Thursday, April 29, 2010


In the current higly politically charged environment surrounding next week's general election, I might be expected to get a bit more political in my observations.

I might be expected to observe how, yesterday, the Lib-Dem Treasury spokesman was pictured on a train from Waterloo. He is obviously a clever man but, caught off-guard, looked to me like a tired old man on his way to a charity board meeting. Maybe if we had more people like him, our politicians would be inclined to do less?

Speaking of cable, overnight some thieving scum-bags have stolen some signalling cable between Banbury and Leamington Spa. This has led to delays and some cancellations to this morning's train services, affecting Chiltern Railways, Cross Country trains and Wrexham & Shropshire.

There are currently masses of people stood on my train (last stop before London - Gerrards Cross). Throw a pebble in the pond and see how far the ripples spread...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

High Speed 2

First things first.

I live in the beautiful Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire, to the North West of London. Designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and part of the Green Belt, supposedly safeguarded land.

I like where I live, and moved here for some very specific reasons which include peace & quiet, natural beauty and an abundance of Flora and Fauna. I particularly like the fact that I live in an area that packs in an unbelievable number of Red Kites.

Recently the current government announced its plans for 'High Speed 2', a high speed train line to link London with Birmingham and eventually cities further North. The preferred route will head through West London before diving into a tunnel just before the M25, traveling underground for several miles before emerging to desecrate the landscape somewhere in the Great Missenden area. The line would then continue through the AONB towards Aylesbury and then on towards Birmingham.

The total width of the line and associated workings will be approximately 25 metres wide - the same as the length of a typical municipal swimming pool.

This afternoon I traveled on a Chiltern Railways train from Aylesbury to Amersham - the stretch of line between Wendover, Great Missenden and Amersham passes through some fantastic scenery. The thought of that countryside being forever blighted by a 25 metre wide concrete scar, with electric pylons and express trains passing through every two and a half minutes is not something that fills me with glee. Many people feel the same.

As the proposed route is the preferred choice of the existing Labour government, it is natural that their manifesto has the most specific detail on the proposals. Explicitly it says:

Rebuilding our transport infrastructure

Britain needs to invest in modern, high-capacity and low-carbon transport infrastructure. At the heart of our growth plan is the commitment to a new high-speed rail line, linking North and South. Built in stages, the initial line will link London to Birmingham, Manchester, the East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds, and then to the North and Scotland. By running through-trains from day one, cities including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Liverpool will also be part of the initial network. Journey times will be slashed – those from the West Midlands to London will be as little as 31 minutes. We will consult fully on legislation to take forward our high-speed rail plans within the next Parliament.

I am not overly keen on the proposed route tearing up and through, as it will, a relatively nice part of the South East of our Green and Pleasant Land. I will admit to breathing a sigh of relief that none of the three preferred routes in the HS2 Report cut through or near the valley where I live. Call me a nimby if you like.

The Conservative Party's election manifesto states:
We will begin work immediately on a high speed rail line connecting London and Heathrow with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, with construction beginning in 2015, as the first step towards our vision of a national network joining up cities across England, Scotland and Wales. Stage two will deliver two new lines bringing the North East, Scotland and Wales into our high speed rail network.

What worries me about this is the directly stated intention to connect HS2 to Heathrow Airport. The reason this causes me concern is the lack of specifics on the stated route that such a line would follow - one possibility is that from being a reasonably content but unhappy nimby, I would become an "Oh my God you've got to knock my house down" nimby. That is not a good position to be in. A level of ambiguity and uncertainty that leads me to dislike a Conservative manifesto pledge.

The Liberal Democrats' transport policy is exceedingly wishy washy on HS2 simply stating:

Only the Liberal Democrats have costed plans to put the passenger first, with plans for a rail renaissance, reopening closed railway lines and new stations and building a High Speed Network to cut journey times to Scotland and the north of England.

So, I have previously been open about my political leanings. I need to cast a vote inside of two weeks. What difference will my single vote make in the context of a relatively safe-seat parliamentary constituency?

I know which political party I believe will be best for the country. I know which party's view is least worst for me on HS2. I know which is potentially the worst for me, and I know which one says nothing to help me form any opinion.

Conundrum, conundrum.

Recycling - But please use your vote!

I am not a particularly erudite blogger. By design, I tend to say things about public transport, occasionally I witter on about other things, and now and then I stray into politics.

For those who may not have noticed, the UK has a general election coming up in 11 days. A rare opportunity for some voters to make a difference.

My politics are fairly obvious to those who know me.

A can't stand Gordon Brown, I don't like the politics of the party that Nick Clegg heads up and I feel uneasy about David Cameron, the leader of the party whose policies trend more towards mine than those of the other main parties.

In September 2006 I wrote a post that I titled "This one is politics". A lot has changed in the last three and a half years, particularly from an economic perspective. Fundamentally though, I still believe in what I wrote and I think my words have stood the test of time.

If you are entitled to vote, please do. Vote for whoever you want. Vote for the party which has a leader you like, or vote on the strengths of a good local candidate. Whatever you do though, please use your vote.

