The Anonymous Widower

I’m Off To The Hague Today

Is there any other train journey between two capitals in the world, that is more difficult now than it was six or seven years ago?

When I first did this trip, I was able to buy a Eurostar ticket from London to Any Dutch Station, as many visitors to The Netherlands did.

But when Fyra; the high-speed train started, this was not possible any more. I couldn’t even get to the Dutch capital without a second change.

Today, I’ve bought a Eurostar ticket to any Belgian Station and will go to Antwerp for a spot of lunch, before I buy a ticket to Den Haag Laan van Nieuwe Oost Indie, so that I avoid all the hassle of using Dutch local ticketing, which will mean buying an Oyster-style card.

I will then use Shanks’s Pony to get to my final destination.

If that is progress, you can stick it up your backside.

Suppose to go between London and Edinburgh, you had to change trains at Newcastle or Berwick! Even the most rabid of Scottish Independence advocates, would never want a service like that between Scotland and England!

Also, if I was going to most important stations in Switzerland, I can buy one ticket from London.

Surely, this should apply to all major cities in Europe, that are within say five or six hours from London.

Going the other way, I could buy a ticket from say Paris direct to virtually anywhere in the UK.

October 8, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Thoughts On Tube Noise At Walthamstow Central

This report in the Standard is entitled Homes in Walthamstow hit by ‘jack-hammer’ Tube train noise after Victoria line upgrade work.

It describes how after all of the upgrade work I described in What Really Happened At Walthamstow Central, noise levels have increased in some of the houses by the station. This is an extract.

Resident Lynda Bailey said the noise, which strikes about every three minutes during peak hours and less frequently the rest of the time, began after Transport for London undertook engineering work over the summer.

“We bought this house about 10 years ago knowing it was above the southbound tunnel of the Victoria line.

“We came a couple of times – it was a rumble but we deemed it to be reasonable noise, as did everyone else.

“But this is unacceptable. I would liken it to a jack-hammer in the next room, like a banging sound … It’s almost like we’re on a Tube platform itself.”

Tonight, I had supper with my son in Walthamstow. He told me how one of his friends lives in a hoise, where the noise has reduced considerably since the work.

It’s all very curious.

Taking my answers from this article in Rail Engineer, there are major differences, indicated in this extract.

Careful survey work of the tunnels checked every millimetre of available space – especially length. The new crossover design is a technical step-change in that it involves the use of Sonneville Low Vibration Track (LVT) – a track system embedded in slab concrete. The point ends have been taken as far as practicable into the tunnels to achieve the longest possible crossover length. Coupled with new components, the maximum speed has been raised to 60kph (35 mph) – enough to secure the required turnround and the 36 trains per hour throughout the line.

Put simply, the crossover should generate less noise because of the Low Vibration Track, but because of the increased speed, more noise could be generated unless LVT was used for a lot more of the line.

I would think that my son’s friend lives over the crossover and its LVT, whereas the other complainants are on lines, where the trains are now going faster. The Standard reports this.

“Our engineers are treating this as a priority and have been improving and renewing the track beneath their properties over the last week.

Hopefully, this will affect a solution. If not, I suspect that London Underground will have a solution in their toolbox.

I have been involved in various noise and vibration issues in the past and in most cases a simple solution is usually found.

If they can’t find one, then I suspect they’ll lay a bit more Low Vibration Track.




October 7, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

An Excellent First Month For The Borders Railway

According to this article on the BBC, which is entitled Borders Railway journeys top 125,000 in first month of operation, the Borders Railway has started with a high level of usage.

I suspect a lot of the usage in the first month is probably down to the novelty value of the railway and we won’t get a true pattern of usage until a couple of months.

But if this level of usage, is sustained, the following will happen.

  • New four-car IPEMU trains will be procured for the railway, as they could handle the route with ease and would double the capacity.
  • Planning will start to extend the route to Hawick and Carlisle.

Network Rail will also have to look seriously into how they calculate traffic forecasts.

October 7, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

I Don’t Go In Cars Very Often

Listening to the Jokeswagen Scandal radio in bed this morning, I realised that since I moved to London in December 2010, I’ve hardly been in a car at all.

