Recent reports have confirmed that both Class 142 and 144 Pacer trains will continue in service until the next timetable change in May at the least. The plans are that they’ll be confined to Lancashire and Yorkshire with the Class 142s operating West services around Manchester whilst the Neville Hill based Class 144s will operate set routes around Leeds/Sheffield/Doncaster/Huddersfield and York.
The Class 142 fleet will be reduced to just 22 members from an original fleet of 94 whilst all 23 Class 144s will be retained. the DfT derogation letter confirms that the following Class 142s will be allowed to run but will gradually be phased out by the arrival of new CAF built units.
The Class 142 derogation expires at 23:59 on 31 May 2020.
A separate DfT document that confirms the dispensation allowing the Class 144s to be kept in service also specifies which routes they will be allowed to run on. These are.
• Leeds to Huddersfield
• Leeds to Sheffield
• Leeds to Knottingley
• Sheffield to Adwick
• Sheffield to Huddersfield via Penistone
• Sheffield to Gainsborough Central / Lincoln
• Huddersfield to Bradford Interchange via Halifax
• Huddersfield to Castleford via Wakefield
• Doncaster to Scunthorpe
• Sheffield to York via Rotherham and Moorthorpe
• York to Leeds via Micklefield
• York to Selby / Hull / Bridlington
• Bradford Interchange to Leeds
• Doncaster to Leeds
The permission granted by this dispensation to Arriva Rail North expires at 23:59 on 31 August 2020 but don’t assume that they’ll last until then.
This means Pacer fans (and yes, they do exist!) have a few more months to search out and ride/photograph these gradually dwindling fleets of trains before the last one heads off to the scrapyard. Make the most of the reprieve as it all depends on how quickly the last of the new CAF built trains enter service! If I get details of specific routes that the Class 142s will be operating on around Manchester I’ll update this blog with details. Right now I’d expect that they’ll be seen around Victoria on services to Stalybridge and Rochdale plus at Piccadilly on trains to New Mills and Rose Hill.
If you want to see a pictorial history of the BR built Pacer fleets over the years, have a look at my earlier blog.
On the day when commuters returned to work after the New Year holiday and rail fares increased by an average 2.7% and Northern were still cancelling services, confusion reigned over the future of the Northern franchise. This morning Transport Minister Grant Shapps gave an interview to the BBC which was widely interpreted by the media as him announcing he was stripping operator Arriva of the franchise. The BBC later backtracked on this and ITV secured a quote from the Dept of Transport saying that no decision had been made.
So what is happening? Will Arriva lose the franchise?
Shapps has made it fairly clear this is his intention and an operator of last resort is being put into place. But it’s not going to happen overnight. Politically, it would be a popular move as Northern have come in for a huge amount of criticism over the past year. Some of it justified, some not. Elected Mayors, User groups and the passengers themselves have all given the company a good kicking. The fact the franchise’s MD has a very low profile compared to previous bosses like Heidi Mottram and Alex Hynes hasn’t helped either. They’re seen by many (including their staff) as a faceless company. But no franchise has ever been terminated purely on the grounds of poor performance…
What isn’t clear to seasoned observers is how running Northern from a desk at the DfT in Westminster is meant to improve anything. After all, the franchise was specified by the DfT in the first place! Let’s look at some of the problems Northern are facing and where responsibility lies.
The company’s suffered from the late completion (or shelving entirely) of infrastructure enhancements like electrification that were meant to help it deliver new timetables and new services. These are the results of failings by Network Rail which is already in public control and funded by Government, plus political delays in decision-making on future enhancements like the Trans-Pennine route upgrade (which was ‘paused’ by then Transport Minister Chris Grayling) and the Manchester Oxford Rd corridor.
Problems with the late delivery of new and refurbished trains such as the CAF built Class 331s and 195s, as well as the rebuilt Class 769 bi-mode trains have had a big impact, as have the inevitable teething problems with new fleets. None of these are Northern’s fault, but they’ve meant that the company has suffered more cancellations and-short-formed trains. It’s also going to be keeping over 45 old Pacer trains running until May (possibly August) 2020 when they should all have gone by the end of last year. This is manna from heaven for the critics, but what else can they do? Leave themselves short of trains and cancel more services? They’re caught between a rock and a hard place until all the new trains are in service (over a year late).
