The Anonymous Widower

Do We Featherbed Groups In Society?

I got my monthly State Pension today and at £677.16, that will do me for my day-to-day expenses for the next month. It doesn’t cover trips out of London, but it does allow me the odd light lunch in a restaurant.

But I also get other benefits just because of my circumstances, as a 67-year-old man, who lives alone.

I get a Council Tax discount because I live alone. But is that right as I live in a family house with a garage in a desirable part of London? If I didn’t get it, I’d still live here as that would be my choice, but I am blocking someone more worthy than me of buying this house.

I have a highly-insulated house with an efficient boiler, but should I get a winter fuel allowance?  It would be better if the money was not paid at all, but used to improve our housing stock’s energy efficiency, so that those on a pension actually saved the money all through the year.

I have a Freedom Pass, which gives me free transport on buses, Underground, Overground and trains within the Central London area. This is one of the reasons I moved to Dalston. But is it too generous on the one hand and not universal enough on the other? Surely, a better system, would be one where you nominated your bank card as your transport pass and in the free areas, the system didn’t charge you. The advantage of this would be that London could enter into reciprocal arrangements with areas like Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle, so that we could use each other’s concessionary area at a discount. Would this encourage more of us to travel to explore the country and perhaps spend money in attractions, cafes and shops, we wouldn’t dream of visiting now?

This morning according to this report on the BBC, the Liberal Democrats are saying that those who have a second house they use in a beautiful area, should pay double Council Tax on their second home. Here! Here!

I live in Central London and I am starting to resent the traffic. Not because I drive, but because of the pollution and noise often put out by cars used as glorified shopping trolleys and baby buggies. We let all drivers get off too lightly with the problems they cause in cities and if they got the message, we may see more cycling and walking, and better air quality. We might even see better delivery systems for goods, where transmissions were hybrid or electric, like London’s newer buses.

It will happen eventually, that all cars pay road charges based on mileage, fuel used and congestion. But I doubt we’ll see it soon, as there are no votes in it. It’ll probably be introduced in London first, as cycling gets more common and Crossrail shows everybody what real railways can be like.

But would a city like Birmingham, where the car is king, and pedestrians are targets to hit when crossing the road, accept charging to pay for the updating of the numerous railways and more trams in the city?

And then there’s lifestyle, fitness and health!

Many people drink, eat and smoke too much and governments don’t really discourage it forcefully. It would be an interesting exercise for a town or city to declare a city centre non-smoking and see what happens. I can remember, when ahead of the smoking ban the landlord of my local pub in Suffolk declared it a smoke-free zone. He got some moans, but not from his bank manager.

The NHS is in crisis, but this is mainly a problem of the irresponsible patients making. So if we can get people back to the straight and narrow, we might help the dear old NHS out.

For a start, I would like to see a law, that no-one could stand for elected office or sit on the board of an NHS body, if they were a smoker!

I could go on a lot more. But we must all change our lifestyle, if we want this country to be a place, that is really worth living in.


April 21, 2015 Posted by | Health, Uncategorized, World | , , | 2 Comments

The Ventilation Shafts For The Channel Tunnel Rail Link


This post is being developed together with a related one of the ventilation shafts for Crossrail, to show the sort of buildings we can expect to be created to provide access to new rail tunnels under London and other cities.

As I travel around the city, I will be adding more pictures and when I think the details are complete, I’ll add a summary.

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link goes from Ebbsfleet to St. Pancras in two twin tunnels, which both surface on either side of Stratford International station.

The twin tunnels have to have ventilation and emergency access shafts and there are five of them for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. From East to West approaching London they are as follows.

1. Wayside Ventilation Shaft

This shaft is in Barking and can be seen on this Google Earth image.

Wayside Ventilation Shaft

Wayside Ventilation Shaft

The shaft is nestled in the angle of where the A13 crosses the London Tilbury and Southend Line.

This page on the Bell Johnson web site, gives an interesting insight into the design of the shaft. There is also an image taken during construction.

