I’m preparing to venture out on the rails for the first time this year – which is rather a long gap for me, but then 2020’s been a busy year so far. The sun looks like it’s going to play ball even if the trains possibly won’t. I’ve just looked up the real time performance of my two local operators and seen that Northern is currently running 84% of it’s services on time whilst TPE is propping up the bottom of the national league with just 63% on time and a whopping 25% either cancelled or more than 30 mins late. There’s a very useful website which uses Network Rail data to track the different companies performance throughout the day. You can find it here.
Let’s see how I get on today, and where I end up. I’ve a list of shots I need in mind, how many will I manage to get I wonder…
The walk into Halifax this morning was gorgeous due to the crisp weather and glorious sunshine. Here’s how the station looked this morning, with one of Northern’s new Class 195s arriving on a service to Blackpool.
The new units were much in evidence today. I’m now on the 10:38 to Leeds which is made up of a pair of 2-car 195s. So far I’ve only seen one old BR unit – a 153 working the Bradford – Huddersfield shuttle.
Of course this step-change in the quality of trains goes unremarked in certain political arenas. If you listened to some of the elected Mayors you’d think the Pacers were still prevelent.
I abandoned the CAF trains at Bradford Interchange and strolled across this much-maligned city to Forster Square, admiring the city’s magnificent Victorian buildings on the way. I love the quality of winter sunshine with its richness and warmth. It’s without the harshness or blue tones of summer sun and it was showing off Bradford’s buildings to their best. I paused en-route to grab a couple of pictures and I’ll add one later as an illustration.
Right now I’m sat on one of the venerable Class 321 electric units which will ship me to Shipley. Despite the arrival of the CAF 331s these remain in service.
Sadly, by the time I got to Shipley tragedy had struck. A person had been struck by a train in the Skipton area, so many Aire valley Leeds services were being cancelled. The next two for Leeds were, so I’m now on a 322 that was turned back at Keighley.
I’m assuming (but don’t know) this was a suicide as January’s always a bad month for such incidents on the railways. My thoughts go out to the unfortunate train crew and the families involved.
Having spent the best part of an hour getting pictures at Leeds I’m on the move again, this time to York aboard a Trans-Pennine Express Class 802. Unlike their trains I’m used to, this one has plenty of spare seats. I’ve even managed to bag a table to myself.
Leeds was interesting because of the sheer variety of traction you can see there. I suspect it has more variety than almost any other UK station, especially now Northern and TPE have diversified their fleets.
York was enjoyable as the winter light made for some great photo opportunities, plus there was plenty of traction variety that allowed me to tick off a few library shots. Rather than keep repeating the same images I also nipped down to Church Fenton but didn’t stay as the shadows were lengthening, making the pictures I wanted difficult. Church Fenton’s an odd place as it seems like it’s little more than a dormitory town for York or Leeds. It still boasts a four platform station as it maintains its status as a railway junction. In fact, it’ll grow in importance in that regard as this is where the spur of the new HS2 line from Leeds will join existing tracks to take HS2 service on into York and up to Newcastle. Several years ago there was a small StopHs2 ‘action’ group here but like most such groups they’ve faded away. I’ve not seen anything from them for years now.
I’m now heading back to Halifax on Northern’s 16:57 to Bkackpool North which is being worked by a totally inadequate 2-car Class 158/9. It’s absolutely rammed with 15 of us wedged in the leading vestibule gehind the driver’s cab.
I’d be interested to know where it stops but the onboard PIS tells me nothing useful apart from the fact we’re going to Blackpool North. The rest of its time is taken up with pointless stuff about security, reading safety information and telling you not to vape. The Conductor’s not made any announcements either. Thankfully, we stopped at New Pudsey, where the sardine-like conditions eased.
And relax! I’m back at home, plugging in the camera to the computer ready to download today’s pictures and add a few to the blog shortly. Despite the fun and games it’s been an instructive day. Despite the doom and gloom you hear about trains in the North there’s real signs of improvement. The hated Pacers are rapidly being displaced. I only saw a handful of sets today, a couple at Leeds and the same at York. There’s more and more of the new CAF units about, taking over routes like Blackpool North – York and many Leeds – Manchester services where they run as four cars. The 4-car electric version’s appearing more and more too. Its the same story on Trans-Pennine where the loco hauled 5-car sets are being rolled out, along with the Hitachi built Class 802 bi-modes working more Newcastle-Liverpool Lime St services. All these new trains are providing extra services and more seats, but the downside is the fall in reliability and punctuality. the problems due to staff training and unfamiliarity with new trains will soon pass (as they always do). The big problem is the infrastructure constraints and timetables that can’t be delivered because of that. What our politicians of any political hue won’t admit is that changing the name of the operator on the side of the train won’t fix the problems.
Here’s a selection of pictures I promised.
Meanwhile, back at York…