The marathon’s started. Right now i’m wedged in the vestibule of a 2-car Class 158 making its way to Leeds from Halifax. I’m an infrequent user of these services so it wasn’t until the Conductor apologised for the short-formed set that I realised this wasn’t the norm. There’s 14 people in this vestibule and we’ve had to leave people behind at Bramley because we’re so full. Good job I wasn’t planning to try and do any work on the train!
Despite everything, it wasn’t a bad journey and I arrived in plenty of time to make my way to the High Speed Rail Industry Leaders conference which was being held at Leeds Music College.
Time for an update on the day. I’ve been to a lot of conferences but this was one of the better ones. Over 250 people attended and the line up of speakers was excellent. One of the highlights of the morning was Lord Andrew Adonis who was on scintillating form! He gave an absolute barnstormer of a talk covering everything from Hs2 to Brexit (which he happily slipped a knife between its ribs)! He was funny and informative in equal measure. As he’s been a Transport Minister and Chair of the Infrastructure Commission he knows his subject and isn’t afraid to offer opinions – if you agree with them or not!
The day passed very quickly despite the crowded programme and it really deserves a blog in its own right (although I’m not sure that I’m going to find time to write one right now). What I will say is that – unlike many conferences, it didn’t tail off after lunch as the first person up was Hs2 Ltd’s Chief Executive Mark Thurston, who came across very well when it came to the Q and A session.
The final section of the day was given over to a panel debate and Q & A session with Tim Wood (Northern Powerhouse Rail Director, TfN). Susan Hinchcliffe (West Yorkshire Combined Authority Chair and Leader of Bradford Council), Paul Griffiths ( Phase 2b Director, Hs2 Ltd), Angela Barnicle (Head of Asset Management, Leeds City Council) and John Downer (Director of HSRIL). This was a genuinely informative and inspiring session where the groups really laid out what Hs2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail mean to the North and the synergy between the two projects that could see TfN building parts of the shared route before Hs2 do. Tim also laid bare TfN’s ambition to build entirely new rail lines between Leeds-York and Manchester-Liverpool.
After leaving the conference I made my way back to Leeds station with some colleagues before getting a few photos. Whilst having a mooch around, one thing struck me. Despite the impact Northern’s timetable problems are having, there’s not a single poster anywhere offering an apology or explanation. Nothing. You wouldn’t even know there’s a temporary timetable in operation. It’s bizarre. In the days of MD Heidi Mottram and (later) Alex Hynes, you can guarantee there would have been profuse apologies (not to mention regular updates) – even a presence on the front line. This is no way to run a public service…
Now I’m speeding to London on a late running VTEC service. Apparently, a Northbound working ‘sat down’ near Peterborough leading to delays, but as I’ve plenty of time I’m not too bothered and VTEC have done what Northern haven’t – kept me informed and apologised!
I’m now back in London and emailing pictures to RAIL mag in readiness for press day tomorrow before heading off to Germany and a couple of days with the press pack at the Siemens Innotrans preview. Expect pictures and details when I can post them…