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It’s the 2nd day of the ACoRP conference and It’s a more relaxed one for me as I blitzed the event from a photographic perspective yesterday, so today I get chance to listen to the speakers and blog about some of the event.

The first speaker this morning was Neil Priest, Station Enhancements Portfolio Manager, Network Rail.

He’s given a very interesting talk about the perils and success of making stations more accessible and the fun and game of installing lifts on our Victorian network. He also exploded the myth that lifts can’t be installed at unmanned stations. As he explained. “When a lift breaks down, a bloke doesn’t come out of the ticket office with a bag of spanners, we call in a lift engineer” Nowadays lifts are monitored by CCTV and remotely, so it’s not an issue. Many of these schemes take years to complete and Neil explained why that happens, which can be anything from finding there’s disused mineshafts below the station to the fact someone else comes along and builds a new ticket office where you were going to site a bridge!

Afterwards, ACoRP’s Chief Executive, Jools Townsend gave a rundown of the organisations activities and coming programmes – as well as talking about the rebranding of ACoRP as Community Rail Network (CRN) later this year.


A lot of the conference this morning has been taken up with three workshop sessions on very different topics. Youth engagement: Talking about ways to involve young people on a range of issues around the railways (including safety) and passing on life skills to teenagers are younger children. The second workshop was on involvement with the wider community, including the disadvantaged to encourage them to be involved through their local community rail groups – and also encourage them to use the railways. The session I’m sat in on at the moment is about tackling loneliness. Apparently, the UK is the loneliest country in Europe (and no, that’s not a political metaphor!) so the session is talking about causes of loneliness in the present day and how loneliness can be identified and counteracted. The presentation wasn’t just about facts, figures and methodology, it also included the experiences of a station group, the Friends of Beeston station, presented by the Secretary of the group, Sarah Hampton. Sarah gave some great examples of how the group has combated loneliness in their own community.


We’re back after lunch in the hotel for the first session of the afternoon which is a look at a new reporting system that ACoRP are launching. The Impact Assessment tool, and how it can help organisations and the people involved in them to track their achievements and use the data in a number of ways, such as reports, data assessment and even fundraising.

During lunch I nipped out with ACoRP’s Martin Yallop, who knows my interest in architecture. He wanted to show me a couple of features nearby, including this…

During WW2 this length of tram track bexame a missle thanks to a German bomb. It was blown clean over a row of Georgian town houses and embedded itself in the nearby churchyard


Conference finished mid-afternoon but by then my bit was done so I headed over to Temple Meads station early in order to make the most of the sunshine and soend an hour getting pictures before we caught our train North.

It was an interesting interlude as services have changed a lot since I last spent any time here. Now GWR green rather than FGW blue is the dominant colour. With many of the old DMUs having been displaced by former ‘Thames Turbo’ class 165 – 166 units and the HST’s with Class 800 series units from Hitachi although the venerable Class 43s haven’t vanished altogether as ‘Castle’ Class short HST sets (2×4) are used on Bristol – Cardiff services.

The lengthening of trains has also gone hand in hand with the four-tracking of the line North towards Bristol Parkway, enabling more services to run and allowing parallel arrivals or departures, which makes for some interesting photo opportunities like this, which isn’t the sort of sight you’d seen a couple of years ago…

166205 and 165119 arrive in parallel at Bristol Temple Meads.


Right now a group of us are speeding North towards Birmingham on yet another packed 4-car Cross-Country Voyager, all space has been taken and the vestibules are packed with bodies old and young.


We’re now North of Derby on our way to our next stop at Chesterfield and I’ve lost count of the different passengers that have passed through this coach (D) on our trip from Bristol. I was glad to see the back of one at Birmingham, a young man who talked endlessly into his mobile phone and who reeked of BO…


The numbers of folks on our Voyager thinned the further North we got. It was reasonably pleasent after leaving Sheffield but I wasn’t sorry to bail out at Leeds. We had 6 minutes to make our connection and hopped aboard the 20:12 to Manchester Victoria with a couple of minutes to spare. Only it’s now 20:26 and we’re still here! Lots of trains are on the move, just not us…


Our Conductor has told us that our trains stuck because of a track-circuit failure, so we’ve all abandoned our nice warm, shiny Class 195 for a traditional Calder Valley classic in the shape of a Class 155 in the adjacent platform. We’re still not going anywhere mind…


*Puts on best Victor Meldrew impression*…

I don’t believe it! We’d just settled in on our replacement train when it’s Conductor announced that – in fact – our original train was leaving first. Not only that but it had got the road and was leaving any minute now! There was a mad scramble as we all rushed back onto the 195, the only thing missing was the Benny Hill theme tune playing over the tannoy! We’ve even regained our original seats!


That about wraps it up for today. We finally made it home around 21:30, considerably later than we expected due to the fun and games at Leeds. Now it’s time to relax and put the feet up ready for another busy day tomorrow. I’ll be working from home as I’ve a considerable amount of pictures from the conference to edit, as well as a new selection of rail shots. Then there’s paperwork to catch up on. At least there’ll be no track circuits to worry about! There might even be a bit of time for blogging on the latest funs and games with the anti Hs2 protests, which are generating a lot of hot air, but little else…