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Rolling blog: the Big 6 on tour – Waterworld!

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08:30.

Today, a group of us from our local pub (The Big 6) are on tour again, this time we’re off for a canal cruise from Hebden Bridge to Sowerby Bridge and back. Watch out for pictures throughout the day.

12.11

It’s time for lunch. We’ve been going for a few hours and various people have had a go at steering the barge. We now know who not to trust with the tiller! This was my stint as I’ve been on narrowboat holidays several times before.

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Eventually we moored up for lunch, scoffing lots of delicious food that Ruth and Kath had sorted out and cooked in the galley.

14:47.

We’re now on our way back from Sowerby Bridge and Dawn’s proved to be a natural at navigating a narrow boat. She’s taken us through several bridges and two locks.

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Here’s the full compliment, well, minus me of course as I’m behind the camera!

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We even had our very own wandering minstrel in the shape of Otto Uzans, who brought his accordion along.

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Going nowhere, fast!

Today’s been one of those ‘catching up with myself’ days. After spending the past three on the road I’ve had to spend a Saturday working just to try and keep on top of things. There’s a mountain of pictures to edit as well as new jobs to fit into the calendar, plus working out the logistics of getting round all the stations I’m helping to judge for this years ACoRP awards. That’s a real challenge!The weather’s been stunning this afternoon so I did take a break from staring at a computer screen to tidy up the front garden and soak up a bit of sun. Now it’s time to indulge in a bit of culinary therapy. After living off sandwiches and wraps for the past few days I’d decided to indulge in some cooking. Tonight I’m making a Red Goan Chicken curry, which I’ve not tried before but it sounds delicious. As it’s the first time I’m sticking to the recipe, but I suspect that (if it’s any good) the chilli quotient will be boosted next time…- it’s coming along nicely!

Rolling (ish) blog: Manchester travels…

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08:10.

It’s day two of working for Network Rail’s ASPRO (Asset Protection) team and this time the focus is on the Manchester area, so I’m on my way to meet them at NR’s Square 1 offices next to Piccadilly station. This is a ‘local’ job so I’m not encumbered with my overnight kit, which makes my bags a bit lighter!

I’ve caught Northern’s 08:06 service from Sowerby Bridge to get to across the Pennines. Made up of a Class 150/156 pairing it’s a surprisingly quiet train. I can only assume the holiday season’s in full swing. Needless to say, I’ve plumped for the 156 where I’m almost the only passenger in the rear car.

Unlike London where it’s meant to be even hotter than yesterday, it’s relatively cool here in the Pennines at 19 degrees with a blanket of high level cloud. At least I won’t have to cope with any harsh shadows today.

We’ve got a very busy schedule and plenty of sites to visit today so I’ll blog as and when I can. Hopefully there’ll be a few interesting pictures to add, although I don’t think I’ll be able to compete with the dramatic skyline pictures I took in London that are displayed in yesterday’s blog!

08:34.

We’ve now passed under the Pennines into Lancashire and our trains beginning to fill up with passengers from stations on the way like Littleborough and Smithy Bridge. Rochdale always provides a good crop of commuters so I expect we’ll be pretty full by then. This service is bound for Southport so it’ll probably be picking up the ‘bucket and spade brigade’ from Manchester.

22:28.

That went well then! Very sorry for the complete absence of blog updates. That’s partly because we were really busy and partly because not everything went to plan. Anyways, here’s a couple of pictures that give you a flavour of the assets we were looking at today.

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Brick arches at Salford. Below them is a compound for building new residential housing right next to the railway. 

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A new rail bridge over the A6

 

Rolling (ish) blog: London travels…

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10:40.

I’m at Twickenham station after completing the first assignment with Network Rail’s ASPRO (Asset Protection) team where we visit the project you can see in the background to this picture.

This is the new station building that also contains flats and shops. It’s a complex project built astride the operational railway that’s due for completion next year. We’re now off to have a look at a similar project in Kew.

13:09.

Wow! That was interesting. You get to go to all sorts of places in this job. This triangular site is bounded by three railway lines. On one of them sits Kew Bridge station (just off the the left of this picture). Around the triangle’s a vast housing development that also includes Brentford Town’s new 17,000 seat stadium. It was originally planned to be 20,000 but this would have overhung the operational railway and proved to be difficult to maintain, so was scaled back.