I thin the longest trip I’ve done is a couple of journeys back from football at Ipswich after football because the trains were on the blink.

I’ve obviously taken the occasional taxi, but it just shows how relevant cars are to my way of life.

October 7, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

Every Problem Has An Invention To Help

This article with video on the BBC entitled Migrant crisis: Inventor creates inflatable tube to save lives, is a heart-warming story about an invention,  that has come out of the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

I can’t believe that it doesn’t have other live-saving applications.

October 7, 2015 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Marks And Spencer’s Gluten Free Food In Stations

I regularly travel by train and visit stations, outside of my normal patch of London. Once away from the capital, often the only substantial food I can get as I pass through the station are Marks and Spencer’s gluten-free sandwiches, a drink and perhaps some fruit.

At some stations, you can rely on gluten-free sandwiches being available most of the time. In this group would be.

Birmingham New Street, Cambridge, Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Piccadilly, Oxford and Reading

Then there are important interchange stations, where possibly unless you’re there before nine, there’s never any gluten-free sandwiches.

Cardiff, Edinburgh, Sheffield and Newcastle

The worst major station for gluten-free food is Nottingham. The food shop is a Morrison’s, which I’ve never used. To get any gluten-free food you need to go to the city centre, which is a long walk or a return on the tram.

Other stations to avoid if you’re a coeliac like me, are Blackpool, Derby, Doncaster, Huddersfield, Ipswich, Norwich, Middlesbrough and Preston.

The last two are places where it is very difficult to buy any gluten-free food at all.


October 6, 2015 Posted by | Food | , | Leave a comment

Where Are The Honeycomb Crispies?

I found a honeycomb crispy in M & S in Liverpool Lime |Street station on Saturday.

It was delicious, but I haven’t managed to find any since. The picture was taken at one of the St. Pancras outlets.

Where Are The Honeycomb Crispies?

Where Are The Honeycomb Crispies?

I can only assume that M & S haven’t matched supply to the demand.

I can’t even find any on the company’s web site.

October 6, 2015 Posted by | Food | | Leave a comment

The Proof That Good Design Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive

I’ve watched the transformation of Manchester Victoria station from a dirty dump over the last few years. These are a few posts.

But now as this article on the BBC shows, it’s all finished.

Compared to other station works in the UK, the title of the report is surprising – Manchester Victoria reopens after £44m upgrade

But then the best design is often not as expensive as the crap!

Long may Victoria reign in Manchester!

October 6, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Will The London Overground Aventras Have Energy Storage?

When I wrote Is Liverpool Planning To Invade Manchester By Train?, I enclosed a clip from the October 2015 Edition of Modern Railways about energy storage on the proposed new Liverpool trains.

Merseytravel has indicated that it will be seeking ‘innovative proposals’ from manufacturers, with considerable emphasis being placed on the overall cost of operating the fleet rather than just the basic cost of the trains themselves. Options such as regenerative braking and onboard systems to store energy under braking to be used for acceleration will attract particular interest. The independently-powered EMU (IPEMU or battery train) concept evaluated earlier this year on a modified Class 379 in East Anglia ,might see an application here.

So if energy storage is good for Scousers, surely it would be good for Cockneys! I could add Brummies, Geordies, Mancunians, Bristolians, Glaswegians, Hullensians and lots of others too!

I feel that using the new trains in IPEMU-mode would be a better way to run electric passenger trains on the Gospel Oak to Barking and Dudding  Hill Lines, as all the inept disruption of putting up the catenary could be performed in a more relaxed manner.

But are there any other advantages, other than the energy saving and flexibility, if the trains have energy storage or an IPEMU capability?

  • This morning, the wires are down on the London Overground at Hampstead, so trains are stopped. An IPEMU could possibly get through to provide a limited service.
  • At times, lines are closed for work on the electrification and Rail Replacement Buses have to be used. Would an IPEMU be able to  provide a service in some cases, by perhaps using another track? Obviously, safety for the workforce would have to be ensured, but Network Rail is improving its working methods all the time.
  • London has two different electrification systems; overhead and third rail. Would an IPEMU allow extra services to be developed, which bridge the two systems?
  • Would an IPEMU give advantages in the design, construction and operation of depots, by needing less electrification, as trains could move under their own own power.
  • Suppose a terminal station like Chingford needs to be rebuilt or a new station needs to be built, would it cost less to design and build a station, if the station had no electrification?

