Advertisements

It’s grim up North…

The weather that is! It’s hardly stopped raining all day here in the Calder Valley. I don’t think I’ve seen the top of the opposite side of the valley as it’s been hidden behind low cloud that’s haunted us all day. I’ve been grateful that I’ve been busy at home as the occasional foray’s I’ve made into the murk have been damp and dismal experiences even though the effort’s been worth it to keep my exercise regime up. That said, the views from the promenade were actually worth seeing today as they were so different.

What wasn’t different was following the news of our political implosion and descent into chaos. Johnson was in Ireland today where he made another of his meaningless speeches. Lite, trite and shite, it didn’t address a single serious issue. Instead it was full of references to ‘hard work’ and ‘opportunities’ – real Unicorn Stuff. His attention seeking antics at the podium also made him the butt of some hilarious memes.

Johnson’s prorogued Parliament today, but not before it’s caused him some more headaches.

Where does this leave the UK? Up shit creek without the proverbial paddle. Our EU friends are running out of patience. They’re far more prepared for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit than we are, because they’ve never lied about the consequences, have prepared in a meaningful way, and they’ll share the pain. Us? Pfft! Many in the UK are still believing in Unicorns and they idea none of this will really happen to us because, somehow, we’re ‘special’. I still overhear pub conversations where folk talk of the ‘will of the people’, completely ignoring the fact we’re three and a half years from the referendum where Leave promises have turned to rat-shit and the demographic’s changed as people have changed their minds – not to mention the way the names on the electoral register have. As someone put it “you mean we’re meant to leave now because that’s what a lot of dead people voted for in 2016?”

Such hubris isn’t going to turn out well. What’s painfully obvious is the complete lack of any plan from Leavers, other than to crash out of the EU whilst blaming the EU. This is going to get messy.

Away from politics, I’ve finished uploading all my Sowerby Bridge rush-bearing pictures to this gallery. There’s a couple of hundred pictures from this last weekend in there now along with rush-bearing pictures going back to 2010 when I first moved up here from London.

I’ve also been busy on the cooking front and tried something different tonight – a Goan Pork Vindaloo. I’m leaving it to steep and fester overnight as these things are like cheese – they need time to mature!

Advertisements

Sunday thoughts.

Tags

, , , ,

After the fun of rush-bearing yesterday today’s a bit of a come-down. The procession does continue but its focus is more rural and I’ve got other things to do – like edit the hundreds of pictures I took yesterday, as well as houshold chores, cooking and some DIY. It’s not exactly the rock and roll lifestyle, but it keeps me occupied!

That said, so does trying to keep track of the latest iplosions/resignations/floor crossings in UK politics! Today the headlines are all about the latest Cabinet Minister to abandon Johnson’s sinking government. That would normally be extraordinary enough but we live in such bizarre times we also have news that the Prime Minister is allegedly prepared to break the law to deliver Brexit. Meanwhile, the Lib-Dems gain their third defector in a week in the shape of former Labour MP Angela Smith. Truly, the old political party system is broken. Tribal allegiances have been torn apart. Brexit’s broken everything as both Labour and Tories have drifted to the extremes of left and right but neither have any answers to the mess we’re in. All we have now is voices of reason on both sides who cut through the crap and deal with the realities of the situation. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be on the side of Michael Heseltine and Ken Clark, but that says it all really.

The depressing thing is seeing how many UK citizens are so ignorant of the trouble we’re in. As long as ‘Eastenders’and ‘Coronation St’ are still being broadcast, all’s well in their world. Apparently, we’re British, so we’re immune to all the world’s normal travails. Shit will never happen to us. Only it is and sticking one’s head in the sand isn’t going to help.

On the bright side, I’ve managed to start uploading yesterday’s pictures to the rush-bearing gallery. You can find them here. For now, here’s a couple of samples. I’ve a lot more to add over the next few days.

Rolling blog: Sowerby Bridge rush-bearing 2019.

Tags

, , , ,

10:30.

