Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

On the branch line…from Richmond to Turnham Green

Posted in Commuter, Infrastructure, London, Metro, On the branch line, Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 16 September 2013

It’s a good thing when there is no football, as it means that I can take a nice jaunt to a branch line. Of course, when you choose a branch line to travel on, it is probably a good idea to pick one that you get on to that doesn’t involve a journey alongside thousands of rugby fans from four of London’s clubs as they make their way to Twickenham for the London double header that opens the new domestic season. Well, lesson learned now. Even so, it was quite fun getting down to Richmond and, once having gotten clear of the rugby people, it was quite nice taking a wander around and seeing the extent of this station that you hear all the time, but never get to. The first thing that did strike me was that, although it is a major stop on the suburban routes out of Waterloo, only two of its seven platforms are used by South West Trains; the majority of its platforms are in fact terminal platforms at the end of the North London Line and the District Line, with trains on both following the same route north as far as Gunnersbury, with Kew Gardens in between. After Gunnersbury, the two services split with the District Line running onto the main line to Turnham Green, which is where the main line divides towards Richmond and Ealing Broadway.

As I’ve stated previously, the Wimbledon branch is the most used part of the District Line, given that it has trains that run both along the main line and to Edgware Road. As a consequence, the off-peak service to Richmond runs every ten minutes. However, the presence of the London Overground service with its four trains an hour has significantly enhanced the number of trains that run to Kew Gardens and Gunnersbury. As it stands, given the amount of traffic that there is likely to be, the service level is exceptional. Admittedly I did my travelling on a Saturday, when the number of passengers would be relatively low. Even so, I would imagine that the vast majority of people going to London would not go via the District Line, but instead go to Richmond to get a train into Waterloo.

South West Trains, London Underground and London Overground trains in and around Richmond

On the road to…Southampton (again)

Posted in Great Britain, On the road..., Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 16 September 2013

Having had a full season back in the top flight, and having done a significant number of our fellow Premier League teams, it is eventually going to get to the point that the ones that I’ve done, not to mention told you all about already, are going to come around again. I did wonder about just detailing my journeys to the ones that I’d not yet put on here. But then I decided “sod it”; so, my aim is to detail all of the journeys I take this season, whether I’ve told you about them or not. However, I will aim to make as different a journey as is possible, and to try and give you a little variation in what I actually say to you. Because I wouldn’t want to give you all a sense of deja vu. so, we start the merry-go-round on its second revolution with a return trip to Southampton.

Date: 15th September 2013
Stadium: St Mary’s Stadium
Capacity: 32,689
Attendance: 28,794
Away Section: Northam Stand
Score: Southampton 0-0 West Ham United
Nearest station: Southampton Central
Local rozzers: Hampshire Constabulary
Total Travel Cost: £37.50p (1 x Off-Peak Day Return)

Rail journeys:
11:25 – New Cross to Canada Water (London Overground Class 378 Capitalstar)
Jubilee Line - Canada Water to Waterloo (1996 Stock)
11:54 – London Waterloo to Southampton Central (South West Trains Class 444 Desiro)
18:15 – Southampton Central to Oxford (CrossCountry Class 221 Super Voyager)
19:50 - Oxford to London Paddington (First Great Western Class 165 Networker Turbo)
Bakerloo LinePaddington to Baker Street (1972 Stock)
Jubilee Line – Baker Street to Southwark (1996 Stock)
21:49- London Waterloo East to New Cross (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)

Station to Stadium: St Mary’s is still a long walk from Southampton Central, but it remains worth leaving via the southern entrance onto the Western Esplanade, as it is a straight run up the hill and down the other side until you reach the subway complex, after which you turn right and just carry on walking. I have no doubt that this is a very pleasant jaunt when the weather’s nice. Having never been to Southampton in nice weather, I wouldn’t know. And I’ve still not found the shuttle bus.

Anything else?: Although the station is named Southampton Central, it is not especially close to the centre of the city. The city’s central station was Southampton Terminus, which closed in 1966.

