Robert Hampton

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11th May 2013

Razing the roof
Posted by at 9.15pm | Trains | No responses

Aigburth station canopy partly removedRemember a month or so ago, when Network Rail started work on Aigburth station? The works were either a much-needed refurbishment or – if you’re the people behind the Save Aigburth Station campaign – an act of shameless corporate vandalism on the most beautiful station in the world. Here’s my blog on the subject, should you wish to refresh your memory.

Anyway, EXCITING new developments have occurred. Network Rail has sent another letter to local residents, advising that it has bowed to local pressure and gone back to the drawing board.

I’m sure Network Rail’s change of mind is entirely due to grassroots community activism and is nothing to do with the fact that our local MP, Louise Ellman, is also chair of the Transport Select Committee.

The letter is reproduced in full below:

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2nd April 2013

Gimme Shelter
Posted by at 8.06pm | Trains | 1 response

I never thought that Aigburth station – a small, genteel station towards the southern end of Merseyrail’s Northern Line – would be at the centre of controversy.

I have used the station on a near-daily basis for the past nine years and during that time I have seen several welcome improvements, including the installation of a new toilet, the provision of automatic doors and the introduction of an electronic customer information system.

At the beginning of March I was pleased to see a notice appear in the booking hall (click to embiggen), promising another upgrade:

Aigburth Station Customer Information

It’s true – Network Rail have decided that Aigburth station is worthy of further investment, and we are getting some lovely new facilities. The waiting room on the Liverpool-bound platform (which has been boarded up with weeds growing out of the roof for as long as I can remember) is being brought back into use and fitted with new heating and lighting. Lovely stuff, especially if next winter brings weather conditions as harsh as those we’ve experienced in the past few weeks.

Imagine the HORROR, therefore, when people turned up to catch their train to work a couple of weeks ago and saw this:

Aigburth station canopy partly removed

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3rd December 2012

Not all it’s cracked up to be
Posted by at 8.18pm | In the News, Trains | 1 response

Plumbers around the world are jealous, as a five-inch crack is discovered on a Yorkshire railway line. The BBC’s oh-so-informative report goes like this:-

A gap in the railway line near York which was created by a cracked rail could have caused a “major tragedy”, the RMT union has claimed.

The RMT released a photograph of a 5in (13cm) gap on the East Coast Mainline at Colton Junction, and said it could have derailed a train.

But Network Rail said “as soon as a crack in the rail was reported, trains were stopped”.

The organisation said no staff or passengers were put at risk.

The RMT though said that was “total garbage”.

It goes on like this for several more paragraphs, with claims by the RMT each followed by a rebuttal from Network Rail. The RMT say its dodgy and unsafe, Network Rail say nobody was in danger. Obviously both sides have reasons to say what they say and want to persuade the public.

Is this a scandalous tale of a safety failure on the railway, or is it a union overreacting to a track defect? I have no idea. The article gives no information or analysis to help me understand whether I should be worried or not.

The BBC has a commendable commitment to impartial reporting. Unfortunately, all too often, their idea of “balance” is letting each side have a say and making no effort to analyse or filter their statements.

This results in a load of “he-said-she-said” articles like the one linked to, with no attempt at fact-checking or independent verification. As a reader, I am no more enlightened than I was when I started reading the article.

It’s slightly better than sensationalised and one-sided tabloid reporting, but not by much.

31st December 2010

Twenty Ten – again. Again

July brought big changes to the newspaper industry, as The Times started charging for access to its web site. This was supposed to ensure a steady income stream for the newspaper, putting it on a secure financial footing for the future. However, it also resulted in the Times being completely removed from the online chatter of the blogosphere, as its news coverage and columnists were no longer accessible to the internet hoi-polloi. Still, I’m sure this decision made sense to someone somewhere.

The Supreme Court ruled that gay people facing persecution are entitled to claim asylum in the UK. I welcomed the decision, although my blog post is curiously vague about precisely why I welcomed it. Hmm…

In other gay-related news, I reviewed, with sadness, a booklet from the US Military discussing its anti-gay don’t ask, don’t tell policy.

Elsewhere, health and safety went mad as one person suggested banning rugby scrums. I felt uncomfortable on a train full of Orange Lodge marchers and I defended the traditional sitcom from an onslaught of criticism from trendy TV reviewers.

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31st December 2009

2009? More like Woo! Thousand and Nine!

