Britain’s rarest main line signal survives another year

IMG_5746.jpg2017 was supposed to have been the year that re-signalling of the Leicester to Peterborough line saw its last mechanical signalling swept away, with closure of the nine remaining signal boxes along this important cross-country route.

But as the year draws to a close, there is still no sign of any change to the status quo, and information supplied to me by Network Rail suggests that re-signalling of this route does not now even figure in its plans for Control Period 6 (2019-24). Continue reading “Britain’s rarest main line signal survives another year”

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Happy 10th birthday Grand Central!

IMG_4569.jpgTen years ago today (18 December 2007) Grand Central Railway Company (GC) finally got onto the national railway network, when its first scheduled passenger service left Sunderland for London Kings Cross.

While GC has since gone from strength to strength and is now the UK’s largest and most successful Open Access train operator, it was far from plain sailing in the early days, when its operations were beset by reliability issues and cancelled services became a recurrent headache. Continue reading “Happy 10th birthday Grand Central!”

South Western Railway short-changes its most loyal customers

IMG_1583.jpgGold Card (annual season ticket) holders in what is now the South Western Railway (SWR) franchise area have, without warning, lost a great perk of their long-term loyalty to the railway.

After 20 years in which previous franchise holder Stagecoach gave its annual season ticket holders six free week-end tickets a year, this attractive and valuable perk has been quietly abolished by new franchisee FirstGroup/MTR. Continue reading “South Western Railway short-changes its most loyal customers”

Velingrad re-visited

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Hopes (fulfilled!) for some winter sunshine, and the offer of bargain-priced flights with recently-troubled Ryanair, were all that it took to persuade me back to Bulgaria this week, for another chance to travel on the remarkable 125 km-long (78-mile) narrow gauge railway that winds its way from Septemvri – a town on the main line linking capital Sofia and second city Plovdiv – all the way up to the noted ski resort of Bansko and a terminus at nearby Dobrinishte.

IMG_6490My round trip once again took me from Stansted to Plovdiv, for a night in the splendid Alliance Hotel, a five-minute stroll from the railway station, before a 30-minute trip the following day to Septemvri. From here there are four round trips a day on the narrow gauge line, the earliest of which leaves at the unearthly hour of 02.05, with the most civilised departure being my chosen service, the Mesta, at 13.10 (all services on this route are named). Continue reading “Velingrad re-visited”

Weymouth’s wasted asset

IMG_6394A bright red aspect still shines out from signal DR205, more than 30 years after the last scheduled train passed it in order to make its way towards Weymouth Quay station, by travelling along what must surely be the finest and most wasted section of railway line in Dorset – the 1.2 mile long Weymouth Harbour Tramway.

IMG_6275For a route last used when a charter train passed over it in May 1999, the Harbour Tramway remains remarkably intact, still signalled at its junction north of Weymouth’s Town station and surprisingly free of obstructions, such as the parked cars that were once literally bounced out of the way when the Channel Isles Boat Express made its sedate progress along Commercial Road and Custom House Quay. Continue reading “Weymouth’s wasted asset”

Seeing the Light

IMG_7926Comments made by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and widely reported today suggest the he, at least, may finally have seen the light and realised that re-opening closed rail links to fast-growing towns and areas that have developed significantly over the past 50 years is far better value than committing infinite sums to HS2.

Particularly striking was  a Grayling quote in The Times, where he goes further than any Government spokesman has ever done by declaring: “People say which is my priority: spend a billion pounds to shave a minute off the journey time or reopen some commuter lines so we get a better service for people? I would go for the latter any day of the week.” Continue reading “Seeing the Light”

Favourite photo-spots: Norton-on-Tees

IMG_4569Among surviving outposts of mechanical signalling in North East England, one of the most fascinating and photogenic is the 4½-mile section of line between Stockton-on-Tees and Billingham on the Durham Coast route from Thornaby to Sunderland and Newcastle.

Travel this section of line line and you will pass the two oldest signal boxes in Britain, Norton South and Norton East (both dating from 1870), along with two other fine and attractive survivals at Norton-on-Tees (built 1897) and at Billingham (1904). Continue reading “Favourite photo-spots: Norton-on-Tees”