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05:07

I’ve been up since 04:45 as I’m starting the day with an early appointment in Birmingham, so I’m heading down to Sowerby Bridge station to catch the 05:57 to Manchester. Expect a varied blog with lots of pictures throughout the day as I’ll be doing a fair bit of travelling.

06:00

The walk down into Sowerby Bridge was rather surreal this morning as I could see the valley floor was shrouded in mist which was lit by a bright half-moon shining through otherwise clear skies. I only had the hooting of owls in the surrounding woods for company until I arrived in the town which was deep in fog.

Now I’m on the first train of the day, which is running on time and (at this stage) pretty empty although I’ve no doubt it won’t be by the time we reach Manchester.

The service is made up of a pair of single-car Class 153s so it’ll be interesting to see if this proves adequate this time on a Monday morning.

Whilst I’m sitting on the train I’m scanning the news and trying to get my head around the criminal stupidity of our Prime Minister, who has postponed any vote on Brexit until March 12th. UK businesses must be in utter despair. That leaves them in limbo yet again with absolutely no idea what’s happening. The point of no return has already passed for any that are reliant on imports from places like China. The last ship has already sailed that could guarantee getting goods here under our existing trade deals. Now no-one has a clue what terms will apply. For a Government to put its citizens and the economy in this position for no other reason than it’s own stupidity is breathtaking. The tragic farce of Brexit has already caused huge damage to the country and our politicians are piling on the agony. May continues this deception that her flitting back and forth twixt Brussels and London means anything other than increasing incredulity in Europe and a hardening of attitudes towards us, she holds a gun to her head and threatens the EU that she’ll pull the trigger. It’s madness, utter madness. Whatever happens in the next few weeks one thing is certain: it will only end in pain and humiliation for the UK – and all for what? Blue passports? How could we as a nation have been so stupid?

06:31.

After calling at Rochdale my train is half to two-thirds full of commuters heading to work. Dawn’s just breaking through a clear sky and Manchester looks like it’s in for another lovely day. Passing the brightly lit Northern Rail depot at Newton Heath the work to pay extra sidings for the company’s new trains is very much in evidence.

07:29

I’d no time to waste in Manchester as I decided to see if I could make an earlier train. A sprint across the city centre in record time allowed me to catch Cross-Country’s 07:05 to Bristol via Brum. Thankfully, it’s a five, not a four-car Voyager. Despite it being a peak train it’s well loaded – even in the unreserved coach B. Now I can relax with a Starbucks coffee off the trolley and admire the Cheshire countryside as it flies by me in bright sunshine.

08:01.

After calling at Stoke, my coach was almost full.

Now, after a stop at Stafford, it’s standing room only, with several people wedging themselves into the small luggage racks at either end of the car.

10:15.

Well, that was a busy little interlude! The High Speed Rail Industry Leaders (HSRIL) group was holding a PR event outside Birmingham City hall this morning. A giant jigsaw was used to show how HS2 will join up many of our major cities. The event was supported by the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, local business leaders and Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani amongst others. This presented some interesting photographic challenges for me and the other snappers in attendance due to the strong sun and heavy shadows, combined with the sheer number of people! Here’s a few pictures.

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After the event I nipped off to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and visit some of the recent rail investment in the West Midlands. My first port of call was the extension of the electrification on the Cross-City line as far as Bromsgrove, where a brand-new station’s been built to replace what used to be there.

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Next stop? Redditch…

15:15.

After a trip to Redditch in glorious sunshine and the chance to get some library shots I headed back into the city to meet up with an old friend (and best man at my wedding) who works for Network Rail. He’d come up for a meeting, so we grabbed a coffee together before he headed back to London and I resumed my travels. I’m currently on the 15:05 from Birmingham to Shrewsbury which is standing room only. Mind you it is worked by a two car Class 170, which isn’t exactly helping!

16:17.

I’m on the move again after taking time to look at construction of Wolverhampton’s new transport interchange which is bringing together rail, tram and bus in one location. Here’s a view of the work going on to rebuild the station. The tram tracks will run in the foreground.

Tracks for the tram extension have been laid right up to the station approach. I’m assuming that once more work’s been done on the new station building space will have been created for them.

Sadly, all these signs of looking forward to the future were put into stark perspective when I saw this Government poster on the station.

This is what we’ve become. Our fellow EU citizens (like us) have had the right to freedom of movement for nearly half a century. Now we’re treating them like illegal aliens. They’re our friends, neighbours and work colleagues, even a husband, or a wife. How long I wonder before the posters appear asking to to inform on any EU national you think doesn’t have the right to remain? Maybe Teresa May will resurrect those vans that toured round with hoardings on them? What a nasty divisive country we’ve become.

17:49.

Whilst on a XC Voyager to Manchester I got into a chance conversation with one of the crew who happened to mention that one of their HSTs was working a Manchester Piccadilly-Bristol Temple Leads diagram, which is highly unusual. This prompted me to jump off at Stoke-on-Trent in the hope of recording event. Sadly, as we pulled in, it pulled out – which didn’t exactly make for a great picture!

I ended up drowning my sorrows in the new Titanic Brewery station bar which occupies the site of the old Virgin Trains 1st Class lounge. Now I’m back on another XC service en-route to Manchester.

I’ve a favour to ask.
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