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Thank God it’s Friday! It’s my last day of having to catch the 06:03 to Leeds. Thee was a real feeling of deja vu this morning as the day started as a replay of Thursday with carbon-copy weather (drizzle) on my walk to the station, followed by the exact same train trip – a rare event in my life. I’ve never really been a commuter.

Although this first trips the same, the destinations are different. I’m off to Leeds to catch a Cross-Country service down to Derby, where I’ll meet up with colleagues from EMT. I’m judging three more stations on their patch today. This time they’re on the Western side and we’ll be travelling by rail, not road.

Northern have provided another 2-car Class 158 today, so it looks like Wednesday’s 3-car set was an aberration (possibly because of the Great Yorkshire show being on in Harrogate). There does seem to be a little more flexibility in the fleet nowadays thanks to the influx of ‘new’ DMUs from Scotrail & GWR. I noticed a couple spare at Sheffield yesterday wheras at one time everything that could turn a wheel would be put out in the peak!

This train seems quieter too. We’ve left Bradford with plenty of spare seats so it’ll be interesting to see what it’s like when we’ve called at the busy stations of New Pudsey and Bramley.

Even I’ve opted to sit instead of perching in a luggage rack.

07:30

I’m now esconced on the 07:10 from Leeds to Derby which is a pair of Cross-Country Voyagers heading for Plymouth. It’s a quiet train although I doubt it’ll say that way for long. Seats will be occupied several times on the way to Devon.

I was going to use the wifi then realised the system was only offering minute bundles rather than that and the periods they always have and still advertise. Odd…

07:51.

Deep joy – we’ve been crawling along the line towards Sheffield for 20 plus minutes now. I get the impression that we’re caught behind a late-running stopping service, which could make my 12 minute connection at Derby ‘interesting’. To make matters more fun, my fellow judge is on the way in from Crewe and reports his train’s down to one engine and has been delayed ‘cos someone left a set of level crossing gates open!

09:07.

Made it! We’ve all met up but Friday 13th’s struck. A freight train’s causing fun on the Nth Staffs line so Donna’s nabbed a pool car to take us to the first station. We’re now bouncing along the A50 en-route to Alsager.

11.53

First visit done. Driving was a wise move as that failed freight train buggered up N Staffs services all morning. Now we’re retracing our steps before heading into Leicestershire…

13:39.

Second visit done and I’ve had chance to sample the fruit of the cherry trees at Syston station!

So far we’ve had Strawberries and cucumbers on this trip!

16:41.

Here’s the three of us at the last station of the day. Can you guess where it is?

Now our job’s done. Donna’s been a star for the past couple of days and her help’s allowed us to save a lot of time. I’m back in Derby (emailing pictures to a magazine) before heading South.

17:53.

Demobbed! Well, for a little while at least. I’ve had a very hectic (but fascinating and positive) week. Now I’m heading to Surrey for a couple of nights to be with my wife’s family and friends in time for the Tilford fete tomorrow. Although I must admit – the idea of a Saturday lie-in appeals…

Right now I’m on EMT’s 17:32 from Derby, a station that’s about to undergo a second transformation in little more than a decade. Last time the fabric of the station (buildings, canopies etc) were rebuilt. This month the work is far more demanding and difficult. Track and signalling will be replaced and both throats will be extensively remodelled whilst a new Island platform will be added to increase capacity. It’s a hugely complex task. Derby is a hub of the cross-country rail network that’ll be out of action for a while. Work like this is why I can’t help laughing at the useless anti Hs2 campaign and their “just modernise the existing network” refrain. I’ll be polite, refrain from colloquialisms and simply say ‘they know…very little’.

20:12

This is probably my last entry for the day. I’m now on Southwestern Railways 19:53 from Waterloo to Farnham. To say it’s a different railway to the one i’ve travelled these past couple of days is an understatement. No more one per hour single car DMU’s, this is 8-12 car EMUs every half hour! But, let’s be realistic. That’s because the area justifies it. I suspect that if I totted up the annual salary of everyone on this single train it would be more than all the people who use (say) the line through Market Rasen every day.

Digressing…

Crossing London earlier was fun. I’m still a cosmopolitan Londoner at heart and seeing all the people carrying their banners home from today’s protest against Donald Trump gave me hope. At least some of us are fighting against the slide into the political abyss.

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