London and the aftermath of yesterday’s tragic events

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When I wrote my last blog entry about living in London during the IRA days of the IRA’s bombing campaign I never imagined that 24 hours later London would be the scene of another tragic attack which would cause the death of 3 innocent people.

Of course, as soon as it happened we had wall to wall media coverage and acres of speculation. Some sections of the right-wing media (especially in America) ramped up the hype and hysteria, aided and abetted their followers who hope to sow division and fear amongst people. Here’s an example of their bullshit.

Phares

No. One man didn’t ‘shut down a city’. No-one has ever shut down London, not the Luftwaffe, not the IRA, nor the far right bomber David Copeland – and no-one ever will.

I lived in London for nearly 25 years. At heart, I’m still a Londoner. The city made me who I am and I’m eternally grateful for everything the city gave me. I was still living there the last time their was a major incident, the 7th July bombings on 2005. I covered that horrific day for a magazine and I vividly remember the reaction of Londoners as events unfolded. It was one of stoicism and resolve. The resolve not to be cowed, not to be beaten. I was intensely proud of my fellow Londoners that day, I still am. I’ve no doubt that they’ll be showing those same strengths today.

People of many different faiths and nationalities were killed on 7/7. The same may well be true of yesterday as the killers really don’t care who they kill. All they want to do is spread terror – and that’s the one thing we must never let anyone do – including their right-wing friends in the media. So here’s a hat-tip to people like James Cleverly, who’s taken on the poisonous Katie Hopkins

MP

This is the true spirit of London, not ‘Hatey Katie’s’ warped vision.

tube message

 

 

Working from home, and other thoughts

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– and it’s not a bad place to be today! The Spring weather’s taken a turn for the worse up in’t Pennines. There’s a chill wind, rain and threats of snow (in fact, as I typed this, it started hailing), so I’m happy to be catching up on paperwork, picture-editing and listening to the news – most of which is depressing.

The death of former IRA leader Martin McGuinness features in many reports. Understandably, his memory generates strong feelings from some, but there’s no doubt that , without the willingness of him and others to reject the bullet for the ballot box, ‘the troubles’ would still be with us. I lived in London for nearly 25 years and experienced first-hand the devastation that the IRA wrought. In 1996 I was still living in the East End. I was at home the night the massive South Quay bomb detonated. We lived over a mile North of the explosion in Bromley by Bow, but we though our windows were going to blow in. The blast rattled the hell out of them – and us. I’m glad to see the back of those times which were far more dangerous than today’s hysteria around Islamic extremism. The IRA killed for more UK citizens than Islamists ever have. So, I’m grateful to McGuinness for being part of bringing those days to an end. There’s a lesson in what he did for anyone who wishes to learn it. Who would have thought that two implacable enemies, McGuinness and the Unionist firebrand the Rev Ian Paisley  would form such a rapport that they would earn the sobriquet ‘the chuckle brothers’?

Right, enough of philosophising, I’ve work to do…

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The Calder valley line sees £100m of improvements

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Whilst most attention is focussed on the various electrification schemes across the North-West and Pennines, other work to upgrade lines in the North is going ahead with little fanfare. One such scheme kicked off this month with work starting on upgrading the Calder Valley line across the Pennines.

Work’s already been completed between Manchester Victoria and Rochdale, the highlight of which was the opening of a new Western facing bay platform at the end of October 2016. Now the focus moves East from Littleborough towards Bradford. Between now and August 2018 a series of work that includes station improvements, resignalling and track lowering (as well as the opening of the new station at Low Moor) will see speeds raised from 55-60mph to at least 70mph (and in some cases 90mph, although I’ve been told these could be too short for drivers to take advantage of). Whilst there’s been extensive track renewals along the line in the past decade, with the remodelling and renewal of Bradford Mill Lane Junction, renewal of Dryclough Jn and long lengths of the Up line either side of Mytholmroyd, some plain line still dates from 1966.

As well as adding capacity for extra services the work will reduce journey times, meaning that a Bradford – Manchester trip (with four stops) will come down from 58-61 minutes to 53-54 minutes. Whilst the time savings are modest at present, the increased linespeeds and smaller sections between signals will increase the resilience of the service and reduce delays.

Four signalboxes will be abolished and control of the line will be transferred to York ROC. The boxes to close are Hebden Bridge, Milner Royd Junction, Halifax and Bradford Mill Lane – where the junction will have new crossovers installed to enable more parallel moves and facilitate increased services between Halifax, Bradford and Leeds.

