for a night. The awards was a brilliant showcase for community rail that attracted the biggest audience since its inception in 2005 with over 470 folk attending. I’ll blog about it in greater detail soon, but for now, here’s a few pictures from the night.

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The tables are set, ready for the 470 guests to arrive…

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Just some of the people who won awards that night…

I’m now back in the bosom of West Yorkshire – but not for long! Whilst I was in Scotland I was commissioned for a new project that will see me on the road again tomorrow. I’ve got to be in Cardiff tomorrow evening ready for an event on Tuesday morning. After that, we head up to Birmingham, then I’m back in Glasgow before finally getting home on Wednesday. I’ll flesh out more detail later. In the meantime, here’s a few other shots from Scotland after a trip out to Gourock and the ferry across to Kilcreggan.

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Rolling blog: the fun begins…

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I’m currently sat on a Pendolino heading for Glasgow in readiness for tomorrow’s annual ACoRP awards. We’ve got a hectic programme of events over the next few days which have been laid on by our friends at Scotrail and Transport Scotland. First up is a civic reception at Glasgow city chambers this evening. Tomorrow we’re on one of the fabulous Glasgow Central station tours (a real must if you’re ever in the city) before the main event – the awards ceremony itself.

On Friday we’re off for a trip on the Borders railway, so you’ll be seeing plenty of pictures in the next few days. Here’s the first one, taken when we changed trains at Preston – I wasn’t expecting this!

‘Black 5’ 44871 was one of the locomotives used to haul the last steam service on British Railways, the Fifteen Guinea Special on 11th August 1968. It was withdrawn from service the following day.

14:48.

Well, we’ve arrived in Glasgow and picked up our Scotrail passes, goody bags and guides.

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16:20

Plans have changed slightly due to a technical issue, so I’ve had some free time and chance to wander down to Glasgow Queen St station. Like many in the UK. it’s undergoing extensive modernisation. Now it’s also the place to find the latest Scotrail EMU’s, Hitachi’s Class 385s. Here’s a couple of shots.

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This evening we went on to a civic reception hosted by the Deputy Lord Provost of Glasgow, Bailie Philip Braat, who welcomed us to the city. This was held at the magnificent Glasgow City chambers. Here’s a few photos from the event.

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From L-R James Ledgerwood, Head of Economic & Community Development at Scotrail, Deputy Lord Provost of Glasgow, Bailie Philip Braat and Brian Barnsley, Deputy Chief Exec of ACoRP at the reception.

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Rolling blog: a tale of two cities.

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I’m on the move again right now, heading for both London and Birmingham, firstly to drop in to St Pancras station and say ‘happy 150th birthday’, then go in search of the massive Stophs2 protest outside the Tory party conference. OK, that last bit was a lie. I’ll probably have difficulty finding them as it looks like it’ll be very much a one man and his elephant sort of protest.

Watch this space…

09:06.

My first train of the day, a ‘nodding donkey working the 0906 to Southport.

The weather here in West Yorkshire stunning. It’s a beautifully crisp and sunny autumn morning with the temperature in single figures. The railways are readying for the leaf-fall season now as I’ve just passed one of Network Rail’s RHTT (Railhead Treatment Trains) that blast leaves off the rails using high-powered water jets. It’s remindex me that must get some lineside shots later in the month, when the leaves gain their full colour before falling.

10:27

I’m now on train number 2 – the 10:2€ Cross-country service from Manchester Piccadilly to Bournemouth via Birmingham. It’s a relatively quiet service (for now) which is just as well as it’s only a four-car. I’ve no doubt it’ll fill up en-route.

Whilst a half-hourly service between Manchester and Birmingham’s an improvement on BR days it’s a pretty poor offering in 2018, mainly because of the time it takes and the type of train. This service will take 1hr 31m.

13:04

So, here I am in Birmingham at the Tory conference, Stophs2 elephant hunting. As expected, they were a bit hard to find, mainly because they’re outgunned and outnumbered by ever other demonstration here! Once I made my way past the ‘God squad’ (who had at least half a dozen people  here) I was held up by a very colourful (and noisy) anti-fracking group of men and women – many of whom had dressed up before I found Joe Rukin, who’d dressed down! Apparently, he was accompanied by Archie Taylor from Warks, but he was nowhere to be seen

Here’s Joe on his own, trying (and failing) to give out leaflets whilst the anti-fracking people behind him heavily outnumber him, in the very back, you can see ‘Ellie’ the inflatable elephant all on her own in a corner!

