I’m preparing to head off to Halifax station for a journey to Barrow Hill for today’s TALGO press event. Let’s see how the day progresses…
I timed my walk to the station impeccably. As I crested the top of the hill above our house I arrived at the same time as a snowstorm! The weather often changes here as Spring Edge is the high point of the valley summit. After here it’s a long, gradual descent sll the way to Halifax town centre and the railway station. The snow was whipped by the wind and lasted for several minutes, leaving me (in my long black coat) looking like a Dalmation!
I arrived at the station with a few minutes to soare before the 07:07 to York arrived. This is being worked by a 3-car Class 195, so there’s been no struggle to get a seat. I’m now defrosting slowly in the warmth of the front coach.
Whilst I was waiting one of the new Hull – Halifax services arrived. In a sign of the times this was worked hy a 3-car Class 158, the type of units that were the backbone of Northern’s ‘express’ services before the CAF units arrived. The fact they can be spared and cascaded to secondary duties says a lot about the way the Northern fleet’s expanded. The train was almost empty when it terminated at Halifax, although I’ve no doubt its return trip will be profitable…
I’ve arrived at Leeds via the usual game of sitting outside waiting for a platform to become free…
I’m now rammed into the luggage area (formerly the shop) on a 4-car Voyager that’s running 9 mins late due to congestion between York-Leeds. The train’s packed with a mixture of long and short distance passengers. Folk heading down South of Birmingham as far as Plymouth whilst others are taking the short hop from Leeds to Wakefield. It’s one of my dislikes about the Cross-Country network. It’s neither fish nor fowl.
Having left Wakefield 10 mins late I’ve 25 mins to enjoy staring at this bulkhead..
At least my time in Leeds was profitable. The station was awash with new trains operated by Northern, LNER and TPE and passengers scurrying through the place, heads down or buried in scarves as they head to work on this cold winter’s day.
Phew! A busy few hours af Barrow Hill where Talgo handed over one of their former sleeper cars which were used on Madrid/Barcelona- Paris services. Fitted with the company’s unique Rodal independent wheel system they’ve never been seen in the UK before. I’ll blog about this event separately as it justifies it.
I’ve had another busy day at home scanning yet more old slides, whilst also preparing to move on to other activities this week. Tomorrow will see me back on the rails as I head to a press event at Barrow Hill near Chesterfield. All will be revealed in tomorrow’s rolling blog. In the meantime, if you want to have a look at the latest batch of Brazilian travel pictures, visit this gallery. If you want to see more of the vintage railway pictures from 1980, click on this link.
In between scanning pictures I’ve been keeping abreast of the world news and antics of social media. The health scare in China’s certainly having an impact on the world’s financial markets. The UK FTSE Index lost 2.29% of its value today, which is wiping out most of January’s gains. Not much fun if you’re an investor…
Still, social media provided some unintentional light hearted moments thanks to the latest shenanigan’s by the tiny bunch of StopHs2 protesters. They’ve been very quiet recently since their main protest camp at Harvil Rd was broken up as most of it’s been evicted, leaving them with nothing to film to bore social media with. But today they staged a comeback – of sorts, only not at Harvil Rd. A new camp has been started to ‘protect’ some trees and hedgerows that are being removed from along a road on the route at Offchurch, Warwickshire, but it’s all been a bit of a farce. Their ‘camp’ is a handful of tents but most of the land is already occupied and fenced off by contractors, so the work is continuing unhindered. StopHs2 have tried to make a meal of it on their website as their grandly titled ‘campaign manager’ Joe Rukin turned up to film earlier today. You can find the videos here on the StopHs2 website, but I can assure you you’re not missing much if you don’t bother!
As you can see from this screengrab, the handful of protestors are kept away by fencing which is looked after by security and police officers. Try and get in and you’re nicked – which three protesters were! The worksite continues for quite some way, which means the protesters are totally overstretched as there’s so few of them. Quite how any of this is meant to stop Hs2 is a mystery. If they can’t even stop minor work like hedgerows being removed they’re really going to struggle when the heavy equipment arrives!
