10:20Today a group of friends from the Big 6 pub in Halifax, under the leadership of Tony Allan (of Phoenix Brewery fame) are having a little outing by train, over the Pennines to Rochdale to partake in the Easter ale trail, a new take on the traditional beer festival. It’s another fantastic Spring day here in the Pennines, so the weather’s ideal. Watch out for updates on our (probably unsteady) progress throughout the day!Before we go, Dawn’s been busy in the kitchen as we’re hosting her parents for dinner tomorrow. Last night she prepared a special marinade for this leg of lamb, which will now steep until tomorrow.12:09The group rendezvous at Halifax railway station.12:57.The group outside the first pub of the day – The Flying Horse hotel which has a great view of the Town Hall.Here’s the token system.15:10We’re on our third pub and it’s a cracker! It’s The Baum in Toad Lane, a conservation area. The pub is adjacent to the shop where, in 1844, the Rochdale Pioneers opened their first shop and started the co-operative movement back in 1844.This has been our lunch stop and I couldn’t resist ordering a traditional Lancashire delicacy: rag pudding with mushy peas and chips!We’ve now stepped through a door into a 5th dimension where it feels like we’re in London, or Paris, not Rochdale – and Otto’s found the piano..18:10.We’re now on what’s probably our last pub, which is opposite the Town Hall. The Old Post Office.
Another day, another early start. Right now I’m sat on a train to Leeds on a frosty but sunny morning that promises to be a glorious day weather-wise. Sadly I’m sans coffee as I left the house slightly later than planned. I had to power walk to Halifax station, arriving with a minute to spare. That defect will be remedied when I reach Leeds!
I’m on my way to Peterborough to meet up with an old friend and colleague from RAIL magazine to do a job for said mag. Years ago Pip and I used to do regular features for RAIL which involved travelling on new trains and seeing what they were like from a passengers perspective. The series carried on for many years and now we’re bringing it back. This time we’re going to be checking out the new (ish) Siemens built Class 700s built for Thameslink/Great Northern services. You’ll be able to read about it in RAIL soon so I won’t be blogging in detail about the trip, but you might get a few teasers!
My connection at Leeds worked without problem and I’m now happily ensconced on LNER’s 07:15 from Leeds to Kings Cross as far as Grantham. I now have coffee and a sandwich, so all’s well with the world…
After a rapid change of trains at Grantham I’m now on an East Midlands Trains Class 158 heading for Peterborough. According to the screens, this service is from Mansfield Woodhouse to Norwich, which is a service I never even knew existed! I’d have thought it would have originated from Sheffield. Still, you learn something new every day!
I rather like the refurbed EMT 158s. They’re a comfortable train, although I know some folk don’t like the high-back seats.v
We’re hard at work, honest! We’ve tried out 4 class 700s, two 12-car and two 8-car. Here’s Pip Dunn checking the technical details on our way to London.
Job done, it’s time to begin the trek North from Peterborough, this time it’s on a rammed LNER service heading for Leeds. I was going to hang around and get some pictures but the weather’s changed completely from this morning full sun to being cloudy and cold, so hardly an incentive to hang around…
I decided to take a short break in Doncaster to get a couple of pictures and (as it’s Friday) visit this little gem on the station for a ‘swifty’ before heading home.
Last train of the day now. I missed an earlier one by seconds as our platforms were too far apart. Now I’m on the 17:97 to Brighouse which is a rammed 2-car ex-Scotrail Class 158. There’s 10 of us stood in the vestibule by the toilets and aisle in the passenger saloon resembles a sardine can.