Today’s the first full day of the Sowerby Bridge rush-bearing festival. A two day annual event that dates back to 1977 when an old local tradition of delivering rushes to churches was resurrected. It’s a day full of fun and a great event to take a camera to -so watch out for pictures throughout the day. Here’s a starter from 2012. Right, I’m off to catch the rush-cart, see you later…

12:47.

It’s been all go so far! I decided to catch the procession in some different locations this year so I walked uo to Warley village and caught the procession at St John’s church, Warley just before they started off. It’s quite a climb from there to their first stop outside thd Maypole pub in the village so I hooe i’ve managed to get some decent pictures. The weather’s been ideal, dry but not too sunny. Here’s a couple of shots I’ve taken on the phone. I’ll add camera pictures later.

Starting off from St John’s church.

Morris dancers performing outside the Maypole pub in Warley village.

Right now I’ve got ahead of the procession ready to get shots of them dropping down into Sowerby Bridge.

15:25.

It’s been a great day so far with a real carnival atmosphere in Sowerby Bridge as the cart goes from location to location. Some of the cart pullers are on their 9th pint by now. Notice the tankards they have clipped to their belts?

17:50.

What a cracking day! The weather got better as the day went on, so the turnout increased. The procession’s now over but the town is absoluteky buzzing. Many of the pubs have laid on outside bars and barbecues so the carnival atmosphere continues. Admittedly, I’ll be calling it a day soon and heading home to sort out today’s pictures, that said, I’ll bet the ‘Bridge’ will be having a busy night tonight. Rush-bearing continues tomorrow but I’ve got domestic things to focus on.

Every year a commemorative leather badge is produced to celebrate the event. You’ll see them on the hats and waistcoats of those taking part. Here’s this years.

Mytholmroyd station building. A look inside…

Tags

, , , , ,

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for ages but never had the time. Today’s miserable weather’s put a damper on other photographic activities as it’s chucking it down here in the Calder Valley so I’ve finally found the opportunity.

Some of you may have noticed the old station building at Mytholmroyd as you passed by on the train. It’s on West end of the Leeds bound platform. What you may not have appreciated from the train is just how big a building it is! Here’s how it looked from the platforms in April 2015.

Here’s a recent view showing what it looks like from ground level. In effect it’s two buildings. The back part of the building (to the left of the drainpipe) was the stationmasters residence. The public part of the building is to the right of the drainpipe.

It’s spread over three-floors and there’s a warren of rooms inside. Built in 1874 by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, it was given a grade 2 listing back in 1984 when it was closed by British Rail. It’s been derelict for over 30 years but the friends of Mytholmroyd station have been trying to get it reopened as a community space and waiting rooms ever since 2007. It was a long process as the building is owned by Network Rail. In 2015 the station building was specifically included in the successful Arriva North Franchise Agreement, which stated that (no later than 2025) the franchise shall ” redevelop for social use redundant or under- utilised buildings at stations including Mytholmroyd and Cottingham”.

With that commitment agreed, negotiations continued with various interested parties, including the Railway Heritage Trust. The original group of station volunteers was joined by representatives from the local community and a Northern Rail director; and an application for Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO)  was granted in September 2017.

The negotiations culminated in work commencing in March 2018 by Network Rail contractors CPMS who removed asbestos and made the building safe in preparation to repoint and plaster parts of the interior. Local interior designers JSB Ltd assisted with the restoration of the original woodwork, fireplaces and windows.

Northern Rail is planning to include the building within their (operational) station lease from Network Rail. The Station Partnership and CIO would have a licence from Northern – with no responsibility for building maintenance etc.

Northern are planning a public Waiting Room and toilet on the second floor with access from the station platform. They would welcome suggestions for a small trading outlet within the building that would be relevant for rail passengers and be suitable for the general community/social use concept.

Northern envisage that the operation of the building will be through a Management Board consisting of themselves, the Station Partnership together with the CIO and users / tenant(s).