Was this year an exciting way to say goodbye to the decade? Here’s a reminder of what happened on planet Hampo this year (part 2, hopefully, follows tomorrow):-

January started out with one of my favourite shows being revived. Despite being up against EastEnders and being hosted by Ben Shepherd, the Krypton Factor did well enough to be recommissioned for a second series. We found out Who would replace David Tennant, and a year later we still haven’t actually seen him in the role. ITV’s latest attempt to ape the success of Doctor Who was Demons which failed spectacularly; the only creative thing about it being the number of different excuses the writers found for Christian Cooke to remove clothing.

In the wider world, various eras were drawing to a close, as Woolworths closed its doors, Tony Hart kicked the bucket and Dubya left office. Meanwhile, yours truly had an enjoyable night in London Theatreland.

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24th November 2009

Action Stations
Posted by at 6.02pm | Trains | 1 response

Britain’s railway system has something of a reputation for bureaucracy and inefficiency. Sometimes it’s well-earned, but other times it really comes through.

Some background: many bridges in Cumbria have been destroyed or rendered unsafe following the severe flooding of the past few days. Particularly badly affected is Workington, where the town has been effectively sliced in two by the loss of all the road and pedestrian bridges crossing the River Derwent.

The only bridge still open is the bridge carrying the Cumbrian Coast Railway. The only problem is that Workington has only one station and the next stop on the other side of the river is four miles away.

So Network Rail are building a new station.

Just like that.

Complete with footbridge, waiting shelters and car park.

AND it will be open by November 30th!

Genuinely impressed. Well done Network Rail!

20th April 2009

Frinton and on and on and on…
Posted by at 8.29pm | Trains | No responses

Oh no! Network Rail have carried out an atrocious act of… perfectly reasonable upgrading and renewal of signalling equipment.

A manually-operated wooden railway crossing which marked the gateway to the genteel Essex seaside resort of Frinton-on-Sea has been ripped out under cover of darkness by railway authorities.

In a move branded “cowardly” by campaigners who wanted to keep them, the 19th-century railway gates were demolished at about 2am on Saturday following a three-year battle with residents keen to preserve their town’s spirit of independence and history.

I watched the BBC documentary about Frinton last year (bits remain on YouTube if you’re interested), which portrayed the elderly residents of Frinton, and the gate campaigners in particular, as a bunch of confused old people who are befuddled by the modern world. I’m sure that is a completely unfair portrayal. It was funny, though.

Honestly I can’t understand what the fuss is about. Despite what the protesters claim, there is no safety issue with remotely-monitored level crossings (there are hundreds of them working safely all over the country) and the signalling equipment on the line was in need of upgrading (the line through Frinton was, until this week, the only electrified railway line in Britain still controlled by semaphore signals, trivia fans).

It’s all worth it, though, for this wonderfully over-the-top Telegraph editorial. I can imagine retired Colonels up and down the country choking on their toast and marmalade as they read it.

7th January 2009

Posted by at 8.21pm | Trains | No responses

Dear Network Rail,

I’m going to London by train on the 23rd, so please get this mess sorted out before then. Thanks 🙂

Lots of love,

14th December 2008

The Most Advanced Passenger Train
Posted by at 5.20pm | Trains | No responses

So, how did day 1 of the Super duper new West Coast Main Line timetable go? I have no first hand experience, but over on uk.railway one person reported that his train from Lime Street to London this morning was cancelled due to… overrunning engineering works. Hm.

Elsewhere it was a happier story, with Stone station in Staffordshire getting its first train in five years, after its services were “bustituted” in 2003 to allow the upgrade work to take place.

Network Rail can’t quite shake the engineering work bug though, as there’s one last hurrah the weekend after Christmas.

19th January 2008

Posted by at 10.29am | In the News, Trains | No responses

Somewhere in Network Rail headquarters, a light goes on! This in The Times from head honcho, Iain Coucher:

“We now need to run railways every single day of the week. We need to run them on Christmas Days and Boxing Days,” he said.

“We traditionally have taken weekends and Bank Holidays to do engineering work. But we know that there is demand to use the railways 365 days a year.”

Mr Coucher condemned the attitude of some train companies, which have claimed there would be too few passengers to make it worth running a service over Christmas. “If we gave the ability for people to run trains on Christmas Day, I’m sure there would be travellers. There are still key workers working and there are many people who are not from a Christian background and want to travel,” he said. “We know that Boxing Day is one of the busiest shopping days of the year.”

Running trains when people want to use them? It’ll never catch on.