Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Walsall - THE rail hub of the West Midlands

“Britain's railway is busier now than anytime since 1920.

Britain has the fastest growing railway in Europe.” (from Network Rail’s home website)

£50 bn is easily and quickly found for duplicating long distance, inter-city lines that work so well already.  The real capacity issue is in the seven hours of rush hour every day from Mon to Fri, made worse by our two class trains that have spare capacity in first class.  Rush hour congestion can be relieved by re-opening the 38 miles of existing unused and underused urban rail lines that have some miles alongside commuter congested roads.  These 38 miles of double track are the Camp Hill line, the Dudley line and the Sutton line.  Certainly, the Camp Hill line would make a big profit if a chord was built (a curved new section of line) to bring it into Moor St Sta instead of the over congested New Street.  The unused Dudley line has Merry Hill shopping centre, the Waterfront, Black Country World and Dudley Castle on or near it.  This is financially viable, too if properly promoted for these attractions and as a commuter route instead of car use.  Even if it makes a loss, a new regime of profitable lines subsidising the ecologically and socially responsible lines that may not be so financially profitable, must be brought in.  As long as this does not detract from marketing and strict controls on one to a car commuting when that car is not need for work purposes.

WALSALL HAS MANY LINES RADIATING FROM ITS CENTRE - from my OS Explorer map the main ones are: -

Walsall to B'ham - 2 lines - one, the Sutton line, is underused, for freight only, that goes via Aldridge in commuter land, then through Sutton Park; the other line to Birmingham takes trains to New St .

Walsall to Rugeley Trent Valley on the WCML (West Coast Main Line) has two tracks.  This line might be able to take future inter-city trains that bypass congested New St Sta via the Dudley line, below.  It would certainly be able to take London Midland trains from the newly opened Dudley line.

Walsall to Lichfield remains closed and is now used by NCR 5 at its southern end.

Walsall to Wolverhampton was re-opened for a short time and then closed, again for lack of passengers.  This is hardly surprising, so why was it ever attempted?  But, unfortunately, it may have led to a case of a once bitten, twice shy mentality as regards any future rail reopenings like the urgently needed Camp Hill and Dudley lines.  For me, all these mistakes and decades of delay indicate incompetence and negligence by our supposed transport ‘experts’.

Walsall to Dudley and Stourbridge Jct remains largely unused but is available for freight trains and, for the last thirty years, for Metro trams only.  Yet, trams have still not put in an appearance.  Astonishing!  Altogether, this important 13.5 miles double track rail line has remained a wasted asset for over forty years as road traffic congestion has worsened alongside it or, in its vicinity.  This is a scandal.  It is sheer stupidity as resource depletion, that also enhances the greenhouse effect, both take off big time.  Fifty billions for the unnecessary, extravagant, flash, High Prestige 2 rail line but not a fraction of that cost for a southern or Black Country extension of the Walsall to Rugeley commuter line and, possible inter-city line.  Nothing, too, for the commuter congestion busting Camp Hill line to go into Moor Street Sta instead of New Street.  This is truly scandalous.

My rail advisor has written,
" ... History is behind us and a train could run from Cheltenham or from Oxford through Worcester to Dudley and then to Walsall. From Walsall a train could continue to Rugeley and then up the main electrified route to Stafford and Crewe."
In addition:
“A visitor to the West Midlands really would like to have a local rail network and stations reopened in places such as Kings Heath, Moseley and Dudley.”

Tim Weller 0791 380 4363 0121 550 9446

Monday, 18 November 2013

So different; yet, so very similar!

Our soldiers are heroes, nobly sacrificing their lives to become the glorious dead.   They fight for truth, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Their soldiers are terrorists.  They are war criminals and Muslim extremists.
For both sides, revenge is sweet.
Our side, as they see it, is from the decadent, permissive, anything goes, Christian West,
We see them as Muslim fanatics out to kill for the sake of killing, in the name of Allah.
We see our heroes as killing only reluctantly and with much distaste.
Our occupation of foreign lands, far from our shore, is in the best interests of the foreigners, for we know best.
We are the good guys; they are the evil monsters without a shred of conscience.
We have the Bible with its rules for waging holy war in Deuteronomy 20 v 1-20 that gives us the legitimacy to wage war to bring regime change, democracy, freedom and education for girls.
They have the Koran - goodness knows what that says, we think but, it must tell the Muslims to wage holy war against the wicked unbelievers and to kill as many as possible - us!
Our good Christian men and women see the Muslims and not them as the true unbelievers with their false faith.

