Monday, 30 March 2020

Does this foreshadow when fossil fuels will be scarce and the climate emergency blindingly obvious?

Dear Patrick - leader of Dudley MBC, Patrick Harley

Does this foreshadow when fossil fuels will be scarce and the climate emergency blindingly obvious?

For ten years, your political party has been in power in the UK.  For ten years your party has implemented a policy of extravagance and luxury for the few and of belt tightening and austerity for the many, including your own council.  Yet, as your party has been in power in Dudley Council House for much of that time (exactly, how many years?) you and your Cabinet have been happy for your national government to reduce your grants without a murmur of protest.  Or, will you tell me that I am wrong and provide the evidence, please?

For ten years, under austerity, our NHS has not had the funds it has needed.  Hence, the difficulties we see now.  In addition, your government was taken by surprise, was unprepared, even with widespread travel around the world, that the coronavirus might possibly come to the UK.  From December, your government saw what was going on in China but didn't seem to heed their awful experiences, their warnings and advice to the rest of the world.  The government, your government Patrick, was asleep at the wheel before Johnson's announcement on the evening of the 16 March.

For ten years, your foolish government persisted with grossly extravagant HS2, already spending billions in that time to achieve very little;
since the 1970s, allowing your railway lines to be built on with everything except the kitchen sink;
since 1981, spending much largesse with grossly extravagant Midland Metro trams when buses needed the funds to reward car commuters for using buses, instead to get into work; and to reverse bus decline;
since 2015, with unnecessary and expensive arguments over whether we should be in or out of Europe.
In 2016, Dudley Council gave planning permission for the only feasible site for our reopened Dudley Castle Gate/Hill railway station to be built on.  This foolish decision when the councillors and officers at Transport HQ were telling me that we needed trams costing £449.5 m, first to get trains back on your Dudley railway line so that it could be finally finished between Worcester and Derby!

Will you regard our present lockdown as a foretaste of the time that must surely come when fossil fuels are scarce and when the climate emergency is more blindingly obvious to even you, my friend?

With best wishes for keeping free of this virus and for more sensible, pre-emptive policies NOW, to prepare for even more difficult times ahead this century.


Saturday, 28 March 2020

to Bishop Martin Gorick - does discipleship involve challenging, querying Dudley's decisions?

"The church playing its part in the regeneration of Britain’s heartland in the West Midlands"  Bishop Martin

Would it be possible, please to have a little time with Bishop Martin to discuss the recent past that has brought about these ideas of mine, below?  I was the old man in the yellow cycling jacket that approached you at the close of yesterday's lovely service.

My wife and I attend Hasbury Christian Fellowship in Halesowen.  When Bishop David Walker was in residence, I attended a weekly Bible study over the years that some took turns to host.  It included Bishop's House that David's wife, Sue hosted.

1.   Regeneration of Dudley town centre by encouraging Dudley Muslim Association to go, once again, for a purpose built Dudley Central Mosque.  To replace the shabby, disgraceful looking, down at heel Victorian primary school building they have to use.
2.   Regeneration of Dudley town centre with the reinstated 120 Kms principal mainline railway on the full 56 Kms for the commuter, regional, intercity trains between Worcester, the Black Country and Derby; instead of the 10.7 Kms tram line that is due to go through Dudley bus station and down Flood Street.  Still time for a rethink.
3.   Regeneration of Dudley town centre with highly well insulated, energy efficient, small to medium size housing for the badly housed, for those on benefit or low incomes and, first time buyers and renters.  At Flood Street instead of having the relocated Dudley Leisure Centre from Wellington Road to Flood St.  All of a 1 Km walk away, Google maps told me! 
4.   Responding to the climate emergency by asking for cycle-walkways down both sides of the Dudley Southern Bypass.
5.   The major 22 Kms Black Country Cycle-Walk Mudway for fossil fuel free transport from Brierley Hill DY5 Enterprise Zone to NW Wolverhampton.
6.   Major Jewish/Israeli concern over holocaust denial and antisemitism but much less concern over very poor relationships with Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims.  Would one help the other?
7.   Bishop Martin's opinion on why the railway line between Stratford and Honeybourne was never reopened.  Or, is it more useful as a cycle-walkway, NCR5 and as a main road? 
Any chance, please?  I would like to hear what he thinks.  To get feedback and to see if there is any support for these ideas.  A one off chat about Dudley politics and priorities!  The Bible in one hand and the daily news feed in the other, following Archbishop William Temple.

