05:05.Oh, the joys of early starts. Here’s Heathrow terminal 2 as I wait for Austrian airlines 06:00 flight to Vienna.As airport terminals go T2 is one of the better ones, even if it can be a long walk to your gate. I’m flying from B47, which is a long way from the main terminal. To get there you disappear deep underground and cross a large chunk of the airport via travelators.05:48.Having bumped into another colleague at the gate we’re now on board and waiting for take-off. The musak on the plane is the Viennese waltz used in “2001, a space odyssey” when the Pan-Am space shuttle is docking with the space station. Hopefully, my flight will be less problematic. Next stop, Vienna!09:32We had a pretty good flight, although much of mainland Europe was covered in cloud. Ironically, this made the numerous power stations we passed even more obvious.Now we’re stuck in our chauffeured limo which has taken 25 mins to move 200 metres! The queues to get out of the airport car parks are horrendous!10:03.We’re still in the limo. Having finally escaped the airport we’re now enjoying a tour of industrial Vienna (docks, chemical plants etc) en-route to the hotel.10:33.Finally, we’ve arrived at the hotel. Nice!11:27Journalists from various EU countries have all gathered at the hotel, now we’re being bussed to Siemens HQ for lunch.12:33Chance to eat before the hard work starts. The foods very good and beats the sandwiches that are a staple of so many UK events.13:00.The presentations are underway. The first one I’m attending is on autonomous trams. Siemens have one test system running in Potsdam, but (like the concept of driverless cars) it would be many years before a successful system could be developed and rolled out – if at all. The concept is far more suitable for closed systems rather than unpredictable streets. Think of Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester!The second presentation is an interesting one on ‘digital solutions for seamless transportation’. How technology is allowing people to access the information they need to choose integrated transport options.The mining and analysis of data from peoples travel plans is fascinating! I’ve now learned that the band Depeche Mode has a strong following in the former East Berlin because the band gave a concert there before the wall came down and this fan base can still be seen in data today!15:11.The third and final session of the day is “Seamless digital chain in material supply – the easy spares app”. How a mobile phone app can identify parts of a vehicle, find the spare part number and order it for you – amongst other things!
It’s been a quite start to the day here in Düsseldorf, mainly because of the dull, grey weather, plus the fact I’ve used the time to catch up on some admin and picture editing from the comfort and warmth of my hotel. That said, I’m off to explore shortly and have a few hours wandering before I’ve got to head back to the airport and fly back to the madness of Brexit Britain. Here’s a couple of shots from yesterday to start the day.
Dusseldorf has an extensive tram network and a variety of trams, including these vintage vehicles that people can hire for parties!
The Hauptbahnhof gets into the festive feeling…
I’m back in the Altstadt (old town) after spending some time getting shots at the station. It’s very interesting to see the number of private operators on German rails nowadays. Two names caught my eye as they both operate in the UK: Keolis and Netherlands operator Abellio. Here’s one of the services Abellio operate. The other thing that’s caught my eye is the number of new trains here. I can see I’ve some boning-up on fleets to do.
The weather’s not been as bad as predicted. Whilst it’s grey and damp, it’s mild and the rains failed to materialise, which has made picture-taking easier as I’m not having to start getting into the extreme end of the ISO range.
There’s a lovely atmosphere in the Alstadt. What I like is the way that many of the bars have setting outside, so the walking streets are always lively. They’re equipped with heaters, but they’re mode for comfort on a mild day like today. Right now I’m having a beer outside one such establishment.
I have to admit to being a fan of Weissbier!
Meanwhile, here’s a few phone pics and a selection of camera shots from my wanderings
Watching the world go by from a bar in the Alstadt.
I love the variety of architecture here.
These regional trains take 7 – 9 minutes to get from the centre of town to the airport. This was the one that carried me.
I’m now sat in the departure lounge ready to catch the plane. I can’t say I’m too enthused about returning to Brexit Britain. Whilst I was in the immigration queue a German woman spotted the ‘Bollox to Brexit’ sticker on my passport. “No need to guess which way you voted” she said (in English). She is also flying to the UK and asked “What have they done to your country”?
I wish I could have given her an answer, as it’s obvious that Brexit supporters are so immersed in their own little world I doubt they even know themselves.
