Despite all their bluster it’s clear that one group are having a lousy election and that’s what’s left of the StopHs2 ‘campaign’. For years they’ve tried to pretend they have the support of the majority of the public and that HS2 is an election issue. Their problem is that every election since 2010 has proved that’s nothing but hot air. This election’s no different.
There’s been no daft #NoVotesForYouWithHS2 hashtag on Twitter this year, nor any StopHs2 adverts in newspapers or magazines as the ‘campaign’ is skint. What there has been has been reduced to some ludicrous bluster on Twitter. Here’s a couple of examples.
“Hundreds of thousands” eh? Well that should give the Greens and Brexit party a bounce in the polls, eh?
Meanwhile, there’s this rubbish from one Stephen Leary who lives in Measham, NW Leics and fancies himself as a political pundit!
Leary’s bored Twitter to death by telling people in constituencies miles away from the Hs2 route who they can vote for to oppose HS2 – as if they haven’t got more important things on their minds this election! I’m sure they’ve been talking about nothing else in Worcester, Woolwich or Wood Green! I mean, forget Brexit, or the NHS. Well, in Leary’s febrile imagination that’s what they’re doing anyway! Meanwhile, in the real world, the ‘Britain Elects’ website has been monitoring the standing of the parties in the many polls. Here’s their summary from yesterday.
So much for Deeley’s “hundreds of thousands” of HS2 antis and Leary’s desperate digging up of political no-hopers like the SDP (who? Ed). The two national parties who oppose HS2, the Greens and Brexit party are languishing at the bottom of the chart. How many seats are they projected to win? None at all. The Greens will hang on to their one existing South Coast seat whilst the Brexit party won’t win anything anywhere.
So much for all the bluster! Hs2 antis have supplied all the bounce of a dead cat to the parties that oppose HS2! Whichever party or parties form the next Government support building the new railway.
Something else HS2 anti have been reticent to mention is this interview Boris Johnson gave to the Metro newspaper. It says.
“BORIS JOHNSON has said he will back HS2 — as long as the Oakervee Review does so too.“
As the leaked draft of the Oakervee report does exactly that, I think we can see which way the wind’s blowing – the direction that’s going to take the wind out of Stophs2’s sails completely…
Today I’m heading back to Southport, the town where I grew up to see my sister and (belatedly) celebrate her birthday. Needless to say, I’m going by rail, so stay with me and see how the day goes as I’m stopping off on the way (albeit briefly) to visit the friends of Hindley station and their Xmas Fayre…
Having walked down to Sowerby Bridge staion and picked up my coffee from the Jubilee refreshment rooms (in one of their fully biodegradable cups) I’m ready to roll.
Shame the train isn’t. The 11:06 is already 4 mins late. Still, it could have been worse. I could have been waiting for the 11:22 to Chester. That’s been cancelled!
In the end the 11:06 turned up just a couple of minutes late. It’s worked by a schizophrenic Class 150. Number 109 was transferred to Northern from W Midlands Trains. It still bears their livery on the outside but on the inside the seats have the new Nothern mocquette! A 2-car on a Saturday is less than ideal. It’s already full and standing with several busy stations to call at before arrival in Manchester.
I’m still on the same train as it was late into Manchester, so I missed my connection. We’re currently trundling along the old Lancashire and Yorkshire main line from Manchester to Wigan via Atherton. Once four tracked, it passed through a landscape studded with collieries. Now all are gone. I’ve been traversing the route for half a century and remember how industrial the area once was but little remains to stand out now other than the odd red-brick cotton mill.
Having changed trains at Wigan Wallgate I’m now doubling back to Hindley aboard one of an endangerd species. The Northern Rail ‘Pacer’…
This one’s in original condition with the small destination blind and bus-style seats. Personally, I’d rather have one of these than a Class 150, but I know I’m in a minority here!
I’ve had an interesting couple of hours in Hindley. It’s their Christmas market today, so I popped in to say hello to Sheila Davidson of the station friends group, who was looking after a stall there. The community spirit is still strong in this former mining town , as anyone who’s ever met Sheila and the friends of Hindley station will know.
The Xmas market was really busy. There were fairground rides for the kids. A stage on which a young girl with a decent voice was belting out tunes, an inflatable pub and dozens of stalls. One that caught my eye was the Mayflower brewery who’re based in the town. They do a variety of locally themed bottled beers with names like ‘Douglas Valley’ and ‘Wigan Bier’! I tried the Douglas Valley, which is a light, hoppy pale ale and ended up buying some.
My visit was fleeting and I’m now on the train to Southport. One thing I did notice about Hindley was how choked with traffic it was. Cars were queuing all the way from the centre of town as far back as the railway station.
