Thursday, 12 April 2018

For the success of the Games ...

Dear Andy and team - and copied to other key players and decision makers.

For the success of the Games, we cannot afford to waste the Black Country Railway (BCR) - the 56 Kms out of 120 Kms of almost ready made double track railway line that can bring people directly into Brum via Bescot from Worcester, Dudley and Derby.  Nine stations must be built according to Railfuture.  And the tracks need replacing, of course, with the passage of decades.
Please believe me that I have my facts and figures correct.  I have surveyed the route.  I know all about the Borders Railway, too with all the facts and figures I have furnished you with in past e-mails that have gone completely unacknowledged.

In every public meeting of the 2019/20 Mayoral campaign, I will be outspoken in condemnation of you, Andy if you cannot do what I am advising.  The public can then judge who is right.  I will forgo my expeditions in Scotland and every other break to make sure I do not miss a single opportunity to expose the idiocy of "bus on rails" trams, roads, shops, houses and offices running on double track railway lines.  Plus, the 50 Kms of freight only railway lines that must get their commuter passenger trains back - urgently.

I will in no way be pulling my punches over the whole disgraceful rigmarole I have seen that means that this saga of destruction and waste must be the UK's biggest and longest running financial-transport scandal in our history.

I will always be positive, constructive and helpful but my anger will be obvious, I can assure you.

​With REGIONAL TRAINS NOT TRAMS on the full 120 Kms, you will still have money left over to give fareless buses for everyone for the duration of the Games.​  Electric buses should be linked in with the railway stations that, on the 120 Kms BCR should have Mike Muldoon's and Alstom's hydrogen electric train, as here:​
​Please read the letter under the article, here:​
Fareless buses to get motorists out of their cars are essential to reduce congestion, to clean up polluted city air and to take up the demand for more travel during the Games.

​With best wishes


Great Brexit Britain steals a march on Germany!

How is it that patriotic, flag waving, Great Brexit Britain is buying foreign built "bus on rails" trams, at ten times the price of a double decker bus, to wreck any possibility of our British built hydrogen electric trains completing the full 120 Kms Black Country Railway?

Slow, frequent stopping trams preventing forever the train that, last year, we sold to Germany - 14 British hydrogen electric trains are now in use in Lower Saxony.

Turning a 120 Kms mainline railway "of national strategic significance" (Network Rail/DfT) into a piddling little tram line of 6.7 Kms is the ultimate stupidity that Black Country councillors, MPs and transport 'experts' have wanted for the last 37 years.  In 1999, the tram on another commuter railway destroyed one Wolverhampton mainline station, 2 Kms of railway line and, platform 4 at Snow Hill station remains unused since the tram bypassed Snow Hill station two years ago. The sole reason for the £60m/Km extension was to link Snow Hill to Grand Central that it does not do!  Such is their incompetence and folly and, dishonesty in getting the money under false pretences.

Central government, on the 8 March, finally recognised the importance of the 120 Kms strategic, nationally important railway between Worcester, the Black Country and Derby.  Because of devolution, it seems they are powerless to stop the idiocy of the W Mids Combined Authority and the incompetence of Mayor Andy Street and his transport lead, Cllr Roger Lawrence.  Incompetence, idiocy and irresponsibility in spending an official £343 million to turn the unused 56 Kms Black Country section, out of 120 Kms, into a 2 Kms test track in the middle of 6.7 Kms of tram line, a cycle-walkway, a trail of trees and Himalayan Balsam and, 6 Kms of freight only railway line.  They have approved a £30 million Very Light Rail innovation centre to go on the only feasible site for Dudley’s mainline station that was so successful for 100 years and would be again if they used this existing railway, “of national strategic significance”, for regional and commuter trains.

Both well-meaning but hopeless politicians should resign - now.

Tim Weller 12 April 2018

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Trains NOT Trams

Dear Campaign for Better Transport

I have suggested as the new name, 'Trains NOT Trams'.

This is because many hundreds of millions of pounds have gone (and are still going) into replacing buses and trains with electric trams in seven towns and cities in the UK.