06:18The week begins with me heading South again, with a early start on the 06:26 train from Halifax to Leeds. The walk to the station’s always pleasant at this time of day as much of the town still hasn’t woken up. Apart from the dawn chorus of birdsong, there’s little human life to be seen until I get closer to the station and join some of the early commuters and cleaners sprucing the town up ready for another day.My train, a two-car Class 158 turned up from Huddersfield on time and I’m nwow in the warm, sipping coffee and contemplating what the day might bring. Clearer skies hopefully as the haze that’s been hanging around for a few days now is proving persistent.07:00This two car train is now full and standing after calling at New Pudsey, which is always a busy pick-up point. I’ve never been sure why it’s so popular but then I don’t really know the area. I’m assuming there’s plenty of car parking, hence so many people commuting into the city by train.07:12This time of morning Leeds station hasn’t hit its commuter peak, so my cross platform interchange to LNER’s 07:15 to Kings Cross was easy. The trains worked by one of the TOC’s venerable HST sets – only this one’s in early condition as it’s still fitted with the original IC70 style seats with the awful fixed armrests!08:05We’re now bowling along towards Grantham through the gloom and murk as the haze is sticking with us, which isn’t exactly condusive to good photography!I was surprised to see how many folk on my train were commuting from Leeds to Doncaster. No doubt some were rail staff, but I wonder about the others as you don’t exactly see ‘Donny’ as a thriving centre of commerce.09:05The closer I get to London the worse the murk gets! We’ve just passed Hitchin and visibility is down to 200 metres. If it’s no better in London I may need to rethink my plans for the rest of the day as it’s grim down South. One of my community rail friends has just sent me a picture of sunny Accrington to cheer me up!10:38My luck’s changing at last. The wet weather I was greeted with has changed an the skies are starting to clear. Meanwhile, a friend at Hornsey depot is keeping me abreast of preparations to tow away the first Class 313 (026) to South Wales and the scrap yard. Here it is passing through Finsbury Park on its final journey, hauled by 57312.Tomorrow night, sister unit 313055 is due to head in the opposite direction, from Hornsey to Yorkshire, where the unit will be scrapped.Here’s the new order that will replace them, seen at Hornsey earlier. The Siemens built Class 717s are a step-change in quality compared to the 1970s designed 313s.13:00.Due to the weather I didn’t hang around in London. I began heading North, looking for sunshine. I found it at Bedford, on the Midland Main Line, where these units working the Bedford-Bletchley line are due to be replaced by Vivarail Class 230s very soon.Of course, the times have changed here earlier now that Thameslink are running an entirely new fleet to Bedford.15:36.Northward, ever Northward! My next stop was at Wellingborough to check out progress on both MML electrification and also the massive housing development that’s being built to the North and East of the station. Here’s the view looking North, with the old Midland Railway steam loco shed to the right.17:22.I’d hopped my way up the Midland Main Line as far as Sheffield where I couldn’t resist stopping for a swift beer in the magnificent Sheffield Tap, which gave me time to upload a few more pictures to the blog. Now I’m heading for Leeds on one of Cross-country’s HST’s which are rather a contrast to the one I started the day on! All the way North the weather’s been a patchwork quilt that’s alternated between sunshine and low clouds or haze. Still, it’s mission accomplished – despite the weather and the all-invasive Buddleia! As someone who spent many years travelling on the old Class 313s I wanted to record the beginning of their end. I only hope GN give the last one’s a proper send-off as they’ve moved millions of people in years they’ve served the railways.17:55I made the cardinal error of using one of the toilets on this train only to find coach C has run out of water, so the sight greeting you in the toilet bowl can be imagined. I’m at Leeds. This trains going all the way to Glasgow and there’s no chance of replenishing the water supply…18:22.The last train of the day is a refurbished Northern Class 158 that’s taking me and dozens of other weary commuters home. Like every commuter service, no-one’s window-gazing, they see this view 10 times a week at least! Instead, the vast majority are staring at screens of varying sizes and I’ve only heard the rustle of a single newspaper. One or two are taking the chance to doze. All this means it’s a very quiet train…
After three days cocooned with the computer in my home office it’s time to escape for a few hours and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. I’m out and about with the camera in the Calder Valley today after a slaving over another batch of old slides. These are now on my website, so click this link to see which galleries they’re in. There’s another batch waiting to be scanned this evening if I can make the time. In the meantime, expect a few notes and pictures to be added throughout the day…
I walked down into Sowerby Bridge and cut through across the Calder from the main Street on the old cobbled footbridge. The river’s back to its normal level now after the heavy rains of the other week. Here’s the view from the bridge, looking East.
The old mill reflected in the river was converted into apartments many years ago. When the river flooded on Boxing Day 2015 the lower apartments were wrecked by the rising water levels and rendered uninhabitable for quite some time.
I caught Northern’s 13:22 service to Mytholmroyd, where there’s quite a bit of work going on. The old goods yard is being cleared of trees and scrub to make way for a vastly extended car park. This should increase footfall at the station considerably as trying to drive around here is a pain because the roads to the next two stations are so congested.
