Saturday, 30 May 2020


Dear friends

Why IS the 120 Kms Black Country Unfinished Principal Mainline Railway remaining unfinished in some places, converted to a tramline in places and a VLR test track in other places?

Thank you John for writing in reply.  It is a real victory to get someone to respond.  So THANK YOU!  I was so impressed that you replied that I read and re-read what you wrote.  And a humble Admin Manager, too as you wrote, as if to explain why you did not get what I was on about!  Did you take a look at my photos that should have made you smile?!  Did you read anything of mine?

I do think that Ken should not have palmed off the job of replying to you.  Do you think, over the matter of the UK's very last principal mainline railway being destroyed in places and being converted into a tramline in others, the top man should have replied?

You wrote, "The RMT has and will support and fight campaigns for routes to be re-opened, new lines to be built and new stations to be built or re-opened and where there is a need and public support is there for a particular line or station, along with fighting against station closures and routes to be closed by companies or services slashed whether that is at a  National, Region or even Branches locally supporting campaigns.

This is all fine sounding stuff, John.  However, I cannot for the life of me understand why all you experts in the railway industry sat back, so calmly, as you saw one railway line after another get turned into housing estates, trading and industrial estates, roads and everything else put on them except the kitchen sink.  Since the 1990s, in the Black Country and Brum, Metro trams have had top priority instead of stopping the destruction of railway lines and using them for trains.  When it comes to construction, trams are the second most expensive transport mode after HS2.  From the 1970s, about 100 Kms of railway lines have been bulldozed out of existence in our own urban area.  What did your union do to protest, John, Ken, et al?

About one-third of the railway lines had to close in the 1960s, but did any of you campaign or even suggest to the authorities that they be mothballed for some future use, instead of being obliterated?

The RMT as a Union support increased investment in Public Transport as we are a General Transport Workers Union along with the increase in use of Public Transport whether that be Train, Ferry, Bus, Tram fighting for a publically owned industry as well as representing Hackney Carriage Taxi Drivers, Maritime and Off Shore sectors.

You want increased investment in public transport.  Fantastic!  The only problem is that in supporting Metro to replace buses and trains, you have chosen a grossly extravagant mode when what we really need are electric buses and electric trains.  And, certainly, not the very last railway line in the Black Country and Brum about to be destroyed/converted to tramline, a test track, a trail of trees and an extended cycle-walkway.  Why do you support this absurdity, John, Ken, et al? 

Having spent over 30 years on the Railway both under British Rail & Privatisation I certainly have the experience and knowledge of which was the best in terms of service to the passenger. So why did you all hit upon the bizarre notion of houses, offices and shops - and, in the last 30 years, "bus on rails" trams - running on even our 120 Kms mainline railways like the one we are in the process of also being lost.

In an ideal world all railway lines removed during the Beeching era would be replaced and re-opened to passenger and freight traffic but with the current climate I can’t see that happening anytime soon.  But some have been reopened for slow, frequent stopping "bus on rails" trams.  What good is that, John and friends?  You lot also allowed them to be wiped off the face of the earth with buildings!  Your "current climate" is also giving you the £106 billion HS2 to replace the railway lines you all agreed should have roads, homes, offices and retail running on them instead of trains.  Truly weird and wonderful policies from you all, don't you think?

Best wishes for some sanity, soon in this mad, mad world!  Will it start with the transport trade unions?  I doubt it, somehow!


Sunday, 24 May 2020

We must wrest the initiative away from the property developers and the bulldozer brigade

The first section is permissive and a PROW between Blue Bird Park and the Cherry bench.  While the cricket club gates remain locked in lockdown, Jenny is being understanding about walkers using her private drive until they, asap, turn right into the cricket ground.  She is even relaxed about walkers using the railway embankment alternative to the PROW.  However, I'm not wanting any publicity or notices for this first section of the Dowery Dell Trail.  One notice and waymarking post that Stuart put up near to the drive I have taken down, at her request.  She and Neil can tighten their relaxation at any time.  But I don't think Bernard will over the cricket ground.  There must be no car parking in her private drive.