Waysite Ventilation Shaft Under Construction

Waysite Ventilation Shaft Under Construction

The picture was taken from the east and clearly shows the road and the railway. These images were taken from a train.

The ventilation shaft is to the west of Dagenham Dock station, which is where I turned round to come back into London. As the station is in Zone 5, it is Freedom Pass territory.

2. Barrington Road Ventilation Shaft

This shaft is to the west of Barking station and is shown in this Google Earth image.

Barrington Road Ventilation Shaft

Note that the shaft is to the north of the train lines going into Barking station and to the west of the A406 road. I took these pictures from trains passing through the area.

I reckon that you possibly get the best view of the building on top of the ventilation shaft from a eastbound, District or Metropolitan Line train with clean windows. Unless of course, you walk to the Barrington Playing Field from East Ham station.

3. Woodgrange Road Ventilation Shaft

This shaft is located south of Forest Gate station and is shown on this Google Earth image.

Woodgrange Road Ventilation Shaft

Woodgrange Road Ventilation Shaft

Forest Gate station is on the Great Eastern Main Line out of Liverpool Street and later next month, it will be taken over by Crossrail.

The shaft is directly underneath the station, but would appear to be more tucked away in buildings than the shafts at Wayside and Barrington Road.

It is also the only ventilation shaft for the tunnel, that doesn’t have a full elliptical building on top.

I tried to take a decent picture of the building, but you can only see one side between the houses.

The only point to note, is that in a previous building on the site, Jimmi Hendrix wrote Purple Haze.

4. Graham Road Ventilation Shaft

This shaft is east of Dalston and just to the west of Hackney Central station, close to the North London Line, under which the Channel Tunnel Rail Link was bored.

It is shown on this Google Earth image.

Graham Road Ventilation Shaft


Note how it lies close to the curve that links the North London and Lea Valley Lines, just to the south-west of where the two lines cross, which in turn is to the west of Hackney Central station.

I was able to take these pictures from a train on the North London Line.

I shall attempt to take a few more.

5. Corsica Street Ventilation Shaft

This shaft is just east of Highbury and Islington station and is shown on this Google Earth image.

Corsica Street Ventilation Shaft

Corsica Street Ventilation Shaft

It is another shaft with an elliptical building on top, which you can see in the top-right corner of the image.

I was able to take these pictures.

Some were taken from Corsica Street looking through the gate and the others from passing trains.

These structures have more than a touch of the Martello Tower about them! Ironic really, as these ventilation shafts are there to help encourage the French to visit, whereas the Towers were built to repel Napoleon.





April 12, 2015 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , | 3 Comments

The Updating Of Newcastle Station

Newcastle station is one of the most important stations on the East Coast Main Line. I took these pictures of the station redevelopment as I passed through.

My memories of the station usually involve how blustery it can be. The glazing of the front of the station, may not be as dramatic as that at Strasbourg, but it did seem to make the station entrance a lot more civilised. The position of the ticket machines and information screens under the portico, is an idea that could have been borrowed from the French station, with which it shares a lot of operational characteristics, like fast trains to the capital, an extensive regional network and a below-ground metro or tram.

Newcastle has now joined Kings Cross and Liverpool Lime Street, where you can walk straight outside the station and be in a partly-pedestrianised area, where you can get your bearings of the city, that might be unknown to you. As the pictures show work is still continuing in this area.

Newcastle is one of six operational stations in the UK, that is a Grade One Listed Building. The others are Bristol Temple Meads, Huddersfield, Kings Cross, Paddington and St. Pancras. I can see Manchester Victoria joining this elite group, when it is completed.

March 13, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Serial Cooking – Chicken, Spinach And Tomato Stew

This is another recipe from Lindsey Bareham in The Times.

It was certainly worth cooking.

Note how to avoid cutting the chicken, I used some chicken chunks from Waitrose.

The only tricky bit was skinning the tomatoes in boiling water. But I’ve done it twice now and it’s not that difficult.

March 10, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Could Tram-Trains Be Used To Advantage In Blackpool?