The train I’m on now is one of Northern’s refurbished Class 150s. It’spart of a pair and it’s already in a bit of a state. The seats are dirty, there’s empty beer bottles strewn around and the disabled toilet is out of action – which doesn’t bode well for a Saturday night service!
I’m now onboard yet another Class 150, making my way East to Yorkshire after a lovely afternoon catching up with my sister and an unexpected appearance by my elder brother John. It was far too long since we’ve been together, but life often puts obstacles in the way.
I’ve changed trains at Manchester Victoria, where it’s the usual Saturday night mayhem as passengers (many inebriated) search for their trains. The information screens add to the chaos. I’m now stood on the 21:58 to Leeds, only the PIS was advertising it as the 22:04 to Blackburn until a few minutes before it left, causing the dispatch staff loads of hassle…
22:13.I’m stood in a 75mph ‘Dogbox’ (a single car class 153 to the uninitiated) tacked onto the rear of a 90mph Class 158. Not that it matters much on this route as 90 mph is purely aspirational!
Needless to say, the train’s full – even after calling at Rochdale, but the atmosphere’s jolly. Unusually, nany folk are doing the unheard of nowadays. They’re actually talking (even to strangers) rather than staring, trance-like at their Smartphones.
I’m back in London today for a book launch and heading down early to do a few other things beforehand. Unfortunately, it’s not a vintage day on the rails. Dawn had a phone-call from a colleague, telling her that they’d be working from home today as a person had been hit by a train at Brighouse, causing many cancellations and uncertainty. This made me change my plans too so I hitched a lift with Dawn into Huddersfield and eschewed the idea of heading down the East Coast by heading for Manchester instead. As usual Trans-Pennine Express services are running late by around 15 mins. The situation doesn’t imorove when the Manchester Piccadilly service I was catching was terminated short at Stalybridge in order to work a service back to Hull. Needless to say, the one following behind it is late too, leaving a lot of disconsolate passengers hiding in the waiting room from the cold weather. The sunshine we had in Yorkshire’s refused to travel this side of the Pennines!
Northern Rail always cop the flak for delays but in my experience TPE are just as bad – yet they seem to escape the same levels of criticism, which has always puzzled me.
The 10:53 has been further delayed until 11:12. To add insult to injury, several TPE’s have passed through on their way to Piccadilly non-stop.
I’m finally on my way to London after taking a slight detour when I got to Manchester. In the adjacent platform was a pair of the old BR ‘Pacer’ trains in original condition with the bus-type seats. As they’ve little time left I took a spin on them out to Guide Bridge in order to get a few pictures.
Now I’m on very different traction, one of Virgin Trains 11-car Pendolino’s which could be my final trip with the company as their franchises ends on Sunday after 22 years. Personally, I’ll be sad to see them go but I’m looking forward to seeing what the new ‘Avanti’ franchise will bring to the network.
We’ve just sped through Nuneaton on our way South and the weather’s picked up again to leave us with a sunny but cold day. My train’s only about 45% full, so I’m sharing a table bay of four with another chap who’s busy bashing away on the keys on his laptop in a similar fashion to me. Most folk in this car seem to be travelling for business, so it’s a very quiet coach. The only noise to be heard is the gentle thrum of the air conditioning as it fights against the exterior temperature to keep the coach warm.
Since arriving in London I’ve been busy taking pictures around Euston station and the nearby streets, documenting the changes that High Speed 2 (HS2) is bringing. That said, the station itself feels very different now it’s full of de-branded Pendolinos and Voyagers. I’ve been taking pictures here since the 1980s and seen several changes over the years, but the scope of HS2 is on an entirely different scale! I’ll add links to all the pictures when I have time, but here’s a couple for now.
Phew! After a busy few hours I’m heading back to Yorkshire with my Grand Central train just pulling into Doncaster. The book launch went really well and was attended my many senior people from across the industry as well as many journalists and safety experts. Here’s a couple of shots from the event.
The fun’s not over yet. It seems the fun and games at Brighouse this morning were actually caused by an engineers train splitting the points at Greetland Jn, leaving the direct route to Halifax unusable. To get around the orobkem my Geand Central service is running to Hebden Bridge, where it’ll reverse and head back to Halifax via Milner Royd Jn.
Another varied week’s kicked off with sub-zero temperatures here in West Yorkshire, leaving me glad that much of the day’s been spent working from home in the warmth as it’s perishing out there! I do have to venture out this afternoon as it’s the Friends of Mytholmroyd stations annual Christmas carol concert. Children from the local schools have return outing on the train to the Jubilee refreshment rooms at Sowerby Bridge to sing carols on and meet Santa Claus, whilst yours truly volunteers to take the pictures. Here’s one from last year. It’s always a jolly event and afterwards the adults adjourn to the Shoulder of Mutton pub in Mytholmroyd for pie and peas and something to keep the cold out!
