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Lancashire Loominary No. 1

The Lancashire Loominary

www. lancashireloominary.co.uk
An occasional update from Lancashire Loominary 

No. 1   August 11th 2020

Hello, this is an update about publications and events at Lancashire Loominary, my modest little publishing business. It’s about publishing fiction and non-fiction on the history and culture of Lancashire (by which I mean all of it) and its people. It’s not about ‘the great and the good’ but so-called ‘ordinary’ working class people who did extraordinary things. I’ll do this roughly every 4-6 weeks. Let me know if you don’t want to receive it.

The original ‘Lankishire Loominary’ was published by James T. Staton in Bolton in the 1850s and 1860s. The name changed on a fairly regular basis; at one point it was ‘The Bowtun Loominary, Tum Fowt Telegraph Un Lankishire Lookin’ Glass’. But I like the alliteration of Lancashire Loominary and its textile connections. The reason you’re getting this is because you’ve either bought, helped or promoted previous examples of my work and I thought you might be interested in future titles. The coronavirus carry-on meant that the launch of The Works was muted to say the least. But hopefully Moorlands, Memories and Reflections will strike a chord with people in the centenary year of Allen Clarke’s masterpiece, Moorlands and Memories. But it still looks as though ‘public’ launch events will be difficult. Maybe an open-air launch on the top of Winter Hill? (only half joking).

This newsletter complements my Northern Weekly Salvo – here is the latest one: (http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/2020/08/04/northern-weekly-salvo-283/) If you don’t already get it and would like to, please send me an email address.

Moorlands, Memories and Reflections

Coming soon: the next production from Th’Loominary……… 2020 is the centenary of the publication of Allen Clarke’s Moorlands and Memories, sub-titled ‘rambles and rides in the fair places of Steam-Engine Land’. It’s a lovely book, very readable and entertaining, even if he sometimes got his historical facts slightly wrong. It was set in the area which is now described as ‘The West Pennine Moors’ It also included some fascinating accounts of life in Bolton itself in the years between 1870 and the First World War, with accounts of the great engineers’ strike of 1887, the growth of the co-operative movement and the many characters whom Clarke knew as a boy or young man.

My book is a centenary tribute to Clarke’s classic – Moorlands, Memories and Reflections. It isn’t a ‘then and now’ sort of thing though I do make some historical comparisons, and speculate what Clarke would have thought of certain aspects of his beloved Lancashire today. There are 28 chapters, covering locations and subjects which Clarke wrote about in the original book, with a few additions. It includes the Winter Hill rights-of-way battle of 1896 and Darwen’s ‘freeing of the moors’;  a few additional snippets about the Bolton ‘Whitmanites’, handloom-weaving, railway reminiscences, the remarkable story of ‘The Larks of Dean’ and Lancashire’s honourable tradition of supporting refugees (including the much-loved Pedro of Halliwell Road). The story of Lancashire children’s practical support for the locked-out quarryworkers of Snowdonia in 1900-3 is covered in some detail, including the remarkable ‘Teddy Ashton Picnic’ of 1901 in Barrow Bridge, which attracted 10,000 people. It will be profusely illustrated.

It will sell at around £25 depending on final costs for printing. It should be out in mid-October when I’m back from my birthday break on Skye. I will offer a modest discount to previous customers with option of home delivery if within cycling distance of Bolton (which for me is about 7 miles).

Late news…I’m delighted to say that Maxine Peake has written a lovely foreword to the book.

The Works: a tale of love, lust, labour and locomotives

I’ve had a steady flow of orders for The Works, my novel set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail.  I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session. The Morning Star hated it. If you want a copy I can offer it for £10 plus £2.50 postage to those of you on this mailing list. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address). If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

If you’ve already read and hopefully enjoyed The Works it would be great if you could do a short review of it on my facebook page (Lancashire Loominary). Feedback on how it could have been better is also welcome, especially as I’m starting work on the next novel (see below). Here’s a review by Mike Pedler:

 “I enjoyed reading The Works. It is a warm hearted (and counter factual!) tale of how the world-famous Horwich Loco Work is saved from British Rail Engineering’s attempted closure by a workers’ cooperative drawing inspiration from the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders. I enjoyed the descriptions of the local politics and trade union life of the 1970s and ‘80s before and during the Thatcher years. Populated by some admirable Lancastrian characters and underpinned by a strong belief in what working people can endure and achieve, it displays an optimism of the will much needed in our current crises.”

The Works is available in the following outlets – please support them!If you know of any local shop which might like to take my books please let me know. I do a third discount, sale or return.

  • Rivington Village Tea Rooms
  • Justicia Fair Trade Shop, Knowsley Street, Bolton
  • Kev’s Cuts, Halliwell Road, Bolton
  • The Wright Reads, Winter Hey Lane, Horwich
  • Horwich Heritage Centre
  • A Small Good Thing, Church Road Bolton

The Red Bicycle

The next big project after Moorlands is another novel. I’m trying to learn from the experience gained from The Works, including reader feedback. This one will be called The Red Bicycle and is mainly set in Lancashire in the early 1900s – featuring mill life, working on the railway, local socialist politics, the Clarion Cycling Club and ‘everyday life’ – but also having a modern, post-virus aspect too. The narrator, for part of it, is a bicycle. I’m aiming for an early 2021 publication date.

Look out for my features in The Bolton News

The Bolton News runs a local history supplement each Wednesday called ‘Looking Back’. I’ve started doing a regular feature, each fortnight, on different aspects of Bolton life. The last one (July 29th) was on Bolton’s trams (see https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18621143.boltons-first-rate-tram-service-kept-town-move ). The previous feature was on ‘The Colne Papers’, the newspaper train which ran through Bolton in the middle of the night, at great speed. It was also published in The Lancashire Telegraph, here: https://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/18572514.paper-train-brought-news-high-speed-east-lancs/?ref=rss. This Wednesday, August 12th, it’s on the work of T.H. Mawson and his visionary plans for the development of Bolton and its surrounding area.

and in Chartist……

I write a regular column called ‘Points and Crossings’ for Chartist magazine, one of the brightest and most intelligent magazines of the left. A recent column was a critique of Labour’s nationalisation plans for the railways: https://www.chartist.org.uk/labours-british-railways-mark-2-is-a-dead-duck/. The current one has my thoughts on the cycling revival: stillborn or a new lease of life for the bike? Let me know if you’d like a sample copy.

Still in print: previous publications

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘(2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage for previous purchasers of The Works. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.

With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £10.00 including post and packing. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.

Northern Rail Heritage A short introduction to the social history of the North’s railways. Price £6.00. The North ushered in the railway age  with the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 followed by the Liverpool and Manchester in 1830. But too often the story of the people who worked on the railways has been ignored. This booklet outlines the social history of railways in the North. It includes the growth of railways in the 19th century, railways in the two world wars, the general strike and the impact of Beeching.

Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin? The Winter Hill Mass Trespass of 1896. The story of Lancashire’s Winter Hill Trespass of 1896. 10,000 people marched over Winter Hill to reclaim a right of way. Price: £5.00 (not many left). The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932 was by no means the first attempt by working class people to reclaim the countryside. Probably the biggest-ever rights of way struggle took place on the moors above Bolton in 1896, with three successive weekends of huge demonstrations to reclaim a blocked path. Over 12,000 took part in the biggest march. Only a couple left, but the forthcoming Moorlands, Memories and Reflections has quite a lot about it.

Other titles still available:

Socialism with a Northern Accent (Lawrence and Wishart)

This was my take on a progressive Northern regionalism, with a foreword by the much-maligned but admirable guy, John Prescott. Time for a new edition really.

Railpolitik: bringing railways back to communities (Lawrence and Wishart)

This is an overview of railway politics from the early days to semi-monopolies and current arguments for nationalisation, or co-operative ownership?

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Northern Weekly Salvo 283

The Northern Weekly Salvo

Incorporating  Slaithwaite Review of Books, Weekly Notices, Sectional Appendices, Tunnel Gazers’ Gazette and Northern Umbrella. Descendant of Teddy Ashton’s Northern Weekly and Th’Bowtun Loominary.

Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 283 August 4th  2020

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; definitely Northern. Read by the highest and lowest officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats,  pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, sleepy Hungarians, members of the clergy and the toiling masses, generally. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club, Station Buffet Acceleration Council and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

“We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” – Jo Cox, maiden speech in House of Commons, June 3rd 2015

General gossips

Greetings from Locked-Down and Out Bolton. The ‘Lockdown Phase 2’ hasn’t gone down too well here in Trottertown, I have to say. Unsurprisingly, the Far Right has jumped on to the bandwagon and blamed ‘The Asians’  but at least Bolton’s ruling Tory group has had the sense to suspend one of their councillors who posted a blatantly racist rant about BAME communities, the Chinese and whoever else he could think of (including his own Government) to blame. Yes, across parts of the North we’re seeing a rise in the infection rate, though not here at the moment.  Maybe we are all to blame to some extent, following the relaxation of lockdown last month and mixed messages about what’s safe.

I accept that you can’t have too localised lock-down rules and perhaps ‘Greater Manchester’ and parts of Lancashire is the sort of scale you need. The big issue though is consent.  This was imposed on us by a London-centric government which hasn’t much of a clue about anywhere north of Watford and whose handling of the Pandemic has been shambolic.

Tasteful eh? My Ammanford Colliery brick, complete with battery-operated flickering candles. See below ‘What we did on our Welsh holiday’

What trust they did have has been largely squandered through numerous U-turns and the antics of Cummings.  It seems that Andy Burnham was ‘consulted’ about ‘Lockdown 2’ and gave it the OK, but the whole thing highlights how marginalised the North of England is. Compare us (population of over 15 million) with Scotland and Wales, which have got a degree of control over their nations’ destinies. The ‘North’ isn’t a nation (might be a good idea) but is a very large region with a growing sense of identity (discuss). Covid-19 has shown how powerless we are.

One example of the impact of the latest pronunciamento is the effect on local restaurants. The new rules don’t say we can’t go out for a meal, but the effect of the media hype, and lack of detail, has been to scare people into not going out. We had a lovely meal at our favourite Indian (The Lagan, Lostock) last night but there was only a handful of other diners. The manager said they’d been doing well recovering from the lockdown – until last week’s announcements. Empty tables, cancellations – despite all the trouble they, and thousands of other small businesses, have gone to in making sure they are safe. It’s not good and we currently have a toxic mix of general frustration, business set-backs and racist provocation. It’s a big conceptual leap, but the North needs its own accountable and trusted government which could handle crises such as this one with the consent of the people, not arbitrary impositions by a remote bunch of silly billies in London.

Take the train, somewhere, please….

It’s OK to use the train. Official. I’ve made a few journeys in the last couple of weeks, including a pleasant outing to Barrow-in-Furness (see below).

Bolton town centre looking quieter than usual. No beheadings on this weekend

The train was about 10% full, with part sealed off so the conductor could avoid contact with passengers. A trip to Crewe a few days earlier had no such arrangements. Some trains have got seats taped off, others haven’t. All a bit odd and inconsistent. Maybe different depots are determining their own procedures, even if it’s the same company. I’m obviously missing something, maybe friends in Northern will lighten my darkness.

But anyway, punctuality is high and you’ve no trouble finding a seat. Trains are still very, very quiet. Compare my recent trip to Barrow with throngs of motorists heading up the M6 to the Lake District. We’ve a lot of persuading to do if rail is going to make a recovery to patronage levels anywhere near pre-Covid.

It’s going to be particularly hard to get people using the more rural parts of the network, typically those covered by community rail partnerships. Services on some routes were cut completely during the worst of the lockdown, with ‘rail replacement buses’ provided to carry round fresh air. Some routes around England are still suspended with replacement buses provided instead. I can understand the logic but I don’t accept it.

In a different age: crowds join a Carlisle train at Settle

If you’re running a large network with a mix of commuter, long-distance and for want of a better word ‘rural’ services, it will always be the rural services which get chopped first, with staff redeployed to operate ‘busier’ services. Yet the impact on rural communities will be serious, as well as deterring visitors from using the train.

All the arguments which have been made since the mid 90s for locally-managed railways come back to play. We have yet to learn the lessons from the local railways of Germany, Switzerland and other countries where the local train is the top priority, not the bottom one; because that’s their only priority. More on this on the Rail Reform Group website www.railreformgroup.org.uk

Lancashire day out to Ulverston, Barrow and Walney Island

Ulverston and Barrow-in-Furness are Lancashire towns. ‘Lancashire North of the Sands’ to be precise. As with comments above, nobody asked them if they wanted to be part of ‘Cumbria’ back in the 1970s. It would be interesting to see if Barrovians and Ulverstonians still regard themselves as Lancastrians; I suspect many do, just as most Boltonians, Owdhamers, Rochdalians and Wiganers regard themselves as Lancastrian. Ulverston still has its ‘Red Rose Club’ and the Barrow RMT banner proudly displays the red rose. In an age in which we get ‘consulted’ about everything under the sun, the really big decisions about identity, place, whether we go to war – avoid the consultancy game.

Sorry, didn’t mean to go into a rant, I was just going to tell you about my enjoyable day out with Martin Bairstow, the noted railway historian and Yorkshireman. We ‘took train’ to Ulverston, knowing the weather forecast was dire.

A bedraggled Martin Bairstow poses in front of a Blueworks bus in Ulverston

The coastal scenery between Carnforth, Grange and Barrow is always wonderful regardless of the weather. We didn’t have long in Ulverston, about an hour and half to look round and find somewhere to eat. The sit-in facility at The Chippy Bank was closed so we opted for their take-away fish and chips. It was absolutely delicious, though finding somewhere dry to eat proved a challenge. We managed after a fashion and then set off to look round the attractive town. A coffee would be nice, we agreed. Gillam’s Tea Rooms was closed but nearby Poppies on Union Street was open and we got a table. Throwing caution to the wind we went for the scones with jam and cream to go with our coffee. Truly scrumptious. By now, rather bloated, it was time for our ‘express’ bus to Barrow via Roa Island, the X11. The cafe staff knew exactly where to catch it from, top marks again.

Buses in Ulverston tend to shirk the town centre for understandable reasons – the streets are quite narrow – though I think our little minibus would have made it. Service X11 is operated by local company Blueworks whose main business is taxis. The service would, in bygone times, have been a classic ‘tendered’ route funded by the local authority. Sadly, Cumbria County Council don’t do that sort of thing anymore. Instead, the operator runs it for the benefit of the community and gets a bit of help from local people, via ‘Friends of the X112’. Blueworks runs two ‘rural’ routes: ours (X11) from Ulverston to Barrow along the coast road and Roa Island, and the X12 service from Barrow to Coniston, on alternate days.

It’s a good business model for a lightly-used rural bus service. Instead of the vagaries of tendering where a good operator might lose out to a predatory but cheaper large company, you get a degree of continuity and local support. It’s that man again

The former Roa Island Hotel to the right, the station was just beyond

This is community transport par excellence, not something provided ‘for’ you, but a service run with you. The driver was friendly and helpful, offering help with the one other passenger get her bags out of the bus and dropped off at the doorstep. She was also happy to do a photo stop at Roa Island for a picture showing the bus by the site of the old station. Thanks, Blueworks, I will be back to sample your X12. For timetables see https://blueworksph.com/ Friends of the X112 has a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FriendsoftheX112/

We got to Barrow unsure of what to do for the next two hours, having just missed a train back down the coast. Conveniently, we got to a bus stop just as a Stagecoach service announcing ‘West Shore’ hove into view. We correctly assumed this would take us to Walney Island, with time to take the air, now it had stopped raining. The no. 4 service is well used, operating at 15 min intervals, serving the large council estates on the island.

So a grand day out. Gradely even. We got back to Barrow with time to look round the town centre, mourn the passing of Dixon’s Cafe, and head for home on the 15.52 Airport service.

What we did on our Welsh mini-holiday, pubs mostly

It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to go to Wales, but a good one. A very sociable trip, great to catch up with friends Penny, Les and David. It had to be made by car, enabling visits to Aberglasney Gardens and the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, located close to each other in rural Carmarthenshire. We stayed the first night at The Red Lion in Knighton, good to see that Neil is doing OK with the B&B business. Unlike England, pubs and restaurants are, for now, only able to service drinks and food to be enjoyed outside.

Llanwrtyd: The Neuadd Arms on left (looking suitably askew) with HoWL Trail signs in foreground

The Red Lion hasn’t got a beer garden so we had an enjoyable breakfast in our room. We stopped off for coffee/coffi at The Sosban in Llanwrtyd; they were making good use of the riverside gardens. Nice to see the directional signs for the ‘Heart of Wales Line Trail’ and sorry we missed the HoWL Trail Bitter in the Neuadd Arms, which also serves as the Official HQ of the Monster Raving Loony Party.

Both gardens we visited are magnificent though I’d say that Aberglasney has the edge. When I went 15 years ago it was still being restored; it’s amazing what they’ve achieved. That isn’t to say the Botanic Gardens aren’t fabulous, though the site is crying out for a miniature railway to take you round. Between Aberglasney and The Botanic Gardens is Dryslwyn Castle (7018) and its associated railway station.

A case of ‘stop and await instructions’ at Dryslwyn

Much remains, clearly very well looked after by its owner. I mean the station of course. Odd that loco 7018 carried the name ‘Drysllwyn Castle’ with two ‘l’s. A Swindon mistake?

We spent the night at the St Govan’s inn at Bosherston. Another lovely pub trying its best in difficult circumstances. It wasn’t raining and we were able to eat outside. There’s much to see and do around here – we did a circular walk taking in the ‘lily ponds’, Stacpole Quay and the magnificent coastal walk back. It must be done of the best coast walks in the UK.

We then headed north via Pembroke, Neyland and Haverfordwest to the very un-Welsh sounding village of ‘Rosebush’.

Welcome to the Zinc Hotel

Connoisseurs of unusual pubs will know it as the location of Tafarn Sinc, or ‘The Zinc Hotel’, built from corrugated iron sheets. It is by the site of the old station on the loop from Letterston Junction (south of Fishguard) to Clynderwen which closed back in 1937. The pub, which is community-owned, has created a ‘railway garden’ with some track and part of the original platforms.

A long wait for the next train, but who cares? The beer’s good

The semi-covered annex was very handy in the driving rain. Rosebush itself had some of the richest slate quarries in Wales, if not the world, but they were worked out by the 1930s.

From Rosebush we headed across the Preseli Mountains via Newcastle Emlyn to Lampeter where we’d booked in at The Falcondale Hotel. It’s a magnificent mid-Victorian hotel, built in the Italianate style with lovely grounds. The rain had stopped sufficiently to enjoy a meal on the terrace. In the morning we had breakfast in our spacious room which was a real treat. We then headed for home, pausing to look round the fascinating second-hand shop on the outskirts of Lampeter (on the road to Tregarron). I came away with some much-desired crocosmia and also a brick from Amamnford Colliery. You never know what you find in these places. We stopped off at The Boathouse, by Ellesmere, for a cream tea. Excellent scones. So a good few days, for pubs, cream teas, coast walks, gardens and bricks.

Black guards matter: In praise of Asquith

Good to see that the man who challenged BR’s colour bar at Euston is being recognised by the BBC. The family of a black train guard who overturned a racist recruitment policy at Euston railway station in the 1960s has said he has been omitted from history lessons. Asquith Xavier won the right to work at the station in 1966, but received hate mail and death threats. “I think he’s such a positive example, and one we really need at the moment,” his grand-daughter Ms Xavier-Chihota said on the centenary of his birth on 18 July.

Asquith, who lived in Chatham, Kent, worked as a guard at Marylebone Station and in 1966 applied for a promotion at Euston, where guards were paid an extra £10 a week. At the time the station was operating a whites-only recruitment policy, a ban enforced by the local unions and station management. His story made its way to parliament, and the then secretary of state for transport Barbara Castle. As a result of his action, on 15 July 1966 BR announced colour bars at London stations had been scrapped. When he began work he continued to face racist abuse and at times had a police guard. Mr Xavier, who died in 1980, was part of the Windrush generation, moving to England from Dominica after World War Two. “He believed that black people’s lives mattered equally,” Mrs Xavier-Chihota said.

Civic Revival is launched: kindred spirits sought

We were able to participate in last Friday’s launch of ‘Civic Revival’ after we’d found reception up in the Preseli Mountains. It’s the brainchild of Peter Stonham, publisher of Local Transport Today, and is being run by Richard Walker, another good mate who is on secondment from his job at the Department for Transport. Civic Revival’s website tells us:

We believe people across the country are looking to, willing to, and able to take greater responsibility for reviving their local communities. Many are already doing so, inspired by one or more of the five themes we identify above…”   It continues…

At Civic Revival we are seeking to connect these important building blocks, each one of which helps support the others. Together they add up to a framework for empowerment to create places that feel attractive, lively and thriving because they have kept and are using the qualities that make them distinctive, rather than struggling because they have lost them. Read our mission statement in full here.  Civic Revival is based in Hastings, Bolton and London. Meet us here. Across our five themes, we are gathering reports and curating what we find to be useful thinking about the necessary and the possible. Our own views are found at ‘In Our Opinion’. We’d love to meet like minds. See how you can connect with us.”

I like it being based in ‘”Hastings, Bolton and London”, with the capital coming third after Bolton. It’s early days but I think there’s a niche for Civic Revival and I hope Salvo readers will take up the offer to ‘connect’.

A bit more from Civic Revival…People, places and empowerment

For most of us, the places we live and regularly go are part of the structure of our lives.   They are the setting for our own life stories and give us a feeling of belonging, continuity with the past, a set of common experiences and a sense of pride: they form part of our identity.

A small good thing: The Justicia stall at Bolton Station’s Food Festival

In Britain we have a fabulous heritage of thousands of towns, villages, cities, city neighbourhoods and suburbs that are all distinct ‘places’. Each has its own history and character, its own genius loci – spirit of place. In each can be found things that have meaning: telling stories of achievement in the past, or examples of people striving to do well now.  By and large people are proud of their place, and love to see it thrive.  They are also pleased to tell the story of their place, and share it with visitors.

At Civic Revival we are searching for the crucial factors that determine whether a particular place – neighbourhood, town or local area – has the feeling of identity, custody and self-esteem that make it a good place to live in or go to:  the ‘something special’ that distinguishes it from elsewhere.

But instead we find far too many of our places seeming threatened or beaten by an economic system gone malign: some neglected, hollowed out; others actively ruined by greed and soullessness.  Four decades of ‘the wrong kind of globalisation’ have damaged not only our places; they have damaged our sense that we can be active custodians of our own destiny.

This era may now be passing.  At Civic Revival we believe there is an opportunity now to shape the next economic era, and repair that damage.  We believe that action at the local level must be placed centre stage.  Getting places right can be the key to recognising and nurturing people and their aspirations, as well as being a general source of delight.

Bolton station is a good example of civic revival. Just need to get that carpet down and a bit of furniture…

We argue that the worst form of ‘governance’ is when things are done to people. It’s slightly better when they are done for people, although that is not a very good way to support the sharing of responsibility. It’s positive when things are done with people, as that brings a genuine sense of involvement. But it’s best when they are done by people for themselves – which is the empowerment of communities and groups that we call civic activism.

