TRAMS have been one of the great success stories in UK public transport over the past two decades, with passengers liking the frequent, reliable and environmentally-friendly service they provide, and networks being expanded in all but one of the seven UK towns and cities where trams are operating.
While plans have been implemented, or are afoot, for system expansion in Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield and Blackpool, one glaring exception is Tramlink, the network centred on Croydon, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in May 2020. Continue reading “The wait goes on for Tramlink expansion”
After last month’s enjoyable trip from home to Split via Switzerland and Austria, it is time to head off slightly further afield this time and take an Inter-Rail journey via Stuttgart and Zagreb to the Serbian capital Belgrade, and from there head south to Montenegro on the acclaimed scenic route to Podgorica and the Adriatic Coast at Bar.
For those who may have missed the account of my Split trip, this is the second of my three planned excursions using the first class Inter-Rail pass I bought in the 50th anniversary half-price sale in May 2022. It is one that will give me a first taste of two European capitals – Belgrade and Podgorica – as well as an overnight journey on one of the newest and most scenic rail routes in Europe.
Nine months after my delightful summer visit (July 2022) and six months after its shock closure, a short break in Prague meant the chance for a day trip to Jindřichův Hradec to see what has become of the Jindřichohradecké místní dráhy (JHMD) narrow gauge system.
Following 25 years in private ownership this wonderful 79km (50-mile) long 760mm (2ft 6in) gauge network had been forced to close on 2 October 2022 after amassing huge debts and its management falling out with the local authority, which financially supported its diesel services.
Having foolishly missed out in my student days, last year’s 50th anniversary half-price offer was enough to tempt me to finally embark on some Inter-Rail adventures, buying a two month first class pass for just €429 (£377.17) and then being faced with the question of where in the whole of Europe I should head for?
After endless scrutiny of my newly-acquired European Rail Timetable I decided to make three single journeys from my home in Haslemere to destinations in Central and Eastern Europe – before flying home each time – that would give me the chance to visit many new places and travel on some of the most scenic stretches of line across Europe.
Returning for a two-day Easter week working trip to the Isle of Wight, it was good to see that the promised half-hourly rail service has at last begun, almost 18 months after the route from Ryde to Shanklin re-opened.
While Ryde Pier will not reopen until at least June, it is good to see significant progress on the new transport interchange since my last visit in early December 2022, which suggests it could be completed in time for the peak summer season.
Paying a visit to Littlehampton and Bognor Regis last month to photograph the semaphores and Class 313 workings, I had noticed a couple of foot crossings west of Barnham station that had distinct potential as photo-spots.
So making a return visit to this busy junction, my challenge was to see if I could capture a final glimpse of Class 313s working all six of the weekday West Coastway diagrams they are scheduled to operate until their final withdrawal from service on 20 May 2023.
Mid-week closure for engineering work of the route between Castle Cary and Taunton meant another excuse to savour the rare sight of diverted GWR “flying cucumber” Class 80x IETs as they passed Yeovil Pen Mill on 23 March 2023 while working services between London Paddington and Plymouth.
Returning to photograph a scene I had last witnessed in September 2020, it was once again apparent how the single line between Castle Cary and Pen Mill, as well as the long sections of single line between Yeovil and Exeter, make for some pretty slack timetabling of the diverted services and replacement of some stopping services by mythical bus connections.
Having outlived three other locations along the Mid-Sussex Line by almost a decade JM in, time is fast running out for the semaphore signals at Littlehampton and Bognor Regis, along with the veteran Class 313 units that continue to pass them every half hour, but will be gone by the time of the May 2023 timetable change.
Earlier this month (on 3 March 2023) Arun District Council approved a plan by Network Rail to remove the two semaphore signal brackets at the platform ends of Bognor Regis’ Grade II Listed station and it seems certain that the two brackets at Littlehampton are also on borrowed time.
There are now just four signal boxes remaining along the important 108¼-mile long route linking Aberdeen and Inverness in north-east Scotland, following a number of resignalling projects over recent years.
Most recent casualties in the march of progress have been the boxes at Forres and Elgin West in 2017, followed by those at Inverurie and Dyce in 2019, leaving the current quartet of mechanically-signalled locations at Keith, Huntly, Kennethmont and Insch.
Hereford is probably best known for the remarkable Mappa Mundi housed in its cathedral, and for Ronnie Radford’s equally remarkable 1972 FA Cup goal for Hereford United against Newcastle United, but the city also has an interesting railway history and a place long overdue a proper visit.
While the Bulmer’s Railway Centre and the steam loco King George V that I remember visiting in childhood are both sadly long-departed, this remains an important junction on our national railway network and one of those curious places that is in England, but managed from Wales.
Passing a pair of new Transport for Wales (TfW) Class 197 units while travelling from Newport to Craven Arms on Monday, 20 February, inspired me to pay a visit to Ferryside and Pembrey & Burry Port on 23 February 2023, in the hope of photographing the new CAF sets passing the doomed semaphore signals.
Under the current weekday timetable, Class 197 units, which are being assembled at Newport, are scheduled to operate around a dozen daily test/mileage accumulation diagrams from Swansea to Carmarthen, all beginning with the prefix 3E, although how many of these are actually run seems to vary from day to day.
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