Blackpool tramway is unique in the United Kingdom in that it runs a mixture of modern and heritage trams, which I’ve only seen done on a big scale in Lisbon, where like Blackpool, the heritage trams are a tourist attraction.

Blackpool’s trams have two major problems.

The obvious one is that the trams do not serve the main railway station at Blackpool North.

The second is that the trams don’t connect well to any of the stations served by the Blackpool South to Colne service. The best connection is  a two hundred metre walk between Squires Gate station and Starr Gate tram stop.

The branch to Blackpool North is being electrified and this should be completed in 2017. The final report of the North of England Electrification Task Force has also recommended that the lines from Burnley to Colne  and Kirkham to Blackpool South be electrified in the Tier Two group of lines to be wired.

So it would be reasonable to assume that in a few years Blackpool will have two stations with electric trains to Preston, Liverpool and beyond.

This is a Google Earth image of the area between the two stations.

Blackpool North and South Stations

Blackpool North and South Stations

Blackpool North is indicated by the red arrow and Blackpool South at the bottom of the image, about five hundred metres or so from the sea front and a short walk south of the football ground and extensive car parking for visitors. Neither the football ground or the car parking are well served by the current tramway.

Blackpool South

This Google Earth image shows the area north of Blackpool South to the football ground to a larger scale.

North of Blackpool South Station

North of Blackpool South Station

I feel that it should be possible for a tram to start northwards from Blackpool South station, go past the car parks and the football ground and then thread its way through to the main tramway route along the sea front.

To the south of the station the rail line is single track all the way to Kirkham and Wesham station, where it joins the main Blackpool branch to Blackpool North.

As this line is now slated for electrification, there are probably cases to electrify it to either main line standard or make the line an extension of the tramway.

If tram-trains successfully pass their trial between Sheffield and Rotherham, then surely using tram-trains to work the services between Blackpool South and Colne, will be looked at seriously.

One factor that could come into the discussion about upgrading of the Blackpool South branch is the important golf course at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, as Ansdell and Fairhaven station is adjacent to the course and is used to transport spectators for important tournaments.

So when will the next Open Championship be staged at Royal Lytham?

Blackpool North

At Blackpool North station, the tram extension is now funded and is being planned.

But will the announcement of electrification to Blackpool South and hopefully successful trialling of tram-trains in Rotherham, add extra possibilities to how the extension to Blackpool North station is implemented?

This is the Google Earth image of Blackpool North station, which is indicated by a red arrow, to the sea front.

Blackpool North Station

Wikipedia also indicates that the spur to the station will join the main tramway north of the North Pier, which is the pier shown in the image.

One possible way of building the spur, would be to make it compatible with tram-trains so that some trains arriving at Blackpool North could transfer to the tramway.

The Karlsruhe Model

If both Blockpool stations were to be served by tram-trains that then ran between the two two stations, then would be an example of the classic Karlsruhe model that has been successfully working in the city since 1992.

Between the two stations, they would work as trams and once clear of the tramway, they would work as normal trains.

Advantages Of Using Tram-Trains Between The Two Blackpool Stations

The tram-train services would probably be on a simple loop between the two stations, with tram-trains turning back at either Kirkham and Wesham or Preston stations. Alternatively, services could be something more substantial serving the wider area. Certainly some tram-trains would go all the way to Colne to replace the current service.

But whatever is done, if tram-trains are used to link the two stations, various advantages will be seen.

1. Long distance services into Blackpool North would have easier access to the tram network, which would probably be step free.

2.As Preston would probably have more trains to Blackpool, this would give Blackpool better access to other long distance services to say Glasgow, Edinburgh, London and Birmingham.

3. Local services running tram-trains from perhaps Preston and Colne would have immediate access to some of the central tram stops in Blackpool, as these stops would be on the link between the two stations.

4. Blackpool South station would become a simple tram stop.

5. Space might also be released at Blackpool North station, depending on how much space was needed for the tram-train stop.

6. Extra trams would be running on the busiest central section of the tramway.

7.If the football ground and the main car parks were on the central loop, this would improve transport links to the town.