In places across the country exciting things are already happening, and glimpses of a better future can be seen.  But, sadly, they feel like they remain generally the exception, not the rule.  Our mission is to find out more about the good things happening, develop and share understanding of what works and what doesn’t, and do what we can to spread the word of what we call the civic revival.

On this website you’ll find the background and intentions of the group who have come together to do this. We hope that you’ll share our passion and ambition, and connect with us and others of like mind.”

From https://www.civic-revival.org.uk/

Moorlands, Memories and Reflections

No Salvo is complete without an update on my Moorlands, Memories and Reflections. 2020 is the centenary of the publication of Allen Clarke’s Moorlands and Memories, sub-titled ‘rambles and rides in the fair places of Steam-Engine Land’. It’s a lovely book, very readable and entertaining, even if he sometimes gets his historical facts slightly wrong.

Allen Clarke (left) with his mate ‘Owd Tom’ from Wigan, cycling to Wembley in 1924. No sign of lycra there!

It is set in the area which is now described as ‘The West Pennine Moors’ stretching from Bolton to Chorley, Blackburn, Pendle and Rossendale. It also includes some fascinating accounts of life in Bolton itself in the years between 1870 and the First World War, with accounts of the great engineers’ strike of 1887, the growth of the co-operative movement and the many ‘characters’ whom Clarke knew as a boy or young man.

My book is a centenary tribute to Clarke’s classic – Moorlands, Memories and Reflections. It isn’t a ‘then and now’ sort of thing though I do make some historical comparisons, and speculate what Clarke would have thought of certain aspects of his beloved Lancashire today. There are 28 chapters, covering locations and subjects which Clarke wrote about in the original book, with a few additions.

Darwen’s Jubilee Tower, built to celebrate Queen Vic’s Jubilee and ‘free-ing of the moors’, features in the book

It includes the Winter Hill rights-of-way battle of 1896, a few additional snippets about the Bolton ‘Whitmanites’, handloom-weaving, the remarkable story of ‘The Larks of Dean’ and Lancashire’s honourable tradition of supporting refugees. I will publish it as my second ‘Lancashire Loominary’ product and it will also sell at around £25 depending on final costs for printing. It should be out late September/early October.

Little Salvoes

Gondolas of the People: a tram celebration

I’ve started doing a regular feature for The Bolton News’ ‘Looking Back’ feature.

A Farnworth-bound tram at Moses Gate Station

It will cover some of the less well-known aspects of Bolton’s history. Here is the latest piece, telling the story of Bolton’s trams – a fine example of municipal enterprise. The link to the feature is here:

https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18621143.boltons-first-rate-tram-service-kept-town-move/

Bolton’s Community Rail Hub’ takes shape

Nearly, nearly there. The restoration of Bolton station’s upstairs offices and meeting rooms on Platforms 4/5 is nearly complete. Some of the partitions have been taken out to create larger spaces making it feel less cramped. The toilet facilities have been completely renewed as well as kitchen space. The last bit of the jigsaw will be the lift, to make the facility fully accessible. That will go in later this year  – work has already started. It is hoped that the University of Bolton will take on the lease for the space but the use will be for a mix of community, and student purposes, rather than academic.

Garden Railway Phase 3 Complete

The extension of the Heights of Halliwell Garden Railway, also known as GR Phase 3, is complete.

Phase 3 complete, on time and to budget

Trains are running but the hoped-for official launch has been postponed due to Lockdown Phase 2. Phase 1 has been slightly delayed owing to Phase 4 being prioritised, coupled with an unexpected surge of tripe infection at Phase 2b.

Con tha speik Lanky?

Catherine Green is presenting a series of talks for Radio 4 on ‘Dialect’. She now has an online link to ‘Tongue and Talk’: the Dialect Poets’. The first episode – from last year’s Dialect Festival – goes out at 4:30pm on Sunday 16th August and will available for a month on BBC sounds: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000lsv2

Sheep rush for last cheese and onion pie at The Pike Snack Shack

A warmly recommended place to stop for a light snack is The Pike Snack Shack on George’s Lane, on the way up to Rivington Pike. It has been open since March and offers takeaway food and drinks which can be enjoyed from the adjacent benches. You can even see what remains of Horwich Loco Works.

Sheep on the rampage at Rivington, after the last cheese and onion pie at The Pike Snack Shack

On a recent visit our lunch was interrupted by the incursion of about 500 sheep, on their way down from Winter Hill to the nearby farm for their annual trim.

The Works: a tale of love, lust, labour and locomotives

I’ve had a steady flow of orders for The Works, my novel set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – with a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail.  I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session. If you want a copy I can offer it for £10 plus £2.50 postage to Salvo readers. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address). If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Red Bicycle

The next big project after Moorlands is another novel. I’m trying to learn from the experience gained from The Works, including reader feedback. This one will be called The Red Bicycle and is partly set in Bolton in the early 1900s – featuring mill life, working on the railway, local socialist politics, the Clarion Cycling Club and ‘everyday life’ – but also having a modern, post-virus aspect too. The narrator, for part of it, is a bicycle. Flann O’Brien (cf The Third Policeman) would have approved. Probably an early 2021 publication.

James Kay of Turton Tower

Richard Horrocks has written and published an important book on the life and work of James Kay, once resident at Turton Tower. He invented the ‘west spinning process’ for flax in 1825 which enabled the Irish linen industry to take off. His invention enabled very fine linen yarns to be produced by steam-driven machinery. It is comparable in importance to Crompton’s invention of the spinning mule which revolutionised cotton spinning. Kay’s wet spinning process is still the basis of modern linen spinning, mainly concentrated in Russia and China. The price from the author/publisher is £10.00 including 2nd class postage. It can be purchased from Turton Tower for £7.50 when it opens again. Contact arichardhorrocks@hotmail.com; address 10 Easedale Road, Bolton, BL1 5LL.

In Excited Times

Nigel Todd has just re-published a fascinating account of anti-fascist campaigns on Tyneside and Wearside. In Excited Times: The People Against The Blackshirts, first published in 1995, reveals the extensive web of fascist sympathisers that existed in the North-east, the shadowy presence of MI5 and the work of anti-fascist campaigners “for whom the Second World War began long before 1939.” It includes a lot of contemporary material including photographs. He highlights the work of the writer Jack Common, son of a Heaton railwayman, who became editor of The Adelphi arts magazine. But the book has a very strong contemporary relevance. Nigel writes:  “Once more, fascism is virulent in Europe. From gangs of swastika-waving thugs fire-bombing refugee hostels and black families, and on to political parties attracting millions of votes…we again face the elements of a nightmare thought to be dead and buried half a century ago. So, how our predecessors dealt with a similar challenge is surely of more than passing interest?”  Published by Bewick PressTyne and Wear Ant-Fascist Association ISBN-898880-0-1-8

A Lakeland Boyhood

I reviewed David Clarke’s fine autobiography, A Lakeland Boyhood, in the last Salvo. Here’s a reminder that it’s well worth buying. It’s a very important addition to the large corpus of ‘Lakeland’ literature, written by someone who knows and loves the Lakes, but doesn’t have an over-sentimentalised view of what life was really like. Warmly recommended at £12.99 from Hayloft Publishing Ltd.

Yorkshire’s traveller through time

Same goes for Colin Speakman’s latest book –  the biography of a remarkable Yorkshireman, John Phillips (1800-74). A very well written, engaging book which is superbly produced at a highly affordable price.  John Phillips: Yorkshire’s traveller through time is published Gritstone, price £15.

 

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Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events

ALL STILL CAPED…But Bolton City of Sanctuary walk being planned for later this month

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The Salvo Publications List  – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Works (2020) published by Lancashire Loominary. My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £12.99 from Amazon but special rates for Salvo readers buying direct (see above). Also on Kindle £4.99. ISBN 978-0-9559171-6-5

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. There are a few hardback versions left – Normal price £25  – now at £15 with free postage. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.

‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £10.00 including post and packing. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.

‘Northern Rail Heritage’. A short introduction to the social history of the North’s railways. Price £6.00. The North ushered in the railway age  with the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 followed by the Liverpool and Manchester in 1830. But too often the story of the people who worked on the railways has been ignored. This booklet outlines the social history of railways in the North. It includes the growth of railways in the 19th century, railways in the two world wars, the general strike and the impact of Beeching.

Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin? The Winter Hill Mass Trespass of 1896′. The story of Lancashire’s Winter Hill Trespass of 1896. 10,000 people marched over Winter Hill to reclaim a right of way. Price: £5.00 (not many left). The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932 was by no means the first attempt by working class people to reclaim the countryside. Probably the biggest-ever rights of way struggle took place on the moors above Bolton in 1896, with three successive weekends of huge demonstrations to reclaim a blocked path. Over 12,000 took part in the biggest march. The demonstrations were led by a coalition of socialists and radical liberals and Allen Clarke wrote a great song about the events – ‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’?’ Only a couple left, but forthcoming Moorlands, Memories and Reflections has quite a lot about it.

You can probably get a better idea from going to my website: http://www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

 

 

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Northern Weekly Salvo 282

The Northern Weekly Salvo

Incorporating  Slaithwaite Review of Books, Weekly Notices, Sectional Appendices, Tunnel Gazers’ Gazette and Northern Umbrella. Descendant of Teddy Ashton’s Northern Weekly and Th’Bowtun Loominary.

Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 282 July 8th  2020

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; definitely Northern. Read by the highest and lowest officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats,  pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, members of the clergy and the toiling masses. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club and Station Buffet Society, and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

“We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” – Jo Cox, maiden speech in House of Commons, June 3rd 2015

General gossips

Just to keep you on your toes, here is yet another Salvo, a mere couple of weeks since the last. It’s raining, I’ve done enough picture editing and negative scanning for the ‘Moorlands’ book, and there were a few things left over from last time anyway. Some good things happening on the rail front, with progress on work at Bolton station. But some bigger worries about the future for post-pandemic local rail. Politically, it’s hard to disagree with the New Statesman’s overall assessment of the Government’s handling of the pandemic – shambolic. There’s worse to come, with mass unemployment looming. But cheer up, we’ve got Brexit and a strong possibility of a ‘no deal’ departure, to look forward to.

As I said in the last Salvo, most people were inclined to give the Government a chance in the early stages, but they’ve blown it through indecision and muddle. Would Labour have done any better? Maybe, who knows? Looking out from England, the handling of the situation by the Scots, Welsh and Irish (north and south) has been considerably more effective and clear. And that isn’t about party politics, given the widely differing politics of each of those places. As the evidence of failure mounts, it’s no surprise that Johnson is seeking to blame everyone but himself and his Government. So care homes are in the firing line for now. Let’s see who’s next. Somehow, I don’t think most people will wear it. I don’t even think that a lot of Tory MPs will wear it.

On a more positive note, that major infrastructure project – The Halliwell Powerhouse High-Speed Garden Railway Project Phase 3 – is going ahead. Odd that it didn’t figure in Rishi Sunak’s statement but hey ho. Preliminary works are complete and final track-laying and commissioning is going ahead within days. A mere 3 weeks from start to finish. Beat that, China. The project team is open to offers for other work which may become available, at suitably exorbitant rates.

Lastly, I’ve been whiling away my time scanning some old negatives. Most of them were taken in the late 60s through to the early 80s. In a few cases I’d never actually seen them before. Here’s one. It’s of Benny Rothman (right), leader of the 1932 Kinder Scout Trespass with a younger Salvo, on Winter Hill in 1982. We were preparing for the celebration walk of the original 1896 Winter Hill rights of way demonstration which attracted some 10,000 local people.

Paul and Benny descending from Winter Hill, September 1982

Second Age of The Car?

There’s a lot of speculation about what is going to happen to travel patterns in the coming months and years. Some writers are already talking about ‘another Beeching’ being on the cards, which runs the risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. But there are big problems ahead without a doubt. We’ve been told, relentlessly, these past three months not to use public transport. Even now, the messages are unclear.

One of the winners..?

Can we go back to using the train for ordinary ‘non-essential’ trips? I have to say I’ve yet to travel on a bus or train since March 23rd and it doesn’t sound a particularly inviting experience. A lot of people remain nervous about being in crowded public places, as the relatively low numbers going pubbing at the weekend showed. Add to that the news that a few pubs have had to close again because some customers tested positively for the virus, it will deter more people. The winners at present are the car and bike. Yet if the roads become clogged once again (as they are doing) that will deter some of the recent converts to cycling and we’ll be back to square one – the ‘old normal’.

For the longer term, it seems likely that forecasts of a change in working patterns will impact on all forms of transport. More people will work remotely, using the hated ‘zoom’ or ‘teams’. So glad I’m not in regular employment.

Use of rural trains by leisure travellers could grow again

Commuting by any form of transport could drop quite a lot, with the decline most pronounced on public transport. Maybe – and it’s a big ‘maybe’ – leisure travel will not fall as much, which would be good news for less well-used rural lines.

The role of community rail partnerships in helping to promote rail travel, particularly on local, perhaps more rural, lines will be critical in the next year. While there’s a need for strong community-based local promotions, there’s also a need for national marketing initiatives urging people to ‘use your local train’.

There will inevitably be talk of reducing costs. Personally I’d axe HS2 in its entirety and divert the cash into the conventional network and get on with a programme of re-openings and capacity improvements which are still going to be needed. The one benefit of HS2 is to create employment in the construction sector, even if it is in the South. Re-openings, electrification and capacity enhancements in the North would really help to re-balance the country, sooner rather than later. As argued in the last Salvo, we need to look at ways of making rail central to local economic and social development, rather than an added extra. We need real vision and some strong counter-arguments to the doom merchants who see this as an opportunity to get the axe out.

Lord Leverhulme’s Legacy

The debate over pulling down monuments to famous figures seems to have abated, which is perhaps no bad thing. The idea that we should be auditing every statue of ‘great people’ across the country to assess their moral credibility is a crazy way to expend energy. The fact is we are a post-imperial nation and most of ‘the great and the good’ profited from the Empire. Even within the working class, as a certain V.I. Lenin pointed out, there was a ‘labour aristocracy’ that had been bought off by Britain’s imperial prosperity. Yes, you can take it too far and most working class people in 19th century Britain endured lives of poverty. Children worked in the mills and mines, many enduring harsh treatment. There were some benign employers who endorsed the relatively modern idea that treating employees – and the wider community – well, made for ‘good business sense’.

William Hesketh Lever, later ‘Lord Leverhulme’, is held up as one of those enlightened capitalists and his home town of Bolton is not short of public tributes to the chap. Not just one, but two public parks are named after him. Politically, he was a Liberal and supported women’s suffrage.

Yet there was a dark side to him, which shouldn’t crowd out some of the positive things he did, but need to be weighed in the balance. His attempt to turn the Hebridean communities of Lewis and Harris into modern industrialised communities may have sounded worthy, but came up against local people’s unwillingness to change their crofting lifestyle and become a modern industrial ‘proletariat’, or highly-paid wage slaves. Lever might have sold his idea of developing a modern fish processing industry better if he had recognised the people’s fundamental desire for land and the continuation of their crafting way of life. But compromise wasn’t part of Lever’s DNA. He wanted total control.

When he took a group of Harris ‘community leaders’ to see his ‘model’ factory at Port Sunlight one of them described it as ‘a prison’. Even more unsavoury were his activities in the Belgian Congo. His subsidiary company HCB took advantage of the system of ‘forced labour’ which was little short of slavery. There’s a detailed account of the company’s activities, which Lever was by no means unaware of, in Jules Marchal’s Leverhulme’s Ghosts. For his Hebridean adventure, Roger Hutchinson’s The Soap Man should rid anyone of overly tender feelings towards the man. Lever’s activities in the Congo and the Hebrides do show some similarities. He relished power, and the control that went with it. He wanted the African forced labourers, Hebridean crofters, and also his Port Sunlight employees to accept him as their supreme leader.

Reading both Hutchinson and Marchal’s books, he was less interested in amassing a fortune per se, so much as being all-powerful. Of course there is a positive side to Lever, and the people of Bolton benefited more than most from his generosity. The gift of Lever Park to the people of Bolton, and the restoration of the fine Hall’ith’Wood, should go on the positive side of the balance sheet. He could be, on a personal level, a kind man. Allen Clarke mentions Lever visiting his elderly mother in Bolton after his return from Australia, where he had met Clarke’s younger brother in Melbourne. Lever called in at Mrs Clarke’s modest terraced house on Settle Street to tell him of his meeting and wished her well. Clarke responded by penning a dialect poem in his honour, describing his lordship as ‘a gradely mon’.

I’m not at all convinced he was a gradely mon. Complex, contradictory yes. Controlling, and at times ruthless, definitely. But with a streak of generosity too.

Moorlands, Memories and Reflections

Let’s stick with Allen Clarke or ‘Teddy Ashton’, a bit longer. This year is the centenary of the publication of his Moorlands and Memories, sub-titled ‘rambles and rides in the fair places of Steam-Engine Land’. It was published by Tillotson’s, publishers of The Bolton Evening News and other local titles which Clarke wrote for. It’s a lovely book, very readable and entertaining, even if he sometimes gets his historical facts slightly wrong. It is set in the area which is now described as ‘The West Pennine Moors’ stretching from Bolton to Chorley, Blackburn, Pendle and Rossendale. It also includes some fascinating accounts of life in Bolton itself in the years between 1870 and the First World War, with accounts of the great engineers’ strike of 1887, the growth of the co-operative movement and the many ‘characters’ whom Clarke knew as a boy or young man.

The last time the book was reprinted was in 1986, thanks to the efforts of George Kelsall of Littleborough. I did a short introduction to it,which was based on the expanded third edition which he published himself in 1924. We launched it at ‘Teddy Ashton’s Well’ on the moorland road between Belmont and Hoghton, just south of Abbey Village.

Copies of the early editions, and for that matter the 1986 reprint, are difficult to come by. I’m contemplating doing a limited run of say a hundred (an appropriate figure for the centenary) numbered copies with a new introduction. It would probably sell at about £25, hardback. I’d welcome expressions of interest from readers who would be willing to buy a copy. It could work as a ‘subscriber’s edition’, the way many nineteenth century writers got their works funded. So please let me know if you would like to be a ‘subscriber’.

What is a bit more certain is the publication of my own centenary tribute to Clarke’s book, which will be called Moorlands, Memories and Reflections.

Allen Clarke with his mate ‘Owd Tom’ from Wigan, cycling to Wembley in 1924

It isn’t a ‘then and now’ sort of thing though I do make some historical comparisons, and speculate what Clarke would have thought of certain aspects of his beloved Lancashire today. There are 28 chapters, covering locations and subjects which Clarke wrote about in the original book, with a few additions. It includes the Winter Hill rights-of-way battle of 1896, a few additional snippets about the Bolton ‘Whitmanites’, handloom-weaving, the remarkable story of ‘The Larks of Dean’ and Lancashire’s honourable tradition of supporting refugees. I will publish it as my second ‘Lancashire Loominary’ product and it will also sell at around £25 depending on final costs for printing. It should be out late September.

The Colne Papers and The Ghost of Colonel Cut-off

I’ve started doing a regular feature for The Bolton News’ ‘Looking Back’ feature. It will cover some of the less well-known aspects of Bolton’s history. Here is the first piece, telling the story of a little-known but rather important train that ran in the early hours, bringing your daily newspaper from the Manchester presses. I’ve added a bit more detail.

It was the fastest train through Bolton but you weren’t allowed on. It left Victoria at the unearthly time of 3.45, taking newspapers to Bolton, Darwen, Blackburn and the bigger East Lancashire towns through to Nelson and Colne.

It was also the fastest train worked by Bolton footplatemen. The ‘job’ was split in two. A driver and fireman would sign on the previous evening at Crescent Road sheds and work a parcels train to Stockport, then go to the Red Bank carriage sidings to collect the vans. At about 3.30 a.m. the train would drop down to Platform 11 for loading. The men would work the train as far as Bolton and get relieved by another Bolton crew to take the train on to Colne.

Manchester Victoria, in the middle of the night, was another world. A succession of trains took newspapers from the Manchester presses (‘The Other Fleet Street’) to Scotland, Yorkshire and most Lancashire towns.

Platform 11M Manchester Victoria, where the 03.45 Colne was loaded. Bert Welsby inspects his loco 73014 on arrival from Wakefield. ’14 was a regular on the Papers, with Bert driving

Vans displaying the famous national titles –the Daily Mirror, Express, Telegraph and many more – would screech down to the station from Withy Grove and drive at a furious pace along the platform to be sure of getting the papers loaded in time. Methods not approved by the railway rule book would be used to hold back trains from departure if a particular edition was running late.

‘The Colne Papers’ was one of a handful of newspaper trains that had staff on board, sorting out the bundles of papers for each town. The men had to work quickly to get the papers ready for collection at each station, using sharp knives (known as ‘piggies’) to cut the bundles that had come off the press and sort for each town on the route. So the train required not only fast running but also a smooth ride to avoid risk of injury to the sorting staff.

Once the signal for the 3.45 cleared, the guard gave the ‘right away’ and they were off. The timing from Manchester to Bolton was 17 minutes, quicker than any other train on the line. The driver had to run fast after negotiating the complex trackwork coming out of Salford.

I travelled on the footplate on a couple of occasions, going out on the Stockport Parcels the previous evening. On both nights we had a BR ‘Standard’ class 5MT.Bolton inherited a fleet of the handsome locos from the former Western Region sheds in the West Midlands in 1966. Two were in green livery, as we discovered when we started to clean the grime off 73014 and 73026. My first run was with 73026 and Driver George Ashworth, whom I think was a former Bury man who transferred when that shed closed in April 1966. We had a fast but uneventful run to Bolton. On the second occasion the driver was Fred Halliwell with 73040.

73014 with Driver Bert Welsby yet again and Fireman Malc Frost ready to leave Bolton shed

We got away from Victoria in fine style, with Fred saying ‘we were gooin’ fert catch th’pigeons’ with that engine. Unfortunately we came to a halt just before Clifton Junction. It transpired that the signalman had fallen asleep and took several long whistles before the signal cleared. We got to Bolton a few minutes late, to scathing comments from the relief crew.

One of the regular relieving drivers at Bolton was Bert Welsby, otherwise known as ‘Colonel Cut-off’ on account of his military bearing and obsession with locomotive technology, cut-off settings on valve gears in particular. On the ‘Papers’ he would drive like a man possessed, covering the 10 miles from Bolton up to the summit of the line at Walton’s Siding (on a rising gradient of 1 in 72) well within 10 minutes and sometimes nearer seven, so it has been said.

It was usual for the newspaper men to offer ‘free samples’ to the railwaymen on arrival at Bolton and copies were taken back to the shed for distribution in the mess room. On one occasion the ‘perk’ was refused. Tommy Sammon was booked on the first part of the job and he was determined to get to Bolton in record time. According to his fireman, he set off ‘like a bat out of hell’. On arrival at Bolton Tommy went to the van to see the newspaper staff and asked for his free copies. He was met by a burly red-headed Scotsman who told him in no uncertain terms that as long as he drove the train like that, he’d be getting no papers. So that week, Bolton loco shed’s mess room ‘library’ was devoid of its newspaper supply.