Network Rail has already confirmed dates for some of the work taking place between now and June. These are;

Sowerby Bridge and Luddendenfoot (26mp to 29mp)

25/3/17 – 27/3/17 Preparatory work for track lowering at Sowerby Bridge

01/4/17- 03/4/17 Track Lowering at Sowerby Bridge station (gauge clearance).

10/4/17 – 14/4/17 Sowerby Bridge follow up works

29/4/17-30/4/17 Prep works at Luddendenfoot

6/5/17-8/5/17 Track renewal at Luddendenfoot (West of Sowerby Bridge tunnel) and follow up work at Sowerby Bridge

13/5/17-14/5/17 Follow up works at Luddendenfoot

22/5/17-26/5/17 Follow up works at Luddendenfoot (Mid Week nights)

3/6/17-4/6/17 Follow up work at Luddendenfoot

Work on a new footbridge at the listed station of Hebden Bridge is expected to start in January 2018. The bridge (which will be fitted with lifts) will make the station fully accessible as the current subway ramps don’t meet the required standards. UPDATE: It’s since been confirmed that this was incorrect. Hebden Bridge won’t be getting a footbridge. Instead, lifts will be installed in the old lift shafts at the station. At a later date, the Down platform will be extended West to allow trains to stop within the modern signalling overlaps. As more dates are announced for other work, I’ll try and post them to this blog. There’s clearly a lot more work to do. Strings of new rail have been dropped just West of Milner Royd Jn and the ‘Orange Army’ have been busy around Halifax over the weekend. Sowerby Bridge has seen a lot of lineside vegetation clearance and there’s many sites in the Calder valley where new cable toughing has appeared.

Meanwhile, here’s a series of pictures of what you can expect to see, and what you already have…

DG168543. Relaying the Up Main. Mytholmroyd. 19.1.14.

Relaying the Up line West of Mytholmroyd station in 2014. Now the old ballast base has been  dug out and replaced the Road Rail Vehicle (RRV) moves in to drop new concrete sleepers into place.

 

DG19352. Relaying track. Bradford Interchange. 23.10.08.

In 2008 Mill Lane Junction at the approach to Bradford Interchange was replaced, with capacity added. A decade later, it’s going to be rebuilt to have yet more capacity added – allowing multiple entries/exits at the same time. This is a good illustration of how the railways have gone from rationalisation to expansion. In the background is Mill Lane Jn signalbox which will be abolished under the resignalling programme.

 

DG19303. Milner Royd Junction signalbox. 17.10.08.

Milner Royd Jn signalbox is of historical interest as it’s the only surviving example of the work of a small company called Smith and Yardley. The box was built in 1878 but will be made redundant in the next couple of years.

 

DG12731. 158791. Hebden Bridge. 25.9.07

The listed station at Hebden Bridge is a delight. The platform I’m standing on (the Bradford bound side) is the one that’ll be extended in the direction of the photo.

 

DG231394. Signalbox repainted. Halifax. 14.10.15.

Halifax signalbox (formerly Halifax East) was built by the Railway Signal company in 1884.

 

07070. Hebden Bridge SB. 7.8.99.

Hebden Bridge signalbox was built in 1891 by the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway. It’s a great example of their standardised, prefabricated design produced at Horwich. The box is listed Grade 2.

 

DG235206. Clipping new track in place. Luddenden. 22.11.15.

An RRV moves a rail into place on newly laid sleepers at Luddendonfoot in November 2015

The modernisation of the Calder Valley route reflects its new importance as a vital freight artery as well as a growing passenger railway. The last year has seen the line used by biomass trains from Liverpool Docks to Drax power station, stone from Arcow quarry on the S&C to Manchester and waste from Knowsley (Liverpool) to Wilton. There’s also daily trains moving the remaining coal stocks from the closed Ferrybridge power station to Fidlers Ferry.

DG257854. 66610. Mytholmroyd. 4.10.16

66610 hauls an empty rake of coal wagons from Fidler’s Ferry to Ferrybridge past Mytholmroyd.

 

DG257869. 66082. Mytholmroyd. 4.10.16.JPG

DB Schenker’s 66082 passes Mytholmroyd with domestic waste from Knowsley (Liverpool) to Wilton on Teeside.

Of course, it’s not just freight. The Calder Valley is an important diversionary route for Trans-pennine services when the Diggle route is closed for engineering work. When electrification of that line starts, the Calder valley’s enhanced capacity will be extremely useful.