The Jews and Christians have in their Scriptures, "Love God and love your neighbour", in that order. They don't even have 'love your enemies', as the real children of Abraham have in the Gospels.

"Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war ... "  Ours is a Christian crusade; something truly virtuous and is commendable killing, of course and, is allowed under commandment six: "Thou shalt not murder" - but you can kill when you think, your God, tells you to kill.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

For what its worth: my jaundiced and tendentious thoughts on Scotland's cheeky bid for independence!


Scotland's independence might just cut England down to size - but I doubt it!!
Scotland: Stop subsidising England's excesses.  Get your independence, Scotland!

I know that, from all the opinion polls and from even voting against fair votes, Scotland distancing itself further from England seems a hopeless cause.  However, for what it's worth, these are my:
interesting/alternative/tendentious/horrifying/warped/unpatriotic/treacherous (delete as you wish)
thoughts on why I think Scotland would be sensible to separate from England and be its own sovereign nation within the EU and UN instead of the UK.  A UK that goes its own way in foreign policy, regardless of what the UN or, even the majority of the twenty members of the Security Council, thinks.

It seems the big-hearted Scots* are subsidising London as the hub of the UK with continuing plans for Heathrow expansion, the very expensive Cross Rail and Thames Link project that opens in 2019 and, last year's London Olympics and Paralympics.  Each costing many billions of pounds.

After more than one hundred years of an "essentially a Victorian rail network" (Chief Executive of Network Rail, Sir David Higgins on 8 January 2013 on the 'Today' programme), England has decided, rather late in the day, to modernise it, with the Scottish taxpayer helping to foot the bill.  Does Scotland have even one Victorian signal box?  England has 500 dating back to Queen Victoria and 300 are 1960s vintage! (same interview)

The Scots subsidised HS1 and, now, they generously help us out with HS2 that, again, gets nowhere near Scotland, even when fully completed.  However, to keep Scotland on board the mighty ‘USS Great Britain’ (the United States largest  aircraft carrier), there is now talk of HS2 being extended into Scotland.

Scotland should be most upset at subsidising England's armed conflicts on 23 nations since 1945 (Radio 4's 'Thought for the Day' slot in the 'Today' programme.  Repeated, on another occasion, without disagreement from the other team members, by the Green Party panelist on Radio 4's 'Any Questions').**

No doubt, there are some in the English Defence League (from the knife attack on the soldier in Woolwich) calling for pre-emptive, unmanned drone attacks of self defence on the Muslim militant extremists - and, in England - before they kill another of our brave soldier heroes.  Heroes home in barracks, on leave from protecting the people of Afghanistan from the real and lawful killers - us.  Scotland should disassociate itself from this barbarity by no longer funding England's unappreciated occupation of, and drone attacks on, foreign lands (a total of thirteen years, in punishment for 9/11, when we finally leave Afghanistan in 2014).

Scotland provides a most convenient haven for England's submarines carrying its independent nuclear deterrent.  The Scots should be livid at being used to house London's anachronistic and immoral machine of nuclear annihilation.  The Clyde workers might be redeployed in future proofing your nation from the accelerating, enhanced greenhouse effect and the exhaustion of the planet's oil and gas reserves. The subs and nuclear missiles might be sent off to Barrow to give employment to us English, who will be left with digging a little deeper into our pockets with the Scottish taxpayer no longer bailing us out.

With independence, Scotland would no longer be contributing to the very many billions of pounds for the replacement for the Trident subs. Preliminary work on the replacement began when either Tony Blair or Gordon Brown was PM.

Scotland's power from water, wind and sun could be used just for themselves or sold to the English at great expense! A golden chance for you Scots to become Great Scot - instead of the phrase being used simply as an exclamation! Great Britain, minus Scotland, would be just a little less 'Great' and a little less able to act, in tandem with the US, as the continuing great power and policeman around the world to get its way.  And, always knowing better than the Security Council, of course

We English, have such an over-inflated view of our importance to the nations of the world, that we cannot possibly do without Scotland to enhance our prestige and weight! Without Scotland, how can we possibly continue to punch above our weight in the world?  Even more crucially, the US might not regard us quite so highly with only little Wales and littler N Ireland in tow.  Our special relationship might be that little less special without Scotland.