Probably the most difficult thing to get right would be the ticketing method, which London has shown must be based on a contactless bank card.

Implications Of Tram-Trains On Services To Colne

With the announcement that the East Lancashire Line is to be electrified to Colne, there would be no problem running tram-trains through both Blackpool stations and then through Preston and on to Colne.

The line from Rose Grove to Colne appears to be mainly single track, with some stations looking like tram stops, with a pile of bricks at the track-side.

If tram-trains were to run on the Colne Line as trams, this would actually be a service upgrade, despite the apparent downgrading of the line from trains to trams. If the powers-that-be thought that more stops were needed, these would be simple affairs, with a low platform on one or both sides of the track, with perhaps a simple shelter and a ticket machine. As on other tram lines in the UK, passengers would walk across the line rather than use an expensive footbridge. To see what is possible on a good tramway, look at this post about good stop design for trams and tram-trains.

But the two biggest improvements would be a much more frequent service, that probably ran at least twice an hour on weekdays and hourly on Sundays, that used new comfortable electric low-floor tram-trains something like the Class 399, being used for trials in Sheffield.

As to speed, the increased acceleration of the tram-trains would mean that stopping wasn’t as time-consuming as on say a Class 142 train. also outside of urban areas and some way from stops, they would be able to run at a more appropriate speed using the railway rules currently in force on the line. Incidentally, some UK trams like Croydon and Edinburgh go faster than you think when the track allows.

Tram-trains would appear at a cursory glance, to be a simple and affordable way to improve services in this neglected part of Lancashire.

Improving Transport In Burnley

Burnley is one of those places most famous outside the local area for football, but it is a market town of over seventy thousand people. The town probably needs improved transport connections, despite having four railway stations, the most important of which; Burnley Manchester Road has recently been rebuilt.

A big improvement will come by electrifying all of the lines, which will mean that Rose Grove and Manchester Road, will be on an important electrified artery between Leeds and Preston. The other line is the Colne Branch of the East Lancashire Line and this has three stations in the town; Rose Grove, Burnley Barracks and Burnley Central.

This Google Earth image shows the four stations as they relate to Burnley.

Burnley And Its Stations

Burnley And Its Stations

Rose Grove is at the West, just to the south of the M65 motorway and is served by both lines. The Colne Line curves to the north with the two stations at Barracks and Central to the western end of the town centre, which is indicated by the red arrow. Manchester Road station is at the southern edge of the image, a steep walk up the hill from the town centre.

If the Colne Line were to be run by tram-trains, would this create a better and more accessible railway for Burnley.

As an example of what could happen, north from Burnley Central , the Colne Line follows the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, so are there possibilities to use a tram-train to give better access to the countryside above the town?

Using tram-trains on the Colne Line could improve public transport in Burnley and the other towns like Nelson and Colne, without laying a metre of new expensive railway.

But why stop the trains at Colne?

The final report of the North of England Electrification Task Force has also recommended that the lines from Skipton to Carlisle via Settle be electrified in the Tier Three group of lines to be wired.

The Skipton – East Lancashire Rail Action Partnership is also campaigning for the line between Colne and Skipton to be reinstated. This map of the missing part of the line is taken from the Wikipedia entry.

Skipton To Colne

Skipton To Colne

Would the missing link be easier and more affordable to build, if it continued as a modern, single-track tramway?

This type of line would also be less visually intrusive, if it used 750 V DC overhead wires, which are all that would be needed for the Class 399 tram-train.

Building this link between Skipton and Colne would further connect the electrified lines in the Leeds area, with the soon to be electrified ones of North Lancashire. As the map shows, Skipton is on the iconic route through Settle between Leeds and Carlisle, which is also in the queue for electrification.

Skipton is the key to the success of any scheme to improve the Colne Line and link it to the town. The town is known as the Gateway to the Dales and already has direct services to London. This section in Wikipedia shows that there are impressive plans for services in the future.

But that was written before the North of England Electrification Task Force reported that Skipton to Carlisle through Settle was an electrification scheme for Tier Three. This was probably included more for freight reasons, as it creates a new route for electrified freight trains from Yorkshire, the East Midlands and the Electric Spine from Southampton to Scotland.