Unless we push the boat out, we will remain on the losing side as countryside and paths disappear under concrete, brick and tarmac.  Mick wrote to me to say that what I am doing is at my "peril".  So be it.  I want our 32 sq Kms triangle to be the first area in last August's announcement of the West Midlands National Park.  Just as we have the Peak District NP with their three railway trails, we must have our 32 sq Kms Clent Hills Regional Park with its one railway trail for walkers to use officially, with the permission of the landowners who agree.  There is no permission for the section between Illey Lane and Goodrest Farm Lane and I have barricaded that section with notices to 'Keep Out'.  I must renew them in Illey Lane.

I'm so sad that our rural PROWs are slowly being lost to urban paths and tarmacked, as human expansion continues apace with our concrete, brick and tarmac encroachment over the essential soil we need to feed ourselves.

I think, the only way this will stop is if Mick Freer and James Morris work together, once more, to ask for our 32 sq Kms to be the first area in the WMCA W Mids National Park.  Only those two have the influence to get the necessary action at the Combined Authority and Worcs CC.

I will take a look at the proposed stile to gate today or tomorrow.  I think you are meaning the two stiles close together near the old barn, with its barn owl in the 1980s, that has now disappeared.  However, that is Dudley and Tony feels that a Worcs gate should be installed in Worcs.

All the best


Saturday, 23 May 2020

The flash, the gross and the most expensive you can get - the Concorde complex/obsession!

I feel that HS2 is the railway equivalent of flying and is as expensive and as glitzy and glamorous but as shallow as Concorde;

Metro trams are simply the "bus on rails" equivalent of, and a pathetic replacement for, trains.  And, second in expense after HS2 in construction; and,
Sprint is the bus equivalent of Metro trams.  It is called Metro's little sister, in fact.  Never mind that "all that glisters is not gold".  We must have the flash and the gross - HS2, Metro and Sprint while bus travel flat lines or declines outside London, urban train lines get wasted, unused or even destroyed - like the present plans continue for the 120 Kms Black Country Railway.

We never seem to be satisfied with getting our bus and train travel as good as - just the average - on the mainland of Europe.  We want to impress and have something prestigious for other nations to gloat over.  Or is it about keeping up with the Jones's?
Do you agree with Bob Whitehead's Fare-Free Public Transport?

What has happened to the Road Traffic Reduction Act?  What was the point of it when the growth of everything and everyone has always been all the rage?  Living infinitely on a finite planet and unnaturally on a natural planet.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Wrong HMG Priorities

from an anonymous NHS doctor writing in the Guardian, 21.05.20
The NHS is not a charity and it isn’t staffed by heroes. It has been run into the ground by successive governments and now we are reaping the rewards of that neglect, on the background of the public health impact of years of rampant inequality in the UK.
The coronavirus crisis has shone a light on lots of good and bad things in this country. It is of course to be welcomed that key workers, including those for the NHS and social care, are being increasingly valued. I hope the reality is dawning that immigrants and BAME staff are vital to the NHS and we couldn’t manage without them.
But don’t feel you need to clap. Enough with the rainbows. When this ends, people need to show their value of key-working staff in practical ways; pay them enough to be able to live in our cities, and recognise, support and welcome immigrant staff who prop this country up. Listen to the views of NHS workers when they raise concerns, address the culture of blame and bureaucracy. Even my colleagues who still appreciate the clapping will bang a saucepan to that.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Jon Weller's comment on article in Guardian on 20 May 202

"Lockdown has been a unique opportunity to show what can and cannot be achieved through behaviour change alone in the fight for the planet and millions of lives; an estimated 17% global emissions drop (31% for the UK) in April alone this year. That's a big drop, but still leaves 83% of global emissions as normal, showing the scale of the shift in economic and industrial structures that still needs to occur within a decade. Annual reductions are likely to be just a 4-7% drop, but still the biggest since WW2.

"Coronavirus has shown how important acting quickly and decisively is when a crisis occurs. Change needs to happen fast. We need to be ready for it and demand it."

