Posts Tagged ‘railways’

A Long Goodbye

30/07/2013

I’ve written several times in the past about the decline in my railway interest. How it dipped as I saw changes I didn’t like, and how later something would cause a revival. A good example was during the early part of 1991, when I wrote the following rather rough piece on train between Crewe and Liverpool:

Crossing the Weaver
(on the 1454 to Liverpool)

It’s been a long winter outside,
But I’ve come in now.
Sun gleams on wind-whipped water,
Trees on the hillside
Welcome me back.
I’m glad to be back,
I hope I’ll stay this time.

I did nothing in the arid months,
Shivered in wind and rain,
Lost touch with an old friend..
Abandoned memories
But they’re forgiving.
I’m glad to be back,
I hope I’ll stay this time.

Now I believe it really is too far gone for anything like that to be possible.

Virtually everything I liked, and that got me interested in, railways – train types, journey experiences – has gone, and I’ve travelled over virtually every piece of railway in the UK. That doesn’t leave very much does it? The railways today have a blandness that is truly generic. Where is the variety? Passing my driving test in 2010 has also played a part: most journeys I take are now by car. And I don’t miss the train journeys on the whole. Not only are they more and more expensive, but having to make them in badly designed, uncomfortable carriages that are usually overcrowded, with over loud and over frequent tannoy announcements makes the whole process just too unpleasant.

So just what is left of the once dominant interest? One that gave my life some semblance of meaning and purpose? (I’ve long given up trying to explain that, too many piss takes over the years, including from people who should know better. It meant something to me.) What remains is mainly historical, and my collection of books and DVDs has grown. Lines that have close closed or ones I know or knew; ones whose remains I go in search of, seeing which are passable on foot or which have roads running along them; looking into old photos and wondering if it’s possible to be nostalgic for a time before I was born; the occasional railtour or even more occasional visit to a “heritage” railway. Occasional as both these last are far too crowded for me to properly enjoy them.

A few still-glowing embers from a once mighty fire. Not much heat now and certainly not enough to cook with. It’s not the last goodbye, more a wearied long one. And the void it leaves, I’ve no idea how to fill that. They don’t make polyfilla tubes big enough.

Advertisements

Islands in the Clouds

28/06/2013

This is another piece that I wrote for “Direct Current”, published in 1992. Of all the rail journeys I’ve made over the years, this is the one that I look back to with the most fondness.

I don’t believe this is happening. Someone tell me it is. Brief flash of lights in the dark on the other side of the window. Must be Winsford. This is really happening. After having the idea only a week ago, here I am. It was David Craig reading his poems at College that had done it: talking about the Highland Clearances; the scenery of Caithness and the islands; how it’s the playground of the rich and their tax-free trees. Yes, I said, I’ll go. And here I am, still in disbelief. I opened my wallet to look at the ticket. Yes, it was there: Alsager to Thurso, out and return. More lights flash by. Hartford. I adjusted my headphones and leant back.

As the tape played, I stared into the back of the seat in front. There’s something about travelling at night that sets it apart. The succession of towns blur into uniformity: lines of neons, white glare of factories, and the shimmering light of distant places. In remoter areas, just the odd light here and there; a farmhouse, perhaps. The titanic shapes of hills brooding in the darkness; the night sky a lighter shade of black above them.

The tape had finished, but I didn’t change it straight away. I closed my eyes and listened to the roar of the tracks below, and the clatter of the odd point, muffled by the air conditioning. The only sensation of speed was a slight swaying, which was more startling if you looked down the gangway into the next coach as it rocked from side to side and bounced up and down alarmingly. I looked up, and decided on something to eat. I resumed my thoughts a little later as I munched a donut and sipped coffee from a paper cup. I listened again to the voice of the tracks; their usual steady, comforting hum. It was alright, they were saying, just relax and enjoy the next thirty hours. It was good advice. I finished the coffee, wiped my hands and changed the tape. We were at Carlisle. Soon be in Scotland.

