Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Oddities galore from very odd and dud, Dudley Council!

More ODDITIES from Dudley borough:
  1. The Muslims were palmed off with a shabby, old, Victorian school as their Dudley Central Mosque on Castle Hill, Dudley.  For many more years than ten, as was reported on BBC Radio 4!
  2. At the bottom of Castle Hill is Station Hotel but, NO inter-city station for 50 years!
  3. For the previous 100 years passenger trains from all over the UK called at Dudley Castle Hill Station.
  4. The transport officials and councillors in Dudley now want this inter-city, double track line to be a test track for a Very Light Rail tram to be developed by Warwick University.
  5. When tried and tested on this forgotten but nationally important line, it will shuttle passengers to the Virgin trains at Dudley Port station on the West Coast Mainline.
  6. But, Dudley people don't want a DIRECT connection with London and Scotland that they used to have - for about 100 years!   How strange is that?
  7. As far as I am aware Dudley, for about 50 yrs, has had the only major roundabout (30 metres in diameter) in the UK, that is totally tarmac with not even a single weed growing on it.  How very negligent not to landscape it!
  8. 5 or 6 years ago it was moved, all of one or two metres, with one approach lane blocked to widen the little used pavement.  But they must have known it would slow left turning commuter traffic (with only one lane instead of the previous two), on its way to the M5 and Birmingham!  How very odd to deliberately increase congestion and carbon emissions!
  9. How peculiar for Dudley to build a monorail at Merry Hill Shopping Centre but not to connect it to the Beeching closed national rail line that should have been re-opened at the same time.
  10. Not surprisingly, the monorail never got its rail passengers from all over the UK and has been closed for years.
  11. Only Cllr Les Jones (interviewed by Eddie Mair on Monday, 23 March on 'PM') seems to have shown any concern about re-opening our 72 Km of double track, freight only lines in Brum and the Black Country, all of which had passenger trains for about 100 years - until the bizarre Beeching cuts axed many train services even in growing urban areas.
  12. Dudley no 2 Canal in Leasowes Park supposedly 'restored' at a cost of £200,000 but then, the job was done so incompetently, it could only be partially filled with water because, if filled to the top, the whole high canal embankment might collapse!  The whole job was supervised by, and the responsibility of, an engineer at Dudley Council.
  13. Dudley Southern Bypass was opened in the 1990s but, even then, there was never a cycle/walkway built alongside the new road for zero carbon travel!  How very negligent and odd is that?

One Vision for over 3,000 miles of Canal Towpaths

Dear all

I have finally got down to reading this excellent piece, below, by Robert Latham.  Sorry to take so long!

I agree with everything he has written and there is nothing more I could possibly add, apart from underlining the following:
  1. We cannot go on for ever building more motorways and high speed rail lines to help us get about as the population, travelling and consumption rises.
  2. Therefore, turn your attention, Ian, Anne, Graham and Andy (and all UK colleagues), to the more than 3,000 miles of towpaths that need to be widened (where this can be done) and 
    free of raised bricks, puddles, mud and vegetation.  Plenty there to keep you all happily pouring over your desks, faces lit up by your computer screens, for the next 500 years, at the present snail like progress!
  3. On the Dudley no 1 Canal in Brierley Hill and on the Oxford Canal, great sections of the towpaths have gently subsided beneath the waves.  But, little ever seems to get done to put things right and when it does, it takes a very long time (eg, 
    Brum to Wolverhampton 
    Mainline Canal towpath near Soho Loop, Brum.  At least, it was widened).  
  4. Stand up to the heritage lobby on CRT and at English Heritage.  Go for updating, as Robert pointed out must have been done when gas lighting was replaced by the new fangled electric lights in Netherton tunnel.
  5. Upgrade all the towpaths to make them feasible for responsible shared use for all 21st century people.
  6. The loose chippings are totally unnecessary, make cyclists skid and eventually, it seems, get pushed into the bottom of the canal, anyway.
  7. Spend the cycling £62 million for Brum in this way, above - please!
Best wishes


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Robert <birmingham_spider@gmx.net>
Date: 8 January 2015 at 10:33
Subject: Re: [Cttee] West Midlands Customer Service Survey
To: Ian.Lane@canalrivertrust.org.uk, Push bikes Committee Email <cttee@pushbikes.org.uk>

Hi Ian,

I was rather deterred from answering this as it appeared to be a question about customer service, but seeing Roy's reply has encouraged me to respond with my own thoughts.