No doubt farces like this will continue for a while yet, but they’ll achieve nothing. The protesters problem is that they’ve relied on social media for so long they’ve forgotten one simple thing. Twitter trolls and their fake accounts don’t exist in real life. They won’t turn up to protests, and neither will the ‘keyboard warriors’ on Facebook! The hastily reprogrammed pro Brexit bots that are keeping the #hs2 hashtag busy on Twitter are worse then useless when it comes to the real world…
Right, it’s time to say goodnight. I’ve got to be on a train at 07:20 in the morning, so watch out for tomorrow’s rolling blog, which will feature a rail vehicle of a type never seen in the UK before…
Considering that January is the month I’m normally trotting the globe I seem to have spent an awful lot of this year’s opening month sat at home staring at computer screens. I shouldn’t complain. The British weather has been pretty typical. It’s reminded me why I normally flee the UK now. It’s been predictably dull, but it has allowed me to make big inroads into scanning my old rail and travel pictures as I’ve scanned over 600 so for this month, which has freed up a not inconsiderable amount of space in my office! I’ll add a few samples later In this blog.
Whilst the weekend’s seen me busy at home I have been keeping an eye on the media and the continuing saga of HS2 as it’s played out in the press. The Fourth Estate have done themselves no favours in the way they’ve reported events. What’s sad (but predictable nowadays) is the way most of them (print or TV) can’t be arsed to do the slightest bit of independent research, so we’re into “send three and fourpence” territory (aka ‘Chinese whispers’) where the message gets distorted down the line. The FT originally reported an anonymous Government briefer who claimed the cost of HS2 was now £106bn. This was picked up and amplified by a cohort of lazy journalists who turned it into an official figure in a ‘secret’ report, when in fact it was total bollocks. The fact the National Audit Office then published an official report into HS2 and £106bn was never even mentioned (as it’s bollocks) matters not. Joe Public’s seen the figure mentioned and swallowed it, hook, line and sinker. Are these journalists apologetic? Are they hell as like. This is the ‘post truth’ world after all.
On the bright side, this whole furore does seem to have registered in Downing St where some people do seem to have realised they just might need to do something about this rubbish as it looks bad on them. The logical thing to do would be to release the Oakervee review which would show up that fact £106bn is bollocks, we’ll have to wait and see it that’s not just to sensible. In the meantime, it’s looking increasingly likely that the Government will be announcing HS2 will go ahead within the next couple of weeks – hence a lot of the froth we’re seeing in the general and social media as this really is the last chance saloon for the stophs2 campaign. Once phase 1 is given the go-ahead, they’re toast.
OK, enough of this. This theatre will play out over the next few weeks until the fat lady sings.
In the meantime, next week will be interesting for other reasons. I’ll be out and about at a couple of events next week – including volunteering for the Railway Children charity at this event, their sleepout on the 30th. Whilst this will be a fully supported fundraiser and I’m volunteering to help out, it’s a cause close to my heart. Plus, when I was a lot younger back in the 1970s-80s I’ve known just what it’s like to sleep rough on railway stations when you’ve nowhere else to go.
Now, it’s time for a change of tempo. I mentioned earlier about the pictures I’ve been scanning. I’ve been swapping between two albums. One’s old railway pictures from the 1980s whilst the other is travel shots from Brazil back in 2002. Here’s a couple of examples.
It’s a long time since Manchester Victoria looked like this! This particular picture was taken in May 1990. The area you’re seeing now has all disappeared under the arena. The platform I was stood on to take the picture still exists (it’s now platform 3) but everything else is long gone. The two locomotives were stabled in the roads that were used by engines that would push heavy freight trains up Miles Platting bank.
Now for a travel shot. Here’s the stunning island of Fernando de Noronha and the ‘Bay of Pigs’.
This morning the NAO released their latest report into the HS2 building programme. Like most NAO reports, it’s a solid piece of work that details dispassionately the project successes, failures and the challenges it faces as the UK cracks on with the biggest civil engineering project in Europe that’s going to be under construction for (potentially) the next 20 years. You can find the full report here.