15:52.

Next up was Vauxhall. Wait till you see some of the other pictures I took from the roof of this new 27 storey development!

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Like this, looking at Vauxhall station in a way you never normally get to see it – unless you’re in a plane!

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16:20.

Now I’m in Stratford, an area I knew well as I lived and worked near here for 11 years. I have to say, where we are now I wouldn’t recognise at all. The only thing that still remains is the railway from Stratford heading up to Lea Bridge. Everywhere you look new housing has sprung up.

18:49.

After a long, hot and sweaty day I’m heading back North on LNER’s 18:33 to Bradford Forster Sq. This is still worked by a Class 91 and Mk4 set, but they’re showing their age. This set is missing coach D, which is causing a few problems. Plus, both ovens in the buffet are kaput and the PA’s on the blink!. That said, the Train Manager’s doing an excellent job keeping passengers informed. He’s pointed out that the first stop is Stevenage, where (normally) at least 100 people will leave the train, so there should be plenty of seats available (he was right by the way).

21:05.

I’m on my last leg, if not my last legs! The journey up to Leeds was pretty good. I managed to get a bit of work done on the train but also had time to collect my thoughts for a bit and enjoy the scenery for a while, which is a rare treat.

Now I’m on Northern’s 21:08 from Leeds to Huddersfield via Halifax which is made up of a two-car 144 and 150 lash-up which were joined in the station as I arrived. I suspect they’re heading to Huddersfield for stabling overnight. For old times sake I’m travelling on 144009 as Pacer withdrawals start this month and soon, they’ll be all gone.

Rolling blog: Off again…

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12:12.After a busy morning catching up on paperwork and checking and packing my PPE ready for tomorrow and Friday I’m getting ready to head down to London. The weather forecast is looking promising, so I can travel a bit lighter for a change. Let’s see how the day goes…13:38.I’m on the move after walking down into Sowerby Bridge. It’s a gorgeous day for a stroll, or it would be if I wasn’t carrying both the camera bag and a rucksack full of PPE!I caught a Leeds train, the 13:23 via Brighouse which is running 7 minutes late. It’s made up of a pair of refurbished Class 150s which are mostly empty this time of day. If anyone’s any sense they’ll have taken the day off to enjoy the sunshine!It makes a change to be heading for Leeds without a reversal at Bradford. I’m also enjoying the different scenery. The line through Brighouse to Mirfield is a shadow of it’s former self. Once it was four tracks all the way from ‘brig’, with massive goods yards and a vast amount of freight traffic along with a large steam locomotive depot at Mirfield, one of the last to close in the UK. The site is now a housing estate that was built in the last decade.Some of the towns haven’t fared much better, such as nearby Dewsbury (although it still has a lovely station and great station bar) and Batley, once renowned for its variety club and all the famous names that played there. Now, it’s infamous for the awful murder of Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox by a far-right fanatic.What Batley does have is one of the last surviving signal boxes in this part of the world, which protects a small level crossing to the East of the town. I’ll add a picture later.14:43.I’ve enjoyed a short break in Leeds in the sunshine, now I’m heading South bit by bit. First off is LNER’s 14:45 to Kings Cross which is worked by one of the companies fleet of HSTs that will soon be replaced by Azuma’s. The HSTs replacement on Intercity services is sounding the death knell for something that dates back to the dawn of the railways. The slam door…The HSTs that will remain in service are being converted to power operated doors, meaning the remaining slam door stock will be operated by charter operators and a couple of the freight companies like DB who lease them out to one or two operators like Scotrail, Abellio and Transport for Wales but they’ll be history on intercity services17:12.Far later than I expected due to technical issues with dealing with last minute picture requests, I’m now speeding south from Doncaster on another LNER service from Leeds, only this one’s a crowded and toasty Mk4 set. The air conditioning is struggling in my coach (F) but it’s the only one I could find a free airline seat in. Despite that, the crew have been great.All I can say is I’m glad I’m not dressed in full PPE (other than boots, which are easier to wear than carry) and I can dress down and pretend this is a local train in Thailand. Well, apart from the sights, sounds and smells, obviously!18:21.I abandoned my LNER service at Stevenage which offers a very handy connection to cross-London Thameslink services. The days of having to fight your way from terminal to terminal via the London Underground have dropped dramatically and will do so even more when Thameslink finally opens.20:18.OK, I admit I dallied in old haunts in central London for half an hour as the weather was so perfect. I bailed out of my Thameslink service at Blackfriars after seeing the stunning weather. I couldn’t resist a short walk aking the south bank just see see how the ever changing skyline of the ‘square mile’ looks like now.