Today, a Brexit supporting Tory MP of Indian heritage suggested we (literally) starve Ireland to ensure they drop the backstop. It’s such a stunningly stupid comment on so many levels it literally takes your breath away. Priti Patel clearly has no understanding of English/Irish history (try googling the potato famine for a start) so also has no idea of diplomacy. Does she honestly think these empty threats will intimidate Ireland – which has its back covered by the rest of the EU?
What the hell have we become as a nation?
Ready for take off…
19:48 (UK time).
I’m back in Brexit Britain, having negotiated the rat-runs and cramped passages of Manchester Airport, I find that my journey to Huddersfield is going to be ‘fun’ as Trans-Pennine Express have cancelled a number of services. Plan B means I’m now on a Northern Rail service to Blackpool via Manchester Piccadilly, where I’ll see what’s running across the Pennines…
On December 6th Siemens unveiled their first of their new regional train platform – the Mireo – at their Wildenrath test centre.
The first order is for 24 3-car Mireo’s. This has been placed by Baden-Württemberg, who have bought the trains which will be operated by DB Regio from June 2020 when the fleet is due to be used on the Rhine Valley network, operating regional services on the Offenburg – Freiburg – Basel/Nuennburg (Switzerland) route during the week and on the Kaiserstuhl region from Freiburg to Endingen/Breisach on Sundays. Here’s a selection of pictures from the event.
Each 3-car Mireo has space for 27 bicycles in a multi-purpose area. All doors are equipped with a sliding platform that automatically bridges the gap between train and platform to allow easier access.
More about the Mireo
The Mireo’s lightweight welded integral aluminum monocoque construction helps weightsaving, as do the articulated bogies. As much as possible, components have been installed underfloor or on the roof, leaving the interior area fully available for passengers with space for bicycles, strollers, and wheelchairs as required. The interior can be converted again and again with minimal effort, whilst the cantilever seating design permits cost-effective cleaning of the passenger area.
Siemens will offer a Hybrid version of the train, as this diagram explains.
The Mireo will be provided in anything from 2 to 7 car formations.
– just a couple of problems. I’m going to a country outside of the Brexit madness – but it’s only for 48 hours. Will I return from Germany to a country that still has a Government – much less one that’s actually in possession of its marbles – who knows! What will be lovely is to spend some time with friends and colleagues in Germany away from all this madness in a fully-functioning country. I’m off to have a look at Siemens new Mireo train, then spend a night in Dusseldorf, where I want to visit the Christmas Market. That means this rolling blog will keep rolling for some time. I’m going to put it on hold right now so as to get some sleep before my flight…
I’m now awake and guzzling coffee airside at Manchester airport. Judging by the security kerfuffle here Manchester thinks it’s special. For the first time in all my years travelling security insisted that – not only did I have to remove my shoes and belt but my meagre supply of toiletries (none over 50ml) just *had* to be put in a plastic bag and my camera also must be removed from it’s camera bag and be put in a separate tray to the rest of the kit. Utterly pointless of course, but that’s Manchester Airport security for you. It’s why airports are such a miserable experience nowadays, arbitrary rules that make no sense but are justified on the grounds of ‘security’ so you can’t question them. Mind you, I’ve never been a great fan of this airport anyway. It’s cramped and messy, not exactly a great advert for the city it serves. It’s also packed. Looking around the lounge it seems to be mostly leisure travellers, there’s very few people who look like they’re here for business.
09:43(10:43 German time, which I’ll be using now on).
The flight wasn’t bad. I was flying with Eurowings for the first time and they seem a decent airline. The woman pilot warned that there was very bad turbulence in our sector, but we got very little. My only complaint was that the whole of the trip took place with the ground blanketed in cloud. You couldn’t see a thing! Here’s how it looks at Dusseldorf airport.
Now to head to town..
The weather’s no better in central Dusseldorf than it was at the airport, so it’s not a great day for picture taking, although I’ve got a few. I think tonight should be good as wet weather and night time are ideal partners.
I tweeted a couple of pictures earlier to try and dispel a couple of the myths about German railways that are popular in the UK because of rail privatisation. Here’s one – that German railways are nationalised. Really? Here’s a local service to Cleve at the Hauptbahnhof. It’s run by Transdev, a private company who run trains in 6 countries.