Needlesss to say, the media and social media is already full of froth from people who’ve never even read the report, or at best, have skim-read its conclusions. No doubt some journo’s will trot out their usual trite appelation to claim the it’s a “damning” report (it isn’t. The NAO don’t do ‘damning’, they do sober assessments). You’ll also see ridiculous numbers North of £100bn bandied around, numbers that never appear in the NAO report at all and that have no official recognition. It says a lot about the febrile state of UK journalism that many (including the BBC) will regurgitate this spin. Nowadays it seems even supposedly respected organs like the BBC are merely parasites who lazily feed off other sections of the media to report what they say, rather than do some real research to report the actual facts.
So, what DOES the report say? Nothing that new, or earth-shattering. It’s simply an update on previous NAO reports that have highlighted the complexities and challenges of the HS2 project from its inception.
The report notes that the expected savings HS2 Ltd hoped to make haven’t materialised. Instead, there’s been an increase in costs for almost everything (bar the new trains themselves) – for multiple reasons.
These increases include mundane stuff like greater costs in moving utilities (cables, pipes etc) away from the route – which is hardly surprising as I don’t think any major project hasn’t suffered from this. The report also notes that significant costs have been added in the petitioning process by the Hybrid Bill Committee placating NIMBYs. Here’s what the report says, in their own words.
The irony? The NIMBYS who insisted that HS2 must be buried in tunnels or deep cuttings so they didn’t have to gaze upon it will be the same people who’ll now be screaming about the cost of HS2 rising! The rising costs and the reasons for them are summed up rather neatly in this table.
The report also details that costs have risen because the contractors recruited to deliver the construction of the project were expected to bear more of the financial risks than is usual – but that this is now being addressed.
What does the report say about the actual cost of HS2? Not unreasonably, it reports that this is still a figure liable to change, as is the timescale for opening. Here’s the details.
Note the final costs for the whole of HS2 are in the range of £65-88bn (including contingency). NOT £106bn! Of course you can guarantee much of the media will only use the higher of those two figures, whilst others will still insist on using the fictitious figures of £106-108bn which have no validity whatsoever. They’re certainly aren’t official figures.
What does all this do to the expected benefits of HS2 which are crudely calculated on a Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR). Here’s what the NAO say.
Until the figures are updated in the revised business case, HS2 is now regarded as poor value for money, but not so poor as StopHs2 claim, as they’ve invented a 60p in the pound figure, whilst the NAO say it’s 1:1.4! No surprise there then! Of course, as this is an NAO report, there’s a lot of things it doesn’t cover. What these bare figures don’t do is look at what would happen if we don’t build HS2. What would be the costs of the rail gridlock that would lead to, and how would we meet our targets to cut carbon emissions when we’d no loner have the means to get modal shift from road/air to rail? These are crucial matters, but not within the purview of the report. Neither will it mention that the OECD recommends that baseline infra investment is 5.5% of GDP annually for an economy with aspirations to growth. We have only spent this amount twice since WW2 leaving us woefully behind other developed (and developing) countries when it comes to infrastructure.
It doesn’t talk of the wider political aspects of building HS2 or the merits of doing so, such as the Governments aims of rebalancing the economy. That’s not the NAO’s job either – although that won’t stop some of the more bizarre claims and speculation from the pundits.
What we can see from the report is a sober assessment of where the HS2 project has got to so far and the challenges it faces over the next few years as it goes from design to (finally) construction. A decision to go-ahead will be made next month. The report assumes construction will begin in March 2020.
This won’t be the last report the NAO do on HS2. They’ll be keeping an eye of the project right through to completion when they’ll then look at the question of value for money. Their reports always make interesting reading as they’re authorititive and free of hyperbole or politicking. Now, watch how the media spins it…
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Today’s been another one where I’ve been tied to the office as I’ve continued to make inroads into scanning my old slide library in order to get them onto my Zenfolio website. Mind you, it does free up an awful lot of physical space too – and now they can be seen by anyone and I can access them anywhere!
