Everybody is breathing a sigh of relief after the reopening of the rail line to Plymouth and Cornwall yesterday. It’s all reported here on the BBC.
The only problem this summer is going to be that with all the publicity, many of those, who want to go to Devon and Cornwall, might decide to use the train. So can the wonderful Inter City 125s cope? They have yet to fail to meet a challenge yet!
There has been talk of opening an inland route, which could go round the North of Dartmoor by way of Okehampton and Tavistock. This is the route of the old London and South Western Railway from Exeter to Plymouth. The article in Wikipedia includes this.
There are proposals to reopen the line from Tavistock to Bere Alston for a through service to Plymouth. In the wake of widespread disruption caused by damage to the mainline track at Dawlish by coastal storms in February 2014, Network Rail are considering reopening the Tavistock to Okehampton and Exeter section of the line as an alternative to the coastal route.
I suspect there’s a team of exhausted engineers in Network Rail, who have the special engineering envelopes ready with a plan to reinstate this route for an encore after Dawlish. According to Wikipedia, the main viaducts seem to be intact, so it might not be the major job some might think.
As an engineer of sorts, I’d put the opening of this line in a box marked Difficult But Possible With Good Engineering.
Of course, Sod’s Law being what it is, if the old LSWR line was reinstated, there wouldn’t be any more trouble on the Dawlish line. But it would provide an easy route to get to Dartmoor and the surrounding part of Devon by train.
Plymouth has banned the adverts for payday lenders from billboards and bus shelters, as is reported here in the Independent.
Perhaps they could use the space saved on bus shelters to provide user-friendly maps and bus information, to help visitors to the city.
This story started in the Times yesterday and was repeated here in the Telegraph, which throws Grimsby into the mix.
So you can take your pick from any of a number of places!
The choice is yours!
As I walked out of Plymouth to the station, I saw this pair of signs.
In most places to get to the station, you walk towards the sign shown all over the country. But in Plymouth to do that would take you on a more roundabout route, than following the fingerpost.
They just don’t do details very well.
But they did have a sign saying “Plenty to see and do. Positively Plymouth” at the station. And of course no maps!
You may think I’m anti-car. But then I’ve never been anywhere with so many speed cameras.
These two were in one of the main shopping streets.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen them in such a position before.
This picture sums up the centre of Plymouth
And guess where it is!
This clock on the Royal Bank of UK Taxpayers could be said to sum up the city.
If it’s working it is about half-an-hour slow. Or it was when I took the picture and you might be able to see the actual time on the church behind.
In my view the picture sums up the city. no-one believes in attention to detail.
If you like walking and you have to go to Plymouth for some reason, then don’t think that walking in the city will be easy. Good walking cities have three things in common; fairly flat terrain, lots of signs, well-thought out maps and if those fail a well signposted and logical public transport system. Obviously, I would say London has these, but then I know the place like the back of my hand and I know many of the short-cut bus routes. But then except for the terrain, Liverpool scores well, as does Leeds, Sheffield, Milan, Valencia, Berlin and even Naples.
For a start, the hotel porter couldn’t find me a map and when I started my morning constitutional to get a newspaper on Saturday, I only had a vague idea of the city’s layout in my memory. There were signs however, so I thought I might find my way to the Hoe. But try as I might, I could not find any maps. Not even on the bus shelters. I know that is rather a hobby-horse of mine, but every bus shelter should have a local map. Preferably, there should also be a spider bus map like London and some other cities. I can’t remember a time, when I went to a tube station and there wasn’t a local map of the area, so they must have been there well over fifty years. Now most London bus shelters have them and it makes travel around the city so easily. Especially if like London each stop is announced on the bus or train! All I tell my visitors is to take an xxx bus to a particular named stop and text me, when the bus passes another, so I can meet them when they arrive.
I did get to the Hoe and what a disappointment!
Information was bad and it was just vast expanse of asphalt, which gave the impression it was used as a car-park in busy times.
Wikipedia says this of the Hoe.
For forty years, there has been controversy about development on the edges of the Hoe green space. The erection of two discount hotel chain box buildings, at the southern end of Armada Way and the other at the Sound end of Leigham Street, contrast with their Victorian surroundings. The former Grand Hotel is being converted into luxury flats, and the long derelict yacht club site has now been filled by a modern block of flats. The Plymouth Dome, a turret and domed building, built into a small old quarry site above Tinside as an historical theme tourist attraction, failed to attract enough tourists or locals and closed in 2006. As of 2008, it may be demolished.
I just walked along it for a bit to admire the view and then walked back into the city.
I know it was only six in the morning, but I’m a bad sleeper away from my own bed, so very often I’ve found myself walking around deserted city centres. Usually, I’ll buy a paper and then perhaps find somewhere to sit and read it. But Plymouth was as dead as the proverbial dodo. Most city and town centres have a paper shop or a Tesco Express or a Sainsbury Local, where I can do the first and a cafe to do the second. I couldn’t find anywhere open to buy a paper, so I just walked in a wide circle, back to the hotel. I suppose if you live in the centre of Plymouth and need something urgently like nappies or a ready meal early in the morning, you have to get the car out and drive to the larger food stores on the outskirts. But then Plymouth is a city designed totally around the car and pedestrians are sad losers, who aren’t welcome. Look at this barrier for a start.
Any sensible city would protect pedestrians, by building crossings along a main shopping street and imposing a low speed limit. But Plymouth just make you walk a few hundred metres in a direction you don’t want to. And then look at this light controlled crossing.
You have to wait for one set of green lights and then cross to the middle, then wait again. Locally in London, lights are often timed so that if you’re walk naturally, you can do the double crossing with ease. I checked too in Bristol and there they phased the lights more for pedestrians.
Cities need to attract visitors to bring money in. People may arrive in cars, but then they will become pedestrians. So it is very easy to hack your visitors off. Plymouth does this in spades.
One point they also miss, is that say you arrived in a Plymouth car park and walked to the Hoe, would the signage get you back to where you parked your car. I doubt it!
These visitors will never come back and will tell their friends why.
In the UK, we have several bombed-out churches from the Second World War. I have post about St. Luke in Liverpool before, which is generally known in the city as the bombed-out church.
On my weekend trip to Plymouth and Bristol, I came across two more. First was the Charles Church in Plymouth.
If ever there a badly situated ruin, that is a monument to the excesses of town-planning it is this. Surely, they could at least given pedestrians access, but it seems to be unfortunately left in the wrong place by the bombing of the Second World War.
In some ways, this church sums up Plymouth. Very disappointing!
And then there was St. Peter’s in Bristol.
The surroundings have been left to show it off properly as a monument to those who died. It also had an information board.
Plymouth could learn a lot from Bristol.
One thing though that should be said about my trip to Plymouth. The train was crowded, but as the staff kept announcing, there were a few seats left. So why did people keep standing and moaning to the staff about it? From what I overheard many had bought expensive tickets at the last minute. No-one would fly on easyJet or Ryanair at the last minute and expect to get a good price, so why do they expect to have a cheap walk up ticket on a train.
After all, I booked a couple of weeks ago and did the journey for just over twenty pounds!
The staff though coped well and did a very good job. And I told them so at the time.
I’m not sure, but I think on some services in Europe, if there is no seat you don’t get a ticket. Surely on some of the more popular services in the UK, the same rule should apply! I think the staff would like it, as they wouldn’t have got the abuse, which seemed to come from those without booked seats.
One other point about the staff, was that in my carriage an elderly lady had turned up on the wrong day. As there was still the odd seat, it didn’t matter, so she wasn’t left behind. But those around me played a bit of musical chairs, so that everyone had a pleasant journey.