BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘trains’

#365daysofbiking A late arrival

January 14th – A grim, mostly wet journey to Telford and an even wetter one coming home that really wasn’t conducive to photography.

One thing I did notice in the morning though was that after about two years of being out of order, the information display on the Birmingham bound platform of Blake Street Station is finally working again.

Excuse upon excuse was made, with vvarious parties blaming each other yet nothing seemed to get fixed. Occasionally someone would clearly have a go, as the garbage the screen displayed would change, or it would throw up network status mesages.

At long last, due to the late arrival of the display, we can now see how late the arrival of the train is.

I suppose this is progress, of a sort…

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#365daysofbiking Trapped in my steelwork

January 13th – Spring ended with a bump. Leaving a meeting in Birmingham late afternoon it was wet, windy and cold.

On a deserted platform at New Street I waited for a train home. The service seems to have improved a little. It was only five minutes late. And mercifully warm. Praise the lord.

I was half expecting to be buttonholed by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street on the train on the way home, explaining how hard he’d worked to sort the trains out and how I should therefore vote for him.

Thankfully, I wasn’t harassed by Brum’s very own Charles Hawtrey tribute, but it did take a while to get back. As I stood with my bike on the train, gently and rhythmically rattling over miles of steel through the January night, I felt down that there were still weeks of wet, cld and dark commutes like this still ahead.

But they will end, the light will always creep through. The steel, light and shine of New Street by night will once more be a rare treat, and not the trap it seemed like this evening.

Tonight it just looked frighteningly inevitable.

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#365daysofbiking Post haste

January 1st – In the grey murk of an overcast, darkening evening, the McLean Way really is more rewarding than one would think: There are delights along it’s length from the A5 to Walsall, from hand made benches, to spectacular views and curios like the landmark restored signal post at Clayhanger Marsh.

For me, it always looks better on a grey day, the better to imagine locos hauling coal, rumbling through here, climbing to the peak by the rear of the Swan pub before coasting down to Lichfield.

There might have been a young boy on the Brownhills Bridge, waving to the driver and giggling at the ground shaking.

But that’s all in the past now, ond on a dull new years day, this is a great place to take a breather and remember what was lost, and what was found.

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#365daysofbiking Train in vain

November 12th – A terrible day commuting to and from a job in Birmingham. It was wet, cold and the trains were very, very broken. Waiting more than an hour for a train out of Birmingham to get home, it was nearly eight before I got in.

New Street still retains it’s machine-like beauty at night, even when every light you see is red; but good lord, it’s frustrating.

The suck this year seems even worse; not only is it in the traffic and on the darkened roads, but the trains are bad, too.

I’ll be glad when Christmas comes, if I’m honest.

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#365daysofbiking Station to station

October 16th –  I didn’t use Bloxwich station for years, as the Chase Line trains that shuttle this line between Birmingham and Rugeley tended to be horrendously crowded into city, and a similar nightmare in the evenings, but since the line has been electrified with longer trains, it’s been a lot more convenient.

The station itself is little more than a suburban halt, but welcoming enough and I love the lighting at night. Where it does win for me is it’s a nicer ride home than Walsall, Blake Street or Shenstone, and about the same distance.

The train times don’t often work for me and this service, so I’m unlikely to be a regular user but I’m growing to like it. The Chase Line upgrade has been good for me and once the service wrinkles are ironed out it could be very useful indeed.

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#365daysofbiking Skylines

December 22nd – A pre-Christmas adventure to Harrogate was just what the doctor ordered. A fine Yorkshire spa town, in unexpectedly good weather.

Leaving early, and changing at Leeds, arrival late morning was swift and fun.

The place was quiet, which was surprising, but charming and a great day was spent wandering around, exploring and just taking in a varied and beautiful skyline.

This was a wonderful day.

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#365daysofbiking Station to station:

October 9th – I’m curious about long term plans for Telford Station. At the moment, it’s a bit player in the huge new linkway bridge project, but for an interchange serving such a large area it’s a fairly poor facility: Just two platforms, a booking office with short opening hours and a couple of waiting rooms. 

There are just two trains an hour in each direction, 15 and 45 minutes apart which is a bugger if you miss the one and have a 45 minute wait.

The peak time trains are fiendishly busy and Telford doesn’t get a fair crack of the whip here at all.

This was destined to change with the introduction of the new timetable in Autumn with a ramping up to three services and hour with an extra, welcome, stopper: However with the Chase Line electrification not completed, the rolling stock is not yet available and the change has been postponed until 2019.

For such a large, economically powerful town Telford’s railway provision is pretty poor.

August 16th – A dreadful morning commute in heavy rain to the railway station was a shock to the system, on slippery roads with a worrying amount of spray. Getting to the station, when the train arrived I found I was sharing the bike space with a hardy cyclist in shorts.

Looking at his bike, a respectable singe speed, I saw what can only be regarded as the worst bit of rear light positioning I’ve ever seen.

Almost lower than the rear wheel, on the seat post behind the seat stays.

I hope this guy doesn’t do anything engineering-based for a living.

January 12th – I came from Derby to Leicester, made a call in Leicester, back to Birmingham and then Walsall. At 4:30pm I was in Derby; by 6:30 I was in Walsall. Not bad, really.

Through my increasing aches and congestion – the cold was really clouding things now – I got the Late Night Feelings vibe in several places, and a bit of a Peter Saville in Walsall.

I love travelling. I love riding a bike. I don’t love the cold virus.

I was glad to get home.

December 6th – Well, this’ll be the end then. So long, it was… memorable.

I was working away today, and whilst stood on a cold, dark platform at New Street Station in the early hours I realised that this would in all probability be my last journey ever with London Midland Trains. It’s not been a wholly enjoyable relationship, to be honest with you.

I’m not going train negative, it’s just that the local operating franchise changes on this Sunday coming to West Midlands Trains Ltd. 

The transition will be hardly noticeable of course – the same staff, the same trains, probably the same crap service – but the current rolling stock will get new graphics and it’ll feel new for a bit. In reality, it’ll be same old ordure with a different multinational putting it’s own brand of polish on the turd.

I’m concerned about the future. West Midlands Trains have been allowed to bid on increased passenger density, and I fear they’ll ban cycles. I’m concerned about some of the services I use, and whether this new team of profit-hoovers will actually tackle the staffing issues that have dogged the outfit since, well, privatisation.

Then there’s the question of new trains. Will we ever get any? With other franchises in trouble (East Coast in particular) I’m not positive.

As I watched the appropriately delayed, cut short Lichfield Service disappear into the blackness of a drizzly, windy winters night, I felt it wasn’t so much goodbye, as same old mess, different logo.