In the early 1970s ‘The Colne Papers’ was cut back to Blackburn. All newspaper traffic on British Rail ceased on July 10th 1988; and ‘The Other Fleet Street’ is no more. Maybe if you linger on the lonely windswept moors above Entwistle at around 4.15 in the morning you might hear the ghost of Colonel Cut-off, going hell for leather up the gradient with a ‘Standard 5’.

(thanks to Terry Bowles, Andrew Rosthorn, David Whitehead and Malcolm Frost for help with this)

Bolton’s Community Rail Hub’ takes shape

It has been a long time coming, not helped by Coronavirus, but we are nearly there. The restoration of the upstairs offices and meeting rooms on Bolton’s Platforms 4/5 is nearly complete. The transformation is amazing. We had a socially-distanced conducted tour last week, hosted by Northern and contractors TMT.

Partnership members with colleagues from University of Bolton, Northern and TMT take a look at the near-completed work

A further visit, with Network Rail (who funded most of the work) and Northern is planned next week. When work started there was a total of 11 rooms in what was the former Admin block and in more recent years Northern’s Training Academy. Some of the partitions have been taken out to create larger spaces making it feel less cramped. The toilet facilities have been completely renewed as well as kitchen space. The last bit of the jigsaw will be the lift, to make the facility fully accessible. That will go in later this year (work has already started). It is hoped that the University of Bolton will take on the lease for the space but the use will be for a mix of community, and student purposes, rather than academic.

The Works

I’ve had a steady flow of orders for The Works, my novel set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – with a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail.  I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session. The Bolton News gave it a 3-page spread See https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18396473.horwich-loco-works-inspiration-pauls-debut-novel/  . If you want a copy I can offer it for £10 plus £2.50 postage to Salvo readers. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address. If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

Next projects: The Red Bicycle

The next big project after Moorlands is another novel. I’m trying to learn from the experience gained from The Works, including reader feedback. This one will be called The Red Bicycle and is partly set in Bolton in the early 1900s – featuring mill life, working on the railway, local socialist politics, the Clarion Cycling Club and ‘everyday life’ – but also having a modern, post-virus aspect too. The narrator, for part of it, is a bicycle. Very Flann O’Brien, for those who’ve read The Third Policeman – but with a Lancashire accent. Probably an early 2021 publication.

I’m also working on an update of Socialism with a Northern Accent. It was first published by Lawrence and Wishart in 2012. Not sure quite what shape it will take, yet, but it feels timely.

Festival of Worktown: coming up on July 14th

Come and join in a celebration of ‘Worktown’ – the term used by that weird assortment of folk from ‘down south’ to describe Bolton in the 30s, as the ‘quintessential’ industrial town in their Mass Observation project. Whatever its dodgy origins the name has stuck and the University of Bolton is doing a great job in broadening the ‘Worktown’ theme. They even have a ‘Visiting Professor in Worktown Studies’! What next?

The University of Bolton’s School of the Arts is organising a ‘Festival of Worktown’ on Tuesday July 14th which is free. It covers a big area, and full details are given here: https://wwwboltonschoolofthearts.co.uk/worktown-festival-programme

The programme includes sessions on creative writing, happiness, the original ‘Worktown’ Mass Observation survey, Bolton’s ‘Cotton Queens’ and a piece by me on Allen Clarke and ‘The Factory System’ which he so loathed. To join in you’ll need to be on Zoom…..but apart from that, it costs nowt.

A Lakeland Boyhood

David Clark – Lord Clark of Windermere – is a man of many parts. He grew up in a rural working class community in the South Lakes and went on to become a Labour MP, representing the Colne Valley and South Shields constituencies. These days he sits in the House of Lords as a Labour peer. He is a historian, having a particular fascination for his mysterious predecessor Victor Grayson, elected for the Colne Valley in 1907, on a radical socialist programme. He went on to disappear, after he lost his seat three years later. David’s book outlining the history of socialism in that West Riding textile and farming community is a model of socialist historiography.

So you’d expect his autobiography to be a good read – and you wouldn’t be disappointed. He writes well and at times movingly. The family’s experience of being evicted from their tied cottage was particularly well expressed, showing the contradiction of living in idyllic surroundings but liable to being out on your ear if circumstances changed – which in the case of the Clark family, they did. It’s easy to see how David was receptive to the socialist message of one of his teachers at Windermere Grammar School.

One of the stories in the book that will endear him to some Salvo readers concerns the socially cohesive role of train-spotting. David spent much of his boyhood in Bowness, just a couple of miles down the hill from Windermere. Yet they were worlds apart and there was a strong rivalry between the two places. The one thing that brought local boys together was a shared interest in train spotting, with the Bowness lads cycling up to Windermere to ‘cop’ the more interesting trains of the day, such as the Manchester Club Train (which I can remember as a kid going through Bolton, usually with a Britannia Pacific).

So there’s something in this for everyone. David’s book is a very important addition to the large corpus of ‘Lakeland’ literature, written by someone who knows and loves the Lakes, but doesn’t have an over-sentimentalised view of what life was really like.

Warmly recommended at £12.00 from Hayloft Publishing Ltd (includes postage). To order: Cheques made to D G Clark and sent to: Cherry Trees, Cornbirthwaite Road, Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 1DG. Alternatively pay by direct transfer to D G Clark, Acct no. 19158477, sort code 08-90-06.

Chris Dale

I was saddened to hear of the death of Chris Dale, a tireless campaigner for rail and a thoroughly good guy. He died of a heart attack last week. Chris was a regular ‘feature’ at rail conferences and seminars and was a strong advocate of community rail. He will be sadly missed by very many people. May his onward journey be as fulfilling as this one has been.

Jennifer Nuttall-Wolf

Jennifer was a highly accomplished violinist who started playing the instrument at the age of just seven and went to perform across Europe has died.  She was also a good friend. Professor Jennifer Nuttall-Wolf died in Bolton Royal Hospital, aged 81 on May 23.

She made her first concert appearance at the Whitworth Hall, Manchester in 1956, performing Mozart’s 5th Violin Concerto with Sir John Barbirolli at the age of 16. The great conductor was said to have predicted a wonderful future for the young violinist.  Jennifer learned to play the violin with Martin Milner, future leader of the Hallé Orchestra, at his home in Tonge Moor (Bolton) when she was seven. She went on to win an open scholarship to the Royal Manchester College of Music at the age of 14.

She told friends “I began to play when I was seven years old because I guess I was jealous of my elder brother playing the violin. My music had to compete with my burning interest in horses and show jumping. But my lessons at Danesbury Road with Martin Milner, leader of the Halle, settled it. They were a wonderful family. Martin was most inspiring and Mrs Milner gave me tea before every lesson.”

She went on to perform in Scandinavia, Switzerland and Germany with symphony orchestras, chamber orchestras and on Swedish Radio.  After a 1956 solo performance of Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E for Violin and Orchestra, a critic reported, “Miss Nuttall, who has the youth, skill and spark of unusual emotion to become a leading concert figure, was magically untroubled by the technical demands of the concerto and, best of all, she displayed a beautiful tone, consistent in complete range in the slow movement.”

In 1959, as ‘Soloist Diploma with Distinction’ from the Royal Manchester College of Music she joined Swedish Radio in Stockholm, performing and teaching in the 18th century castle which became the Edsberg Institute of Music.  In Sweden she married her former tutor Endre Wolf, the world-famous Hungarian violinist, whose appointment to the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in 1936 was said to have probably saved him from the German death camps.

Between 1979 and 1983 she was a professor at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo and from 1984 lectured at the State College of Music in the University of Lund.  In 1989, she flew back to Lancashire from Sweden to be welcomed at The Bolton Festival as ‘a daughter of Bolton’ for a solo performance in the Bolton Library Theatre.

Alex Stemp plays excerpts from Sibelius’ Violin Concerto at Jennifer’s burial

Jennifer and Endre frequently played together in later professional careers, often in concerts of works by Bach, Bartók, Sibelius and many others.

She returned to her home town of Bolton not long after the death of her husband Endre in 2011 and lived near Lostock. She had been ill for some time and she passed away peacefully.

Her funeral took place near to her home on the Bolton/Horwich border in private woodland. There are plans to make her grave a publicly-accessible shrine to a hugely talented musician and a very lovely person.

 

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Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events

ALL STILL CAPED…But

One or two things at an early planning stage including Bolton City of Sanctuary ‘railway’ walk on Saturday August 8th, taking in parts of the old Bolton – Bury line and the former canal from Darcy Lever to Farnworth. Look out for further details soon.

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The Salvo Publications List  – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Works (2020) published by Lancashire Loominary. My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £12.99 from Amazon but special rates for Salvo readers buying direct (see above article ‘Delivering The Works’). Also on Kindle £4.99. ISBN 978-0-9559171-6-5

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. There are a few hardback versions left – Normal price £25  – now at £15 with free postage. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.

‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £10.00 including post and packing. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.

‘Northern Rail Heritage’. A short introduction to the social history of the North’s railways. Price £6.00. The North ushered in the railway age  with the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 followed by the Liverpool and Manchester in 1830. But too often the story of the people who worked on the railways has been ignored. This booklet outlines the social history of railways in the North. It includes the growth of railways in the 19th century, railways in the two world wars, the general strike and the impact of Beeching.

Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin? The Winter Hill Mass Trespass of 1896′. The story of Lancashire’s Winter Hill Trespass of 1896. 10,000 people marched over Winter Hill to reclaim a right of way. Price: £5.00 (not many left). The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932 was by no means the first attempt by working class people to reclaim the countryside. Probably the biggest-ever rights of way struggle took place on the moors above Bolton in 1896, with three successive weekends of huge demonstrations to reclaim a blocked path. Over 12,000 took part in the biggest march. The demonstrations were led by a coalition of socialists and radical liberals and Allen Clarke (see above!) wrote a great song about the events – ‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’?’ Only a couple left.

You can probably get a better idea from going to my website: http://www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

Categories
Current News

Northern Weekly Salvo 281

The Northern Weekly Salvo

Incorporating  Slaithwaite Review of Books, Weekly Notices, Sectional Appendices, Tunnel Gazers’ Gazette and Northern Umbrella. Descendant of Teddy Ashton’s Northern Weekly and Th’Bowtun Loominary.

Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 281  June 29th 2020

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; but definitely Northern. Read by the highest (and lowest) officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats,  pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, members of the clergy and the toiling masses. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club and Station Buffet Society, and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

“We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” – Jo Cox, maiden speech in House of Commons, June 3rd 2015

General gossips

June’s nearly over and it would have been the start of ‘Bolton Holidays’ – hence the torrential rain since Saturday. Time was when the mills and factories would be closed for two weeks and it would feel a bit like, well, lockdown I suppose. The streets would be eerily quiet and the newsagents shops would be closed. Enterprising local kids set up stalls on street corners.

Holiday Special: a returning Saturdays-Only Scarborough train at Manchester Victoria 11M, worked on that day (Saturday June 25th 1967) by a Bolton crew. Driver Bert Welsby inspects the damage…

But let’s not wallow in nostalgia (much as I enjoy it). We will certainly look back on the Spring of 2020 with a complex mix of feelings. I have to admit to having had a ‘good’ lockdown, with time to write, walk and ride the bike on quiet roads. I’m conscious of being lucky and privileged, lots of people have not been so fortunate.

Politics has been perhaps more interesting than usual. The sense of ‘giving them a chance’ in the early days of the pandemic has gradually evaporated as it has become clear that opportunities by the Government to limit the spread of the virus were missed. A few days made all the difference. Johnson and his team haven’t handled the situation well, with the possible exception of Sunak who must be on course for being our next Prime Minister. But how will Johnson, Sunak and the rest handle Brexit?  There’s no sign of a common sense approach which might delay the whole thing, or at the very least make a determined effort to get a deal.

Oh well, stick to trains then. But that’s all a mess as well. Government and the transport industry have been all too successful in getting across the message ‘don’t use public transport’. It’s going to take an awfully long time to get back to anywhere near pre-Covid levels of rail and bus travel. Before long there will have to be some imaginative campaigns to entice folk back: locally, regionally and nationally. Making it hard for people to travel (e.g. suggestions that eating food is banned, even on long distance journeys) is not going to help.

Lives matter

I went down to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ event in Bolton a couple of weeks back. Tensions had been raised by suggestions (aided and abetted by the ruling Tory Group on the council) that there was a threat to the war memorial and other statues. Complete nonsense but it gave the far-right an excuse to turn up ‘defending our heritage’ and throw a few bottles at the BLM demonstrators, who were peaceful and restrained.

But something quite exceptional happened. Two young black men from the BLM crowd went across to the far-right group and talked to them.

A powerful image (ABNM Photography/Manchester Evening News)

Hands were shaken. Then after a while it all reverted to name calling and scuffling. But it happened and that gives hope. Those two men who approached the counter-demonstrators were heroes, and it’s that sort of response that is required, not simply vilifying ‘them’ whoever ‘them’ might be. The story was reported in the Manchester Evening News. Most of it is printed below in ‘Mohamed’s Story’.

The police, it must be said, did a good job in stopping any serious violence but it was ugly. A funny way to protect our ‘national heritage’, but at least there were signs of some of the crowd recognising our common humanity.

So yes, ‘black lives matter’ and of course – as the far-right crowd chanted – ‘all lives matter’. In a British context, I don’t think ‘Black Lives Matter’ is the most helpful of campaign messages. Why not go back to Jo Cox and her message of  ‘More in Common’?

Not exactly a rampaging mob: Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Bolton

‘Black Lives Matter’, as a slogan, might well make sense in America where black people endure a quite different society than ours. Yes, there’s racism here (structural as well as individual) and it’s vital that people – white, more than black – speak out against it and stand up to be counted.  But trying to import a particular American model of radical politics into Britain is fraught with dangers and could exacerbate divisions, not heal them. About a hundred years ago some on the British left enthusiastically adopted a particular foreign political import – that time from the young Soviet Union – and in the process divided the left and put back the cause of radical change for generations. Let’s not do it again. There are lots of different political traditions we can learn from, America’s being just one. But don’t slavishly try to copy it. It doesn’t work.

And all this kneeling stuff adds to the sense of being part of a cult, apart from it being rather difficult for people of a certain age to actually do. It’s one thing getting down, another getting back up.

Racism won’t be ended by street confrontations, or by kneeling in the street. What could help reduce it is practical community-based activity where people come together from different communities. Civic pride and a love of your own town and community can be a very unifying force.

A small good thing: The Justicia stall at Bolton Station’s Food Festival, bringing people together

A few years ago that colourful and controversial Labour peer Maurice Glasman outraged liberal opinion by talking to the English Defence League. But he was right. It isn’t an easy thing to do, but of many of the ‘far-right’ crowd in Bolton, and other towns – honestly believed they were there to ‘protect’ their cultural heritage, however problematic it might seem to us on the left. There is a basis to talk. But read on….

Mohamed’s Story

The Manchester Evening News printed this fascinating story about the Bolton BLM demonstration, which I think is at least as significant, if not more so, than the story of the black man who rescused a far-right protestor after being injured in the demonstration in London. ” We found and spoke to Mohamed Ali – the 26-year-old security guard from Bolton who, during a time of division around the world, stopped the fighting and started the talking….Mohamed was born in Sudan and moved over to the UK, aged 18, forced to escape fighting in his home country. After fleeing violence in his early years, he says he wanted to show people that they must respect each other, no matter what. Faced again with conflict right before his eyes at the protest he did exactly that, bringing fiercely-opposing groups together for a moment. Now he shares why he chose to make peace.”

There were people at the protest people trying to fight and trying to make people fight each other, but that is not how we grow,” said Mohamed, who lives in The Haulgh in Bolton. “In Sudan there was a lot of fighting and we saw a lot of people dying. Once you’ve seen that, you have to decide what you are going to do. I want people to come together, that is what was on my heart at the time and that is what I believe.”

Mohamed knew he was throwing himself – arm-first – into a potentially dangerous, unpredictable situation, but felt compelled to show the counter-demonstrators that ‘we are all human’ in a bid to start an educational discussion.

Some people might be thinking, ‘why did that man put himself in a dangerous situation? Why did he shake hands with the opposite side?’ But I didn’t care what was going to happen to me, I was sure and I believed 100 per cent that if I showed them good, they would not hurt me and I would not be in a dangerous situation. I was determined to bring peace.”

Shortly after Mohamed took the lead and bravely walked across Victoria Square, others followed suit. What came after was a spell of reconciliation, when the two sides heard each other out, trading their views and listening meaningfully. He shared what he and the counter-protester were talking about during the moment that was captured by photographers: “The man I shook hands with was saying ‘black lives matter but all lives matter’. I said ‘yes of course, all lives matter, but respect us and what we are here for‘.

We were not protesting to hate other people, we were protesting to bring people together and to show that everyone is equal. Black, brown, white, rich, poor – we all need to understand each other and respect each other. That’s why I had the conversation with the man from the other side, it’s a good place to start.

Mohamed, who is going to become a new dad next month, hopes that both the Black Lives Matter protesters as well as their counterparts went home that day with a new perspective.  He said: “I was trying to show people, especially young lads on both sides, that this protest was for peace and justice, not for fighting. We’re trying to stop fighting and hate, not increase it.

“I didn’t know it was going to happen and I didn’t know people were taking photographs of it, we just started having a conversation. But I appreciate that so many people saw that photo and responded to it. “

Mohamed thinks kindness should be part of the way forward in the battle for equality across the world.

I was thinking about my daughter who is going to be born in July, I don’t want her growing up thinking that being black is bad,” he said. “You can face racist people everywhere, but not everyone is racist. I think if you try to show people kindness that’s how we can start build our lives together. If you can talk to people and make people understand that we are not different, you can change people’s minds. I want to build a better world for the next generation.” (Manchester Evening News, June 16th)

Monuments to remarkably ‘ordinary’ men and women

Monuments do have meaning and in a post-imperial country such as the UK, it’s inevitable that there will be statues to lots of people with questionable pedigrees. I shed no tears for Mr Colston when he took a dip, though the idea of chasing round the country identifying monuments to dodgy blokes that should be pulled down seems a bit daft.

Compston’s Cross on the Rossendale Moors. He was a radical Liberal who did much to promote rights of way and local culture

But it would be good to celebrate people other than great industrialists, so-called philanthropists, statesmen, royalty and warriors. Back in 1987 I wrote a little book called The People’s Monuments which was a record of monuments to ‘ordinary’ men and women across the North-West of England, published by the WEA. It included working-class herbalists (Joseph Evans of Boothstown), the many volunteers who went to fight in the Spanish Civil War, dialect poets (Edwin Waugh on Fo’ Edge and the Rochdale memorial), John Axon (Stockport railwayman) and several more. Jacob Epsein’s ‘Slave Hold’, presented to the people of Bolton for their support for the abolitionist cause, was included.

The new monument to Annie Kenney in Oldham town centre

It’s probably time for a new edition, with some very welcome additions included such as Annie Kenney, the Oldham mill-girl and suffragette, more celebrations of Lancastrians who fought fascism in Spain, and others. I’d very much like to hear from readers of their favourite monuments to so-called ‘ordinary’ people who did extraordinary things (doesn’t have to be in Lancashire either).

Opportunities for Rural Railways

(based on an opinion piece that appeared in The Yorkshire Post)

The coronavirus crisis poses huge challenges for the transport sector as a whole and for the more peripheral parts of the rail network in particular. Passengers have disappeared and some lines serving rural areas have had services temporarily suspended with bus replacements. The trains will come back, but it could take years to return to pre-virus patronage levels. And we will work and play in different ways.

The worst thing that the railway industry could do is to assume things will go ‘back to normal’ and Government will bail them out. There could even be a temptation in some quarters to use the pandemic to ‘do a Beeching’ and close some lines down permanently. Politically difficult but anything could happen.

The Rail Reform Group – an independent think-tank of railway professionals – recently published a series of papers called The Enterprising Railway, looking at opportunities to develop a railway based on ‘the common good’ rather relying on the discredited franchise system which is now effectively dead.

I contributed a paper which set out some ideas for how the more rural parts of the rail network could survive and prosper post-pandemic. The core argument is that railways in rural areas could be at the heart of local sustainable development which responds to people’s yearning for a better quality of life to the one we had pre-virus.

Local railways in the North of England are now operated by Northern Trains Ltd, a wholly-owned government company. Infrastructure is owned and managed by Network Rail, which is also state-owned. However, the ‘Northern Trains’ arrangement is not permanent and the big question is what will come after it.

Northern Trains is now state-owned. A Northern Blackpool – York service with a new class 195 descends Copy Bit on the last day that Arriva held the franchise.

Return to the private sector? Merging into a single, centralised GB Rail which Labour has proposed? Nobody really knows. There’s a vacuum waiting to be filled with creative but deliverable ideas.

The idea of learning from continental railways, where some rural networks are independently owned and managed, has been around for a long time. I delivered a paper at the National Railway Museum in York proposing local management and community control of rural rail networks back in 1992. Whilst the ‘community rail’ movement has grown and prospered, the basic structure of the rail industry hasn’t changed much since privatisation. What ‘community rail partnerships’ have achieved for many rural and semi-rural lines has been better services, improved stations, community awareness – and rising passenger numbers, until now.

It’s time to think how we can build on that success but recognise the realities of how today’s rail industry works.

The Harz Railway is a local government-owned business. A couple of HSB railcars at Eisfelder Talmuhle

Taking lines such as Middlesbrough – Whitby out of the current structure has its attractions but exposes rural lines to huge risks, such as the one we are currently going experiencing. Some of the independent ‘heritage railways’ are facing a very hard time ahead.

But what could work is a combination of greater local management, empowered to do much more than just run trains, with the security of being part of a much bigger network. Add to that a sister community-owned company responsible for marketing and promotion together with ‘complementary’ commercial activities.

In its submission to the Williams Review on the future of the railways, the Rail Reform Group argued for converting franchises – using ‘Northern’ as a pilot – into socially-owned businesses controlled by the community. It’s about applying a more co-operative approach. Government support would continue, but profits would go back into the railways, not to shareholders.

If ‘Northern Trains’ became a social enterprise with representation on its board from passengers, employees, local government and the business community, we’d be on the way to getting a railway that operates ‘for the common good’.

Looking at the rural network, trains should still be operated by Northern through a local business unit which could also take on routine track maintenance.

Busy scene at Settle station, with a northbound service about to depart. Catering is provided by the S&C Development Company

But alongside the operational side why not a development company that could provide ancillary commercial services including feeder bus links, electric and conventional bike hire and have the ability to invest in appropriate complementary activities, including in the hospitality sector? Part of the funding for the development company’s activities could come from share issues from what could be set up as a community co-operative.

This would be a jump from the current ‘community rail partnership’ model. However, this ’community business’ approach is already working with the Settle-Carlisle Railway Development Company, which operates trolley services and runs a station cafe at Skipton. It wants to do more.

The opportunity is there to think bigger, promoting affordable housing close to stations, complementary transport including bus and bike, and encouraging facilities at and around stations (post office, cafe, tourist information, accommodation). Supporting existing businesses to get back on their feet, and invest in new ones, should be part of the remit.

Now is also an opportunity to invest in the network bringing back links which were lost in the 1960s.