This, after the transport experts had closed and removed every mile of tram line in the 1950s, except for Blackpool.

Yet, the railway network still has many hundreds of miles of freight only and mothballed railway lines that should have their passenger trains returned to meet growing demand, relieve congestion and to clean up city air.

Or, the money from the tram networks could have been diverted into electric buses as well as modernising "our very old Victorian railway" (Sir Peter Hendy when Chief Exec of Network Rail in an interview on the 8 Jan 2013 on the 'Today' programme.  And he gave plenty of examples!)

Future tram money should be diverted into extending free bus rides for the over 65s and the disabled to everyone.  This might entice car commuters who do not need their cars for their jobs to use the bus, instead.  This would have a greater impact on reducing road and railway congestion and cleaning up city air.

Best wishes

The West is Best - or is it the Worst?

SELF:  Not a word of protest or objection or dismay was expressed by the West when, in 2014, 50 civilians were killed in Kiev and an elected, pro Russian government was overthrown and a pro Western government installed.  That worked well for the West because only 50 people were killed and it was quickly over within the week.

Overthrowing the Syrian government, however, has gone horribly wrong for the West over these last seven years.  In addition, Assad was an ophthalmologist in London for a time.  Was he given a state visit to London on one occasion?  Is this man another monster of our own making?  He came from the West, it seems.  Is the West a glowing, good and righteous example to the rest of the world in any respects at all?

​"​Ukraine gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and has since veered between seeking closer integration with Western Europe and being drawn into the orbit of Russia, which sees its interests as threatened by a Western-leaning Ukraine.​"​    BBC News​

Take Crimea for instance.  More than half of its 2 million people are Russian, and Russia still maintains a naval base there. In fact, the region was part of Russia until 1954, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine as a present. When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Crimea became part of an independent Ukraine.

Pro Russian Viktor Yanukovych overthrown in 2014; Pro Western Petro Poroshenko installed.

Why Ukraine Is Such A Big Deal For Russia   February 21, 2014 11:52 AM ET

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to stem his country's decline in global influence: Moscow's leverage in places like Ukraine is one way to preserve that influence. But there are other reasons why Ukraine is of deep interest to Russia — reasons that have more to do with history, faith, economics and culture.