Even if the current order for Aventra trains for the London Overground isn’t delivered with energy storage and an IPEMU capability, I believe it will become the standard for it to be installed on trains in the near future.


October 6, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

An Open Letter To London Mayor Candidates About East London River Crossings

This started as a post on my infrastructure blog, about the Silvertown Tunnel, but now that TfL has launched a consultation about the  tunnel, I decided to update it and send it to you.

I am a sixty-eight year-old widower, living alone in Hackney, who has given up driving, so my personal feelings about the Silvertown Tunnel are that it is irrelevant to me, except that it might help some trucks bring goods that I buy on-line or at a local shop.

East London needs more cross-river routes and after recent trips to Birmingham, Nottingham and Germany and reading every word of London’s transport plans for 2050, I feel that whatever is done the Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GOBLin ) must be connected to Abbey Wood.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve made quite a few trips to South East London, including  one where I walked along Bazalgette’s sewer between Plumstead and Abbey Wood.

It is a land that London has truly forgotten.

Some transport developments, like the DLR and the East London Line has made a difference, but connections are still not the best.

TfL has talked about a  tunnel extending the GOBLin from Barking Riverside to Thamesmead and Abbey Wood.

After a visit to Karlsruhe specifically to see their tram-trains, I now believe that these could be the way to create a universe-class connection across the Thames. Tram-trains like those in Karlsruhe, which are soon to be trialled between Sheffield and Rotherham, could run on the GOBLin and then perhaps do a little loop at Barking Riverside before returning to Gospel Oak.

Note that we’re not talking untried technology here as you can see the tram-trains running on the streets and railway tracks of several German cities. Undoubtedly, if the Germans were extending the GOBlin, they would use tram-trains, as they could serve build several stops with the money needed to build Barking Riverside station.  And all the stops, like those on the London Tramlink would be fully step-free.

The loop in Barking Riverside, could extend across the river.

I think that a tunnel under the Thames would be a case of hiding your biggest light under an enormous bushel.

So why not create a high bridge to allow the biggest ships underneath, with a tram track or two, a cycle path and a walking route?

It would have some of the best views in London. Forget the Garden Bridge! This would create a transport link, that those living on both sides of the river could use and enjoy every day to get to work or for leisure reasons. Tourists would come to view London, as they do on large entry bridges in cities like New York and Lisbon.

Effectively, you have a conventional tram connecting Barking, Barking Riverside, Thamesmead and Abbey Wood. At Barking and Abbey Wood, the tram-trains become trains and could go to Gospel Oak and perhaps Meriandian Water, Romford, Upminster or Tilbury in the North and perhaps Woolwich, Lewisham, Dartford or Bluewater in the South.

Everything you would need to create such a link is tried and tested technology or designs that have been implemented in either the UK or Germany over the last few years.

In TfL’s plans for 2050, I found the words Penge and Brockley High Level buried in an Appendix listing places where there could be new transport interchanges.

I believe that an interchange at Penge would link the East London Line to the South Eastern Main Line and trains between Victoria and Orpington. Another interchange at Brockley would link the East London Line to the trains going across South London between Lewisham and Abbey Wood.

Conventional thinking says that these interchanges will be difficult to build, but Birmingham has already created a station that solves the problem at Smethwick Galton Bridge.

As London Overground have the capacity to run twenty four trains every hour each way on the East London Line, these two interchanges would help solve the chronic connectivity to and from South East London. They would also bring more passengers to the East London Line to fill all those trains.

One of the things that the increased number of trains on the East London Line would need is another southern terminal and possibilities include Beckenham Junction or Orpington.

I think it is true to say that there are more possibilities to improve connectivity east of the East London Line, both North and South of the River, than both London’s Mayors have ever dreamed about.

To be fair to both of them, it’s only in recent years that tram-trains have been seriously thought about in the UK, although the Germans have had them for a decade or so.

Get it right and the Silvertown Tunnel would be a very different scheme.

It might even be just be an entry in that large directory of projects that were never started.


October 6, 2015 Posted by | Travel | | Leave a comment


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