Yesterday I added another batch of old rail pictures from 1990. This morning I was up at Sparrowfart to start scanning more travel pictures from Brazil, this time from the Island of Fernando de Noronha which I was lucky enough to visit in 2002. I have to say it’s been one of my favourite Islands. It’s pretty unique and (at least in those day) unspoilt. It’s now a world Heritage and conservation site and the main reasons to go there are to enjoy the wild coastlines, beautiful beaches and the flora and fauna. I must admit, scanning these pictures is really giving me itchy feet! Anyway, here’s a link to the gallery. I’ve still plenty more pictures to add and I’ll alternate them with the railway shots.
Here’s a selection of both as a sample.
Whilst scanning archive pictures I’ve also been keeping abreast of various news. Originally I thought I might need to take a trip down to London today to visit the latest national StopHs2 protest, but as I predicted the other day – it’s turned into a damp squib that wasn’t worth bothering with. If it had happened it would have been the first national StopHs2 demonstration since 2004. As it is, the Stop Hs2 website lowered expectations yesterday when they published this excuse.
“On Wednesday, Elizabeth Cairns and Matt Bishop invite you to join them in Parliament. This event will NOT be happening in Portcullis House, no matter what Facebook says, and there is no rally in outside Parliament either. Stop HS2 will also be launching our latest briefing for MPs that day, but that is a separate thing, so sorry for any confusion as the two things got a bit mixed up!”
Really? So what WILL be happening? Not a lot it seems. This is a classic example of someone writing cheques they can’t cash. I don’t think Ms Cairns actually understood what this entailed. Hence this…
“I’m asking people to come as individuals, to use your democratic right to visit parliament, lobby your MP and make your voice heard. I will be there with my family from 11am and plan to stay in the public spaces (st Stephens hall) peacefully as long as I am able to be there and welcome anyone who wishes to join me.“
OK, so no-one’s actually made an appointment to see their MP then? By the way, here’s today’s Order paper. Somehow, I think many MPs may have better tings to do…
Later, this video appeared on Facebook. Apparently, all of 6 MPs were lobbied and that was a ‘success’. Excuse me if I’m underwhelmed! Meanwhile, back in the wider world, Grant Shapps, the Transport Minister has yet again confirmed that an announcement on Hs2 will be made next month.
Daft anti HS2 stuff aside I was saddened to hear that today, yet another of the Monty Python team has passed away. We lost Neil Innes at the end of last year. Today, Terry Jones joined the choir invisible after battling a rare form of dementia since 2017. There’s so much that I could write about this subject, but this isn’t the blog to do it in. Suffice to say I feel so much for Terry’s family. It’s an awful thing to happen. Dementia and mental illness rob you of the person you loved. It takes their essence and leaves a husk. Personally (having experienced lost a for few loved ones in my time) I think it’s one of the worst things to have to cope with. My heart goes out to them, but I’m also grateful that Terry (and Neil) have left us all with so many happy memories – and a huge amount of laughs!
The traditional day of rest has been anything but for me as I was up at 07:30 this morning in order to scan yet another batch of old travel slides which I’d set up in readiness the night before. This selection were from a trip to Brazil and I’m making good progress getting through the two albums which have been sitting in the archives since 2002. Many of them have never seen the light of day since but now they’re appearing on my Zenfolio website in this gallery. So far I’ve managed to scan all the pictures from Rio de Janeiro. Now I’ve moved on to the historical town of Olinda in Pernambuco state before the next batch which will be of the fantastic island nature park of Fernando de Noronha. Here’s a couple of samples from today’s batch.
Hopefully I’ll have this albums fully scanned in a couple of weeks, then it’s time to move on to another set of old railway slides. On Saturday we visited Dawn’s parents who’ve been keeping many of the albums in safe storage for me. I’ve now dug out four albums of rail images from 1990 to 1992 so this next batch really are stepping back in time, nearly 30 years in fact!