At the other end of the station works progressing on restoring the formerly derelict station building, which now has proper doors and windows for the first time since the early 1980s!
The work in Mytholmroyd isn’t confined to the railway. A huge amount has been done to strengthen the town’s flood defences too, as you can see from this picture taken from the beer garden of the local pub which was another victim of the 2015 floods. The pub was closed for about 18 months and the beer garden’s only reopened in time for the 2019 season.
Here’s another view from the other side of the stream.
It’s been a lovely (if frustrating) day, mainly because so much of the Calder Valley line has become a ‘green tunnel’! No doubt I’ll be getting angry responses from Greens about this but the amount of vegetation enclosing the railway nowadays is a nightmare. My concerns aren’t about photography but safety. In the past 40 years trees have been allowed to encroach far too close to the operational railway. They pose a risk to life and also reliability, as a tree coming down across the railway can bugger up a lot of people’s day. The Greens who complain that tree cover’s being cut back have obviously never seen pictures of the Calder Valley back in the 1950s! Sadly, I don’t have any comparison shots to offer. I’ll see if I can find any ‘creative commons’ one’s on the internet.
One of the places I visited was Eastwood, between Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, where the line was quite open with a valley side background that could be captured from a footbridge. Now, the footbridge has been replaced with a modern high-sided one and trees have encroached on the line so that’s another photographic location scratched off the list…
This was the view from our bedroom window this morning as the snow had returned late last night and this time it had crept down further from the valley tops.
Thankfully, the roads below us remain clear so we shouldn’t have any problem driving over to Huddersfield to meet up with other members of the ACORP team before catching the train to Sheffield. Watch this space…
Away we go! After a quick visit to ACORP towers we’re now bouncing our way to Sheffield via the scenic Penistone line aboard a Pacer.
It’s a beautifully sunny day here on the Penistone line as we bounce and rock towards Sheffield, where the weather’s not looking as inviting. We’ve been in and out of the snowline several times already. Initially the train was quite empty but we’ve picked up passengers at every stop, especially at Penistone and Barnsley, the main population centres along the line. Now this 3 car train’s earning its keep.
Despite my earlier concerns about the weather the sun’s beating down on Sheffield, making it ideal for a spot of photography before the conference starts after lunch. Here’s one the the unique tram-trains. Hopefully this trial will be a success and we’ll see vehicles like this become a common sight. Ironically, I came to Sheffield for an Acorp conference on tram-trains way back in 2009. After years of plans changing and procrastination, the trams finally started running in 2018!
The conference is in full swing right now. The event was opened by the Mayor of Sheffield, Dan Byles MP, who welcomed everyone to the city and spoke about the importance of community rail.
I’m heading back to London today as I’m picking up a load of old slides that were with a picture library. They were digitised years ago and now the library is moving premises so wants to give them back. Rather than entrust them to the post I’ve arranged to collect them and do some work whilst I’m down there.
Unfortunately, the weather here in the Calder valley’s dismal, I just hope the forecast for the South-East’s accurate. I’ll keep you updated on my travels and any travails.
Having just missed a train I was left kicking my heels at Sowerby Bridge station for 25 minutes in the cold, rain and sleet! Sadly, there’s no warm waiting room to seek refuge in. The station’s facilities were severely pruned in BR days, especially on the Leeds bound platform which I was on. There have been improvements. At least now there are ticket machines on both platforms and simple platform shelters, but they’re not much use in a Pennine winter other than to keep the rain or snow off you.
At least my train was on time, a refurbished three car Class 158 rolled in at 09:04 and now I’m seated in the warmth, heading to Leeds.
Me and my big mouth! We left Halifax packed to the gunwhales but on time. Then it all went a bit Pete Tong. We’re currently crawling from signal to signal for reasons unknown as neither driver nor conductor have made an announcement. Still, this has given me plenty of time to observe all the shiny scarlet painted Pandrol clips which attach the rails to the sleepers. Their colour betrays the fact a lot of the rails on the route have been renewed recently.
We’re now on our way from Bradford Interchange 12 minutes late. The crew have remained mute. There’s not been a single announcement explaining why, far less an apology for the delay. It’s a classic example of poor customer service. It’s not as if the PA isn’t working as the Conductor’s just announced the next station stop!
