Recent reports have confirmed that both Class 142 and 144 Pacer trains will continue in service until the next timetable change in May at the least. The plans are that they’ll be confined to Lancashire and Yorkshire with the Class 142s operating West services around Manchester whilst the Neville Hill based Class 144s will operate set routes around Leeds/Sheffield/Doncaster/Huddersfield and York.
The Class 142 fleet will be reduced to just 22 members from an original fleet of 94 whilst all 23 Class 144s will be retained. the DfT derogation letter confirms that the following Class 142s will be allowed to run but will gradually be phased out by the arrival of new CAF built units.
The Class 142 derogation expires at 23:59 on 31 May 2020.
A separate DfT document that confirms the dispensation allowing the Class 144s to be kept in service also specifies which routes they will be allowed to run on. These are.
• Leeds to Huddersfield
• Leeds to Sheffield
• Leeds to Knottingley
• Sheffield to Adwick
• Sheffield to Huddersfield via Penistone
• Sheffield to Gainsborough Central / Lincoln
• Huddersfield to Bradford Interchange via Halifax
• Huddersfield to Castleford via Wakefield
• Doncaster to Scunthorpe
• Sheffield to York via Rotherham and Moorthorpe
• York to Leeds via Micklefield
• York to Selby / Hull / Bridlington
• Bradford Interchange to Leeds
• Doncaster to Leeds
The permission granted by this dispensation to Arriva Rail North expires at 23:59 on 31 August 2020 but don’t assume that they’ll last until then.
This means Pacer fans (and yes, they do exist!) have a few more months to search out and ride/photograph these gradually dwindling fleets of trains before the last one heads off to the scrapyard. Make the most of the reprieve as it all depends on how quickly the last of the new CAF built trains enter service! If I get details of specific routes that the Class 142s will be operating on around Manchester I’ll update this blog with details. Right now I’d expect that they’ll be seen around Victoria on services to Stalybridge and Rochdale plus at Piccadilly on trains to New Mills and Rose Hill.
If you want to see a pictorial history of the BR built Pacer fleets over the years, have a look at my earlier blog.
On the day when commuters returned to work after the New Year holiday and rail fares increased by an average 2.7% and Northern were still cancelling services, confusion reigned over the future of the Northern franchise. This morning Transport Minister Grant Shapps gave an interview to the BBC which was widely interpreted by the media as him announcing he was stripping operator Arriva of the franchise. The BBC later backtracked on this and ITV secured a quote from the Dept of Transport saying that no decision had been made.
So what is happening? Will Arriva lose the franchise?
Shapps has made it fairly clear this is his intention and an operator of last resort is being put into place. But it’s not going to happen overnight. Politically, it would be a popular move as Northern have come in for a huge amount of criticism over the past year. Some of it justified, some not. Elected Mayors, User groups and the passengers themselves have all given the company a good kicking. The fact the franchise’s MD has a very low profile compared to previous bosses like Heidi Mottram and Alex Hynes hasn’t helped either. They’re seen by many (including their staff) as a faceless company. But no franchise has ever been terminated purely on the grounds of poor performance…
What isn’t clear to seasoned observers is how running Northern from a desk at the DfT in Westminster is meant to improve anything. After all, the franchise was specified by the DfT in the first place! Let’s look at some of the problems Northern are facing and where responsibility lies.
The company’s suffered from the late completion (or shelving entirely) of infrastructure enhancements like electrification that were meant to help it deliver new timetables and new services. These are the results of failings by Network Rail which is already in public control and funded by Government, plus political delays in decision-making on future enhancements like the Trans-Pennine route upgrade (which was ‘paused’ by then Transport Minister Chris Grayling) and the Manchester Oxford Rd corridor.
Problems with the late delivery of new and refurbished trains such as the CAF built Class 331s and 195s, as well as the rebuilt Class 769 bi-mode trains have had a big impact, as have the inevitable teething problems with new fleets. None of these are Northern’s fault, but they’ve meant that the company has suffered more cancellations and-short-formed trains. It’s also going to be keeping over 45 old Pacer trains running until May (possibly August) 2020 when they should all have gone by the end of last year. This is manna from heaven for the critics, but what else can they do? Leave themselves short of trains and cancel more services? They’re caught between a rock and a hard place until all the new trains are in service (over a year late).