What I would like to see CRT do is bring the canals into the 21st century instead of maintaining them in a state of post-industrial decline.   Canals on the continent are very much in use for their original purpose (freight), whereas here they are viewed as some sort of living museum, albeit one that is based in some indeterminate time that never existed.   Having no knowledge of freight transport I'm not able to comment on how you could encourage freight on to the canals, but I am a tow-path user.   The tow-paths were of course originally used by draft horses, but they haven't been seen on the tow-path for many decades, if not a century or more.   Yet any attempt to make the tow-paths suitable for 21st century users is met with strong resistance.   One particular bugbear that is raised time and again is hoof grips on bridges.   It is sort of understandable why we might want to maintain the historic brickwork, though much of it is very badly worn.   However, the construction and maintaining of new hoof grips is highly problematic for 21st century users.   I've watched people with push-chairs slipping and tripping on late 20th century hoof grips whilst trying get over bridges.   For cyclists they are not just unpleasant, but also they make it very difficult to control a bike.   Sometimes they force cyclists on to the wrong side of the path, putting cyclists at risk of a head on collision.   Put simply, they are a health and safety issue for modern tow-path users.   Yet CRT strongly resists replacing them with a modern grippy surface (which, ironically, has been used on part of the Bordesley Junction bridge).   Always the "heritage" flag is waved and the request is dismissed.   Yet if I suggest that diesel pumps and pump-put stations should removed on the grounds that neither were present when narrow boats were horse-drawn, that is met with a stony silence.

We have the same problem with the tow-paths away from bridges.   Modern tow-path users need a smooth, durable surface such as bitmac or low-rolling resistance concrete.   What has been chosen is spray and chip, on "aesthetic" grounds, and there is a resistance to sweeping up the loose gravel.   This has simply created a dangerously poor surface for cycling, and in terms of aesthetics, it just looks like end-of-life concrete.   Yet there are sections of canal not used as cycle routes that have beautifully smooth bitmac, and I see no rush to cover them with loose chippings.   On the continent cycle paths are built along canals, out into the countryside and even through nature reserves, and they are built using bitmac or concrete.   Whilst the canals are strips of green, they were built as industrial infrastructure using the latest and best materials.   So why is CRT trying to maintain a look of dereliction?

Roy mentioned the Netherton tunnel.   This was initially lit with gas lighting, and then upgraded to electric lighting powered by a water turbine.   Both would have been state-of-the-art.   When the upgrade to electric lighting was proposed, was someone insisting on keeping the "heritage" gas lighting, or even no illumination at all?   If they were, did anyone listen?   Obviously not, so why does CRT listen to those who want to block progress rather than those who want to update the canals as our forefathers did?

This insistence on keeping the canals in some ill-defined past *is* deterring people from making use of the canals.   Making them more suitable for 21st century users would encourage greater use, and thereby strengthen the position of CRT by making it a provider of modern infrastructure.

To be clear, I'm not advocating the widespread destruction of historic features, many of which are beautiful, but rather making small adjustments to them so they are useful in the 21st century.   Where something has gone beyond its natural life, then there is the opportunity to replace it with something completely new.   New might require the complete removal of a feature.   What is the point in keeping an unexceptional, decaying, steeply arched bridge over an arm that has been filled in and built on, for example?   All that bridge is doing is creating problems for 21st century users.

So to summarise, try to maintain the appearance of that which is beautiful, but ensure the canals can become a useful piece of infrastructure once more.


Robert Latham.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Dudley CAN have a direct connection with London and Scotland!

Please try and persuade Khurshid that Dudley having a direct connection with all parts of the UK, as we used to have for about 100 years, is more sensible and advantageous than having a tram shuttling passengers between Dudley Castle Hill and Dudley Port on the West Coast Main Line and then having to go via Brum or Wolverhampton to other parts of the country.  Additional points:
  • The ultra-light rail tram (VLR) idea appears to be a project at Warwick University in Coventry from the Warwick Manufacturing Group, there.
  • It still has to be developed, tested and then to pass all the H&SE requirements before it can come into public service on our major inter-city line.  This will take years from past experience with the Stourbridge Shuttle. 
  • It will be a refinement of the 3/4 mile tram that is the Stourbridge Shuttle - ideal for that short branch line but NOT on a nationally important, last remaining, unopened, north-south, double track line!
  • There is no other (opened or unopened) north-south line between road and rail congested New Street Station in the east and the Hereford-Shrewsbury line in the west.
  • The VLR would stop, for ever, inter-city trains using the Black Country Line, once more
  • One mile, for now, for the tram between Castle Hill and Dudley Port and then extensions in small bite sized chunks.
  • The bite size chunks strategy failed to get Light Rail Metro (LR) trams on this same line.  Now, Khurshid wants VLR trams as well or instead - and, using the same failed strategy!
  • Khurshid and his predecessors failed in 34 years to get LR Metro between Wednesbury and Brierley Hill - a distance of 7 miles.  Now Khurshid is trying with getting VLR trams on only one mile!
  • His plan will cost £20 to £25 million; mine will cost under £200 million, even with £10 million spent on Parkhead rail Viaduct in Netherton (figure from Toby Rackcliffe of Centro).
  • My figure is based on the £300 million for the 48 Km (29 miles) line from Edinburgh to the middle of nowhere in southern Scotland (a small community at Tweedbank) - I exaggerate not!  It re-opens in September.
  • This is a big enough scandal in its own right when we constantly get passed over for even a 7 mile tram on this former 13 miles inter-city line!
  • Khurshid's plan is for one mile; mine is for 13 miles.  Therefore, mine is better value for money! 
  • Bridges, one viaduct and one tunnel (all of which cannot be widened) prevent shared use of VLR and heavy rail inter-city trains.
  • For about 20 years, DfT, PTA/Centro and Network Rail official transport policy - in every single document - was for freight trains, only on the full length and LR Metro on the seven miles middle section.
  • Now, all of that is over-ruled by Martyn Holloway, Head of Traffic and Transportation in Dudley Council, advising Khurshid that every single strategy and study, policy and plan - written and poured over for years by transport officials - can be walked all over!
  • Martyn should have known that the far more sensible and suitable site for the VLR project and Innovation Centre is the vacant Brierley Hill Steel Terminal site on Moor Street and using the mothballed, 3 Km, Pensnett branch line.
  • The VLR tram then road running to the Waterfront and Merry Hill and, a second line road running to connect with the Stourbridge Shuttle at Stourbridge Town interchange.
  • There has never been any public consultation over this weird and wonderful idea from Khurshid and Pete Lowe.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Not the meek, but the brave, the bold and the violent will inherit the earth (Matt 5 v 5)