To add insult to injury, when we approached Leeds the Conductor treated us to the usual long-winded announcement about tickets, security and luggage yet she completely neglected to mention the we were late, never mind even offer an apology! This is simple, basic customer service and it’s where the railway is so inconsistent.
In complete contrast, I’m now on LNER’s 09:15 to Kings Cross. Before we left the Train Manager announced this Mk4 set was short formed (it’s had coach C knocked out for unscheduled maintenance) and offered repeated apologies to passengers with reservations, telling them which coaches had spare seats.
Talking of maintenance, due to the current shortage of Class 91s, I have this on my train! 90036 ‘Driver Jack Mills’
I’ve been too busy to blog these past few hours as I’ve been constantly on the move. I changed trains at Stevenage in order to catch a Siemens ‘people-lover’s in the shape of a 12 car Class 700 to Finsbury Park, then backtracked to my old stamping ground of Harringay on a decript Great Northern Class 313.
Walking down to Green Lanes evoked lots of memories. Far too many to share here. It’s still as vibrant an area as ever with some fantastic Turkish cafe’s and brilliant greengrocers. My destination was the station which bisects the lane high up on an embankment. The ‘Goblin’ as the Gospel Oak to Barking line is known was electrified last year. The electrification was completed late. Even so, the new Bombardier built Class 710 electric trains that were being built for it were even later and still haven’t entered service. The problem is, the old diesels were due elsewhere. Some have already left and the last three will depart on March 18th. As a stopgap, London Overground have converted three Class 378s from five cars to four and are using them instead. Here’s one at Green Lanes earlier.
It’s really rather odd seeing these units on the Goblin as they make you feel you’re on the wrong route and are really on the North London Line!
I’m now hopping across London from Finsbury Park to Brixton via the new Thameslink tunnel, Blackfriars and Herne Hill.
I’m heading Northwards again now after a busy day. It was lovely being back in Brixton again. Living in the Pennines is lovely because of the scenery, but I do miss the hustle and bustle of London and the sheer diversity of the place. After picking up two big bags of slides I had time for a mooch around the Brixton arcade which was very quiet as it was the end of the day. It’s gone upmarket. Now there’s lots of great looking little bars and cafes as we as all the butchers and fishmongers.
On my way back across town I cracked open the slide packets to see what there was and some wonderful memories came flooding back. The pictures date from 1990 to 2003. They’re a mix of social issues and travel photography from across the UK, along with some rail images. I’ve found memories of old friends and places, my days working as a Housing Officer in East London and a whole host of demonstrations and protests. There the Iraq war, ‘Fair’ fuel protest, anti Afgahan war and more. There’s even my nephews and neices! One day, I’ll find time to get the most valuable ones scanned…
Well, my journey back all went a bit Pete Tong too due to late trains and dodgy connections. The East Coast Main Line has had another difficult day due to obstructions on the line and train failures. I won’t go in to much detail as I’d be typing a few thousand words. I did end up ‘doing a Jeremy Corbyn’ on my train out of London but in the peak that’s to be expected!
I’m now on a Cross-country service from York to Leeds! The bright side was that I managed to get a shot of an LNER liveried ‘Azuma’ under York station roof.
It’s definitely been ‘one of those days’! My 125mph capable Voyager got stuck behind a late local service and staggered to Leeds where it arrived 10 mins late, so that was another connection missed. I’m now on the 21:39 Leeds-Manchester Victoria instead.
It’s time to bring this rolling blog to an end. It’s been a chilly walk home but, judging by the amount of salt scattered on the roads around Halifax, worse is to come. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. Goodnight folks!
It’s a beautiful morning in London and the sun’s already cracking the flags. I’m sipping coffee in my hotel room in preparation for the day ahead whilst recovering from last night.
Yesterday’s Bradshaw address was a very interesting event, not so much because we learned a huge amount about what will be in the forthcoming Williams report (we didn’t) more because the event was packed with the great and the good from the railway industry and everyone talks. Afterwards, the Rail Delivery Group held an informal get-together for the media and other colleagues, which was just as informative as the main event, but Chatham House rules and all that. All I will say is that the night ended in the company of a long-time friend called Rupert (whom most in the rail industry will know) so it it was great fun, but I’m paying for it this morning!