DG249423. 185136. 185151. Sowerby Bridge.7.8.16

A pair of TPE class 185s pass at Sowerby Bridge station on the 7th August 2016 when the Colne valley route was closed for engineering work.

 

Crazy anti Hs2 campaigner of the week – N0 20

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It’s a long time since I’ve highlighted one of these but I couldn’t resist this one!

Step forward Stephen Leary, a member of MAPA (Measham, Appleby, Packington, Austrey  HS2 Action) in Leicestershire. This group seems to represent about 1% of the local population. I’m being generous here as that’s roughly how many turned up to their inaugural meeting. Leary is the self-appointed keeper of their Twitter feed, and he’s hilarious! Check out @MeashamHS2Actio to see. The group claim that their aim is to “To make a coordinated response across the villages to HS2 issues affecting our communities” and to “To collect information and research the case against the HS2 Measham Re-Route”. But Leary spends most of his time retweeting any old rubbish that opposes the whole concept of Hs2 – 95% of which has absolutely nothing to do with or relevance to Measham and communities or the phase of Hs2 they’re part of (2b). Leary also seems rather obsessed with the number of views his tweets get, hence tweets like this.

Leary. 17.3.17

Quite what Crewe, which is on a completely different leg of Hs2 to Measham has to do with “our communities” is a mystery – as is how advertising that the number of folk engaging with your tweets is tiny will persuade anyone to take you seriously! Still, I’m sure the people who follow him (hardly any of whom live in the Measham area) will be inundating the Phase 2 Hybrid Committee with petitions to get the Leicestershire route of Hs2 changed. Or perhaps not. Here’s some of his 70 followers…

leary followers

 

I’m sure they’ve both been terribly busy drafting responses to the consultation- as were all the Chiltern Nimbys who follow him…

I can’t help laughing at a campaign this inept. They’re spending all their time re-running the same tactics that failed to stop Hs2 phase 1 – as if it’s suddenly going to work second time around. The way they’ve woefully misunderstood how social media works is rather amusing too. A few folk shouting at each other on Twitter was never going to change anything. Leary has added his own unique contribution by not understanding how hashtags work, which means his  multiple tweets are reminiscent of the comedian Norman Collier. His routine was based around someone talking into an intermittent microphone!

MAPA may well have a short life. The consultation that closed on March 9th will soon reveal whether local residents back or oppose the route change. If the result is that more people support the change than oppose it, then MAPA is irrelevant.

Spring’s in the air

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There’s been no time to blog today despite the volumes I could’ve written about the continuing political farce. We saw the wheels come off Brexit when David Davis was forced to admit how woefully unprepared the Govt was to a Parliamentary Committee, as well as having to answer awkward questions to reveal some of the tariffs we’d face in the future (link).  Meanwhile, despite a hugely embarrassing Govt U-turn on NIC and a massive open goal to aim for, Jeremy Corbyn added another excruciatingly bad PMQs to his list (link).

Instead, I’ve been busy whittling down my email inbox before enjoying some of the beautiful pre-spring sunshine by wandering down into Sowerby Bridge to get a few photo’s. One of the beauties of buggering off to Asia for a couple of months is that I’ve missed the drab and dismal early months of the year and slipped straight into March instead – and today was a glorious showcase for the month. The countryside is actively throwing off winter’s hibernation. Birds are busy gathering nesting material whilst plants are industriously sprouting new life. There’s a sense of expectation and optimism in the air – well, amongst the flora and fauna anyway, this is still Yorkshire after all!

Whilst I was in town I popped in to a Network Rail event in a local Church hall. It was purpose was to brief residents about the upgrade works to the Calder Valley line which are taking place over the next couple of  years. The work includes track renewals and remodelling as well as signalling replacement and line-speed improvements. Stations will be improved too. For example, next year Hebden Bridge will have a footbridge (complete with lifts) installed.  I’ll blog about the whole project another time.

Tomorrow I’m off to Huddersfield for a social gathering at the ACoRP office, so I’ll blog again as soon as time permits.

Hostages to political cowardice

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Parliaments craven cowardice by caving in the ‘will of the people’ (well the 37% of all voters who were allowed to and voted to leave the EU) without securing the rights of EU citizens who’re residing in the UK is one of the most shameful chapters in recent political history. It’s created millions of hostages. EU citizens whom have had the right to live, work and settle in the UK for 40 years now face years of uncertainty – and growing levels of intolerance and abuse. How the hell have we come to this?

