With trains, it has always been known, that the faster you go, the more passengers you attract.
So when you get a headline of Virgin mulls 135 mph working in Modern Railways, you suspect that they are working on faster trains.
After all the Class 390 Pendolinos are capable of 140 mph, but are limited to 125 mph in service.
At present, most trains to both Liverpool and Manchester take about eight minutes over two hours from Euston, but one train a day does it in two hours. So to lose that eight minutes and get all trains on the headline-grabbing two hours, would mean an average speed increase of 6.25%. If the average journey speed bears a direct relationship to the train’s maximum speed, then by increasing the current maxium from 125 mph to 135 mph is a rise of 8.0%.
So is this where the conservative figure of 135 mph came from? It is just enough to get all London to Liverpool and Manchester trains just under that magic two hours, that will give a sensible return for the cost of the extra speed and the track and signalling improvements?
Applying the same rules to the Glasgow time of four hours and thirty minutes, could give a speed reduction to four hours and ten minutes.
So on a rough and ready cakculation, Virgin’s op speed of 135 mph, could bring a great improvement to the West Coast Main Line. Remember that the rebuild of the line in the early 2000s was intended to deliver a London Manchester time of an hour and forty five minutes.
I’m fairly certain, although I could be mistaken, that the Class 390 Pendolino, I took back from Liverpool on Saturday was named City of Manchester.
But it was the second train south in the morning.
One of my least favourite station is Manchester Victoria, which looks like it was last deep refurbished and cleaned, when its namesake was on the throne. On the Network Rail page about their plans for the station is this classic phrase.
As anyone who has been to Manchester Victoria on a rainy day can tell you, there is a problem with the roof.
But at least something is being done. They state this about the new roof.
The £16m new roof is likely to be made of ETFE (Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) – the material used at Manchester Piccadilly station, the Eden Project in Cornwall and the swimming pool built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, known as the Water Cube. ETFE is lighter, cheaper and lets in more light than glass. It’s also self cleaning, making it an ideal material for roofs.
You do wonder if this material could be used in other places to improve buildings at a more affordable cost than traditional methods.
I’ll look forward to using the new Manchester Victoria station in a few years time.
Yesterday, I took the train to Huddersfield to see the two Towns share a goal-less draw.
I went via Manchester Piccadilly, as I wanted to have a decent lunch in Carluccio’s at the station, where I know the wi-fi is also excellent, as it incidentally was on Virgin’s trains and in their First Class lounge at Euston. The same can’t be said for their food and drink offering on the trains at the weekend.
It was very cold outside and as I passed through Highbury and Islington station to get to Euston, it was actually trying to snow.
It may seem strange to get to Huddersfield via Manchester, but then there are four trains about every hour on that route. They are new trains, but are only three coaches and often are completely full with standing everywhere. It was a classic case of the Treasury deciding how many coaches should have been bought for the Trans Pennine route and then dividing it by three to fit their budget. It’s a pleasant enough half-hour route though through the Pennines as this picture shows.
Although, the cleaner at Piccadilly was a bit slapdash.
I feel right to blame the cleaner, as he actually came into the carriage whilst I was waiting to sit down.
I should point out that these Trans Pennine trains, illustrate some of what is wrong with the layout of Piccadilly station, which was probably designed by a Scouser with a bizarre sense of humour, to get at their rival city. These trains turn up at all sorts of places in the station and are often the second or even the third train on the platform, counting from the concourse. I think it was the third yesterday. It must be a nightmare for staff to get passengers on the right train. But I’ve changed trains at Piccadlly so many times now, that I know the traps the station sets for you. Hopefully things will get better with the Northern Hub works. But this won’t be fully implemented until 2018.
At present. there are two solutions for passengers to avoid the problems; allow plenty of time and have drink or a meal in the station or take another route. For Huddersfield yesterday, I could have gone via Leeds, but that would have meant a walk up the hill in the cold to get a meal, as Leeds station doesn’t have a restaurant only snack bars.
The journey on to Huddersfield was enlivened with one of those bizarre incidents that seem to happen to me. A screw fell out of the bottom of my camera onto the floor. In crawling around the floor looking for it, I was assisted by a retired lady doctor from Hull, who like me had gone to Liverpool University. We must have looked an odd pair. I’ve now got the problem of finding a screw for the camera. Or should that be an independent camera shop?
Huddersfield station is not your ordinary drab station, as the picture shows.
It is a Grade 1 listed building and actually contains two pubs. Pevsner described it as one of the best early railway stations in England. The statue by the way is Harold Wilson. The football ground is a twenty-minute walk downhill from the station and despite Huddersfield Town not being on television very often, the ground is well-known to viewers because of Rugby League.
