Robert Hampton

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July 2009

1st July 2009

Runaway Success
Posted by at 10.45pm | Trains | No responses

Poor Merseyrail. First St Michaels station becomes the Venice of the North, and now this:

Merseyrail - Oops!

It’s quite serious because the lead carriage ended up partially blocking the running lines, where a train could have smacked into it. The RAIB are reportedly investigating the accident. On the other hand, listening to Merseyrail’s Rudi Boersma explaining the suspected cause — that it is the equivalent of leaving a car’s handbrake off — takes the edge off it somewhat.

I’m just pleased it’s someone else’s line that’s messed up for a change! 🙂

3rd July 2009

Pants Man
Posted by at 1.20pm | In the News | No responses

Headline on the BBC News website, about sportspeople and their odd superstitions: Athletes stick to ‘lucky underpants’.

Just a bit of general advice: if you stick to your underpants, it’s really time to take them off and wash them.

4th July 2009

Gimme 502!
Posted by at 9.50pm | Trains | No responses

Today was a good day as I headed up to the Lake District to see the Class 502 Electric Multiple Unit which I have been involved with since November 2007. It’s slighly odd to think that in all that time, I’ve never actually seen it in person, but that is all rectified as of today.

Almost came a cropper early on, thanks to Northern Rail sending out their scabbiest Pacer to take me to Wigan. Would I make my seven-minute connection? I didn’t think I would as the train revved up to accelerate away from St Helens Central, only to grind to a halt again as the engine died and the brakes came on. The driver managed to get one of the two engines restarted and we limped along with no lights in my coach. Thankfully we reached Wigan in time for my onward connection to the Lake District.

And here is what I saw:-

Class 502 EMU at Tebay

It’s rather sad, really. These trains were the bees knees back in the day (the first mainline trains to have automatic doors, fact fans). They whizzed up and down the Liverpool to Southport line faultlessly for the best part of 40 years. It’s such a shame that this one (the last in existence) has been left to decay for so long.

This train is now in the care of the Friends of the 502 Group. See our skilfully-designed (in my unbiased opinion) web site for more information.

6th July 2009

Girl Parts
Posted by at 8.26pm | Web | No responses

This has to be the weirdest viral marketing campaign I’ve ever seen.

13th July 2009

Robert’s been to Hull and back*
Posted by at 9.03pm | It's My Life | No responses

My sister graduated from Hull university today, an event which demanded the presence of the Hampton family in full strength.

Who knew Hull was such a nice place? Coming from Liverpool, I of all people should be more circumspect about prejudging places I’ve never been to. I had this idea that Hull was a dump that smelled of fish, but it was a genuinely pleasant place to wander around. Didn’t really get to see much of it (we arrived late Sunday afternoon and left at 4pm today) and I wish that I had had more time.

Anyway, to cut a long story short: lots of dull speeches in an airless, stuffy hall with legroom-free seating; and — at long last — a member of the Hampton family actually has a degree! Well done Jenny: know that your brother loves you and will be on hand to borrow money.

* Come on, did you really expect me not to?

15th July 2009

Merseyrail will take you for a ride
Posted by at 11.54pm | Trains | No responses

Merseyrail have introduced a couple of new leisure tickets — this news has slipped out incredibly quietly; so quietly in fact that I haven’t seen it publicised anywhere except the aforementioned well-hidden press release on Merseytravel’s site. There’s nothing at all on Merseyrail’s own, barely-maintained, web site. So let’s look at these exciting new tickets ourselves.

First is the Family Day Ticket, which for just £9.95 gives 2 adults and 3 children a day’s access to the railway within the PTE boundary. The example given compares prices for a return trip from Liverpool to Southport, which at full fare would be £15.40 for 2 adults and 3 kids — this calculation conveniently forgets the existence of the Family Railcard, which would bring the price for the normal tickets down to £8.80. Still, it may be useful for families who want to do a lot of roving around the network, or for whom the £26 initial investment for a Railcard wouldn’t be worthwhile.

The other ticket is the Weekender: £12.95 for three days of off-peak travel (Friday-Sunday or Saturday-Monday) sounds like a bargain, BUT it only covers the Northern and Wirral lines, the CityLink buses and Soccerbus. For a piddling 55p extra, you could buy three Saveaway tickets and use all trains, all buses AND the Mersey Ferries.

So in summary: nice try, Merseyrail, but I think you need to go back to the drawing board on this one. If you really want to encourage leisure travel, why did you introduce a minimum fare of £3 for off-peak tickets last October, meaning some of your fares jumped up by as much as 30% overnight?

21st July 2009

Picture this
Posted by at 11.39pm | In the News | 1 response

Your police at work: a woman was ‘detained’ after using her mobile phone to film the police carrying out a stop and search on her boyfriend.

She said she was detained there for about 25 minutes, during which her wrist was handcuffed and a female officer told her: “We’ll put you under arrest, take to you to the station and look at your phone there.”