With best wishes and every blessing to you both

Lockdown to Unlock Nostalgia - and a story of a lock out.

Armchair hill walking in lieu of the real thing.

I enjoyed reading chapter 10 in 'More Wilderness Walks' by Cameron McNeish and Richard Else.  Called 'Beinn Dearg and Easter Ross - a mountain odyssey'.  Odyssey is a lovely word, meaning a long journey or a spiritual quest.  "An extended adventurous voyage or trip."

I read with my map that I used when I climbed the Munros and Munro Tops first in the 1980s, 90s and 00s and the Corbetts from 2008 to 2019.  I remember visiting the Croick church that saw, in 1845, the local people sheltering from the wind and rain on the eastern side of the church after they had been cleared off their land to make way for sheep.  There are tragic messages scratched on the glass of the east window.  They believed they were not allowed in the church building, even in torrential rain.  Or, were they locked out?

" ... they were allowed to shelter in Croick churchyard, exposed to the elements, wishing, as it is recorded, that death would come to allow them to join there forefathers beneath the sward. They were helped only by the minister, who did all in his power to ease their condition.

"As the people passed the weary days among the tombs someone among them, scratching idly on the diamond-shaped panes of the east window, left a short pathetic message for posterity. In the unhurried copperplate writing of last century we can still decipher some of the names: "C. Chalmers" "John Ross, Shepherd, parish of Ardgay" and others and, bowing meekly to what was accepted by a God-fearing people as Divine chastisement – "Glen Calvie people, the wicked generation" "Glen Calvie people was in the churchyard here May 24th 1845" – The words "Church Officer" also appear under the name "Ann McAlister", but it is probable that the designation refers to an illegible name scratched below. It is highly unlikely that a woman be acceptable as Church officer in the middle of the last century, in a community such as this one.

"Why were they not allowed to shelter inside the Church? I suggest that the answer is simple. In those days this would have been regarded as desecration of a holy place, and even under such necessity, and if invited by the minister, they would probably have refused."  

The violence of certainty

Religious violence is more shocking and unacceptable than the just as widespread secular violence because religion is supposed to  make their adherents better, not worse!

The only acceptable certainty is the certainty of agnosticism.

The book of Revelation is about how evil destroys itself but, not yet.  Lot of violence of certainty in the Bible.

Friday, 20 March 2020

Pipe dream or nightmare coming down the tube?

“Since the lockdown: Venice's canals have become crystal clear. Italy coasts have dolphins coming nearer and nearer. Japan now has deer roaming free in the streets, and Thailand: the same with monkeys. China has record breaking pollution cuts. The Earth has already began showing signs of amazing things that are happening from the absence of human pollution. What if- and hear me out..- what if the entire human population used this as an opportunity to restart society on a greener, more environment conscious foot. What we're seeing in the span of a couple of days is amazing."

Exactly. We need to end this mad tearing around the planet at great cost to finite fossil fuels and a terrible escalation of greenhouse gases as the most unfortunate consequence.  
We live in a materialistic rat race where we think we must have ever faster, finer and flashier ways to transport ourselves around the place. HS2 and W Midlands Metro both come to mind. Both duplicate existing trains and buses that are too mundane and ordinary for us so sophisticated earth dwellers. I think we are biting off more than ailing life support systems can chew. We need to be content with less, be happy with what we have and start exploring the local scene instead of the international world. The prospect of a premature demise from a pestilent virus is cutting the scientists and Greta's greenhouse gases.​  Not so much a pipe dream but a nightmare coming down the tube.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

The railway industry's flash Harry airliner for the few, paid for by the many!