The trolley service on the Settle-Carlisle line is run by the Development Company, with friendly and helpful employees

Re-opening Skipton – Colne, Harrogate – Northallerton and York – Beverley and Garsdale – Hawes – Northallerton would provide much-improved connectivity in rural areas. Let’s take Mr Johnson at his word and ‘build, build, build’. Or just  ‘re-build’. (see www.railreformgroup.org.uk)

Across Belmont and Darwen Moors

During the lockdown I’ve been exploring parts of the Lancashire moors that I haven’t trod for many years. In some cases I’ve discovered entirely new places and paths. I’ve been able to justify it (as if any was needed) as part of my research for Moorlands, Memories and Reflections (see below).

Darwen’s Jubilee Tower

A particularly interesting area is that stretch of moorland between Winter Hill, Belmont, Withnell and Darwen. Two hundred years ago much of these moors were covered with coal mines, quarries and even (near Abbey Village) explosives factories. Many of the farms, where families eked out a very sparse living, were demolished when Liverpool Corporation took over much of the moors to develop water supplies for their growing population. You can still find the remains of farms such as Drinkwater’s, Great Hill, Pimm’s and many more – but it helps to have a detailed ordnance survey map. And watch out for sheep feigning injury (see below).

In the 19th century much of the land was out of bounds, with landowner’s ‘rights’ rigorously and sometimes violently enforced by teams of gamekeepers. The people of Darwen won their fight for access to the moors after a struggle lasting twenty years. Jubilee Tower (love it or hate it) was built partly to celebrate Victoria’s Golden Jubilee but also to mark the ‘freeing of the moors’. The same weekend that the Darreners celebrated their Victoria, in September 1896, people in Bolton were marching up Winter Hill in their thousands to reclaim a right of way that had been taken off them by the landowner, Colonel Ainsworth.

The Peak and Northern Footpath Society has done a great job in signing rights of way

Their fight, in the short term, was lost but today we are able to enjoy the lovely moorland scenery without being seen off by gamekeepers. A small monument celebrates that fight, along Coalpit Road where the disputed road to Winter Hill branches off to the right, as you come up from Bolton.

Beware of static sheep

One of the wetter walks across the moors was a mid-week wander from Tockholes to Hollinshead Hall (rems of) and over Great Hill to Drinkwater’s (rems of). We took the route taken by members of Bolton Labour Church on a walk in 1903. The family group of around 50 took the train to Darwen where they were met by more fellow socialists and then headed up Bold Venture Park and on to the recently-completed Jubilee Tower. They meandered down to Hollinshead Hall past ‘Owd Aggie’s’ and had a picnic amidst the ruins of the old hall. The old well house, which still survives, made for a good wishing well. They then set off across Great Hill and stopped at Drinkwater’s Farm where they were offered cups of milk from the farm.

Sheep at Drinkwater’s (rems of)

The party continued down through White Coppice and on to Chorley, where they caught the train back to Bolton. They were probably taking advantage of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway’s ‘special offers’ allowing parties to travel out and back on different routes.

Of course none of this counts as ‘essential travel’ so we parked the car at Roddlesworth and walked. Near the ruins of Great Hill Farm it started to rain, quite heavily. Along the path we came across a sheep in what seemed a rather uncomfortable position. It was lying on its back, wedged into a narrow part of the path. It wasn’t showing much sign of life and it it looked like we had a dead sheep on our hands, or one very close to being.

A quite healthy-looking sheep, Great Hill

A brief debate led to a decision to call the Lancashire Constabulary. We were within a few yards of their domain and they were probably more likely to be interested than their more ‘urban’ Greater Manchester colleagues. Reception wasn’t good but I managed to get through to someone in Preston. I explained that the sheep seemed badly injured and unable to move. I offered the police officer details of our location, explaining that although it was shown as ‘Great Hill Farm’ on the map, it wasn’t actually a farm any longer owing to the probably unnecessary actions of Liverpool Corporation in the 1940s.

At that point I lost phone reception. The officer rang back and we completed our discussion; he promised to try and get someone to come up. At that point the sheep in question began to show more signs of life. It was decided that I should try and wrestle the sheep into an upright position. This wasn’t easy; the sheep was not only soaking wet but also very smelly. But in the end the ill-tempered beast was shifted and immediately hobbled away into the mist. Our diagnosis of it being a seriously injured sheep was clearly wrong. So it seemed as well to ring the Police back to explain that the reported ‘injured sheep’ had experienced a miraculous recovery. I got through to a different person at Constabulary HQ who was similarly helpful, and thanked me for updating them on the situation. We had performed our civic duty and the sheep would live to fight another day and con some other gullible walkers. And did we get any thanks from the sheep? Not a word.

A century of Moorlands and Memories

Progress on my next book – Moorlands, Memories and Reflections – is coming along well and should be with the printer in a couple of weeks. It is a celebration of Lancashire writer Allen Clarke’s  book, Moorlands and Memories, published in 1920. As the title suggests, it is more than a book about ‘the moorlands’. The memories go back to his childhood and upbringing in mid-Victorian Bolton. It is an intensely personal account, speaking of people he knew and loved. It is a truly remarkable collection of anecdote, history, literature, philosophy and fine descriptions of Lancashire scenery.

The book introduced me to some forgotten aspects of Bolton’s political and cultural history: the Winter Hill ‘Trespass’ of 1896 and the remarkable story of Bolton’s links with Walt Whitman.

Moorlands, Memories and Reflections is a conversation with Allen Clarke about places which we both love. Cycling and walking is at the heart of both books, and places like Entwtistle, Rossendale, Anglezarke and Pendle. It features the Winter Hill ‘Trespass’ of 1896, Lord Leverhulme, The remarkable ‘Larks of Dean’ singers and musicians, Edwin Waugh’s Well and Bolton’s links to Walt Whitman. It includes a chapter on the great ‘Barrow Bridge Picnic’ of 1901 in support of the locked-out Bethesda quarrymen. The new book will be hard cover and well illustrated, probably selling at about £25.

It would be good to get the original Moorlands and Memories re-printed, but depends on costs. I’m looking round for a suitable sponsor, so suggestions are very welcome. The last re-print was done in 1986, in a joint venture between myself and George Kelsall of Littleborough.

The Works

I’ve had a steady flow of orders for The Works, my novel set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – with a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail.  I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session. The Bolton News gave it a 3-page spread See https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18396473.horwich-loco-works-inspiration-pauls-debut-novel/  . The response has been generally very positive, apart from a rather sour review in The Morning Star. Can’t win ‘em all.

If you want a copy I can offer it for £10 plus £2.50 postage to Salvo readers. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address. If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

Next projects: The Red Bicycle

The next big project after Moorlands is another novel. I’m trying to learn from the experience gained from The Works, including reader feedback. This one will be called The Red Bicycle and is partly set in Bolton in the early 1900s – featuring mill life, working on the railway, local socialist politics, the Clarion Cycling Club and ‘everyday life’ – but also having a modern, post-virus aspect too. The narrator, for part of it, is a bicycle. Very Flann O’Brien, for those who’ve read The Third Policeman – but with a Lancashire accent. Probably an early 2021 publication.

I’m also working on an update of Socialism with a Northern Accent. It was first published by Lawrence and Wishart in 2012. Not sure quite what shape it will take, yet, but it feels timely.

Bolton Station Refurbishment: Job Done!

Work on the upstairs area along Bolton’s Platform 4/5 is virtually complete. This week, a small, socially-distanced, group of partnership members are being given an escorted tour by colleagues from Northern and contractors TMT. The job has been challenging, with rot found in some of the roof timbers.

How it was: a last look round the upstairs room in January before major renovation works commenced to transform the space into a community hub

But we got there in the end. Many thanks to Network Rail, Northern and conrtactors TMT. All we need now is to get the lease signed and start doing things….Look out for photos and updates on our twitter feed @bslcrp

Bolton Station Community Partnership’s walks with Bolton City of Sanctuary are having a cautious re-launch. On Saturday August 8th, together with Friends of the Bolton and Bury Canal, we’re doing a walk from Bolton towards Darcy Lever and on to Farnworth. Details will be announced shortly. It should be about 4-5 miles.

Bolton Station Community Partnership is launching a poetry competition. Successful entries will adorn different parts of Bolton station, and there are junior and adult sections. The theme of the competition is ‘The Journey’. The ‘over 25’ competition is now open for submissions with a closing date of August 31st 2020. The ‘under 25’ competition will be open from September 1st with a deadline of November 30th.

There are two age categories for the under 25 competition – under 16 and 16 -24. Entry will be limited to children, young people and young adults under 25 who are past and present Bolton Borough residents.

To read the full submission guidelines please click on the link below –

https://www.boltoncommunityrail.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Poetry-from-the-Platforms-Submission-guidance.pdf

Yorkshire’s traveller through time

Colin Speakman’s latest book is a biography of a remarkable Yorkshireman, John Phillips (1800-74). He arrived in Yorkshire in 1819 as a penniless youth with is uncle, the geologist William ‘Strata’ Smith. Phillips was a man of many parts, becoming a skilled cartographer and geologist. He was secretary of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society and first Keeper of the Yorkshire Museum.  He became the first secretary of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, launched in York in 1831. He also liked railways and produced one of the very first railway guidebooks, Railway Excursions by the North Eastern Railway in 1853. It was a popular guide to scenic routes which included the Whitby to Malton line, much of which now forms part of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

Colin does his subject justice; it’s a very well written, engaging book which is superbly produced at a highly affordable price. Colin tells us that “John Phillips was one of the pioneering interpreters of the Yorkshire landscape, especially of the northern, western and eastern parts of the county. As an energetic rambler, few writers before or since have covered so many miles on foot, or had such an intimate yet scientific knowledge of the Yorkshire Coast, Moors, Dales and Wolds. Few have written about these areas with such eloquence combined with a scientific understanding.”

John Phillips: Yorkshire’s traveller through time is published Gritstone, price £15.

 

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Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events

MOST STILL CAPED

Saturday August 8th: Bolton City of Sanctuary Walk…details to follow

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The Salvo Publications List  – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Works (2020) published by Lancashire Loominary. My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £12.99 from Amazon but special rates for Salvo readers buying direct (see above article ‘Delivering The Works’). Also on Kindle £4.99. ISBN 978-0-9559171-6-5

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.

‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £10.00 including post and packing. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.

‘Northern Rail Heritage’. A short introduction to the social history of the North’s railways. Price £6.00. The North ushered in the railway age  with the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 followed by the Liverpool and Manchester in 1830. But too often the story of the people who worked on the railways has been ignored. This booklet outlines the social history of railways in the North. It includes the growth of railways in the 19th century, railways in the two world wars, the general strike and the impact of Beeching.

Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin? The Winter Hill Mass Trespass of 1896′. The story of Lancashire’s Winter Hill Trespass of 1896. 10,000 people marched over Winter Hill to reclaim a right of way. Price: £5.00 (not many left). The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932 was by no means the first attempt by working class people to reclaim the countryside. Probably the biggest-ever rights of way struggle took place on the moors above Bolton in 1896, with three successive weekends of huge demonstrations to reclaim a blocked path. Over 12,000 took part in the biggest march. The demonstrations were led by a coalition of socialists and radical liberals and Allen Clarke (see above!) wrote a great song about the events – ‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’?’ Only a couple left.

You can probably get a better idea from going to my website: http://www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

 

 

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Northern Weekly Salvo 280

The Northern Weekly Salvo 280

Incorporating  Slaithwaite Review of Books, Weekly Notices, Sectional Appendices, Tunnel Gazers’ Gazette and Northern Umbrella. Descendant of Teddy Ashton’s Northern Weekly and Th’Bowtun Loominary.

Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 280  June 3rd 2020

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; but definitely Northern. Read by the highest (and lowest) officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats,  pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, members of the clergy and the toiling masses. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club and Station Buffet Society, and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

“We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” – Jo Cox, maiden speech in House of Commons, June 3rd 2015

General gossips

Well, that’s May gone…and a very May-like month it was, in some ways. Except that it didn’t rain, you couldn’t go out much, and trains and buses were out of bounds to most of us. At least I was able to get out on the bike, quite a lot too; and the garden is looking good. I’ve been working on my next production – a centenary celebration of Allen Clarke’s Lancashire classic, Moorlands and Memories. More on that below, but hoping for September publication. Meanwhile, sales of the novel (The Works) are fairly steady, and I’m hoping to do a couple of ‘real’ events later this summer.

I’m reluctant to enter into the political fray, but oh – go on then. Dominic Cummings is obviously an easy target. I wonder if Johnson is regretting employing him? I suspect not. My impression of DC is that he is brilliant at organising campaigns but running a country isn’t part of his, or Johnson’s, skill set. Maybe we’ll end up with Rishi Sunak as PM, which wouldn’t be a bad thing. Typical of the Tories to have the first female PM and probably the first Asian as leader of the country. That is if there is a ‘country’ left to lead in the next few years. Scotland’s moves towards independence have been given a big push by the last two months, but more on that later.

As for Labour, Starmer seems to be doing a competent job, but is that enough? Not an easy time for him to be taking on the job I admit, but – and it’s a big but – it’s an opportunity to develop some new and radical policies that can capture the popular imagination. That means ditching much of the last few years’ thinking, not least the ridiculous ‘rail policy’ launched in April by the outgoing transport secretary. So far, we are not seeing much more than platitudes. And I wish Annelise Dodds (shadow chancellor in case you haven’t noticed) would get some media training, her performance on TV is embarrassing. She might have some good ideas, but so far it’s not at all obvious. The beacons of sanity in all this are Nicola Sturgeon, Caroline Lucas and Adam Price. Andy Burnham purports to ‘speak for the North’ but the reality is that nobody does, and that’s our problem. 

A gentle cycling revolution

Anyone involved in public transport, whether as an operator, planner or policy-maker, ought to be extremely worried at the moment. After spending several weeks of being told not to use trains or buses, the likelihood of people returning to public transport in the volumes we were used to, for a long time to come, seem small. Various studies have been done reflecting people’s current attitudes and likelihood to use trains or buses, but the reality is that nobody knows what is going to happen, until it does. What I, or you, might tell a market researcher now could turn out very different, post-pandemic. It isn’t just that we’ve got out of the habit of using trains or buses (I haven’t been on either for over two months now), people will also be scared of using public transport because of continuing fears of infection. We can fulminate about the rights and wrongs of this, but that’s how a lot of people will think, and act.

The winners will be the car, home-working and – the bicycle. As far as transport goes, the bicycle revolution is the one heartening thing, as far as transport goes, to emerge from all this. It’s become a  cliché to talk of people getting the old bike out of the shed, giving it a bit of oil and pottering around the streets, or further afield. Bike shops have done a roaring trade and I’ve heard of several local cycle shops being virtually cleared out. I’m surprised that no fruit-cake has suggested the Chinese orchestrated the pandemic to increase their bike sales. Or maybe Halfords.

But will that bike just go back into the shed in a few weeks’ time? Some might, but others will stay in operation. Why so confident? Two things really. Getting into cycling involves two big leaps – physical and mental. Riding a bike for the first few days can be uncomfortable, but it steadily gets better. Your bum will stop aching after a while. At the same time, starting to ride a bike needs confidence, which you only get through practice. If you were starting from fresh, or after a long gap of not cycling, it will take a few weeks of regular cycling (depending I suppose on age and general fitness) to have the confidence and physical well-being to cycle around towns and cities.

But it isn’t just an individual thing – you need to have the right infrastructure in place to really encourage the growth of cycling. In the UK, London is way ahead, but Greater Manchester is starting to do the right things. There’s a whole package of measures that are needed including reduced road space for cars, dedicated cycle lanes, car-free streets and wider spaces, as well as places where you can safely leave your bike. There needs to be a concerted effort to change car drivers’ thinking as well, which is currently characterised by animosity at worst, though usually just a lack of awareness.

There needs to be teams of people in local government working with employers, schools, colleges and universities to promote cycling. Rail stations should develop as cycling hubs, not just with space to leave your bike, but to have it serviced, buy accessories or rent a bike. New development – housing, industrial or commercial – should put cycling to the forefront, instead of ignoring it in favour of the car. And let’s not be sniffy about the electric bike! Or, to be more accurate, ‘power-assisted’ bikes; you still have to pedal. I had the perspicacity to buy one in early February and it really has changed my life. There should be battery charging points in workplaces and railway stations, as well as hire facilities at stations.

Three months ago this would have been dismissed as pie-in-the-sky. Now it’s starting to happen, with government money to back it up.

Who will speak – and act – for The North?

The last three months have emphasised the complexity of this ‘United Kingdom’, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland diverging in some quite significant ways from the approach/es adopted by the Johnson Government. It’s easy for England-based politicos to dismiss this as political posturing, but nobody could accuse the Stormont Government of wanting to make life hard for poor Boris. The reality is, the devolved nations (whether you can call ‘Northern Ireland a ‘nation’ is a moot point so let’s leave that for now), have had their own specific issues which were not being addressed by Westminster. But what about the North of England? The impact of the coronavirus has been far from uniform across England, yet English towns and cities have been expected to adopt identical policies to those that suit London. So schools are being told to go back in towns like Middlesbrough and Barrow where there is still a high risk of infection. Andy Burnham has fulminated about ‘one size fits all’ approaches but the reality is that The North (editors please note the capital ‘N’) has its own interests, alongside the devolved nations.

Strong regional government could invest in new industries and make better use of our mill heritage

But there is no democratic ‘Northern’ voice and Andy Burnham, at best, only speaks for ‘Greater Manchester’ (or ‘Manchester’ as lazy journalists describe it, wrongly).

Maybe I’ve had too much time to think these last few weeks, but every time I pick up The Guardian, Observer, Times, New Statesman and so many other influential magazines and newspapers, it’s glaringly obvious that The North is completely marginalised and patronised by London-based media. We’re just a geographical entity, not even dignified by a capital ‘N’! Compare that with Scotland, which has three ‘national’ newspapers (Scotsman, Herald and The National). It helps having two major cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow, avoiding the country being too heavily skewed towards one or the other (I’m sure Aberdonians and others fulminate against undue power in both).But the fact is, Scotland feels – and is – very different from England; Wales too, perhaps to a lesser extent.

I suspect that the North of England would have responded differently, and suffered less, if it had its own devolved government. We’re a long way from achieving that, but maybe it will be time, post-Covid – to ramp up the campaign for elected regional government for the English regions. To could be a vote-winner for Labour and the Lib Dems, though there seems little enthusiasm amongst Labour ranks at present. And I wonder if the ‘city region’ mayors would see it as a threat to their power base?

A century of Moorlands and Memories

Lancashire writer Allen Clarke produced his finest book, Moorlands and Memories, in 1920.It was based on a series of articles he’d written for The Bolton Journal and Guardian. As the title suggests, it is more than a book about ‘the moorlands’.

Waugh’s Well – Salveson and dfaughters, 1984. The well commemorates the great poet Ewdin Waugh and features in ‘Moorlands and Memories’

The memories go back to his childhood and upbringing in mid-Victorian Bolton. It is an intensely personal account, speaking of people he knew and loved. It is a truly remarkable collection of anecdote, history, literature, philosophy and fine descriptions of Lancashire scenery.

Some of the articles were written when the First World War was still raging. It was published less than two years after the war had ended, leaving millions of dead and even more bereaved families. It casts a shadow across the book, though Clarke is never despondent. His attitude towards ‘the war to end all wars’ is sadness, and at times outrage. There is no glorification of it, nor mindless jingoism.

The book introduced me to some forgotten aspects of Bolton’s political and cultural history: the Winter Hill ‘Trespass’ of 1896 and the remarkable story of Bolton’s links with Walt Whitman.

I’ve written a celebration of the book, called Moorlands, Memories and Reflections, which I’m hoping to publish in September. It isn’t so much a ‘then and now’ book, more of a conversation with Allen Clarke about places which we both love. Cycling and walking is at the heart of both books, and places like Entwtistle, Rossendale, Anglezarke and Pendle. It features the Winter Hill ‘Trespass’ of 1896, Lord Leverhulme, The remarkable ‘Larks of Dean’, Edwin Waugh’s Well and Bolton’s links to Walt Whitman. It includes a chapter on the great ‘Barrow Bridge Picnic’ of 1901 in support of the locked-out Bethesda quarrymen. The new book will be hard cover and well illustrated, probably selling at about £25.

It would be good to get the original Moorlands and Memories re-printed, but depends on costs. I’m looking round for a suitable sponsor, so suggestions are very welcome. The last re-print was done in 1986, in a joint venture between myself and George Kelsall of Littleborough.

Delivering The Works

I’ve had a steady flow of orders for The Works, my new novel set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – with a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail.  I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session! It has been positively reviewed by Anthony Smith of Transport Focus in Rail Professional (https://issuu.com/railpro/docs/april_2020_issuu) and The Bolton News gave it a 3-page spread See https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18396473.horwich-loco-works-inspiration-pauls-debut-novel/

If you want a copy I can offer it for £10 plus £2.50 postage to Salvo readers. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address. If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

Next projects: The Red Bicycle

The other big project is another novel. I’m trying to learn from the experience gained from The Works, including reader feedback. This one will be called The Red Bicycle and is partly set in Bolton in the early 1900s – featuring mill life, working on the railway, local socialist politics, the Clarion Cycling Club and ‘everyday life’ – but also having a modern, post-virus aspect too. The narrator, for part of it, is a bicycle. Very Flann O’Brien, for those who’ve read The Third Policeman – but with a Lancashire accent. Probably an early 2021 publication.

I’m also working on an update of Socialism with a Northern Accent. It was first published by Lawrence and Wishart in 2012. Not sure quite what shape it will take, yet!

Community Rail News: Steph is Bolton and South Lancs’ new Community Rail Officer

Dr Stephanie Dermott has been appointed as the new Community Rail Development Officer for Bolton and South Lancashire Community Rail Partnership and took up the post this week.

The community rail partnership is one of the newest of the rail partnerships in the UK, having been formed last year. It covers the routes from Bolton into Wigan, Manchester, Preston and Bromley Cross. The new post will be about strengthening links between the railway and local communities.

The post is for two years initially and is funded by Northern, with additional contributions from CrossCountry, Avanti West Coast and Bolton at Home. Other key partners in the CRP include the University of Bolton, Transport for Greater Manchester, Network Rail, TransPennine Express and Bolton Council. A growing number of community groups are involved with the CRP’s work. The CRP is part of the national Community Rail Network (formerly Association of Community Rail Partnerships).

Steph was previously employed by Bolton Inter-Faith Council as their co-ordinator. She has worked extensively with Bolton’s diverse communities and has a PhD on Religions and Theology (Faith, Social Cohesion and Socio-Religious Action in Contemporary Britain) from the University of Manchester. Her work at the Inter-Faith Council has been very much around social cohesion and community engagement. She has lots of skills which will transfer very well to the community rail partnership including event organisation such as Holocaust Memorial Day, Faith Trails, seminars, and working with a wide range of stakeholders.

Bolton Community and Voluntary Services (BCVS) worked closely with the rail partnership in the recruitment process and will be the employing body. Bolton Station Community Partnership is a core member of the CRP and focuses on developing Bolton’s large station as a community hub.

