The Anonymous Widower

Pamela’s Odds Are Coming Down!

I got 50-1, but now after tonight’s performance, she’s down to 22-1.

I think I got value!

October 1, 2010 Posted by | World | , , , | 3 Comments

Are Dictators Stupid?

It would appear that Robert Mugabe has fallen for a scam where a mystic claims he can get diesel out of rock.  The story is here in The Times.

So he proves my title for a start.

This is one of my favourite books. The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy gives the full details on how the Nazis ran their economy. It shows them to be cruel, but also amazingly stupid.

October 1, 2010 Posted by | News, World | , , , | 1 Comment

Jointed Track in the Highlands

As the train journeyed from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh, I noticed a sound that I hadn’t heard for years; the clickety-clack of traditional jointed rail, as opposed to the much-more-normal continuously welded rail, which is virtually standard in the UK. It’s generally considered to be safer too!

Traditional Jointed Rail at Kyle of Lochalsh

This photograph confirmed the rails.

I suspect that it could be that the cost of continuously welded rail isn’t justified on such a branch or it just might be some other reason of accessibility or distance.

But it was nice to here the sound again on a main line train.

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Transport | | Leave a comment

Saucy Postcards Make a Comback

In a recession or time of adversity or austerity, humour always does well.

Even Bamforth’s saucy postcards have found a new champion to develop their totally British institution.  It’s all in The Independent.

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Business, News | | 1 Comment

The Cost of Going Green in Scotland

I was given a complimentary Scotsman on the sleeper, although I might have preferred a Scotswoman.

The headline of Going Green will push Scots fuel bills up £100 caught my eye.

The reason is that Alex Salmond wants to go to 100% of renewables by 2025.  It may be a laudable aim, but to do it with just wind, wave and tidal is not in my view a good idea, as there is just so much back-up to provide.  Especially, as nuclear will not be used for much longer in Scotland.

Let’s hope when the policy all goes pear-shaped that we don’t have to bail them out!

October 1, 2010 Posted by | News | , | 2 Comments

Shmpoo Rage

My hair is what I call normal, especially since I went gluten-free, which cured my dandruff.  But are their any normal shampoos left.  In Waitrose today, I could get shampoo for everything like frizz, colour and dry, but not for normal!

So I@m going back to Fairy Liquid

It sounds like one for the new Discrimination Act!

October 1, 2010 Posted by | World | | 5 Comments

The Welsh Call-Up Their Secret Weapon

I thought they were pushing it to hold the Ryder Cup in early October, after this cold summer in the UK, but to hold it in Wales was taking real chances.

So off course the Welsh called out their secret weapon to soak the Americans and ruin their game.  It seems to be working as Europe was marginally ahead when play was suspended today.

To make things worse for the Americans, their waterproofs don’t work!

Reputedly, the Americans have been heard asking, if there is a Welsh manufacturer of waterproofs!

Apparently, they ended up buying the gear from ProQuip, who would appear to be a Scottish company.  But then they know about rain up there!

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Sport | , , | Leave a comment

A Train for the Highlands

We have a rolling stock crisis in the UK, with not enough of the right kinds of trains. One manifestation is that we’re still using obsolete Pacers, as I found on my way to Scunthorpe.

Between Inverness and Kyle of Lochlash and between Mallaig and Fort William, the trains were not in bad condition, but they were too small and overcrowded, as I suspect they are on many branch lines and especially those to places worth a visit, like say Great Yarmouth.

Alan Williams in his column in Modern Railways, says that there are surplus diesel locomtives in good condition and quite a few rakes of Mk. 3 coaches.  He advocates using these to replace the Pacers.  I wouldn’t, but would use them to replace the trains I rode in Scotland and other scenic and other lines to release fairly modern units to kill off the Pacers.

If you take the Scottish Highland routes, they could be developed into a tourist attraction in their own right.  How about?