Proposals include –

Second Floor – step-free access from the station platform. Welfare accommodation for Northern Rail staff. A General Waiting Room – which may include an Art Gallery and station history display. Toilet. Rooms for Railway Education project.

First floor – steps only access. Studios for local artists and office/meeting room for Station Partnership, the CIO and the building Management Board.

Ground floor – step-free access. Flexible use which could include a small trading unit, a Reading Café incorporation of a library, meeting/conference facilities including a small catering area. Secure storage area for the Station Partnership equipment including an accessible water supply.

In March 2019 the first phase of the restoration of the building was complete. In May I was lucky enough to be invited along to have a look inside. Here’s what we saw.

The tour group gather in the booking hall on the ground floor as Geoff Mitchell from the station friends group gives us a run-down on what’s been happening with the building.
Looking behind me from the last picture. The wooden structure to the right is the old ticket office. Note the original stone steps leading to the second floor. The restoration work has been done to a very high standard.
Here’s the original ticket office desk which was still in-situ. It’s been cleaned and restored.
Climbing the stairs from the ground floor.
One of the top-floor rooms that have a doorway out onto the platform. This one is on the street side of the building. You can see the way it’s changed uses over the years.
Looking to the right of the previous pictures you can see through to the other top-floor room that opens out onto the platform. Some of the original plasterwork and paint colours remain.
One of the top-floor stone fireplaces that have been lovingly restored.
Another of the fireplaces. None of us could work out what the wooden framework above had been used for.
One of the rooms in the old Stationmaster’s residence.
One of the winding staircases in the old stationmaster’s residence. This side of the building had been abandoned since the last stationmaster had departed.
Shadows and light on exposed brickwork.
The ground floor of the old stationmasters side of the building had been altered over the years with one of the walls having been taken out to give access to the exterior hoist up to the Leeds bound platform. Thousands of chickens were shipped through here in the days of the railways being a general carrier. A goods train would pull up at the platform and boxes of chickens would be loaded straight onto it. Now the lift has gone and the doorway’s been bricked up as part of the restoration.
A view taken from the yard outside where the lift used to be. The quality of the restoration work is evident.
Another relic that remained on the premises. The station safe!

Time in the sun.

Tags

, , ,

(Updated 23:00)

I managed to escape from the office again today as I’d arranged to meet a fellow photographer who works in the rail industry to give him a guided tour of locations around Marsden on the Trans-pennine rail route through the Colne valley. I’d been meaning to update my library shots and get some pictures for a client from the area, so this was the perfect opportunity – especially as the sun Gods were smiling upon us.

Trevor and I met on the train at Huddersfield for a trip on a line that (as a man of Kent) he’d not travelled on for donkey’s years. Our first port of call was Marsden, the nearest station to the famous Standedge tunnels, where canal and rail occupy almost the same ground under the Pennines. It’s a fantastic photo location but one that will change dramatically over the next few years when the rail route is electrified.

The only downside nowadays is the monotony of the type of trains. Very little freight uses the route as it has such an intensive passenger service. This is Trans-Pennine Express’s core route. Northern Rail used to operate an hourly all-stations Huddersfield-Manchester service but it’s now operated by TPE. This means the line’s almost completely Class 185 operated which is why the introduction of the TPE’s loco-hauled sets is a welcome break from the monotony.

Having trudged up the incline to a spot above the tunnel entrance the sun smiled, and so did we, as we managed to get a range of pictures in decent weather. Here’s an example.

A TPE Class 185 heads East towards Marsden station which is around a quarter of a mile to the right of the picture. The bridge in the foreground’s an aqueduct which has been rebuilt and renewed by Network Rail. It’s been raised to give sufficient clearance to the overhead wires which are due in the next few years when the line between Leeds and Manchester’s electrified.
A zoomed-in shot from the same location, showing the aqueduct in greater detail. The formation to the right carried tracks through the original single track Standedge tunnels which were built in 1848 and 1871. The present double track rail tunnel was built in 1894. Just behind the train is the Huddersfield narrow canal, its tunnel was opened in 1811. You can learn more about these feats of engineering here. If you’re in the area, I’d recommend the tunnel café and the museum. Both are in the canal basin and a short walk from Marsden station.