If my personal views are not obvious enough, this video may help it become a little more obvious.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Interesting Routing on the way to Heathrow

In the lead up to UK airports re-opening last night, for some unknown reason I was wittering on about flight paths and made specific observations about Flight BA84 from Vancouver to Heathrow.

For the record, this image shows the merry dance that the flight made over the British Isles before becoming the first flight to land at Heathrow after 5 1/2 days.

The image is from Please click on the picture for a much larger version.

For the avoidance of doubt

Last night I was was clearly bored. There will be no repetition. I am not suddenly going to appear at an airport near you with a notepad and pair of binoculars.

Normal service will be resumed.

Very early this morning, the Central Line was suspended between North Acton and West Ruislip, due to over-running engineering work at Perivale.

All appears to be back to normal now as tfl are currently reporting a good service. A random check of the Live Departure Boards concurs with this message. Good thing really as the closure would have knocked out one of the three main train depots for the line.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

So what about the flight from Lusaka?

Flight BA254 has just taken off from Barcelona and is due to land at London Heathrow at 00.50 tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.

It would appear that night time flying restrictions have been lifted tonight for the world's busiest international airport.

I have a colleague and his family stuck in Cyprus with another stuck in Madrid - I wonder how long before I see them.

It has been really quite pleasant having aeroplane free skies for the last few days. I have family who live in Twickenham, very close to the Heathrow flight path - it's back to the usual noise levels for them.

Happy flying!

I think that Heathrow Airport is about to open

I've been blogging for the last couple of hours about BA flights wandering aimlessly over the skies of North Western Europe.

NATS made an announcement an hour ago which said

Statement on Icelandic volcanic eruption: Tuesday April 20, 2040

Response to CAA statement

NATS has received new direction from the UK’s safety regulator, the CAA, on applying restrictions to UK airspace following the volcanic eruption in Iceland.

As soon as revised accurate information is available from the Met Office on the location of the dense ash cloud, NATS will review

airspace availability and provide an update to airline operators on any airspace that has been restricted for safety reasons. We will i

ssue a further statement by 2200.

Now take a look at this image - What do you reckon?

Lost in space...

... or perhaps that should be 'How to throw the losing dice'?

This image, from the excellent shows four long haul British Airways jets currently heading for Heathrow.

So long as you are not geographically challenged, you may notice a slight problem.

The planes left Lagos (Nigeria), Calgary (Canada), Vancouver (Canada) and Beijing (China).

Houston, I think we have a problem!

Whether they end up in Madrid or Paris (either of which looks possible), I think if I were a passenger, I would rather have been diverted to Newcastle or Durham Tees Valley, both of which appear to be capable of receiving flights at this moment in time.

Ho hum.

20.30 I think the most easterly of the four planes was from Beijing and that plane landed at Amsterdam's Schipol airport. The 'orange' flight from Calgary is due to land at Paris CDG, the flight from Lagos has just done a circuit over the Channel Islands and doesn't seem to know what it is doing while the flight from Vancouver is currently doing lots of circuits over the Irish Sea.

20.50 The flight from Vancouver appeared to be about to land in Dublin, but then headed out over the Irish Sea again.

20.57 I've just noticed that flight BA254 from Lusaka (Zambia) appears to have done an about turn just South of the French coast and may now be heading for Spain? This looks interesting.

21.09 I hope the B747 from Lagos has plenty of fuel - it is still doing circles over the Cherbourg peninsular. The Vancouver flight is currently over Chester at 26,000 feet and heading South East towards Birmingham (currently closed). It must be an interesting evening on both of these planes.

21.20 The fligh from Lusaka appears to be heading for Barcelona and is currently descending through 17,000 feet. The Vancouver flight got as far South as Stratford-Upon-Avon and then did an about turn and has now done a circuit over Birmingham! The Lagos flight is still going round in circles.

21.27 I can't find the Lusaka flight any more. I am getting bored. You must be!

21.33 Just a thought... I wonder whether BA are trying to bully the UK authorities into letting them land at Heathrow. Currently there is a flight from Vancouver doing circles over Birmingham, a flight from San Fransisco that did a fantastic dance off the West coast of Ireland and which is now heading for the Welsh Coast, a flight from Lagos whic is still doing circles off the French coast, a flight from Los Angeles currently over Plymouth and a further two from Abuja (Nigeria) and Mauritius which have been circling over France and which are now heading across the English Channel.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Yuck - Look away now!

Beaconsfield is a generally charming town in the Chiltern Hills. It has a train station run by Chiltern Railways.

Yesterday (Saturday) at 10 am there was a pile of something rather yucky on the Northbound platform. It wasn't pleasant and was reasonably fresh. Uggh (shudders)!

Today (Sunday) the pile of unpleasantness is still there, looking less fresh, though just as unpleasant.

To be quite frank, the fact that the mess has not been cleared up in 24 hours is just bone-idle laziness. Beaconsfield is a staffed station and I know for a fact that roving station staff (whose jobs include cleaning) were out and about yesterday and are on duty today.

I know it's not nice, but if you are paid to do a job, get on with it. Don't just hope that management won't spot a problem and then leave it for someone else to clear up.

Unacceptable. Unacceptable. Unacceptable.