The new trains being late has had an impact on staff training and availability, which hasn’t helped service levels or delivery of the new timetables. There’s also the small matter of finding paths to run these trains in to allow mileage accumulation and time for staff to familiarise themselves with their workings. The difficulty finding paths has been exacerbated by both LNER and Trans-Pennine also introducing new fleets, leaving capacity at a premium. Sweating the Northern fleet by running complex diagrams and relying on staff working rest days hasn’t helped either. Nor have the problems at Trans-Pennine Express. Their timetabling problems have an impact on Northern services at pinch points like Leeds and Manchester.
Here’s an illustration of today’s performance for Northern and TPE, taken from the Trains.im website. Timed at 19.50.
How will stripping Arriva of the franchise resolve these issues? It won’t.
What will happen to the franchise in the long term? There’s a lot of rumours flying around that the franchise will be split into East and West, as it was before two areas were merged to form the first Northern franchise in 2004.
If the Conservatives wanted to play clever, they might even decide to hand these franchises over to local control. Either directly to transport for the North, or (if they’re feeling really devious) they could give Manchester’s elected Mayor, Andy Burnham, a level of control. He’s a long-standing critic of Northern and as a Labour Party member he’s pushed for rail renationalisation. The expression ‘be careful what you wish for’ springs to mind here as the buck would (potentially) then stop with him. Only he’s no control over the root causes of Northern’s problems either!
Whatever is decided in the corridors of power, the franchises problems will continue until the infrastructure and capacity is sorted out. The situation with staff and new trains will ease when the new fleets are fully introduced and trains and staff are bedded in which will mean punctuality will improve but it won’t cure bottlenecks around Manchester or Leeds. If the Government is serious about investing in the North (and keeping the Labour constituencies that turned Tory at the last election) it’s going to have to address these issues by investing in HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. But what does it do in the short-term as neither of these projects will be delivered for two general elections? A quick fix could be to devolve power and money to the North and say, ‘right, get on with it’…
Meanwhile, there’s looking like there’s going to be rail congestion at the DfT as a number of franchises are looking rocky. TPE seemed Teflon-coated as Northern got all the flack, but now they’re starting to feel the heat too and there’s no sign of a recovery plan. SouthWestern Railway is under pressure too, both financially and through strike action. There’s also the unresolved SouthEastern franchise. And what of the William’s review?
It’s not as if there’s a queue of people waiting to bid for franchises. Let’s face it, despite what some on the left claim, they’re hardly a licence to print money more like a licence to lose it – as this informative tweet from my RAIL colleague Phil Haigh demonstrates! Abellio aren’t having a happy time with a few of their franchises, including Scotrail.
So, not only can you lose your shirt, there’s also the reputational damage. Is it any wonder both Virgin and Stagecoach have now left the field? As a source at Stagecoach told me, the cost of recent unsuccessful bids wiped out the profits from their bus operations. When bidding is that expensive (£5m plus a pop) and the chances of winning so uncertain, why bother?
I’ve begun my migration South as Dawn and I, plus her parents, are going to be staying in Surrey over Christmas in order to be near her brother and his young family. But first I have a few things to do in London, including catching up with old friends.
Right now I’m en-route to Manchester aboard the 09:06 from Sowerby Bridge to Wigan Wallgate. Once upon a time you could have expected this service to have been worked by a Pacer. Today it’s been allocated a refurbished 2-car Class 158, number 901 – one of the batch bought by the West Yorkshire PTE back in the 1990s. There’s an odd mix internally as it’s fitted with the new seats that are in the Class 195s but it retains the old (battered) tables and there’s no USB sockets or wifi.
As we traverse the Pennines I’m noticing that a lot more of the 2-car Class 195s are in passenger service now. Before the timetable change they were quite rare. It’s a positive change for passengers and I’m looking forward to seeing the full fleet in service next year.
We’ve now crossed over the border ino Lancashire where the weather’s just as dull, wet and miserable as it was in the Calder Valley – but at least it’s mild!
This train’s an ‘all shacks’ stopper which is full and standing now it’s left Rochdale. There’s a mix of Christmas shoppers heading into the city and others like me who’re heading South for the holiday.
My train was late into Victoria as we played the usual game of sitting outside waiting for a through platform to become free. Oh, for the days before British Rail flogged off half the station to build an arena and demolished so many platforms!
