Sunday 8 January 2023

Sinday Variety

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

It was in 1931 that Harry Beck first doodled his idea for a London Underground diagram. It took two whole grinding years to get to publication, The first Beck map appeared in 1933.
It would be fitting, surely, to get the exisiting map tidied and sorted more logically for its 90th Birthday.

Sadly, knowing the astounding speed at which TfL works, if they start now it might just be ready for its 100th Birthday. But don't tell TfL that; it will give them an excuse to pop the idea into a dusty cupboard and forget about it.

Two Darts for £300 Million

Even the world of the Professional "Arrers" Game does not quite get such a large prize pot.

But that is the cost of the Luton Dart.

Back at the beginning of December 2022, The King and his Consort officially opened the Luton Dart. He was fortunate to be given a short ride.; fortunate because after many, many delays, the service may open in time for the Easter rush.

Or it may not.

Luton Airport opened in 1938 but cheap holidays to the Mediterranean sun (and elsewhere) brought about a massive expansion. But it took until 1999 for it to get a railway station - and, even then, not a good one.

The railway (Midland main line) was down in a valley and the airport was on top of a hill. 

Parkway station is top left in the Google Earth shot above. The airport terminal is out of shot, upper right; about 40 metres higher!

So the station was not AT the airport. As part of the plan, a frequent (every 10 mins) shuttle bus was provided. Bendy vehicles were allocated ...

... but rarely (if ever) was their capacity needed.

But a common or garden bus was simply not good enough for "Luton Rising" (the natty name for the airport's owning company). So they are spending vast sums of money on a tram?, on a train?; on a funicular railway?.

Needless to say the Dart is running late as well as horrendously over-budget.

It will be fully automatic and is cable hauled.
The Airport management tells us that it wants to get cars off the road and this is a key feature of that cunning plan.

Well it might be, except for the fare. Price for a short automatic cable drawn hop ...

... £4.90

The other problem with the railway station is that only Thameslink trains stop there; so not good for passengers from the blighted north who will have to change twice to get to the departure lounge.

Will this expensive Dart reduce car usage? Or is it more of a vanity project. Gatport Airwick has lots of trains. Heathrow has lots of trains (but no really useful ones from wider afield), Stansted has trains from loadsa places.

So the Dart is the best Luton Rising could do.

In case you wondered it is Direct Air Rail Transit!

Old fogeys travel FREE with their pass, but when it opens, fbb reckons it's a very long way to go for a sample 1.3 mile single ride. So he probably won't. fbb will let youngsters like Mr French do the travelling!

Bring Back British Rail!

But, be careful what you wish for.

In a lengthy but thought provoking blog on Saturday passim, Roger French appeared at first to be advocating a return to state-owned British Railways. As the "Great" Shapps plan is now dead in the water (but with hundreds of staff working on the "transition" to GBR!!!), Roger wonders "what's going on"?

In essence Roger wants to see Britains Railways run by railwaymen, not Ministers or dark and mysterious "suits" from the treasury. He wants to see fares reform NOW and a clear set of policies for growth and development.

And so say all of us.

But whatever structure you contemplate, it is oh so hard to see how BR/GBR/NR/Trains R Us could be disentangled from the dead hand of the Treasury.

Maybe an independent corporation like the BBC could do the trick. But even there the purse strings are still held (and often tightened!) by the Jim Hackers of this world acting as puppets for the much more powerful Sir Humphreys.

But look at the next two news extracts.

Gibb Is Going!

Note the phrase "political interference!!"

As Are The Trendy 769s

It seemed a good plan at the time. Porterbrook would modify old class 319 electric trains to allow them to run on overhead string, third rail and a battery/diesel combination. GWR would use them in the Thames Valley and on the run to Gatport Airwick and the diesels so released would move to the west where they would improve and enhance services.

Hoo jolly ray!

But the 769s don't work very well and GWR is sending them all back to the makers. So the diesels will stay in the Thames Valley etc and, as for the West Country ...


It really doesn't matter, the moles tell us, as GWR has been told by the Department For Transport (DaFT) to reduce drastically its services from May 2023.

Green agenda? What green agenda?

So, railway pundits - be very careful what you wish for.

One Piece of Good News

Soon to be joining the ranks of Great Railway Heritage as above at Knaresborough ...

A railway station has won a major national award after some of its disused buildings were transformed into stunning modern community facilities. 

Knaresborough station, which is managed by Northern, has seen investment recently that has resulted in a new tearoom, antiques store, a picture-framing business and a contemporary gin and real ale bar. 

The National Railway Heritage Awards recognise, acknowledge and reward, for the public benefit, the very best in restoration, conservation and re-use of historic railway infrastructure. 

... is another piece of glorious railway architecture, loved by us all.
Have you spotted the daft paragraph. fbb does not think that "the work of handling eight million passengers (at New Street) has ceased as of last month".

Any guesses as to what its repurposed purpose might be. A boutique hotel would be lovely!

For trainspotters.

Puzzle Picture
Where is it? fbb visited it on the day Margaret Thatcher resigned, but it wasn't pink then. No prizes are awarded to regular readers of blogs by Roger French!

Or his chum, Ray Stenning.

Answer tomorrow.

 Next Variety blog : Monday 9th Januart 


  1. The bendy buses at Luton are most definitely needed! Complete standing loads most of the time!

  2. The magnificent architectural building pictured is the Warsash Ferry shelter of the Hamble - Warsash Ferry (aka Pink Ferry when I visited, which was itself a few years ago, but certainly long after Mrs T. stepped down!)