The new trains being late has had an impact on staff training and availability, which hasn’t helped service levels or delivery of the new timetables. There’s also the small matter of finding paths to run these trains in to allow mileage accumulation and time for staff to familiarise themselves with their workings. The difficulty finding paths has been exacerbated by both LNER and Trans-Pennine also introducing new fleets, leaving capacity at a premium. Sweating the Northern fleet by running complex diagrams and relying on staff working rest days hasn’t helped either. Nor have the problems at Trans-Pennine Express. Their timetabling problems have an impact on Northern services at pinch points like Leeds and Manchester.
Here’s an illustration of today’s performance for Northern and TPE, taken from the Trains.im website. Timed at 19.50.
How will stripping Arriva of the franchise resolve these issues? It won’t.
What will happen to the franchise in the long term? There’s a lot of rumours flying around that the franchise will be split into East and West, as it was before two areas were merged to form the first Northern franchise in 2004.
If the Conservatives wanted to play clever, they might even decide to hand these franchises over to local control. Either directly to transport for the North, or (if they’re feeling really devious) they could give Manchester’s elected Mayor, Andy Burnham, a level of control. He’s a long-standing critic of Northern and as a Labour Party member he’s pushed for rail renationalisation. The expression ‘be careful what you wish for’ springs to mind here as the buck would (potentially) then stop with him. Only he’s no control over the root causes of Northern’s problems either!
Whatever is decided in the corridors of power, the franchises problems will continue until the infrastructure and capacity is sorted out. The situation with staff and new trains will ease when the new fleets are fully introduced and trains and staff are bedded in which will mean punctuality will improve but it won’t cure bottlenecks around Manchester or Leeds. If the Government is serious about investing in the North (and keeping the Labour constituencies that turned Tory at the last election) it’s going to have to address these issues by investing in HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. But what does it do in the short-term as neither of these projects will be delivered for two general elections? A quick fix could be to devolve power and money to the North and say, ‘right, get on with it’…
Meanwhile, there’s looking like there’s going to be rail congestion at the DfT as a number of franchises are looking rocky. TPE seemed Teflon-coated as Northern got all the flack, but now they’re starting to feel the heat too and there’s no sign of a recovery plan. SouthWestern Railway is under pressure too, both financially and through strike action. There’s also the unresolved SouthEastern franchise. And what of the William’s review?
It’s not as if there’s a queue of people waiting to bid for franchises. Let’s face it, despite what some on the left claim, they’re hardly a licence to print money more like a licence to lose it – as this informative tweet from my RAIL colleague Phil Haigh demonstrates! Abellio aren’t having a happy time with a few of their franchises, including Scotrail.
So, not only can you lose your shirt, there’s also the reputational damage. Is it any wonder both Virgin and Stagecoach have now left the field? As a source at Stagecoach told me, the cost of recent unsuccessful bids wiped out the profits from their bus operations. When bidding is that expensive (£5m plus a pop) and the chances of winning so uncertain, why bother?
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…
I was up before sparrow fart this morning as I have to be in London for a commission with Network Rail at Euston at 09:00, then in Birmingham in the afternoon for the ACoRP AGM.
Right now I’m walking down to Halifax station to potentially catch the second train of the day – if it’s running to time. My connections are tight if I’m going to be punctual and punctuality isn’t great in the leaf-fall season. There’s no rain this morning, which is a bonus. Instead it’s clear and frosty. The gritting lorries have been busy overnight and as it’s quiet this time of morning i’m walking on the roads rather than the leaf-strewn pavements. Yorkshire stone slabs may look pretty, but in the autumn they’re as slippery and untrustworthy as Boris Johnson!
I’m taking a chance and this could all go horribly wrong, but I’m now on the 05:50 from Halifax to Manchester Victoria, which is being worked by one of Northern’s new Class 195s. It was 3 mins late arriving from Bradford and it’s the first service of the day through the Calder Valley across the Pennines, so I’m taking a risk! I’m sat in the front car and it’s freezing! There’s no heating on and the information screens aren’t working either. The Conductor’s apologiesed and explained that the units come straight off Neville Hill depot and “hasn’t got going yet”!
