I’ve been moving around too much today to write a coherent rolling blog, so here’s a look back over the day.
After attending the Bradshaw address last night I stayed with an old friend who lives in Clapham. His flat overlooks the station and offers some excellent views of the changing city skyline beyond. It was great to catch up with him as it’s not easy nowadays because we all lead such busy lives.
When I left, rather than go into central London I caught the London overground via Wandsworth and Canada Water through to Shoreditch, which was an old stomping ground from the 1980s-90s. I’m always amazed how much that neck of the woods has changed in the past 35 years. When I lived in the East End London was still a city in decline, with a shrinking population. The Housing Co-op I lived in was set up by the local council (Tower Hamlets) because the block was on an estate where properties were considered ‘hard to let’. Can you imagine that now? So much of what was once considered ‘rough’ areas of London no-one wanted to live in are now chokka with new high-rise housing developments – and new transport links to serve them, like the Docklands Light Railway, or indeed – the London Overground! I still love coming back to London even if the memories are sometimes bitter-sweet.
One thing I realised on my tour was how many photographic locations have been lost because of all the new housing developments, especially on the part of the LO that runs on the reinstated line from Shoreditch through to Dalston. Later, when I can, I’ll post a couple of pictures as contrasts to show you what I mean.
Leaving London from Liverpool St I passed through more of East London. Areas I lived and worked in for nearly 15 years that still hold powerful and happy memories for me. Leaving the orbit of the capital I ended up in Essex, where the railways are changing fast. Trains that have plied these routes before I moved to London are being phased out completely. The Anglia franchise has gone for total fleet replacement, although that’s not entirely gone to plan as the new fleets are late! Hardly a unique story on UK railways…
My first port of call was Colchester, where the station approaches are rather photogenic, especially with a long lens. I didn’t linger long as the weather was less than inviting and I was dressed for a lecture, not the great outdoors! The station’s quite exposed and the wind was perishing! Even so, I managed a couple of useful shots of trains that will soon be a memory in that neck of the woods.
Moving on I headed for Ipswich, where I started to encounter the new Stadler built bi-mode trains that Anglia have bought in great numbers. To say these units are a leap in quality is rather like comparing a Boeing 737 with a DC3! When the full fleet’s in service (along with the Bombardier built Class 720s) there’ll be a rail revolution in Anglia, a regions that’s always made do with cast-offs for decades.
My first trip on one of the Stadler units was from Ipswich to Bury St Edmonds and I had to say I was impressed. The build quality’s very good, the seats are very comfortable and there’s a good mix of bay seating with tables and airline type rows. Plus sockets are fitted at every seat although it took me a few minutes fiddling with one to realise they’ve been fitted upside down (which is no bad thing). Acceleration on electric power’s excellent and they’re no slouch on diesel power either. The PA system makes a human voice audible for once and the PIS screens – whilst not as good or as informative as the ones in the new Siemens Class 700 family – give you details of stops en-route. Ride quality felt superior to the new CAF units i’m used to on Northern, whilst noise inside the saloon was minimal. I’d certainly rate them as one of the best new trains we’ve got. I’m looking forward to trying out one of the intercity variants to see the difference, as well as doing a full train test on them with Pip Dunn for a future edition of RAIL magazine.
At Bury St Edmonds I couldn’t get the pictures I wanted so I backtracked to the pretty little station of Thurston, which is a rarity nowadays in that passengers gain access to the Up platform by walking over a foot crossing at track level that’s only protected by lights and sirens.
Moving on to Cambridge I stayed long enough to photograph the variety of trains (old and new) that operate a far more intensive service than I remember from a few years ago. Afterwards I headed North to Ely to connect with trains to Peterborough which were worked by EMR Class 158s and GA 755s. I was in time to get another of the GA 755s which made for a very pleasant trip across the flooded flatlands of the fens whilst watching the hailstorms from my cosy perch.
At Peterborough I didn’t have long to wait for a pair of 5-car LNER Azuma’s to arrive on a Leeds service and whisk me back to Yorkshire. A quick change to a Hull to Halifax service meant I was home by 20:30, which has given me time to scribble this – although I’ve more detail and pictures to add in the morning. Right now, it’s time to call it a day…