I’m now taking my first trip on Avanti West Coast. There’s not a huge amount of difference at this stage in the game. The Pendolino’s look almost exactly the same internally apart from a few notices. The staff are their usual friendly and efficient selves, they just make slightly different announcements. The wifi screen’s changed, but beyond that…
I’m currently speeding through Warwickshire at a rate of knots past a very damp and flooded landscape. Everywhere I look I can see fields under water, whilst rivulets of rain cascade down the window, holding their own little races as they go. Inside the train it’s warm and cosy, leaving me feeling sorry for the sodden sheep I’ve just seen by the lineside. Right now we’re flying through Rugby, a town and station I know well having spent a lot of time here in the past – including a Xmas and Boxing Day trackside many years ago, working on the infamous Rugby blockade which was part of the West Coast upgrade!
We’ve just paralleled the M1 motorway, which is easy to see because it resembles a linear raincloud due to all the spray that’s being thrown up by the vehicles on it. I’m glad I’m on a train instead!
The rain’s finally abated as we speed past flooded fields around Ledburn and the location of the great train robbery, an event sanitised in popular culture but never forgotten by those members of the railway family because of what happened to the train’s driver, Jack Mills, which was always glossed over in the myths around the event and subsequent films.
We’ve just passed Wembley yard, where the presence of a Grand Central class 180 has completely thrown me!
Today was the first day of the new winter timetable for the railways and a visit to my local station and a perusal of social media tells me it’s not gone well in a lot of places. Certainly not across Lancashire and Yorkshire where both Northern and Trans-Pennine express seem to have had a difficult day judging by the lists of cancellations, delays and pictures of overcrowded stations posted to Twitter. The industry’s not exactly covering itself in glory right now, despite there being so many good news stories.
The truth is, our rail network is trying to cope with massive increase in trains and passengers without the same growth in infrastructure to take them. Sure, there’s also other (human) problems like train-crew issues and training plus the technical problems of introducing new trains – and let’s not even talk about the mad 27 day strike on South-Western Railway!
However, the real problem is resilience. We’re trying to fit too many trains on a network with very little spare capacity and tight timetabling of both trains and crews which can easily lead to a ripple effect, especially at choke-points like Leeds and Manchester.
Understandably, passengers are getting pissed-off. They’re not interested in the causes, they just want a reliable service that’ll get them to work/home on time every day. It’s hardly too much to ask, but it is the biggest challenge facing the railways right now and I’m not sure the new timetables are going to help. At least the red-herring of rail renationalisation and fears of a complete political and managerial reorganisation of the rail industry has disappeared as a consequence of the election result.
On the plus side, more and more new trains are entering service across the network. LNER retired the last of the venerable diesel High-Speed Trains (HSTs) yesterday and Northern continue to make inroads into the BR built Pacer fleet, which is why I popped down to Sowerby Bridge station this morning. Three more Class 142 Pacers were working under their own power from Newton Heath Depot in Manchester to be stored at the old colliery sidings at Gascoigne Wood near Selby. Here they are on their way.
On Wednesday Scotrail finally dispense with yet another of the old BR built fleets, this time it’s the Class 314 EMUs which have worked around Strathclyde since 1979. I’ve looked back at their lives and times in this blog. As this graphic from the Rail Delivery Group shows, our trains are getting younger. Now all we’ve got to do is make them run on time…
Having walked to Halifax station after a later than usual start due to the dank and dismal weather I was greeted by news of an equally dismal rail service! Here’s the PIS screen..
So here I am waiting for a train to Leeds, wondering which late-running one will turn up first. So far we’ve had services delayed or cancelled due to no traincrew, a late-running freight train, the train being late off the depot and a train with an onboard fault! What next, pestilence or the pox, or a plague of frogs?
It’s not difficult to see why long-suffering Northern travellers have such a poor opinion of Northern services. There’s not a day that goes by without delays or cancellations. Mind you, I should be thankful I can travel today. Yesterday both East and West Coast main lines were blocked by different incidents. The truth is that our railways simply aren’t resilient enough in the face of disruption and running ever more services on a crowded network isn’t helping.
I’m finally on the move as a Huddersfield – Leeds train has turned up. To add insult to Northern sensibilities, it’s a 2-car Pacer! These should have been reduced to just a handful of trains with only a month left in service. Instead, they’ll still be running in 2020. Here’s the scene as I boarded.