Having exhausted the photographic possibilities we changed locations a couple of times to catch one of the new CAF built trains for Northern which was working empty stock from Preston to Huddersfield.

In doing so we missed one TPE’s new Nova 3 sets as we didn’t know the damned thing was running! Here’s the classic view we’d been heading for.

A Manchester bound TPE service approaches the Standedge tunnel. The canal museum and visitor centre I mentioned earlier is in the old transhipment shed to the right of the picture.

By that time the Pennine weather had changed from favourable to fearsome, with cold air and showers sweeping in from the West, so we adjourned to the Riverhead Brewery Tap pub in Marsden, which is a cracking place to stop for a pint before heading back East

Back in Huddersfield we connected with the loco-hauled TPE set we’d missed earlier. Well it would have been rude not to!

Trevor used it to get to Leeds before heading off to Keighley whilst I stayed on as far as York as I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get shots of the set under the magnificent station roof. Luckily, a late-running Siemens set allowed me some nice juxtaposition and a study in front ends.

All in all it’s not been a bad day and a lot less frustrating than yesterday. There’s some useful shots in the bank and for a client. I’ve had chance to explore locations I’ve not visited for a while and I’ve also been able to act as a tour guide for a friend. What more can you ask for?

Rolling blog: bunking off…

Tags

, ,

15:45

After two days in the office I’ve bunked off for a few hours. I needed to nip out for some shopping anyway but then I noticed that Northern Rail were running training runs on their new Class 195s between Bradford Interchange and Todmorden. As there’s also a fair bit of freight working today and we’ve got some very moody skies I thought I’d chance my arm and get a few pictures. The results will be in the lap of the Gods as there’s a fair chance heavy showers rather than sunshine will co-incide with the trains, but you never know!

I managed to stay dry walking down into Sowerby Bridge before catching a Northern 2-car 150/2 to Hebden Bridge working a Blackpool North service which is normally the exclusive preserve of their Class 158’s, which suggests that something’s gone pear-shaped with the fleet.

All the way to Blackpool on one of these? Nice…

15:55.

The law of Sod has come into play. No sooner had I landed at Hebden Bridge than I found today’s test runs had been cancelled for no explained reason. On the bright side, there’s still a couple of freight services running but I’m not in the best place for pictures. Ho hum…

16:45.

Well that was a bit of a waste of time! Not a single thing fell right. I ended up heading back to Sowerby Bridge and just for a moment I thought I might be able to grab a shot of ny departing train framed by a gorgeous rainbow – which promptly faded just as soon as the train departed! All that was left was the chance to get a shot of a biomass train heading for Drax power station – just as the next shower arrived! I’ll add a couple of pictures later, right now I’m going to salvage something from the day by getting some shopping and my daily 12,500 steps in…

21:13.

Time to wind things up. Part of me wishes I’d stayed in the office now and ploughed on with other stuff. But as the old saying goes “nothing ventured, nothing gained”. The weather and operations just didn’t fall right. still, here’s a couple of useful photo’s that salvaged the time.

I live the way the Knowsley to Wilton waste train snakes around the reverse curves at Sowerby Bridge. You need a freight train of this length otherwise the shot doesn’t work.
Ex- West Midlands Class 150105 pulls into the delightfully period station at Hebden Bridge with a service from Manchester Victoria to Leeds. Note that the unit carries the name ‘Bernie’ under the unit number. I’ve no idea why so I’m hoping a reader may be able to enlighten me.

Whilst I was unlucky with the weather, a friend further East wasn’t as conditions fell perfectly and Tony knew what he was doing to take advantage of them. He should be well pleased with this shot! I’m not jealous really, honest!