For us English, all this independence malarkey is diminishing our size and greatness. Great Scot, it might even threaten our place as a permanent member of the Security Council. We certainly can't have that!

Let Scotland raise its own taxation for its own spending - that is all independence is - like the fifty other countries that have gained their independence from London since 1945 "and not one has expressed an interest in coming back under London's control." Alex Salmond on 21 May 2013 on 'Today'.

Is Scotland's taxation helpful for England to continue to fund her excesses; and, if not helpful, at least makes Scotland also responsible for the UK's most unfortunate, aggressive, domineering and provocative foreign policy in Muslim lands?  And, that certainly is an excess, to put it mildly!

Tim Weller

* "Over the last thirty years, in every single one of these last thirty years, Scotland per head contributed more in taxation than the UK average.  So that does indicate the financial and the potential financial strength goes over a long period of time."  Alex Salmond interview on the 'Today' programme, 21 May 2013.  

However, according to the Daily Telegraph (torn out cutting from my father in law in Sept, xx, 2013, headed "Separation would cost Scotland £5.9bn" - my comment: almost the same price that UK taxpayers are paying for two aircraft carriers in case of attack from who?) public spending per head of the population in Scotland is greater than the rest of the UK.  But by how much?  17%, as the DT says?

The Times (Tim Montgomerie, 28.11.13) maintains, “public spending per head of population is about 18% higher in Scotland than in England.”  However, he fails to tell us what is Scotland’s level of taxation per head of population, that is equally important to get a correct picture.

"Scotland generates almost 10% of the UK tax take from 8.4% of the UK population ... Scotland is better off economically from the public sector finance point of view and over each of the last 30 years."  Ivan McKee of 'Business for Scotland', on 'Any Questions', 8 Nov 2013.

In the same programme:
Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson said, "Scotland gets £1,200 per head more in public spending than the rest of the UK."

Businessman, Ivan McKee sharply retorted with, "And Scots pay £1,700 per head more in taxes than the rest of the UK."

A man at the Wigtown Book Festival, in September told me, “Scotland contributes 9.9% of UK taxation but receives 9.3% of UK public spending.  “Check it out in the GERS report”, he said.  (‘Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland’)

Could 'More or Less' investigate, and say who is correct, please?

** "Since 1946, the UK has engaged in more armed conflict than any other country with a total of 23 if you include Libya.  Do we conclude from this that we are a nation of warmongers or, a country that values peace and justice?"  Rhiddian Brook on Thought for the Day on 25 March 2011.

  • Every nation, with an ounce of self esteem and spirit, has dreamed of independence!  It is something noble to aspire to.  Miraculously, unbelievably, they are  halfway there with what has already been granted with the narrow victory that gave them the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

  • It does seem that Scotland gets left out from the great public spending projects that are seen in London, in the southeast of England!  Although, no doubt it is true that the SE has a quarter (15 m?) of the UK population (63.8 m), with Scotland only 5 million.
  • Scotland is essential to England as a most useful Trident base.  Perhaps, Belfast might be a replacement for the Clyde and would help to keep any nuclear radiation well away from London.  A re-united Ireland might not come until next century, so that leaves England with plenty of time.
  • Every citizen of some integrity in Scotland, would want to distance him/herself from 68 years of the most dishonourable foreign policy in foreign lands far from our shores.  A shocking number of foreigners have been killed, injured and maimed as Scottish taxpayers have paid their fair share of the UK's wars - in only one year, since 1945, has a UK service person not been killed in the UK’s many foreign conflicts.
  • Under independence, Scottish military expenditure would, certainly, be proportionally much smaller than the UK's.  Scotland would not need an aircraft carrier or its very own independent nuclear deterrent to puff up its chest in importance around the world.  It would not be joining in England’s unnecessary, illegal and immoral wars or, helping to fund them.
  • Better for Scotland to do everything itself when it is the wrong end of the UK from London.
  • Independence simply means that the people of Scotland, from their earned income, would raise their own taxes for what they and they alone want to have their money spent on, in their country.
  • Anything to make one country in the UK following the example of Norway with its peacemaking instead of the warmongering England/London.  And, Norway with its wise stewardship of its North Sea oil and gas reserves.  The exact opposite of what London did and does!
  • Every country worth its salt, has aspired to conduct its own affairs - secure from outside interference.  That is the essence of independence.  In many centuries of empire building, interference and domination of others, England has consistently failed to understand that simple human fact.  Hence, UK English thinking means the ‘English’ Scots must hang on to their English Scotland at any cost.  And they seem to predominate in Scotland - unfortunately!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

2 sandwiches and 6 cereal bars; 8 chubby wheels and 60 studs; and, one instantaneous generous over 55 Scot Rail railcard holder! Or, going hungry to save weight.