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Mind you, it’s not just the city. After my stop-off I continued on to the rebuilt London Bridge station before heading back to Waterloo, where my train to Feltham was leaving from platform 24. Hang on a minute – 24? Yep, one of the old Eurostar platforms.

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See you tomorrow!

A long day at the office.

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I’ve been at work since 07:30 this morning, busy editing the mountain of pictures from yesterday, sorting out paperwork and job enquiries and all the other stuff that comes with being a freelance photographer, writer and ACoRP judge. Sometimes I feel like I could do to clone myself as there’s just not enough hours in the day to get through everything. On the bright side, my commute from bedroom to office takes about a minute – or possibly 10 if I go downstairs and make coffee first!

Editing the pictures I took yesterday made me realise just how much the railways in the North are changing. The location I picked in Central Manchester is one I’ve not used for a few years. Since then, several of the franchises passing through (EMT, Northern and Transport for Wales) have or are changing hands, whilst a number of new services are using it due to the extension of electrification and the opening of the Ordsall Chord. Here’s a couple of pictures I didn’t add to yesterday’s blog that illustrate what I mean.

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Here’s 319374 working 2F17, the 1318 Crewe to Liverpool Lime Street. The 319s started appearing in the NW in 2015, displacing many of the Class 323s on Crewe trains when the service was extended to Liverpool Lime St thanks to electrification.

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A sight you never used to see. 323223 works 2A90, the 1428 Liverpool Lime Street to Crewe whilst 319370 is working 2N69, the 1502 Hazel Grove to Blackpool North.

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I’d never seen a five-car on this train before. Here’s 175107 in the new Transport for Wales livery and 175109 in the old ATW livery working 1D30, the 1536 Manchester Airport to Llandudno. These units will be replaced by brand new stock in the next few years.

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Another train that’s due to be replaced by new stock is this, TfW’s 1H89, the 1307 Holyhead to Manchester Piccadilly which still uses ex-Virgin Trains Mk3 coaches and a DVT. The DB Class 37 still sports the old Wrexham and Shropshire livery, despite that company ceasing operation in January 2011. 

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185117 just after leaving Oxford Rd whilst working 1P76, the 1255 Middlesbrough to Manchester Airport which has passed through Manchester Victoria and traversed the Ordsall chord.

As you can see, it’s a changed network and it will change even more over the next few years as the CAF built Class 195s enter service en-masse and if the West Midlands Class 323s are cascaded to Northern to replace the 319s in order to allow 6-car trains to run. Then there’s the new TPE stock which will (hopefully) begin to enter service later this year. The North’s railways are going through some exciting and positive times, not that you’d know that from listening to the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, who only mentions the railways when it’s an excuse to stick the boot into the Northern Rail franchise. Despite an invitation to attend the launch of Northern’s new trains, he was conspicuous by his absence.

The rest of this evening’s been taken up with planning the logistics of the next couple of days work for a client. Thursday – Friday will see me in London and Manchester and I’ll be travelling down to London later tomorrow. It will involve another early morning commute to the office as I’ve plenty to do before I head South. So, it’s goodnight from me! Watch out for a rolling blog tomorrow…

 

 

 

Rolling blog: different strokes…

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08:05.

Today’s an important one for Northern Rail as 9 of their new CAF built trains are used in passenger service for the very first time. So I’m off to do two things, get pictures of them and also visit a community rail project that involves them.They day’s not started well. The hot and sticky weather we had on Saturday has given way to wind and unexpected drizzle, which make the walk to the station fun. Northern aren’t having much luck with Calder Vally services this morning either. I’m on the late-running 07:45 which didn’t leave Halifax until 08:01. Despite the fact it’s a 3-car Class 158 it’s rammed!