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Here’s poor Ellie, looking very abandoned…

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So, this is the ‘relaunched’ Stophs2 campaign. Sad, isn’t it? meanwhile, inside the hall, the Government has re-iterated its support for HS2 and there’s several events going on with rail industry leaders throughout the day. Over at New St station, Siemens and the High Speed Rail Industry Leaders have a virtual reality tour of Hs2 and a model of the Velaro Novo…

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23:11

My tour of two cities turned into one. I got caught up in the completely surreal atmosphere of the Tory party conference and meeting up with colleagues. I also ended up spending an hour or two dealing with picture requests. I have to say, I can’t help thinking this country is screwed, the rhetoric that was coming out of the conference (plus some of the delegates I met) are utterly bonkers. I can’t help thinking that the EU will be breathing a collective sigh of relief to see the back of us…

 

Crunching the StopHs2 social media stats: September 2018

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It’s the end of September and it’s time to have a look at the StopHs2 ‘campaign’ social media stats. I’ve analysed the August numbers here.

Firstly, let’s get some context. There’s 6,567,433 folk who live in the 63 constituencies that Hs2 will run through. That’s a lot of people. Now, if the majority of them are up in arms about Hs2 you’d expect the sole surviving ‘national’ anti Hs2 group to have a large social media following, wouldn’t you?

In fact, their following is tiny. They have just 6180 on Twitter, or 0.094% of the 6.5 million

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On Facebook they only have 8604 followers, or 0.13% of 6.5 million. So, as you can see, they’re not exactly setting social media on fire. But those headline numbers are only part of the story. How many of those followers actually engage with them through comments, retweets aor likes? How many actually help ‘spread the word’?

Bugger all, as the next set of numbers shows. Here’s a look at every Tweet and Facebook post that StopHs2 have made in September with a number of people who’ve responded up to today. Lets have a look at Twitter first:

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Their ‘best’ day for retweets was the 24th September, with a ‘massive’ 61 – or 0.98% of all their followers. So, not even 1% of their followers are spreading the word on Twitter, which tell you a lot about how active those followers are! Then again, if you can be arsed to look up who their followers actually are (it’s boring, trust me) you find a mish-mash of the far-right, a few greens, lots of anonymous accounts and the few who you think ‘what? Why?’ Here’s some examples.

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So, it’s a rabble, not a serious campaign. Nor will it influence anyone who matters. 91 of them follow me and I can see that a lot of them are people who’re just there to see what nonsense Stophs2 are spouting, they’re not actually supporters of the campaign. If Stophs2 are relying on Twitter to get their message out, they’ve failed miserably.

Now let’s go and have a look at Facebook.

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Their ‘best’ result was on the 6th September when they posted pictures of Chiltern viaduct designs and 348 people shared it. That’s just 4% of all their followers. Most of the time they don’t even make it into triple figures and have less than a 1% response rate. Now, does that sound like a growing campaign to you? Mind you when you see some of the responses it becomes clear that many of their followers have – how shall I put this – a tenuous grasp on reality. Have a look at these ones.

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And…

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Meanwhile, their ‘relaunched’ campaign is due to hold a protest outside the Tory party conference which should be fun as their last one at the Labour conference was a disaster! I’ll keep you posted…

A short walk in the Calder valley

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It’s been a lazy(ish) day today. We’ve not been far, well, by our definition anyway! After a fairly lazy morning at home catching up on chores and bits we decided to walk across the valley up to Norland Moor and the fabulous Moorcock Inn.

After leaving home we walked down through Scarr Woods to the valley floor and along the Salter & Hebble Navigation (otherwise known as the canal) as far as Copley, a small place that’s sandwiched between the canal and the River Calder.

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There’s only one road in and out and for a couple of years the place was even more isolated as the old stone bridge that crossed the Calder was destroyed in the Boxing day floods of 2015. In 2017 this was replaced by a modern steel structure that once again allows pedestrian access to the Norland side of the valley and an area of dense woodland known as North Dean Wood. It’s a interesting little place. An old Toll house still stands by the bridge, opposite the disused St Stephen’s Church which is a designated Grade II* listed building, under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.

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The church was open when we passed, so we had a nosey inside. It’s a huge, rather gloomy place that must have been murder to heat and light in its day!

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What was interesting about the church was that it contained nuggets of local history and an explanation of how Copley village came into existence. What I learned was that it was one of the earliest model villages, set up before the much more famous Saltaire. He’s a local website that explains – and saves me having to!

Heading on from the church we walked up through the woods to reach the top of the escarpment and Greetland Moor. The leaves are just beginning to turn but have yet to produce the rich panoply of colours we can expect to see in a few weeks time. What we did see was a wide variety of mushrooms. I’m no mycologist, so I don’t really know what I’m looking at, but here’s some examples.

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As you cut through the trees towards the top of the escarpment there’s some wonderful views back across the Calder valley towards Halifax, where the magnificent 23 arch, Grade 2 listed Copley viaduct is exposed to view. Built for the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway in 1850 it spans the River Calder, the canal and the A6026 Wakefield Rd.

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Once up on the moors we walked from Greetland to Norland and on to the Moorcock Inn for a well deserved pint and also – one of their home made pork pies – which are excellent. Succulent and packed with meat, they’re not cheap, but as a treat, they’re well worth trying.

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The bar menu changes on a daily basis and always contains something different and delicious