The UK calls itself a thriving democracy, yet it sinks to depths of political cowardice and cynicism where it’s Government in prepared to use people who’ve contributed to its success for decades as human bargaining chips. If this wasn’t bad enough, what happens to them if (as is looking increasingly likely) we crash out of the EU in ‘hard Brexit’?

The UKs reputation for tolerance and fairness (all those attributes Brexit fans love to boast about) is in tatters, frankly. Many EU citizen are leaving, or planning to leave, leaving us poorer culturally and financially. We will find them hard to replace. After all, why would anyone come to a country that’s clearly and very publically thrown away the welcome mat as it sinks more and more into isolationism, xenophobia and downright fantasy?

Meanwhile, the hard political realities that the Remain campaign warned about but were labelled ‘project fear’ by the Leave campaign are coming home to roost. The break-up of the union is looking increasingly likely. The Scots are looking at a second independence referendum. In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein have called for a referendum on joining Eire. The Irish border problem is one Quitters  have resolutely refused to deal with, preferring to stick their heads in the sand rather than tackle it. It’s a timebomb that won’t go away.

More and more we seem to be living in a political fantasy world. We always said Breixiters didn’t have a plan. They never had. All the promises of what wouldn’t happen, all the claims that we’d still have access to the single market et al were hollow. Now, the ‘plan’ seems to be to crash out of the EU, and blame the EU for it! It’s the political equivalent of ‘a big boy did it and ran away’.

The old World War 1 adage needs to be updated for the modern age. Now we’re donkeys led by donkeys.

Jeremy Corbyn – beyond parody…

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As I scanned the news this morning I found one snippet that summed up perfectly why the current political situation in the UK is beyond parody, especially the hapless and hopeless leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn.

Apparently, later today Corbyn and his sidekick, the shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell are to lead a demonstration in Parliament Square to ask that Teresa May guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.

Wait a minute, aren’t those the same rights that Corbyn issued a three-line whip on his MPs to block? Not once, but twice? Both in the Commons and the Lords? Where were the amendments he could have proposed to guarantee these rights? They never existed.

So we now have a beyond parody situation of serial rebel Corbyn protesting against himself.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the fact Jeremy blithely ignores these contradictions and how they appear to ordinary voters. Some ‘man of principles’. This is more Groucho than Karl Marx and that famous quote, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others”

Whilst the country is in desperate need of a credible opposition to what is increasingly looking like a Tory party heading for ‘hard Brexit’ we’re left with this…

UPDATE.

Just when you think things could get any more surreal, news comes in that Corbyn didn’t turn up to his own protest. Mind you. he wasn’t the only one. It seems that only 100 did…

They never learn…

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One of the things that fascinates me about the anti Hs2 campaign is their pig-headedness and inability to learn lessons. They continually re-run the same failed tactics, whether it’s petitions by the bucket load or threats of legal action. You would think that campaigners on phase 2 would look at the tactics that failed to phase 1, but, oh no…

The latest bit of deja vu comes from the risibly named Yorkshire Against Hs2 (all together now – “Oh no, it isn’t!”) who’ve told the Ridings FM radio station this:

pile

After all, judicial reviews worked so well on Phase 1, just ask Hs2aa who launched loads of them. Oh, wait…

jr

See link for the full story. There’s more here.

The process isn’t cheap either. Hs2aa tried to raise £100,000 to fund their appeal after losing first time around. There’s also the small matter that the costs can be claimed by the Government when you lose. There’s the problem, it’s all very well blustering on the internet or telling stories to local newspapers but a court of law is a very different kettle of fish. They actually expect you to have evidence for and prove your claims and have lawyers who cross-examine them (as Hs2aa found out, to their cost)…

Which begs the question how Yorkshire Against Hs2 (“oh,no…etc”) is going to find the money for a judicial review – even if it’s found grounds for one (which I somehow doubt). They would need to find a war-chest of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Knowing Yorkshire folk have a reputation for being careful with their brass, I can’t see money flowing in even if an appeal to raise the money is launched (it hasn’t been).

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen such empty threats and bombastic rhetoric. UKIP member and self-publicist Trevor Forrester from Staffordshire once promised that he’d lead a ‘class action’ to Stop Hs2 in Staffordshire, but, like most things associated with UKIP supporters, the numbers never added up and it never happened. It seems that Johnathon Pile is following in his footsteps in Yorkshire.