I have never before walked Scotland in the deer culling season.  Yet, on the very first October day I was taken by surprise by an eight very chubby wheeled motor chugging up the track to stop on the bridge next to me.  The men were not so chubby, even though they had taken the lazy way up the hillside.  The one was the gamekeeper, I suppose, who was most pleasant in asking me to keep over to the right as their rough track took them left.  I was only too happy to keep well away from their shooting.  Before, we parted I could not help asking,
"Is there not an easier way to control the numbers of deer?", I asked out of sheer bewilderment as to how they could possibly get close enough to shoot such twitchy and suspicious animals.  
"In New Zealand they fire out of helicopters at the deer beneath", the gamekeeper told me.  "We don't want to do that!"

I heard not a shot all day or all night. Only the wailing and calling of the stags in the glens below me (Jason and Jon have just told me that the rifles would have had silencers) as I climbed one Corbett and one Munro and enjoyed a long night's sleep on a far too empty stomach.  I was a little too zealous in saving weight and was also worried about my two chicken sandwiches for the two days, going off.  As a result, I had eaten them both by 1130 hrs on day one!

My 60 studs on each fell running shoe were great as I gingerly, step by step, descended an 70-80 degree slope from between the Munro and the Top.  Merrell mountain sandals for the walk in and the lightweight Innov8 shoes for the steep, wet, vegetated slopes worked brilliantly.  When I came below the cloud, I saw that it would have been more sensible to have gone on to the summit of the Top and come down the ridge onto the flatter ground where I pitched the tent.

That day was cloudy but dry.  Day two in my tiny coffin tent at 500 metres, pitched exactly on route, saw more cloud swirling over yesterday's summits but much more blue sky.  In the distance stood what was obviously my next two Corbetts but, behind the last was a really impressive steep, thumb like pinnacle that really did look something worth climbing.  Yet, I just could not identify it from the map.  It was only on my second Corbett of the day that it belatedly dawned on me that that was the highest summit and I had to climb it!  This was Streap.  Strangely, later in the afternoon, as I looked back, all was reversed.  This stately thumb sticking into the sky appeared only as a pimple on the ridge and what I thought was the second Corbett summit at the beginning of the day, looked much more interesting and dome like - it was the south east summit that I had gone over.

It was the summit of Streap where I met my benefactor.  We were both pleased at seeing another human.  I almost pounced on him in delight to ask for his opinion on the best way off the ridge and, out of putting myself down and certainly not for begging, I mentioned that I had run out of food.  Without a moment's hesitation, he said he would make me a sandwich.  It was a huge circle of a fajita from Waitrose, in which he placed cheese and meat slices.  Even more surprisingly, a third walker soon joined us on the summit.  My one last, remaining cereal bar I had later in the afternoon.  The first man all too correctly sussed that I was over 55 in recommending the £19 return Scot Rail over 55 railcard that he bought to get from Carlisle to Glenfinnan.  It was £44 return from Leeds to Carlisle, he told me.  I told him,
"You are a much better man than me in using such eco-sound transport.  I've used the car."

The return saw a walk out beneath the "mass concrete" of Glenfinnan railway viaduct that the plaque screwed into the concrete told me that it was made out of.  There was some effusive description of this prodigious piece of engineering that I cannot now recall.  Yet, I thought, what on earth was wrong with using magnificent stone blocks that was usually done?

That Tues night I had in the bivy tent on the back lawn of Glenfinnan Hotel, after quite a modest meal of soup and main course only, considering I had had two days of privations.  I met a Scot at the bar who was indignant over the blacks he saw in his country and thought Enoch Powell was right.  I replied that we had not seen rivers of blood and only occasional riots. “Immigration was being controlled by all the parties”, I mentioned.  “The very people in the UK Border Agency are like you, as are the politicians who make the laws.  They all agree with you.”