Well, that’s the plan, but it’s not started well!
Having walked to Halifax station after a later than usual start due to the dank and dismal weather I was greeted by news of an equally dismal rail service! Here’s the PIS screen..
So here I am waiting for a train to Leeds, wondering which late-running one will turn up first. So far we’ve had services delayed or cancelled due to no traincrew, a late-running freight train, the train being late off the depot and a train with an onboard fault! What next, pestilence or the pox, or a plague of frogs?
It’s not difficult to see why long-suffering Northern travellers have such a poor opinion of Northern services. There’s not a day that goes by without delays or cancellations. Mind you, I should be thankful I can travel today. Yesterday both East and West Coast main lines were blocked by different incidents. The truth is that our railways simply aren’t resilient enough in the face of disruption and running ever more services on a crowded network isn’t helping.
I’m finally on the move as a Huddersfield – Leeds train has turned up. To add insult to Northern sensibilities, it’s a 2-car Pacer! These should have been reduced to just a handful of trains with only a month left in service. Instead, they’ll still be running in 2020. Here’s the scene as I boarded.
Our Pacer’s now struggling manfully up the bank out of Bradford Interchange full and standing. It was busy on the way in from Halifax but this is a different order of magnitude!
At least I’ve got a seat and the heating’s keeping me toasty, so I’m not complaining. I’m just glad I’m not stood at New Pudsey, hoping to catch this train!
We bounced and rocked our way to Leeds, managing to squeeze just a handful more passengers on from the dozens waiting at our next stops. Our apologetic Conductor telling those left behind that there was another train just behind us.
As we pulled into Leeds I noticed that a large gaggle of yellow painted MEWPs were being assembled in the land between the triangle of tracks. These road/rail Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (hence MEWP) are used for maintaining and renewing overhead lines and their presence suggests Leeds will have a heavy ‘orange army’ presence this weekend.
I didn’t have much time in Leeds as shortly after I arrived the stock for LNER’s 10:15 to Kings Cross arrived from London formed of one of the remaining Mk4 coach sets worked by 91109, named “Bobby Robson” after the famous football manager. This being an off-peak service and because of yesterday’s problems the train’s rammed. I’ve managed to find an airline seat in the quiet coach, but my plan to get a load of work done has suffered a blow as the adjacent power socket’s kaput.! I’ll see how things are after wwe leave Doncaster…
I’m now on an LNER ‘Azuma’, havng abandoned the mark 4 set at Doncaster in favour of 1E09, the Glasgow – Kings Cross that was running 10 mins behind. It’s a busy 9 car but I was lucky and found a free table in coach K right up against the 1st Class portion of the vehicle. The socket works, so I’m up and running!
Even the weather’s decided to play ball and brighten up. I’ve just glimpsed something I’ve not seen for days – a patch of blue sky! OK, admittedly it was a fleeting glimpse, and there’s plenty of tough looking stormclouds keeping it company but even so…
We’re in North London now and the weather’s like it was back in the Calder Valley, just a little more mixed, with thinner cloud. Good job the only backgrounds I’m expected to get in today’s photos are office blocks!
On arrival in London I made a quick detour to Euston to drop something off with an old friend, have a quick chat and get this shot to show progress on demolishing the former Railtrack HQ to make way for HS2.
Job No 1 done I’m taking a few minutes to enjoy old haunts and admire the changes…
Now I can admit what the second part of the job was! The Green Party and StopHs2 had arranged a ‘big’ protest outside the Department of Transport between 3-4pm today, so I thought I’d pop along and show you what the media (with their close cropped shots of the main speakers) don’t show you! The event was a miserable flop with less than 2 dozen people – including the media – turning up. Needless to say, none of the stophs2 keyboard warriors were there, it was just the same few faces. Green ‘Co-leader’ Bartley turned up, as did Harvil Rd protester Sarah Green. The Green’s candidate in Uxbridge, Mark Keir, was also there. He gave a barely coherent interview to the couple of cameras who’d bothered to attend. Remember, this is the man who stood in Uxbridge in 2017 and reduced the Green party’s share of the vote! The only thing of interest (but not to his advantage) that he did say was by constantly appealing for people to turn up to their ‘direct action’ protests such as Harvil Road. What’s painfully obvious when you see the tedious phone videos they post to their Facebook page is just how few of them there are. They’re completely outnumbered by HS2 staff, security and (when needed) the police.
StopHs2’s Joe Rukin was also there, getting his money’s worth out of his ridiculous tree costume. After that there were half a dozen people holding up banners and, err, that was it. It was excruciatingly embarassing when you think of all the bluster we hear about the country being up in arms about HS2! It also shows just how badly the Green party have misjudged this issue. Fracking or roadbuilding it ain’t and their desperate attempts to spin just how much environmental damage HS2 is meant to be causing are backfiring. Here’s a couple of pictures of the debacle. These are phone shots. I’ll add better ones later.
Here’s a little video too…
I’m now heading North on yet another Azuma. Just in case folk think it’s only travel in the north that stuffs up, let me relate a couple of today’s experiences in the capital. On arrival, my first trip was via Thameslink, a network that suffers delays and cancellations on a regular basis and yes, my first train was cancelled, leaving me hanging around for an extra 10 minutes for the next Southbound service across central London. Afterwards I abandoned public transport and opted to walk from Blackfriars to the DfT as I was in no rush and a walk along the South bank of the Thames brings back lots of lovely memories of my days as a Londoner. On the way back I chose to get the Victoria line from Victoria to Kings Cross. Joining the crowds on the platform we waited and waited. Normally you can expect Vicky line trains to be one after the other but due to a ‘passenger incident’ at Vauxhall we were left waiting for a good 10-15 mins. Not a huge amount of time in the scheme of things, but an absolute age on the London Underground!
The penultimate leg! I swapped from the 17:16 ‘Azuma’ Kings Cross – Hull onto the 17:31 Kings Cross – Leeds at Doncaster. Both are 9-car trains and with their loadings on leaving London you can see why! I must admit, these trains are growing on me and the onky thing I’ll miss compared to the Mk3 and Mk4 coaches they’ll replace is the ambience you could get in the buffet cars, especially on a Thursday/Friday. The cramped offering on all the Hitachi sets is far too functional, but I can understand why (from a comnercial perspective) that is.
Last train of of the day folks – and it’s another Pacer. This time one of the Andrew Barclay bodied Class 144s, so a little more up-market! In these days of electronic communications and real-time information it’s frustrating when you see your train described as ‘arrived’ when you’re stood on a nice warm concourse only to find on the platform PIS it’s announced as running late when you’ve made the trip early…