Nottingham Midland station fire

The station matters to Nottingham.
So much so, that the council contributed to its £50 million renewal.
Deeply distressing to see the fire.


Rail fares protest

Joined the nationwide RMT protest on rail fares increases at Nottingham Midland station.
Rail fares have gone up on average by 3.4% when wages haven’t.
Did 4 media interviews and concentrated on the £2,000 million bail-out given to Richard Branson and David Soutar – multi-millionaires who wanted a better deal on a franchise already agreed on East Coast Main Line – which has been run by the public sector for a surplus.
Repeated Tom Watson MP’s complaints about the Conservative Transport Secretary staying low and silent, who it turns out wasn’t available until late in the day (for interviews by mobile phone from Qatar).
Thatcher’s promise on cheaper fares has not been upheld – nowhere close in fact – but when privatisation started, weird things happened like a big step increase in investment and drivers wages.  All to be overshadowed by the collapse in the network when “corner guage cracking was rediscovered.
In calling for a return to public owenership, have got to watch out for railways being starved by central government again.

Ilkeston railway station is open

After 50 years, Ilkeston is back on the map.

Holding the Notts County Council Transport policies and programme for 1996/97, which included aims for a railway station in Ilkeston (2 in fact).
The new station is very near to Awsworth in Nottinghamshire, where Lisa is standing for Notts County Council in Stapleford and Broxtowe.

On the 10:46 to Nottingham, talked with a Mum, Gran and daughter from Ilkeston on the way back.
It was the daughter’s first trip on a train.
Mum said the bus trip could take 30 minutes to Nottingham, so perhaps 12 minutes quicker, but a much smoother journey.

A train operator spokesperson said journeys from the station to Nottingham should hopefully sell themselves – cos of the time gains and avoidance of congestion.

IMG_6708 (2)
Meanwhile bumped into Steve Calvert who I met in the Summer of 1993 (I was a new County Councillor) to explore how we could get railways stations for Ilkeston (yep stations, we wanted a north and south, for a town that once had 4!)
They didn’t listen then, they’re half-listening now.
But 24 years for a simple railway station is another reminder of how difficult railway development outside of London and the South-East is.
And we wanted a suburban rail network for Nottingham.


‘Allo, ‘Allo

allo_allo_castYeah,secret-army-p01nkrzh never a fan of “‘Allo, ‘Allo“.
Never watched it.
It seemed to me an insult.
I loved the earnest “Secret Army” which dramatised the underground organisation that put so much at stake in their efforts to get 300 RAF personnel back to Britain.  And “‘Allo ‘Allo” came in to ridicule it. private-schulz-ac720264-523f-4e32-8c66-7815da29e4b2
It was backwards in other ways – stereotypes for characters.   Contrast with “Private Schulz“, broadcast a year earlier, was a drama-comedy that was grown up, featured German soldiers as lead characters and tackled foreign accents by speaking very formally when speaking in a foreign language.
Still safe enough dads-army-hqdefaultwith Dad’s Army eh? Some stereotyping, with an dads-army-criticismelement of idiocy (that even Morecambe & Wise used).
Then a mate of mine rips into the titles!  (‘Feeding a myth of plucky Britain when our army’s leaders had made idiotic mistakes.’)
Comedy – tricky, especially if you take a political view.
My trade union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, has published a video highlighting the absurdity of the privatised British train operating companies, being owned in many cases by European state owned railways, and making profits because they are subsidised.
Take a look.

1.7 million views within its first 3 days.
I think the video is misjudged – for an internationalist organisation like my union – the TSSA.
Elsewhere, others have said it well – why make the Europeans in the video appear to crow over British people?
Don’t thi
nk it’s stereotypical but it is a tad unpleasant.
Daily Mirror Front Page 240696A more internationalist approach would be to say – hey, here’s why we’ve stuck with tssa-g-large_trans_nvbqzqnjv4bqmb1puxpjlcnrgg6rsffrzn0bo8whxbcsthi7hcpsx9m-pngpublic ownership, and then point out how British tax revenues are subsidising companies maing profits.
Always gotta be careful using England vs Germany football matches, cos that generates some other emotions, but as it happens, it’s a British, not English, issue.
That said, I think MP Stella Creasey’s criticisms of the video are a bit unthinking too – the characters are not portrayed in a stereotypical way.
Stella attacks Momentum for promoting the video, but interesting to see that Momentum were sensitive about criticism by tv critic Charlie Brooker about Jeremy Corbyn.  Some great lines here.
Comedy, eh?



Action for Rail campaign day

Protesting against incease in fares whilst operators take profits, a delay in Midland Mail Line electrification is threatened and there’s take of the private sector getting Network Rail.
Photo library here.



Watching the Mick Rutherford Band and it turns out the harmonica player works on the steam engines at the Wollaton Industrial Museum.
Then Lilian Greenwood MP announces she got to work on the footplate  on a steam locomotive.
And the LMS’s Princess Elizabeth is in Derby, which I think my Dad once drove (I know he drove Castle class locos).
And all I have to boast about is that I once operated IBM XT’s with their optional 256k of RAM and their 10Mb hard disk.
La de da, la la.


Traingate and the reputation of the railways

My Dad was a train driver and I worked in IT for the railways, so defending our reputation against all kinds of charges – wilted cheese sandwiches, over-packed trains, silly train fares, lateness – became part of life (especially at parties).
The railways’ reputation also suffers from people’s first experience of train journeys as a child – invariably a special event and when the seats seemed so big.  Add to that people’s discomfort when someone they don’t know sits next to them – captured by Ben Elton in the eighties with his “double-seat, double-seat, gotta get a double-seat” routine.
Then there’s the fear some people have of empty railway stations late at night – one friend once used a photo of low-lit platforms on Nottingham station as a cover for a book on crime; and some tried to stop the move of the City Council to Station Street cos of a perceived fear of crime at the station.

So my initial reaction to Jeremy Corbyn’s video about a “ram-packed” midday train to Newcastle was cautious.
(Granted, it did make me think that a trip to Sunderland – yep, Salop are playing a Premiership side away in the Football League Cup again – might not be worth it.)
Cos staff do work at getting passengers seated, even if it takes a while, partly for safety reasons.
But I didn’t realise how extensive the video coverage of a mainline train service would be.
Virgin Trains have now presented their side of the story.
20160823 Labour friends of trains ab0611h
So embarrassing for the new honest politics to be caught out so badly.
Seems, despite the video images, some are saying there was an issue at some stage.  But a situation to justify a video and to exemplify privatisation?
This was celebrated as Jeremy’s best political intervention – speaking out for the people.
But the political messages were strange anyway.  The first part of the case for public ownership is how with a clearer public first ethic and not having to carry the cost of profit, we can provide better services.
But overcrowding on trains to and from London is also about how London has over-heated relative to the rest of the country.  Patronage on “Network South-East” has gone up, and more of the paths available on our main railway lines have been given over to commuters.  We either need longer platforms and longer trains, or we need more capacity – one of the big reasons for High Speed 2; or the regional planning approach of the 1970’s Labour government.
Other arguments for public ownership can help – the role of rolling stock companies, the profiling of financial returns from train service franchises, the cost of regulating the finances, the potential to involve local government.
But for those of us who’ve felt a general responsibility to defend railway travel in general, the video stunt was disappointing, cos we knew there weas a range of issues going on – I’m just not sure we expected video to show it like it did.