Besides rooting through the archives we’ve both been busy with more mundane chores around the house which was rather frustrating as the day had started as one of those perfect frosty winter mornings with wall to wall sunshine, but there was no time to drop everything and head out for a ramble as we’ve both got too many things to do. The law of Sod often guarantees that there’ll be perfect walking weather on the weekends you’re busy, then it’ll be raining cats and dogs when you’re at a loose end…
Never mind, I’m hoping to get out a couple of times this next week although the weather looks like a mixed bag.
Talking of the weather I noticed that it put a bit of a damper on the latest instalment of the saga that’s the StopHs2 protest at Harvil Rd. There was meant to be three days of protests at the site starting last Friday, but it’s not exactly caught the media’s eye. That’s because only a few dozen people turned up on Saturday and many of them were day-trippers. Quite how these weekend warriors are meant to stop Hs2 is a mystery as the vast majority of them will have faded away by Monday after making their video’s and pretending they’ve actually achieved something. Then it’s back to business as usual with contractors continuing work on the site. It’s all pretty pointless, all the protesters are doing is wasting time and money, but that’s life.
Apoarently, despite the fact the tiny area still available to the protesters resembled the Somme, the group that dress up in red to pose in order to attract media attention were there. Quite what the point is has always been unclear.
“I say Prime Minister, I’ve just seen a tiny group of protesters dressed in red sheets pretending to be Marcel Marceau whilst stood in a muddy wood. It’s made me realise we don’t need HS2 after all and we should scrap it” – said no MP, ever…
Meanwhile, the clock keeps ticking towards an announcement from Government about Hs2 getting the final go-ahead. Expect that next month.
Apparently, there’s meant to be a StopHs2 rally at Parliament on Wednesday, but it doesn’t seem to be gaining much interest. Somehow I can’t see the Metropolitan Police cancelling any leave over it, or coach firms suddenly being inundated with bookings to ferry the demonstrators to London. We shall see…
We’ve had a fun 24 hours here in the Calder Valley due to storm Brendan which has brought with it lashes of rain and high winds as well as dismal skies that have reduced us to half-light. The camera has stayed firmly in its bag and apart from forays on foot to go shopping and get some exercise I’ve been pretty much glued to the office.
This morning I was up at 6am as Dawn had an early start. This gave me the opportunity to try and integrate back into the library some of the old slides I had back from picture agencies a couple of years back. They’ve gone back into the albums they were taken from in an effort to give me some continuity. In order to save space (and time) I’m weeding out duplicate images. The problem with slides was that I used to back up pictures by taking 2-3 shots that were exactly the same. This served a dual purpose. If the original got damaged or lost I had a back-up. I could also send one to a picture library whilst keeping another version for myself. Of course, in the digital age such redundancy is, well, redundant! Now I can duplicate an image with a click of a mouse!
The stuff I’ve had returned covers many different subjects. Apart from all the travel shots and rail images one of the libraries I contributed to was a social issues picture agency based in Brixton called Photofusion. The stuff I placed with them covered a rainbow of subjects, from Housing (which I still worked in at the time) to UK travel, politics, demonstrations like the miners strikes or Iraq War and festivals like Gay Pride. Looking back at the pictures makes me realise that – if nothing else – I’ve certainly had an interesting life and covered an awful lot of things in my time! I’m looking forward to getting most of them scanned, although a few are destined for the bin as the things they covered have little relevance today. It’s a sad waste and another advantage of digital. When I consider how much each of those mounted slides cost me to take and the mountain of plastic waste they’re reduced to I wish I’d switched to digital long before I did.
Here’s a few of today’s scans spanning the years from the early 1990s to the 2000s, just to give you an idea of what I have in the archive. First up is a May day protest in central London back in 2001. These events could get out of control quite quickly so the police always turned up dressed up in full riot gear to make a point. As a photographer it could get quite hairy as you were in the thick of it, with police on one side and demonstrators on the other. This photo shows a stand-off between protestors and riot police outside the John Lewis store in Oxford St. As you can see, the copper to the left wasn’t too pleased to see me!