Rant over... It's a glorious day in rural Buckinghamshire with droning and vapour trail free skies. I'm now going to do some gardening.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Escalator Work at Oxford Circus

London Underground have announced that from next Monday, 19 April 2010, until summer 2011 Oxford Circus station will be exit and interchange only before 10.30 am on weekdays.

That means that before 10.30 am on weekdays it will not be possible to enter the station at street level to join the Central Line, the Victoria Line or the Bakerloo Line. The restrictions may also be implemented at other times if the station gets too busy.

It sounds bad, but the reality is that these restrictions shouldn't affect the majority of passengers. The access arrangements are being implemented to allow engineers to replace a bank of three escalators.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Away we go again

Back in January I went to Stockport, to watch Saracens play Sale Sharks. Except I didn't, but I did.

The match was cancelled due to snow, but I went anyway. I went anyway, because the trains were running and I couldn't get the money back that I had spent on my train ticket.

Anyhow, the re-arranged fixture was last night. I took the day off work and traveled up in the afternoon.

The match was enjoyable. Unsurprisingly there were only a tiny number of Saracens supporters who had made the trip up North (I'm guessing, less than 40), although the game they saw had just the right amount of stress.

The final score was Sale Sharks 19 - Saracens 30, so a good result for a small proportion of the people at Edgeley Park (Stockport County's ground).

There's a football match on at Wembley this afternoon, so there were quite a few Aston Villa fans out and about on the way down from Birmingham earlier.

Again Chiltern Railways and Cross Country Trains both behaved themselves each way.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Oh yes you are. Oh no I'm not!

I am currently sat on a Chiltern Railways 'Clubman' service from London Marylebone that will terminate somewhere in Oxfordshire Buckinghamshire*.

The dot matrix screens inside the carriages tell me that the first stop will be Banbury, followed by a number of stations in the Midlands, and finishing up in Shrewsbury.

Now, let's assume that the displays are wrong. I certainly hope so, otherwise I shall be very late getting home.

What I find strange is that the driver has even been able to program the displays with a set of destinations to which I don't think any Clubman has ever run in passenger service.

I wonder whether the separately badged Wrexham & Shropshire services have anything to worry about?

W&C is of course a sister company to Chiltern Railways, with a shared Marketing Director.....

*Edit: Correction made - I didn't have my timetable with me and had assumed the train was going to Bicester or Banbury, which was not the case.

Please stick fingers in ears and shout "La La La"

Repetition... Boring.... Repetition..... Boring......

The train is short formed again today. Grrr.

Still, at least the Chiltern Railways driver has apologised.

Beautiful morning. Not a cloud in the sky. A bit of ground frost at 6am this morning. Could turn out to be the warmest day of the year so far.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


"Oi! Are you calling me short?", said the train to the crowd of commuters waiting on the platform at Gerrards Cross.

Dead right. A carriage carelessly dumped in some siding somewhere. Not much of a welcome to all the commuters returning from a over-extended Easter break.

No mention of train dwarfism on the Chiltern Railways website this morning. Maybe it's to be the norm and they hope no one will notice...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Back of an envelope calculation

OK, the train I am on has lost 20% of its usual seats.

Where I am sat still has 20% of the seats empty. No one else will get on.

Some people usually stand.

I guess that 35 to 40 percent of Chiltern Railways' commuter passengers have gone AWOL today.

Short Today...

The Chiltern Railways' website advises that a few trains are a carriage short today. Obviously those particular carriages never made it back from their Easter holidays.

The website makes no mention of the train that I am sat on, which is also missing a carriage.

Actually, whatever the reason it shouldn't really matter - Trains and car parks seem fairly quiet this morning.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Doom Monger

One of my work colleagues, who is of the 'the glass is half empty' type, said to me on Thursday that the London Underground was 'virtually shut' this weekend due to Engineering Work.

I sort of poo-pooed him and, as if to make a point, travelled along a bit of the Central Line yesterday morning - it was working fine.

Today is different.

At present, only the Northern, Victoria and Piccadilly Lines are operating a normal service. All other London Underground Lines are either (i) totally closed, (ii) partially closed or (iii) partially suspended.

This image above is here to mark the position for posterity, though the clickable widget to the right should show the live position.

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Igloo on Wheels

The 10.18 Chiltern Railways departure from London Marylebone is currently en-route to Birmingham Snow Hill.

Don't get on the third ("Quiet") carriage. The lights are off, plenty of people are sitting in it, and they've all got their coats on. The engine underneath the carriage isn't running and I suspect that unless the driver gets it started, the train will struggle to maintain time all the way to Birmingham.

*Perhaps Igloo isn't the most appropriate description - I understand that igloos are supposed to be surprisingly warm inside.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Over Running Engineering Works - EG3 v1.0

After a few weeks of relatively harmless week-night engineering works, the gremlins hit last night.

Early this morning, Chiltern Railways didn't seem to be able to run Up (London bound) trains between Princes Risborough and High Wycombe.

Inevitably a few trains were cancelled. Trains have been running through for the last hour or so, but there will still be some problems for a while yet, as a few trains will be in the wrong places.