The brave, the bold and the hard men go out, explore, conquer and claim land as their own.  Very cheeky but, so typical of us lot!*
The brave, the bold and the tough claim for themselves what they find, then colonise and turn them into their peoples.
The brave, the bold and the get up and go make their own empire and maintain their control by coercion, force, violence.
I think, our grab and brag ways around the globe can be likened to an octopus with its tentacles reaching out to every corner of the planet to claim land and people for ourselves.

Jeremy Paxman, in his TV series on the Victorians, with their fast expanding empire, quoted a saying of theirs, "Grab and brag; occupy and fortify"!

The brave, the bold and the violent will control the earth's resources and get what they want.
Those who inherited the earth fully supported the Arab Spring and the replacement of leaders they no longer liked. 
The brave, the bold and the violent will spend four years trying to overthrow their enemy, President al-Assad of Syria.
The brave, the bold and the violent will overthrow the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.  The new military leaders got a slap on the wrist from the United States of the World for their undemocratic ways.  
The brave, the bold and the violent will oust the elected, pro Russian, President Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine to put in their pro Western man, Petro Poroshenko.  Killing protesters in a revolution to get a leader sympathetic to the West!
The brave, the bold and the violent will take ever more land in Judea and Samaria to house the fast growing State of Israel.
The brave, the bold and the violent will stamp out any chance of there ever being a state for the Palestinians.

Only the meek share land with their neighbours.
Only the meek allow themselves to be governed by whoever.
Only the meek allow themselves to be incorporated into a Fascist state or a Communist state or an Islamic state without fighting back, violently.  The meek go for more subtle ways to fight back - if they can.
Only the wise and meek Judeo-Christian West maintain democracy and capitalism and introduce education for girls, cricket and voting for Afghanistan, after 13 years of warring on the Afghans (I mean the Taliban - those vicious Muslim extremists who will not accept our good and perfect Western ways - like our demon democracy that is not even based on fair votes!)
Only the wise and meek Judeo-Christian West have their massive arsenals of weapons of mass destruction to stop them being attacked by the Russians, the Communists and the Muslim extremists.
Only the wise and meek nations stop other nations from acquiring weapons of mass destruction - if they possibly can.
Only the wise and meek Judeo-Christian nations imposed sanctions on Russia for taking back Crimea after 60 years but, not on themselves for war crimes on Gaza and, before that the years of war of aggression on Afghanistan and Iraq - of course not; silly me to even think such a thought!

Only the meek put out their tentacles in taking for themselves land around the globe and, in the years of this century, exhibiting: Guantanamo Bay, rendition, torture, coups, aggression, illegal unnecessary wars and, now, drones to do our killings for us without fear of our heroes taking any casualties. They get away with it because they are the rich and powerful nations that are part of the Christian, capitalist, democratic, pleasure seeking, freedom loving West.
The supposedly meek, Judeo-Christian Western powers, have indeed inherited the earth.

Unfortunately, over these last 101 years of UK wars somewhere around the world, first Christian Western powers threw their weight around in the Middle East and, then, the Jewish people in the State of Israel since 1948, have all set a very bad example to the Muslims.  Some of them have, finally, flipped to form Islamic State.  We have sown the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind.  We opened Pandora's box.  Our violence, I think, bred their violence.  Revenge leads to yet more revenge.  The radical Muslims have finally learnt our violent, coercive, death dealing from drones, ways.  Except, we are all safe and secure in our homes, as long as we don't go anywhere near the Muslim majority countries.