Poetry from the Platforms

Bolton Station Community Platform is launching a poetry competition. Successful entries will adorn different parts of Bolton station, and there are junior and adult sections. The theme of the competition is ‘The Journey’. The ‘over 25’ competition is now open for submissions with a closing date of August 31st 2020. The ‘under 25’ competition will be open from September 1st with a deadline of November 30th.

There are two age categories for the under 25 competition – under 16 and 16 -24. Entry will be limited to children, young people and young adults under 25 who are past and present Bolton Borough residents.

The 8 selected winning poets from across all age categories, will have their poems printed and mounted on the pillars of the railway station platforms. 50 poems will be selected to form an anthology – free to all selected poets. There will be an exhibition of illustrated poems from the under 25 category in P5 – the art gallery on Platform 5.

To read the full submission guidelines please click on the link below –

https://www.boltoncommunityrail.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Poetry-from-the-Platforms-Submission-guidance.pdf

The Enterprising Railway and The Elephant on the Line

The Rail Reform Group has just published two complementary sets of papers on rail reform and development. The RRG is a small, informal group of rail professionals with a shared interest in developing new and innovative idea on how to develop our railways. We don’t have a ‘party line’; neither have we any party political axes to grind.

The most recent paper is by David Prescott, a well-known figure in the railway world and one of the key figures in enabling ‘community rail’ to happen in the 1990s. David has written a paper entitled The Elephant on the Line: has the time come for vertical integration? It is here:

See https://railreformgroup.org.uk/elephant-on-the-line-time-for-vertical-integration

It makes a strong case for re-integrating infrastructure and operations and should be required reading by policy makers and planners.

The Enterprising Railway papers are based on talks that were to be given at a seminar in Manchester on March 19th, organised by the Rail Reform Group. The theme was ‘the enterprising railway’ – aiming to look at ways of building a more dynamic, entrepreneurial and customer-led railway that could make a strong contribution to combating climate change.

The Manchester event was cancelled owing to the coronavirus situation. However, we agreed that it would be helpful to the debate about the future of Britain’s railways to publish a series of papers based on what would have been said on March 19th. At a time when ‘business as usual’ is suspended indefinitely and the railways are firmly under government control, now is the time to be looking to the longer term and not assume we will return to doing the same old things in the same old ways.

The full document is available on the Rail Reform Group’s website www.railreformgroup.org.uk

The publication has a foreword from Peter Wilkinson, Managing Director, Passenger Services at the Department for Transport:

“Over the past few weeks I and my colleagues across the Department for Transport have been impressed by how the rail industry, its’ fabulous supply chain and many of the Industry’s key stakeholders have come together to support the country’s efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. In my mind this altruistic, can-do attitude highlights everything good within the rail industry. It’s the willingness of the industry to push itself to evolve, to ask itself the difficult questions which results in exceptional and innovative ways to support and care for its customers, staff and its communities that stands out for me. …..These articles are important as they should prompt everyone across the industry to ask the hard questions of themselves and their organisations. Questions such as ‘Are our customers and our railway communities being cared for in the way we need them to?’ and ‘How can we be better?’ To my mind, asking these questions every day will help create a truly enterprising and inspirational railway.”

Rail Investment for the North and Midlands: NIC Consults

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has been inviting evidence regarding rail investment in the North and Midlands. Several groups including CPRE North-West Branch, Travelwatch North West, Cumbria County Council have submitted responses to the consultation, which has now ended. Issues that stand out across the submissions is the need to invest in the core network to increase capacity and improve connectivity within the North of England and Midlands. Pressing ahead with long-delayed electrification schemes (e.g. Windermere, Bolton – Wigan and extending Merseyrail’s operations) and addressing the fundamental problem of the ‘Castlefield Corridor’ (in fact, the Deansgate – Piccadilly – Stockport Corridor) being crucial. Links to the submissions will be given in the next Salvo.

Whitman Day celebrated in Bolton and New York

May 31st was Walt Whitman’s 201st birthday and the pandemic didn’t prevent a very enjoyable trans-atlantic gathering taking place, by zoom. It was organised by Chris Chilton of Bolton Socialist Club; the club usually organises a walk from Barrow Bridge to Walker Fold and Brian Hey, but this year we had to stay indoors. The zoom event enabled us to be joined by Caitlyn and Cynthia  from the Walt Whitman Birthday Museum on Long Island and Mike and Mary Pat Robertson from New Jersey. Participants read poetry and discussed Bolton’s links with the poet. Meanwhile in New York, under Brooklyn Bridge, Karen and other friends did their annual ‘Whitman Marathon’ reading Whitman’s epic poem Song of Myself.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events

ALL STILL CAPED

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

The Salvo Publications List  – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Works (2020) published by Lancashire Loominary. My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £12.99 from Amazon but special rates for Salvo readers buying direct (see above article ‘Delivering The Works’). Also on Kindle £4.99. ISBN 978-0-9559171-6-5

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. There are a few hardback versions left – Normal price £25  – now at £15 with free postage. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.

‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £10.00 including post and packing. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.

‘Northern Rail Heritage’. A short introduction to the social history of the North’s railways. Price £6.00. The North ushered in the railway age  with the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 followed by the Liverpool and Manchester in 1830. But too often the story of the people who worked on the railways has been ignored. This booklet outlines the social history of railways in the North. It includes the growth of railways in the 19th century, railways in the two world wars, the general strike and the impact of Beeching.

Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin? The Winter Hill Mass Trespass of 1896′. The story of Lancashire’s Winter Hill Trespass of 1896. 10,000 people marched over Winter Hill to reclaim a right of way. Price: £5.00 (not many left). The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932 was by no means the first attempt by working class people to reclaim the countryside. Probably the biggest-ever rights of way struggle took place on the moors above Bolton in 1896, with three successive weekends of huge demonstrations to reclaim a blocked path. Over 12,000 took part in the biggest march. The demonstrations were led by a coalition of socialists and radical liberals and Allen Clarke (see above!) wrote a great song about the events – ‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’?’ Only a couple left.

You can probably get a better idea from going to my website: http://www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

 

 

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Current News Illustrated Weekly Salvo

Northern Weekly Salvo 279

The Northern Weekly Salvo

Incorporating  Slaithwaite Review of Books, Weekly Notices, Sectional Appendices, Tunnel Gazers’ Gazette and Northern Umbrella. Descendant of Teddy Ashton’s Northern Weekly and Th’Bowtun Loominary.

Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 279 May 1st   2020

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; but definitely Northern. Read by the highest (and lowest) officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats,  pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, members of the clergy and the toiling masses. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club and Station Buffet Society, and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

“We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” – Jo Cox, maiden speech in House of Commons, June 3rd 2015

General gossips

A long gap in this supposedly ‘Weekly’ Salvo. It hasn’t been a lack of things to report on, to be honest. I’ve been busy, but busy in different ways than normal. This ‘Salvo’ will be a change from the usual thing but hopefully still have plenty to interest you, especially if you’re locked down and out. Meanwhile, I can only add my thanks and support to NHS staff and all key workers – particularly rail, bus and tram staff – who have been putting their lives at risk on our behalf. Perhaps one good thing to emerge from all this will be a greater recognition of the hard and difficult job these essential workers do, and how shamefully they’ve been ignored and under-valued in the past.

What will the ‘new normal’ look like?

We don’t know, do we? There has been the start of an interesting set of debates on a ‘new politics’, as well as the impact of Covid-19 on transport patterns. Taking transport first, SYSTRA has produced a study which suggests a severe drop in bus use for the first 12 months after relaxation of restrictions, with a lesser – but still significant – reduction in rail travel. It has been suggested that whilst intercity rail will manage OK, and possibly growth with reduced air travel options, commuting journeys will suffer. There is a real possibility that many people will abandon public transport and go back to using their cars. Whilst everyone likes the quiet roads and reduction in pollution levels, what we could well see is an attitude that thinks “my journey is more important than yours and I am entitled to use my car.”

There needs to be strong intervention by government to discourage this. Cities like Milan have taken the initiative to drastically reduce car access to city centres and this will be permanent. Towns and cities in the UK should be looking at this example and seizing the initiative. For rail, operators need to work with governments and local authorities to find ways to encourage people back to the rtains. The ‘community rail’ sector has a big part to play in this. The papers in The Enterprising Railway (see below) offer some ideas for how that might happen.

The big winners in sustainable transport terms ought to be cycling and walking. Many people (self included, he says pompously) haven’t used their cars for weeks and have been out on their bikes for exercise and essential journeys. Much of that should continue – cycling is very much an activity that grows on you by doing it. It’s partly physical but also a mental thing, with greater confidence in traffic. That said, I just wish people out for a walk would look before they cross the road! There’s lots that local authorities, with central government support, can do to build on the sudden upsurge in cycling.

As for politics…we’ve a new leader of the Labour Party who seems set to usher in some changes. Perhaps more in the ‘culture’ of Labour. Corbyn promised a ‘kinder form of politics’ but that never really happened, more like the opposite. I hope that Starmer will take a collaborative approach but not be afraid to challenge and attack when needed. Working positively with other progressive parties and organisations should be a ‘must’. Issues such as voting reform, the green agenda and democratisation should be much further up the agenda. As for Brexit, it really should be the last thing on anyone’s agenda but it looks like Johnson is determined to carry on with it. Oh well, he’s got the numbers.

What I did during my lockdown

I’ve never been so busy. Gone are the meetings, long journeys to and from London, being stuck on over-crowded trains. Instead, lots of time at the computer working on new projects (see below) and promoting ‘The Works’. Work with the community rail partnership, particularly the recruitment of our new officer, which is reported on below. On top of that, Rail Reform Group and publication of its papers on The Enterprising Railway has taken up time. But also I’ve been able to get out and about on foot and bike. I’ve been discovering some lovely footpaths within easy reach of home – around Harwood, Egerton, Belmont and Smithills. I’ve been getting out further afield on the electric bike, which is a Godsend. I’ve sailed up to the top of Winter Hill, meandered around Belmont and Roddlesworth and pedalled through Rivington, Anglezarke and Adlington. I’ve been able to combine it with book deliveries, within a reasonable distance. Yes, I miss social interaction, going to the pub and restaurants and helping out at the station. But the garden is looking very good and I’ve been able to stock up through deliveries from council-run Heaton Fold Garden Centre. So let’s face it, I’m one of the lucky ones.

Delivering The Works

I’ve had a steady flow of orders for The Works, my new novel set mostly in Horwich Loco Works in the 1970s and 1980s, but bringing the tale up to date and beyond – with a fictional story of a workers’ occupation, Labour politics, a ‘people’s franchise’ and Chinese investment in UK rail.  I’ve had lots of good reactions to it, with some people reading it in one session! It has been positively reviewed by Anthony Smith of Transport Focus in Rail Professional (https://issuu.com/railpro/docs/april_2020_issuu) and The Bolton News gave it a 3-page spread See https://www.theboltonnews.co.uk/news/18396473.horwich-loco-works-inspiration-pauls-debut-novel/

If you want a copy I can offer it for £10 plus £2.50 postage to Salvo readers. Please make cheques payable to ‘Paul Salveson’ and post to my Bolton address above or send the money by bank transfer (a/c Dr PS Salveson 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me with your address. If you are local I can do free delivery by e-bike (so just a tenner). There is a kindle version available price £4.99 and you can also buy it off Amazon. See www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

Next projects

This year is the centenary of Allen Clarke’s first edition of Moorlands and Memories. It’s a neglected classic and probably my favourite book. It is a heady mixture of history, culture, landscape and nature, covering the moors north of Bolton (stretching up to the Dales and Pendle). I’m working on a celebration of his book – more in the way of a discursive conversation, picking up particular themes that Clarke loved to talk about. So there’s lots on local heritage and culture, Lancashire industry and transport, cycling and walking, literature, philosophy and life. It started off as a sort of ‘then and now’ but it isn’t really. It should be ready by October. To whet your appetite I’ve put one chapter (‘Over Belmont Moors’) on my website – comments welcome. It will be published by Lancashire Loominary and will be priced round about £20. http://lancashireloominary.co.uk/index.html/over-belmont-moors

The other big project is another novel. I’m trying to learn from the experience gained from The Works, including reader feedback. This one will be called The Red Bicycle and is partly set in Bolton in the early 1900s – featuring mill life, working on the railway, local socialist politics, the Clarion Cycling Club and ‘everyday life’ – but also having a modern, post-virus aspect too. The narrator, for part of it, is a bicycle. Very Flann O’Brien, for those who’ve read The Third Policeman – but with a Lancashire accent. Probably a November publication.

Community Rail News: Steph will be our new Community Rail Officer

Dr Stephanie Dermott has been appointed as the new Community Rail Development Officer for Bolton and South Lancashire Community Rail Partnership. She is expected to take up the post in the next few weeks.

The community rail partnership is one of the newest of the rail partnerships in the UK, having been formed last year. It covers the routes from Bolton into Wigan, Manchester, Preston and Bromley Cross. The new post will be about strengthening links between the railway and local communities.

The post is for two years initially and is funded by Northern, with additional contributions from CrossCountry, Avanti West Coast and Bolton at Home. Other key partners in the CRP include the University of Bolton, Transport for Greater Manchester, Network Rail, TransPennine Express and Bolton Council. A growing number of community groups are involved with the CRP’s work. The CRP is part of the national Community Rail Network (formerly Association of Community Rail Partnerships).

Steph is currently employed by Bolton Inter-Faith Council as their co-ordinator. She has worked extensively with Bolton’s diverse communities and has a PhD on Religions and Theology (Faith, Social Cohesion and Socio-Religious Action in Contemporary Britain) from the University of Manchester. “I am delighted to have been appointed to the position of Community Rail Development Officer. I have always been passionate about community engagement, and I am excited to be involved in helping develop links between the railway and local communities,” she said.

Her work at the Inter-Faith Council has been very much around social cohesion and community engagement. She has lots of skills which will transfer very well to the community rail partnership including event organisation such as Holocaust Memorial Day, Faith Trails, seminars, and working with a wide range of stakeholders.

Bolton Community and Voluntary Services (BCVS) worked closely with the rail partnership in the recruitment process and will be the employing body. Helen Tomlinson of Bolton CVS said: “Bolton CVS was delighted to work with the Bolton and South Lancashire Community Rail Partnership in the recruitment of this new post. This exciting project will ensure the community is at the heart of the development of stations within the partnership, promote engagement in our social and industrial heritage and provide lots of opportunities for people to get involved through volunteering their time and skills.”

Bolton Station Community Partnership is a core member of the CRP and focuses on developing Bolton’s large station as a community hub. Its chair, Julie Levy, welcomed the appointment. “Steph will make a great difference in extending the reach of both partnerships into the wider community. We’re very much looking forward to involving Steph in a wide range of projects including our planned ‘mela’ event next year.”

Lancashire Authors Association: Library set to move; Librarian stays awhoam

The Lancashire Authors Association was formed in November 1909 but it wasn’t until after the First World War had ended when serious thought was given to creating a collection of books on or by Lancashire authors. The association’s Southport meeting, on June 25th 1921, devoted some time to discussing the need for a library. The LAA’s vice-president, Major David Halstead, initiated a discussion on the need to “devote attention to the collection and compilation of historical and literary data”, for the benefit of future historians. His comments were echoed by a Mr. Thomas Phillips of Southport “who urged the Association to form a Library of Lancashire books, pamphlets, etc. written by LAA members and others.” The Executive decided to pursue the library project “with vigour.”

The next full meeting of the association, held at the Railway Mechanics’ Institute, Horwich, on September 17th, formally agreed to establish an L.A.A. Library. R.H. (‘Harry’) Isherwood was elected as Librarian. In Mr Isherwood’s report in The Record for November 1921, he said that the main objects of the library would be:

  1. To provide a collection of the literary and artistic work of L.A.A. members (past, present and prospective) for the interest and inspection of their fellows
  2. To provide a collection of books, prints, cuttings etc., on matters distinctly pertaining to the literary, artistic and historical aspects of Lancashire, whether written by LA members or others.”

He added an appeal for the donation of books and other manuscripts. He said that the LAA Executive Committee was keen to celebrate the works of the classic dialect writers such as Tim Bobbin, Waugh and Brierley, but other writers including Harrison Ainsworth, Mrs Gaskell and Stanley Houghton should also be included.

The library was to be located at the librarian’s home, which was then 29 Greenside Lane, Droysden, literally a few doors’ away from Alf and Edith Pearce, who were at no. 23. Alf was editor of The Record and Edith was ‘editress’ of the association’s Circulating Magazine and the LAA magazine Red Rose Leaves.

By early 1922 the library’s collection comprised over 200 books. This was augmented further buy the donation of 50 books from the late J.T. Baron’s collection. These had been purchased from Baron’s estate by LAA member JW Cryer who then donated them to the library.

Early in 1923 Harry Isherwood moved home, to a larger house called ‘Hulwood’ on Windsor Road, Clayton Bridge. Whether the growing demands of the library meant he needed more space isn’t recorded, but the move certainly enabled him to offer better facilities for visiting members. A regular message in each Record was that members were welcome to visit the library by giving two days’ notice. They could catch a train from ‘Platfrom 9 at Victoria Station’ and alight at Clayton Bridge, from where ‘Hulwood’ was a short walk.

By the following year the library had increased to 350 volumes. Getting a comprehensive catalogue of the collection had become a major challenge but one was issued in May 1923. From then on, the story of the library is one of incremental growth, with donations of books by authors of their own work, and other contributions. The librarian brought a ‘touring library’ to each meeting of the association, using his car.

In December 1927, LAA member TR Dootson donated 50 books from his collection to mark the 80th birthday of the Association’s president, Henry Brierley. The collection had increased to 560 books. By then, the library was referred to as being in a ‘temporary’ home at ‘Hulwood’. Maybe Mrs Isherwood was starting to get a bit fed up at the ever-encroaching collection!

A recurring theme in the librarian’s reports is a slight sense of disappointment at the number of visitors coming to borrow books. In 1927, just 53 visits were made, though books could be borrowed at association meetings or posted to members if they paid for postage costs. The Librarian’s report for 1930 record borrowings down just 23, with an appeal by Harry for more active involvement by the members in the library. At the same time he was able to record a substantial number of donations to the library.

For details of membership of the LAA (you don’t have to be an author but have an interest in Lancashire literature and history) see http://www.lancashireauthorsassociation.co.uk/

The Enterprising Railway

The Rail Reform Group has just published a set of papers on rail reform and development, collectively titled The Enterprising Railway. We are a small, informal group of rail professionals with a shared interest in developing new and innovative idea on how to develop our railways. We don’t have a ‘party line’; neither have we any party political axes to grind.

The papers are based on talks that were to be given at a seminar in Manchester on March 19th, organised by the Rail Reform Group. The theme was ‘the enterprising railway’ – aiming to look at ways of building a more dynamic, entrepreneurial and customer-led railway that could make a strong contribution to combating climate change.

The Manchester event was cancelled owing to the coronavirus situation. However, we agreed that it would be helpful to the debate about the future of Britain’s railways to publish a series of papers based on what would have been said on March 19th. At a time when ‘business as usual’ is suspended indefinitely and the railways are firmly under government control, now is the time to be looking to the longer term and not assume we will return to doing the same old things in the same old ways.

The full document is available here. The publication has a foreword from Peter Wilkinson, Managing Director, Passenger Services at the Department for Transport:

“Over the past few weeks I and my colleagues across the Department for Transport have been impressed by how the rail industry, its’ fabulous supply chain and many of the Industry’s key stakeholders have come together to support the country’s efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. In my mind this altruistic, can-do attitude highlights everything good within the rail industry. It’s the willingness of the industry to push itself to evolve, to ask itself the difficult questions which results in exceptional and innovative ways to support and care for its customers, staff and its communities that stands out for me.

As we look at how the Rail Industry has had to face up to the COVID-19 crisis, we must now capitalise on what we have achieved as we chart our course towards a societally more value-adding horizon. The railways have to evolve to meet the ever changing needs of its passengers whose expectations will almost certainly be different again after this current COVID-19 crisis.

These articles are important as they should prompt everyone across the industry to ask the hard questions of themselves and their organisations. Questions such as ‘Are our customers and our railway communities being cared for in the way we need them to?’ and ‘How can we be better?’ To my mind, asking these questions every day will help create a truly enterprising and inspirational railway.”

The Enterprising Railway

Labour launches its Rail Policy (from Chartist magazine, May 2020)

Labour launched its new rail policy on April 1st. (https://labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/GB_Rail_Labour_Opposition_White_Paper.pdf) The most remarkable thing about the document is its timing, and I don’t mean April Fool’s Day. Four months after a general election and days before the announcement of a new leader seems an odd time to produce a major piece of party policy. Is the document is some sort of ‘last gasp’ of Corbynism? The new shadow transport secretary, Jim McMahon, has not had much to say about this lengthy document, overseen by his predecessor as shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald.

The essence of the approach is that Labour would re-integrate track and train and create a single, UK-wide body to be called GB Rail. For which you might as well just call it ‘British Railways’ and have done with it. There are concessions to devolution, with the creation of ‘devolved transport authorities’ that look awfully like the make-up of 1940s style state corporations in miniature, matching the over-arching governance structure of ‘GB Rail’.

The document makes some legitimate criticisms of the privatised structure introduced by the 1993 Railways Act, which is pretty much a dead letter anyway, with Coronavirus achieving what Corbyn and RMT never could – the effective re-nationalisation of the railways, with existing franchises being run on management contracts with the Department for Transport. This will be an ‘interim’ measure but how long that ‘interim’ might be is an open question.

To return to McDonald Rail, it’s an example of the thinking which, despite protestations of Labour ‘winning the argument’, helped us lose the election. It’s as though the last fifty years never happened. It’s ‘vision’ is far worse than the BR of the 1980s, which encouraged innovation and entrepreneurial drive. Working for ‘GB Rail’ would be a bit like working for an Eastern European railway in the 1950s, with orders despatched from on high by headquarters. Am I being a tad unfair? The proposed ‘Devolved Transport Authorities’ will have some powers but with such things the devil is very much in the detail. They would be overseen by ‘boards’ with allocated seats for the unions, passenger representatives and others. Business or regeneration agencies don’t get a look in. I suspect, if they ever came into existence (they won’t) they will be powerless talking shops.

A particularly bizarre suggesting is to bring rail freight under the control of GB Rail, reflecting the determination of the documents’ authors to leave not one jot of ‘privatised’ railway untouched. Freight transport is a competitive and highly complex business where the existing rail freight operators have had to fight for every tonne of traffic. Handing it over to a government bureaucracy means you can kiss goodbye to a lot of the traffic won for rail these last few years. I’m not sure where the ‘passenger benefit’ is from nationalising rail freight, nor for that matter the wider public interest. But it would make the unions happy.

And this is a very union-driven document. Some readers might welcome that, but where was the engagement with the user and community rail groups that have flourished on Britain’s rail network? The ‘community rail’ movement doesn’t get a mention – presumably such airy-fairy liberal concoctions won’t be needed in this brave new world.

