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Ugh! The alarm went off at 05:30 this morning as we’re off to Bristol. Right now the house is buzzing with activity as we get ready to head off to the station ready to get the first train. According to the internet the trains are running to time this morning, so let’s see how things pan out. We’ll be meeting up with various other ACoRP shipmates on the train from Leeds…


So far, everything’s going to plan on this fine, frosty morning. We took a taxi to the station (a luxury for me as I normally walk) and the 07:07 to Leeds turned up on time. Worked by a 3-car CAF Class 195 it had started at Hebden Bridge and had a healthy load of passengers by the time it arrived at Halifax. Now, leaving Bradford Interchange, there’s hardly a spare seat to be had.

As we climbed out of Bradford the skies were fascinating. A complex mass of grey clouds of different hues was turned orange by the rising sun as they appeared to be dropping a curtain of rain (or snow) across a quarter of the city. It was gorgeous.


Changing trains at Leeds went without a hitch. We’d given ourselves plenty of time just in case, but the first day working day of Northern under new management didn’t present any problems. Thankfully we weren’t travelling down the West Coast Main Line as a landslip at Dutton viaduct has caused lots of grief as the saturated ground has started shifting, taking the line with it!

Back with Northern, I see that the Dft are already making changes. Former TPE Managing Director Andy Donovan has been announced at the new Northern MD, which sounds like a good move. He had a good reputation at TPE and eh knows the Northern patch. It will be interesting to if the change at the helm improves Northern’s reputation and the visibility of senior management.

Right now we’re on the 08:11 Cross-Country service from Leeds to Plymouth. It’s classic Cross-Country. This 4-car train was rammed into Leeds carrying commuters from York into work. Then it was busy taking other commuters from Leeds to Wakefield. We’ve just called at Sheffield and it’s only now that it’s starting to fulfil its long-distance role. Now there’s a few spare seats and I’ll be interested to see how the composition of our carriage changes along the route.


We’re approaching Birmingham at a crawl after we were diverted via Water Orton due to a points failure. The Train Manager, a jovial Geordie, has been very good in keeping us all informed. It’s not a huge delay (4 minutes) but I’ll be interested to see if it has a knock-on effect in Birmingham.

Our two table companions (who’ve changed composition twice since Leeds) are preparing to leave. There’s only a handful of the original passengers left now and I expect more of an exodus at New St. Having been on this Voyager for 2 hours now and spent much of that time inadvertently playing footsie with the person sat on the opposite side of the table I’m starting to feel the cramp. These trains simply aren’t up to the job nowadays but we’re going to be stuck with them for who knows long now that the Dept for Transport has cancelled letting the franchise.


We’ve just left Birmingham with only around 20% of the original passengers on board. I remember many years ago the average length of a journey on Cross-Country was around 50 miles. I wonder if that’s changed? I can’t help wondering if there’s not an argument for splitting the Cross-County network nowadays in order to improve resilience. How many passengers will travel all the way from (say) Aberdeen to Plymouth or Leeds to Penzance?


Our late arrival in Birmingham didn’t cause us any problems as we still left on time. A crew change has meant the Geordie lilt of or previous Train Manager has now been replaced by a West Country burr of the new incumbent! More of the ACoRP team joined us too. There’s now 5 of us in the carriage.


We’re currently heading for Bristol Parkway and the sunny weather we’ve had nearly all the way from Leeds is getting increasingly obscured by cloud. Like the rest of the country, the fields around the railways are muddy and waterlogged. I suspect we’re going to need a considerable spell of dry and sunny weather before they drain. Despite the fact it’s full again, passengers in our coach are remarkably quiet, mainly because most of them are plugged in and staring at one of a variety of electronic devices! Diagonally opposite me there’s on traditionalists old chap who’s actually reading a newspaper but he’s very much in a minority.


We’re now ensconced in the Doubletree Hilton in Bristol, preparing for a busy afternoon with some interesting sessions to look forward to…


ACoRP’s Chief Executive, Jools Townsend kicks off today’ Community Rail Conference.

There’s a good turnout for the conference too…

There was far too much going on at the conference to blog and take pictures, so picture taking came first. Hopefully, tomorrow will be more relaxed. AT the end of the day a few of us were given a tour of some sights of architectural merit. One of them was a CAMRA national inventory pub – the Kings Head!