Letting the Arabs down after the Christian nations war of 1914-18.
Yet, the Arabs were fighting on our side thanks, largely, to T E Lawrence.
France and the UK were given the mandates to rule certain countries in the Middle East.  The UK was given Palestine.  We quickly threw in the towel when Israel's terrorist gangs got to work and the State of Israel was soon born without the blessing of the surrounding Arab nations.  It also helped to salve our conscience over doing so little to stop the Nazi genocide in Poland and Germany in the 1930s and 40s.  The House of Commons showed itself to be anti-Semitic in the '39-'45 war.
(How do Christians interpret that catastrophe for the Jews, from a theological perspective?  eg: Exile for Israel from the Promised Land to Babylon when they disobeyed the Lord God.  Were they not also without their Promised Land from 70 AD to 1948?  1900 years dispersed around the world?  What brought that about?  Was it a really big disobedience to bring about the attempted genocide of God's Chosen People by a formal and long standing Christian nation in the 1930s and 40s?)
Us lot - the supposed meek and mild of the earth - are much, much more guilty of the most terrible discrimination, expulsions and persecution of the Jews than any Muslim peoples down the centuries.
The Suez Crisis of 1956, when UK, France and Israel ganged up against Egypt to get back the Suez Canal under their ownership.  Even the US was horrified and, Russia and America condemned it!
The overthrow of President Mosadeq of Iran over his nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.  We put in our own man - the Shah of Iran - to secure our influence and his countries co-operation with the Christian, freedom loving, democratic West.
The shooting down of the Iranian airbus by an American warship.  The Lockerbie downing of our American airliner followed later in the same year.

* James Cook (1780s) claimed New Holland (Australia) for Britain: "an illegal theft of a continent from its indigenous people" (Vanessa Collingridge on 'Timewatch' 19 March 2015)

Sunday, 15 March 2015

One horrible history of truly terrible transport!

Lord Beeching still lives on at Centro House, Integrated Transport Authority, Dept for Transport and Network Rail.   You all fully co-operated with the idiocy of Beeching and went even further than him by not mothballing lines and - wait for it - building on them!  You also put light rail (LR) and, now, very light rail (VLR) on heavy rail lines instead of simply re-opening them for existing passenger trains.  Beeching lives on with the stupidity of 72 Km of freight only lines as we go into the next fifty years of increasing road and rail congestion in Birmingham and the Black Country!  And, Metro extensions in Brum centre simply mean modal shift from bus to tram; cyclists being put off by tram lines that send us crashing to the floor (as Richard Hammond found); and, even more crowded roads with cars, trucks, vans, lorries, buses - and, now, trams to add to the mayhem.  Perhaps, it might encourage us to walk more!

After about 100 years of successful train travel for our ancestors, your predecessors in Rail HQ had a brainstorm in closing and not even mothballing over 100 miles (160K) of rail lines (in Birmingham and the Black Country) of which there are still left the 45 miles (72K) that were safeguarded for freight only.  I wanted you both to check the distance (on my map, above) to confirm that for 100 years they did have passenger trains and to reassure me that existing diesel passenger trains and stations could return to all of the remaining 45 miles.  If necessary, freight at night and passengers in the daytime.

PTA/Centro put light rail trams (not trains back) on 11 miles of the 100 miles of closed rail lines.  This was in 1999 after 18 or 19 years of work on Midland Metro Line One.  Even then, as you told me yourself, Toby it was never extended to New Street Station, as PTA/Centro obviously should have done.  More incompetence when the tram line (unlike its predecessor, the perfectly good train line) was not connected, even, to either rail station in Wolverhampton!  Only now are you connecting the tram to the one and only rail station that is now left in Wolverhampton.  But, what a lot of wasteful effort and money in closing the rail line fifty years ago and, only now, are you getting back to completing a rail link between Snow Hill and Wolverhampton station.  A rail line that could have been left well alone in the 1960s in a growing and ever more populated and congested urban conurbation.  Yet, all the transport authorities and even trade unions fully co-operated with Lord Beeching in closing and, sometimes selling off, the miles of urban rail lines he wanted closed.

PTA/Centro chose the further station (Snow Hill) from New Street rather than the nearer Moor Street Station to connect New Street with Metro trams.  They did this when they knew that all trains stop at both Snow Hill and Moor Street stations.  Therefore, it seemed more sensible to me, for the nearest station to New Street to be connected by a tram and not the one furthest away!  Or, why was the Metro not brought to Moor Street Station, as well, before going on to Grand Central Shopping Centre and Station?

I remember you telling me, Toby, that the problem of New Street Station rail congestion is down to the tunnels on both approaches.  Exactly!  So why on earth did PTA/Centro and Network Rail lose the opportunity to build additional ones, first when B'ham Westside was being developed in the 80s and 90s and, secondly, when the Bull Ring was completely rebuilt in the 90s and noughties?