A Special Relationship

Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center, says the two countries "are joined at the hip": They share language; Russian media are popular in Ukraine; there are family ties; many Ukrainians work in Russia; and Russians have billions of dollars invested in Ukraine.
"Their relationship is like the U.S.-U.K. special relationship," Rojansky says.
Historically, those ties date back to before the Soviet Union — and even before the days of the Russian empire that began in the 18th century.
Many consider Ukraine to be the birthplace of the region's Orthodox Christianity. Ukraine then became part of the Russian empire, and later part of the Soviet Union, where Ukrainian men were pivotal in the Soviet defeat of the German army in World War II. (Ukraine was perhaps the most important Soviet republic after Russia).
Linguistic And Economic Ties
Linguistically, as we've told you before, most Ukrainians speak both Ukrainian and Russian. But it's the eastern and southern parts of the country where Russian speakers dominate, and where Russia still holds influence.
Take Crimea, for instance. More than half of its 2 million people are Russian, and Russia still maintains a naval base there. In fact, the region was part of Russia until 1954, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine as a present. When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Crimea became part of an independent Ukraine.
Millions of Ukrainians work in Russia, and according to the EU-funded Migration Policy Centre, the Russia-Ukraine border is the second-largest migration corridor in the world. (The U.S.-Mexico border is the largest.) The center says that in 2011, more than one-third of all Ukrainian migration was to Russia.
Russian companies are one of the largest investors in Ukraine, accounting for 7 percent of total foreign investment in 2013, according to official Ukrainian statistics. And when Yanukovych walked away from the deal on closer economic and political ties with the EU, Russia said it would buy $15 billion worth of Ukrainian bonds, giving Kiev an economic lifeline. (But on Friday Moscow said it was taking a wait-and-see approach to the events unfolding across the border.)
Ukraine is also a key component of Russia's plans for a Eurasian customs union with some other former Soviet states. But as Steven Pifer, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told NPR's Robert Siegel, "for many Ukrainians, and I even think for President Yanukovych, that's not where they want to go."
Seeds Of Discord
The crisis in Ukraine is, in many ways, a conflict about the former Soviet republic's future direction: Should it look westward toward the EU or maintain close ties with Russia?
Until recently, this wasn't an either/or question, says Stephen Sestanovich, a professor of international diplomacy at Columbia University.
"For 20-odd years, it has been possible for the Ukrainians to kind of have it both ways," Sestanovich told NPR's Siegel. "What is now the troubling issue on the agenda is the perception of a lot of people that you do have to choose, and that is producing violence across Ukraine."
There are historical reasons for some of the antipathy — especially in the western part of Ukraine that borders Poland, where the protests against Yanukovych have been the loudest. This area was once part of Poland and Austro-Hungary, and became part of Ukraine only when World War II began.
Ukraine was the victim of the 1932-33 famine induced by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Later, it was among the Soviet republics that bore the brunt of the Chernobyl disaster.
Those events undoubtedly resonated in the public memory for years: Ukraine was one of the first Soviet republics to vote for independence from the USSR. It did so overwhelmingly in 1991. The Soviet Union fell apart soon after that.
"Poroshenko, who had briefly served as Ukraine's foreign minister, looked worldlier than his predecessor, the deposed Viktor Yanukovych, and spoke passable English. He and his first prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, knew what the U.S. State Department and Vice President Joe Biden, who acted as the Obama administration's point man on Ukraine, wanted to hear. So, as Ukraine emerged from the revolutionary chaos of January and February 2014, the U.S., and with it the EU, backed Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk as Ukraine's next leaders. Armed with this support, not least with promises of major technical aid and International Monetary Fund loans, they won elections, posing as Westernizers who would lead Ukraine into Europe. But their agendas turned out to be more self-serving."

Saturday, 31 March 2018

All life is about politics

I think, John that all life is about politics.  Every decision we make is a political decision.  All pressure/lobby groups and individuals are doing politics when they want a change or decision here, there or wherever.

The church I still attend with Linda was happy with its building being used for a Halesowen and Stourbridge GP meeting in the 1990s.  Only one member of the church council demurred.  The leadership, I think, still see the JC of the Gospels as most definitely left of centre, as I do even more so!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Lacking far too much!

Dear Stewart   (Stewart Towe, Chair, Black Country LEP)

Thank you so much for organising the meeting yesterday (6 November 2017).

Here are three serious accusations of first incompetence; secondly, a failure to behave with integrity; and, thirdly, a deliberate misleading of the public that regional and national trains will be able to return when 6.7 Kms on the 120 Kms has been blocked by six trams an hour, as Stuart told us.

I don't think we can leave our transport officers from Network Rail and TfWM to get on with the job.  Stuart told us, yesterday that he has had many meetings with his colleagues in Network Rail.  Yet, even with the rapid growth in the popularity of train travel since the mid 90s, we have had urban railway lines being built on, being left unused and being given over to two - only local - phenomenally expensive, tram services replacing buses and trains.  Professional officers will cover up for one another and support each other.  You can never query a management decision, let alone challenge your manager.  As a result, you and I have to step in and challenge them and watch them like hawks.  We, occasionally, have to be whistleblowers.

There is the stupid blunder of failing to build the tram line to Birmingham International Airport in the 80s and 90s.  Instead, sending it up a double track railway line to Wolverhampton; then, not even connecting it to either the bus or railway station but demolishing the latter!  All of that idiocy is about to be repeated.  This time on the UK's only HALF USED, main line, strategic railway through the heart of the industrial W Midlands between Worcester and Derby.