The John Smith’s Stadium was one of the first modern grounds to be built in recent years. As the picture shows, the view is good and I’d rate it one of the best seats for visiting supporters along with Barnsley, Burnley or Wolverhampton. You would never describe it as pokey or restricted like Charlton or QPR, although the stewards were complaining of the cold. So that must have been bad!
A steward incidentally told me that Ipswich had attracted a thousand fans. This must be quite a lot considering the distance from Suffolk and the weather. But on the other hand Ipswich, Suffolk and the football club must have one of the largest diaspora of any part of the UK.
It was the first of their caffes, where I found that wi-fi had been installed. As it was a station that supposedly had Network Rail’s wi-fi, I gave it a go and found that I could collect to Carluccio’s network.
And very good it was too! It was also pretty hassle-free, in that there was no login or registration process. Which is as it should be!
I hope that they don’t find their hot-spot gets used as a free download for masses of data, but there is nothing worse than going into a pub or restaurant and finding that getting a Wi-fi connection is a complete hassle.
But then, all I ever want to do is check e-mails, read a few web pages or use the machine locally. I don’t listen to music, play games or watch videos or live action on a small device.
Coming from London, you get to know, what properly connected and information-rich public transport can do for you.
Arrive at any Underground station and they’ll be staff to speed you on your way, with proper ticket information booths at many mainline stations like Euston. Nearly every bus stop, in the capital, also has a local map and a spider map for buses in the area. And of course every bus stop now has a full text message information system.
Yesterday, I went to Blackburn to see Ipswich play. I chose to go the direct but slower route via Manchester, as this would allow me to have a decent lunch in Carluccio’s in Manchester Piccadilly station.
I arrived at the station courtesy of a Virgin Train’s Pendolino just before twelve and without any difficulty, bought myself an Off Peak Return from any Manchester station to Blackburn for the princely sum of £6.15, from a well-staffed Virgin Trains ticket office. At least I didn’t have the ticket problem, that I had at Liverpool on this day, where staff seemed to be non-existent.
I had an excellent brunch in Carluccio’s before setting off to Manchester Victoria by tram to get the direct train to Blackburn. Piccadilly to Victoria is a standard tram journey across the city, if you’re going onward like I was, after coming up from London, but as seems to be common on all Manchester transport, the system assumes everybody knows where they are going. There was no staff on the tram station to ask either.
Some might object, that there was no specific Senior ticket and you have to pay the full fare. I could afford the £1.10, so what does it matter. But other visitors might not be so affluent. After all, Sheffield allows me on their trams with my Freedom Pass, which of course doubles as an England-wide bus pass. But not on Manchester trams!
It was clean and worked reasonably well, but the passenger information system was very nineteenth century. It was a new line to me and I was no idea, where I was and which was the next station. As it was Blackburn was obvious.
Blackburn station has had a bit of a makeover, but this does not apply to anything to do with the buses. I was thinking about getting a taxi, when I saw a 1 bus, which said it went to Darwen via Ewood Park. Again, there was no-one to ask about which bus to take and where to get it.
It was then the usual rigmarole of getting a ticket issued on the bus, which I felt like promptly dropping amongst the litter on the floor of the bus. Why can’t we have a UK-wide system for bus ticketing based on London’s successful Oyster? I hate to use the term no-brainer, but if ever there was one, this is it. But I suppose cities, like Manchester, wouldn’t want to use a London-developed system, just as they won’t use two-door buses or fit good on-board information systems.
I’ll deal with the match later and then it was repeating the process on the bus to get back to the station. There was just a list on the shelter of times and no text message information system, to know how long we’d have to wait in the cold.
Luckily, I just caught a train to Manchester Victoria and the helpful inspector, said it would be easier to change at Bolton station. I did change, there but there was no chance of a cup of tea, whilst I waited.
Finally, I ended back at Manchester Piccadilly, in the little satellite station at the back. I knew where to get the London train and made it with perhaps two minutes to spare. I paid the £15 upgrade to First Class and was one of four in the carriage. I suppose the television presenter, Garth Crooks, was pleased, as he could just fall asleep for most of the way, without being bothered by large numbers of football experts. I did laugh though, as he pulled a cap low over his face and would a thick scarf round his neck, as he walked through a fairly deserted Euston station.
So if I was the Mayor of Manchester what would I do?
1. Put a proper Manchester Transport information booth in Manchester Piccadilly station. After all, the main bus interchange in Manchester is in Piccadilly Gardens, ehich is not a short walk away.
2. Make sure, it’s obvious how you get a tram from Piccadilly to Victoria.
3 Bring Senior Tickets on the trams into line with the rest of the country. I would also like to see the ability to use Oyster and bank cards as payment on the buses and trams, so that it is easier for visitors.
