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05:13.What a time to be alive! Well,out of bed anyway, I’m getting ready to head off to judge the ‘It’s your station’ category for the 2019 ACoRP awards. Over the next two days Mark and I will be visiting 9 different stations across the territory of train operator East Midlands Trains, starting at Longport at 08:39 this morning. Stick with me and see where we get to before ending up in Derby tonight…06:22.It’s a glorious summer morning but with just the right amount of post dawn chill to make the walk down to Sowerby Bridge a comfortable rather than a sweaty experience. I’ve caught the 06:21 Leeds to Chester to get me as far as Manchester Victoria. Today an unrefurbished 3-car Class 158’s been allocated to the service.Unsurprisingly, it’s fairly lightly loaded at this part of the journey but it certainly won’t stay that way.06:55.As expected, after stops at Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and Rochdale my train’s half full in this carriage, not bad for the first service of the day! Now we’re trundling the last few miles into Manchester because we’re following another service. As we pass Northern’s Newton Heath depot I can see the civils work that’s happening to build the new shed which will be dedicated to maintaining the new CAF trains. The shed’s being built adjacent to the main line. Ironically, it’s kn a patch of land I remember being used as dump fir old DMU cars awaiting scrapping back in the 1970s. Now it has a more productive use!07:30.On arrival at Victoria I did my usual mad dash across the city centre to Piccadilly station. The city’s just beginning to wake up. Many of the poor souls who’re homeless are still asleep- and who can blame them? Sleep’s a steess-free release from the wretched situation they find themselves in.It breaks my heart to see scenes like this in so many UK towns and cities. After a decade of politically enforced ‘austerity’ (well, for some) the problem’s exploded and it’s only going to get worse whilst those billionaires, spivs and self-entitled toffs who’re trying to foist a no-deal Brexit upon us are in such positions of power and influence. Any Brexit will harm the economy, but they really don’t care as they pursue their own selfish political and financial interests.07:37.My sprint got me to the station in time to catch an earlier train. Cross-Country’s 07:27 to Bournemouth. It’s worked by a 4-car Class 220 (017 for the number crunchers) and it’s rammed, despite being a peak time train. This is what it looks like in coach C after leaving Stockport, and yes, I’m sitting in the luggage rack again!I’ve written many times before about how poor an offering this is when it’s the only intercity service between two of our biggest regional cities, Manchester and Birmingham. Roll on Hs2 when we’ll have decent sized trains on the route and times will be cut by 52%!11:48.We’ve now got two stations under our belts, having just left Belper. I won’t go into too much detail but we’re seeing some very different stations and groups.13:30.How’s this for a ‘bug hotel’? It’s on the 3rd station on our list…

15:22.

Station No 4’s been visited and we met Derek, a 93 yr old WW2 veteran who served in North Africa. Were now on the way from Syston to our last port of call for today. Spondon.

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