Right, I’m now back at home, editing pictures and watching the Tory party implode over Brexit whilst realising that they’ve elected a blustering clown as a Prime Minister. Tomorrow I’m hoping to have a day out with the camera and a colleague. Hopefully both trains and weather will play ball tomorrow…

Another day of Parliamentary paralysis, high drama and low farce.

Tags

,

Remember the days when Parliament used to do something useful, like scrutinise legislation, talk about important things pass legislation and stuff? No. Me neither. For the past three and a half years the place has been turned into a circus thanks to Brexit and the impossibility of delivering the lies it was based on whilst still pretending the Unicorns are real, if only we just ‘believed’ harder. Now we have paralysis in Government, where billions of pounds have been wasted trying to deliver the undeliverable and prepare for the unthinkable – a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Now the tragi-comedy has entered a new phase with the appointment of the bouffant buffoon as Prime Minister. He’s transformed the Cabinet in to a Brexiters wet-dream. It’s packed with hardliners and he’s surrounded by the ‘great minds’ of the Leave campaign. But he has one huge and insurmountable problem. He can’t make a lie true.

Brexiters never had a plan. They never expected to win, so they never thought they’d need one. They’ve spent decades dreaming about leaving the EU but never worked out a plan to make a success of doing so if they ever got the chance. Now they have, and it’s a shambles and it’s getting worse.

Brexiters always loved blaming other people to cover up for the lack of a plan. The latest wheeze was to say Brexit couldn’t be delivered because a ‘Remainer’ (Teresa May) was in charge and ‘remainers’ held cabinet posts. It was all bollocks of course, and how big a pair of cojones it was is becoming painfully obvious as Johnson flounders. His only successes have been to alienate many in his own party, start #StopTheCoup demonstrations the length and breadth of the country and make Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour front bench start to look vaguely electable. Who would have thought that we would see former Tory ‘Big Beast’ and Father of the House, Ken Clark MP thrown out of the Tory party, not to mention Winston Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames? Meanwhile, other moderate Tory MPs like Justine Greening have announced they’re standing down at the next election. In his overweening personal ambition, Johnson’s turned the Tory party into the Brexit party. His only ambition is to win an election before the car-crash that is a no-deal Brexit hits. Could he still do it? Possibly. The fat lady’s not yet sung and the farce continues in Parliament throughout today.

Yesterday parliament defeated Johnson and voted to take control of proceedings. Today there will be a vote to take a no-deal Brexit off the table and extend article 50 until January. Johnson wants to call an election now, but he needs a 2/3 majority of MPs to allow it. I can only pray they vote for the former and reject the latter. Let Johnson own his mess. He fell apart in Parliament last night. His normal comedy act and blithe lies don’t play well in Parliament. One of the MPs who exposed him for what he is was the former Tory Chancellor, Philip Hammond, who neatly skewered Johnson with his own lie that talks with the EU were ‘progressing’ and he’d be able to deliver a new deal. To add to the farce, as he was speaking, his Parliamentary majority in the shape of Dr Philip Lee MP got up, walked across the floor of the house and joined the Lib-Dem benches. It was a wonderful moment to watch!

There’s a sense that even some of those who backed Johnson are now starting to realise that he’s unfit for office. His performance last night was not one of a leader nor a statesman. He was woeful. He blustered, he lied and he refused to answer straight questions. It didn’t get any better, The oleaginous Jacob Rees Mogg provoked both fury (and later mirth) for the contemptuous way he draped himself across the Tory front bench. Here’s one of the wits responses on Twitter earlier today!

Sometime late this evening the next chapter of this farce will close, hopefully with a vote that will agree to take a ‘no-deal’ Brexit off the table. But that’s not the end of the story. Not by a long chalk. This shambles is going to drag on for years yet. This is just volume 1. At this rate it could compete in size with the Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Even if/when we leave the EU, we have years of trying to make good the damage to our economy, our ability to trade, our world standing and our fractured country. Is it any wonder more and more people are wanting to leave? Not the EU, but the UK…

HS2. Opening dates extended and the budget’s revised, but nothing’s been cut.