The myth that German trains are far more punctual than in the UK was exploded by having a look at the board. There’s Intercity services up to 110 mins late!
Siemens picked up our group and brought us the the PCW at Wildenrath, where the first Mireo was officially unveiled.
DB Regio has ordered 24 of these 3-car, articulated trains. Eight pre-production units will be built and tested here before the Mireo enters public service in June 2020. I’ll blog more about the Mireo separately.
We’re now on the coach back to Dusseldorf. Needless to say, it’s now pitch black outside, but at least it’s dry! I’m looking forward to checking into my hotel, uploading some pictures, then going for a wander…
It’s been a mild night here so I’ve had a good wander and visited the Altstadt (old town) to see the Christmas Market, which was lovely – and watch the world go by whilst drinking Glühwein. Here’s a few pictures from the evening.
Right, it’s 22.47 here in Dusseldorf and I’ve got a fun packed programme ahead of me before I fly back tomorrow, so I’m putting this rolling blog to bed. Goodnight!
Yep, the working week’s ended as it began, with murky weather here in the Pennines. Today’s a bit of a mixture. I’ve been working at home editing pictures this morning. I’ve been playing catch-up with archive pictures as I realised that there were dozens of shots from a press trip to Germany in June that I hadn’t uploaded. Back then a group of us went to see Siemens in Germany as they’d arranged a preview of trains they would be displaying at the Innotrans trade fair later in the year. We were treated to a tour of the factory at Krefeld to see the Class 717s being built for the UK, the first Mireo being assembled, the production of Velaro’s for DB and also the Rhine-Ruhr Express units. We were also treated to the chance to travel on one of the RRX units which was at the Wildenrath test track. You can find all the pictures in this gallery on my Zenfolio website. Here’s a shot of the RRX on test.
This afternoon I’m heading over to Huddersfield to visit ACoRP towers, then this evening Dawn and I are popping up to the fabulous Moorcock Inn for a meal. We’ve been wanting to try the restaurant menu there for ages. We’ve often had the delicious bar snacks but wanted to try the full dining experience as it’s had such rave reviews, like this one from Jay Rayner. As it’s our 1st wedding anniversary on Sunday, we thought this was an ideal time. Expect this blog to be updated throughout the day….
I left home later than expected to to having to sort out flight changes for our New Zealand trip (we now get an extra day!) and a press invite that could see me back in Germany next month. The walk to the station was a bit dreary due to the gloomy weather, as you can see from this shot I took on the way.
I’m now bouncing and screeching my way to Huddersfield. Not actually me you understand, just the Pacer I’m sat on!
Having caught up with some paperwork and reading at the ACORP office I’ve had a bit of a wander. Oh, by the way, the 2bd part of my round Britain by rail trip for RAIL magazine hit the newsagents shelves on Wednesday.
Whilst I was notching around Huddersfield I couldn’t resist popping into the wonderfully restored ‘Kings Head’ pub on the station.
The work has earned it an award – and deservedly so.
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It’s Sunday night and the weekend’s flown by. The good thing is that I’ve had time with my nearest and dearest, the bad thing is – there’s no rest for the wicked! Most of the last couple of days have been spent trying to catch up with picture editing and writing. I’m gradually working my way through editing the hundreds of pictures I took in Germany last week. You can find the Innotrans shots in this gallery whilst the general railway shots are here. Here’s a couple of samples.
As well as picture editing I’ve managed to get the first of my three-part trip around the UK rail network for RAIL written and sent off for editing. This next week will see me spending most of my time at home to get part 2 written and also finish editing the hundreds of remaining pictures from Germany sorted out as well as the shots to illustrate RAIL. Time and weather permitting, I might even manage to get out for the day somewhere…
After that it’s off up to Scotland for this years ACoRP awards which are being held in Glasgow. Thanks to Scotrail and Transport Scotland there’s a lot of activities going on around the awards so it promises to be a great time. Watch this space for comments and pictures.
After a brilliant week in Berlin it’s time to call it a day and head home. Normally, this is something I’d look forward to. The good bit is that I’m coming home to be with my wife. The bad bit is that I’m returning to a country that’s completely taken leave of its senses.
I’ve been busy working at Innotrans, so I’ve not been keeping up with the news – until now, when I’ve seen what’s happening with the Brexit shambles.