Glasgow Central, just after quarter past nine. I had plenty of time to cross to Queen Street, so I looked around before descending to the low level platforms. I cast my mind back a couple of months to when I’d been here last. I’d planned to spend a week travelling on various Scottish lines while they were still loco-hauled. It wasn’t to be, however, for I was compelled by illness to return. And that seemed to be the end of my hopes. That is until I heard David Craig…

I reached Queen Street by ten, and had just under two hours to wait. I stood at the platform ends and watched anonymous headlamps appear from the Cowlairs tunnel, and listened to locomotives as they roared up the gradient; the sound reverberated back even after the red tail lamp had disappeared. I saw the distinctive push-pull sets arrive and depart, various locals to and from Dunblane or Cumbernauld. After a class 37, Loch Rannoch, had taken out the Fort William – London sleeper, I boarded my train, the overnight to Inverness. I soon came to the conclusion that I would sleep very little, so I decided to stay awake. Curling up on the seat proved too uncomfortable in any case. I must have snatched some sleep, however. After the Perth stop, where the Edinburgh portion of the train was attached, I remember little until four am.

The train had stopped at a signal in the middle of nowhere. I later found out it was probably Tomatin loop. I went to the door and looked out. A strong smell of pine greeted me, and the sharp morning air woke me with a start. Not far away, I could hear a stream rustling, invisible in the darkness. Above, the sky was cloudless, the crescent moon impassively grey, while nearby Venus glittered a dazzling blue. After ten minutes, a freight passed the other way, and we were off again. The long descent from over 1000 feet to sea level at Inverness and a two hour wait for the next stage of the adventure.

I was glad to find that the stock for the train was already in the platform. Adjacent were two others: one for Aberdeen, and the three coach train for Kyle. Snug in my thick jacket, wedged into a corner, headphones on, the time passed more quickly than I thought. About quarter past six, the Kyle loco arrived, followed closely by the Wick/Thurso: a local class 37 diesel named Highland Region.

At 06.35 the four hour trek up to the railway John ‘O’ Groats began. The train was still cold, and despite being on the move took some time to warm up. It was early November, and wouldn’t be light until about eight; so for the first ninety minutes or so, I was travelling blind. I saw the lights on the new A9 bridge, and recall the 10mph restriction over the swing bridge at Clachnaharry. A brief glimpse of the lights in the cosy box and it was on into the darkness. Dawn was beginning to show herself; overhead, the sky was still dark blue, tinted orange by the sleeping city.

Drizzle at Dingwall had subsided by Invergordon, where I was surprised to see several oil platforms standing together in the estuary; strange giant machines waiting patiently for some command. Mist had enveloped us after Ardgay, and by Invershin, the scenery was hinting at what was to come. The open fields and distant hills of Alness had closed in. The hilltops stood above the mist, floating islands, with their lower slopes hidden. After a rock cutting, we reached Lairg and a fifteen minute stop to cross the 06.00 from Wick/Thurso. I stepped on to the frosty platform to photograph it as it came to a stop, glad to let the cold air revive me. Sleep was catching up.

The sun showed itself for the first time at Brora, followed by a run alongside the North Sea for several miles. At Helmsdale the line swings inland into a great loop to reach Wick via Forsinard and Altnabreac. I felt wistful, sad almost, as I looked out. Helmsdale was one of the places I’d planned to stop on my earlier abortive trip: the vast expanse of the sea on the one hand, and the mountains on the other…Between here and Georgemas the scenery is at its best. The line winds between mountains, for the most part bare, bleak, almost. I much prefer this, though I saw signs of change in several fir plantations. The trees were still small, but in ten years, the place will look totally different. Forsinard. There were about two houses and a building that looked like a hotel or pub; a scattering of leafless trees behind. The disused signal box on the platform was still in good condition, albeit without its lever frame.

The summit of the line is at County March, 708 feet above sea level and marked by a blue and white board. Just before it, I noticed a crumbling stone cottage whose roof timbers had collapsed into the shell. We were passing through open moorlands covered in heather. A few yards from the line, was a long fence that appeared to be made of old sleepers, some rotten; we followed it for a several miles.

At Georgemas Junction, the train divided. Highland Region took the front two coaches on to Wick, while Scottish Hosteller the rest to Thurso. Then, at 10.43 on a Wedenesday morning, four minutes early, I finally arrived. Some eighteen hours and 600 miles after I’d set out the afternoon before. And I still had to get back.

Not a particularly good photo technically, but one I love as it strongly evokes that whole journey. Taken on the return journey, near Kildonan.

20130628-134203.jpg

The Road to Cape Wrath

13/06/2013

While doing some housekeeping on the computer recently, I came across this piece. It was originally published in the EM2 Locomotive Society journal “Direct Current” in February 1995, and is one of a number I wrote for it over the years. The journey described is one I always look back on with some fondness.