There is an alternative to the privatised railway, which isn’t about going back to the 1950s. The current ‘interim’ nationalised railway offers an opportunity to look at alternatives which can build on rail’s green credentials and compete with road and aviation. ‘Enterprise’ and ‘competition’ are absent from the document yet rail is competing with the car and lorry above all. And Labour can’t nationalise cars and won’t touch road haulage. We need to find ways of making rail, and complementary transport including bus, cycling and rail, attractive options, not ones that you’re forced to make do with. And give incentives to the rail freight companies.

There’s a need for an overall ‘guiding mind’ in rail, but one that is light touch and not heavy-handed. Rail operations need to be close to the market and able to respond flexibly to demands. Track and train need to be re-integrated. There are alternative models available to Labour, for rail and for other sectors, which don’t necessitate a return to post-war ‘austere socialism’. Existing franchises could be converted into mutual enterprises, there for the long-term, with governance models involving users, workers and other stakeholders.

Socialism should not be synonymous with state ownership and control. But we need particular sectors – rail being one – to be run in the interest of ‘the public good’ and not private shareholders. At a time when even major private companies are asking themselves how they can move away from an excessive dependence on narrow profit, there must be an opportunity for the left to intervene with some positive ideas which reflect modern reality.

Labour’s new transport secretary, Jim McMahon, has a reputation for being an open-minded and progressive thinker, having achieved some good things when he led Oldham Council. He should read the ‘McDonald Rail’ document, take on board its criticisms of privatised rail and then bin it. There’s time to create an imaginative Labour transport policy based on engagement with workers, users, local authorities, the wider community and business interests.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events

ALL CAPED

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

The Salvo Publications List  – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Works (2020) published by Lancashire Loominary. My first novel , set in Horwich and Bolton in the 1970s and 1980s but bringing the story up to the present and beyond. Much of the action takes place in Horwich Loco Works and the campaign to save it from closure. In real life, it closed down in 1983. In the novel, after a workers’ occupation it is run as a co-operative, building both steam for heritage railways and modern eco-friendly trains for the world market. Price £12.99 from Amazon but special rates for Salvo readers buying direct. Also on Kindle £4.99. ISBN 978-0-9559171-6-5

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. There are a few hardback versions left – Normal price £25  – now at £15 with free postage. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.

‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £10.00 including post and packing. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.

‘Northern Rail Heritage’. A short introduction to the social history of the North’s railways. Price £6.00. The North ushered in the railway age  with the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 followed by the Liverpool and Manchester in 1830. But too often the story of the people who worked on the railways has been ignored. This booklet outlines the social history of railways in the North. It includes the growth of railways in the 19th century, railways in the two world wars, the general strike and the impact of Beeching.

Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin? The Winter Hill Mass Trespass of 1896′. The story of Lancashire’s Winter Hill Trespass of 1896. 10,000 people marched over Winter Hill to reclaim a right of way. Price: £5.00 (not many left). The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932 was by no means the first attempt by working class people to reclaim the countryside. Probably the biggest-ever rights of way struggle took place on the moors above Bolton in 1896, with three successive weekends of huge demonstrations to reclaim a blocked path. Over 12,000 took part in the biggest march. The demonstrations were led by a coalition of socialists and radical liberals and Allen Clarke (see above!) wrote a great song about the events – ‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’?’ Only a couple left.

You can probably get a better idea from going to my website: http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/little-northern-books-2/

 

 

Categories
Current News

The Enterprising Railway

The Enterprising Railway: 

beyond the current crisis

 

New perspectives from The Rail Reform Group

 

 

 

 

 

Papers by

 

Dr Nicola Forsdike

John Kitchen

Chris Kimberley,

Prof. Paul Salveson

 

Foreword by Peter Wilkinson, Department for Transport

 

 

 

 

May 2020

 

 

 

 

RAIL REFORM GROUP

creating a railway for The Common Good

 

www.railreformgroup.org.uk

The Enterprising Railway: 

beyond the current crisis

 

New perspectives from The Rail Reform Group

 

Introduction

The Rail Reform Group is a small, informal group of rail professionals with a shared interest in developing new and innovative idea on how to develop our railways. We don’t have a ‘party line’; neither have we any party political axes to grind.

These papers are based on talks that were to be given at a seminar in Manchester on March 19th, organised by the Rail Reform Group. The theme was ‘the enterprising railway’ – aiming to look at ways of building a more dynamic, entrepreneurial and customer-led railway that could make a strong contribution to combating climate change.

The Manchester event was cancelled owing to the coronavirus situation. However, we agreed that it would be helpful to the debate about the future of Britain’s railways to publish a series of papers based on what would have been said on March 19th. At a time when ‘business as usual’ is suspended indefinitely and the railways are firmly under government control, now is the time to be looking to the longer term and not assume we will return to doing the same old things in the same old ways.

Comments are welcome on each or all of the papers. We hope to publish further contributions on this, and other subjects, over the next few months.

May 2020

 

Rail Reform Group

www.railreformgroup.org.uk

 

 

 

The Enterprising Railway: 

beyond the current crisis

 

The Papers:

 

  1. The Enterprising Railway: what would it do? Chris Kimberley
  2. The Enterprising Railway: beyond the current model. Dr Nicola Forsdike
  3. The Enterprising Railway: an opportunity for local enterprise. Prof. Paul Salveson
  4. Cumbrian Railways: opportunities and caveats. John Kitchen

 

Brief biographies

Chris Kimberley is a highly-respected senior rail industry professional with decades of experience in the industry. He has undertaken senior operational management, business planning and project lead roles, including the successful bids for the Northern Rail and Caledonian Sleeper franchises. Chris was most recently Director of Rail Operations at HS2 Ltd where he was accountable for the successful development of the initial customer-centric operational strategies for the UK’s new high speed railway. He has worked in Australia, India, the Philippines and North America and is now semi-retired.

Dr Nicola Forsdike has an extensive background in developing business and marketing plans for railways. In 2018 she completed a PhD in Management at the University of York exploring how rail industry managers know what they know and why new timetables fail in implementation. Alongside her continued research she teaches marketing, business planning and entrepreneurship at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Prof. Paul Salveson initiated the ‘community rail’ concept in the 1990s and went on to lead the Association of Community Rail Partnerships. He held several senior positions in the railway industry, having started his operating career as a guard at Blackburn in 1975. He is author of Railpolitik: bringing railways back to the community (2012) and other works of local history. His most recent work is a novel, The Works, set in Horwich Loco Works (2020). He is co-ordinator of the Rail Reform Group

John Kitchen spent 30 years as professional information scientist in chemical and automotive industries. He is a railway preservationist, having owned, restored and run a standard gauge steam locomotive. He was the first Community Rail Officer for Mid Cheshire Community Rail Partnership 2003 – 2007, then Rail Officer Cumbria County Council 2007 – 2012. He established The Cumbrian Coast and Furness CRPs and was a board member of the Association of Community Rail Partnerships from 2005 to 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreword by Peter Wilkinson

Managing Director, Passenger Services

Department for Transport

 

 

Over the past few weeks I and my colleagues across the Department for Transport have been impressed by how the rail industry, its’ fabulous supply chain and many of the Industry’s key stakeholders have come together to support the country’s efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

In my mind this altruistic, can-do attitude highlights everything good within the rail industry. It’s the willingness of the industry to push itself to evolve, to ask itself the difficult questions which results in exceptional and innovative ways to support and care for its customers, staff and its communities that stands out for me.

 

As we look at how the Rail Industry has had to face up to the COVID-19 crisis, we must now capitalise on what we have achieved as we chart our course towards a societally more value-adding horizon. The railways have to evolve to meet the ever changing needs of its passengers whose expectations will almost certainly be different again after this current COVID-19 crisis.

 

These articles are important as they should prompt everyone across the industry to ask the hard questions of themselves and their organisations. Questions such as “Are our customers and our railway communities being cared for in the way we need them to?” and “How can we be better?”

 

To my mind, asking these questions every day will help create a truly enterprising and inspirational railway.

April 2020

……………………………………………………………………………………………..

 

The Enterprising Railway – What Would it Do? 

Chris Kimberley

Context

The focus of this paper is to suggest an approach to defining what an ‘Enterprising Railway’ would do.  It does not seek to address delivery models as these are the subject of other papers, but rather will argue that too often popular commentary about the Railway focuses almost single-mindedly and obsessively on organisational form without first spending enough time and effort in gaining coherent and consistent direction as to what success will look and feel like.

This lack of “time and effort” is actually my short-hand for a contention that there is a skills and capability shortfall in some public sector client organisations in being able to properly define and ultimately manage the strategic outcomes that are required from “their” Railway, and similarly there is a lack of incentive on many of the Railway sector’s core operating companies to apply a professional service design approach to User Needs – motivation being driven increasingly by regulatory requirements and/or contractual obligations rather than future customer needs.

Its contents are the personal views of the author and, whilst drawn from his extensive experience of operations and business management within the railway sector, do not necessarily represent the views of any particular organisation.

In order to give some “real-world” context to the arguments I put forward (and in an attempt to convince the reader that I am not “cherry picking” un-representative examples, I will occasionally in this paper use my own local rail service – I live in Glossop, Derbyshire – to illustrate a point.  Again, this is not intended to point specifically to either Northern or Network Rail as a compliment or criticism but rather to illustrate the general point I am making.

Introduction

I have played a part in the railway sector in one role or another for over 45 years.  During that time and through all its ups and downs, and various restructurings two constants have remained:

The railway is a complex, interdependent system – not only in its delivery but also in its planning – and initiatives which seek to over-simplify the roles of individual components – such as infrastructure, train operations and retail sales – often fail to acknowledge that the interfaces between the components within the system require active management and if left inadequately addressed result in sub-optimal performance of the system as a whole.  I will return to the relevance of this point in the context of an Enterprising Railway later.

The railway sector as a whole has a large population of People within it and given that we have not yet (although the time may be fast approaching) embedded artificial intelligence into the decision making of what we want to achieve (as opposed to some delivery processes) it is People who bring enterprise to the table by deploying innovation and securing delivery of what they believe success should look like – be it at a society, organisational or individual level.

Motivation drives enterprise and we should be cognisant of the fact that without organisational clarity of purpose and motivation to achieve it human behaviour will substitute other assumed measures of success – either at the individual level or at some wider but unquantified societal level – and the resulting enterprise unsurprisingly is likely to become dysfunctional in achieving any coherent objectives.

People are key to enterprise

Building on the latter of these “two universal truths” my experience would suggest that to harness and motivate the collective effort of many people in a complex system requires a clear and consistently held definition of what success looks and feels like – both rationally and emotionally.  It is probably now an overworked analogy but the story I am always minded of in this context is that of US President J F Kennedy on a visit to the NASA space centre asking a cleaner what his job was, to which he replied “helping to put a man on the moon”.  For me this speaks to the simplicity of vision and leadership where there is clarity of end purpose, and also a sense of emotion in terms of what today we would no doubt call “staff engagement”.

There are plenty of examples from within the Railway’s history, including its relatively recent past, of where enterprise has been applied to deliver a compelling mission – although the missions themselves have often been about addressing some negative crisis or “burning platform” such as the aftermath of an operational incident or the financial targets set by Government to the British Railways Board in the 1980’s.  On the other hand the interpretation of what success for system performance was meant to be in the period following the separation of Infrastructure Management from Train Operations in the early years of privatisation led to tribal behaviours where the enterprising capability focused on increasingly innovative ways to evidence why it was the other party’s fault rather than focus on initiatives that would improve the top level outputs.  For me this is a classic example of an enterprising approach by very smart People which became dysfunctional through, for example delay attribution warfare.

I want to stress that this is not about “good people” and “bad people” (although I would argue  that the Railway as a whole is failing to be as entrepreneurial as it could be because despite all the talk we are a long way from embracing a truly diverse and inclusive approach to our thinking)  but rather that People respond to motivation and if motivation is driven by “delivering the contract” then we need to be sure that whatever the “contract” is we truly understand how its obligations contribute to the strategic goals (equivalent to putting a man on the moon) in a very systematic and quantified way.  This is particularly important given that the Railway is not directed as a system through a unified “command and control” organisation but rather is formed through a complex set of commercial relationships between separately owned and governed entities within both private and public sectors.

To be successful in the medium- and long-term success is not about “fixing problems” – vital as that is as a prerequisite but is having the clarity of purpose to be able to articulate what the mission is all about. Lots of people spend lots of time and money, often asking other people, who spend even more time and money, developing very clever Vision and Mission Statements of what they and their organisations are all about.   I am not arguing against the need to have a compelling Vision or of the significant potential benefits of achieving “buy in” from management teams and colleagues to initiatives aimed at positive change, but these cannot be a successful substitute for being crystal clear on the required outcomes (whether referred to as objectives, benefits or other measures) and how these “fit in” to the system as a whole.

So, what would an Enterprising Railway do?

My experience suggests that for a passenger railway there are only three key success factors that really matter – and they form a triangular dynamic which forces trade off’s to occur in order to create an optimised success statement (for the “techies” – a balanced scorecard):

  • Customer Utility and Experience
  • Sustainable Economic Growth
  • Value for Money and Affordability

I will briefly explain what I mean by each of these but the key point to keep in mind is that I am suggesting everything that others might put forward as specific success measures can be rolled up as contributing to one or more of these three points on the triangle.

This approach also presumes and assumes a legal and regulatory context which provides a number of pre-conditions or “boundaries” to the envelope of success, for example in relation to health and safety, environmental impact, accessibility, consumer protection, minimum employment requirements etc. – these are not success measures in the strategic sense but are critical hygiene factors which have to be met if the Railway is to maintain its “licence to operate”.

Customer Utility and Experience

We so often hear the mantra of “putting the customer at the heart of everything we do”.  But even when those saying that genuinely intend that to be the case the application of professional Service Design principles are often lacking, certainly in comparison to other consumer sectors that are exposed fully to the fast-changing User Needs that their customers have.   As with all good design this is not about designing things that cost more but designing things where the “acceptance criteria” of knowing whether it has done its job are clear, objective and agreed between those involved in developing the functional requirements for the system.

So, here is what in isolation might be considered an isolated trivial example, but I would suggest is a microcosm of a more widespread issue.  Broadbottom Station is one of my local stations.  It is a relatively simple station with just two platforms, one for trains heading in to Manchester and one for trains heading out to Glossop and Hadfield.  It has no station staff apart from a ticket clerk on weekday and Saturday mornings who spends his/her whole time behind the ticket office window selling tickets and giving out information when asked at the window.    Following relatively recent investment it now has a visual and audible real time train running information system and also a self-service ticket vending machine.

Now consider just one simple ‘User Need’ of customers of Broadbottom station that is particularly important to new or infrequent travellers:

“I want to be confident that I am waiting in the right place on the correct platform to board my train quickly and safely and find a comfortable place on the train.”

Note that the described User Need is not expressed in any “railway operational language” and is fundamentally about confidence in access to the service.

Now picture the setting.  At the main entrance to the station from the car park there is a functioning “standard” real time information display indicating next trains – which for most of the day simply alternate between the trains to Manchester and Hadfield.   The display indicates whether each individual train departs from Platform 1 or Platform 2 and whether it is running on time or, if not, its expected departure time.  I assume that as long as it is functioning as intended it meets the “contract”.   And I do not want to belittle the fact that this information is at least now provided.  However, let’s go back to the User Need and draw out a few observations:

Although the information display indicates whether trains go from Platform 1 or 2, the platforms themselves are not numbered!

From the main station entrance if I am catching a train to Manchester – the predominant destination – I am confronted with a footbridge with no ramps.   There is no information pushed to me on my App, or at the station entrance, to tell me what to do if I have difficulty using the steps – even though the platform I want to use has step free access from a separate road over-bridge.

Although all trains at Broadbottom Station are formed of 3-car trains of a fixed length the stopping area for the train is not specifically identified, and the opportunity therefore to assist easier boarding by marking the places to stand is missed.

My main point in using this trivial example is that I wonder how critically User Needs are appraised, developed into Operational Functional Requirements and linked back to celebrating the success of measuring resultant improvements in Customer Experience.  If success is motivated from delivering contractual compliance, then we should not be surprised that whilst Broadbottom probably passes the test it doesn’t deliver the best Customer Experience it could with the resources available to it.

Sustainable Economic Growth

By sustainable economic growth I mean medium- and long-term growth in economic prosperity, social inclusion and wellbeing, with lowest reasonable negative environmental impact.  Today this latter point is enhanced through the commitments made to achievement of carbon neutrality. These conditions are enabled through many factors ranging from education, skills development and training; attitudes and approach to diversity and inclusivity; access to markets and local and regional planning policies.  These concepts are generally well developed and understood at National and Sub-National Government levels and it is not the purpose of this Paper to debate them here.

Railways have the potential to deliver significant benefits that are not captured directly through customer utility and experience and these can be quantified and used in accordance with HM Treasury Guidance and other relevant planning appraisal frameworks.   These non-user benefits are often used to justify capital investments and operational expenditure to procure services made by the public sector where the user-benefits are not sufficient to cover the whole-life costs of the service in question.

One of the challenges, and potential opportunities, I would note in creating an environment for a successful Enterprising Railway is the current lack of linkage back to success measures for the Railway in delivering its contribution to these non-user benefits.

So again, thinking about the local line between Manchester and Glossop what are the specific non-user outcomes that the service is intended to contribute towards, and how could these be better articulated into a “scorecard” which the “Railway’s management” has clarity of ownership of?

This is not just about the current community engagement practices that have resulted in much improved station and service improvements – enterprising as they are in their own right.  Rather it is being clear what quantified outcomes are required in, for example

  • relieving road congestion on the A628/A57/M67 corridor; or
  • enabling access to education, skills development and employment for the communities of Gorton, Hyde or Hattersley; or
  • in achieving a lower carbon footprint for the total service including everything from source generation and transmission of the traction power supplies through to local sourcing of consumables and support services in order to reduce “road miles”

Again my point here is that although these are increasingly well understood issues that need to be addressed, the way to release the full enabling potential of an enterprising culture is to be clear on specifically what outcomes are required at a sufficiently granular level that they are capable of being understood and managed. Then ensuring that a benefits capture plan is developed, managed and reported against to give results which are governed with as much rigour as the direct user benefits and costs.

Value for Money and Affordability

These two concepts (which are neither novel not the same thing!) are vitally important to put the checks and balances on the two primary outcomes described in the preceding section.

For me Value for Money is simply about being sure that for every penny or pound of expenditure that either a customer or taxpayer is being asked for that the resulting benefits (both user and non-user) are achieved in the most effective and efficient way.  This is probably where this Paper will yield to others who will argue various perspectives on the strengths of different industry delivery models, but I contend that if success is clearly defined as achieving a particular outcome in the most effective and efficient way then there is plenty of enterprising resource which can be harnessed either competitively or collaboratively to deliver success.  But to harness this effectively also requires a willingness and confidence to “let go” of many legacy concepts in order to free up the enterprising mind and the associated innovation to come forward in a commercially sustainable way.

Again using the Glossop line as an example I am forced to wonder why for customer utility and experience, and for the non-user benefit contributions to the sustainable economic growth strategy (in this case of the Northern Powerhouse) the Railway could not be delivered as efficiently and effectively as, say, the Metrolink services operating to similar markets within the Manchester city region.  Whilst I can already hear the clamour of experts telling me all the reasons as to why a class 323 train from Glossop to Manchester needs two members of staff, and an on board toilet, and why the tram-train is not yet a proven concept beyond South Yorkshire (which as far as I know is actually also a part of the North!), and that the Infrastructure Manager (Network Rail) has national standards to assure, or why there will be a major confrontation with the Trades Unions if changes in working practices were to be contemplated (all of which I acknowledge as real issues) these seem to me to be examples of the very issues that an enterprising culture would be unleashed to address in order to ensure best value for money in achieving the benefits.

A word on affordability – it is worth reminding ourselves that it doesn’t matter how valuable something is if we cannot afford it, we cannot buy it.    So again, for both the customer utility & experience benefits that we are seeking to deliver, and for the wider on-user benefits we wish to capture, there needs to be realism in prioritising these to affordability even once value for money has been optimised.

There would have been little point in getting everyone excited about putting a man on the moon if there hadn’t been a commitment to pay for it!

Capability and capacity to enable an Enterprising Railway

This Paper does not seek to reprise the many issues that will have been considered by the recent Williams review of the organisation of Britain’s railways.  Whilst its findings have yet to be published and Government will have to determine the acceptability of its recommendations, I would contend that to achieve the Enterprising Railway that itself delivers the success which will ultimately be celebrated by both customers and taxpayers requires:

A step change in the capability and capacity of some public sector client organisations (and learning from best practice from organisations such as Transport for London who are arguably more advanced in this space) in defining the strategic outcomes (benefits) that are required of “their” Railways in ways that are clear, objective and capable of being cascaded down to manageable delivery units where responsibility and accountability for achievement is equally clear.  This will also require the building of confidence in relinquishing a desire in client organisations to specify the detail of how an outcome is to be achieved.

An environment within which Service Design principles become the norm for defining User Needs – especially in looking proactively to future needs – rather than being totally consumed in either fixing problems associated with customer satisfaction in the “here and now” or seeing anything beyond contractual compliance as being an unrewarded “nice to have”.   This also means the Railway really challenging itself to ensure that it negates as far as it can “unconscious bias” from the decades of conventional wisdom of the personas and needs of typical Railway Customers and Staff, and applies an open and welcoming mind in embracing the diversity of People and input that our society is capable of.

If these two enabling conditions are addressed, I have every confidence that there is no shortage of enterprise in the People who will make up the Railway in being able to address the opportunities, and challenges, through innovation and commitment to delivery.

Conclusion

Whilst The Railway is a complex, interdependent system it has the potential to deliver significant enterprise through its People provided there is at every level a set of clear, consistent strategic outcomes that represent what success will look and feel like both rationally and emotionally.

Although the breakdown of the top-level strategic outcomes into the supporting system hierarchies and organisational interfaces is a non-trivial task at the top-level success can and should be defined as simply as possible around

  • Intended Customer Utility and Experience
  • Contribution to wider Sustainable Economic Growth
  • Value for Money and Affordability

By establishing “Success Scorecards” at a sufficiently granular level of “the Railway” it becomes easier to communicate, and ultimately motivate, People to apply their enterprising skills to harness innovation and be committed to delivery – and build a virtuous circle where it is the resulting success which is celebrated and rewarded.

The capability to achieve both definition and delivery of these top-level strategic outcomes is not of itself dependent on the choice of delivery model but does require commitment to resourcing the transformational work required in both client and delivery organisations to achieve this.   It also critically requires proactive management of the key interfaces within the Railway as a system to ensure alignment of outputs through the myriad of contractual interfaces.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The Enterprising Railway  –  beyond the current model

Dr Nicola Forsdike

Context

The railway is facing challenging times. The franchising model applied to passenger services was stretched to breaking point even before the current crisis situation arose. Yet the privatisation of these services was supposed to help the railway access exactly the kind of management capability and entrepreneurial flair that will be so badly needed to re-set the dial of our public transport in the future.

This paper considers how we might create an innovative railway that can meet the needs for the future and is neither simply a straight trajectory of the present (as it was understood until March 2020) nor a knee-jerk reaction to a crisis. I argue here that the future that can be built depends on the knowledge base of the people in the rail industry.  This view is informed by both my doctoral research and my experience of working in the industry before and after privatisation.