  2. We both heard Stuart repeat what Managing Director, Laura Shoaf first told me in January 2015.  That Network Rail has no interest in the wasted 56 Kms out of the 120 Kms "until the 2040s, at the earliest and then only for freight."
  3. The authorities have built all the engineering structures needed for the railway line to cross every motorway, dual carriageway, other road and canal.  The Borders Railway was virtually starting from scratch.  Yet, still only £6m/Km for a 49 Km single and double track rural railway in the back of beyond with NO congestion.
  4. The popularity of train travel has more than doubled since privatisation and is expected to continue to rise.  Over the years, about 40 Kms of railway line in the Black Country and Birmingham were used for roads, homes and trading estates.  20 Kms of railway line were used for Metro One and, that led to one Wolverhampton railway station being demolished and 3 Kms of railway line built on.  No wonder we lack capacity on our railway network!
  5. Consequently, nationally too, we are so lacking in capacity (and sense) that we have to spend £55.7 billion just to increase capacity.  And, that is only as far as Brum with its two spurs and two spanking new railway stations!
  6. That the Black Country Railway should have to be unused, wasted for yet more decades is a scandal - until the 2040s for freight only and goodness knows when for passengers.  Such a scandal, Stewart that I think it is now your responsibility to use what I have told you and to report it to Andy Street and, in particular, to Chris Grayling and Peter Wilkinson.  Unless you do pass this information on to Chris Grayling, you are also responsible for a cover up of major proportions.  You will be responsible for failing to report, at a time of desperately needed more capacity on our railways, that there are 56 Kms without passenger trains.
  7. I forgot to mention that out of the 56 Kms, 26 Kms are already used for freight.  That leaves only 30 Kms of brand new track and signalling that are needed for the passenger trains to be reinstated.  It seems that nine stations are needed over the wasted 56 Kms.
  8. From the Borders Railway rebuilding, that is not needed for ours, at £294 m for 49 Kms (£6 m/Km), this makes 30 Kms x £6m = £180 million for the Black Country Railway.
  9. If you were to see Chris Grayling in person, I have no doubt that he would understand the cock up that your professional transport experts are solely responsible for - and in no way your good self, Stewart.  However, if you fail to pass on to Grayling and Wilkinson these facts and figures that I have regurgitated from 'Railnews', you will be as guilty as these professional transport experts who have so let you down.  You, should have been able to trust them, all of them at Network Fail in Baskerville House, in Wolverhampton and at 16 Summer Lane.  You should be as livid as me at the shockingly poor performance of a railway industry that has destroyed its very own infrastructure and wasted, even for decades still to come, the UK's only, mothballed, double track, principal main line railway running SW to NE through the industrial heartland of the West Midlands.
  10. If you were to see Chris Grayling and, perhaps, Philip Hammond, he/they would want to re-allocate the £207 million from the terrible tram idea for 11 Km to, instead to the finishing of the full 120 Kms railway.  What superb value for money that is.  What a superb cost benefit ratio.  Both men would be delighted at the good news, Stewart!  They would thank their lucky stars that they had met you!
  11. Chris Grayling wants the full Oxford to Cambridge railway rebuilt and reopened, as I said.  Our Black Country Railway is far more important and vital to the mighty Midlands Engine for Growth.  Worcester to Derby via the Black Country is virtually all there except for the trains and nine stations to serve the new settlements that have sprung up.
  12. It is incompetence to put the innovation centre on the only feasible site of Dudley Castle Hill main line station.  The Victorians knew what they were doing; the Elizabethans do not.  Especially, stupid when there is a superior, larger site at Moor Street, Brierley Hill with 3 Kms, not 2 Kms, of double track for the test track.
  14. For many months, from 2014 through to 2015, Nick Mallinson was perfectly happy with what Dudley Council had (wrongly, as it eventually transpired) given him, viz 2 Kms NE away from the railway tunnel at Dudley Castle Hill.  Therefore, why is there this misinformation, actually a lie, that he must now have a railway tunnel for 800 metres, as part of the test track?
  15. Nick Mallinson has never corrected me - by phone, text, or e-mail - over the tunnel business.  Therefore, I can only assume I must be correct in my charge that someone is lying.
  16. The person who has put about this lie has behaved unprofessionally and is guilty of quite disgraceful behaviour to block the return of Dudley Castle Hill main line station and, our railway line that could reduce road and railway congestion.
  17. THE LACK OF BRAINS over TfWM putting it about that heavy rail trains over 120 Kms will still be able to return once the trams have blocked it.
  18. "Light rail investment provides the basis for restoring heavy rail services at the appropriate time."  So wrote Tom Magrath, Passenger Services Director, Centro, in a letter to me dated 18 September 2000.
  19. This must be the ultimate self delusion, the ultimate waste of public funds, the ultimate absurdity.  In reality, another lie.  Complete stupidity.  For seventeen years, at least, our top professional transport bosses have consistently thought that a passenger regional train service can co-exist with six, slow trams an hour on one set of double tracks that cannot possibly be widened in a densely populated, heavily congested urban conurbation.
  20. In fact, "restoring heavy rail services" is now turning out to be the tram train that is still a tram and is not appropriate for a 120 Km principal, main line railway between the South and North of the country, through the heart of England, the Black Country.
  21. It is suitable for 20 Kms between Sheffield Cathedral and Rotherham Parkgate - but the costs of developing it have increased five fold and, it is way behind schedule.  All it needed was to import the thing from Germany and to follow what they had done!!  More ineptitude.
  23. For decades, many millions of pounds of public funds, our taxes, have been squandered on an invisible network of 15 tram lines covering 200 Kms - to be delivered by 2000.  While they were failing to get the trams, these same transport experts were putting one tram line on a perfectly good railway line of 20 Kms because, so I have heard, one MP didn't want the tram through his constituency on its way to Birmingham International Airport!
  24. Many millions of pounds of our money wasted for many years on bridges and tunnels for the 120 Kms railway to cross two motorways and three dual carriageways.  But still no train service!
  25. Many millions wasted in congestion in failing to return passenger trains to the 106 Kms of mothballed or freight only lines in the Black Country and Brum.
  26. Your transport experts, that you should be able to rely on, have led you up the garden path, Stewart.  The tram project has been a diversion from putting the trains and stations back on wasted lines.  Some are now used for freight but many have been built on and lost for ever.  Now, instead of electrification of our railways being completed, that project has been stopped and we are only allowed electric trams at £75,000 per metre in the case of the tram extension to Edgbaston and over £30,000 per metre for the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill extension.  And this in a time of austerity!  Please expose these corrupt practices, Stewart.
  27. Electric buses would be a tiny fraction of that price. After all, UK Tram Ltd with its HQ so conveniently at the HQ of TfWM (more conflict of interests/corruption), do themselves admit that the Metro tram is simply a "bus on rails" (interview on the 'Today' programme after the Croydon tram crash that killed seven in November 2016).

