10:23I’m currently on a train to Leeds after being a guest of the friends of Mytholmroyd station who invited myself and local stakeholders to view the restored 1874 station building. I have to admit, I was amazed – both by the size of the building, and the quality of the work. It was a privilege to be invited and have chance to take pictures. I’ll blog a selection separately later. Here’s Geoff Mitchell of the friends group welcoming us in the ground floor booking hall. Also present were two former members of station staff who worked here in the 1960s! The old ticket office window can be seen in the background.Old buildings like this are a pleasure to photograph because of the shadows and light.Right now I’m off to look for something completely different and bang up to date. I’m looking for the new trains being built for Northern services that will mean the end of the Pacers.12:34.I’m currently at Doncaster, along with 3 of Northern’s new 4-car Class 331 EMUs which are here for driver training and testing.Two more (331102 and 331105) are stabled in the nearby sidings.I’m looking forward to these trains entering service as they’re a real step-change to the ones they’re replacing.16:11.I’m back at Leeds on my way home after getting various shots at Doncaster. It’s a shame the weather was so overcast, but I shouldn’t complain as the forecast was worse. It’s been a good end to the working week as in-between taking pictures I’ve spent a fair bit of time lining up several jobs that will keep me occupied for the next few weeks. I’ll blog about them in good time. In the meantime, here’s a shot of the decluttered concourse at Leeds station which was built by the LMS railway. There’s some heritage trains in heritage deliveries knocking around too. This is a former Scotrail Class 156 in the old First group livery that reminds me of when they ran the North-western franchise post privatisationRight, time for home…
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.
The weather forecast isn’t as good as it was but we’re off to Ilkley for a days walking with friends regardless. For once we’re not travelling by rail. Instead we’re in a rather different vehicle. Can you guess what it is?
It’s a Tesla.
So, part of the day was really interesting for a completely different reason – the chance to travel in an electric car, hear what the owner thought of it and gather our own impressions.
Jason’s had his Tesla for two years and covered a fair bit of ground in it as he uses it for both business and pleasure. I doubt he’ll mind me describing him as a car enthusiast who’s owned many different vehicles over the years.
Firstly, here’s my impressions of the Tesla S. It’s very roomy, but then it’s a big car. A lot of space inside the saloon is saved by the lack of a transmission. The fact it doesn’t have an engine means it has a (small) front boot as well as a rear one. It’s also very quiet – and stable, that’s because the battery covers the base of the chassis between the wheels, giving the vehicle a very low centre of gravity. Acceleration is impressive, very impressive. It would easily beat shit off a shovel. Jason told me it will do 0-30 in something like 1.5 seconds. He gave us a demonstration of what happens when by putting his foot down for a few seconds and it really did move (all within the speed limit of course).
Then come the caveats. Jason and his partner Nikki talked about the vehicles autopilot and the problems they’ve experienced. Apparently, you can trust it(ish) on roads where there’s clearly defined white lines, but if there’s none – forget it. Jason talked about the time he’d left the car in Autopilot when he was in a queue at traffic lights. The car suddenly decided to take off. Now, when you consider that at Tesla S weighs well over 2 tons and can accelerate rapidly, that’s a lot of kinetic energy – as the car in front that the Tesla didn’t sense found out. Jason’s Tesla rear-ended it so hard that it caused £10,000 worth of damage! Other things I learned were that the build quality is ‘typically American’ (and no, that’s not a compliment) and that because of the cars limited (but still impressive) battery charge life, you really have to be careful about travelling long distances as you have to make sure you can find working charging points. They’re not ‘go anywhere’ vehicles, but I’m sure that this factor will change as the technology improves and expands.
All in all I was quite impressed with the vehicle, just not the much-vaunted auto-pilot capability. Electric cars are certainly here to stay and the technology will continue to develop and improve. They cold make a real difference, but we have to be realistic about them. I still remain deeply cynical about the autonomous car hype and Jason’s experiences re-enforced that. Oh, there’s also the small matter that a Tesla isn’t exactly cheap, this one cost North of £65,000, which doesn’t exactly put it in the household car spending bracket. That said, other car companies will produce mass produced vehicles – which Tesla is failing to do.