Here’s an earlier shot taken in 1992 – although it looks like it could have been the early 1980s. This is a miners demonstration in London, protesting about the mass closure of some of the remaining UK pits – strange as that might seem now when climate-change is the most important issue that faces us and the days of ‘King Coal’ are long gone. In the photo is Tony Benn MP, NUM President Arthur Scargill and Dennis Skinner MP. Like the May day demonstration I’ve a large archive of pictures of this event to scan (one day). The miners were very well organised and also media savvy. A group of them worked with photographers to ensure you got the shots you both needed. They’d escort you out in front of the procession leaders and guide you so that you could face backwards getting the shots you wanted before moving you on so the next photographer could get their shots.
Of course I should mention that in the days when these photographs were taken I’d no idea that I was eventually going to change career and become a professional photographer. Then I was a rep for my trade union (NALGO, the local Government Officers Union, or ‘Not A Lot Going On’ as it was sometimes referred to!) and involved in producing the newsletter. I took these pictures because I was interested in photography and social issues, not for a moment thinking that one day this would become my career.
– and now for something completely different, and a lot more camp! Lynn and I would often attend the annual Gay Pride parade in London with friends. When I first met Lynn she worked for the AIDs charity the Terrence Higgins Trust. Needless to say, we made a lot of friends through her work and ‘Pride’ was always a good day out and chance to catch up with people. In 1995 the parade used Victoria Park in East London not far from where we were living, so naturally, we dropped in! This particular couple were spectacular, and this was before Elton John got married in similar style 9 years later…
Time to go back to trains for my final picture which shows how much the railways have changed. Here’s an old Class 508 electric train used by Connex arriving at Maidstone West on the 7th March 2002. Built by British Railways for suburban services out of Waterloo they were transferred to Merseyside. Some surplus units made the trek South once more and ended up working South-Eastern services, first for Connex and later South-Eastern Trains. The SET units remained in service until 2008.
I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane and through elements of social history. If you want to see the full selection of pictures you can find them on my Zenfolio website. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I get around to scanning the rest but as I’ve 1000s to get through we may all need to be patient. I’ve spent a few hours tonight weeding out duplicates from another travel album which includes shots from New Zealand, the UK, India and Denmark. They might not get scanned for a while, but at least they’re taking up a lot less room…
Yet again social media has rather blown up in the faces of those opposed to HS2. This time because of an unguarded comment by one of their own. You may remember they’ve been desperate to talk up the opposition to HS2 on the ground by pretending there’s some sort of groundswell of opposition that’s seen protest camps spring up all over the phase 1 route of HS2. Of course (as usual) the truth is rather different. Students of history may remember the way Allied forces in World War 2 used inflatable models of tanks and aircraft to fool enemy reconnaissance aircraft. Stop Hs2 seemed to be trying the same stunt at Harvil Rd by setting up tents, hoping that people might then assume there were more protesters than there really were. When the Bailiffs arrived to evict the camp they counted over two dozen tents and structures. There was only one problem (for the protestors at least). Sod-all were occupied. How do we know? Firstly, because all the video’s released of the evictions by the protesters show hardly any protestors present. Then this slipped out on Facebook today.
“only seven people were on site”…
Not exactly what you’d call much of a protest, is it? Just seven people, and two of them are the same old names – Mark Kier and Sarah Green. That leaves just five others holding the ‘fort’ (and I use that term loosely) as those two are often away playing silly buggers at stunts/court appearances around London, or when Kier was meant to be election campaigning in Uxbridge!
Considering that Harvil Rd is a stones throw from London, this is the best they can do? Half a dozen people and a few ‘weekend warriors’? Yet over 2.5 million people live in the constituencies Phase 1 of HS2 passes through.