It’s a dramatic way to wake up. Especially after, (or inspite of), the sleepless night on the upper bunk, kept awake by the muted roar of the tracks, swaying over junctions and round curves in the mountainous bits. I drew up the blind with heavy eyes to a bleak mountainous wilderness, miles from the darkened neon lit townscape I didn’t go to sleep with. I went out into the corridor, looked out of the open window and gasped at the cold air of the thin misty morning, letting it revive me. The train was crawling up the slope, ever higher, to a summit of almost 1500 feet, the “Highest Point on BR” as the large blue sign says.

The steward brought coffee which I gratefully sipped, black, drawing in the caffeine fumes, the bitter taste on my tongue a confirmation that I am actually here, not still at home, dreaming of journeys away. And this is only the start, there’s still a few hundred miles to go yet. Over the top, a gallop down the other side, another climb then a long drop towards the sea at Inverness.

I had a wait of two-and-a-half hours. A “hot bacon roll” had to pass for breakfast (why is it station buffets don’t do proper breakfasts anymore?) after which I sat on one of the circular benches and opened my paper. In between paragraphs, I’d look up as people and trains came and went; people in suits with briefcases, families, and others with huge rucksacks, lots of those.

“Would you mind keeping an eye on my bag for a minute?” said a voice.

I looked up and saw a woman divesting herself of a huge backpack. I’d bemoaned the weight of my own, yet this was several sizes larger, with numerous items strapped top and bottom, and at the sides. You’d almost need a fork-lift truck to take it on and off!

“Of course,” I smiled.

“I won’t be long,” she added.

She told me she was over from California, and had been travelling for several weeks through Ireland and the rest of Britain. She was en route for the Orkney Islands to see some of the prehistoric sights. I’d been there myself the year before, and could well understand her enthusiasm.

I hadn’t been relishing the long wait, but with someone to talk to, it passed pleasantly quickly. I told her I was heading for Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point in Britain, something I’d wanted to do ever since reading Paul Theroux’ A Kingdom by the Sea a few years before. The chapter dealing with the run to the Cape, using the Lairg – Durness postbus was one of the most memorable of the whole book. The train was one of the ubiquitous two-car class 156 diesel units which soon filled up, and I was impatient to get going again. I felt nostalgic as the train set off, the memory of my first trip five years earlier a constant companion. This time, though, it was a warm, sunny June morning, rather than a freezing November dawn.

I said goodbye to my new friend at Lairg where I caught the postbus for the three hour, fifty-six mile run to Durness. It had clouded over, but was still warm, and there was a heady perfume of gorse in the air: the roadside verges were awash with their golden blooms. Clear of the village, the road was single track with passing places for most of its length, the bus stopping frequently as the driver delivered the mail to the remote houses and farms. For the first fifteen miles or so, the road follows Loch Shin, with the mountains growing gradually closer, though it soon clouded over and began to rain. Despite the narrow road, the driver didn’t hang around, and seemed reluctant to slow down, never mind stop: swerving into a passing place and powering out again as soon as possible! Not quite burning rubber, but not that far away. . .

At Laxford Bridge, we parted company from the Durness road for a while, and deviated a few miles along the Ullapool road to Scourie. “Lax” is apparently old Norse for “salmon”. The road had been following the river Laxford for several miles, and the there were low, rocky hills and numerous small lochs all around. I was glad to finally see it: a glance at the Ordnance Survey map for the area was enough to kindle an interest by itself, and I wasn’t disappointed. Apart from the weather, as the rain had become a torrential downpour. With the map open on my knee, I tried to pick out the features, and I wondered what all the Gaelic names actually meant, and how you pronounced them!

Back on the A838, another deviation came at Rhiconich, a few miles along Loch Inchard to the small fishing village of Kinlochbervie. After a few minutes unloading mail bags, the driver pulled in a few miles back down the road at Badcall, and disappeared for about ten minutes into one of the houses; for a not-so-quick cup of tea we passengers thought. I’d been sitting on the hard seat for almost three hours, so I got out to stretch my legs. It was still pouring with rain, so I didn’t stretch very much!