Southampton Central railway station

On the road to…Newcastle

Posted in Great Britain, On the road..., Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 7 September 2013

HUZZAH!! The return of the football season!!! A return to trekking around the country on a Saturday afternoon (or a Sunday, if Sky have got their claws into the fixture). Ordinarily this, the first away fixture of the new season for us, would involve a four hour journey up from London to the Land of the Toon. But happily that won’t be the case for yours truly this time, as my annual trip to the Edinburgh Tattoo (combined with taking in a few shows at the Fringe) coincides with our trip to Newcastle United.

Date: 24th August 2013
Stadium: St James’ Park
Capacity: 52,404
Attendance: 49,622
Away Section: Sir John Hall Stand
Score: Newcastle United 0-0 West Ham United
Nearest station: St James
Local rozzers: Northumbria Police
Total Travel Cost: £30.85p (2 x Advance Singles)

Rail journeys:
12:00 – Edinburgh Waverley to Newcastle Central (East Coast InterCity 225 Mallard)
17:46 – Newcastle Central to Edinburgh Waverley (East Coast InterCity 125 High Speed Train)

Station to Stadium: St James’s Park is a familiar sight for people heading on the train north out of Newcastle, atop the hill. With it being so easy to see from the train, you’d expect it to be easy to reach from the station, and indeed it is, as there are several different routes towards the ground simply by crossing the road and heading upwards towards Chinatown. Because the stadium is so big it is difficult to miss. Even a slow jaunt will take you no more than 10 minutes. Of course, you then have to prepare yourself for the climb to Level 7 of the Sir John Hall Stand.

Anything else?: St James station has a unique colour scheme on the Tyne & Wear Metro, as it is decked out in the black and white colours of Newcastle United, rather than the corporate cream and yellow.

Newcastle Central railway station

Expand your vision

Posted in Great Britain, Other general stuff about railways, Politics by Chairman Pip on 17 June 2013

While the green shoots of recovery may be poking through, it is the case that we remain in the Age of Austerity, and that means cutting public spending ever more. At least, that is the case when it comes to the current Chancellor, which seems to have led to the current story regarding the financial state of the Science Museum Group. This is a conglomerate of four national museums dedicated to science, engineering and industry in various cities around the country, specifically:

Because these are national museums, they all have free entry and, as a consequence, the majority of the SMG’s money comes from the direct grant from central government. The upcoming spending review has led to the SMG’s parent department, Culture, Media and Sport, agreeing a 5% cut on its museum expenditure. However, the SMG has said that budget cuts may force it to close one of its northern museums, while charging entry fees could well lead to fewer punters through the door. This got me thinking though. While museums are certainly cultural centres, and thus appropriate expenditure for the DCMS, especially given that they have a large tourist market, a case can also be made that they are certainly educational establishments, and centres for business and trade investment, and thus could receive funding from both the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. But, as the educational centres that they are, they could also be ideal to form partnerships with universities, especially given that successive governments have long sought to increase the number of people entering science and engineering professions. Indeed, the Museum of Science and Industry had a close relationship with the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology for a long time. Would it not be possible to improve the funding for the SMG museums by increasing the number of bodies that provide funds? That would also mean that the SMG was less vulnerable to cuts in government expenditure than it is by having the bulk of its money coming from one source. Then we can ensure that free entry (which is no doubt a boon in attracting punters) can be maintained. Why not?

“Hopes rise that National Railway Museum in York and Locomotion in Shildon will be spared the axe”

Travels with Ben and Rosa

Posted in Great Britain, Infrastructure, Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 17 June 2013