08:17.

We’ve just left Bradford Interchange and it’s sardine conditions aboard now! 11 of us are crammed into the cab end vestibule and we’ve not even got to New Pudsey yet!

08:26.

We’ve just left New Pudsey and there’s now 14 of us crammed into the vestibule! There’s hardly an inch of floor left free as we’ve taken as many onboard as we can but still left some behind. The atmosphere’s stoic – and humid! I’ll be glad to get to Leeds…

09:21.

Due to the crush the train doors seemed to open with a louder pop than normal when we reached Leeds. Grateful to be in the cool I’m now on something very different – a Class 331 in public service. It’s 331106 on the 09:21 to Doncaster.

13:11.

Having visited Fitzwilliam station to see the unveiling of the new artwork on the adjacent footbridge. Here’s a sample. I’ll add the pictures I took on my camera later but it’s a great bit of work that’s full of interest as many of the windows contain pictures of the area.

Update, here’s a couple of camera pictures.

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Afterwards I headed back to Leeds to grab a few more Class 331 pictures before heading across the Pennines to Manchester to catch the Class 195s in action. We’re just approaching Manchester Victoria now. The weather’s a bit better over here in the the clouds are interspersed with blue sky and sunshine. Most of my time on the train was spent editing the pictures from this morning, so I had little time to enjoy the views.

14:07.

I’m now in position on the corridor linking Piccadilly and Oxford Rd stations as it’s an interesting backdrop to the railway and all the Class 195 diagrams are filtered through it. So far I’ve managed to capture two Northbound units, one Barrow bound, the other off to Liverpool.

16:12.

Time to go home! I’ve had a successful day in Manchester as even the sun played ball in some if the pictures. I’ll upload a few later. Now I’m at Piccadilly, making my way home via the Colne valley rather than the Calder.

22:25.

Sorry for the huge gap. I was hoping to stop off on the way and use the wifi in the Stalybridge buffet bar but the weather was so nice I ended up enjoying a quiet pint outside. I’ve been back at home several hours and spent the past few editing pictures, so here they are.

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331106 waves it’s way through the maze of tracks to the West of Leeds station with a service from Doncaster. On arrival it formed the 09:21 back to Doncaster.

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The honour of being the first Class 195 to carry fare-paying passengers fell to 195116, which left Barrow around 5am. It’s seen here between Piccadilly and Oxford Rd stations in Manchester whilst working 1C55, the 1329 Manchester Airport to Barrow-in-Furness.

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Here’s 195121 working 1U97, the 1353 Barrow-in-Furness to Manchester Airport

Right, that’s all from me tonight folks. I’m working from home tomorrow, so expect to see a few more photos on my Zenfolio website.

 

The Tory party have become an economic death cult.

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Remember when the Conservatives were considered a safe pair of hands on the economy and thought of as the ‘party of business’? Those day are long gone. Now they’ve become an economic death cult where you have Boris Johnson saying “fuck business” whilst the other candidate in the race for the Tory leadership and job as Prime Minister has said he’d tell people to their face that them losing their jobs and livelihoods is a price worth paying for Brexit! You couldn’t make this stuff up, but this really is is the madness that’s taken hold of politics in the UK since the Brexit referendum. Here’s today’s Hunt story in the Guardian (link).

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Bizarrely, few Brexit supporters seem to have the brain cells to rub together to notice how the narrative has changed since the days before the referendum, when we were told that “we hold all the cards”. Remember these charlatans?

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Nobody put “Vote Leave, if you lose your job and your home it’ll be worth it” on the side of a bloody bus, did they?

This country has gone stark, staring mad. How on earth a developed, supposedly educated and long standing democracy can get itself in this unholy mess is beyond belief – yet here we are. It’s actually happening. The Tory’s are hooked on a belief in Unicorns and are going to elect one of these two to be the next Prime Minister. my only hope is that the tory party implodes before either of these clowns can do too much damage to the country. But our problems won’t end there. There’s no credible opposition party waiting in the wings to step in and save us from this mess. Instead we have ‘Magic Grandad’ Jeremy Corbyn and his ideological bedfellows on the far left who’re also pro Brexit. It’s like being given the ‘choice’ between a slow lingering death or a lingering slow death!