A second female officer approached her and said, incorrectly: “Look, your boyfriend’s just been arrested for drugs, so I suggest you do as we say.”

Section 58(a) of the Terrorism Act says it is illegal to photograph a police officer if the images are considered “likely to be useful” to a terrorist. What a wonderfully vague piece of legislation. Does anyone in the Government have a clue what damage they’re doing?

There really should be more of a fuss being made about this. For now, this Guardian blog is the best I can find.

23rd July 2009

In which Robert cements his reputation as a train nerd
Posted by at 1.29pm | Trains | No responses

The Government’s announcement of electrification of parts of the rail network didn’t come as a surprise. What IS surprising (to me at least) was that one of the two lines due to be wired is the line from Liverpool to Manchester via Newton-le-Willows.

The Chat Moss route is the original Liverpool & Manchester Railway, the line of Stephenson’s Rocket and the Rainhill Trials. For many years it was the main route to Manchester, but more recently its fortunes have declined somewhat as many of the long-distance express services were diverted to run via Warrington. That’s all set to change with this announcement, however.

Once you read the DfT’s report, it’s clear that the route has been chosen because the benefits go beyond the Liverpool-Manchester corridor.

Firstly, putting wires up between Manchester and the junction with the West Coast Main Line at Parkside will provide a direct electrified route between Manchester and Preston for the first time. This means that Manchester-Scotland services will be able to use electric trains. This is better for the environment (running diesels on a route already electrified for 85% of its distance is a questionable practice). It’s also better for passengers: the Class 185 trains with their commuter-style seating layout are not really suitable for such a long run. These displaced trains will move back to the trans-Pennine route where overcrowding is becoming a problem.

Also, although it’s not mentioned in the document, the Liverpool-Earlestown section is a diversionary route for Virgin services when the route through Runcorn is unavailable for whatever reason. Electrification will permit Richard Branson’s shiny Pendolinos to continue running into Lime Street without the need for diesel-haulage or worse, complete bustitution of the service.

The new Liverpool-Manchester services will apparently be operated using refurbished Class 319 units which will become surplus to requirements on Thameslink in the next few years. I expect a flurry of indignant “second hand trains” articles in the local press over this, but ignore them: the 319s are excellent trains and have many years of life left in them.

There’s a few clouds on the horizon: The project is expected to cost £100million and will add to the mounting Government debt. And questions must be asked of the Conservative Party; they are almost certainly going to be in Government after 2010. Will they continue with the project? What about passengers served by the CLC route? Will they see their services downgraded in importance as focus turns to the shiny new electric line a few miles north?

But let’s not worry about that right now; this is a great development which will hopefully pave the way for more of the local rail network to be electrified. With the main line done, the case for smaller schemes to fill in gaps elsewhere (eg Huyton to Wigan via St Helens Central) becomes stronger.

It will obviously mean a lot of disruption over the next 4-5 years while the overhead line equipment is installed. In the meantime I will daydream about speeding through Earlestown on a Thameslink 319 and look forward to the day when the whole of the City Line is wired up.

25th July 2009

Posted by at 3.41pm | In the News | No responses

The front page of the Daily Mail web site, just now:-

Front page of Daily Mail web site

The BBC has a nice video tribute to Harry Patch. Sadly it serves as a reminder that generation after generation has sent men to die in squabbles over land or riches. One day maybe we will find a better way to resolve our differences.

27th July 2009

Toned and Ripped
Posted by at 10.29pm | In the News | No responses

There’s been a lot of controversy in the swimming world about new skintight swimsuits designed to increase speed, with opponents of the new outfits claiming that they give competitors an advantage akin to doping.

Whatever the advantages, there is one definite disadvantage, as one unfortunate swimmer discovered:-

As Ricky Berens, scheduled to swim third for the U.S. morning swim squad, bent over on the pool deck for a drink of water moments before the race, his suit — a Jaked01 — split significantly in the back, exposing his rear end.

Ricky Berens Wardrobe Malfunction

There was no time to change the suit, so U.S. anchor leg Cullen Jones urged Berens to forget the gaping hole and swim.


29th July 2009

Mika’s new single
Posted by at 11.26pm | Music | No responses

I like it. I like it a lot.

31st July 2009


For nostalgia’s sake, I’ve just installed an Atari 2600 emulator and fired up Pitfall II.

Pitfall II

I played through the whole game in less than 15 minutes! This surely cannot be the same game that made my 6-year-old self weep in frustration? The game which made me howl with horror as I neared the end and the much sought after perfect score, only to hit a scorpion at the last second and get sent back to the last restart point, shedding points as I went? This certainly isn’t the game which caused me to throw the mother of all temper tantrums when I reached Quickclaw the cat, only to discover I’d forgotten the Raj diamond and would have to go back through the maze for it.

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.