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We’ve had a wintery start to the week here at Bigland Towers. Snow arrived in the Calder Valley at the weekend and, whilst it’s hardly deep and crisp and even the dusting we’ve had is certainly sticking around. To make matters worse the temperature plummeted today with the mercury never getting above -2 but hitting -5 this morning whilst the valley itself disappeared behind a mask of freezing fog. So, I’ve spent the entire day indoors, not even making it out for my daily stroll. Instead, I’ve beavered away in the office sorting out pictures and filing in order to create some space in the calendar for the future (more about that later).

I doubt I’ll be venturing far for the rest of the week. Whilst the temperature’s due to creep above zero towards the end of the week there’s another problem. Tomorrow sees the start of the next round of rail strikes, only our local operator (Northern) has essentially thrown in the towel. They’re not bothering to run any service at all through Halifax and the Calder Valley until Sunday! That’s’ 5 days without any services across most of their network, which covers the whole of the North, taking in Cumbria, Yorkshire, the North-West and Cheshire, including major cities like Manchester. and Leeds (which sees a skeleton service based on the Aire valley electric trains, see below).

Sadly, there’s no sign of this dispute coming to an end. It looks like it will drag on well into next year. There’s conflicting reports coming out about who’s to blame for the breakdown in negotiations, as my RAIL magazine colleague, Phil Haigh, pointed out on Twitter earlier.

Whilst I can appreciate both sides of this dispute the people I feel for are those caught in the crossfire. I don’t just mean passengers, although having no trains here for the rest of the week when we have snow and ice on the ground is hardly desirable. I feel for the many small businesses who rely on the railways for their trade. The shop and cafe owners who’ve been suffering and struggling for years as Northern and the unions have been in regular disputes for years. The toll this has taken on many businesses goes unrecognised. Just as they were getting back on their feet Covid struck. Then, as they were slowly recovering from that we had the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent energy crises. Oh, and that’s without mentioning the impact Brexit has had, making goods ever more expensive. It’s been a perfect storm for rail-based businesses so I’m not in the least surprised to have seen how many had closed down when I was doing my recent round Britain trip for RAIL. Station cafes and shops the length and breadth of the network have gone forever, and my fear is that more will follow in the new year because there’s no sign of a light at the end of the tunnel. They’re the ‘collateral damage’ from these strikes.

Another casualty of these strikes is my annual visit to the Railway Carol service in London, which is being held in Euston on Thursday. There’s no way I can get there in time, and even getting back would be risky. Instead, I’ll be spending another day at home, planning another adventure that’s been deferred by Covid.

On Saturday I had confirmation of my flight to Singapore in January. I’ll be spending two months away from the Septic Isle, exploring old haunts in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia – and also taking in some new sights too (hopefully). So, the enforced ‘downtime’ I have this week will allow me to start planning the trip. I’d originally hoped to have left the UK before Christmas, but the cost of flights was ridiculous. This many have been a blessing in disguise as the Christmas period is looking like a lousy time to travel due to the rail dispute and disruption at airports due to the Border Force taking strike action. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the date I’ve chosen to fly out (January 10th) is in that ‘sweet spot’ between strikes. Time will tell.

So, don’t expect much in the way of new rail pictures from me this week, which is very frustrating as I have a market for railway snow scenes but no way of capturing them! Instead, here’s an archive shot taken in the Calder Valley several years ago.

On the 21st January 2013 ‘Pacer’ 144009 approaches Sowerby Bridge from the East with a service for Manchester Victoria.

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