Our Pacer’s now struggling manfully up the bank out of Bradford Interchange full and standing. It was busy on the way in from Halifax but this is a different order of magnitude!
At least I’ve got a seat and the heating’s keeping me toasty, so I’m not complaining. I’m just glad I’m not stood at New Pudsey, hoping to catch this train!
We bounced and rocked our way to Leeds, managing to squeeze just a handful more passengers on from the dozens waiting at our next stops. Our apologetic Conductor telling those left behind that there was another train just behind us.
As we pulled into Leeds I noticed that a large gaggle of yellow painted MEWPs were being assembled in the land between the triangle of tracks. These road/rail Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (hence MEWP) are used for maintaining and renewing overhead lines and their presence suggests Leeds will have a heavy ‘orange army’ presence this weekend.
I didn’t have much time in Leeds as shortly after I arrived the stock for LNER’s 10:15 to Kings Cross arrived from London formed of one of the remaining Mk4 coach sets worked by 91109, named “Bobby Robson” after the famous football manager. This being an off-peak service and because of yesterday’s problems the train’s rammed. I’ve managed to find an airline seat in the quiet coach, but my plan to get a load of work done has suffered a blow as the adjacent power socket’s kaput.! I’ll see how things are after wwe leave Doncaster…
I’m now on an LNER ‘Azuma’, havng abandoned the mark 4 set at Doncaster in favour of 1E09, the Glasgow – Kings Cross that was running 10 mins behind. It’s a busy 9 car but I was lucky and found a free table in coach K right up against the 1st Class portion of the vehicle. The socket works, so I’m up and running!
Even the weather’s decided to play ball and brighten up. I’ve just glimpsed something I’ve not seen for days – a patch of blue sky! OK, admittedly it was a fleeting glimpse, and there’s plenty of tough looking stormclouds keeping it company but even so…
We’re in North London now and the weather’s like it was back in the Calder Valley, just a little more mixed, with thinner cloud. Good job the only backgrounds I’m expected to get in today’s photos are office blocks!
On arrival in London I made a quick detour to Euston to drop something off with an old friend, have a quick chat and get this shot to show progress on demolishing the former Railtrack HQ to make way for HS2.
Job No 1 done I’m taking a few minutes to enjoy old haunts and admire the changes…
Now I can admit what the second part of the job was! The Green Party and StopHs2 had arranged a ‘big’ protest outside the Department of Transport between 3-4pm today, so I thought I’d pop along and show you what the media (with their close cropped shots of the main speakers) don’t show you! The event was a miserable flop with less than 2 dozen people – including the media – turning up. Needless to say, none of the stophs2 keyboard warriors were there, it was just the same few faces. Green ‘Co-leader’ Bartley turned up, as did Harvil Rd protester Sarah Green. The Green’s candidate in Uxbridge, Mark Keir, was also there. He gave a barely coherent interview to the couple of cameras who’d bothered to attend. Remember, this is the man who stood in Uxbridge in 2017 and reduced the Green party’s share of the vote! The only thing of interest (but not to his advantage) that he did say was by constantly appealing for people to turn up to their ‘direct action’ protests such as Harvil Road. What’s painfully obvious when you see the tedious phone videos they post to their Facebook page is just how few of them there are. They’re completely outnumbered by HS2 staff, security and (when needed) the police.
StopHs2’s Joe Rukin was also there, getting his money’s worth out of his ridiculous tree costume. After that there were half a dozen people holding up banners and, err, that was it. It was excruciatingly embarassing when you think of all the bluster we hear about the country being up in arms about HS2! It also shows just how badly the Green party have misjudged this issue. Fracking or roadbuilding it ain’t and their desperate attempts to spin just how much environmental damage HS2 is meant to be causing are backfiring. Here’s a couple of pictures of the debacle. These are phone shots. I’ll add better ones later.
Here’s a little video too…
I’m now heading North on yet another Azuma. Just in case folk think it’s only travel in the north that stuffs up, let me relate a couple of today’s experiences in the capital. On arrival, my first trip was via Thameslink, a network that suffers delays and cancellations on a regular basis and yes, my first train was cancelled, leaving me hanging around for an extra 10 minutes for the next Southbound service across central London. Afterwards I abandoned public transport and opted to walk from Blackfriars to the DfT as I was in no rush and a walk along the South bank of the Thames brings back lots of lovely memories of my days as a Londoner. On the way back I chose to get the Victoria line from Victoria to Kings Cross. Joining the crowds on the platform we waited and waited. Normally you can expect Vicky line trains to be one after the other but due to a ‘passenger incident’ at Vauxhall we were left waiting for a good 10-15 mins. Not a huge amount of time in the scheme of things, but an absolute age on the London Underground!