OK, I realise that I’ve turned into ‘Top Gear’ here, so let’s get away from cars. The four of us had headed over to Ilkley for a day walking and chance to catch up – and we couldn’t have chosen a better day. Despite the forecast we didn’t see a spot of rain. In fact, the weather was far sunnier than was expected, so we had a great few hours exploring Ilkley Moor. Here’s a selection of pictures.
After a weekend at home I’m on the move again, heading for London on a packed Grand Central service from Halifax. Even First Class is full. The success of this service proves the people who claim fast trains to London suck people and money to London (such as Hs2 antis) wrong. First class is full of Yorkshire based businessmen who’re going down to London to do business. The money they earn will be repatriated to where their companies are based and they live: Yorkshire, not London. The train crew are the same. They’re all from Yorkshire too! Grand Central as a company has its head office in York. So far from sucking money and talent to London, the opposite is true – this is a pipeline pumping money North…
As my meetings in London aren’t till later I’ve deviated today and stopped off at the restored Wakefield Kirkgate station. Who would’ve thought a place I once dubbed tbe UK’s worst station would one day sport a cafe and a First Class lounge (thanks to Grand Central)?
11:32. Having taken the ‘scenic route’ via Sheffield and the Midland Main Line I’m now speeding towards Luton on mh way to the capital. I’ve been joined by two members of London Underground staff commuting into work. One from Kettering and the other Bedford! That’s quite a distance to come to work on the tube, but it does say something about how unaffordable housing in the capital has become.
Sorry folks, today’s rolling blog’s been pretty thin gruel. I’ve been busy with meetings and trying to sort out pictures for a mag so I’ve really not had the time to post anything. I’ll try and do better tomorrow as I’ll be on the move again…
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 October 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…
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.
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.
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:
After all, judicial reviews worked so well on Phase 1, just ask Hs2aa who launched loads of them. Oh, wait…
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.
When I moved to from London Yorkshire in 2010 one of the first things I noticed was how much time the county spent in internecine political battles and rivalries. Sheffield, Bradford, Leeds, Doncaster and Wakefield seemed like a bunch of warring states, all fighting against each other over something (or nothing). It sometimes feels like Yorkshire takes itself rather too seriously. I mean – name another English county that has its own political party (Yorkshire First)!
Now tykes really have got something to fight over. Hs2.
Today’s been a cracking example of this. The latest consultation over Hs2 Phase 2 closes today and the ‘war’ between Doncaster and Sheffield over the new route through South Yorkshire is hotting up. The Mayor of Doncaster, Ros Jones, has taken to Twitter to launch Doncaster’s response to the consultation and made the most curious claim whilst doing it…
The “route nobody asked for”? I’m not sure Sheffield or the city’s local newspaper, the Sheffield Star will see it that way. After all, it was the Star that ran a (successful) campaign to get the route changed in the first place! As the paper said at the time,
Personally, I can see the pro’s and con’s of both routes so it will be interesting to see who prevails in the end. If anything, my money is on the new route. That’s because things have changed since the original one was announced. The concept of the Northern Powerhouse has become something far more real. We now have Transport for the North and Northern Powerhouse Rail (nee Hs3). TfN is driving the regions transport strategy and Hs2 and NPR (linked together) are very much part of it and I suspect the new Hs2 route fits in with that strategy more than the old one.
That said, as someone who originated from the other side of the Pennines, I can imagine my fellow Lancastrians cracking a wry smile at the antics of their ever-warring neighbours. Which is more attractive to business. An area that’s managed to put most of its differences aside (look at Manchester and its neighbours). Or the contestant battles and jockeying for position that they observe this side of the chain?
My final observation – whatever happens, it’s very bad news for anti Hs2 campaigners in Yorkshire, because one thing’s clear, the vast majority of the counties politicians and business leader are fighting for Hs2 – not to stop it. This is about who reaps the benefits. Remember, only two of the counties 51 MPs voted against Hs2 Phase 1. To argue over the benefits you first have to agree to build it and there’s little doubt that’s exactly what MPs will agree to do. This means that Yorkshire Hs2 anti’s tactics have fallen at the first hurdle. They’re making the same mistake as the phase 1 antis did by trying to challenge at a local level the business case for a national infrastructure project. As soon as MPs vote through the Phase 2b Hybrid Bill at 2nd reading their arguments are moot. When it comes to hearing petitions a person or organisation will only have locus standi (the right to be heard) if a petitioner’s property or interests are directly and specially affected by the Bill. As we’ve seen from the phase 1 hearings, the Ctte’s take a dim view of a petitioner trying to argue that Hs2 is the ‘wrong’ project or there’s no economic justification for it as Parliament has already decided there is. As most of the antis time seems to be wasted in exactly the wrong sort of arguments, it’s easy to see why they’ll fail.
