Ugh! I’d almost forget what it’s like to have the alarm set for before sparrowfart. Those nights where you know it’s going to go off at 05:30 and you have fitful sleep because you keep waking up in anticipation. I don’t miss mornings like that – especially this time of year, although today’s started off mild – and dry. The walk down the hill to Sowerby Bridge station was rather pleasent until I got into the town itself. Compared to ‘Lockdown 1’ there’s far more people out and about (me included) so the roads were busy.
I’m currently waiting for the 07:00 to Wigan Wallgate via Manchester. Having left Leeds on time its dropped several minutes already and isn’t expected to arrive until 07:12. Thankfully, I have plenty of time to make my connection in Manchester, so as long as it doesn’t lose any more time…
A York service has just departed with the 3-car carrying just a handful of passengers and there’s only half a dozen of us waiting for the 07:00.
I’m on my way, 11 mins late – and no idea why! One of Northern’s 3-car Class 158s (displaced from top-link duties by the new Class 195s) crept into the station to take us to Manchester. After leaving Hebden Bridge there’s now a grand total of 6 of us in the leading car…
We’re now speeding towards Manchester after calling at Rochdale. I’ve counted two dozen in our car now, hardly pre-Covid levels but an improvement on the last lockdown.
I’m now on the 08:47 Manchester Oxford Rd – Liverpool Line St after walking across a pretty much deserted city centre from Victoria. It’s eerie seeing what’s normally such a thriving place so quiet. This time of morning you expect to see people streaming into work but the only things open that I could see were food outlets – all vieing for what little trade there is. Walking up the ramp to an equally deserted Oxford Rd station was a first! Normally I’d be ducking and diving though the commuters flooding off the station!
The train I’m on is equally quite, although a few dozen did alight when it arrived. Its made up of a 150/156 combo, so there’s no guessing which I chose. It’s refurbished set so we even have the luxury of USB sockets at our tables. I count 3 of us in the whole car…
We’re just passing the quiet bulk of Fidlers Ferry power station and it’s almost time for me to get to work. I’ll see If I can post a picture or two from what I’m up to later…
Back when I’m free…
Well, that was an interesting few hours work with a film crew PR company and the staff of a major train building firm at their plant in Widnes. There’s a clue in the picture.
Alstom’s Widnes plant is a busy place at the moment. Yesterday, an off-lease Class 321 arrived for experimental conversion to a ‘Breeze’, Hydrogen powered train. 321437 has lost its trailer car (which has gone for scrap) but the remaining 3 cars will be used as a test bed for a potential fleet conversion.
Another part of the plant is busy with the internal and external refurbishment of Transport for Wales Class 175 DMUs (Alstom Coradias, built in the first batch of new trains after privatisation). Two sets were receiving attention whilst I was there. Meanwhile, the plant continues to grow, with new facilities in place ready for the start of the internal refurbishment of the Avanti West Coast which will start in 2021.
I’m home and it’s time to bring today’s events to a close. Getting back to work in the thick of an industry that’s kept going throughout the pandemic as it has such a vital role to play’s been really enjoyable. Hopefully, normality will continue to resume now that we’re looking to coming out of the latest restrictions and several vaccines are on the horizon.
Travelling back through Manchester and a city centre where so much is inactive due to Covid makes me realise that normality can’t return soon enough – although I don’t think everything will return to the way it was before. If nothing else, 2020 has given many people pause for thought.
I did grab a few more pictures on my journey home as I stopped off on the way a couple of times, but most of those shots will be saved for other times and other blogs. As it was dark by the time I was walking across from Oxford Rd to Victoria I thought I’d have a play, so there is this shot…
In contrast to many other trains I’d been on today, the 16:58 I caught from Manchester Victoria back across the Pennines was straining at the edges of overcrowding as protocols stand right now. Life is returning and once vaccines are rolled out I’ve little doubt passenger numbers will ramp up rapidly. Will they ever return to pre-Covid norms. I have a view on that, but that’s shared (along with the reasons for it) in Part 3 of my round Britain Trip for RAIL magazine which will hit the newsagents on December 2nd, so I’ll refrain from saying more until then!
Tomorrow I’m back to working from home as I’ve a shedload of new pictures to edit and other work to catch up on. But I hope it won’t be too long before I’m out and about again…
I’ve a favour to ask…
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