The driver finally came back, and we started on the last stage to Durness. After a short climb, the road swept gradually down on a long straight, falling from 337 feet above sea level to a mere 26 feet at the foot of the Kyle of Durness, across the Drochaid Mh¢r, or Big Bridge, over the river Dionard. There were mountains on either side, principally the Cranstackie/Beinn Spionnaidh massif to the east and the less imposing Farrmheall to the west, and the ground in between looked soft and wet, with very black soil. The sight of the Atlantic, grey and uninviting under the heavy mass of rain clouds, really emphasised the remoteness of the place: Durness, from the old Norse Dyr-Nes, meaning Wolf’s Cape, where the road, unable to continue northwards having run out of land, turns east; while on the empty ocean, fading towards the northern horizon, there’s nothing until you reach the Arctic ice.

The rain had stopped, but it was very windy. Even so, after over three hours I was glad to get off the bus. Home, in the north-west of England now seemed so far away as to be mythical, but it didn’t bother me; I felt a quiet excitement that I had come so far. Even Lairg seemed further away than its fifty-six miles.

After buying some food, I walked the mile or so to the Youth Hostel at Smoo. The road dropped near level with the sea and passed the beach at Sango with its brilliant white sand, then swung sharply back up again at about 1:6.

The following day, the wind had blown up into a ferocious southerly gale, and there were frequent heavy showers. I had wanted to head on up to Cape Wrath, but the ferry over the Kyle of Durness wasn’t running because of the weather, so I had to amuse myself for the rest of the day. After walking down towards Balnakeil, where there was a large rainbow draped lazily across the bay, I abandoned it as a bad job and returned to the village. I found a reasonably sheltered spot amongst the rocks on Sango beach, and sat and watched the waves breaking. The pub opened at midday, just in time as it had suddenly clouded over and started to rain again. In the afternoon, I sheltered behind a wall near Loch Caladail for a while, where it was unexpectedly peaceful, before taking a look at Smoo cave. The vast arch of its entrance, about 100 feet across and about 50 high, is a mere prelude to the smaller, flooded secondary chamber, into which roars a 70 foot waterfall. You cross a short plank bridge to a sort of balcony, and the spray drenches you before you reach the end.

When I woke next morning, I felt apprehensive as I looked outside, hoping I wasn’t in for another wasted day. It was still blowy and overcast, but the ferocity of the gale had eased considerably. I reached the ferry landing full of anticipation: I looked along the grey Kyle at the mountains on the other side, aloof and impassive as ever, dipping in and out of the passing clouds. Shortly, a landrover pulled up and the man told me that there needed to be at least four passengers to make it worthwhile for the bus driver. So far, there was only me and two women in the car park. The man shook his head slowly and said I should come back at one ‘o’ clock, then he got back in his landrover and drove away. That was almost four hours away, and it was three miles back to the village. I sighed, wondering if I’d ever reach the Cape. . .

I walked back to the car park, and saw some more people had arrived, so I told them the score. Two middle-aged sisters were good enough to give me a lift back up to Durness, and surprised me by suggesting I tag along with them. They seemed to take to me and it was rather like being out with your favourite great aunts!

After a visit to Smoo cave, where the waterfall was considerably swelled with the recent rain, we got back to the ferry just before one. Eventually, the dour man in his landrover came back, donned waterproofs and waded out into the Kyle to bring the “ferry” in: only a small fibreglass thing with an outboard motor! On the other side, everyone piled onto the minibus, which only managed a few feet along the road before grinding to a halt: there was a full load and it couldn’t manage the 1:6 away from the slipway! The driver apologised and asked for six volunteers to walk up the worst of the hill!

The road was a rough, pitted track for the eleven miles. After the sharp climb at the start, it rose over 200 feet in the first mile to take it along the cliffs. There was a fine view of the Kyle sandbanks below, with several seals basking on them. After plunging down at about 1:7 to ford the Diall river, the road climbed back up as steeply and headed inland through the mountains. It was a bleak, rather desolate place of peaty moorland, a feeling only emphasised by the roughness of the road, and it being deserted. The MOD use the entire area as a bombing range, and the frequent warning signs and notices with odd symbols on them add a surreal touch.

The road ends at the Cape Wrath lighthouse, built by Robert Stevenson in 1828, and is apparently one the few left that are still manned. “Wrath” is another old Norse word, meaning Turning Point; on clear days, you can see the Western Isles and the Orkneys, as well as looking along the cliffs to the south and east, especially the spectacular range at Cl• M¢r, looming at over 600 feet. Even from a couple of miles away, it’s difficult to appreciate their size.