Meanwhile, many of our fellow citizens are more concerned about who’s winning ‘Love Island’. Truly, we are screwed…

 

The curious case of the revised HoC research paper on Hs2

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On June 20th a new House of Commons research paper was released, written by one Andrew Haylen. HoC research papers are normally well-balanced and unbiased, but this one seems anything but. It places a lot of weight on newspaper reports and uncritically swallows the House of Lords Economic Affairs Ctte report which criticises HS2

Haylen’s report claims that “there are alternatives (to HS2) available that could deal with the capacity constraints on the West Coast Main Line at a lower cost.”

Really? We’ll look at that in more detail in a minute. The report also claimed that the  estimates for the cost of HS2 were actually £65bn, way over the budget envelope of £55.7bn.

Needless to say, this paper was leapt on by opponents of HS2, who made all sorts of daft claims.

Then mysteriously, the report vanished only to re-appear on the 27th June with a new co-author, one Oliver Bennett. One of the changes that was made to the report was the idea that HS2 was going to cost £65bn, the forward to the report now says this;

“It seems the estimated costs for the full Y-network of HS2 had risen and have been estimated in this paper to be around £65 billion at the time of the 2015 Spending Review. This estimate is derived using figures published by the National Audit Office (NAO) and the Department for Transport (DfT) in 2016 and 2017 about the estimated scale of efficiency savings that would be required to keep the project within the funding envelope.

Since then, HS2 Ltd and the DfT have sought to reduce the costs of the infrastructure for Phase 2b by around 40% from the 2015 Spending Review estimate, with the total savings ambition for Phase 2 of the scheme at around £12.8 billion (in 2015 prices). As at November 2016, £7.14 billion of these savings had been embedded in the Phase 2b cost estimate. The revised cost estimate for the full Y-network, based on efficiency targets set out in the July 2017 financial case, is therefore £52.6 billion”.

Clearly, someone, somewhere ‘had words’ and pointed out the financial errors in the report! You can find the revised report here.

But there’s not just financial holes in the report. Bizarrely, there’s not a single mention of freight! How on earth Haylen can claim that the strategic alternatives to Hs2 can supply sufficient capacity when he’s only looking at WCML passenger services? He clearly has no idea that the Existing West Coast Main Line is the busiest mixed traffic railway in Europe. Freight could be a big beneficiary of the capacity HS2 releases on the WCML, that not only encourages modal shift off our congested roads, it also has an impact on meeting our carbon cutting targets. Is any of this considered? No.

Nor does Haylen seem aware of the fact that HS2 doesn’t just release capacity on the WCML! HS2 also removes long-distance non-stop services (such as Kings Cross-York and beyond) from the East Coast Main Line (ECML) and also releases capacity on the Midland Main Line too! I can only question just how much research Haylen has actually done into the strategic case for HS2 if he’s managed to miss these important details out. Or is it that they’re too inconvenient as they’d destroy his claim about the supposed ‘strategic alternatives’?

Let’s have a look at a map of the HS2 routes and associated services to illustrate the point that HS2 isn’t just about the WCML – and it certainly isn’t just about that route’s passenger services.

HS2-route-map-July-2017[1]

Haylen seems blissfully unaware of the existence of the Eastern arm of Phase 2b – the one that goes to East Midlands Hub, Chesterfield and Sheffield (thus relieving the Southern end of the MML) and onwards to Leeds and York (thus relieving the ECML).

How will his belief that tinkering with capacity upgrades to the WCML is sufficient help them? Simple. It won’t. Not one bit. His conclusions, (and his briefing paper) are so badly flawed they’re worthless. Not only that, they’re actually misleading. This is not the standard we should expect from the House of Commons library.

Even Haylen’s claims about the WCML passenger services don’t stand up to scrutiny. Let’s look at the issues in detail and the scheme known as “P1” from a 2013 report on HS2 strategic alternatives Haylen champions. Here’s the summary from the report.

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P1 is is a package of works costed at around £2.5 billion, that is said to increase capacity on the WCML to an extent that makes HS2 unnecessary. That report dates from 2013, so clearly whatever argument was made for P1 was not accepted as HS2 was chosen instead. What’s changed?