Introduction

During the 1990s a huge political experiment was carried out on Britain’s railways, fragmenting what had been a unified organisation into an industry of over one hundred separate firms. The political vision behind this was bold – an injection of private sector management, it was argued, would introduce a much-needed spirit of enterprise into Britain’s railways. This in turn would introduce innovation into the sector whilst radically improving efficiency. Exposing rail services to market forces and competition, it was argued, would give the rail sector more incentive to improve its service to customers and more freedom to respond to what customers wanted.

In practice, the years immediately following privatisation the industry were dogged by a series of failures and the privatised industry has singularly failed to be customer-led.  Over the last 20 years there has been a series of not only high- profile timetable failures but also franchise failures. As the recent hand backs of the East Coast and Northern franchises have illustrated, the franchising system and the stop-start pattern of improvements which this incentivises remains inherently flawed.  Privatisation has failed to deliver the benefits of lower costs and greater customer focus that were fundamental to the arguments promoting it.

The reasons for this are many.  First, contrary to popular belief Britain’s railway was both efficient and customer-led prior to privatisation. Far from being insulated from competition it strove to compete with air on long distance services and the private car on shorter ones. It had very strong financial reasons to respond to what customer wanted. For example, in the 1980s regional rail services in Britain were in desperate need of investment. In the words of the cliché, ‘do nothing’ was not an option and as any business manager knows, there are only two levers a business can pull – one is marked ‘revenue’ and one marked ‘cost’. Whilst closing down routes was initially seen by some as the ultimate way of achieving cost improvements, there was little political will to do that (as any of us who can remember the debate on the closure of the Settle-Carlisle line will remember). The only option the railway had left was to make its offer more attractive to potential users. Doing this on a shoestring budget required imagination, a deep understanding of the potential market and huge technical capability, particularly in understanding rail operations. From this came the development of successful networks and routes such as TransPennine Express which owe much to the groundwork laid during the years of British Rail (BR).

Second, the model of privatisation chosen imported new costs into the railway system. In fragmenting a unified whole into an industry of over 100 component firms, civil servants and their advisors at a stroke invented multiple interfaces. Running a train service requires an operator to have in place contracts with Network Rail, Rolling Stock companies as well as with myriad private sector suppliers of services such as on-board catering, station maintenance, management of call centres and so on. At the same time, it must manage its contract from the Department for Transport (DfT). Each interface builds in cost – for example, management support to manage those interfaces (support which might otherwise be focussed on making things better for passengers) and in particular to manage the details of the contract. Each party to an interface is likely to have different objectives; this in turn has an impact on other parts of their organisations, adding to the management time required to resolve issues.

Transaction costs explain why since their foundation railways the world over, public and private, have largely taken the form of an integrated structure, in which the management of railway operations, both track and train, are combined under a single entity. I suspect that within the current system of privatisation many transaction costs are ‘hidden’ and include the costs of three bid teams competing for a franchise, tying up scarce and expert resource for 3-6 months in developing 7- year business plans. These plans inevitably change when a franchise is won and the winning team (or more often a management team which has little or no involvement in developing the bid) is faced with reconciling a plan based on an imperfect understanding of the costs and operation of the business with reality. Not only are transaction costs baked into that system, but there is an additional opportunity cost – what would the impact be if the resources of all three bid teams had worked together within an integrated railway to design and deliver improvements?

Therefore, the dilemma this paper seeks to address is ‘how can Britain’s rail network reduce its operating costs whilst at the same time delivering customer improvements, with minimum disruption to the structure and organisation of the rail industry’? In doing so it acknowledges the lack of appetite amongst policy makers to re-unify the industry and so seeks other ways of reducing the transaction costs that inevitably arise from current industry arrangements. Of course, Covid-19 may prove a game-changer, opening up possibilities driven less by ideologies of privatisation and more by a need to revolutionise the cost base of providing essential rail services whilst being more accountable to the communities those serve.  This may be particularly important if ‘new’ patterns of working from home become much more the norm, allowing businesses to shed expensive city centre office accommodation, and changing the pattern of travel in and between our town and cities.

In what follows, then, I first consider key issues, summarised as the separation of the industry between an infrastructure and train operators, changes in the knowledge base of the industry, the ‘rules of the game’, managing to the contract and loss of challenge. I then offer an alternative view of the future together with steps that might take us there.

What are the difficulties?

Structure. The first and obvious difficulty is the structure of the industry. The railway operates as a system, and changing one element of that (for example, the track, the trains, signalling or even the skills of its people) impacts on the rest of it. In an organisationally fragmented industry, players are incentivised to improve their own individual position, rather than to focus on the system as a whole. Whilst in the short term they improve their own part of the system, in the longer term this approach leads to overall inefficiency in the overall system. From my work within the industry I know that this is a genuine issue, compounded by a structure where the costs and benefits of innovation do not always fall to the same party.

Over the last 10 years there have been many different attempts by the government to try to understand how the rail industry could perform better. In general, Government and industry reports have tended to focus on structural issues, without seriously addressing them, papering over the cracks in the structure via mechanisms such as the  Rail Delivery Group or attempts to align specific parts of Network Rail with Train Operators in “partnerships” in which the two parties attempt to reconcile their huge differences and sometimes conflicting objectives in order to deliver efficiencies, an enterprise that has so far proved beyond reach.

However, I do not believe that changing the structure will of itself solve the issue. I believe structure to be not the root cause of issues, but a symptom of other problems, the most serious of which is the failure to recognise the need for managers in the rail industry – whichever specialism they work within in – to have a deep rooted understanding of the railway as a system.

Knowing the railway as a system. From my research know that the loss of an integrated structure has exacerbated a fundamental and largely hidden problem.  Over the past decade various government-commissioned reports including those by Sir Roy McNulty published in 2011 and Nicola Shaw, published in 2016, have highlighted the issue of knowledge loss in the industry and in particular the lack of understanding of today’s railway as a system. The last generation of BR’s management trainees who underwent a thorough grounding in the operation of both track and train, as well as commercial and other training is approaching retirement age. This pool provides much of the expertise which keeps the industry innovating and improving (think Gibb Review, Brown Review, leading Network Rail, bid teams, advisors to the DfT). There are no replacement resources coming up behind them – in effect, we have a lost generation of managers who lack the system-wide training and thinking of individuals who have experienced an integrated railway.

My research suggests that whilst some of the knowledge can be learned through study and in a classroom, the vast majority of it comes through experience. Today’s managers develop only a partial system knowledge. This is compounded by increased specialisation within the industry. For example, not only is the training of Network Rail’s graduate trainees focussed on only half of the railway system, it is largely fragmented into specialisms such as project management, such as a safety, human resources, project management and network strategy, all functions that would once have been carried out in the past within a pre-privatisation BR by managers who had first been through a single integrated general railway management training scheme . Network Rail has tried to address this, for example, through placements with operators, but there is no industry-wide initiative to develop an integrated knowledge base – although it has a potential model in the Track and Train scheme which ran 2012-13.

Structural changes alone however do not explain the erosion of this knowledge base. An increasing specialisation of roles in pre-privatisation BR (for example, splitting the general management entry route into a number of specialisms such as operations and commercial) began this. I believe that the prioritisation of commercial knowledge from the 1980s onwards and a tendency to take the industry’s operating knowledge base for granted, led to its erosion, whilst in today’s industry, it is not operating knowledge but understanding the ‘rules of the game’ that deliver (short-term) commercial success.

The rules of the game.  A potential franchisee has to take risks in its financial assumptions in order to win, with rail franchise bidders winning or losing on the basis of their ability to put forward the ‘most robust’ financial case. This can lead to the taking of risks in relation to both new revenue that can be earned and levels of cost reduction that can be achieved.  To its credit, the DfT has proved adept at learning over the 20 or more years in which franchising has been in operation, trying to reduce the risk of over-bold bidding through careful analysis of bids. Yet it is in an invidious position. On the one hand, it has to procure franchises that please a myriad of stakeholders who often have conflicting visions as to what a rail franchise might look like but all of whom require some form of innovation (imagine the fate of a bidder who offered no improvements in rail services or efficiency!). On the other, it doesn’t have a crystal ball and can’t see for certain how either markets or rail capacity will evolve in the future. Like the operators who bid for franchises the DfT and its advisors have only imperfect knowledge of the true situation within the franchise and imperfect understandings, based on economic modelling rather than market-led scenario planning – of how future demand may evolve.

Crucially, the DfT may know what it expects to happen but it doesn’t know exactly how markets will evolve. In order to be able to compare bids fairly therefore it has little choice but to lay down rules to try to keep the competition as fair as possible and to make it as easy as possible to distinguish between the different bid offers. These rules include mandating the methodologies and even the models that bidders must use to predict demand. At a stroke, the business plan is handed over to the economists. Predicting the future on the basis of the past becomes the norm and much of the space in which business thinking can flourish is closed down. Winning is dependent on understanding the rules and on playing the game – not on entrepreneurial capability.

Similarly, my research into the initial failure of Virgin CrossCountry’s 2002 timetable suggests this had much to do with timetabling modelling done in the abstract, using computer modelling into which certain assumptions (for example, that certain trains could run over certain tracks at certain times) had been built. Much like Northern in 2018, when Virgin CrossCountry came to implement their timetable they found that the assumptions they had made did not reflect current reality. The result, in both cases, was a complete melt down of rail services leading to widespread disruption and very unhappy consumers. Yet it is difficult to see how this could be any different under the pattern of rail franchising practised until now.

Under the franchising model, bidders have to make assumptions as to when particular improvements to track or signalling that enable more services or faster services can be run. For example, where electrification schemes are being implemented by Network Rail, bidders work from a specified (and often erroneous) assumption that infrastructure will be available at a certain time. Whilst there is a mechanism for train operators to be compensated in these circumstances, implementing a change is a delicate interplay of ensuring track is available, new trains which can take advantage of new line speeds or overhead wires are ready to use,  and drivers who understand the characteristics of both the trains and the infrastructure are trained and ready to go. Delay in one element risks increasing the costs in the others, as resources cannot be fully used. At the same time, it ties up a lot of management time which could otherwise be used to work on other issues. Once a bid is won, understanding the minutiae of the franchise contract in relation to this and other issues becomes the difference between profit and loss.

Managing to the contract. In the early days of privatisation, both the infrastructure and train operating companies quickly realised that managing to the contract(s) and pleasing institutional stakeholders was the key to financial success, not satisfying and adapting to changing customer needs. This remains the situation today. In such a context, management skills focus on data and contract management. Investment in managerial experience and capability focuses around these, exacerbated by a franchise environment in which improvements are seen as contractual promises to be delivered through project management, not through an empathy with service users.

The DfT has done much to try to facilitate change, for example, through the introduction of a mechanism allowing bidders to be recompensed for the ‘residual value’ of investments made during the franchise that are not fully realised during the franchise period and to encourage bidders to spread investment over time. Nevertheless, it is not hard to understand why anyone working on a seven- year contract would wish to see the majority of major improvements – for example, new services, investment in new or refurbished rolling stock and so on – occur as close to start of the franchise as possible. This leads to a situation where the current franchise process leads to a lot of change happening at once, increasing the risk that things will go wrong. In contrast,  BR’s approach to innovation in rail passenger services in the years before privatisation was much more incremental than is the case now. In the case of TransPennine Express for example, service levels were built up over a number of years, a less risky approach, it turned out, than the ‘big bang’ experienced in 2018 when multiple services had to be cancelled.

The final issue, which links back to the loss of understanding the railway as a system, and the financial and other incentives for industry players to ‘play the game’ rather than to work together to improve the system for the long-term relates to what I term a ‘lack of challenge’.

Lack of challenge (eg to the cost base). To make this point it is perhaps helpful to go back in time. I acknowledge that I could be accused of hypocrisy here – on the one hand I have suggested that understanding markets based on what has happened in the past is a flawed approach, yet here I am suggesting we look to history to see whether we can do things better in the future. Bear with me – there is a difference. First, I have not sought to hardwire selected elements of history (elements selected because they were easy to measure) into a computer model and assumed that they will tell us what the future will be. Second, I’m very aware of the contextual nature of things – we cannot simply ‘cut and paste’ experience from one place to another and assume that things will work as we expect. With those caveats in mind, let’s look at how improvements were made in the days before privatisation.

From interviews I’ve done with former and current managers within the rail industry it is clear that those who’ve experienced both the pre and post privatisation railway found BR to be more enterprising, more innovative in its use of resource to deliver efficiencies in cost whilst delivering improvements for customers than today’s companies. Of course, BR, and the institutional arrangements (such as short-term government funding) was far from perfect and I’m not advocating a return to those days. However, it is clear to me that BR in the 1980s gave people the freedom to think and deliver change, a freedom that was eroded by privatisation where the focus was on contract delivery not continuous improvement. Alongside, the loss of a system-wide view of the costs of the railway that is a direct result of privatisation, lies a loss of challenge.  Let me expand on that last issue.

BR in the 1980s ran a sector management system. There were five business sectors – three focussed on different passenger markets such as Intercity or London commuter services, one on parcels and one on freight. Initially these effectively functioned as Product Managers – that is, they were the interface between the customer and the operations. Their job was to significantly improve revenue by making sure that the products delivered – train services – met customer needs, whilst ensuring what was spent on operations was appropriate for both current and future markets. In this version of the world, engineering costs were challenged – why renew the bridge to take heavy loco-hauled trains when we only run lightweight trains over it at present and for the foreseeable future? Why renew the junction that way when doing it this way will give us the capacity we will need in 5 years’ time? Why spend that much when we know the potential revenue is worth so much less – is there another way of doing things? That is not to say that today’s industry lacks challenge – Network Rail’s process for project approvals is deliberately designed to force managers to think such issues through.  However, under review processes, an operator with no accountability for the delivery of the infrastructure may object to a potential cost saving on the grounds that a particular feature may be needed in the future. Under the BR system such objections could be over-ridden by the lead manager(s) on the principle of ‘the user pays’ -that is, if another part of the railway wanted an upgrade then it was up to them to fund it, ensuring cost and revenue were aligned. Moreover, in BR the challenge came from managers responsible for the bottom line – the profit and loss, the customer ridership and the costs. Their careers depended on the approach they took to managing the railway as a whole, not the delivery of an engineering scheme.

Many of these managers were graduates of BR’s general management training scheme, and had been trained as managers of an integrated rail system. Crucially they had gained their knowledge through direct experience of working on it day to day. They understood at a real level the relationship between track, signals, trains and driver skills. Knowledge of marketing, managing stakeholders and commercial management was then in many cases grafted onto that base load of knowledge.

How can we tackle these difficulties to build a different future?

Build the knowledge base. The first step is building a knowledge base amongst managers in today’s rail industry that helps them to understand better the industry in the round. This could be done by developing integrated cross-industry training at recruitment, middle manger and senior manager levels. The industry could and should be incentivised to train rail industry managers not Network Rail ones or TOC ones.  Crucially, this needs to be not (or not just) classroom- based training but through a planned rotation of placements that allow managers to get a wide range of experience. Middle management level training could take the form of working with others to develop a project – for example, a new station layout or the development of a new market. Experience would thus be gained of working on a small, multi-functional project team comprising operations, commercial, finance, engineering and other experts working across the boundaries of their different technical specialisms and drawn from Network Rail, TOC and client-side organisations such as Transport for the North. This could be training projects or working on real live cases. Yes, funding would have to be found for this, but making a business case could be justified on the basis of efficiencies found and costs saved as a result of better decision making.

Change the rules of the game. The operation of rail services could be public or private sector. For example, rail operators might bid for franchises on ‘as is’ basis – with franchising separated from service improvements. In this scenario, operators would be judged on the strength of the Directors they propose to put in place, track record, (particularly in areas such as open book accounting and customer focus), strengths of their management processes and the management expertise they would bring to improve the franchise.

Closer working, based on open book accounting would reduce the inefficiencies from transaction costs, potentially saving money and increasing the chances that improvements will be introduced successfully. Changing franchising award criteria would reduce the risk of bidders over-bidding in order to give themselves any chance of winning the bid. Moving the focus of service development away from bid teams to managers involved in day to day operation has the potential to reduce the risk of using abstract computer models to model revenue, resources and timetables by allowing the space for real world knowledge of customers, changes in the market, people and what is possible (for example the time taken to travel between two points on a railway network) to be factored into that and further reduce risk. Building a world where improvements are continuous and gradual, rather than big, one-off initiatives will reduce the risk of trying to do new things. All this is possible whilst retaining private sector involvement and competition not only for operating franchises but also for development funding.

 

 

 

 

 

Move the focus away from managing to the contract.  Once the knowledge base is in place a new system can be developed for developing and funding service and other improvements. This begins with the alignment of stakeholders, train and infrastructure operators. Although not easy, it could be delivered as a public/private sector partnership, particularly if open-booking accounting is adopted and the evidence from this taken into account when allocating central government funds to each partner.  There would need to be trust, long-term relationships, mutual understanding and shared objectives. These comes from allowing teams of people to work with each other over time, not from today’s short- term project-led approach to managing change, and from a clear and shared vision of what success looks like. Together this multi-player team would be responsible for developing and delivering both short and long-term business plans to operate and develop rail services in their area (in an ideal world this would encompass all transport modes but let’s not be too ambitious at once). These would be integrated into a single industry-wide plan, suggesting some form of oversight body is needed to reconcile the plans. This should be light touch and should support, not dictate.

Alongside this a central fund could be established to support the development of innovation in the railway. This would differ from existing technologically focussed innovation initiatives, being focussed on improvements for passengers at all stages of their journey. It should be managed at arms’ length from central government and used to fund the business plans of the stakeholder partnerships. Funds could be set aside and a competition(s) established to bid for funds for the development and implementation of new timetables and infrastructure, encouraging incremental and continuous change, and system-wide thinking. Bids for funding would need to be collaborative between the train operator, infrastructure operator and local/regional transport authority (as already happens with bids for the New Stations Fund). Where routes have CRPs, then I see no reason why these too couldn’t have input. Clear bidding criteria would need to be established at government or (better) by the arms’ length body responsible for co-ordinating plans and allocating funding. These criteria should include being clear on how success will be measured.

NOTE: funding would need to move away from patterns whereby money continuously goes to already ‘successful’ areas because economic models suggest that is where it would get most return. Instead, there needs to be – to borrow a business term – a balanced portfolio scenario, where funding is also directed at routes/services that have the potential to do more than they are currently doing (including contributing more to the success of their local economies – however that success is defined).

Build in challenge. An integrated knowledge base has the potential to begin to address issues of efficiency. This is because improved knowledge reduces transaction costs. For example, a TOC may rely on costings from Network Rail to increase station capacity. But the solutions a train operator comes to versus that developed by an infrastructure operator may be very different – including in cost terms.  An understanding of each other’s position begins to help reduce these costs and to lead to a better solution.  However, whilst organisations continue to work to different objectives, achieving solutions optimal for both parties continues to be difficult. Changing the rules of the game as suggested above and moving towards a more open-book form of relationships would build in the space for challenging costs.

Summary.  Figure one below illustrates how by making the adjustments above, it is possible to envisage a future in which change is continuous, market-led and relatively low-risk compared with current franchising arrangements. I don’t pretend to have the last answer on how to do this – ultimately someone or somebody will have to be accountable for delivery. But any new delivery model will need to take account of the issues highlighted above it is to deliver outcomes that are significantly different from those delivered by today’s industry.

 

 

 

 

Figure one: contrasting the present and the future

 

Conclusion

What this paper has aimed to do is illustrate the art of the possible, even without major structural change. The suggestions above aren’t meant to be the ultimate word, but are designed to open up thinking.  Even without some of the more radical changes suggested above, a system-wide knowledge base could be built for relatively little cost whilst a move to open book accounting might begin to erode some of the transaction costs that are currently built into the industry. Of course, the ideal would be to move to some form of vertically integrated structure, whilst the current crisis might mean a nationalised, vertically-integrated railway system becomes a more attractive proposition than in the past. Either way, however, unless conscious steps are taken to build an appropriate knowledge base quickly which sees the railway as an integrated whole, changes to structure alone will not of itself necessarily deliver hoped for improvements.

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 The Locally Enterprising Railway and the current crisis: an opportunity

Prof. Paul Salveson

Context

The emerging coronavirus crisis poses some very big challenges for the transport sector as a whole and the more peripheral parts of the network in particular. The ‘community rail sector’ is now a mature movement. It has been going for over 25 years and we’ve some very impressive achievements to our credit. Some of its perspectives are likely to be of particular relevance in making sure that local rail survives the current crisis, and is perhaps put on a stronger footing by having done so. Now’s the time for radical thinking.

The Threat

Writing in late-March, we are starting to see how the pandemic will affect the UK as a whole and the rail sector specifically. There has been a major reduction in travel demand; only key workers are being carried. The railways have in effect been nationalised, with franchises being run as management contracts on behalf of Government.  If the pandemic worsens further and more and more people are infected, fewer trains will be able to operate because there won’t the train crews to operate them or the staff to maintain the trains. From an infrastructure perspective, track maintenance gangs will be depleted, together with more specialist teams. In that situation, it is inevitable that train companies and Network Rail will be pushed more to concentrate on their ‘premier’ routes and possibly reduce or even suspend services on more marginal routes, leaving already struggling communities isolated.

An opportunity

Could the coronavirus be an opportunity to actually implement some of the ideas that we’ve talked about since the early 1990s, for locally-managed railways, at least as far as the peripheral network is concerned? A starting point could be the Cumbrian Coast Line from Carlisle to Barrow and Lancaster, which is relatively lightly-used but of strategic importance, not least because of Sellafield. The line can’t be allowed to cease operating, because of the nuclear traffic and the need to get employees to and from work. Of course the line has other roles as well, but at a time of national crisis (whatever one’s views on nuclear power in the long term) the need to keep power stations operating are of crucial importance.

Should Northern Trains, Network Rail, Government and Community Rail Cumbrian grasp the opportunity to create a locally-managed Cumbrian Railways that could take over the route, including train operations and infrastructure, under the (broad) umbrella of Northern Trains but evolving from being a semi-autonomous operation with its own dedicated staff and rolling stock into something more arms-length and truly locally owned and controlled?

West Cumbria could be a testbed for developing new ideas which combine employee and user involvement with local and regional authorities, with ways of bringing in external investment. The ‘Fair Shares’ business model being developed at Sheffield University offers a possible model that could ensure active participation of key stakeholders. See http://fsi.coop/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/fairshares-institute-brochure.pdf

Some practicalities

Having dedicated rolling stock and staff will help ensure high standards of hygiene and cleanliness, avoiding – or at least minimising – passenger and staff fears about infection.  In the short/medium term, it would be easier to test people using the trains for the virus avoiding the ‘network effect’ of spreading the virus across the railway network through several changes of train. The Cumbrian Coast Line could – if the crisis starts to affect petrol supplies – become the main form of transport in West Cumbria and its continued operation would become, quite literally, a lifeline for local communities.