The Cape is the sort of place you could just sit, staring out into the vast greyness of the ocean, listening to the waves crashing way below you; somewhere to just sit and think, or not; a feeling only emphasised by its remote location, and the way you reach it.

After half-an-hour, the bus started back. The tide had turned, and was rapidly going out, so the ferry couldn’t tie up at the quay as before. The man pulled it as close to the shore as he could, then helped people in, using his booted foot as a step! The sisters gave me a lift again, and when I got back to the hostel, it was like reaching home when I went into the dorm and saw my rucksack by the bed.

HS2, A High Speed Way to Waste Money

09/06/2013

A National Audit Office report has sharply criticised the government’s case for the High Speed 2 rail line. The government persists with the fiction that for business passengers, travelling time is dead time, they don’t work on trains. This is demonstrably wrong as travelling on any longer distance train in the peaks will show. Why else have train companies provided power points and wifi on their services?

It seems the expected economic benefits have been wildly exaggerated. It is, apparently, supposed to regenerate the economies of the north of England. This seems doubtful as reduced journey times to London will ensure that London sucks ever more benefit to itself. How much benefit will really go the other way? Line speed increases on the existing network in BR days led to longer and longer distance commuting. This served to sharply increase house prices beyond the reach of many.

The line will also bypass several large towns and cities so will not benefit them at all. While despoiling their environments. Since one of the arguments for HS2 is to free up capacity on the busy West Coast Main Line, it seems highly unlikely that somewhere like Stoke-on-Trent (the eighth poorest area in the country) which currently has two fast and one slow train per hour to London will continue to enjoy this level of service. I can see it becoming like Nuneaton is now: fast trains only in the peaks and only an hourly slow train during the day. Quite how this is supposed to have a regenerative effect is beyond me.

The journey time decreases promised for the Manchester route are modest for such a large investment, around 15-20 minutes and only 10 minutes for Liverpool. This is not really surprising in a country as small and densely populated as ours. Significant reductions are only possible over longer distances with as few stops as possible.

The report also highlights a £3 billion black hole in the project’s finances. Though the Department for Transport was quick to deny this, its record in running the railways hardly inspires confidence. Even before the recent West Coast franchise fiasco, it had taken to micro-managing to such a degree as to hamper operations. We have the scandalous situation where the platforms at Waterloo International remain unused seven years after Eurostar moved to St Pancras, despite the need for extra capacity at Waterloo; there have been numerous occasions where rolling stock has been taken out of use merely to save money, regardless of overcrowding elsewhere. BR would never have allowed valuable assets to go to waste like this.

The much vaunted domestic services over High Speed 1 are only carrying about one third the predicted number of passengers. This is likely to be caused by both the premium fares charged for the service and that St Pancras is not convenient for City workers. I’m sure HS2 fares will also attract a significant mark up. Furthermore, the Birmingham trains will not serve New Street, the city’s main station, but Curzon Street, not connected to the rest of the network. So passengers arriving there will have to walk to New Street if they wish to travel further.

In short, I believe the line to be an ill-thought out vanity project and a monumental waste of money. If it ever gets built, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up as another white elephant. If the government really wants to invest £30 billion in the railways, there are far better things to spend it on than this.

Fifty Years of Beeching

06/05/2013

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Dr Richard Beeching’s report The Reshaping of British Railways. There can’t be many government reports whose author’s name is so widely known. Even those with little or no interest in railways will have heard of Beeching and his axe. Even after fifty years, the report remains controversial.

Before applying any hindsight, let’s put the report into context. By the early 1960s, Britain’s railways were incurring ever mounting losses. An ill-conceived modernisation plan hatched in the 1950s had been botched. Rising car ownership, changing holiday patterns, growing road haulage and the building of motorways, all these caused traffic to haemorrhage from the railways. They came to be regarded as old-fashioned and inefficient. With a sense that “something must be done”, the government appointed Beeching to turn the railway finances around. To be fair to him, he was given a narrow remit, and he stuck to it: railways were a business not a service, so services, lines or stations that lost money would be closed. Social utility was not considered.