Thanks for this. We must learn from this crisis over the complacency leading to an absence of planning and preparedness. Yet we knew in December and knew of widespread global travel that the virus would spread. The Really Big Crisis is climate that we have known about since the 1980s. Actually, about fossil fuel burning enhancing the natural greenhouse effect for the last 150 years. YET NOTHING IS CHANGING APART FROM THE CLIMATE!!

Prepare for The Really Big Crisis by:
Household carbon allowance to cut travel, like the '73/'74 energy crisis coupons.
NO flying, except for freight.
Use video conferencing, Zoom and the phone.
Basic Income for All to cut economic activity, expenditure, purchasing.
Minimum commuting by fossil fuels.
Max commuting by pushbike.
STOP the cycle of demolition, rebuilding, demolition in Brum city centre.
SCRAP all very high fossil fuel infrastructure projects, like HS2, Metro and Sprint.
PUT the trains and stations back before the planners and councillors destroy our remaining railway lines.
120 Kms Worcester, Black Country, Derby Railway finished.
Upgrade our cycle-walkways to make them usable.
8 Kms Dowery Dell Trail completed between Halesowen and Longbridge.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

National Trust wants up to 20 green corridors

Dear Kathryn and Hilary - and copied to the three council leaders, my MP and the WMCA.  For all to follow up, to work together to show a little enthusiasm, positivity and, sheer pleasure at doing something sensible and co-operatively - PLEASE!

You, Kathryn came up with that great idea of a West Midlands National Park, as areas of open spaces, next to the conurbation.  Now we have the Director-General, Hilary McGrady of the National Trust, writing in the current, summer magazine of green corridors linking built up areas.  On page 69 she writes of the NT creating "up to 20 new 'green corridors'.  Paths from inner cities through parkland and farmland into wild landscapes and National Parks.  Corridors that will be great for people and give nature space to thrive."

I would like to suggest that the first part of the W Mids NP to be our 32 sq Kms that forms a natural Golden Green Triangle.  It has the NT owned Clent Hills Country Park on one side.  The rest is farmland, parkland, woodland, fishing ponds and, the foothills of the 1,000 feet high Clent Hills.  A triangle of three main roads to the west of the M5 between Jcts 3 and 4.  A much needed national park to stop roads and buildings on fresh land, for growing our food and for recreation.

Please, work together so that both of you achieve your ambitions here in the West Midlands.  You, Kathryn with your National Park, Hilary with her green corridor on the 137 year old Halesowen Railway from Halesowen to Longbridge.  Halesowen is in the Black Country and Longbridge is in Birmingham.  It is an 8 Kms route either side of the M5 that goes through a subway beneath the M5 that takes a public right of way next to the old railway line, now obliterated at that point.  There are 4.5 Kms on the Halesowen side and 3.5 Kms on the Longbridge side that is already open and in use with various names for its different sections.  Just the far eastern end is still being worked on, by St Modwen at Longbridge Business Park.  I'm proposing the name that footpath author, Roy Burgess has chosen, viz. the Dowery Dell Trail.  Like the three Peak District trails on old railway lines - Tissington, High Peak and Monsall.

The public subway is between Jct 3 and 4 of the M5, in Worcestershire County Council.  The northern section is in Dudley MBC, the historic capital of the Black Country.  The eastern section comes under Birmingham City Council.  Find it on the Ordnance Survey Explorer maps 219, 220.  Most of the green corridor is in Worcestershire.  One, first section, of 600 metres is already open and much walked.  All other sections are private and would need negotiating with landowners to become permissive paths, as I have done with the first section.  However, the professionals now need to takeover, please.

PLEASE, COULD ALL OF YOU REPLY, - even positively?  And, with some pleasure, too at doing something so popular! 

Best wishes


Saturday, 16 May 2020

Now, the highest number of deaths from Covid in Europe - how true to type for Greater Than Ever Brexit Britain

Now, the highest number of deaths from Covid-19 in Europe - how true to type for Greater Than Ever Brexit Britain

December 2019 to March 2020 to prepare for the vicious virus, the authorities - local, regional and national - twiddled their thumbs. They failed to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. Not a single thing, it seems. No contact tracing, no extra supplies of PPE, test kits and extra ventilators. But, plenty more austerity for the NHS and social care that had started in 2010.
From 1988, with the formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to the present to prepare for the Really Big Crisis - NOTHING. Simply, business as usual. Evermore and everlasting finite fossil fool politicians and their officers. More deadly, catastrophic greenhouse gases. We are sleepwalking into a nightmare of our own prevarication and complacency.

Monday, 4 May 2020

Petition for "no built development but paths opened"

Dear Eve and friends, What about this wording for a 38 Degrees petition? We had the August 2019 announcement by the Combined Authority, of the West Midlands National Park.  We are petitioning for: Sign if you agree with: NO BUILT DEVELOPMENT BUT PATHS OPENED - for walking, woodland, farming and fishing in our 32 sq Kms Goldern Green Triangle. Explanation: 1. Our triangle of Halesowen countryside to be the first to be included in the new W Mids National Park. 2. The Clent Hills Country Park to be extended over ALL our 32 sq Kms Golden Green Triangle, which includes the 1,000 feet high Clent Hills and its foothills to the west of M5 between Jcts 3 and 4. 3. This, to stop built development on fresh land that must be dedicated to farming, woodland, fishing ponds and recreation and NOT built development. 4. Also, the National Park triangle has the Halesowen Railway trackbed.  Other footpaths link into the railway path as the Dowery Dell Trail to extend the existing path from Longbridge, via the path subway beneath M5 at Frankley to Illey Lane and Manor Way. 5. The Illey Lane squeeze through and ivy-covered carpet in places, secret passage footpath to be a Public Right of Way (PROW). 6. The Halesowen to M5 subway section of the railway path, already unofficially walked in places, to be also a new PROW. Tim

Friday, 1 May 2020

to Judith Smith on RVNR Illey Lane

Dear Judith

Thank you for your kindness and support with our efforts in making the Illey Lane path an official public right of way and, for writing.

I was out there at 7.30 this morning and saw that the grass, bramble bush and woodland are now an official 'Roadside Verge Nature Reserve' (RVNR)  that I asked for.  Excellent!  However, the same notice stapled to a tree says there is "no public right of way or access".  This is not surprising but simply means we must continue to ask, especially our MPs and councillors and, the local parish councillors for their help and support.  My three Dudley councillors are David Vickers, Ray Burston and Alan Taylor for Halesowen South who all know me and of my concerns and might well cover Illey Mill that is in Dudley borough.  I must find out who the councillors and MP are for this Worcestershire section of Illey Lane.  Ruth Mullett who is Clerk to Romsley and Hunnington Parish Council, says it has nothing to do with her parish and does not want to hear from me or anyone else about Illey Lane.  She cannot tell me, however, which Worcestershire parish it does come under.  It must be hers, I think.

What access is there for other roadside nature reserves in Worcestershire, I wonder?  Very difficult to stop access, I would have thought with a roadside verge.  And very dangerous for all road users - vehicles and pedestrians - to insist that pedestrians must stick to the tarmac.

Why does ours meet the criteria for RVNR?  However, the notice says that the County Council should be putting up an information plaque, red and white posts and will develop "a specific management regime to benefit the special wildlife of that verge."  However, up to now, their management regime has meant, last year, tractors going down the grass section of the verge to wipe out the bluebells that were there in previous springs.  So much for nature conservation!

I want to ask the Ramblers for their help in this matter and, to ask if there is a precedent for any path being added as a public right of way to the vital definitive map - anywhere in the UK.

I also want to ask the Ramblers what the law says about a path that may have been walked in previous decades being reinstated in this.  People must have walked it in both directions in past centuries, I would have thought and not only on just the track that became a road.  Certainly, away from the road once the post and rail fence was put up with the increasing traffic on the narrow lane.  It was widened when the railway bridge was taken down, probably in the 60s or 70s.

Thank you for your agreement and help, Judith and for writing.  Much appreciated.

Best wishes