The utter stupidity of most of the UK’s politicians (and sadly, a fair chunk of voters) is depressing beyond words. Our arrogance is about to be our undoing as it’s looking increasingly likely we’re heading for a no deal Brexit. If that happens, the UK’s going to get a very hard lesson in humility. Part of me thinks that lesson is long overdue. Let’s face it, we’re a country that has far too high an opinion of itself and its place in the world because of our history. What many haven’t learned is history is just that – the past – and it’s where we’re stuck. We seem incapable of moving on and learning what our place is in a fast changing world – hence our mad pretence that we will prosper after Brexit.
We’ve relied on that arrogance to cushion us from what’s happening in the wider world, the one that many on our island nation know little about. We ignore the fact that what is today won’t always be. Here’s a little factoid I picked up at Innotrans – ironically, it was from an information leaflet published by the UK’s Rail Industry Association (RIA).
By 2050, Indonesia is expected to be the worlds 5th largest economy. That’s the position we held before the Brexit referendum. So where will we be in 2050? The only way is down…
What makes me angry is the lies and denial of reality. The Brexit vote was a fiddle. It was won by cheating and lying on an industrial scale but few seem to care. Our democracy has become so stale it’s been easily undermined by a few people with the money and will to do it. We’ve been bought and no-one’s really bothered – least of all the Brexit fans who screamed long and loud about how we needed to leave the EU because it was “undemocratic”. What a joke that’s turned out to be, but the joke’s on us.
Our Prime Minister has made a fool of herself in talks with EU leaders through misplaced arrogance and trying to push a deal that the EU said was impossible 2 years ago. The British still don’t understand who they’re negotiating with and pretend this is a negotiation between equals (It’s not) and that threatening to shoot ourselves in the head by leaving without a deal is somehow a credible threat that will make the EU cave in on its fundamental principles (it won’t). After all, why should they? Why would anyone rewrite the rules of the club for someone who’s leaving? Especially when those rules are enshrined in international treaties?
It’s stupidity beyond words. Here I am coming back from an international trade show that I’ve been able to attend and work at because of our membership of the EU. What hoops will I have to jump through next time, in 2020? And all for what? “Take back control” was a sick joke and it looks like we’re about to find out just how big a lie it was – too late.
Arrogance and a misplaced sense of superiority have been our undoing before (see my earlier blog about the fall of Singapore). Now we’ve added complacency about the state of our democracy to that list. Our institutions have proved to be unfit for purpose and toothless in the modern world – just look at the Electoral Commission for evidence of that. But what are we doing about it? Nothing. Most people don’t even care. That’s a sure sign of a country in decline.
We’re wrecking our economy, our international standing in the world and our relationship with our European neighbours and all for what? A bunch of lies.
We have 6 months left to stop the greatest act of self-harm any country has inflicted on itself in peacetime. Will we come to our senses?
I’ve landed back in little Britain…
From what I can see of the UK media we’re heading for disaster. The rhetoric I’m seeing about ‘traitors’ is deeply disturbing. As a country we seem completely out of touch with reality. May’s Chequers deal was never going to be accepted by the EU, so why all the outrage? It’s painfully bloody obvious that we can’t impose our will on the EU, so why’s this a surprise? We ask for the impossible.
It’s my fourth day here in Berlin and apart from the fact i’ve been having a hectic time I’m also having a fabulous one.
Sunday left me shattered after my negative experiences of Stansted airport. Whilst I’ve been here I chatted to other UK colleagues, who share the same view of the place and now refuse to use it. What was once one of the UK’s best airports is viewed as having been ruined by concentrating on wringing every last penny of of passengers. After spending a few hours exploring and getting pictures I headed out to my hotel and ended up falling asleep by 21:30!
In contrast, my experiences here in Germany have been extremely positive. After all the madness that’s going on back home because of Brexit and our mad politicians, it’s lovely to be in a confident and outward looking, stable country. Berlin’s also one of my favourite capital cities. It has a bohemian heart and it’s all the better for it. There’s also massive investment in Berlin’s railway infrastructure, like this view East from the rebuilt Ostkreuz station which shows the new flyover and dive under built for the S-Bahn.