The report was dominated by its proposal to close over 5000 miles of railway and over 2500 stations. Before looking at this is in more detail, it must be admitted that the report did have some positives. It recommended that rail freight should adopt containerisation, should confine itself to bulk loads known as block trains, as this is where railways will always be more efficient than roads. He also introduced the concept of the merry-go-round train for moving coal between colliery and power station: bulk trains are loaded and unloaded on the move using specially designed wagons and without the need for large marshalling yards. All three of these practices have survived and are flourishing. He also brought improvements in management practice and financial control.

No one could reasonably argue against such improvements: the railways needed to modernise in order to survive. The same cannot be said for the closure programme. Its contention was that the network had to shrink in order to return to profitability. The effectiveness, or otherwise, of this, has been much debated since. In fact, mass closures were not new: during the 1950s, around 3000 miles of line were closed, and Beeching continued with this policy. A major criticism of the closures is that little or no attempts were made to make them run more cheaply. Such measures as using diesel multiple units, unstaffing stations, automation of signalling and level crossings and so on. Yes, this would have required investment, but if it had been coupled with better marketing, cheap fare deals and trains run at convenient times, things could have been different. In most cases, lines were closed unmodernised, retaining steam operation and the full paraphernalia of a Victorian railway to the end.

As I’ve stated, Beeching did not consider the social utility of any service, nor of the hardship that would be caused by its closure. (This was only allowed for much later, after the 1968 Transport Act, which saw such useful but loss-making services receive subsidies. While welcome, it came too late for many lines). The report promised that trains would be replaced with buses, what has come to be known as bustitution. Most of these replacements stopped within two years because of low usage. In an environment where people were already disposed to use their cars, they were highly unlikely to use a bus that was slower and more inconvenient that the train it had replaced. Beeching also dismissed the idea that a branch line provided feeder traffic for a main line: he believed that people would drive to their nearest railhead. This also turned out to be a nonsense, as if you were already using the car, why not drive the whole way?

Included in the closure programme was the idea of the elimination of duplicate routes. Perhaps there was some sense to this. For example, several of the South Wales valleys had two or more lines running into them, built by separate companies competing for the same traffic. However, there is a bigger picture, arguably missed or ignored by Beeching. If a line is temporarily closed for any reason – repair work, flooding etc – trains can be diverted along a duplicate line. Even in normal running, the second line may serve different towns and can act as a relief to the other line. The famous Settle and Carlisle line and the “Joint” line between Peterborough and Doncaster are good examples of this.

However, is Beeching the true villain here? Yes, he compiled the report, as he had been instructed to do. He proposed, but it was the politicians who implemented. Though commissioned by a Tory government, the bulk of the closures were carried out by Labour, including many that weren’t in the report (e.g. Oxford to Cambridge). This was despite a pledge to halt the programme made when they were in opposition. Political considerations ruled the day: the Central Wales line survived because it ran through several marginal constituencies, while large towns like Mansfield lost their rail service.

I suppose it’s too easy to fall prey to nostalgia and hindsight. The enthusiast in me mourns the loss of so many lines, but it also mourns train types I liked. That goes with the interest, but I can put it aside. I don’t believe it is entirely hindsight to be critical of the report. London suffered from traffic jams even then, yet no one foresaw that the growth in car ownership would cause this problem to spread to other towns and cities. Towns and cities that lost local stations and suburban lines under Beeching. It isn’t just nostalgia either. The railways are today carrying record numbers of passengers, (despite eye-wateringly high fares). How many more could there have been if some of the lines shut by Beeching had survived? That is something we can speculate on until the bovines return to their dwellings. It’s significant, however, that some lines have indeed reopened, and very successfully: Mansfield, Alloa, Bathgate, Ebbw Vale, Aberdare and Larkhall to name a few.

While commendable, these remain exceptions, not the rule. Many lines that could be useful stand little chance of reopening thanks to the failure to protect their alignments. So many have been ploughed up, built on, swallowed by roads etc. Take the Penrith to Keswick line: how useful would that be now?

While some closures were possibly inevitable, I believe the report went too far. It was a short-sighted, short-term solution that lacked true vision and wrongly saw no future for a lot of the network. Its failure to allow for social utility was a grave error, the consequences of which we are still living with.


Nick Cohen: Writing from London

Journalism from London.

The Political Potteries

A Political News and Debating Website for Stoke-on-Trent

leopardpoetry

Poetry around The Potteries

Everywhere Once

An adult's guide to long-term travel