I’ve spoken a lot about heritage railways and the roles that they can play, both in terms of their links to the past, in keeping our railway history alive for people to enjoy (rather than just static in a museum), and their potential as genuine transport links. However, it has been a very long time since I’ve actually been to one. Until last Saturday that is, when I took a trip down to the daddy of them all, the Bluebell Railway. You may recall that this came about when I discussed with two friends of mine that the Bluebell had finally completed its extension to East Grinstead, allowing direct interchange with Southern’s services to Victoria. Well, we arranged it, and on Saturday we all chuffed along down to go to the Bluebell for the day. And what a nice day it was. It didn’t rain, the locomotives and coaches were sparkling and, most importantly, the children were excited. And a little terrified, especially when the locomotives were coupling up at Sheffield Park and expelling steam. But they are both under 2. Nevertheless, the day went well, and the kiddies were as good as gold. There weren’t even an excessive number of terrible twos tantrums, with the worst being at lunchtime. And even then, that was a result of the food being eaten inside and out of sight of the platforms (and thus the trains). I will admit that I was badly behaved when I did that, as I soooo wanted to be outside :P. Seriously though, both of them were, for the most part, as good as gold. I’m not sure whether this will indoctrinate them as gricers; indeed, I had a brief coversation with a chap running a bookstall there (from whom I was able to pick up a copy of the complete Awdry) who said that he only had granddaughters who had all reached an age now when trains were not the most fun things, and that he longed for a grandson. So I do somehow see this as not being the beginning of a lifelong passion for little Rosa. However, it is entirely possible, with encouragement from his parents, that young Ben may well gain a genuine enthusiasm for the iarnród. Perhaps a trip to the Spa Valley is next on the agenda.

A pair of future gricers?

I foresee at least one of these little cherubs (or rugrats) will be a future gricer

On the road to…Everton

Posted in Great Britain, On the road..., Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 13 May 2013

When there is more than one team from the same city in the same division, you get to know the routes to and from where you are to where they are. I’ve no doubt that, given there are six London clubs in this season’s Premier League, and that many fans will have been to all six by train, that people have come to know the various London termini quite well by now. However, this is as nothing when it comes to people travelling to see the two teams in the city at the end of the M62, because it isn’t just a case of travelling to the same city terminus…the proximity of the two of them means that they even share the same local station. Which is a bugger then that, because of a certain horserace putting the kibosh on my trip to the red half, I can’t simply copy the same post twice, and can only report back on my trip to Everton.

Date: 12th May 2013
Stadium: Goodison Park
Capacity: 40,157
Attendance: 39.475
Away Section: Bullens Road Stand
Score: Everton 2-0 West Ham United
Nearest station: Kirkdale
Local rozzers: Merseyside Police
Total Travel Cost: £78.00 (2 x Advance Singles, 1 x Weekend First, 1 x Soccerbus Train Return)

Rail journeys:
09:11 – New Cross to London Charing Cross (Southeastern Class 465/466 Networker)
Northern LineCharing Cross to Euston (1995 Stock)
10:15 – London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street (Virgin Trains Class 390 Pendolino)
13:55 – Liverpool Central to Sandhills (Merseyrail Class 507)
17:14 – Sandhills to Moorfields (Merseyrail Class 508)
18:48 – Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston (Virgin Trains Class 390 Pendolino)
Northern Line – Euston to London Bridge (1995 Stock)
21:43 – London Bridge to New Cross (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)

Station to Stadium: Goodison Park, much like its near neighbour on the other side of Stanley Park, is something of a trek for those favouring “shank’s pony”; the nearest railway station is Kirkdale, which is around a mile away through myriad side streets. This is why it’s a lot easier to take advantage of the shuttle bus service that operates from outside Sandhills station and drops you on Walton Lane at the Park End of the ground. Then it’s merely a case of a short wander (which is nice if it’s sunny, and rubbish if it’s raining) along the road to Bullens Street, and hey presto, the away turnstiles.

Anything else?: The “Soccerbus” scheme operated by Merseytravel is in place for both Everton’s and Liverpool’s home games, and run from the same railway station, Sandhills. Similarly, Kirkdale is the closest railway station for both Goodison Park and Anfield.

