Northern Rail – Crisis talks with DfT?

Northern Rail Class 319 electric unit at Liverpool Lime Street Station

Railnews has the story on its website – see link below:-

railnews.mobi/news/2018/11/05-northern-in-crisis-talks-over.html

Rumours that Northern has been suffering financially have been around for a while but then again that’s surely no surprise to anyone based on their well-documented troubles.

OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Assn) and Southport Rail Transport Forum have been lobbying anyone who will listen about the poor levels of service on the Ormskirk – Preston and Southport-Wigan-Manchester Lines for a long time now, indeed the troubles as I have often said well predate the May 2018 timetable meltdown.

But of course, Northern’s problems are far, far wider than the two local lines that I am reasonably well informed about and I have been impressed with the campaigning over these troubles by MP’s Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) and Lisa Nandy (Wigan).

I appreciate that not all of Northern’s troubles are of their own making and that their franchise has been hugely impacted on in a negative way by Network Rail’s delayed electrification projects and by the related stalled cascading of rolling stock. However, the trouble is not only the financial impact on Northern, who seem to have significant industrial relations problems with their own staff but on the confidence that the travelling public has in them.

Surely ending this franchise would be best all round, would it not?

Rimrose Valley Country Park – Where’s that unwelcome new road proposal up to?

Rimrose Valley Country Park map.

The things you find when Bob is deep into transportation research in this case via the Built bEnvironment Networking web site.

www.built-environment-networking.com/manchester-metro-expansion/

Tucked away in an article about Manchester’s expected 2040 strategy refresh (see link above) this quote pops up:

“Tim Gamon, regional delivery director at Highways England said the agency is currently developing scheme for Road Priority 2, which will cover its investment programme from 2020 to 2025.

Projects due to start work in March 2020 are a £135m congestion relief scheme on the A585 between Windy Harbour and Skippool, £52.8m improvements to junction 19 of the M6 and a £242m upgrade of west –east Trans-Pennine road links.

But he said that £227m plans to improve access for the Port of Liverpool via the A5036 Princess Way have hit a setback following a court challenge.

Opponents argue that Highways England had not considered tunnelling a section of the road, but Gamon said the £1.5bn cost of a tunnel would not have met the agency’s cost benefit analysis.

Idyllic view of Rimrose Valley Country Park

More news on this big local issue when I get it.

With thanks to Bob Robinson for the lead to this posting

Merseyrail – That new train fleet in more detail

The new Stadler trains (ordered by Merseytravel the Transport Committee of Liverpool City Region) which will be coming to Merseyrail in early 2020 look to be innovative and potentially class leading.

Here’s some photos from a mock-up of a Stadler train carriage so you can see how very different the new trains will look from the present rather elderly (40 years old in fact) British Rail built 507 and 508 trains:-

And you can see the mock up yourself too. Here’s where and how:-

The mock-up will be on display at the following times:

· Pacific Road, Birkenhead, CH41 1LJ: 1-14 October, Mon-Sun 8.00 to 17.30, Tues 8.00-19.30

· Liverpool Lime Street, L1 1JD: 5-18 November, Mon-Sun 7.00 to 18.30

The new trains are going to be fitted with battery packs so that they will be able to travel beyond the present electrified 3rd rail network. This brings all kinds of possibilities in terms of expanding the reach of Merseyrail to places like Burscough, Preston, Skelmersdale etc. without the need for costly electrification. Such opportunities are clearly most welcome and OPSTA* will be looking to pursue them at every turn.

With thanks to Bob for the lead to this posting.

*OPSTA – Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Association

That Corbynism thing – An American perspective

I’ve been trying to get a better understanding of Jeremy Corbyn and his followers who idolise him so much. By chance my good friend Bob sent me this link to an article about him and wider UK/USA political matters. It comes from an American perspective and its a very long read indeed, but it is one of the best insights into what Corbynism is all about that I have come across:-

nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/08/andrew-sullivan-on-jeremy-corbyn-face-of-the-new-new-left.html

Yes I know, if you have read it by now, some of the points are a little odd from a UK perspective. A Radical, for example, in British political terms is a socially progressive Liberal – Corbyn is no Radical but of course the word is used in American terms.

In turn I asked Bob and another deep political thinker, my daughter Jen, what they thought of the points made. This is what they said:-

Bob‘this [is an] excellent essay on Jeremy Corbyn and the influences that shape his views. The Tories appear to think in the same way although from a right wing perspective. It is both interesting and disturbing that terms such as “entryism” now are being used about both of the major parties in this country.’

and

‘I had not read such a coherent analysis of Corbyn’s strengths and weaknesses before. The danger is not so much that we become a polarised country but that we become bi-polarised – in the hands of parties that appeal to populist sentiment by detaching themselves from economic realism.’

Jen

‘I do not understand people who find Corbyn charismatic, sincere or meek.

The parallels between him and Trump are interesting, they do both seem to be the product of populist politics that values slogans over substance and seems not to care who their chosen saviour allies himself (because it’s always HIMself) with, no matter how misogynistic/racist/homophobic they turn out to be.

Corbyn is exactly the kind of man to start invoking the idea that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing and yet when those who identify themselves as his tribe hurl misogynistic and racist abuse that is exactly what he does.

But seriously what the hell is it with the British public suddenly deciding they want to run by characters from a knock-off PG Wodehouse novel?!

“When he isn’t politicking, he gardens on the British equivalent of a Victory Garden. He loves animals, particularly pigs. He has a passion for cricket, the football club Arsenal, and railways (he refuses to drive a car for environmental reasons). He also has an obsession with manhole covers and takes photos of them across the country.”

Between him and Rees-Mogg we’ll be living in the bloody 1920s never mind the 1970s! I love Wodehouse, but let’s be honest his is a world of white men, class divides, and women being viewed as distant figures of lust or terror that can never be understood. Not a world I really wish to inhabit.’

From my own perspective I get why Corbyn’s social policies are so popular even though they may well be economically unworkable particularly with the Labour Leadership also bizarrely backing a Brexit that can only make the poor poorer. The money that they would struggle to find for their huge spending plans in good times will certainly not be there in the bad times that Brexit is bringing to our table. So big social spending whilst backing Brexit simply does not add up and it never will.

The point I really see though is that Jeremy is a 1970’s-type left wing politician and like some socialists that I have known (many of whom I would consider my friends) through my many years working in the trade union movement he seems to live almost to re-fight the battles of the political past. Thatcher and Thatcherism is the usual go to for socialists who spend more time looking back than forward. It’s not that those times were insignificant, they were indeed very significant but harking back to those dark days does not really help solve the political challenges of today. To put it simply Jeremy seems to me to think that if everything that was done under Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown was undone then all will be well. Indeed, he may even want to undo things Harold Wilson did too! But I think you get my drift here; re-fighting the battles of past will not cure our troubles of the present.

And yet despite all these issues there are many who would walk over hot coals for Corbyn.