I’m going to make my way home by meandering up the East Coast Main Line and have a look at some of the huge changes that are taking place as I go, so expect lots of words an pictures later…
After leaving my hotel near Kings Cross I walked over to Euston to check out progress on building Hs2, the new high-speed railway. Every time I visit something’s changed. There’s a huge amount of work going on as old buildings are torn down to make way for the expanded station, which is spreading to the West. I couldn’t help but crack a grin at seeing all the work going on then thinking of the few remaining Hs2 antis on Twitter who insist that none of this work means Hs2 is actually being built! Talk about kidding yourself!
Afterwards I headed back to King Cross to begin my meander North by catching a Great Northern service as far at Potters Bar, a place I have mixed memories of, and this is why.
Within an hour of the crash happening I got a phone call to my North London home from RAIL magazine, commissioning me to cover the accident. I ended up spending several days at the scene, documenting the tragedy and the subsequent recovery operation. Journalists from all over the place had been scrambled to cover what was a major news story. The best vantage point was stop a wooden fence in the beer garden adjacent car park, which is where many of us ended up. I remember helping a rather posh middle-aged woman to climb the fence and we got chatting. She explains that she was a photographer who normally worked for ‘Horse and Hound’ magazine but had got a call because she lived in the area!
After the first couple of days the weather turned an rain set in, which bade life difficult for everybody. A huge crane had been set up to remove the car of the crashed train that was wedged under the station canopy and we were all keen to get a shot of the lift, this meant hanging around for hours and many of us took shelter in the pub! ITN had set up a huge cherry picker in the pub car park which they used for filming. Whilst they were waiting to go on air the ITN crew joined us in the pub and I got talking to Nicholas McGinty, their reporter. Nick wasn’t exactly dressed for the weather so I lent him my waterproof jacket whilst he did his piece to camera. In return, he arranged for me to go up in the cherry picker to get pictures! We met again a few years later at another rail tragedy, Ufton Herbert, Nick remembered me and I got another go in that cherry picker too. Thankfully, those times have changed and there hasn’t been a fatal rail crash since 2007.
I stopped off at a famous bottleneck on the East Coast Main Line, the two track section at Welwyn North. There’s been talk of quadrupling this section for decades but it’s no easy (or cheap) task at it contains a lengthy viaduct and two tunnels.
I’ve slowly been making my way up the East Coast Main Line, making the most of the stunning weather to top up my photo library with shots at some locations I’ve not visited in years.
It’s been an interesting experience that’s brought back many happy memories but also shown me how rapidly this stretch of railway’s changing. All the Great Northern services to Peterborough are now worked by the Siemens built, 12-car Class 700s. Now they go via St Pancras Thameslink and across London to Horsham instead of terminating at Kings Cross. The intercity fleets are changing too. Hitachi built Class 800s are up and down on test on a regular basis and are due to start displacing the BR built HSTs and Class 91s in a matter of months. They’ll also replace Hull Trains Class 180s. It’s not just the trains either. Network Rail is busy renewing the overhead lines and replacing cable headspans with portals.
I’m gradually getting North now after stops at Peterborough and Grantham. It’s such a gorgeous day that I want to make the most of the weather and get a few more shots in the can. Sadly, after all the rebuilding that’s gone on, Peterborough isn’t the photo opportunity it once was. That said, it’s interesting to observe operations there. The amount of intermodal freight trains that have to cut across the Northern approaches to the station to get to the Ely route and on to Felixstowe must be a train planner’s nightmare! No wonder Network Rail are building the dive-under from the GN/GE joint line.
I’m on the last leg after a final change of trains at Doncaster. Yet another LNER ‘Azuma’ flew past, luckily in full branding. That done, I couldn’t resist a visit to the Draughtsman, the tiny real ale bar on the station which opened in 2017.
Now I’m on Grand Central’s 18:04 service to Bradford Interchange, which takes me straight to Halifax and home. Tomorrow’s weather forecast isn’t great. The run of fantastic weather’s coming to an end, so it’ll give me chance to have a day at home catching up on paperwork and plans – as well as editing all the pictures that I’ve taken over the past couple of days!
Right, time for a ‘swifty’ in my local before heading home. It’s goodnight from me…
After having such an early start yesterday I’ve had a slower one today, getting some financial stuff sorted out and preparing for the next couple of day’s travels. Now I’m ready for the off and to make my way down to London for tonight’s George Bradshaw address. So, let’s see what happens today, shall we?
I’m heading to Halifax today and (unlike yesterday) there’s not a trace of mist. In fact, it’s a stunning day and I’m beginning to think I should have packed the suntan lotion!
I’m not joking about the suntan lotion! Today’s temperature’s ridiculous for February. It’s lovely and deeply worrying at the same time as climate change is real. I wonder how many records will be broken this year?
On my walk to the station I detoured through Halifax’s magnificent Piece Hall. The piazza was busy with people basking in the sun or snacking at one of the cafe’s. When you see the place it’s hard to accept you’re in West Yorkshire and not Italy.
Right now I’m on my first train if the day, the 11:59 to Leeds via Bradford. It’s being worked by a cascaded 2-car class 158 from Scotrail, so we have the luxury of capers and more tables than normal!
I didn’t hang around in Leeds, instead I caught LNER’s 12:45 to Kings Cross, which is being worked by one of their venerable HST sets. It’s a lightly loaded service, as you can see from this picture.
I’ve bagged a vacant table and set up the laptop to take advantage of the fact LNER have now made wifi access free to both 1st and Standard Class passengers, which is great!
I abandoned the HST at Doncaster as a couple of photo opportunities were presenting themselves. Firstly, one of the LNER ‘Azuma test runs was due through. These Hitachi built trains are due to enter passenger service in the next few months (although no-one, even DfT can say when exactly). At the same time, a pair of refurbished HST (High Speed Train) power cars were making their way from Brush, Loughborough to Scotland. Here’s a shot of the power cars.
With the sun out, the railway enthusiasts were out in force, cameras and notebooks in hand. This station’s almost certainly the busiest when it comes to the number of enthusiasts. They’re attracted by the variety of passenger and freight trains that pass through and because the adjacent railway works can produce all sorts of strange and exotic vehicles for refurbishment or repair.
Trainspotting (which is the focus of many of the rail enthusiasts at Doncaster, although other flavours are available) reached its peak in the 1950s. After that it went into a gradual decline which was hastened by the end of steam trains on the national network in 1968. Of course, nowadays there’s such a variety of hobbies or sports available compared to the post-war years it’s no wonder few young people are attracted to the hobby. Add to this the fact ‘trainspotter’ has become an insult and you can understand the decline. That doesn’t mean some young people (make and female) don’t take up the hobby, but the throng at Doncaster displayed a common trait. They were all elderly (mostly retired) men. I reckon that if I went back in 10 years time the number would have thinned considerably simply due to the passage of time.
I’m now on another LNER HST heading South. This one’s rather different as the fact it still uses the original style seats betrays the set as one acquired from East Midlands Trains. I’ve never been a fan of the IC70 seats as their fixed armrests make it awkward to get in and out.
After a brief pause at the much enlarged Peterborough station I’m on the move again getting ever closer to London, this time aboard one of LNER’s MK4 coach sets being propelled by a class 91. I know many people thought GNER were the epitome of post privatisation operators but I have to say LNER have beaten them on many levels. There’s a far better passenger information system now with screens that give you realtime information. No more paper reservation labels either and the free wifi’s a boon.
I’ve been up since 04:45 as I’m starting the day with an early appointment in Birmingham, so I’m heading down to Sowerby Bridge station to catch the 05:57 to Manchester. Expect a varied blog with lots of pictures throughout the day as I’ll be doing a fair bit of travelling.
The walk down into Sowerby Bridge was rather surreal this morning as I could see the valley floor was shrouded in mist which was lit by a bright half-moon shining through otherwise clear skies. I only had the hooting of owls in the surrounding woods for company until I arrived in the town which was deep in fog.
Now I’m on the first train of the day, which is running on time and (at this stage) pretty empty although I’ve no doubt it won’t be by the time we reach Manchester.
The service is made up of a pair of single-car Class 153s so it’ll be interesting to see if this proves adequate this time on a Monday morning.
Whilst I’m sitting on the train I’m scanning the news and trying to get my head around the criminal stupidity of our Prime Minister, who has postponed any vote on Brexit until March 12th. UK businesses must be in utter despair. That leaves them in limbo yet again with absolutely no idea what’s happening. The point of no return has already passed for any that are reliant on imports from places like China. The last ship has already sailed that could guarantee getting goods here under our existing trade deals. Now no-one has a clue what terms will apply. For a Government to put its citizens and the economy in this position for no other reason than it’s own stupidity is breathtaking. The tragic farce of Brexit has already caused huge damage to the country and our politicians are piling on the agony. May continues this deception that her flitting back and forth twixt Brussels and London means anything other than increasing incredulity in Europe and a hardening of attitudes towards us, she holds a gun to her head and threatens the EU that she’ll pull the trigger. It’s madness, utter madness. Whatever happens in the next few weeks one thing is certain: it will only end in pain and humiliation for the UK – and all for what? Blue passports? How could we as a nation have been so stupid?