Sandhills station

Sandhills railway station

On the road to…Manchester City

Posted in Great Britain, On the road..., Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 1 May 2013

Eventually, we all have to make that journey; the journey that all teams that win promotion to the top flight have to make at least once a season, and that is the one to the home of the reigning league champions. And, most years, that will involve a trip to what is arguably England’s second city…although the people that live there can fight out that claim with the other one that is arguably England’s second city. However, just for once, it isn’t to the home of the ones that bear the name of one city but reside in another that this accolade belongs, but instead to their “noisy neighbours”, Manchester City

Date: 27th April 2013
Stadium: City of Manchester Stadium
Capacity: 47,805
Attendance: 47,189
Away Section: South Stand
Score: Manchester City 2-1 West Ham United
Nearest station: Etihad Campus
Local rozzers: Greater Manchester Police
Total Travel Cost: £32.20p (1 x Off-Peak Day Return; 1 x Tram Only Dayrider; 1 x Matchday Return)

Rail journeys:
Line 1Nottingham Trent University to Nottingham Station Street (AT6/5 Incentro)
09:45 – Nottingham to Manchester Piccadilly (East Midlands Trains Class 158 Express Sprinter)
East Manchester LinePiccadilly to Etihad Campus (M5000 Flexity Swift)
East Manchester Line – Etihad Campus to Piccadilly (M5000 Flexity Swift)
15:43 – Manchester Piccadilly to Nottingham (East Midlands Trains Class 158 Express Sprinter)
Line 1 – Nottingham Station Street to Nottingham Trent University (AT6/5 Incentro)

Station to Stadium: Initially, on construction of the City of Manchester Stadium, Ashburys was the closest railway station. The construction of the new Metrolink line to Droylsden has since seen a new transport link adjacent to the stadium, with a station serving it directly. The station is located at the north end of the ground, which is also where the club have built a “plaza” for pre-match entertainments; to reach the away end entails simply walking around the exterior of the ground. However, this can prove inconvenient as the police helpfully cordon off the away section at the end of the game – as a consequence, it may be more convenient for away fans to use Velopark, one stop further on, which is also closer to the away end, just five minutes down the Ashton New Road.

Anything else?: Etihad Campus was the third name assigned to the station before it opened, having initially been known as Sportcity-Stadium and then Eastlands City Stadium, before gaining its present name with the advent of the Etihad Campus development.

Etihad Campus station

Etihad Campus Metrolink station

To quote Admiral Fisher, “ROT!”

Posted in Commuter, Great Britain, Media, Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 18 April 2013

I’d imagine that it’s a truism accepted by all that the less notable a celebrity is, the more important they think they are. Thus we have the story of Sarah Harding and her speeding ban. Having engaged the services of the noted solicitor Nick Freeman (aka “Mr Loophole”) when she came up before a magistrate charged with using her mobile phone while driving, the argument put forward by her solicitor was that:

Becase she is high profile she would find it impossible to use public transport because of the attention she would attract
Nick Freeman

Fortunately, the judge recognised this for the total bollocks that it is, and gave her three points on her driving licence, which, given that she already had nine (as a result of various speeding convictions), means she is now banned from driving for six months:

Mr Freeman is asking the court to deal with you as opposed to a normal person. Well you are a normal person. I can see no reason why you shouldn’t be disqualified.
District Judge Nina Tempia

The judge went on to say that she was not suggesting that Harding use “public transport”, as she could quite easily engage a driver, as another part of the argument was the need of a car for her work, and the fact that her mother lives in Stockport. The fact that she doesn’t do an ordinary job that makes public transport convenient I can understand, and therefore engaging a driver is of use. I go back to the fact that Daryl Morgan stopped using the train to get to work because of the nature of her hours. However, there will be instances where using the train is perfectly acceptable, and the only reason that a person will not countenance that is because they are “too famous”. Of course, the vast majority of us that have to travel by train, tube or whatever recognise that sort of attitude for what it is, hence the ridicule Geri Halliwell opened herself to when, having made her first journey on the Tube in nearly two decades, she decided it was the dog’s bollocks and would share her newfound wisdom on commuting with the world. Intercity trains have first class carriages, which are rarely full, and allow the “celebrity” to be a little more anonymous. After all, if it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for someone who, frankly, isn’t even the most famous person in her (now defunct) band.

“Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding given six-month driving ban”

I would say that The Queen is slightly more famous than Sarah Harding, and even she is happy to take the train.