Tags

, ,

As widely trailed in the media, today, the Chairman of Hs2 Ltd, Allan Cook has published his report and advice about the deliverability of Hs2. You can find the report here. Despite much of the media speculation and froth on social media, the report contains no surprises. The review has looked at what’s been happening since the project was first launched back in 2009 and updated plans in the light of events. It’s no admission of failure, merely a pragmatic response to changes in circumstances due to a whole range of issues. It’s also taken on board valuable lessons from the difficulties at Crossrail and other major projects. There’s little that’s new. For example, the question of extending the construction timetable was suggested quite some time ago by the National Audit Office.

Here’s some of the more important points from it.

“As such (HS2) is an integral part of the plans of Transport for the North, Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) and Midlands Connect, providing 50% of the new lines needed by NPR. However, the scale and the complexity of the task, as well as the transformational benefits it will deliver for the country and its regions were under-estimated in the original business case.
The original plans did not take sufficient account of the compound effect of building a high-speed line through a more densely populated country with more difficult topography than elsewhere – and doing so whilst complying with higher environmental standards.
Equally, the existing cost/benefit model, which was designed for smaller scale schemes, has proved inadequate in capturing the full transformational effect of HS2, particularly on changing land values. This transformation is already being demonstrated in Birmingham.
Therefore, the budget and target schedule for the programme have proved unrealistic, while at the same time the benefits have been understated”.

Cook goes on to say that..

“Phase One from Birmingham to London is already under way and should be completed as planned. HS2 conducts its business as a cost-conscious organisation with value for money playing a huge factor in decision-making. Though much work has been done to date to drive down costs through independent reviews and pilot studies, the cost is likely to rise from £27bn1 to a range of £36bn to £38bn; and the target delivery date of December 2026 should become a more realistic, manageable and cost effective staged opening between 2028 and 2031.
Phase 2a, from Birmingham to Crewe, is currently near the end of its legislative process in Parliament. That process should be completed and amalgamated with Phase One and delivered to the same timescale. Its cost is likely to rise from £3.5bn to a range between £3.6bn and £4.0bn”

So, phase 1 and 2a will open together. And phase 2b?

The hybrid Bill for Phase 2b running from Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham to Leeds is currently being prepared and is, therefore, the least mature of the Phases. Given its early stage and its essential role in delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail, Transport for the North and Midlands Connect, there is an opportunity to fully integrate the plans for each region and deliver them in smaller, more manageable sections as part of a rolling programme of investment in the Midlands and the North. In line with the experience of Phase One, the cost of Phase 2b is likely to rise from £28.6bn to a range of £32bn to £36bn with target delivery moving from 2033 to between 2035 and 2040″.

Moving on beyond the executive summary there’s some very interesting details in the report. What’s now proposed is the have a phase 1 ‘soft opening’ where trains will be run as a captive service, staying on Hs2 metals and not running onto Network Rail tracks.

The target date for Phase One services is set at December 2026 in the Development Agreement, with Baseline 6.1 (described on page 17 below) introducing the concept of staged opening (3 trains per hour (tph) between Old Oak Common and Birmingham Curzon Street in December 2026 and 10tph between Euston and the North West in December 2027).
The staged opening approach, with an initial captive service with no interaction with the existing rail network, follows good practice of introducing services gradually and minimising integration risks while operational experience and reliability are built up. As a captive service, this can be introduced when the systems are ready and proven (a “soft start”) and does not require a change to national timetables

One of the reasons for postponing the opening date is keeping costs down on embankment building, as the report explains.

allowing additional time for ground settlement in preference to costly ground stabilisation prior to installation of high-precision concrete slab track” (pge 15).

The report goes on to mention that one of the reasons for the extension of the opening date of phase 2b is the Parliamentary timetable.