Petitions – a double edged sword…

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I’ve blogged about this before but I thought I’d revisit the subject after seeing that some folk who live on the Phase 1 route of Hs2 are still asking people to sign a petition to ‘review’ Hs2 – even though phase 1 has Royal Assent and construction work has started!

The e-petition in question was started by one of the two men who’ve been flogging (as in flogging a dead horse) their own ‘alternative’ to Hs2 called ‘High Speed UK’ (HSUK). They’ve never got anywhere, apart from up many people’s noses (see previous blogs like this). But, their petition IS useful – for all the wrong reasons! What I find interesting about the ones on the Governments petitioning website is the level of detail they contain on who signs them. For example, signatories are grouped together by constituency, which is very useful for MPs wanting to know the strength or weakness of feeling on a particular issue in their area. This is the double-edged sword for campaigners, because it often highlights weakness, not strength.

Let’s take a look at the HSUK petition. You can find it here.

First, the bare facts. It’s had 5,887 signatures since the 11th November 2016. It has 62 days left to run and find over 94,100 signatures. It doesn’t stand a chance of hitting the 10,000 that would get a response from Govt never mind the 100,000 to trigger a debate in the Commons. It’s just another example of how weak the stophs2 campaign is. For HSUK it’s a huge embarrassment because it reveals that most of the folk who’ve signed have done so because they live on the route of Hs2 – not because they support HSUK! Talk about an own goal…

Let’s have a look at the areas where the most signs have come from. Here’s the top 12 constituencies. Between them they account for 3107 signatures, or 52.77% of the total.

HSUK 2.PNG

As you can see, the clear winners are the Chiltern Nimbys in Cheryl Gillan’s constituency of Chesham and Amersham! In fact, phase 1 accounts for 5 of the top 6. Despite this not a single constituency managed to get 1% of the electorate to sign – even in the supposed StopHs2 Phase 1 ‘strongholds’!

What’s just as interesting is the way the figures reveal the weakness of the anti Hs2 campaign on other phases. Only one constituency on Phase 2a (Stone) features and there’s not a single one from the extension of Phase 2a to Manchester – which makes a mockery of the supposed strength of groups like ‘Mid-Cheshire against Hs2’!

The news isn’t much better for the Leicestershire antis or the Yorkshire area, which makes a lot of noise but clearly doesn’t have the influence it claims. Mind you, when you see the half-empty websites of groups like ‘Erewash against Hs2’ it’s not surprising. There’s a lot of bluster from Yorkshire but it’s not backed up by political clout or support.

I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the consultations on the phase 2 routes which closed on March 9th. I have a sneaky suspicion they’ll throw up even more problems for some of the new anti Hs2 groups like the one around Measham (Leics) or in Yorks. They’ve been set up to oppose route changes. But what happens if the majority of people support the changes? Watch this space…

Rail renationalisation will transcend the laws of physics (apparently)…

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Politicians have a habit of saying stupid things about railways – Labour politicians doubly so because of their belief that renationalising the railways will cure all known ills, heralding some sort of socialist nirvana and golden age where all the trains will run on time and nothing will ever break. How else can we explain yesterdays superbly stupid tweet from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

donnel

The delay was caused by the overhead wires on the East Coast main line near Retford failing, which brought many services to a halt.

How renationalising the railways will stop such incidents happening is a mystery, as to all intents and purposes Network Rail (who maintains the ECML) is already under public ownership and supervision! Perhaps McDonnells answer will be to do what the last Labour Government did and string up less wires? After all, in all their years in office between 1997 and 2010, Labour only managed to electrify a paltry 20 miles of line between Crewe and Kidsgrove. Or perhaps those nasty capitalist trains whose pantographs have a habit of bringing down the wires will have their carbons replaced with copies of ‘Das Kapital’? Unfortunately, inanimate objects still obey the laws of physics and remain stubbornly immune to political rhetoric from right, or left.

Sadly, quite a few Labour MPs have form for this sort of grandstanding. In the past I’ve blogged about both Michael Dugher and Andy Burnham making fools of themselves in this fashion. Mind you, it’s not just Labour who come out with crackpot stuff like this. The ‘Vulcan’ – John Redwood, the Tory MP for Wokingham once suggested trains have their steel wheels replaced by rubber ones – which provoked this riposte from Michael Roberts of ATOC.

Perhaps McDonnell should put down his copy of dialectical materialism for Marxists and pick up a history book. Then he might learn about the fate of the last politician famous for making the trains run on time. Benito Mussolini…