We’ve just left Sowerby Bridge, where I could have caught the train from (and had an extra 15m in bed) but i’d have been without a plan B (going via the East Coast) if the train had been late or cancelled. To be fair, we’re not doing badly. The driver took it easy leaving the station but the railhead conditions musn’t be too bad as he’s making the most of the unit’s superior acceleration and braking.
We’re now leaving Hebden Bridge and I’ve noticed another thing about this unit (195109) which is there’s a real whistling sound at speed. The unit feels very draughty and I suspect it’s coming from the driver’s door!
The whistling and draughts were annoying enough to make me move into the centre car. It’s still freezing in here but it’s not as draughty! Our timekeeping’s not bad. We’re only 2 mins down departing from Todmorden so I’m cautiously optimistic. In the bay of seats behind me are two men complaining about the service Northern Rail have been providing. To say the TOC has an image problem is an understatement!
We’ve left Rochdale 5 mins late. I can feel the wheels slipping here but the driver’s done well. My connection time in Manchester is going to be very tight, but I might just make it. I’ll let you know if I do afterwards! I’m looking forward to sitting on a nice warm Pendolino with a steaming cup of coffee in my frozen hands…
Bugger – missed it! A 5 minute late arrival into platform 6, the furthest away from the barriers that involves a scrum on the footbridge, meant that – despite a heroic sprint across the city centre – I missed the 07:00 Euston train by 2 minutes! I’m now thawing out in coach C on the 07:15 Pendolino which gets me into Euston 20 mins late. I’m sure my Network Rail colleagues will understand!
Another calamity has befallen me. The coffee machine’s kaput! This could have been an absolute disaster were it not for the fact the chap in the shop had a stash of coffee bags, so I managed to get a brew after all…
We’ve just left Stoke-On-Trent and the few seats keft unoccupied after leaving Stockport have filled up. This is a peak service so tickets aren’t cheap, but that’s not deterred the many business travellers who’re heading down to London for the day. This train’s now fast to Milton Keynes, so I’ll be interested to see how many alight there.
Weatherwise, we had a cracking sunrise around Stockport but now the mist has settled, marring visibility despite the thin, high cloud. I don’t travel the WCML anywhere near as much as I used to, so I’m going to sit back and enjoy the journey for a while.
We’ve just called at Milton Keynes, which became a bit of a scrum because of the passenger churn. Many left us, but many more joined and this train’s now standing room only. Outside, the weather’s changed too. The sky is clear blue whilst the mist has mistly burned off, leaving a lot of the country and lineside steaming in the warm sunshine.
Phew! part 1 of the day’s been done and I now have portraits of 20 members of Network Rail staff in the can after a busy morning at Eversholt St. Despite arriving 25 mins late we managed to catch up time and get through all the pictures that were needed. I even had a bit of time spare to check out progress on the HS2 demolition work around Euston station and the Regent’s Park estate.
Right now I’m on another Virgin Pendolino, this time a 9-car set working the 13:03 from Euston to Birmingham New St in order to get to the ACoRP AGM.
Sadly, the wonderful autumn sunshine I had on the way down and in London has given away to more typical gloomy weather.
Keeping busy at the ACoRP AGM…
The AGM finished at 16:00 but Dawn and I resisted the opportunity to hang around for a drink as we’d seats booked on the 16:57 Cross-Country service to Manchester Piccadilly. These trains are always packed, so it was worth making use of the reservations.
True to form, there was an absolute scrum to get on the train at New St, then the scramble as people (including us) tried to get to their reserved seats. If there’s one train I actively dislike, it’s these. It’s neither fish nor fowl, neither a proper intercity train nor an adequate local one. The sooner these services are replaced by HS2 the better.
15 mins late, but we’re finally in sight of Manchester Piccadilly where we can abandon this train, get some fresh air and clear our ears of the management bollocks being spouted by the guy sat opposite who’s insisting on having a loud (but ultimately pointless as it’s devoid of any real content) conversation on his mobile!
Having traversed Manchester from Piccadilly to Victoria we arrived to find our train home had been cancelled! We’d have been quicker staying at Picc & coming home via Huddersfield. Adjourning to a local history to drown our sorrows and eat crisps we ended up catching the 19:37 instead. We’re now bouncing our way back to Yorkshire on a Pacer (142018 to be precise).
The end of a looong day! I’ve been up since 04:30, travelled hundreds of miles (and walked nearly 11, burning 3.5k calories), visited three of our biggest cities and taken hundreds of photos, so it’s time for a little relaxation and the chance to enjoy a soak in a bath with some of Islay’s finest whisky as a nightcap. Goodnight!
After yesterday’s excitement about the arrival into service of the new trains, today’s been back to business very much as usual with lots of late running, trains terminating short and cancellations. I popped down to Sowerby Bridge for an hour to see what was happening. It wasn’t great. Several Leeds – Southport and Chester services were cancelled with some Southport trains terminated at Wigan Wallgate. Here’s a look at some of the days services.
As this is early days and there’s always teething problems with new fleets I’m hoping these issues will be sorted out quickly. What’s harder to sort out is the cancellations and delays that have nothing to do with the new trains. After the heartache and hassle passengers and businesses have suffered over the past few years due to the rail strikes, punctuality needs addressing as a matter of urgency. It’s easy to see how the Northern TOC can become a political football when the service is so unreliable. It could be very tempting to politicians desperate to curry favour and secure a ‘cheap win’ and political plaudits by taking back the franchise. Add in the fact that Sowerby Bridge and Mytholmroyd are due to lose many of their services from the December timetable (I understand they’re due to be cut by a third during the week and by half on Sundays) and you can understand local displeasure.
It’s disappointing on another level too. Network Rail have invested in the route, having spent over £100m on new signalling track upgrades and line-speed improvements in the past few years, but this isn’t reflected in punctuality improvements. Why? What’s the route cause of the problems? I’d love to know…
Northern’s new CAF built Class 195s have entered passenger service through the Calder Valley today on the routes from Leeds – Chester and Leeds – Manchester Victoria. Needless to say, I’m out with the camera to capture pictures of this important milestone. It’s the culmination of improvements to the line that have seen the route resignalled, linespeeds increased and platforms lengthened.
I’ll be adding pictures throughout the day. Here’s the first as 195123 picks up passengers at Sowerby Bridge whilst working the 10:22 from Chester to Leeds.
I’ve caught a late-running Chester service which is worked by 195110. These trains are certainly a step-change to the old BR built units we’ve been used to since the 1980s! They’ve far superior acceleration and braking, not to mention all the facilities that passengers have come to expect nowadays, such as power sockets and free wifi. They’ve also got far more seating bays with tables.
Sorry folks, It didn’t turn out to be much of a rolling blog as I was too busy taking pictures! Since I got home earlier this evening I’ve been busy editing them, so here’s a small selection. You can find the full gallery here on my Zenfolio website.
For the number crunchers, the list of units seen in passenger service is as follows. Two car 195002 and 195007. Three car 195103. 195110. 195111. 195119. 195121 and 195123.
The new Northern Rail trains have been in a long time in the pipeline and their introduction’s been delayed by six months, but this weekend the new CAF built Class 195s have actually arrived – even if it is on text runs. On Saturday and Sunday the trains are on test between Bradford Interchange and Todmorden, where they reverse to head back East. If you want to see them on Sunday, here’s a link to the times they should be running at.
I managed to catch a couple of the runs today as Dawn and I were enjoying a leisurely day in the valley so nipped out to Sowerby Bridge. Here’s 195110 returning to Bradford Interchange after a run out to Todmordon.
I’m really looking forward to these units entering service on the Calder Valley route in the next couple of months as they’re a step-change to anything we’ve had before. Here’s a look at the interiors.
So, if you have time to nip out tomorrow, enjoy the sight of our new trains!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
A view of one of the passenger saloons.
It’s a step-change from a Pacer!
Disabled seating/wheelchair area adjacent to the accessible toilet.
The same area as above from the side.
The vestibules are wide and spacious, with tip-up seats at one side.
Looking through the gangway into the next car. There are no internal doors, giving a feeling of spaciousness
Rail Minister Andrew Jones MP being interviewed by the BBC.
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.
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.