Whichever way you cut it, it’s clear these protests are not going to stop HS2 in the slightest. They’re more like flea-bites, minor irritations that are soon dealt with. Many of them, like Chris Packham’s middle-class stroll along a muddy footpath with a few hundred people the other week, are just PR stunts, not a serious attempt to interfere in the building of HS2.
I can’t see the other four camps having any greater success as the same will happen. One day the Bailiff’s and Police will turn up without warning to take possession of the land and then it’s ‘Goodnight Vienna’ for the protest.
Somehow, I don’t think anyone in the corridors of power, or at the Department of Transport in Westminster or HS2 Ltd in Birmingham are going to be losing much sleep over these protests. Apparently, this coming weekend a four day long series of protests is meant to be held at what’s left of the Harvil Rd camp in a classic example of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted!
Talking of protests, there’s also this one in London on January 22nd, although I can’t see this setting the world alight either. I’ll be interested to see how many people actually bother turning up.
Meanwhile, in the real world, a decision from the Government on giving HS2 the go-ahead is expected any time now. The latest round of speculation is that the Oakervee review and the go-ahead for HS2 will be announced at the same time at the beginning of February, just after the UK has formally left the EU and the clock begins ticking on the transition period. Let’s face it, the Government’s going to be desperate for some good economic news once that happens and announcing the fact we’re going ahead with HS2 would fit the bill.
The sunshine, that is. Yesterday’s glorious weather appears to have been a flash in the pan. Today dawned in the traditional pattern with low cloud and haze obscuring the view of the valley. Remarkably, considering the thunderous grey clouds that clung to the horizon like an invading army, we didn’t get any rain until just before dusk. Then, the heavens opened! I wouldn’t have minded so much if we hadn’t been out food shopping, so we got caught in the downpour. It’s remarkable just how wet you can get when you’re making a 100 metre dash with shopping bags!
Having got home neither of us have any intention of venturing out again. Instead, I’m happy in the kitchen, trying out a new curry recipe from Rick Stein’s Indian book. Right now the chicken’s cooking slowly and there’s a wonderful smell of cinnamon, star anise fenugreek and garlic permeating to house – with just that tang of chilli catching your nose and throat when I open the kitchen door.
Whilst Dawn was visiting friends this morning I’ve not been idle. I managed to get through editing all yesterdays pictures, so here’s a couple more samples. You can find the full collection on my Zenfolio website if you follow this link.
Here’s the changing face of the railways in the North. One of Trans-Pennine Express new ‘Nova’ 2 5-car bi-mode trains leaves Leeds bound for Liverpool Lime St. It’s passing one of the new CAF built 3-car diesel trains built for Northern. Despite what you hear about a lack of investment in trains in the North these two train orders come to over a billion pounds. Both reflect an increase in train lengths and the number of seats on offer, as well as free wifi, plug sockets and more.
Of course it’s not just TPE and Northern that have brought new trains to Yorkshire, so has LNER. their new ‘Azuma’ fleet has already taken over the majority of services From Leeds Harrogate, Skipton and Wakefield to London.
Sadly, looking at the weather forecast for the week I’m going to be lucky to find such good weather anywhere near to home. Even further afield is looking iffy, so I you may be treated to more old slide scans until the weather picks up.
Right, it’s time to eat. Whilst I’ve been scribbling this the chicken curry has cooked – and it’s looking good…
I’m preparing to venture out on the rails for the first time this year – which is rather a long gap for me, but then 2020’s been a busy year so far. The sun looks like it’s going to play ball even if the trains possibly won’t. I’ve just looked up the real time performance of my two local operators and seen that Northern is currently running 84% of it’s services on time whilst TPE is propping up the bottom of the national league with just 63% on time and a whopping 25% either cancelled or more than 30 mins late. There’s a very useful website which uses Network Rail data to track the different companies performance throughout the day. You can find it here.
Let’s see how I get on today, and where I end up. I’ve a list of shots I need in mind, how many will I manage to get I wonder…
The walk into Halifax this morning was gorgeous due to the crisp weather and glorious sunshine. Here’s how the station looked this morning, with one of Northern’s new Class 195s arriving on a service to Blackpool.