The penultimate leg! I swapped from the 17:16 ‘Azuma’ Kings Cross – Hull onto the 17:31 Kings Cross – Leeds at Doncaster. Both are 9-car trains and with their loadings on leaving London you can see why! I must admit, these trains are growing on me and the onky thing I’ll miss compared to the Mk3 and Mk4 coaches they’ll replace is the ambience you could get in the buffet cars, especially on a Thursday/Friday. The cramped offering on all the Hitachi sets is far too functional, but I can understand why (from a comnercial perspective) that is.
Last train of of the day folks – and it’s another Pacer. This time one of the Andrew Barclay bodied Class 144s, so a little more up-market! In these days of electronic communications and real-time information it’s frustrating when you see your train described as ‘arrived’ when you’re stood on a nice warm concourse only to find on the platform PIS it’s announced as running late when you’ve made the trip early…
Today’s really been a mixture! My plan was to spend most of it at home catching up on picture editing and paperwork but the weather was so good this morning that I kiboshed that idea after a few hours. Admittedly, I was in the office at 6am, so I didn’t feel too guilty as I’d got a lot done already.
I stayed locally as there’s enough of interest at the moment because of the new trains we’ve got in the area, plus the abundance of woodland which makes for a fantastic backdrop this time of year. In fact I was in two minds about which locations to choose, but a changing forecast made my mind up for me.
My first port of call was half an hour’s walk away, which was a really pleasant stroll as the weather was so balmy. I headed down to an overbridge near Dryclough Junction which is where the line from Halifax splits into two routes. One heads West through the Calder Valley, the other heads to Brighouse and Huddersfield. Here’s how it looked today.
This time of year the sun doesn’t hang around. I only had a 30-40 minute window at Dryclough before heavy shadows crept in, so I moved on to a very different location and a completely different kind of shot in the hills above Halifax, helped by the fact the weather completely clouded up in the afternoon, otherwise I’d have been shooting straight into a low winter sun. I do like the views around Halifax and beacon Hill as they can really reflect the era when the Industrial revolution (and a colonialist empire) transformed the landscape in both Lancashire and Yorkshire.
Tomorrow we shift tempo – and country – as Dawn and I are off to Belgium by train from Halifax with a small group of friends from our local pub, the ‘Big 6‘. Six from the 6 are off to Bruges for three nights of fun and frolics, food beer and culture – as well as some history, so expect a rolling blog tomorrow as we make our way to London by train before catching the Eurostar to Brussels, then an internal service to Bruges. It’s going to be wonderful to be back on the European mainland in a civilised country and away from the continual and utter shambles that’s Brexit – which I promise not to mention, (well, not much, anyway) Stay tuned!
After yesterday’s excitement about the arrival into service of the new trains, today’s been back to business very much as usual with lots of late running, trains terminating short and cancellations. I popped down to Sowerby Bridge for an hour to see what was happening. It wasn’t great. Several Leeds – Southport and Chester services were cancelled with some Southport trains terminated at Wigan Wallgate. Here’s a look at some of the days services.
As this is early days and there’s always teething problems with new fleets I’m hoping these issues will be sorted out quickly. What’s harder to sort out is the cancellations and delays that have nothing to do with the new trains. After the heartache and hassle passengers and businesses have suffered over the past few years due to the rail strikes, punctuality needs addressing as a matter of urgency. It’s easy to see how the Northern TOC can become a political football when the service is so unreliable. It could be very tempting to politicians desperate to curry favour and secure a ‘cheap win’ and political plaudits by taking back the franchise. Add in the fact that Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd are due to lose many of their services from the December timetable (I understand they’re due to be cut by a third during the week and by half on Sundays) and you can understand local displeasure.