On the road to…Southampton

Posted in Great Britain, On the road..., Other general stuff about railways by Chairman Pip on 13 April 2013

Finally, at long last, an away game to get excited about. You might wonder, dear reader, why this particular one is such a one to get my juices mixing and gushing with excitement. Well, I’ll tell you – I’ve been travelling around the country under my own steam (well, my own money, and National Rail’s steam actually) for some time now, and for most of that time I’ve been watching a Premier League team. And therefore I’ve been going to the same old away games year after year. That’s why last season was so exciting, as it meant trips to a load of places I’d not been before. This season, I’ve had just two opportunities, and one of them went for a burton right at the start of the season. That, and the lack of a run in either cup competition, has meant that this one is my only opportunity to add a new ground to my list. Hence I’m morbidly excited about the trip to Southampton.

Date: 13th April 2013
Stadium: St Mary’s Stadium
Capacity: 32,689
Attendance: 31,984
Away Section: Northam Stand
Score: Southampton 1-1 West Ham United
Nearest station: Southampton Central
Local rozzers: Hampshire Constabulary
Total Travel Cost: £37.50p (1 x Off-Peak Day Return)

Rail journeys:
10:58 – New Cross to Cannon Street (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)
Waterloo & City LineBank to Waterloo (1992 Stock)
11:39 – London Waterloo to Southampton Central (South West Trains Class 444 Desiro)
17:47 – Southampton Central to Reading (CrossCountry Class 221 Super Voyager)
18:39 – Reading to London Paddington (First Great Western InterCity 125 High Speed Train)
Bakerloo LinePaddington to Charing Cross (1972 Stock)
20:02 – London Charing Cross to New Cross (Southeastern Class 465 Networker)

Station to Stadium: St Mary’s is yet another one of the brand new stadia that have sprung up around the country over the last few years, and is also one of those that is a fair heft from the railway station. Fortunately, although a fair old walk, unlike some others, it is still in the city centre, and therefore does not require walking along a dual carriageway. Southampton Central has two entrances – by leaving the station via the southern entrance, you find yourself on the Western Esplanade. Walk straight on up here, past the Civic Centre and onwards down to the major intersection, where there is a comprehensive pedestrian subway system. Ensure that the route you take through the subway brings you to opposite where you’ve just come from, and carry on walking down, past the gas holders, and you end up at Britannia Road, which will then take you to the away end.

There is also a shuttle bus that runs from the northern side of the railway station, which, today certainly, would have been a better option to avoid getting wet.

Anything else?: The South Western Main Line branches just north of St Mary’s; the main line continues on to into Southampton Central, while the branch continues past the ground and onwards towards Southampton Waterfront. The route has been safeguarded, and there have been calls for the route to be reopened for passenger trains, including a station to serve St Mary’s.

Southampton Central railway station

Lighten up Georgie

Posted in Media, Other general stuff about railways, Politics by Chairman Pip on 8 April 2013

There was a bit in this morning’s “William Hickey” column that made me chuckle. Apparently, George Osborne is under new criticism for his transport arrangements after it emerged that his driver parked the offical car in a disabled space at the services on the way from Cardiff back to London after a visit to Wales’s capital. It seems that Gorgeous Georgie made the trip by road because he is wary of using the train following the debacle over his sitting in a first class seat on a standard class ticket. According to a Conservative Party official;

George can’t really win. If he goes back to using the trains, he’ll be heavily criticised if he travels first-class, but risks ridicule and abuse if he attempts to go in standard.

One might think that the Chancellor had something of a thin skin when it comes to criticism. Someone with a little more gumption might simply have laughed off the furore, said that in future he’d make sure he either bought a 1st class ticket or else paid the upgrade supplement willingly, and carried on using the iron road. The Hickey piece concludes by asking whether there is a mode of transport that he can use without getting in trouble. My idea immediately on reading that was a rocket powered pogo stick.

Given the criticism he gets for his management of the economy, I think there are more important things for George Osborne to worry about than being pointed at for using the train. Suck it up man.

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