And to think that the line was nearly closed, but a certain Michael Portillo didn’t sign it off!

So will we see electrified passenger services from the South coming up via Leeds and Skipton to Carlisle? I think we will and if the Borders Railway is a success, then I think in perhaps 2040, these trains will reach Edinburgh.

So I think this all means that the tram-trains to Colne, should be used to create a link to Skipton.

Services Between Blackpool And Liverpool

Currently there is just a measly single train each hour between Blackpool and Liverpool.

Ormskirk to Preston is another line that could be chosen for electrification and it is likely that under the Liverpool rules it will be served by four trains per hour.

So I think it is reasonable to assume that when electrification to Blackpool North is complete, that the frequency of Liverpool-Blackpool services will be increased. After all when electrification is complete various routes via Ormskirk, Wigan, Newton-Le-Willows and St. Helens will all be possible.

But the possibility also exists for the use of tram-trains on this route, which will then go round the loop in Blackpool.

Obviously, passenger numbers will determine what services are worth trialling.

There is also the possibility of linking Royal Lytham and St. Annes with the other high-quality golf courses south of Southport.


The Blackpool tramway could use tram-trains to connect the electrified stations at Blackpool North and South, and over a wider network, especially over the Colne Line and its possible extension to Skipton.







March 7, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

The Site Of Cambridge Sience Park Station

I passed this new station site on the way to Norwich.

Progress does not seem to have got past site clerance.

March 1, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

Custom House Station – 25th February 2015

I took these pictures today.

The works are showing how long the Crossrail stations will be. As a Crossrail engineer said to me a few months ago, you may get complaints about all the walking the two hundred metres from one end of the train to the other. As she was female, I suspect she was thinking high heels and not her sensible work boots.

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Petite France

Petite France is an area of Strasbourg, that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


I walked around for an hour and had lunch there.



February 19, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized, World | , , | Leave a comment

Could This Be From Where Crossrail 2 Is Dug?

As I trundled along the Gospel Oak to Barking Line (GPBlin) between Blackhorse Road and South Tottenham stations, I took these pictures.

As the reservoirs to the east of all this dereliction are going to be turned into the new Walthamstow Wetlands, could this be used as the site from where Crossrail 2 is dug?

This image from Google Earth shows the area.

East Of SouthTottenham Station

East Of SouthTottenham Station

The orange line is the GOBlin and the light blue is the Victoria line. The red arrow indicates South Tottenham station.

The area I photographed lies south of the GOBlin. Note how it is bordered by railways, with the West Anglia Main Line in the east and the double-track curve that connects the two lines in the south. Slightly to the south of where the two lines join at South Tottenham Junction, the River Lee runs close to the site in a south-westerly direction.

So the spoil from the tunnelling could either be used to help create the new wetlands or barged down London’s other navigable river to the Thames. When I worked for Enfield Rolling Mills at Brimsdown in the early 1960s. their supplies of copper wirebars were delivered by barge from London Docks using this route. In those days, the river wasn’t as clean as it is now, and there was quite a lot of commercial traffic.

Britain From Above has some wonderful pictures of the area from the 1930s here. This image shows the River Lee as it goes under the railway.



This modern picture from Google Earth gives a good comparison.

Note how the tracks on the West Anglia Main Line have been reduced from four to two by the closure of the easterly pair of tracks. Proposals for the line include four-tracking from just south of here to Broxbourne.

The large East Warwick Reservoir is just off the picture to the right and the timber yard is now housing.

The GOBlin is shown in orange on the second image and you can just pick it out on the 1933 aerial photo.


February 4, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

No Contactless Cards On The Emirates Air-Line

This is the welcoming sign you get at the Emirates Air-Line.

No Contactless Cards On The Emirates Air-Line

No Contactless Cards On The Emirates Air-Line

As there is talk that contactless cards are gradually taking over from Oyster, not accepting them, is a really good way to discourage ridership.

January 25, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment


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