It’s disappointing on another level too. Network Rail have invested in the route, having spent over £100m on new signalling track upgrades and line-speed improvements in the past few years, but this isn’t reflected in punctuality improvements. Why? What’s the route cause of the problems? I’d love to know…
Northern’s new CAF built Class 195s have entered passenger service through the Calder Valley today on the routes from Leeds – Chester and Leeds – Manchester Victoria. Needless to say, I’m out with the camera to capture pictures of this important milestone. It’s the culmination of improvements to the line that have seen the route resignalled, linespeeds increased and platforms lengthened.
I’ll be adding pictures throughout the day. Here’s the first as 195123 picks up passengers at Sowerby Bridge whilst working the 10:22 from Chester to Leeds.
I’ve caught a late-running Chester service which is worked by 195110. These trains are certainly a step-change to the old BR built units we’ve been used to since the 1980s! They’ve far superior acceleration and braking, not to mention all the facilities that passengers have come to expect nowadays, such as power sockets and free wifi. They’ve also got far more seating bays with tables.
Sorry folks, It didn’t turn out to be much of a rolling blog as I was too busy taking pictures! Since I got home earlier this evening I’ve been busy editing them, so here’s a small selection. You can find the full gallery here on my Zenfolio website.
For the number crunchers, the list of units seen in passenger service is as follows. Two car 195002 and 195007. Three car 195103. 195110. 195111. 195119. 195121 and 195123.
I’m out and about slightly later today as I was up and in the office at 06:30 this morning, sipping coffee whilst I edited yesterdays pictures and got them to the client before start of play so that they could make their selection today.
Whilst doing so I caught up on the days news. Apart from the usual Brexitshambles, HS2’s in the public eye as the Oakervee review is allegedly going to be published ln the 19th. What’s interesting is to see how much public support there is for the project. The North’s politicians and business leaders like the CBI and BCC are queuing up to say that any downgrading of the project would be very damaging. In contrast, the dwindling opposition to HS2 is very muted. The remaining campaign group, StopHs2, have neither the money or the recourses to do much. Their ‘Campaign Director’, Joe Rukin spends most of his time playing “Swampy” with the tiny bunch of protestors in woodland camps on the phase 1 route. The penny slowly serms to be dropping that Phase 1 isn’t going to be cancelled and the carrying over of the phase 2a Hybrid Bill onto this Parliaments agenda is sending signals that no-one expects that to be shelved either. The only questions are over phase 2b – hence all the lobbying from the North’s powerful lobby.
There are a few dissenting voices in the North. What’s mildly depressing is the way some here still play regional and party-political politics with a chip on their shoulder about London. They simply won’t accept that HS2 isn’t all about the capital. The positive thing is they’re very much in a minority and have no credible alternatives to offer, just obfuscation and yet more delays.
As a Lancastrian who lived in London for 25 years before moving to Yorkshire I find this envy and resentment of the South both frustrating and (ultimately) self-destructive. It’s daft, not least because many of us “Southerners” were former Northerners who made the most of the opportunities London and the South-East had to offer, rather than sticking with Northern parochialism and the feeling that the North’s “hard done by”.
A case in point was a discussion I had with someone complaining about the fact HS2 tracks wouldn’t reach Newcastle or Teeside. I asked him to make a positive case why they should. All I got back was resentments and political conspiracy theories. Now there’s no doubt the North has been ignored sometimes, but when all it does is moan and say “it’s not fair” it’s easy to dismiss. Concrete evidence of WHY investment in the North should be made and the benefits it’ll bring are harder to ignore, which is why it’s great to see the North’s political leaders embracing the opportunities “Northern Powerhouse” can bring rather than dismissing it as a political stunt. If only others did…
The frustrating thing is there are many inspirational people in the North and some fantastic things happening. If only we could ditch this Southern envy!
I scribbled the above whilst changing trains at Hebden Bridge. I’m now aboard a 2-car Class 150 heading to Victoria to see some of the Northern Rail investment all too often ignored by some Northern politicians because the ‘wrong’ political party wrote the cheques for it! I’ll also be popping back to Piccadilly for a couple of hours to (hooefully) add a few more assistence pictures to the collection. Watch this space…
Passing through Manchester Victoria I couldn’t help noticing how railway enthusiasts have returned to it’s platforms nowadays. A small group of them huddled at the East end of platform 5. For many years few bothered due to the steady diet of DMUs with an occaisional freight. Now, with a resurgence of freight and loco-hauled passenger services, plus new Nova 2 units snd Class 195s, it’s become a place to visit again!