  • Wi-fi evetywhere.
  • Perhaps a Dining/Buffet Car in Summer.  Aren’t there some Mk 3 ones about?
  • At seat trolley service.
  • Low density seating.
  • Wide windows for the view.  What would Health and Safety say?
  • Bicycle racks

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

An Idea for the Glasgow Edinburgh Railway

Writing these notes, which reflected some things I’d seen on my journey to Scotland, I realised that Scotland could do much better between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Or should it be Glasgow to Edinburgh?

They could create a large Parkway station with lots of parking on this line about half-way and call it something imaginative like Scotland Central.  It would be easy to get to either end and if major stadia like Murrayfield and Hampden Park had quick connections, it would make getting to Scotland’s twin capitals and their major events easier.

It would also make connections to the north via Stirling and Dunblane easier!

If it was in the right place for those coming from the south of Scotland, so this would be ideal for Kazakh Jock.

A Glaswegian suggested to me, that you close the three southern airports of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Prestwick and put one in near Scotland Central, as there’s not much there!

I’d love to be a fly-on-the-wall in the committee, which decided to do that!  Both Edinburgh and Glasgow would have different and irreconcilable views.

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Reflections on My Journey to Scotland

In my Modern Railways for October, which I bought in Doncaster, there was an heretic article by Chris Stokes, asking if we really needed HS2 or the High Speed Line to the North, which would go to just Birmingham at first. He described it as a vanity project.

Twelve months ago, I was a sceptic on whether we needed a High Speed Line to the North, mainly because I didn’t think it would do anything for anybody in East Anglia where I lived. If I needed to get to the North, I wanted a fast line from somewhere I could drive to easily like Peterborough.

But when it was announced that the route would be to Birmingham in the last days of the disastrous NuLabor experiment, I warmed to it a bit, although I did think it needed to go via Heathrow.  I also thought very much that it was a Nimby’s charter.

But Chris’s article has now turned me back to very much a sceptic.  Competition being what it is, his argument, that unless you virtually close down the West Coast and Chiltern Birmingham services, no-one will pay a premium to go from London to the Midland’s premier city.  My son incidentally always goes by Virgin and has never thought about using Chiltern, as Euston is on the same Underground Line as where he lives.

Chris also argues, that the amount of First Class traffic will decrease due to austerity, good housekeeping and modern technology removing the need to travel. Some years ago, I installed a Management Information System in a company, which was web-friendly and even allowed the computer-phobic CEO to find out how the company was doing from any computer in the world.  But also, the modern traveller will become First Class smart and book it when and where they need it.  So if you think there is a premium market that saves a few minutes, forget it!

Put simply, a lawyer say going to Birmingham from London for the day, will choose his route and class dependent on what is best for his needs.  Hopefully, when I move to London, it will be in walking distance of Canonbury.  Who’s to say that in 2015, someone isn’t running an express to say Milton Keynes, Coventry and Birmingham from Stratford and East London on the North London Line and possibly the Primrose Hill Tunnel?

So what will happen to lines to the North, if we don’t build HS2 on schedule? We’ll get the usual whining, we always get when the investment is cut, but let’s look at the reality of what will happen!

We now have two good and pretty reliable and fast train lines from London to the North of England and Scotland.  I was told on my trip to to Inverness that it should be possible to be some minutes under four hours from Edinburgh to London.  This compares with a fastest journey now of  about four hours twenty minutes, although Operation Peppercorn is aiming for the magic four hours flat for the fastest trains with a stop at Newcastle. Glasgow to London by comparison is now about four hours and twenty minutes. Many of my Scottish friends say this is fast enough to mean they won’t bother to fly to London, as airport checks and delays are getting worse and they can use phones and laptops on the trains.

If there is a problem with the two stiles of a possible ladder reaching up the United Kingdom, is that some of the interfaces to other lines are poor.  But the basics and some of the rungs of the ladder are already in place.