After calling at Rochdale my train is half to two-thirds full of commuters heading to work. Dawn’s just breaking through a clear sky and Manchester looks like it’s in for another lovely day. Passing the brightly lit Northern Rail depot at Newton Heath the work to pay extra sidings for the company’s new trains is very much in evidence.
I’d no time to waste in Manchester as I decided to see if I could make an earlier train. A sprint across the city centre in record time allowed me to catch Cross-Country’s 07:05 to Bristol via Brum. Thankfully, it’s a five, not a four-car Voyager. Despite it being a peak train it’s well loaded – even in the unreserved coach B. Now I can relax with a Starbucks coffee off the trolley and admire the Cheshire countryside as it flies by me in bright sunshine.
After calling at Stoke, my coach was almost full.
Now, after a stop at Stafford, it’s standing room only, with several people wedging themselves into the small luggage racks at either end of the car.
Well, that was a busy little interlude! The High Speed Rail Industry Leaders (HSRIL) group was holding a PR event outside Birmingham City hall this morning. A giant jigsaw was used to show how HS2 will join up many of our major cities. The event was supported by the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, local business leaders and Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani amongst others. This presented some interesting photographic challenges for me and the other snappers in attendance due to the strong sun and heavy shadows, combined with the sheer number of people! Here’s a few pictures.
After the event I nipped off to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and visit some of the recent rail investment in the West Midlands. My first port of call was the extension of the electrification on the Cross-City line as far as Bromsgrove, where a brand-new station’s been built to replace what used to be there.
Next stop? Redditch…
After a trip to Redditch in glorious sunshine and the chance to get some library shots I headed back into the city to meet up with an old friend (and best man at my wedding) who works for Network Rail. He’d come up for a meeting, so we grabbed a coffee together before he headed back to London and I resumed my travels. I’m currently on the 15:05 from Birmingham to Shrewsbury which is standing room only. Mind you it is worked by a two car Class 170, which isn’t exactly helping!
I’m on the move again after taking time to look at construction of Wolverhampton’s new transport interchange which is bringing together rail, tram and bus in one location. Here’s a view of the work going on to rebuild the station. The tram tracks will run in the foreground.
Tracks for the tram extension have been laid right up to the station approach. I’m assuming that once more work’s been done on the new station building space will have been created for them.
Sadly, all these signs of looking forward to the future were put into stark perspective when I saw this Government poster on the station.
This is what we’ve become. Our fellow EU citizens (like us) have had the right to freedom of movement for nearly half a century. Now we’re treating them like illegal aliens. They’re our friends, neighbours and work colleagues, even a husband, or a wife. How long I wonder before the posters appear asking to to inform on any EU national you think doesn’t have the right to remain? Maybe Teresa May will resurrect those vans that toured round with hoardings on them? What a nasty divisive country we’ve become.
Whilst on a XC Voyager to Manchester I got into a chance conversation with one of the crew who happened to mention that one of their HSTs was working a Manchester Piccadilly-Bristol Temple Leads diagram, which is highly unusual. This prompted me to jump off at Stoke-on-Trent in the hope of recording event. Sadly, as we pulled in, it pulled out – which didn’t exactly make for a great picture!
I ended up drowning my sorrows in the new Titanic Brewery station bar which occupies the site of the old Virgin Trains 1st Class lounge. Now I’m back on another XC service en-route to Manchester.
I’ve a favour to ask.
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It’s almost mid afternoon but the Calder Valley’s still covered in haze which is giving the Southern side a ghostly appearance, a Yorkshire Brigadoon if you like. We’ve been pottering around and finished our chores, so now it’s time for a Sunday constitutional. This is the view across the valley and over Sowerby Bridge as we walked up to Savile Park
Crocus’s provide a riot of colour along the roadside.
A bit farther on we dropped through Scare Woods to begin our descent to the canal.