£700 million has just been wasted on a cosmetic tart up of New Street Station that remains more of a shopping centre and, underground station than the magnificent Victorian rail station it was for 100 years - until the demolition and destruction of the 1960s!  Why did PTA/Centro and Network Rail not use that money towards the new tunnels that are desperately needed?  £15 billion for Cross Rail and Thames Link but nothing meaningful for Birmingham to address the real problems of inadequate rail infrastructure at sub standard, subterranean, New Street Station.  Or, why was £700 million not spent on rebuilding the grandeur of the old station and dispensing with yet more shops and stores?

An opportunity missed to address the problem of rail congestion at New Street Station.  Nothing to address the chronic and dire problems of road congestion, either, around New Street Station at peak times.  When I pick up my daughter on a Friday evening I have to park in the road called Holloway Head, on the far side of Holloway Circus from the station and, walk in to meet her.  Otherwise, it is half an hour of nose to tail traffic into the Stop and Crawl tunnel.  This tunnel is nicely perfumed with a cocktail of poisonous gases, just like the platforms of Brum's premier station.  Nearly fifty years and rising of very unhealthy and dangerous particulates from all the diesel smoke.  This is the main reason why I boycott New Street Station, if I possibly can.

In the 1980s, PTA/Centro failed to extend Don and Roy Richardson's Merry Hill monorail the remaining 400 metres to join up with the Black Country inter-city line at the Waterfront, that should have been re-opened then!  How negligent and stupid is that?

In the next decade, I visited a Victorian signal box at Round Oak on the Black Country inter-city Line and found the door closed but unlocked.  When I revisited a few weeks later, it was burnt almost to the ground.  Network Rail was Negligent Rail.

I don't suppose one of you has questioned the scandal of spending £300 million of taxpayers' money on the 48 Km rail line to the middle of nowhere in southern Scotland.  That money should have gone to the Black Country inter-city Line to relieve the chronic road and rail congestion at New Street Shopping Centre and Station.

I now read that Snow Hill Station is going to be rebuilt - for the second time - when the Victorian station should have been left well alone.  What on earth is going on?

Rail electrification is still nowhere near being completed.  Yet, the Swiss did all their electrification in the 1920s and 30s!

One further matter; and this was the final straw.  Shortly after I met with Peter and you, I learnt from a newspaper - and this was without any public consultation of any kind - that, without giving up on light rail Metro on the Black Country inter-city Line, you were now working to put Very Light Rail (VLR) on that same line, too but, for only 2 Km.  This, all of one mile between Dudley Castle Hill (that should, asap, be a stop for inter-city trains between London and Glasgow) and Dudley Port!  The 21 Km Black Country inter-city Line, had passenger trains for one hundred years, then some years of freight and not even freight since the 1980s after Round Oak.  I think it should be extended to Lichfield for existing diesel trains.  Yet, you want to put in Very Light Rail in bite sized chunks, reminiscent of the failed bite sized chunks policy of PTA/Centro when it came to Metro trams but, we will now get even slower VLR trams.  But, only when this university project has been developed, tried and tested and passed the rigorous H&S regulations - in I don't know when!

I have never before heard such nonsense, such absurdity in all my life.  Especially, when the VLR project could be developed on the Pensnett branch line from the former Brierley Hill Steel Terminal site at Moor Street to the north side of Pensnett High Street.  From Moor Street, eventually road running to the Waterfront and Merry Hill and another line to link with Stourbridge Town interchange.

Am I right in thinking that VLR is what we have with the PPM on the Stourbridge branch line for three quarters of a mile between Town and Junction stations?  For years, off and on, I was writing to Centro and to every member of the PTA, wanting John Parry's tram on this line - as well as trains back on, what I thought then was 38 miles of freight lines.  (It is actually 45 miles with the Walsall to Wolverhampton line that I had overlooked.)  It took a very long time to achieve the successful PPM.  Yet, the transport authorities are planning to put a refinement of John Parry's excellent tram, that is ideal for branch lines and road running, onto a major inter-city line!  How ridiculous is that?

I really do think that all of you, from Cllr Roger Lawrence and Geoff Inskip down and, in Network Rail, the ITA and DfT, need an earthquake to well and truly explode you into the real world that the rest of us have to get about in - but, with increasing difficulty!

Friday, 13 March 2015

West is Best; Russia is really Rough and the Muslims very evil, Mad and Mistaken!

Do you agree that Russia feels uncomfortable with the EU and NATO, seeming to them, to be right up against their border?  Is this understandable to you?

The West attacks other countries and has done, off and on, for centuries, as part of our Western European nations' empire building exploits.  Right now, we are attacking Islamic State.  Are Russian planes and drones also joining in the fun of killing humans with no fear of casualties for them, too?