Dear Sim

Thanks for a great read.  Have you seen my very unusual railway photos, here?

So super fast it goes flying past stations that will still need intercity trains to stop at them.  Am I right?
So expensive, just think how £106 billion could be used to rebuild our very Victorian railway network (Sir David Higgins, Ch Exec of Network Fail on the 'Today' programme 8 January 2013.)
So necessary because your colleagues, Sim over many decades have obliterated so much of the network that Beeching rightly closed in the 60s.  All your predecessors, Sim did the real hatchet job.  Not Richard Beeching, who rightly closed loss making railways as we all went out and bought cars.
So foolish of the railway industry to think that once the railways were closed, they were ripe for running homes, shops, offices and roads down them.  Bizarre railways - and the unions were no better.
So intelligent of the railway experts to turn railway lines and bus routes into "bus on rails" trams on tracks on roads.  When all that was needed was fareless electric buses on roads and commuter, regional and intercity TRAINS on our two mainline railways in the Black Country and Brum!
So Railfuture had the right idea but, only back in 2003, here:

Best wishes


Sunday, 15 March 2020

"We are sorry to announce Britain's worst train" - front page, ST, 8 March 2020

"We are sorry to announce Britain's worst train" - front page, ST, 8 March 2020

​Forget the worst train service.  In the Black Country, on the western side of Birmingham, we have the worst railway service in the middle 56 Kms of the Worcester, Black Country, Derby railway.  Not a single train has turned up in 50 years.  Yet, the railway line is called by Network Rail, "of national strategic significance"​.  Not one train, even though train travel took off in the mid 1990s and, as road and railway congestion has worsened in our densely populated, over two million, West Midlands region.

Even the latest Ordnance Survey map indicates that this principal, mainline railway is in use.  It is not.  Since the 1980s, a Metro tram extension has been promised on only 6 Kms in the middle of the unused 56 Kms that runs alongside or near to the traffic choked M5 and M6.  Main works start next year on the tram to break up the mainline but, still not a single useful commuter or regional train on the remaining 50 Kms to connect with the short, isolated tram line.  The "bus on rails" trams will prevent the return of intercity trains that will always be needed, even with 'the too fast to stop', HS2 on the eastern side of Brum.

Therefore, the one million population of the congested Black Country wins the prize, easily for having "the cold, hard truth of Britain's worst service" (ST 8 March).

Explanatory map, here courtesy of the national railway lobbying group, 'Railfuture'.  The tram line is planned from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill; both towns are marked on the map:

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Coercion not constraint is at the heart of Christianity

I do think that Christianity is worthless if its adherents are quite unable to follow the most basic and simplistic and obvious teaching of their founder contained in Matthew 5,6 and 7 NOT to kill foreigners in far off lands.  Nor, to go in for empire building or using coercion to get their way in far off lands.

Christianity is also worthless if its disciples will happily get involved with the iniquitous arms trade but not the sex trade.  The arms trade, the armed forces or war, when the government decides upon it, are all quite acceptable.

Monday, 9 March 2020

Rowdy scenes; largest town without a railway station; pros/cons of WBHE

Dear Gentlemen - a proposal or a suggestion follows for a one hour discussion.  Please read on.

I was in the public gallery for some of the time at the last full council meeting.  However, I left before the climate emergency motion.  I did not approve of the rowdy scenes and would never have interrupted proceedings if I had been there.  Because it lays you open to the charge of hypocrisy, I am not entirely happy with the declaration of a climate emergency when hundreds of millions of pounds of greenhouse gases are emitted in constructing tram lines to duplicate and replace buses and trains.  Buses and trains should have top priority and not trams, if we are going to be serious about reducing our fossil fuel use.  And that is what declaring a climate emergency should really be about.  I want you to quickly start acting on our FoE's 'Climate Action Plan'.  The declaration must be stitched up beforehand between Chris Barnett and Simon Phipps, in my opinion, so that at full council it is quickly passed with the minimum of fuss.