As the weather changes, so do plans. The miserabke weather we’ve been having over the past few days has given way to sunshine and the opportunity to catch some outdoor shots, so Piccadilly’s been postponed. Instead I’ve been getting shots around Manchesters rapidly changing city skyline (pix will be added later). Right now i’m bouncing my way to Wigan aboard an ostensibly ‘stored’ Northern Pacer (142046 for the number crunchers) which has presumably been resurrected to make uo a stock shortage. No doubt the picture will soon change again. Next week the new Class 195s are due to take over Leeds-Chester services, which (in theory) allows more Pacers to bite the dust before the December deadline.
As we approached Bolton I noticed that the huge red brick “Beehive Mill” that’s adjacent to the line and been wmpty for years is in the process of being flattened. Cotton mills were an important part of Lancashire’s past, but they’ve no part in its future. Hopefully in 2019 the site can be put to better use.
I’m taking a short break in Wigan to get some sonshine shots before heading back across the Pennines. Here’s my chariot, which is looking well for a ‘stored’ train!
What a difference a few hours can nake to the weather! As I headed home through Manchester the sun was beating through cloudless skies and turning rail tracks into golden ribbons. I couldn’t resist stopping off at Victoria for an hour to capture some scenes and the opportunity presented by a flag-waving lookout stationed at just the right place on a platform end. I’ll ad some pictures later. Right now i’m on a busy Class 156 heading to Leeds via Brighouse as the 17:37 off Victoria.
Today’s start is a little earlier than yesterday. There’s been no trees down on the road either! Instead I’ve strolled the mile and a half into Halifax and caught Northern’s 08:42 to Leeds. I’m being spoiled today as it’s worked by a pair of 2 car 158s with my unit being one of the fully refurbished ones that has the new style seats and USB sockets – luxury!
The train’s surprisingly quiet but I’m not sure if this is due to the fact it’s still the holiday season or the fact we’ve a 25-50% increase in capacity compared to what we would have had 2-3 years ago. Thos who like to snipe at railways in the North (yes, you Andy Burnham) would do well to remember just how many new or cascaded vehicles Northern’s been able to add to its fleet over the past few years.
I’m en-route to Leeds as I’m returning to London for part of the day to finish a commission, meet up with a colleague and also bag a few more library shots before heading North again to hopefully catch up with another friend and colleague in York, so I’ve a busy schedule. Let’s see how the day goes…
The 08:45 Leeds to Kings Cross Azuma is currently streaking across the Cambridgeshire fens at 123mph with me aboard. We’re 10 minutes late due to congestion at Doncaster earlier. Despite that, it’s been an excellent trip so far and the weather’s looking better than yesterday as there’s far less cloud around. I have to say, I really do like the performance of these Azuma’s. Not only to they go like stink but the ride is really good – especially when you’re sitting swiping at a laptop keyboard. My ‘spull chucker’ doesn’t get half the exercise it would if I was on a Mk3-4 set!
After a really spirited run where our driver managed to claw a few minutes back we’re in the tunnels approaching Kings Cross. It’s time for me to leg it across London again..
Having bitten the Buckinghan Palace cherry twice I made my circituitous way over to Liverpool St via walking to Charing Cross, train to London Bridge then a stroll across the river and through the city. The view across the Thames was worth it!
I’m now North of Peterborough after a day which didn’t plan out quite as expected, but was fun nonetheless! After wandering over to Liverpool St I met up with an old friend who’d just flown back into the UK from Croatia via ‘London Saarfend’ airport. So, naturally I welcomed him back to the tin-pot dictatorship formerly known as the UK and we promptly drowned our sorrows in a local pub named after Lord Aberconway, the last Chairman of the Metropolitan Railway.
After a few beers we parted company and I retraced my way North much in the way that I did yesterday. So much so that I’m now on LNER’s 17:55 from Stevenage to Harrogate HST, and frankly, it’s a nightmare compared to the Azuma I came down on. It’s taken me twice as long to type this as the bloody thing’s performing like a yacht in a force 10. Trying to type is like playing darts, you hope to hit the relevant key but the chances are minimal.
That’s the end of this rolling blog folks, I’m now back at home after a long but fun packed day. There’ll be no rolling blog tomorrow as I’m based at home, but expect a few pictures and commentary to appear. If I have time I’ll add some historical stuff too. G’night!