On Monday I took time off to explore a couple of the delightful old rural tramways that link country towns with the S-Bahn. They’re rather timeless. Here’s the route out from Rahnsdorf to Waltersdorf.
This one is the route nearby, from Friedrichshagen to Rüdersdorf.
Right now I’m commuting in from Ludwigsfelde, a town just to the South, which is where I’m staying. It takes 30 mins to get to the amazing Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Hotel prices go crazy when Innotrans is on, so unless you book months (or years) in advance you can pay silly prices.
I’m heading to day two of Innotrans, the world’s biggest rail trade fair. Around 160,000 people will visit over the four days, after which it’s opened to the public for another two days after that. I’m expecting another hectic day as one of the magazines I’m working for has a shortlist of stuff for me to get and today the British Transport Minister, Chris Grayling is touring the show. He’s tipped to be signing some contracts…
Oh, did I mention the weather? Innotrans is renowned for always getting the sun. Yesterday we baked in the heat, today’s expected to hit 26 degrees! I’m just glad us photojournalists are allowed to dress down!
Right now I’m in the Press centre, where I can grab a coffee, use the wifi and all the other facilities provided for Journalists before hitting the stands. It’s quiet at the moment, but here’s what the place looks like.
If you want to see pictures from the show, take a look at this gallery on my Zenfolio website as that’s where I’m putting them. I’ll flesh this blog out more when I have time.
I’ve finally left the show and begun my journey home, but first there’s time to stop of at the Alkopole Bar at Alex, have a quiet beer and catch my thoughts. The day was busier than I thought for the simple reason that Chris Grayling visited a lot of trade stalls. We may fundamentally disagree over politics but I can’t fault him for keeping such a busy schedule. David Davis he ain’t!
I did manage to take up a certain train builders invitation to visit their version of platform 9 & 3/4, which was an mock English pub hidden on the back of one of their trains, but I’ll say no more.
The rest of my time was spent flitting between trade stands and the press centre with the occaisional foray to have a look at some new train interiors. The problem was that some of the ones I wanted to check out had a shore supply. This meant they were extremely popular as the air-conditioning worked – a real blessing in this heat!
I’m not sure what the temperature is now but it’s a lovely evening for sitting outside with a beer.
The ‘press pack’ has scattered to the four winds this evening due to a multitude of receptions and events to go to, which has spared my liver, so I’m not complaining. Besides, I have another 05:50 start in the morning…
Time at home never lasts long. After 48 hours I’m on the road again, this time bound for Berlin. The timing could have been better as I’ve been torn away from a very pleasant afternoon with friends. We’ve been celebrating Tony Allan (of Phoenix brewery fame) 50th anniversary in brewing with a barbecue at his home in Halifax. Tony has set up a cellar bar with two of his beers on – plus plenty of other refreshments.
Now I’ve had to begin the schlep to Stansted airport for a silly ‘o clock Sunday morning flight to Berlin in readiness for the Innotrans rail trade fair. Dawn was kind enough to drive me to Huddersfield to catch a TPE service direct to Manchester Piccadilly so I’ve dodged a bullet in the shape of another futile Northern Rail strike.
Touch wood, things are going well. We left early as Huddersfield Town were playing at home today, so traffic can always be hit and miss. Add to the fact TPE are often late which means it always pays to give yourself a one train cushion. I’d planned to catch the 18:29 but found I was in time for a late running 18:08 which gives me plenty of time to get my London connection.
The trip across the Pennies was, fine. I missed the footy crowds and secured a tip up seat outside the disabled toilet where I heard a fascinating conversation between two TPE chaps with their refreshment trolleys who were on their way home. One was from Greece and the other Georgia. They were talking about their native foods and comparing recipes. It was delightful to overhear but it also made me angry. Not at them, but the whole Brexit shambles and the fact it’s causing such uncertainty for people like this pair.
Oh joy. This is going to be a long trip…I’m now on Virgin’s 19:35 to Euston. Not only is this 11 car rammed, it has that delightful combination of football fans, inconsiderate people – and drunks. On the bright side, the football fans are Man City supporters. If they were United fans I’m sure there would be far more of them heading back to London!