First, what is “P1”? Essentially, it’s everything that was rejected as part of the last WCML upgrade – grade-separation at Ledburn and Colwich, and 4-tracking just North of Nuneaton and on a short section of the Birmingham line. No work is said to be necessary at Euston, on the basis that turnrounds can be shortened.

And for that we get – what? One extra train per hour net out of Euston, making 16 instead of the present 15 on the Fast lines. The Birmingham and Manchester routes both go from 3 tph to 4 tph, but the present 2 tph in peak hours to Runcorn and Liverpool reduces to one, compensated for by detaching a portion off a Glasgow train at Warrington (something than in itself demands a stretch of quadrupling of the Chat Moss line).

But why? Seats on long-distance trains are not the pressing problem. The problems on the WCML out of Euston are capacity for commuters, and interurban connectivity. All four fast line commuter services from Euston in the evening peak hour are “double red” for crowding; two of the four are 12 cars already. And through minimising journey times, connectivity is poor – Watford and Milton Keynes each have only an hourly fast train to the West Midlands, not much good for commuting and no good for accessing an airport. There is no direct service in peak hours between the employment and residential centres of Watford and Rugby.

So how does P1 do in these terms? In terms of connectivity, it’s a disaster. For instance:

• Watford doesn’t even feature on the service diagram, so its link to the West Midlands, poor today, is presumably beneath notice;

• Milton Keynes is there, but what is shown is no direct service to the West Midlands, just two through trains running via Northampton and making local calls on the way, extending journey times;

• Presumably to minimise journey times, Coventry and Birmingham international are each served by alternate Euston – Birmingham fast trains, in place of all three today;

• Trent Valley stations are served by putting their stops into the Chester service, slowing that probably by about 15 minutes. And as it doesn’t now call at Milton Keynes, presumably in mitigation of the extended journey time, they have no link to that employment centre other than an hourly slow service via Northampton;

• And what happens to the Trent Valley stations peak services, formed by through trains dropping in, up in the morning and down in the evening? P1 is presented as a peak service, and there they aren’t;

• Rugby has no fast trains to London at all.

As for capacity, the real benefit seems to be just the chance to put one more 4-car unit on two outer suburban trains in each peak hour. This is an indirect effect of the grade-separation at Ledburn, allowing trains to be presented to Northampton at reasonable intervals instead of in pairs, increasing the chance of being able to reduce trains to 8 cars for the sake of platforms on the Birmingham line, or simply to save unit-mileage and fleet by not losing a 4-car unit to Birmingham or Crewe unnecessarily. But this is a pretty small return, especially as these trains are now the only service for commuters to Rugby, who currently have a number of stops on InterCity services. And whilst stating an assumption that all slow line services will be 12-car, no mention is made of the fact that, short of major work at Euston, platform 10 at Euston remains unable to take 12 car trains, so they can’t all be 12-car.

And if we take the service diagram at face value, there must be doubts about practicability of what it shows. Can New St and Piccadilly accept four Intercity trains per hour in place of the current three? Probably not. Can two trains per hour be timed to make the slow crossing move to the Manchester line at Crewe in the face of everything from Up North? “Not proven”.

Then, how valid is the underlying assumption that Euston can handle another peak hour train without enhancement? Ironically, it probably is valid for the peak hour itself, as things can only be efficient in the peak, or else they don’t work at all, although a platforming pattern that is efficient at Euston may deliver trains to the rest of the railway at times that don’t suit constraints elsewhere. The difficulty is the transition to the off-peak service. We are given no clue as to what the off-peak service is, but if a 15- or 30-minute peak cycle has to be adjusted to something like the present 20-minute cycle, the platforming pattern at the transition becomes irregular, leading to either excessive use of platforms or weird gaps in the service. Alternatively, you might create the off-peak service by dropping from 4 tph to 2 tph on the Manchester and Birmingham lines, but that is less frequent than now, which can only deter optional travellers.

So P1 is not a shovel-ready alternative to HS2. The useful capacity it adds is minimal, and the journey time savings it presents are achieved at the expense of connectivity. Maybe it can be improved – probably some calls could be reinstated given careful flighting of trains, but what makes a “timetable solution” at one place almost inevitably creates a timetable problem at another. Meanwhile P1 costs about as much per extra path as HS2 Phase 1, but without the journey time savings or potential for 400 metre trains, or availability of paths to relieve the MML and ECML, so the chances of a positive business case are pretty low.