In an entirely different vein I came across this crass bit of election stupidity on Twitter earlier, posted by Jane Smith, who’s standing in Congleton on an animal rights ticket. She also opposes HS2 and decided that hanging around standing on a foot crossing across a busy railway line near Alsager to have her picture taken would be a good way to try and score political points. Instead she scored an own goal…
To say that people in the rail industry get annoyed at these pictures would be an understatement – as Ms Smith found out after I retweeted it with a critical comment and many rail staff took to Twitter to express both their annoyance and disgust. The tweet has now been deleted. I expect her political career will be just as short-lived.
I’ll blog some more and add a few pictures from tonight’s festivities later today, so watch this space…
It’s been a cracking (if freezing) evening. I headed over to Mytholmroyd in good time to rendezvous with the groups at the station before catching the train. What’s lovely to see with these events is the cross-co-operation between different station friends groups. People from Mytholmroyd, Brighouse and Bentham station friends all turned up on the night as well as staff from Northern Rail. Here’s a few photo’s from the evening.
It feels rather surreal realising that we’re already in December. The year seems to have flashed past so quickly. The arrival of a new month has also seen the return of the sunshine. We’ve a beautifully crisp winters day here in the Calder Valley, although we won’t be seeing much of it as the pair of us are off to Manchester by train to do some Christmas shopping. Hopefully the exercise will work off some of the fantastic food we enjoyed at The Engine last night.
I’ll post a few pictures and comments through the day as time allows.
We’re on our way on a packed 3-car from Sowerby Bridge, with 7 of us sharing a vestibule. At least there’s tip-up seats in the vestibules of these old 158s so it’s not too bad! Mind you, we’ll be calling at several stations on the way, so this train could be quite ‘cosy’ by Manchester…
My prediction came true by Hebden Bridge where dozens more joined us including a cyclist who just managed to squeeze her bike into the last available space.
We added more variety at Todmorden where a chap boarded carrying a 5ft tall Xmas tree, it’s not wrapped up either! Luckily he boarded at the other end of the train!
There’s now 10 of us in this vestibule, including the Conductor, who’s doing the doors from here. To add even more variety whe’ve been joined by several children, including one dressed as the Incredible Hulk, complete with green facepaint!
Thank God we’re ‘fast’ from Rochdale, as there’s not a square inch of space left on this train. The kids are stowed away in the luggage rack and people are holding on to watever they can as we rattle and roll our way into the city…
It’s amazing how many people you can fit on a 158!
I hate shopping at this time of year when the city’s packed. Whilst the atmosphere around the Christmas market is lovely it’s a pain in the arse trying to tour the shops in search of what you want – especially when you can’t find it! In the end we did manage to salvage something from the day and ticked off a couple of items from our lists, but not much! Having exhausted our patience the pair of us adjourned to a favourite haunt in the Northern Quarter for a drink in order to gird our loins for the trip home.
Sadly, our cunning plan backfired as we arrived at the station to see our train was absolutely rammed to the gunwhales, leaving many of us unable to get on. As the next one wasn’t for another jour there was only one option that made sense – another pub and chance to explore a bit more of the Christmas market.
We’re now sat on the 18:57 to Sowerby Bridge, having arrived in plenty of time to get on this time. It was just as rammed on leaving, but we were first in the queue. It’s another 3-car Class 158 which is going to make it popular with the homeward-bound pub crowd later as the toilet door doesn’t lock!
Bliss! We’re finally home in the warm and out of the freezing cold. The mercury’s really dropping tonight and it looks like we’re in for another cold one. The Council’s gritting lorries have been busy and many of the roads have had a layer of salt since the early hours of this morning. I always wonder why it is we still use something so corrosive nowadays. Many of the buildings here that are close to the road bear the scars as the stone is eaten away by the salt splashback as vehicles drive past.
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…
I’ve spent so much time at home recently due to the foul weather and my determination to catch up on paperwork and scanning old slides that I think our cat’s getting fed up of me getting under his feet (isn’t that normally the other way around? Ed). Thankfully, there’s a number of events on the horizon that’ll see me out and about a lot more over the next couple of weeks including a few jaunts back South to London and the South-East for both work and social reasons . I must admit that I’m starting to yearn for sunnier climes but I can’t see any chance of getting away until next year now – there’s simply too much to do. Once the dust has settled on the results of the general election I’ll have a better idea of my options. Such as – will it be planning for a holiday, or looking to seek political asylum away from Brexit Britain? It’s a good job I’ve been concentrating on scanning old rail slides at the moment rather than the 1000s of travel pictures I have, otherwise I’d really be feeling sick. Images of places like Wigan create little in the way of itchy feet compared to some of the exotic stuff I’ve got in the queue like Brazil, Indonesia or Tanzania. Here’s a good example why. Now, this is no dig at Wigan per-se (Honestly Sheila!) as I have exactly the same sort of shot of Clapham Junction in London, but this is what a shit-tip our railways looked like in 2002.