The downside? As I was (foolishly) intending to try and do some work I’d reserved a table seat with a power socket. When I arrived I found that a young woman travelling alone had spread her unruly brood (and the contents of of their McDonald’s meal) all over the table & didn’t seem the slightest bit concerned other people had reserved seats as she was too busy talking on her phone (on speakerphone). We had ‘words’ when she expected me to accommodate her noisy ‘bin lids’ and their mess whilst she ignored them as she was far more interested in her phone. One chap behind her’s already told her to take the damned thing off speaker mode, so I know I’m not the only one hacked off.
Meanwhile, drunk woman and her boyfriend 3 groups of seats ahead have broken volume controls….
Mercifully, phone woman and her brood have left the train at Stoke. In fact, many people have in this coach (B) whilst a handful have joined us. Next stop is Milton Keynes…
The evening’s not completely wasted. I might not be able to write, but I can edit pictures. The slightly frustrating thing is the chap who’s sat next to me (And who does a very good job of filling his seat) has made no effort to move and spread out into the empty ones around us, but then they’re all backwards facing seats, which I know some people are funny about. Oh well, if he won’t…
After Milton Keynes this train’s less than 50% full. I can stretch out and work on photos whilst listening to music. The old iPod’s been dug out and I’m taking a bittersweet trip down memory lane, listening to The Waterboys and Fisherman’s Blues…
Not a vintage journey with VWC: we were right time to Berkhampstead, then ended up crawling the rest of the way on the slow lines into Euston where we arrived around 15m late. The frustrating thing was the complete lack of any real information, just generic announcements. There was no ticket check nor any apology (or explanation) for the delay – which in this day and age really isn’t good enough.
To add insult to injury I’m now on the 205 bus from Euston to Liverpool St as the tube is shut for engineering work! Good job I’m in no hurry…
When I said I was in no hurry, that wasn’t entirely true. I’m currently sat on the last Stansted Express of the night, the 23:25. If I’d missed this it would have meant spending a night on Liverpool St station until 04:30 tomorrow! I’d like to think my days of kipping on railway stations are long gone.
The bus journey across London brought back many memories. So much of it was familiar yet so much has changed. I passed through places I remember from my days with the National Federation of Housing Co-ops back in the late 1980s, plus areas Lynn and I would regularly cycle through on her way to/from work when we lived in the East End.
Liverpool St itself holds lots of memories, as does the areas of London we’re about to pass through now. Tower Hamlets and Hackney.
Compared the old 317s they replaced on the Stansteds the 379s are a great bit of kit. They fast, comfortable and roomy. The wifi’s pretty good too – which is why you’re reading this now! Here’s a view of the interior of set 026.
Odd to think these EMUs will be surplus to requirements in 2020 isn’t it?
I’m now ‘settled’ at Stansted airport. It’s times like this you realise how passenger unfriendly these places are. There’s literally hundreds of people here who are on ridiculously early flights who’ve decided it’s not worth shelling out for a hotel room so have decided to stay at the airport and maybe get a couple of hours shut eye. But Stansted (the bastards) – unlike any other UK or international airport I’ve ever used has got a nasty surprise in store. Take a look at this!
To say that I’m not happy is a f*****g understatement!
In all my 40 plus years travelling around the world I’ve never known an airport that holds its passengers in such contempt. I’ve just been told off for reclining on my suitcase as it’s a breach of the rules. Stansted makes its money out of cheap flights at silly hours of the day, but (cynically) it won’t provide the facilities to cater for then and even forbids them from trying to sleep. This is what happened to a young girl who tried to lie down outside an area of closed desks, so wasn’t blocking anything.
Well congratulations Stansted, not only is this the last time I use you. I’ll be publicising your contemptuous attitude to your passengers far and wide.
It’s 03:00 now and the rest of the airport building’s been opened. Until 02:30 it was blocked off, hence us being corralled in a tiny space. The only reason I can see why they’ve opened it is that flights have started arriving, so we’re in the way. I can’t see any logical reason why the rest of the airport was closed other than a desire to save money. I can’t understand any rational security excuse as Heathrow can keep vast spaces open overnight without a problem. So why can’t Stansted – which is far smaller?
I’m now airside. Once the rest of the airport opened I managed to find a space to pay my head for nearly an hour before it was time to check-in. To be fair to Ryanair that was pretty quick even though the airport’s buzzing now. Security was pretty good to although my lack of sleep was starting to tell.