As it’s the penultimate day of 2016 I thought I’d take one last look at Hs2 and the campaign set up to stop it. To say antis have had a terrible 2016 is somewhat of an understatement. The Lords Hs2 Committee published their final report on December 15th which brought to an end the petitioning process that has lasted since 2014. The report served thin gruel to anti Hs2 campaigners but it did offer support for those on the route who will face genuine hardships. The reports suggested amendments will be debated early in 2017 with Royal Assent being granted soon after. After that, it’s all over bar the moaning as Phase 1 construction will begin.
Meanwhile, back on November 15th, the Government published details of the final phase of Hs2 – 2b, moving the debate on from phase 1 completely.
So, where does that leave the Stop Hs2 campaign? Dead in the water to be honest. Just like UKIP voters, their campaign’s been dying off for years (both figuratively and literally). The only ‘national’ group left by November was phase 1 based StopHs2. If they were to have any chance of survival they would need to be re-invigorated by a massive upsurge in the opposition to Hs2 due to the announcement of phases 2a and 2b. The problem is – this never happened. Let’s crunch some social media numbers. Here’s a look at the StopHs2 and Hs2aa following on Twitter and Facebook, comparing the day after the Phase 2 announcement with today.
The usual caveat applies. Not all followers are supporters. Some are there simply to keep an eye on them. The numbers can’t lie. They show that interest in Stophs2 has barely moved. When you consider the amount of people living on the recently announced routes a gain of 149 Facebook ‘likes’ and 69 Twitter followers is appalling. Campaign Manager Joe Rukin and StopHs2 Chair Penny Gaines have done even worse. As for Hs2aa – don’t even go there! For the first time since StopHs2 was established, nothing’s been heard from Gaines, Rukin or any of the StopHs2 accounts in the week since Xmas eve. This doesn’t bode well…
I suggest that these figures and the fact the number of regular stopHs2 tweeters is now below two dozen shows just how badly their campaign has done. There’s been no Phase 2 bounce at all. It can only be a matter of time now before StopHs2 folds, leaving no ‘national’ group to co-ordinate any sort of ‘fight’ on Phase 2.
However, there’s more.
I’ve always pointed out that social media is a double-edged sword for pressure groups and campaigns. It exposes their weaknesses as much as any strengths – especially on Phase 2, where their Facebook groups are pretty revealing. If you track the different new phases you find there’s no discernible organised ‘action’ groups on phase 2a to Crewe and only a handful of moribund groups on the Western branch to Manchester. Here’s an example. This is from the CADRAG (Culcheth and District Rail Action Group) page.
No doubt this inertia and lack of interest is shared by other groups which is why you never hear anything about them anymore (eg, Mid Cheshire and Warrington StopHs2). It’s only the route change on the branch to Leeds via Sheffield that’s generated some new groups, but what they’re saying on social media is hardly a defiant or united message. Here’s some to watch; Erewash Crofton Mexborough and here’s the optimistically named Yorkshire against Hs2 which features appeals for people to attend two national demonstrations, neither of which ever happened!
All told, the stophs2 campaign in Yorkshire is a mess. It’s riven by opposing views as many people want Hs2, whilst some just want to move the route back to Meadowhall. They don’t have the same political support as Hs2 opponents did on Phase 1. For a start, there’s no 51M group of councils, nor do they have any MPs who’ve come out to directly oppose Hs2. In fact, of the 51 MPs in Yorkshire only 2 voted to oppose Hs2 – and they were away from the route in Huddersfield and Shipley! Despite some trying to replay the phase 1 campaign, they can’t use two of the main arguments as phase 2 doesn’t pass through an AONB and it’s clear that people living near the route benefit from a station in Sheffield, the training college in Doncaster and a potential parkway station elsewhere in Yorkshire.