My wish to lessen or minimise greenhouse gas emissions, explains my strong opposition to our principal mainline railway that was so successful for 100 years in bringing passengers to and from London and the south east, being relegated to a piddling little shuttle tram line to take Dudley passengers to the mainline railway in Sandwell at Dudley Port - on our mainline railway!

Many call it a shuttle tram line to connect Dudley to the national railway network.  Many do not realise Dudley town is already on the national railway network, minus the trains.  I don't think they know that Dudley is the largest town, by population (79,300), without a railway station.

Trams mean no direct service to London or Scotland from Dudley town without going via Brum.  For 100 years, Dudley was a busy railway station at the foot of Castle Hill, served by the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway Company line.  Plenty of passengers must have come directly from London to Dudley via Oxford by train.  It could be so again but NOT with the tramline!  All the 56 Kms of double tracks are still there but unused between Stourbridge and Burton on Trent, on the 120 Kms Worcester, Black Country, Derby principal mainline.

Once the conversion from mainline railway "of national strategic significance" to tram line, no-one will want to come from London with a change from fast train to slow tram at either Stourbridge or Brierley Hill to get to Dudley.  It spoils a good railway!

NOW MY SUGGESTION for a one hour discussion:
Would you four members of Dudley Council be prepared to meet with someone from TfWM and/or Midland Metro Alliance, to really examine the pros and cons of the WBHE and get some facts and figures; and with me presenting the other side of the case?  Out of the seven councils, not one has ever had a debate and vote, in 39 years, to approve Midland Metro tram extensions.  Edinburgh City Council certainly has before their tram schemes went ahead.

Cars went on as soon as M6 Toll was opened in Dec 2003 The TRAINS are still waiting, because of Metro mania! The rusty down track.  The up track was stolen!

Best wishes

Tuesday, 3 March 2020



120 KMS WORCESTER, BLACK COUNTRY, DERBY RAILWAY "of national strategic significance" will lose its national importance.  Slow, frequent stopping trams will block the mainline for faster regional trains and, intercity trains will be impossible.  This is NOT what the train travellers over the first one hundred years enjoyed. This is no way to respond to the climate emergency that must be tackled.  And very foolish to waste the 50 Kms for many more years, perhaps even decades. In addition, Dudley is the largest town in the UK, by population, without a railway station.​
​It will be the world's first train-tram-train mainline railway and no wonder!  Fast trains, eventually from Worcester to Brierley Hill; change for slow, frequent stopping trams to Wednesbury for the 17 tram stops in 10.7 Kms; change at Wednesbury for quick trains to Walsall, Lichfield and Derby.  This makes for a nightmare journey, forcing through passengers to continue to go via congested Brum's 'Grand Central and Diesel Perfumed Station Tagged Along As An Afterthought In The Basement Of The John Lewis Store', station!!

It really does spoil, for ever, the UK's only supposedly 'safeguarded', mainline railway "of national strategic significance", that is essential to bypass Brum's railway stations and to give something to Brum's neighbours in the equally large population of the Black Country.

Burton to Bristol via Brierley Hill; Derby to Devon via Dudley - by TRAIN not "bus on rails" trams as they are wanting; nor with new extended cycle-walkway, as volunteers are working on!  Trams good; trains best; very slow 120 Kms train-tram-train railway is barely better than nothing (really, a nightmare journey)!

The climate crisis means reducing expenditure to reduce greenhouse gases.  It's all about treading more lightly on the planet - saving/conserving resources and connecting with nature first and foremost.  NOT travel connectivity!!

Tim Weller