There are a succession of large stations on both lines, such as Peterborough, Crewe, Doncaster, York and Newcastle, which can be developed into easy change stations to other places.  As I said earlier, Doncaster isn’t bad and I think Peterborough is going to be developed and hopefully linked to the nearby shopping centre, but a lot of work needs to be done.

As I rode out of Edinburgh towards Inverness, I was impressed to see that electrification has started to link Edinburgh and Glasgow.  As it is trains now run every fifteen minutes and most take just fifty to link Scotland’s two capitals.  I suspect that this will become a very important link between the two fast lines, not only because of level cross-platform interchange from the South to local trains, but also because full electrification would allow fast direct trains from Glasgow to York and Edinburgh to Liverpool.  Taking the first journey, my road atlas estimates that at four hours ten minutes, which compares with about four hours by train now with two changes and two different companies. I estimate that something like a Pendelino could do this journey direct with perhaps just a stop at Newcastle in about three hours fofty-five minutes. Who would back against, Peppercorn 2, squeezing more minutes out of the East Coast Line.

A similar situation could exist between Newcastle, York and Doncaster in the East and Manchester, Liverpool and Preston in the West, by expanding and electrifying the TransPennine network. Edinburgh to Sheffield is a journey that uses either a direct diesel service or a change to TranPennine at Newcastle. If TransPennine was a level change at Newcastle from one fast electric to another, there would be a much better service.

London too has a strong link across, although as I said Euston is not a welcoming station, but when you’ve got three world-class stations in Kings Cross, St. Pancras and Euston, as you will have, an innovative transport solution along Euston Road could surely be achieved.  For a start let’s have a proper walking route a hundred metres or so north of Euston Road, with cafes and shops.  But I’m certain that people should be encouraged to take the Metropolitan Line rather than the Victoria or Northern.  Perhaps we need a moving walkway!  Euston is supposed to be being developed and also be a terminal for HS2.  If the latter does happen, there will be a lot of grief and opposition in that area of London. That development, whether it incorporates HS2 or not, will divert rail passengers to other routes, such as Chiltern for Birmingham and East Coast for Scotland.

There is also another link that might be brought into use, especially if Euston has to be partially closed to traffic, whilst it is rebuilt.  That is the link to Manchester out of St. Pancras, which was used reasonably successfully as Operation Rio during the West Coast Main Line upgrade.  I’ve always argued that this should have stayed in place, as it interfaces well with the A14 at Wellingborough for those going from East Anglia to the North Midlands,Sheffield and ultimately Manchester.

So what’s missing?

As I found going to Scunthorpe, it’s not what’s missing in this case, but what’s still here; Pacers. All of these links to the two stiles of the ladder must be upgraded to the standard of the diesel trains, I used in Scotland.  And where possible, they should link easily to the fast services.  I think that this will happen, but in some ways it depends on a strong electrification program to release suitable diesel units.

The real problem though is the lack of a full East-West route between say Peterborough and Birmingham or perhaps Milton Keynes and Stevenage or Cambridge.  The Peterborough to Nuneaton route is being upgraded for frieght and passenger trains between the two towns take seventy-five minutes.  So it would look like that route could be another rung in the ladder. The other route is the possible Oxford-Cambridge Line, which could be built, if funds were made avaialable.

I believe strongly that the two route ladder offers  advantages over just building a speculative line from South to North, which would cost several times the amount needed to build the two route ladder.

For example, as electrification progresses, subsidiary lines like Birmingham to Bristol could be further improved, so that more and more people had less than two hour access to the main network. More rungs could be opened up, by any company that feel there was a niche to be filled.

So should HS2 be built?  I think that one day it might be built, so we must safeguard the route, so that at some future date it could be added as another part of the network.

If Beeching made one big mistake it was not in making sure that abandoned rail lines were able to be rebuilt. How many lines hastily abandoned in the 1960s are needed now? But perhaps it would mean knocking down a hundred or so houses and a Tesco’s!

October 1, 2010 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments