Wednesday, 27 May 2015

We need to talk about Warren

Sometime ago the leader of Liverpool City Council was Warren Bradley, a LibDem. He became leader when Mike "Jackanory" Storey had to resign of a breach of the code of conduct. Storey was at best anodyne, a primary school headmaster with all the charisma of a primary school headmaster. When Warren came along, I'd never heard of him, but it was quiet clear he was only Storey's proxy.

Both Storey and Bradley achieved very little, the greatest achievement of Storey was securing the Capital of Culture year for Liverpool and that was about it. Very little happened in the city

After a brief discussion with Bradley, it seems that he thinks of himself as badly done by and regards any mention of his conviction for a rather foolish bit of electoral fraud as abusive. Warren you weren't hard done by, you where just so far out of your league it was painful.

One of his statements that "educated people are seeing through Joe Anderson", would seem to imply, that as he doesn't like the guy, he sees himself as an educated man. Well while I don't have any facts about his education, if he has one he has always hidden it well. He variously came over as some who hasn't got that much of an idea of what's going on, always slightly bemused or slightly drunk.

Like a lot of LibDems he suffered from a lack of imagination and drive, whether you agree with Anderson or not, he has got something done, Warren and Co never did they where obsessed with not annoying anyone, in the end they annoyed a lot of people. People will forgive mistakes, they are less forgiving of inaction. It is equally true that always answering the call "something must be done" with something is just as wrong.

Liverpool Council suffered from a paralysis that it didn't want to be in the same light as Militant, this led it to be non-confrontational and frankly cowardly, Warren is the personification of that. You can see in the local journals the anger that Joe Anderson has raised by simply doing things, some are outraged that he is not doing the things that they want, others are just annoyed that he is doing things at all. All of them are convinced they speak for the people of Liverpool, all of them ignore the fact that in the May election Joe's party increased it seats on the council.

Let get this right Joe is not a smooth political operator he is in fact a bit of a gobshite but so are his most voluble critics. Not least among them Warren. What most of the voices offer is a quick fix, just do what we want, have our  priorities and it will all be ok. What history teaches us is that this is wrong, you cannot have any really permanent long term effect on society over night, this is a long hard slog where the reasonable ambition is to make things better for your great grand children. To believe you can do it quicker is vanity and a dangerous vanity.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Trans North/HS3

The Government release the The Northern Powerhouse: One Agenda, One Economy, One North report, which contains some interesting stuff regarding Liverpool and High Speed rail, most notably
Liverpool to Manchester Airport / Manchester – Work by Network Rail has shown that journey times between Liverpool and Manchester of 20 minutes are possible, including a connection onto the HS2 network. We will now carry out further work to produce detailed options to move towards the journey time ambition. hThis will include the option for a new high speed line between Liverpool and Manchester with a connection to the proposed HS2 network.
Trans North/HS3
Also covered is HS3 which has similarities to my Pan Northern Railway  though without York, Chester and Holyhead.
HS3 using existing lines
The target maximum speed that has been mentioned is 140 mph, this was the same as the target for the West Coast Mainline upgrade in the 90s.
The was for the first generation of Pendolinos, the second generation are capable of 155mph. The reason they don't go over 125 is lack of in cab signalling, but under existing plans the entire system will be set up for in cab signalling by 2029, according to the International Rail Journal. Electrification from Man to Leeds is already planned as is Leeds to Hull according to the BBC. It is already in place Liverpool to Manchester.
The proposed times for HS3 are
Liv -> Manc in 20 minutes, mean  94.5 mph over 31.5 miles.
Man->Leeds in 30 minutes, mean 85.4 mph over 42.7 miles.
Leeds ->Hull in 45 minutes, mean 68 mph over 51.6 miles. 

So all those are already planned before HS3! what extra is needs to happen for HS3?
The OpenOffice Calc spread sheet can be found here
The OpenOffice Calc spread sheet can be found here.
The Liverpool to Manchester section, given a Pendolino, allowed to accelerate straight to 140 and decelerate into Manchester Victoria would take 15:35. With various limitations caused by going through stations and in urban areas 20 minutes is very close to the maximum that could be achieved. To make a 20 minutes service possible some work would need to be done, whether that would be passing loops or quadrupling of long sections I don't know, perhaps some traffic could be offloaded to other routes but providing access for St Helens & Newton le Willows is not optional. Complete requadrupling of the section from Lime Street to Huyton Junction would help, that would require work to widen the track bed at Broad Green where the M62 intrudes.
The Manchester -> Leeds time of 30 minutes knocks about 15 minutes off of the current journey time, and is 9:37 slower than the theoretical maximum, bearing in mind this is the curviest bit of the route this is less demanding than the Liverpool Manchester time and perhaps reflects greater thought and time applied.  
The Hull time is only 9 minutes faster than the current time which is the smallest improvement and as this is the longest route doesn't make much sense. Most of the route is quite straight except for a large kink around Selby.
Rail lines around Selby
The average speed for Leeds -> Hull is 68.8 compared with 94.53 for Liv->Man and 85.4 for Man->Leeds. This seems a bit slow, given the profile I would expect a mean speed faster than the Man->Leeds speed. At the same average speed as the Liv->Man journey Leeds -> Hull is about 32:45 and at the Man -> Leeds is 36:15. So it should be possible to knock a further 10 minutes of the overall journey getting the overall journey down to 1:35.

A second generation Pendolino is capable of 155mph, similar to the Advanced Passenger Train, in order to operate at the higher speed the APT had enhanced brakes, these are not on the Pendilino. If a system capable of similar braking to the APTs Hydro Kinetic system were fitted then speeds over 140 could be achieved, which might allow some more savings or at least greater safety margin.  One candidate for the breaking system would be Circular or Linear Eddy Current Braking both of which have been used on railways in excess of 155mph.

Beyond England
Welsh extension.
Currently the time from Hull to Holyhead, 218 miles, would be 4:09 with an average speed of 52.5 mph, if some stops are taken out leaving on stops at the major stops, then the journey can be down to 3:39 with a mean speed of 59 mph. Whilst this probably faster than it can be driven, the current journey would be longer as it would involve waiting for connections at the principle stations.
Using the 140 mph maximum then with the full set of stops the journey could be made in 2:19 with a mean speed of 94 mph. With only principle stops that drops to 1:42 at a mean of 128.
The theoretical speed would obviously not be possible but a time of between 2:30 and 2:45 should be possible, knocking 1:24 of the current possible time.

A Liverpool Holyhead journey, via the soon to be reinstated Halton curve, would take about 2:00, this time is even more speculative than the others as it involves the Chester to Runcorn parliamentary train, which only runs early Saturday morning during the summer, and is in no rush. Taking out the stops gets down to 1:52. With the high speed options the time drops to 1:00 with stops and 51 without. Giving an estimated real word time as 1:15, a 45 minute saving.

Electrifying and speeding up Chester to Holyhead would improve London Holyhead times, as well as local trains, as part of HS3 it would provide a very useful link between the Ferry Terminals of Hull and Holyhead.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Midland Main Line

In the picture below you can see the line from Derby to Manchester that used to part of the Midland Main Line connecting London and Manchester. It is now cut back to serving Derby and Sheffield.

The yellow portions of the Line out of Derby and Manchester are still in use but not as a main line. The white section in the middle is 14 miles of unused track bed.
Reconnecting this would add redundancy to the London Northwest link and provide a direct faster connection to the East Midlands.
If and HS3 will create a Northern power house an eXtended Midland Mainline can only boost it further.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Liverpool doesn't need HS3 to connect to manchester

Liverpool does not need HS3 to connect to Manchester, it needs it to connect to Leeds & Hull. It is not that getting Liverpool to Manchester down to 20 minutes wouldn't be useful, but the linkage between the city centres is not the only measure of connectivity.
Both Liverpool and Manchester City regions have large hinterlands with several centres of economic activity. There is no point measuring simply the connectivity between the two Centres, the interconnectivity must take into account the linkage between the sub nodes. While the linkage between Ellesmere Port and Bolton may not be as important as the Liverpool to Manchester link, it is not worthless and is one of many sub-node interconnections.
One of the longer distance routes available from Liverpool Exchange was the link to Bury via  Liverpool and Bury Railway unfortunately this was cut back to Bolton in 1970, though most of the alignment is still in place and a 4.5 mile section would allow a link to Manchester Metrolink for line into Manchester City Centre.

Liverpool & Manchester rail linkages
The building of the Ordsall Chord seems to be funding and going ahead, If coupled with that Merseytravel's Airport spur was constructed and the Warrington Altrincham line reinstated. Then an outer loop could be formed, providing direct links from,  Say Widnes to Bolton/ Altrincham and Bootle as well as providing links to between Liverpool, both Manchester's stations and Stockport.
A link from the Northern Line from Bootle via the stock interchange to St James and the Wirral would push the loop out to Ellesmere Port and Runcorn. Though a reverse at Liverpool could do the same.
Rail Details of Liverpool
A map of Liverpool with some of the changes proposed in Merseytravels 30 year plan.

Rail Details of Manchester
Details of the Ordsall chord.

Warrington rail details
The red line departing right is the disued Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway
all the other lines are intact and in use though the green line entering left is only used for freight and connects to Ditton Junction.

Timperley rail detail
This is Skelton Junction with the line entering from the upper left is the closed Glazebrook East Junction to Skelton Junction Line while the red line entering mid left is the closed Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway

Tram Train

Some parts of the network are now operated by MetroLink but use old rail alignments. Converting these to Tram-Train allow connections to places like Prestwich direct from Liverpool.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

A Region big enough for a Mayor

It seems that GM has decided the way to go is a Metro Mayor, I happen to think they a right, and I think it would be right for a greater Merseyside
One reason an elected metro mayor would be good, is that it would attract someone with higher ambition and more ability. It would be on a level with a job in as a junior minister, at the moment mayor is the height of a lackluster career and the PCC is reserved as a sinecure for someone with a safe pair of hands on the way down.
Yes, it requires more scrutiny than the current mayor has and should be modelled on the London mayor with the same sort of powers.
The question is should it just be the current Met County, the LCR or something bigger? My personal opinion is we should look to the original proposal for Merseyside, from the 60s. This included West Lancs, Halton and Chester and West Cheshire, it is a unit which still has attractions. I'd also add Warrington so basically using the M6 as the divide between Liverpool and Manchester. It would have a population of nearly 2 million and would cover a diverse area from rural to metropolitan. Any one area would be unable to dominate because of greater diversity.
The arrangement with the borough still existing and providing local control would ensure that each area maintained its identity and voice while the expanded region would command more resources nationally and benefit from efficiency savings.
If it goes to a vote it more than likely will not happen, for the same reasons the original Merseyside plan didn't happen.
Selling it is going to have to be done very carefully as the devolution of national powers rather than the aggregation of local powers. A chance to escape from Westminster and the South Easts strangle hold. I'm not sure the politicians of the area are up to grabbing the opportunity, preferring instead to squabble amongst themselves. I'm equally sure that the people will do the same.
If it was me, I'd enforce it, HMG was elected with the power to do this, it should simply use that power and actually lead. The change in the democratic balance is fairly minimal no great powers are being removed and no great responsibilities added. This is too trivial a move to warrant a referendum.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Time flies by when you the driver of the train.

My Dad 1937 a cabin boy on the RMS Laconia
The most annoying thing about getting old is that everything your parents said about time is true, a year is not a long time, now they seem to pass in the blinking of an eye. For someone who makes it to 100 there must only be a slight pause between each breakfast. They day must be full of runs to the toilet with minute periods spent in there.

I remember as a child the long fearful sleepless nights that occurred every so often, when 3 am was a magic time, when you could easily imagine everyone was asleep. Now the days, jumble into each other and the long ones of youth seem wasted.

I think now it was a lost opportunity during the 3 months, rains that seem to occur at least 8 time every winter, not to read a book, but after I'd read all the Wide Range Readers at school, I had nowhere to go, my only family guidance on books was hopeless, not coming from a literary family, the access to mental stimulation became even less when my dad died.

My maternal grandmothers life had been turned upside down by the death of her mother when she was 1, she had been raised by her uncle in deepest Deganwy, she was in her early 30s when my mum was born, as the oldest child, my mum would follow the same pattern with minor variations. At the outbreak of World War 2 she was sent off to Wales for the duration, this time around St Asaph, and afterwards it would be 1963 before I came along. The maternal Grand Father seemed to have the most normal life, born in a Barracks in Ireland, to a father who had been born in a Barracks in Dublin. His sisters were born in India and at some point that had all been forced to live in Hull.

My dad's family was even more of a mess. My paternal grandmother's father had died when she was about 5, in about 1895, in Wrexham. The grandfather was the last born of 8, his mother died soon afterwards and by 1900 he was in the poor house. The family had lived in various insalubrious places, like cellars on Lime Kiln lane.
WW1 came along and both my grandfathers were in France both got gassed at some point and the paternal gf lost both his legs.

When I was born it looked like perhaps this bit of the family had escaped, as my dad worked for Cable and Wireless and would soon become am Executive Officer at Giro, not the best job in the world be a long way up from being a pavior for the council.

Really, if it hadn't been for all the late marriages I'd have been born during WW2.

I can't help seeing myself as the result of all this mess, I also don't imagine that I would make a great parent, my siblings doesn't seem to have.

When you look at the 1880-1930 population of Liverpool and the condition, some of them lived in I doubt that my history is that unusual. It really can only be a small portion of the population that escapes this kind of cycle.

If you want a tip on raising kids from someone who has none, then it is, fill your house will books of all sorts, the greater the variety the better. Even if you don't know much about books yourself, pick them up randomly at car boot sales, etc. Do find out what the best children's books are from the stuffiest of places. While libraries are great they are also terminally dull and any of the good books are out. You want histories, fictions, sci fi, fantasy, autobiographies, science and you want to read them yourself and be seen to read them, especially at dinner. In the end your child will start getting their own books in a genera they like. Hopefully by then you will have found your own, and can sell all the other books at the next car boot sale. It will not get rid of your families history but it will give you kids the benefit of other peoples experiences, which should help counteract the intellectual, cultural and scientific poverty that a lot of us grow up with.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Post Referendum Blues

Well the No campaign won the Scottish referendum and a majority of Scots self determined to stay part of the Union and the various parties are now talking about greater devolution for Scotland and for the rest of the UK, so as far as I am concerned wins all round. My position was and still is, that a federal UK is the best.

There was the predictable Rangers Unionists disorder after the victory, seems to have been pretty minor, but according to the some in Yes campaign, it was something approaching Armageddon and complained about BBC Bias in not covering it. I wonder how many of them heard of 500 youths in town centre disorder.

I followed several twitter accounts during the run up, and it was clear that a lot of the Yes supporters were only talking amongst themselves. There would be a local meeting organised to give out the Yes message and surprise, surprise it would be full of Yes voters. None of the individuals I followed seemed to understand that they were moving amongst groups of the converted not the general population. This led to claims about the bias in the polls.

Since the result has been announced there is a very great feeling that the Yes campaigners where somehow cheated and as such are not bound by any of the agreements they entered into. One claim is that by resigning Salmond has given the next first minister a mandate to call a vote again if the next elections is won, as the agreement was signed by him it only applied to him. This is an incredible view Salmond signed as first minister there by for and on behalf of the Scottish state This is not the official view, but it is the view of some of the political naives  that this campaign has  energised. They had never had much interest in politics before the vote, from the sound of some of the comments they may never have voted, they don't like that they lost but that is democracy, sometime your side doesn't win. When that happens democrats respect the result and get on with life, looking for another opportunity to persuade the electorate of the merits of the path they are proposing.

However, through history there have been groups, that while in a minority have thought it ok to seize control and by one means or another use other means to get their way. These range from simple acts of civil disobedience, such as not paying your TV license, through too attempts at armed revolution. Often it starts as the first and depending on the reaction of TPTB either peters out or moves to a very great state of violence. Even when the significant protest is the civil kind, someone will do a Wolfie Smith and others will burn down the odd holiday home.

At this moment all options in Scotland seem to be open. We may yet find that giving the vote to 16 year olds is bad not because they cannot make up their mind but because they are bad losers.