Please do ask for an appointment with Chris Grayling or, as high ranking a mandarin that you can get, in London.  Next week, I am planning to go down to London to spill the beans to the journalists at Wapping.

This is what our transport professionals should be working to:​
With very best wishes in your endeavour to stand up to the nonsense by people who should know better.

Tim 7 November 2017

Is this some kind of joke?
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) has been named best in the UK for the second year running after landing the main award at the transport industry’s equivalent to the Oscars.
TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), took City Region Transport Authority of the Year at last night’s (Thursday October 12, 2017) National Transport Awards in London.
The award was in recognition of a number of key projects that TfWM had delivered over the last 12 months including;
  • Birmingham city centre Midland Metro tram extension, which has seen passenger numbers increase by more than two million
  • Collaborative work with Government to put more control of local train services in local hands through West Midlands Rail
  • The innovative Bus Alliance working with private bus companies and local councils to secure a £150 million investment in new, low polluting buses, new bus lanes and other passenger improvements
  • A series of major operations by the region’s Safer Travel Partnership which saw recorded crime on the transport network fall by more than two per cent over the year contributing to a drop in offences from 7.500 a decade ago to just 2,700
Beating tough opposition from other regions attending the ceremony at London’s Westminster Park Plaza Hotel, the award also recognised TfWM’s work in the continuing roll out of the Swift smartcard through a range of new products for local trains, buses and trams. Swift is now the most advanced smartcard in the UK outside London.

13 October 2017