4. How about moving to London’s two-door disabled and passenger-friendly information-rich buses? This one might even get more people out of their cars, as I believe they have in London.
5. Manchester needs maps everywhere! Or at least somewhere!
6. A few more staff would help too!
I know Blackburn is outside of the Greater Manchester area, but a lot of the same things apply.
I suppose the problem, is that if you use public transport in large parts of the north, you’re a loser, so you should get lost and not be a drain on car-owning tax-payers!
Manchester public transport, must be a nightmare for the blind. Or don’t people go blind in the north?
This is due to be announced soon and it’s already here on the Downing Street web-site.
Sadly, it’s too late for my wife and son, who died of cancer in 2007 2010 respectively.
My wife had a squamous cell carcinoma of the heart, which is so rare and deadly, that I don’t think any new technique would have helped. The doctors at Papworth Hospital, where she was treated had never seen such a vicious cancer. Short of a transplant or an unexpected miracle nothing could have saved her.
In my son’s case of pancreatic cancer, his lifestyle hadn’t helped and he might have stood a chance, if Trafford General Hospital where he was first treated in Manchester had picked it up earlier. As it is, they didn’t and Addenbrooke’s took their time too, as it was unexpected. Knowing what I know now, I would have got him to Cambridge earlier or taken him to Liverpool, where treatment of pancreatic cancer is a specialty.
So although the sequencing of cancer sufferers DNA will help in many cases, it wouldn’t have helped in their two cases, which were so tragic for my family.
What would have helped my son, would have been better diagnosis of his problem at an earlier date.
My wife went to the hospital fairly soon after she started running out of puff. She also led an exemplary life with regard to food, drink, not smoking and keeping very fit. Although that couldn’t be said for my son, who smoked heavily. And not just tobacco!
As an aside here, I am a coeliac.
This disease can be picked up by looking at the DNA. So if DNA sequencing becomes commonplace, looking for hereditary diseases like this may be a sensible and worthwhile use of the technique.
I took this picture yesterday coming back from Manchester.
There used to be a lot of humour based on U and non-U English, but I haven’t heard any for some time.
It’s all about how class defines the words you use.
I suspect the coach labeled U, is one of the new ones added to lengthen the train.
For a start, the platforms are at the back of the station and not logically on the concourse.
As the picture shows there is a moving walkway, but I do wonder how many people get lost trying to find it. I know the station fairly well, so when I see Platform 13 or 14, I know where they are. There is also a bridge to Platform 13-14.
But then unless you know your connection, you probably wouldn’t use it. I did use it, when I returned after the match and the signage on the bridge is very poor. The arrangements at Birmingham New Street station are much better.
When you get to Platform 13 or 14, things don’t get better, as there is just a small waiting area. The actual platforms are usually teeming with passengers waiting to get on the trains.
Manchester Piccadilly is a classic case of bad design. And bad design probably fifty years too late. It did have a big makeover in 2002, but they are really dealing with the immense problems that date from the 1960s, when the station was built out of the old London Road station. To say British Rail did a bad job, would have been giving them more credit than they deserve.
The station probably needs a decking built over the platforms to give access to the trains. This is the sort of thing that is happening at many stations around the world. The alternative as at St. Pancras of a large space underneath is probably not possible.
In spite of all this, Wikipedia says this about the station.
According to an independent poll carried out in 2007, Manchester Piccadilly has the highest customer satisfaction level of any UK station, with 92% of passengers satisfied compared with the national average of 60%
I would assume that they interviewed passengers going to Euston. Now that and its Underground station is a total disgrace! But Manchester deserves a station to the same standard as Leeds or Liverpool.
The train when it arrived to go to Horwich was the usual totally inadequate Transpennine Express three-coach Class 185 diesel multiple unit. If ever there was a train designed by civil servants it is this one. They do their best, but they are just too small. Wikipedia says this.
The loss of seats relative to an equivalent three-coach 158 means that more passengers have to stand at peak times. An increase in passenger numbers since the trains were brought in to operation has meant that some passengers are unable to board 185s at peak times due to them being seriously overcrowded.
They also have a serious lack of handholds for those who have to stand.
The route between the two stations is the Manchester to Preston line, which is slated to be electrified. So hopefully as many of the other lines in the area will also be electrified, this will solve the train problems as new electric ones will be needed and hopefully the Class 185s will be lengthened.
But like Picadilly station, which is totally inadequate, this line should have been electrified in the 1960s as a follow on to the electrification of the West Coast Main Line. After all, when linked to the electrified Manchester to Crewe line, it serves as a diversion for trains when the West Coast Main Line has to be closed.
The whole area, shows how when you don’t invest in infrastructure, it all comes back and bites you a few years later.