I predict that 2017 will see a very different situation surrounding Hs2. Once Phase 1 construction starts and thousands of people take up jobs building the route I expect public opinion towards Hs2 begin to change – especially as the anti campaign will have faded away. Phase 2 will still remain an issue but the level of opposition is very different in type and scale. Don’t expect it to receive the same media attention either.
I’ll still be keeping an occaisional eye on Hs2 matters, but for the first part of 2017 expect to see a lot more blogs appearing. I’m off out to SE Asia for a couple of months, so I’ll have plenty of time to write. In the meantime, Happy New Year!
I mentioned in an earlier blog that the Yorkshire Stophs2 campaign’s doomed to failure as they’re singing from different hymn sheets from the beginning. This is very evident from the plethora of petitions different groups have started – with different aims. For example, here’s one started by one Julie Pile, which says that:
Apart from the obvious nonsense about failures of “statutory duty” and the usual catastrophic language about “wrecking” the environment, it’s clear Julie doesn’t mind if this happens, as long as it happens elsewhere. This puts her on a collision course with other campaigners on the route, but also the City of Sheffield and other who campaigned long and hard to have the Hs2 route changed from Meadowhall in the first place. So far, the petition’s gathered 3343 signatures, 1643 of which (or 50.85%)are from the Hemsworth constituency of Jon Trickett MP. To put this in perspective, it’s just 1.73% of all his constituents. The only other people to have signed in any number are the 418 signatures from Ed Miliband’s neighbouring constituency, Doncaster North. What’s noticeable is the tiny number of supporting signatures from elsewhere, like Sheffield, or even Rother Valley, another constituency on the new Hs2 route.
There does seem to be an embarrassment of riches (well, petitions really) amongst people in Yorkshire as a John Haith, a Rother Valley resident from Bramley has started this one, which has 3,202 signatures (but little support from Hemsworth). Meanwhile, Stephen Simcox (also Rother Valley) has started a “spend Hs2 money on the NHS” petition which has a paltry 763 signatures.
In truth, none of them have a cat in hell’s chance of success, but they do show a very Yorkshire trait – a lack of agreement over anything! The fact that there are obvious tensions and different interests across the county (even amongst anti Hs2 groups) demonstrates why any campaign to try and Stop Hs2 is doomed from the start – especially as these small local groups are pitted against the metropolitan areas of Leeds, Sheffield and York (all very pro Hs2) as well as the majority of the wider Yorkshire business community. Plus, can anyone seriously think the good Burghers of Doncaster (home to one of the two National Colleges for High Speed Rail) will want to kiss goodbye to the thousands of skilled people who will be trained there? Or for that matter, the hundreds of skilled jobs that will be created by the Hs2 rolling stock depot at nearby Crofton?
No doubt there will be a few awkward moments for some MPs as they try and balance the wider interests of their constituents with the impossible demands of a minority, but does anyone seriously think they will actually vote to stop Hs2 coming to Yorkshire or carrying on to the North-East, or for that matter Notts?
There’s another consideration too. The Hs2 Hybrid Bill for phase 2 will also contain the line onwards from Crewe to Manchester (another Labour heartland). I’m sure there will be some very interesting meetings of the Parliamentary Labour Party if a handful of Labour MPs in Yorkshire were seen as putting the whole of the Phase 2 scheme under threat!
StopH2 campaigners in Yorkshire have made the same mistake that those on Phase 1 did. They’ve fallen into the trap of thinking their purely local concerns should be put ahead of national ones, and that others will give way to appease them.
– comes to you from one of the tiny number of anti Hs2 groups on the phase 2 route, or in the North. Although, they do seem rather confused over where the North actually is.
This was shared on Twitter today;
For those who don’t know, Church Fenton is 16 miles east of Leeds in err, North Yorkshire! The irony of a bunch of North Yorkshire Nimbys trying to stop investment in the North whilst calling for it at the same time is rather priceless but typical of a campaign that’s hopelessly contradictory & confused.
Someone clearly has more money than sense. The population of Church Fenton is less than a thousand. Anti Hs2 campaigners living there number no more than a few dozen. Meanwhile, the local Tory MP has a majority of 22,200. As the old saying goes,’do the maths’….
Rather than wasting their money on the poster perhaps Church Fenton antis should have bought themselves a map?