Thankfully thinks have changed dramatically. It’s not that folk don’t still sometimes throw rubbish onto the tracks, it’s the fact Network Rail continually clean them and TOC staff no longer sweep crap off the platforms onto the rails as if it’s no longer their problem. Images like this remind me more of Indian railway stations than UK ones nowadays.
Expect one last update of 2002 slides tomorrow, then I’m firmly back in the present day…
The weather here in West Yorkshire has continued the miserable run that we’ve had for several days now. Most of the day the other side of the Calder valley’s been half-hidden in the murk or had the valley tops disappear completely in low cloud. This gloomy weather does nothing to lift the spirits, nor does the persistent rain encourage one to venture out. Luckily, I’ve not had to. Jet (our cat) and I have stayed warm and dry at home, him in his basket and I in the office from 06:30 this morning, clearing up paperwork and scanning dozens of old rail slides from 2002. If there’s one silver lining about the weather, this is it – I’m making steady progress getting the old pictures (many of which have never been seen by anyone but me) onto my Zenfolio website after 17 years sitting around in albums. Here’s a small selection of the ones that have been added in the past 24 hours.
The weather forecast for tomorrow’s looking even worse than today, although I’m not sure If I’ll have time to scan anymore old slides as I’ve other things that need my attention. That said, you never know. I’ve just 50 left to scan from the present album, so maybe by tomorrow night…
In the meantime, if you want to have look at the full selection that I’ve added to my Zenfolio website, follow this link, which will take you to the ‘recent’ section and show you which galleries they’ve been added to as there’s quite a mixture.
Expect some modern pictures as I get out and about on my travels later in the week.
Well- known TV presenter and environmentalist Chris Packham has continually made the statement that HS2 is causing the biggest deforestation programme since World War 1. Here’s one of his tweets from today, making exactly that claim.
There’s only one problem with it, which is this…
I’ve been doing something Packham clearly hasn’t bothered to do and researched the evidence for his claim. I started off with this website from the Conservation Volunteers which contains a history of British woodland. They have a handy section on the 20th Century, which reveals this:
“The strategic danger of this situation became obvious in the First World War (1914-1918), when enemy action prevented imports getting through. Over the four years, about 180,000 hectares (450,000 acres) were felled to meet the demands“.
180,000 hectares eh? Any more offers? Well, actually – yes. This is from the Countryfile website.
“There were 182 government-run sawmills by the end of 1917, supplemented by a further 40 mills run by groups such as the Canadian Forestry Corps and Women’s Forestry Corps. By 1918, 182,000 hectares of woodland had been felled – an area larger than modern-day Greater London”. Let’s split the difference and say 181,000 hectares shall we? Oh, and that’s without The conservation volunteers pointing out that more woodland was felled in WW 2 than WW1.
“By the time of the Second World War (1939-1945), the Commission forests were still too young to provide much timber, and about 212,000 hectares (524,000 acres) of private woodland were felled to meet the demand“.
Then how much woodland is going to be felled (note, felled, not just affected) by HS2? Because, if Packham’s claim is right, it’s got to be way over 180,000 ha, or even 212,000ha. Now, 212,000 hectares is 210 square kilometres. What do HS2 say’s is affected in this document? Note, this is not just felled, but indirectly affected too. Oh…
Up to 3.8km in total will be affected by HS2. That’s just 380 hectares! Oh, and that’s without talking into account the fact HS2 will be planting MORE woodland than they affect, in fact, they’ll be planting more than double the amount, 136% more in fact. Some ‘deforestation’!
WW1 = 181,000 Ha felled
WW2 = 212,000 Ha felled
HS2 = 380 Ha (includes woodland affected but not felled).
Plus, if we take up Packham on his claim about ancient woodlands, we can see the numbers are even smaller, as this blog using the (Woodland Trusts own figures) exposed.
Someone pass Packham a fire extinguisher as his pants are clearly ablaze!
This wasn’t quite the Saturday that I had planned but sometimes life has a habit of not being what you hope for. I won’t go into details but I found myself stuck at home today in absolutely miserable weather. For most of the day the valley’s been hidden behind a bank of low cloud, rain or fog or combinations thereof. The sun stood no chance!
So, whilst Dawn was out with friends and family, I spent the day holed up in the office scanning old rail slides from 2002 and managed to get 80 done in a marathon effort. As I was a resident of London in those days the current batch of slides are very focussed on the capital as I was always nipping out and about.
You can find the rest of the pictures on my Zenfolio website by following this link. It’ll take you to the ‘recent’ section which will allow you to see which galleries the pictures have been added to.