Ukraine, in the Cold War, was fully part of the USSR - like the three Baltic states.  Am I correct in understanding that more of a pro-Russian Ukrainian president, than a pro Western, was fairly elected?  That he was ousted from power in February 2014 after anti Russian, pro European protesters were shot dead by the security forces and by snipers?  This seems to have prompted Putin to take back Crimea that USSR had given to Ukraine in 1954.  Is that correct?  The takeover seems to have been a very popular move with the Crimeans.

What we do is turn eastern Europe, except Crimea and eastern Ukraine, into our domain by welcoming them into our European sphere of influence, then into the EU and, later, into NATO.  No wonder, Russia is apprehensive and, possibly, more patriotic and nationalist than it has ever been.  Nine (or ten)former eastern European satellite states of the USSR are now in the EU and three of them, the three Baltic states, are part of NATO.  The other seven are:
Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia.
  1. The 28 EU countries are: AustriaBelgiumBulgariaCroatia, Republic of CyprusCzech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, FranceGermany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.12 Nov 2014
There were six USSR aligned countries in the Cold War: 
Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Romania.  The six created a wide buffer zone along Russia's eastern border.  All are now part of the West by virtue of being in the EU.  The three Baltic states that were part of the USSR, are in the EU and NATO.  No wonder, Russia and Putin were/are anxious to keep Crimea and eastern Ukraine under their sphere of influence.

Even our media use the term, 'Russian backed separatist rebels', rather than the Russian Army fighting in eastern Ukraine.  If it had been us, we would have been in there with a fully fledged army, navy and air force attacking the country we had picked on - as we have done for every single year for the last 101 years, at least, according to the 'Guardian' four page spread on 12 February 2014.

The West is Best and must always dominate, control and expand its sphere of influence.  The West, with our talk of a EU Army to face up to aggressive Russia, is convinced we are superb with our democratic voting system that the mistaken Muslim countries must also do - down the barrel of a gun: our gun.  It is not that the West is arrogant; it is just that we are always so right and Russia and the Arabs are always so wrong.  We cannot help but be always so right, for it is in our nature so to be!

According to Google search:
Formerly Communist countries (by current name):
  • Formerly part of the Soviet Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
  • Other Asian countries: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Mongolia, and Yemen.
Six former Soviet republics that are part of the EU's Eastern Partnership Programme, according to Radio 4 News on 22 May 2015:
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine.
The programme is to help the six strengthen their links with the West.

Current Communist Countries: ChinaCubaLaosNorth Korea, and Vietnam.

Not even Russia is a current Communist country, for it has embraced Western capitalism.  Yet, we have turned Russia into our no 2 enemy, after Islamic State as no 1 enemy.  Both terrorist states are now used to justify our threatening much of humanity with annihilation with Trident.  It must now, definitely, be replaced with four subs, say our militaristic, malevolent, immoral friends.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Rural, depopulated Scotland gets prioritised over our congested, urban conurbation!

Things have gone seriously wrong with transport in Birmingham and the Black Country!

Since the December 2014 announcement we have all four transport authorities (DfT, Network Rail, West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority and, Centro) backing not only light rail Metro but, the still to be developed by a university group, Very Light Rail (VLR) on the most important UK north-south rail line that can be but has not been reopened since the Beeching cuts of fifty years ago. Up until then, it was well used by passengers for 100 years! It was owned and run by the Oxford, Worcester, Wolverhampton Railway Company. I am referring to the section that is 21 Km of double track line from Stourbridge Junction, through Dudley Castle Hill, Sandwell and on to Walsall. I am calling it the Black Country inter-city Line (BCL).

Having failed with light rail Metro, over the last 34 years, the transport authorities are now trying their hand at VLR and, on 2 Km (out of 21 Km) of the only, unopened, north-south, inter city line between the Hereford-Shrewsbury line in the west and, congested New Street Station in the east.  This was the line that they failed to get Midland Metro light rail (LR) on.  Not to be put off, they are now seeing if they have better luck with VLR.  If they succeed, it will prevent for ever, inter-city trains from London to Glasgow or Bristol to Edinburgh, returning to this nationally important but forgotten heavy rail line via Dudley and its tourist attractions of Castle, Zoo, Black Country Museum and Canal Trust.

This is truly bizarre behaviour when all they have to do is to return existing inter-city and commuter, diesel trains on a line that literally runs alongside or near to commuter congested roads through the heart of three Black Country boroughs.  VLR and LR are great to replace the buses feeding into and out of the rail network. There is a longer and much better branch line for the Warwick University group to develop their VLR tram - and, it is still in Dudley borough.  But re-opening our closed rail network to passenger trains must have top priority. 72 Km, too of freight only lines!

£300 million is now being spent to re-open the Scottish Borders Railway of 48 Km in rural southern Scotland this coming September but, nothing for the £200 million, 21 Km Black Country inter-city Line that should then be extended to Lichfield, in my opinion - a further 17 Km of re-opened double track.  But, for 38 Km it will still be less than the £300 million for the 48 Km that is being spent on depopulated, southern Scotland - a weird and wonderful set of priorities by Network Rail.  In fact, scandalous.

