Robert Hampton

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8th September 2013

British Fail
Posted by at 10.37pm | Trains | No responses

This 1990 TV documentary looking at Network SouthEast is a fascinating time capsule for anyone interested in the history of Britain’s railways.

Much as I wax nostalgic about British Rail, I don’t think anyone could sensibly advocate a return to the underfunded basket case that much of the network was after being starved of cash during the late 1980s. In particular, look at the scenes of Network SouthEast before the route modernisation kicked in. Knackered diesel trains on the Chiltern line, ancient electric trains running out of Fenchurch Street. It’s fairly grim stuff.

Some things never change: snow brings things to a standstill, commuters will whinge, transport ministers will dodge the tough questions, and the Continent is portrayed as a railway utopia where nothing ever goes wrong.

Watch the other two parts below. WARNING: Contains Prescott.

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26th March 2013

Capital Letters
Posted by at 11.48pm | Out and About, Trains | No responses

Giant London Underground roundelSo, London then.

I was there over the weekend of 16-18 March at the invitation of likeable Finchley-dweller Ian Jones, who zeroed in on an idle Tweet of mine like a ninja. On the first day of my week off work, I found myself on a Virgin train down to the Smoke.

Disaster struck early in the trip, as the Northern Line through Finchley was closed for engineering works. So, to actually get to Ian’s home, I faced the prospect of a rail replacement bus from Golders Green. First problem was actually finding where the bus stopped – Golders Green station has a row of bus stops right outside the station entrance, but of course the Tube replacement service didn’t stop there. No, you had to turn right out of the station, walk along a footpath, cross a road and board the bus at a temporary stop underneath a railway bridge. MAKES SENSE.

The line was, in fact, closed so London Underground could test the new Northern Line signalling system. Excitingly, for much of the weekend we could see a constant procession of test trains from Ian’s kitchen (which looks out onto the railway line). Less exciting was the fact that they went at about 5 mph and kept stopping and starting. Clearly all is not well with the new computers yet.

Undeterred by the lack of trains, we set out to explore some of the capital’s transport delights. Ian, in case you didn’t know, is the author of the excellent 150 great things about the Underground blog, and was keen to show me some of his favourite places. I will freely admit that a good proportion of the weekend was spent wallowing in our mutual transport geekiness.

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