Once I got through I realised where all the space I used to remember from the past has gone. After security you’re led along the yellow brick road and a meander through shops. Lots of shops. When you get through you’re deposited in a packed seating area that’s surrounded with-more shops!
Essentially, Stansted treats you as an economic battery hen. Facilities are minimal, this is about squeezing as much cash out of you as possible before you catch your plane. Of course, this time of the morning airports exist in their own time zone. I walked through the huge Wetherspoons at 05:20 and it looked like this.
We’ve just boarded! Now for some sleep….
I’ll start blogging again from a civilised country later.
Morning folks, it’s 06.51 here in Dusseldorf and I’m getting ready for another busy day with Siemens. I’ll try and blog through the day as the pace should be a little slower than yesterdays whirlwind. First, here’s a link to my Zenfolio website where I’ve managed to add some of the first pictures. Today we’re off to the Wildenrath test track to ‘play’ with some trains.
The first tough decision has come early, what to have dor breakfast here in the Radisson Blue. Talk about being spoiled for choice…
Oooh! OK, the fish it is…
S’cuse me whilst I tuck in…
14:00 (German time).
We’re now on a coach headingfor the airport after an interesting morning whizzing around the Wildenrath test track aboard one of Siemens new r-car Desiro HC (high capacity) EMUs which will run Rhine-Ruhr Express services from December 2018. The two centre cars of each set are double-deck vehicles. Here’s what they look like from the inside.
Now the fun starts! I’m about to board my flight from Dussledorf to Heathrow, then hot-foot it to Euston to meet Dawn to swap my brogues for walking boots and waterproofs before heading up the WCML to catch up with the team heading iff to do “3peaksbyrail”. It’s unlikely i’ll make it to Crewe in time to meet them at the start, so I’ll have to chase them as far as Bangor (or even Holyhead, where the train will be serviced whilst the walkers ascend Snowdon). Wish me luck…
16:32. Bugger, not a good start. Our plane’s been delayed by air traffic control. We won’t be pushing back for another 20 mins and it’ll take at least another 15 after that before we’re in the air…
16:50 (UK time)
Landed! In the end we were allowed to leave a bit earlier. The flight’s taken an hour so i’ve literally landed at the same time as taking off thanks to the time difference…
I sped through passport control here at terminal 5. There’s plenty of biometric gates & few passengers! Now I’m kicking my heels by the baggage carousel, waiting for my suitcase. There’s no chance of making the Crewe connection now so the pressure’s off. Now all I’ve got to do is get to Bangor before the train collects the weary climbers after they’ve come down from Snowdon.
At least I get to have a more than a few fleeting moments with my other half now!
Still kicking my heels in baggage reclaim. An “incident” has delayed them apparently..
My bag finally arrived at 17:52. I’ve opted for Heathrow Express as I want to make up time.
Catching the Express wasn’t cheap but it was a good move as I got to meet Dawn at Euston with an hour to spare before her train back to Yorkshire. I have to admit, I couldn’t have done this without her love and support. We swapped all my conference gear for outdoor clothing, a sleeping bag and (vitally) midge spray! The hour passed in a flash. I left Dawn at Kings Cross, then made my way to Euston.
I’m now speeding towards North Wales aboard a Virgin Pendolino, working the 21:10 Euston-Preston. I’ll be leaping off at Crewe but right now I have a table seat in the unreserved coach U which is giving me chance to charge up some of my batteries ready for the trip. The 3 Peaks stock is old mark 2 stock so charging stuff up is a challenge to say the least!
Phew! This is the final leg now. I’m on Arriva Trains Wales 00:15 from Crewe to Holyhead as far as Bangor. It’s a 2-car 158 fitted with power sockets and wifi. Unfortunately (tonight) it’s also been fitted with a group of loud and obnoxious young drunks. Yep, they’re the one’s who noticed I was taking a picture!
Thankfully, they got off at Chester so I’m enjoying the fact there’s only four of us left in the coach, allowing me to hog power sockets & suck up enough juice that I’m amazed this 158s keeping time!
Whilst I was waiting at Crewe the ‘Caledonian Sleeper’ called on its way to Fort William. As that’s where I’m headed it was rather tempting, but it would have been a cheat on a grand scale!