I’m back on the rails for the rest of the week, travelling across a large chunk of the UK (as you’ll see). Today I’m off to have a look at some of the High Speed 2 construction and mitigation work around Cubbington in Warwickshire.
Thankfully, the weather’s better where I’m going than where I’m coming from. The Calder valley’s a wet and gloomy place this morning as the area’s trapped beneath a low layer of heavy grey cloud that’s shrouding the valley tops. My first train of the day’s Northern’s 06:23 from Sowerby Bridge which is worked by a pair of 2-car Class 195s. I’m taking it as far as Manchester. This should be a Chester service but it’s been chopped back to Victoria for some unknown reason.
On arrival at Manchester I made the customary ‘mad dash’ across the city centre from Victoria to Piccadilly on foot. It took me 15 minutes which meant I was in plenty of time to get an earlier train than originally planned. I’m now ensconced on Cross-Country’s 07:27 to Bournemouth. Today the train’s made up of consecutively numbered, 4-car Class 220s (020 and 021 for the number-crunchers amongst you). Despite the earliness of the hour the front unit is very busy with few spare seats after we’d departed Stockport. Thankfully, the cloud levels are lifting and getting thinner the further South I go.
My train was packed all the way to Birmingham New St where the vast majority of travellers decamped only to be replaced by a smaller cohort for the continuation of the journey. Some were only travelling as far as Birmingham International and a few more for Coventry. My stop’s in another 20 mins so I’ll be interested to see how busy we are then.
Out exploring the route of HS2…
Apologies for the break in blogging but I’ve spent most of the day exploring the HS2 route and mitigations sites in the company of local farmer Penny McGregor. Penny’s been kind enough to show me around before and having her local knowledge and passion for the environment (tempered with pragmatism) has been invaluable. We’ve pootled around several sites in her little electric car so that I can see and record the changes that have taken place since I was last here in February.Then the woods and ancient woodland translocation sites were dormant. Now they’ve burst into life and are even past their best as many plants (such as Campions) have gone to seed. Even so, it’s easy to see the opponents of HS2 who claim building the railway has created a barren wasteland are talking out of a fundamental orifice. Yes, of course the trace of HS2 looks like a building site – that’s because it is! The margins however, can be very different depending on the age of the planting. Plus, the ancient woodland soil translocation sites are throwing up surprises as seeds that have lain dormant for years under the tree canopy have now been stirred up and have access to light…
I’ll add a selection of pictures shortly. Right now I’m making my way back North. Having bid farewell to Penny after such an interesting day I caught Cross-Country’s 17:15 to Manchester Piccadilly as far as busy Birmingham New St where I swapped sets to catch the 18:03 to Edinburgh as far as Leeds. Both trains afforded me some great views of HS2 construction – especially around Birmingham. Forget the media froth and protesters howls – HS2 is happening! The amount of work to be seen around Curzon St and Washwood Heath is very, very impressive. I hope to return soon to cover some of it.
Time to bring this blog to an end. I’ve been at home for the past few hours, preparing for the next 4 days of fun and travels. I’m in London tomorrow morning ready for a press lunch that’s been on hold for several years due to the pandemic. It’ll be a lovely opportunity to catch up with old and new faces from our hots – Siemens – as well as other colleagues from the rail press. As soon as the lunch finishes I have to hot-foot it up to Crewe to join the annual ‘3 peaks by rail’ charity fundraiser in aid of the Railway Children charity. I’ve been a volunteer on this event since 2017. It’s exhausting but bags of fun. So, expect a varied bunch of rolling blogs over the next few days.
But for now I’ll leave you with a picture of this little critter that Penny and I saw in a field next to HS2 earlier today. It’s a silver studded blue butterfly.
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