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05:30.

I was up before sparrow fart this morning as I have to be in London for a commission with Network Rail at Euston at 09:00, then in Birmingham in the afternoon for the ACoRP AGM.

Right now I’m walking down to Halifax station to potentially catch the second train of the day – if it’s running to time. My connections are tight if I’m going to be punctual and punctuality isn’t great in the leaf-fall season. There’s no rain this morning, which is a bonus. Instead it’s clear and frosty. The gritting lorries have been busy overnight and as it’s quiet this time of morning i’m walking on the roads rather than the leaf-strewn pavements. Yorkshire stone slabs may look pretty, but in the autumn they’re as slippery and untrustworthy as Boris Johnson!

05:53.

I’m taking a chance and this could all go horribly wrong, but I’m now on the 05:50 from Halifax to Manchester Victoria, which is being worked by one of Northern’s new Class 195s. It was 3 mins late arriving from Bradford and it’s the first service of the day through the Calder Valley across the Pennines, so I’m taking a risk! I’m sat in the front car and it’s freezing! There’s no heating on and the information screens aren’t working either. The Conductor’s apologiesed and explained that the units come straight off Neville Hill depot and “hasn’t got going yet”!

06:01.

We’ve just left Sowerby Bridge, where I could have caught the train from (and had an extra 15m in bed) but i’d have been without a plan B (going via the East Coast) if the train had been late or cancelled. To be fair, we’re not doing badly. The driver took it easy leaving the station but the railhead conditions musn’t be too bad as he’s making the most of the unit’s superior acceleration and braking.

06:10.

We’re now leaving Hebden Bridge and I’ve noticed another thing about this unit (195109) which is there’s a real whistling sound at speed. The unit feels very draughty and I suspect it’s coming from the driver’s door!

06:17.

The whistling and draughts were annoying enough to make me move into the centre car. It’s still freezing in here but it’s not as draughty! Our timekeeping’s not bad. We’re only 2 mins down departing from Todmorden so I’m cautiously optimistic. In the bay of seats behind me are two men complaining about the service Northern Rail have been providing. To say the TOC has an image problem is an understatement!

06:33.

We’ve left Rochdale 5 mins late. I can feel the wheels slipping here but the driver’s done well. My connection time in Manchester is going to be very tight, but I might just make it. I’ll let you know if I do afterwards! I’m looking forward to sitting on a nice warm Pendolino with a steaming cup of coffee in my frozen hands…

07:16.

Bugger – missed it! A 5 minute late arrival into platform 6, the furthest away from the barriers that involves a scrum on the footbridge, meant that – despite a heroic sprint across the city centre – I missed the 07:00 Euston train by 2 minutes! I’m now thawing out in coach C on the 07:15 Pendolino which gets me into Euston 20 mins late. I’m sure my Network Rail colleagues will understand!

07:45.

Another calamity has befallen me. The coffee machine’s kaput! This could have been an absolute disaster were it not for the fact the chap in the shop had a stash of coffee bags, so I managed to get a brew after all…

07:50.

We’ve just left Stoke-On-Trent and the few seats keft unoccupied after leaving Stockport have filled up. This is a peak service so tickets aren’t cheap, but that’s not deterred the many business travellers who’re heading down to London for the day. This train’s now fast to Milton Keynes, so I’ll be interested to see how many alight there.

Weatherwise, we had a cracking sunrise around Stockport but now the mist has settled, marring visibility despite the thin, high cloud. I don’t travel the WCML anywhere near as much as I used to, so I’m going to sit back and enjoy the journey for a while.

08:55

We’ve just called at Milton Keynes, which became a bit of a scrum because of the passenger churn. Many left us, but many more joined and this train’s now standing room only. Outside, the weather’s changed too. The sky is clear blue whilst the mist has mistly burned off, leaving a lot of the country and lineside steaming in the warm sunshine.

13:29.

Phew! part 1 of the day’s been done and I now have portraits of 20 members of Network Rail staff in the can after a busy morning at Eversholt St. Despite arriving 25 mins late we managed to catch up time and get through all the pictures that were needed. I even had a bit of time spare to check out progress on the HS2 demolition work around Euston station and the Regent’s Park estate.

The demolition of Eskdale House on the Regents Park estate to make way for HS2 is in full swing.
The former Euston station signalbox sits in splendid isolation as all the surrounding buildings have been demolished.
With Euston station to the right, this view is looking North across the site of the old Thistle Hotel and St James’ garden

Right now I’m on another Virgin Pendolino, this time a 9-car set working the 13:03 from Euston to Birmingham New St in order to get to the ACoRP AGM.

Sadly, the wonderful autumn sunshine I had on the way down and in London has given away to more typical gloomy weather.

15:39.

Keeping busy at the ACoRP AGM…

Jools Townsend, ACoRP’s Chief Executive addresses the AGM.

17:14.

The AGM finished at 16:00 but Dawn and I resisted the opportunity to hang around for a drink as we’d seats booked on the 16:57 Cross-Country service to Manchester Piccadilly. These trains are always packed, so it was worth making use of the reservations.

True to form, there was an absolute scrum to get on the train at New St, then the scramble as people (including us) tried to get to their reserved seats. If there’s one train I actively dislike, it’s these. It’s neither fish nor fowl, neither a proper intercity train nor an adequate local one. The sooner these services are replaced by HS2 the better.

18:34.

15 mins late, but we’re finally in sight of Manchester Piccadilly where we can abandon this train, get some fresh air and clear our ears of the management bollocks being spouted by the guy sat opposite who’s insisting on having a loud (but ultimately pointless as it’s devoid of any real content) conversation on his mobile!

19:50.

Having traversed Manchester from Piccadilly to Victoria we arrived to find our train home had been cancelled! We’d have been quicker staying at Picc & coming home via Huddersfield. Adjourning to a local history to drown our sorrows and eat crisps we ended up catching the 19:37 instead. We’re now bouncing our way back to Yorkshire on a Pacer (142018 to be precise).

21:22.

The end of a looong day! I’ve been up since 04:30, travelled hundreds of miles (and walked nearly 11, burning 3.5k calories), visited three of our biggest cities and taken hundreds of photos, so it’s time for a little relaxation and the chance to enjoy a soak in a bath with some of Islay’s finest whisky as a nightcap. Goodnight!