“The opening of the full HS2 “Y” network was considered, in 2014, achievable in around 2033. As well as being a long-term forecast, this was based on Royal Assent by 2020 for a Phase Two hybrid Bill.
In Baseline 1, Royal Assent was to be in October 2022 (with Bill deposit in September 2019). And in the emerging schedule, Royal Assent is set at Dec 2023 (based on a Bill deposit in June 2020).”

Yet again, this is just a pragmatic view and reflection of events in the real world. So, what about all those crazy figures that we’ve seen thrown around by opponents of the project? Is the cost of Hs2 really estimated at £100bn now? No. It’s between £72.1bn to £78.4bn (pge 33).

There’s a lot else in the report, which needs to be read in detail, but it produces some interesting figures, although a lot of sensitive commercial detail is (of course) redacted. How important Hs2 is to the delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail is made clear in this observation.

“Elements of the HS2 design incorporate several NPR touchpoints. NPR could use c.80km of HS2 lines into Manchester and Leeds as part of its current designs. This represents more than 50% of the total new lines needed for NPR” (pge 38).

When Hs2 was first conceived, NPR didn’t even exist, so it’s hardly surprising that phase 2b is being reconsidered in the light of what’s now happening in the North. Yes, the delays can be considered frustrating, but the important thing is to get the two projects properly integrated and get it right.

There’s also some new points, such as this, which suggests HS2 are looking at the possibility of reducing the number of platforms they need at Euston. Notice reduce, not scrap going to Euston!

“The project teams are also considering whether reducing the project’s physical footprint in certain locations is feasible, for example at Euston”. (pge 41).

There’s a lot to go at in the report, so this is just me picking out the highlights and a few snippets. What conclusions can we draw from the report? I’d suggest it gives those opposed to the project very little ammunition that they’ve not already fired at HS2. Yes, the timescale has changed. Yes, it will cost more in the light of changes and the famous Harold Macmillan quote about “events, dear boy, events”! One thing the report does is what I suggested in my comment piece in the latest copy of RAIL magazine. “If not Hs2, then what”? Because the report makes crystal clear the need for Hs2 which is something those opposed to it always try and ignore. Also, nothing has been suggested to be cut. Not Euston, nor the Leeds leg, both of which have been speculated upon at length.

The report spells out the headache for Boris Johnson. What could he cut? The answer is – nothing that makes sense.

Cut phase 1? Then you leave the West Coast Main Line with sclerosis. The project’s already ready to go so you cause a lot of pain across the construction sector and send entirely the wrong message about UK competitiveness and capability. Oh, and without pause 1 there’s no point in building phase 2 as there’s nowhere to run the trains to as the WCMLs full and Birmingham Curzon St is part of phase 1!

Scrap phase 2? Ah, but as the report points out, mode than half of NPR track is actually HS2! Reneging on very public commitments to the North would go down like a cup of cold sick! Nor would you be helping to rebalance the economy, so that’s not going to go down well either.

Cancel either of them and you can throw your international commitments to tackle climate change out of the window too!

Mind you, as I write this it seems the Tories have just lost their Parliamentary majority, so Johnson may have other things on his mind!

No doubt this report will set the tone of the Oakervee review of HS2. I expect it to be endorsed by the real players on that committee, who will be asking exactly the same question I have. I’ve no doubt Hs2’s detractors will try to make hay out of the report. It’s likely at least one well-known rail commentator will stick the word “damning” in front of the word report, but in truth it’s anything but. It’s an honest look at the difficulties and challenges of building such a major infrastructure project in the 21st century. Now let’s see what the Oakervee review comes up with…


I don’t like Mondays…

Tags

, , ,

Well, ones like this where the weather’s been miserable, I’ve been stuck at home collating vast numbers of pictures for a client and I’m watching my country slowly implode both economically and politically. Apart from that it’s been just fine!

Exciting as life is as a photographer, the wading through loads of library images to upload onto a client’s website is the least glamorous side of the job – even if it’s crucial. It’s monotonous and takes time as well as commands attention to detail. I suppose I should be grateful that the weather’s been so iffy so I’ve not been tempted to venture forth with the camera. The seasons really do feel like they’re starting to change up here in West Yorkshire. The nights are noticeably drawing in and the autumn chill is starting to creep in on the tail of shorter days.