The new units were much in evidence today. I’m now on the 10:38 to Leeds which is made up of a pair of 2-car 195s. So far I’ve only seen one old BR unit – a 153 working the Bradford – Huddersfield shuttle.
Of course this step-change in the quality of trains goes unremarked in certain political arenas. If you listened to some of the elected Mayors you’d think the Pacers were still prevelent.
I abandoned the CAF trains at Bradford Interchange and strolled across this much-maligned city to Forster Square, admiring the city’s magnificent Victorian buildings on the way. I love the quality of winter sunshine with its richness and warmth. It’s without the harshness or blue tones of summer sun and it was showing off Bradford’s buildings to their best. I paused en-route to grab a couple of pictures and I’ll add one later as an illustration.
Right now I’m sat on one of the venerable Class 321 electric units which will ship me to Shipley. Despite the arrival of the CAF 331s these remain in service.
Sadly, by the time I got to Shipley tragedy had struck. A person had been struck by a train in the Skipton area, so many Aire valley Leeds services were being cancelled. The next two for Leeds were, so I’m now on a 322 that was turned back at Keighley.
I’m assuming (but don’t know) this was a suicide as January’s always a bad month for such incidents on the railways. My thoughts go out to the unfortunate train crew and the families involved.
Having spent the best part of an hour getting pictures at Leeds I’m on the move again, this time to York aboard a Trans-Pennine Express Class 802. Unlike their trains I’m used to, this one has plenty of spare seats. I’ve even managed to bag a table to myself.
Leeds was interesting because of the sheer variety of traction you can see there. I suspect it has more variety than almost any other UK station, especially now Northern and TPE have diversified their fleets.
York was enjoyable as the winter light made for some great photo opportunities, plus there was plenty of traction variety that allowed me to tick off a few library shots. Rather than keep repeating the same images I also nipped down to Church Fenton but didn’t stay as the shadows were lengthening, making the pictures I wanted difficult. Church Fenton’s an odd place as it seems like it’s little more than a dormitory town for York or Leeds. It still boasts a four platform station as it maintains its status as a railway junction. In fact, it’ll grow in importance in that regard as this is where the spur of the new HS2 line from Leeds will join existing tracks to take HS2 service on into York and up to Newcastle. Several years ago there was a small StopHs2 ‘action’ group here but like most such groups they’ve faded away. I’ve not seen anything from them for years now.
I’m now heading back to Halifax on Northern’s 16:57 to Bkackpool North which is being worked by a totally inadequate 2-car Class 158/9. It’s absolutely rammed with 15 of us wedged in the leading vestibule gehind the driver’s cab.
I’d be interested to know where it stops but the onboard PIS tells me nothing useful apart from the fact we’re going to Blackpool North. The rest of its time is taken up with pointless stuff about security, reading safety information and telling you not to vape. The Conductor’s not made any announcements either. Thankfully, we stopped at New Pudsey, where the sardine-like conditions eased.
And relax! I’m back at home, plugging in the camera to the computer ready to download today’s pictures and add a few to the blog shortly. Despite the fun and games it’s been an instructive day. Despite the doom and gloom you hear about trains in the North there’s real signs of improvement. The hated Pacers are rapidly being displaced. I only saw a handful of sets today, a couple at Leeds and the same at York. There’s more and more of the new CAF units about, taking over routes like Blackpool North – York and many Leeds – Manchester services where they run as four cars. The 4-car electric version’s appearing more and more too. Its the same story on Trans-Pennine where the loco hauled 5-car sets are being rolled out, along with the Hitachi built Class 802 bi-modes working more Newcastle-Liverpool Lime St services. All these new trains are providing extra services and more seats, but the downside is the fall in reliability and punctuality. the problems due to staff training and unfamiliarity with new trains will soon pass (as they always do). The big problem is the infrastructure constraints and timetables that can’t be delivered because of that. What our politicians of any political hue won’t admit is that changing the name of the operator on the side of the train won’t fix the problems.