The lesson is – within a mixed-traffic railway, you can’t have it all! Journey times come at the expense of capacity and connectivity. Station stops come at the expense of journey time and capacity. Capacity comes at the expense of a timetable fine-tuned to commercial needs.

Which is where HS2 comes in. As well as simply creating another pair of tracks’ worth of trains, in effect it relieves the WCML of one of the competing pressures, namely journey time for the end to end travellers. Once able to focus on capacity and connectivity, the railway we already have can do what it is good at – serve commuters, local and interurban passengers, and freight. P1 is just a diversion from this objective; it’s a clever attempt to show what we might have to do in the absence of HS2, but it didn’t work in 2013 and it doesn’t work now.

There’s really only one place to file this research paper, and that’s the bin.

 

Rolling blog: New trains for Northern.

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09:00.

I’m currently heading to Doncaster from Leeds aboard one of LNER’s new ‘Azuma’ trains, the second one in two days. I’m just as impressed as I was yesterday and could certainly get used to these. That said – I’ll have to as they’re the future of East Coast travel and they’ll see me out as I’d be over 100 by the time they come up for replacement!

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Today’s very much a new train day as I’m meeting up with RAIL’s Richard Clinnick to have a look at Northern’s new Class 331 EMUs. The first two of which will go into public service between Doncaster and Leeds on the 1st July.

13:21.

It’s been a busy day at the Class 331 train launch. I’ve not had chance to blog until now, so here’s a few pictures from the event and on-board the train, which you can sample for yourselves from Monday.

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L-R: Richard Allan, Northern Rail deputy MD. Chris Burchill, MD of Arriva. Andrew Jones MP, Rail Minister, at the Class 331 launch this morning.

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A view of one of the passenger saloons.

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It’s a step-change from a Pacer!

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Disabled seating/wheelchair area adjacent to the accessible toilet.

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The same area as above from the side.

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The vestibules are wide and spacious, with tip-up seats at one side.

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Looking through the gangway into the next car. There are no internal doors, giving a feeling of spaciousness

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Rail Minister Andrew Jones MP being interviewed by the BBC.

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Our train after arriving at Leeds.

The weather’s so good I’ve stayed at Doncaster for a while getting library shots. The rail scene is going to change dramatically over the next year as the LNER Mk4 sets and HSTs disappear, along with the Nirthern Pacers and Hull Trains Class 180s, so I’m getting shots whilst I can.

Our trip on the CAF built 331 went really well. They have great acceleration and braking – as you’d hope for from 100mph units. The interior’s a step-change to anything Northern’s had before. Unlike the 158s there’s plenty of legroom, both in the airline seats and table bays. The old table bays could be a bugger to get out of as your legs could get trapped. The vestibules are roomy, with some tie-up seats provided. My only observation was they’re so wide it would be difficult to find something to hold onto if you’re in the middle and it’s crowded.

Seats are always a contentious issue with some. My personal view is the seats on these units are comfortable with good lumbar support and the airline ones have big, solid seat back tables. The seats were chosen in a competition by the public who were given a choice of three different versions. The same ones are used in the refurbished class 158s.

18:39.

I’m finally on my way home from Leeds. It’s Friday, the traditional day for the ECML to break. So it did today with my train from Doncaster being 35 mins late. On the bright side, it was another ‘Azuma’ so the air-conditioning worked – which is more than I can say for the unrefurbished Class 158 I’m on now! I ended up getting way laid in Leeds watching the British Transport Police carrying out an operation where they had a heavy presence along with a metal detector in an effort to combat knife crimes. After observing for a while I popped into the adjacent Sainsbury’s, where I had one of those totally random experiences that offer an insight into the world. I bought a sandwich and paid at a till staffed by a young Asian girl. Nothing unusual in that as Yorkshire has a significant Asian population. Except for the fact that – as we spoke, I realised she had an Irish accent! I’d have loved to have stopped and spoken to her, explaining why I was interested and ask how and why but the place was busy and in some ways it’s a bit awkward in these Brexity times.