My map of Birmingham and the Black Country has one Metro line out of the dozen or so Metro lines that ITA/Centro wanted after these last 34 years.  The map also shows the 45 miles (72 Km) of double track freight lines that have no passenger trains and stations.  Yet, for about 100 years these empty, unused lines did have passenger trains and stations.  For the last 50 years - nothing.  In fact, for about 100 years, there were over 100 miles of passenger trains and stations in our growing but far less populated and congested, urban conurbation than it is now.  For the last 50 years, nothing, as we all have to rely on the roads and a much diminished rail network.  This, at a time when rail passenger numbers have been rising for many years!  Is lack of capacity also, partly, due to so many heavy rail lines having been built on and given over to trams (LR and, now, VLR) and guided busways?

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Truly terrific transport - I don't think!

Rail in the UK
First with trains but will the UK be the last to complete electrification?  If it ever happens, of course.
Switzerland was late with their railways, according to TV film presenter Michael Portillo but, did all their electrification in the 1920s and 30s.

Rail in Birmingham and the Black Country
In our conurbation, the rocking and swinging sixties saw over 100 miles (161 Km) of passenger lines closed by our transport people and the rail workers tolling the bell for their own demise!
Is this unheard of in the EU?
Over 50 miles (80 Km) lost for ever.  Unique in Western Europe for one conurbation?

Those superb rail engineers, the Swiss, built and installed the monorail at Merry Hill Shopping Centre in the 1980s.  Just a pity that our transport professionals forgot to connect it to the heavy rail line next to the Waterfront.  And, its still there.  It is called the Black Country inter-city Line and should have been re-opened, then - 30 years ago - but they have, still done nothing to get it back in use.  Truly extraordinary!
Our transport experts not only left the monorail 400 metre short of the heavy rail line but then allowed the monorail to be closed and carted off for use, elsewhere soon after it opened!

Our transport experts are experts at experimenting with novel ways of using rail lines by sending hotels, homes and trading estates down them, eg Dudley to Wolverhampton line on the well used by passengers for 100 years, the old Oxford, Worcester, Wolverhampton Railway Company line (part of that line is the Black Country Line of 21 Km).
Surprising news - our experts are experts at squirreling away 45 miles (72 Km) some, literally alongside or, near to commuter congested roads over these last fifty years as road and rail congestion has grown.
Shock news - goods trains can use the 72 Km but not us passengers!
Bad news - of the 72 Km, 21 Km is the only unopened, mothballed, nationally important, inter-city rail line that has remained closed for fifty years!
The 21 Km Black Country inter-city Line is the only north-south railway between Hereford and Shrewsbury in the west and congested New Street Station in the east.
But, don't despair - this line will, one day, have a Very Light Rail (VLR) tram from a university group and, for all of 2 Km out of the 21 Km!
The only problem: we have to wait until it is developed, tried and tested and, passed fit for Health and Safety to allow fare paying passengers.
Hurrah!  Then, it will get extended in bite sized chunks.
Never mind, that the bite sized chunks strategy never delivered the dozen Metro Light Rail trams in 34 years.
This time, it will work with VLR, for sure, however.  Even if it does take another 34 years!
In 34 years, one Metro line (and even then not connected to Wolverhampton rail station until later this decade!)

After all, our transport professionals think it would be scandalous to allow the university students and graduates to work on their VLR on the 3 Km Pensnett branch line, that I think would be ideal.  They think the Black Country inter-city Line will be ideal for freight trains, and for Light Rail Metro and for the university Very Light Rail tram idea but never for ordinary, diesel, passenger trains instead of light rail!
Good God!  We can't have Virgin and Chiltern trains on the line to connect the Black Country directly with London, Bristol and Scotland.  After all, Dudley people are only allowed to use trains to those cities via Birmingham stations and Wolverhampton.

Great news - rural, southern Scotland has their 48 Km rail line re-opening in September to connect Edinburgh with small communities slap bang in the middle of nowhere (cost £294 million).
Bad news -Never again will Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall be connected to London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow by the Black Country inter-city Line (cost less than £200 million).  Unless, there is a rapid change of heart.

But, good news, all of £15 billion for London's rail tunnels to open in 2019.
and nothing for additional tunnels at New Street Station to ease rail congestion there.
But, fantastic news - we got £600 million for a new shopping centre - this year, even - to brighten the rail passengers' day at a tarted up and gleaming, sun reflecting, glorious Grand Central Shopping Centre and, as an afterthought, the underground station is tagged along,  too - in the basement!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Anti-semitism is a product of Israeli behaviour to the stranger in its midst

Or, I think, it is a direct correlation to its partly justifiable paranoia that for 67 years has meant periodic bouts of aggression towards the surrounding countries that never agreed to a Jewish state in the heart of the Arab/Muslim Middle East.  A Middle East dominated by the Great Powers, first at the beginning of the 20th century, that was intensified as the Christian West and their empires tightened their hold on the rich oil fields that were so essential for their wars and, from 1945, their ever richer, oil addicted life styles.