My distraction would normally be to have the radio on, but the news bulletins are so depressing as they report on our increasingly dysfunctional Government and its suicide mission to deliver a ‘no deal’ Brexit, thus crippling the economy and trashing our reputation with the rest of the world – who already think we’re mad. That so many of my fellow countrymen think that Johnson’s threat to leave the EU without a deal is actually a threat the EU take seriously says a lot about the state of the UK nowadays. If someone’s holding a gun to their own head and threatening to pull the trigger anyone with an ounce of common-sense knows that there’s only going to be one result. Sadly, common-sense left these shores in 2016 and it looks like it has no intention of returning.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are caught up in this absolute farce as the Tory party morphs into the Brexit party, minus that lying, slimy toad Farage. Instead, they have their other poster boy, Boris – a man who’s relationship with the truth is just as divorced as Farage’s. This is not going to end well…

My only hope is that enough members of all political parties remember where they’ve left their backbones and put country before party. In the meantime, we’re in for a very rocky ride.

Right now, I have other considerations. I’ve finished uploading a batch of pictures to the client’s website and now my attention’s drawn to the delicious smells emanating from the kitchen where Dawn’s busy baking biscuits to take into the ACoRP staff meeting tomorrow. I may be gone some time…

September already? Shit – where’s the year gone?

Tags

, ,

Here we are, the first day of September and only three weeks to go before autumn. Can I ask, who nicked the summer? We didn’t really get one up here in West Yorkshire. Sure, we had a few scattered, sunny days – but nothing that equates to those summers of memory (or even last year) where you know you could rely on the weather to be consistent. Here’s an example. Back in July, when I was judging the ACoRP awards we had a Friday where the trains were delayed by buckling rails because of the heat, yet the following Monday we were suffering problems because of torrential rain and flooding! August was much the same. The climate is changing, it’s becoming harder to predict and much more extreme. Of course, we’re going to get the usual right-wingers and conspiracy theorists tell you it’s all down to sun-spots or the fanciful bollocks that we’re actually entering a new ice-age and the planets actually cooling but none of them will address the fact that we constantly hit new temperature records.

This is the problem with living in a post-truth world where people can stand up with a straight face and tell you that they’re talking about ‘alternative facts’. Imagine, we live in a world where – thanks to those handy little smartphones most of us carry – we can check almost any fact and use our intellects and education to work out when we’re being lied to. Well, that’s how it’s supposed to work anyway.

The Brexitshambles is a classic example of this and also how the narrative can change and yet so many people never realise and blindly follow the new message like sheep. Back in 2016 the Brexiters swore that if we left the EU we would be going into a new ‘Golden age’. The EU was holding us back, but anyway, ‘Johnny Foreigner’ would soon fold when we showed them that we meant business. Here’s some of the bullshit people lapped up.

Can any Brexiter who insists that they knew what they were voting for explain how we’ve gone from this to the Tory Government now preparing to crash out of the EU without a deal with all the consequences that will bring? How have we gone from David Davis saying there’s only ‘upsides’ to Boris Johnson saying that at least we’ll still have Mars Bars and clean water?

At what point are Brexiters going to admit they’ve been conned? That this country is on a suicide course for no other reason than a bunch of media moguls, disaster capitalists, spivs with Belizean diplomatic passports and the head-banging wing of the Tory party have manipulated them? Name a single benefit of Brexit – and don’t you dare tell me it’s about democracy when you’re calling half of the country ‘traitors’ and suspending Parliament so that you crash us out of the EU without a deal.

Whatever happens the UK is fractured. The ‘united’ kingdom was always an uneasy alliance. Now it’s looking like it won’t survive English exceptionalism and their contempt for foreigners – which includes long-standing issues with the other elements of the Union: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It seems that anything can be thrown under the wheels of the Brexit bus as long as they keep turning.