In the inter-war years, the UK had the mandate to govern Palestine.  From '45 to '47 Jewish terrorist gangs,with the help of American mercanaries, fought the British Army.  So we saw the State of Israel born out of terrorism, as the Jewish Gerald Kaufman MP once said on 'Any Questions' many years ago.  Since 1948, Israel has been part of the Christian West.  Hence, the Judeo-Christian world has thrown its weight about on holy Muslim soil for the last 67 years with all our many wars and coups.  No wonder, militant, extremist, radical Islam is now the whirlwind of barbarity that was sown by the brutality of domination from the disobedient Christian West.  I say disobedient because of their Master's somewhat different attitude and teaching.  Yet, obedient when it came to Old Testament ethics and the violent jihad and genocide that we read about as Israel claimed Canaan for itself, the first time round, two and a half thousand years ago or more.

For me, anti-semitism is as unacceptable as Islamaphobia and homophobia.  But, for true, born again Christians, love of Israel and the Jews is a lot more prominent than love for Muslims and gays! 

Friday, 6 March 2015

What Sir Bob Kerslake's report on Birmingham City Council missed out!


My list of dismal mistakes (solely, on transport):
It started with two out of the three city centre Birmingham rail stations being demolished; only to be rebuilt to make for fewer lines and platforms, certainly at Snow Hill.  The third, Moor Street, was closed.

In the 60s and 70s we had the wholesale closure of urban rail lines and more stations demolished and sites used for other purposes, as we foolishly put all our eggs in the one basket of fine new ring roads and road transport.

Since the 1980s, some of the rail lines have been left unused or underused for Midland Metro trams to further fragment the once unified rail network that once saw only trains.  Trams are now unnecessarily replacing not only trains but buses!  No evidence of even one car commuter switching to trams who could not have switched to the train, if trains had been left on that urban rail line now used by trams.  (The line was closed, presumably, under Beeching and, after some years, eventually re-opened for trams.  Utter incompetence and idiocy!)

In 34 years of fruitless endeavour, only one out of a whole network of a dozen tram lines has been opened!  More failure, more negligence and more incompetence.  And, that one line went on a perfectly good rail line, apart from a short section on road but, it was never connected to Wolverhampton's last rail station.  The trains went from Snow HIll to Wolverhampton Low Level Station that was demolished when the trains stopped.  The tram will finally get to the last remaining rail station in Wolverhampton sometime this decade!  What a lot of wasteful idiocy expended when they could have just left the rail line well alone in the first place.  Or, once closed, re-opened the line for trains, once more. 

Now, Snow Hill Station is planned to be demolished - for the second time!  The more adequate, Victorian station was demolished in the 1970s.

Trams instead of trains on 11 miles of our crowded rail network, desperate for more capacity (but not even trams on 45 miles of empty, double track rail line in Brum and the adjoining Black Country - I exaggerate not!).

Your city council and PTA/Centro have plumped for Snow Hill Sta to link with New St Sta using trams instead of the nearer Moor St Sta.  This is a piece of idiocy, when all the trains that stop at Snow Hill also stop at the much nearer Moor St!  You could have spent a tiny fraction of the money now being spent linking Snow Hill and New Street stations with trams, on a simple travelator (or moving pavement) to help bridge the distance for passengers travelling between Moor Street and New Street Stations.

Safer movement for all road users, including cyclists - and freeing up the road network - by making:
all the existing bridleways, towpaths and cycle/walkways fit for purpose ie - free of mud, puddles and overgrowing vegetation;
completing white lines on pavements for cyclists by dropping the kerbs;
dropping all the kerbs on access/egress points on the Harborne Line Cycle/Walkway; STILL NOT BEEN DONE!
completing the Bourn cycle/walkway by doing the excellent job that was done there by doing exactly the same with the two rights of way in Woodgate Valley CP - one side of the stream for walkers and horses with a soft surface and the other side for walkers and cyclists with a hard, free draining surface (preferably, a convex rough tarmac surface);
promote walker friendly, super-courteous and responsible cycling on shared routes;
re-open the 45 miles of existing double track, unused or under-used rail lines in Brum and the Black Country to make for more people being able to use the much safer rail network instead of the car or bike - many miles are alongside commuter congested roads, too.  For many decades, this has been totally stupid transport policy by the city council and PTA/Centro who should know better.
fund the Canals and Rivers Trust to help them make all their urban towpaths available for buggies, wheelchairs, cyclists and walkers so that the towpath network is seen as the alternative to the road network for these users that it should be.
All of this really should not need spelling out - yet again!

Sir Bob Kerslake wrote in a key report on Birmingham City Council, "Get the basics right."  How very right, too.