And once again, a crisis situation could act as the midwife of other long-desired changes, i.e. real integration between train and bus, with stations along the line functioning as railheads for connecting bus, minibus and taxi services. The possibility of a serious growth in cycling to and from stations is also a real possibility (I’ve suddenly become a convert to electric bikes – their potential is vast, but so too is the humble ordinary push bike). Once the crisis has receded, Cumbria could re-invent itself as a sustainable tourism exemplar, with bike hire at stations and a network of walking and cycling routes radiating from them. The station itself becomes a tourism hub with shops, cafes and other facilities.

Making a start

There’s a real risk that the nation gets into a mindset that everything is going to shut down, for possibly months, and there’s nothing we can do. But – necessity is the mother of invention. I’m not minimising the seriousness of the crisis for one moment, but there will be some things that we will need to continue doing, which includes running essential services but also making sure there is food in the shops. We could do them differently, and better. Again, rail could have a role to play in more geographical remote areas such as West Cumbria, taking on new commercial activities which we’d all assumed it had surrendered decades ago and would never come back. Can food and other goods be brought in by rail to local distribution centres for onward local shipment to shops and village communities, using bike-carts as well as motorised vehicles?

Creating an enterprising environment

Creating a locally-managed railway would free up opportunities for some radical new departures in how our railways are run.  It needs having the right people on board, who are motivated by a combination of service and entrepreneurship, with a motivated and determined team working with them. Developing new leisure opportunities may well be the last thing that’s on anyone’s minds at the moment, but we need to lay the ground for a resurgence in the tourist economy once the current threat has receded. Cumbrian Railways could be at the heart of that, functioning as a sub-regional regeneration agency, working with local tourism providers and facilitating sustainable transport links across Cumbria and the Lakes.

Developing stations as community enterprise centres could form part of the medium to long term strategy. Local businesses, which will have been hard hit by the crisis, could be offered incentives to set up businesses at and around stations. This could be running a station cafe, providing bike hire at a station, a pop-up stall, or operating an on-train service. We have hardly begun to tap into the potential.

Buildings and land

The argument for bringing redundant railway buildings back into community use has been won but we still struggle with actual projects. Having an integrated local management structure could help facilitate use of empty buildings but also encourage new build where appropriate. At the same time, there is huge scope for imaginative development of redundant railway land for social housing, with a community land trust acting as developer, a local authority or even the railway itself.

Smaller plots offer huge potential for growing vegetables and fruit. The ‘incredible edible’ movement which has swept the country started off on Todmorden station. Locally produced food will become of critical importance in the coming months and there are lots of opportunities to grow, and sell, food at stations. Stations could provide space for raised beds to grow vegetables and herbs, which may become in increasingly short supply.

Conclusion

The current crisis should not be an excuse to hunker down and do nothing, hoping it will wash over us after a few months. There is every possibility it will last for longer than we think, and it will change how we live forever. That could be a real opportunity for local rail. At the same time, the fear of infection could force people to stop using trains and buses and getting them back won’t be easy. It doesn’t have to be so. We should use the current situation as an opportunity to bring short-term support to embattled communities but create the possibility of running our local railways in a much more imaginative and innovative way, placing them at the heart of their communities – economically, socially and environmentally. This is integrated sustainable transport taken to its logical and necessary conclusion.

Now’s the time to take some risks before we get overwhelmed. Northern Trains (Operator of Last Resort) should not be an ‘Operator of Doing Nothing New’. It should seize this opportunity and make a truly positive contribution to local resilience, whilst laying the basis for strong resurgence in due course as the pandemic dies down. However, to take forward such a radical departure needs strong Government support and the backing of Cumbria County Council, Transport for the North and the unions.

March 17th, revised April 2nd  2020

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Cumbria Railways? Further Thoughts and Caveats

John Kitchen

Railways in West Cumbria: a caveat

The basic problem with all the railways in West Cumbria is the potential failure of sea defences or one of the multitudinous bridges – this sort of cost is well beyond the means of anyone but a major national agency to repair. This means that a full local take over is probably not practical as things stand – unless Cumbrian GDP and economic activity rises substantially. However, after the Workington floods major road bridges were rebuilt with government funding to re-establish the network. This model could be adopted to insure the railways against unforeseen capital expenditure together with remaining inside the larger “railway family”.

The Opportunity

If more control were passed to a local management team with rail and infrastructure brought into a single team progress could be made. A locally based management would provide a strong focus on serving the local community and economy. Strong relationships already facilitated by the work of Community Rail Cumbria could be developed with local industry and employers as well as the transport authorities. Links are already well established with the County Council, LEP, Sellafield, DRS, local communities, etc. The new coal mine at Whitehaven is being used as an opportunity to lever in some much needed infrastructure improvements to the St Bees – Carlisle end of the route. Stimulation of demand is key to maintaining the incremental improvement of these routes. A virtuous circle can be created by improved infrastructure supporting increased economic activity. There is a strong history of the Partnerships achieving capital improvements with shelters / Harrington Humps / CIS schemes / station development at Millom, Maryport and Workington amounting to a seven figure sum over the past 10 years. Demonstrably beneficial inputs have secured improved outputs and services with a Sunday service throughout the line being achieved in 2018 for the first time in 50 years.

The paucity of public transport in Cumbria means the railway forms the principal transport spine, epitomised by the railway being the only public transport offered south of Whitehaven and north of Barrow on a Sunday. Local bus services have largely collapsed with the loss of subsidised services since 2011 leaving a residual rump of commercial services. Even rail replacement services when required rely on local bus preservation groups. All of these characteristics make west Cumbria a uniquely challenging environment in which to operate a public transport service particularly when allied to substantial post industrial and rural deprivation.

The present rail management arrangements for the route are skeletal and have been for 40 years of managed decline. Improvements are required along the route – examples being;

  • 2 platform station allied to track rationalisation at Maryport. Why? Present single platform requires four point ends not required if plain line station. It also is a capacity constraint on the passenger timetable.
  • Speed enhancements particularly Parton – Harrington , Maryport – Carlisle Why? Associated with Maryport station speed enhancements would permit sub 55 minute Whitehaven – Carlisle timing which would save one train and one crew on the section whilst producing a clock face timetable. It would provide connections into the West Coast standard hour at Carlisle.
  • More capacity throughout Why? Flexibility / resilience
  • Elimination of manual level crossings Why? Cost savings
  • Signalling improvements Why? Cost savings plus increased operational flexibility.
  • Station enhancements Why? Many stations constrain business by not offering sufficient parking in particular and lack facilities appropriate to weather in West Cumbria
  • Car parking – Eg. park and ride at Wigton Car parking at most stations is poor, Wigton in particular could serve as a hub for a large area of North Cumbria enabling car free access to Carlisle
  • Freight development – Iggesund / Innovia / Barrow / Workington Docks /Ghyll Scaur quarry etc.
  • Development of differentiated tourist offer. Jacobite role in the Highlands linked to West Coast at Carnforth.
  • Development of a route plan for both Carnforth – Barrow and Barrow – Carlisle. Exploration of new traffic opportunities.
    Promotion of tourism outside the central Lake District – off line activity akin to work of Settle and Carlisle.
  • Continuation and development of the Community strategy embedding the railway in its communities and promoting a direct sense of local ownership to local people.
  • An engagement strategy providing exchange of views with local stakeholders particularly focussing on local area plans for employment and residential areas.
  • Greater degree of managerial autonomy with allocated budget for local projects and capability to develop and action local schemes.
  • Enhanced local maintenance facilities providing jobs in the local community and more independence from remote depots – both track and train and stations.
  • Integration of the railway within the local transport plan.
  • Development of a recovery plan from the corona virus disruption to maximise rail participation in regeneration.
  • Integration into green access strategies for Western Lake District.
  • Increased support for green commuting to Sellafield.

One of the major failings of the present railway is that it does not actively make it easy to grow business with multiple agencies being involved in progressing an idea through to delivery of a solution. For many years two major businesses in West Cumbria have wished to try to use rail for major logistic flows. Even though the rail freight companies are more entrepreneurial than hitherto they can only be as flexible as infrastructure constraints allow them to be with private siding agreements forming a prohibitive barrier. The client would like the railway to offer the same seamless logistics service that competitor road hauliers can offer – this is very hard to achieve on the present railway system. Network changes have to be planned years in advance and NR indemnified against all costs.

Any future rail devolution must bring representation from the business and economic communities into the railway ambit. In a modest way this has been achieved in Cumbria by Sellafield Ltd and DRS representation on the board of Community Rail Cumbria associated with financial contributions. The involvement of Community Rail Cumbria in the development of LEP capital plans also points the way to how the railway should better align with local priorities. The new coal mine at Whitehaven is also involved and is also mindful of the Partnership and the reputational gain from minimising environmental impact of their operation.

I would like to see an overall strategy for any railway line starting from a SWOT analysis. During my time in the industry there was a total lack of robust information about costs making any business case extremely hard to develop into a simple cost benefit or return on investment calculation. Even when NR accepts that something should be examined the client has to raise the finance to cover NR’s GRIP costs before anything can be done – even for quite modest capital spends. Processes are also glacially slow with improvement works bedevilled by issues such as station leases and capacity to develop schemes at both TOCs and NR. To achieve improved process times the ability to make decisions nearer to the community served a solution is required to get away from the Kremlin mentality.

Staffing Issues

The present union arrangements are long established and certainly the railway staff in West Cumbria benefit from high salaries and relative job security in a local context. The operation of Cumbria Rail would need their cooperation to stand a chance of approaching German or Dutch local railway operation standards. To this end there would need to be absolute assurances that national standards would be maintained with respect to T&Cs and operational standards.

Local Government

Cumbria County Council is the transport authority with a tiny part of Lancashire involved at the southern end. Both local authorities are strapped for financial resources and are unlikely to support anything that carries even a modicum of financial commitment. This situation was recognised some years ago by Community Rail Cumbria and the Partnerships have received little or no support from the County Council ever since.

How to do it

The basic structures already exist within Community Rail Cumbria exist to form a local Board for a semi independent body – well established connections with local stakeholders from all aspects of the community. The first objective of this organisation would be to develop a modus operandi for a local business unit starting work by identification of what stakeholders require of their railway with regards to the business / social / economic agenda, particularly in the context of the current emergency and looking to the recovery phase.

The lines would benefit from local operational management with a manager for each line. The railway operators would have a role with respect to corporate functions but would delegate to the Business Unit where possible. This approach could be flexible in the light of experience.

An example could be dedicated captive stock diagrams with local maintenance would provide an opportunity for Cumbria to gain jobs and adapt equipment to align more closely with local needs. For example, the Settle and Carlisle Railway Development Co. has operated refreshment trollies for many years in addition to providing hosting.

Local development of station infrastructure would also facilitate improvement. Most importantly, there would be the opportunity to work with other operators (particularly DRS) to achieve a Cumbrian esprit de corps.

Conclusion

Cumbria forms an ideal testbed for a more local railway approach, given an area that has a strong local identity and a strong track record in delivering improvements on the system. The Workington Floods was a perfect illustration of how things can be achieved. The Cumbrian Coast Business Unit would seek to build on and take further this track record of innovative development.

 

 

 

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Northern Weekly Salvo 278

The Northern Weekly Salvo

Incorporating  Slaithwaite Review of Books, Weekly Notices, Sectional Appendices, Tunnel Gazers’ Gazette and Northern Umbrella. Descendant of Teddy Ashton’s Northern Weekly and Th’Bowtun Loominary.

Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 278 March 19th  2020

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; but definitely Northern. Read by the highest (and lowest) officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats,  pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, members of the clergy and the toiling masses. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club and Station Buffet Society, and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

“We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” – Jo Cox, maiden speech in House of Commons, June 3rd 2015

General gossips

A week is a long time in a pandemic, as well as in politics. Since the last Salvo we’ve now got a Keynesian government trying (reasonably well to be fair) to respond to a rapidly deteriorating situation. Everything that was happening now isn’t, to summarise forthcoming events. This includes Thursday’s ‘Enterprising Railway’ evening conference in Manchester organised by The Rail Reform Group and my book launch in Horwich on Friday.

Sue outsider her Horwich book shop, The Wright Reads

Necessity is the mother of invention and we are putting together some papers that would have been delivered at the Manchester event. There will be a link from The Salvo and they’ll be published on Linked In. Part of me feels slightly relieved at not having seven or eight meetings a week to go to, with time to get stuck in to the various writing projects that I’ve got on the go. And nobody is going to stop me going out on the electric bike, with which I’m increasingly besotted. It’s an ill wind, indeed…

Politics, debate, controversy

The coronavirus pandemic has closed down wider political debate and there has been a welcome shift towards cross-party collaboration, which is no bad thing. There’s a remarkable degree of unity across the UK, with the nations and regions taking a broadly united stance. We really don’t know where all this is going to lead but you get a sense that there will be some very big changes in our way of life once it’s all over, whenever that might be. So far, the crisis has brought out the best, and some of the worst, in us. The scenes of panic buying were quite pathetic, arguably provoked by sections of the media. At the same time, there are lots of people getting together via social media to promote ‘mutual aid’ in helping people in their communities to get access to food and medicine. Kropotkin would have been delighted (and vindicated) by this demonstration of local solidarity. Be good to see panic-buying copies of his Mutual Aid. It’s interesting to see the local corner shops round here with well-stocked shelves doing a reasonable trade. Support them!

Local railways and The Corona Virus: an opportunity?

The corona virus crisis poses some very big challenges for the transport industry as a whole – and the more peripheral parts of the network in particular. The ‘community rail sector’ is now a mature movement. It has been going for over 25 years and we’ve some very impressive achievements to our credit. Some of its perspectives are of particular relevance in making sure that local rail survives the current crisis, and is perhaps put on a stronger footing. Now’s the time for radical thinking, rather than sitting back and just managing a worsening crisis.

The Threat

Writing in mid-March, we don’t know how the pandemic will affect the UK as a whole, let alone our part of it, in rail. But it’s fairly clear that there will be (in fact already is) a major reduction in travel demand. If the pandemic worsens and more and more people are infected, fewer trains will be able to operate because there won’t be the train crews to operate them nor the staff to maintain the trains. From an infrastructure perspective, track maintenance gangs will be depleted, together with more specialist teams. In that situation, it is inevitable that train companies and Network Rail will be pushed to concentrate on their ‘premier’ routes and possibly reduce or even suspend services on more marginal routes, leaving already struggling communities isolated. It’s the wrong thing to do. A further issue for railways is their normal strength – of forming a network with inter-connecting services – can become a problem if passengers with infections spread the disease across the network.

An opportunity

Could the coronavirus be an opportunity to implement some of the ideas that we’ve talked about since the early 1990s, for locally-managed railways, at least as far as the peripheral network is concerned? A starting point could be some relatively self-contained routes around the UK which have a sufficient density of population and number of services. I don’t want to start any hares running by identifying particular routes or networks but most people with acknowledge of the railway network would know where I mean. Many are in the North of England, coming under the recently-created ‘Northern Trains’ run by Government-owned Operator of Last Resort (OLR).

Northern Trains, Network Rail, Government and the Community Rail sector should grasp the opportunity to create locally-managed business units that are relatively autonomous bodies responsible for train operations and infrastructure, under the umbrella of Northern Trains but with their own dedicated staff and rolling stock. They should be completely responsible for all services which start and end within their defined area, to minimise the spread of infection, i.e. no through running. This implies testing of intending passengers before getting on the train, something that is unprecedented in railway history as far as I’m aware. Having dedicated rolling stock and staff will help ensure high standards of hygiene and cleanliness, avoiding – or at least minimising – passenger and staff fears about infection.  Ensuring the health of all staff, including customer-facing employees – will help keep the trains running when in some more densely-populated area train companies might struggle.

A crisis situation could act as the midwife of other long-desired changes, i.e. real integration between train and bus, with stations functioning as railheads for connecting bus, minibus and taxi services. The possibility of a serious growth in cycling to and from stations is also a real possibility (I’ve suddenly become a convert to electric bikes – their potential is vast, but so too is the humble ordinary push bike). Once the crisis has receded, the area covered could re-invent itself as a sustainable tourism exemplar, with bike hire at stations and a network of walking and cycling routes radiating from them. The station itself becomes a tourism hub with shops, cafes and other facilities.

Making a start

There’s a real risk that the nation gets into a mindset that everything is going to shut down, for possibly months, and there’s nothing we can do. But to do nothing would be irresponsible – and we can do something. I’m not minimising the seriousness of the crisis for one moment, but there will be some things that we will need to continue doing, which includes running essential services but also making sure there is food in the shops. We could do them differently, and better. Again, rail could have a role to play in more geographically remote areas, taking on new commercial activities which we’d all assumed it had surrendered decades ago and would never come back. Can food and other goods be brought in by rail to local distribution centres for onward local shipment to shops and village communities, using bike-carts as well as motorised vehicles?

Creating an enterprising environment

Creating a locally-managed railway would free up opportunities for some radical new departures in how railways are run.  It needs having the right people on board, who are motivated by a combination of service and entrepreneurship, with a motivated and determined team working with them. Developing new leisure opportunities may well be the last thing that’s on anyone’s minds at the moment, but we need to lay the ground for a resurgence in the tourist economy once the current threat has receded. A locally managed railway could be at the heart of that, functioning as a sub-regional regeneration agency, working with local tourism providers and facilitating sustainable transport links across its area.

Developing stations as community enterprise centres could form part of the medium to long term strategy. Local businesses, which will have been hard hit by the crisis, could be offered incentives to set up businesses at and around stations. This could be running a station cafe, providing bike hire at a station, a pop-up stall, or operating an on-train service. We have hardly begun to tap into the potential.

Buildings and land

The argument for bringing redundant railway buildings back into community use has been won but we still struggle with actual projects. Having an integrated local management structure could help facilitate use of empty buildings but also encourage new build where appropriate. At the same time, there is huge scope for imaginative development of redundant railway land for social housing, with a community land trust acting as developer, a local authority or even the railway itself.

Smaller plots offer huge potential for growing vegetables and fruit. The ‘incredible edible’ movement which has swept the country started off on Todmorden station. Locally produced food will become of critical importance in the coming months and there are lots of opportunities to grow, and sell, food at stations. Stations could provide space for raised beds to grow vegetables and herbs, which may become increasingly scarce.

Conclusion

The current crisis should not be an excuse to hunker down and do nothing, hoping it will wash over us after a few months. There is every possibility it will last for longer than we think, and it will change how we live forever. That could be a real opportunity for local rail. At the same time, the fear of infection could force people to stop using trains and buses and getting them back won’t be easy. It doesn’t have to be so. We should use the current situation as an opportunity to bring short-term support to embattled communities but create the possibility of running our local railways in a much more imaginative and innovative way, placing them at the heart of their communities – economically, socially and environmentally. This is integrated sustainable transport taken to its logical and necessary conclusion.

Now’s the time to take some risks before we get overwhelmed. Northern Trains (Operator of Last Resort) should not be an ‘Operator of Doing Nothing New’. It should seize this opportunity and make a truly positive contribution to local resilience, whilst laying the basis for strong resurgence in due course as the pandemic dies down. However, to take forward such a radical departure needs strong Government support and the backing of local authorities, the business community and the unions.

Comments welcome!

Community Rail Development Officer Post – £26,317 p.a. (full time 2 year contract, 35 hrs per week)

The Bolton and South Lancashire CRP is one of the newest community rail partnerships (CRPs) in the UK, formed in 2019. We are looking for a Community Rail Development Officer to take forward our ambitious plans to link local communities with the local railway network through creative projects that promote sustainable transport.

We are developing strong links with socially excluded communities within our area (stretching from Bolton to Manchester and Salford, Wigan and Preston) with positive relationships with local authorities and the rail industry.

We are looking for someone with a range of skills and experience who can work flexibly, with a mix of volunteers and professional colleagues. We welcome applicants with backgrounds in arts, community development, regeneration and related fields. We welcome job shares, and applications from all sections of the community.

For an application pack email Paul Salveson, chair of the community rail partnership: paul.salveson@myphone.coop. Deadline for applications is April 3rd 2020 with interviews on April 22nd. See also: https://www.boltoncommunityrail.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Bolton-and-SL-CRP-Job-Pack-07032020.docx

Lancashire Authors Association: Library set to move

The annual general meeting of the Lancashire Author’s Association (LAA) took place in Chorley last Saturday, under the entertaining presidency of Sid Calderbank complemented by the business-like chairing of Judith Addison. I guess it’s the last meeting I’ll be attending for some time; and it was an historic occasion. The LAA has been around since 1909, having been formed by a group of scribes, mostly dialect writers, at a gathering in Rochdale in April 1909. Allen Clarke, probably pre-eminent amongst Lancashire writers at the time, suggested the formation of an association to meet occasionally, which would be open to both ‘writers and lovers’ of Lancashire literature. It was formally established that year on November 27th, at a further meeting in Rochdale (Woodhall’s Resturant). It grew in membership and developed a tradition of meeting in different Lancashire towns, three times a year. In 1921 a decision was made to set up a library, that could accommodate members’ work and also the ‘classic texts’ of Lancashire literature. The first librarian was R H Isherwood of Clayton Bridge. His house was large enough to accommodate the growing collection. In the early notices he encourages intending visitors to give him two days’ notice and he would make sure he was at home. Members were advised to take a train from Platform 9 at Victoria station to Clayton Bridge, from where it was a short walk. They’d probably have had the added bonus of ‘Radial Tank’ haulage on a Stalybridge local.

The library developed and at some stage outgrew Mr Isherwood’s living room – I’m still researching when that was. In more recent years it was accommodated in Accrington Library, courtesy of Lancashire County Council. Usage declined, though it remained as an important source, particularly for research in Lancashire dialect but also other books related to the county. It has some rare documents including the unique Red Rose Circulating Library, which was posted between LAA members who commented on their fellow members’ work. How much easier that would have been today! Brian Foster did a sterling job as LAA Librarian until ill health forced him to stand down from the committee at the last AGM. I was honoured to be elected to the post. At the same time, members voted to donate the library to the University of Bolton who will house it within their library as a distinct collection, open to LAA members, staff, students and other researchers.

The move opens up other possibilities to use the collection as part of a wider project to promote Lancashire Dialect Studies and develop projects that are community-based. The move will take some time to complete (not helped by wider problems with the coronavirus) but hopefully the facility will be up and running in time for the library’s centenary year, 2021. It should be stressed that the library will aim to expand, with donations from members and friends, as it has always benefited from. More details as the project develops. Membership of the LAA is open to all ‘writers and lovers of Lancashire literature’ – for details see http://www.lancashireauthorsassociation.co.uk/

LAA in Chorley

The first time the LAA met in Chorley was their March 25th 1916 gathering, at the height of the First World War. It was held in a very special place – ‘The Workers’ College’ – the Edward McKnight Institute, belonging to the Workers Educational Association, which opened in 1909. McKnight was a well-loved librarian in Chorley. It was the first building in the country to be owned by the WEA and reflected the strength of the association, and workers’ education, in Chorley. The LAA were welcomed to the college by its president, Sir Frederick Hibbert MP, who was also chairman of Lancashire County Council’s Education Committee. The college closed in 1927. I’m hoping to do a bit more digging about its history. The first reference I came across was in Allen Clarke’s Moorlands and Memories, where he describes a ramble of the Bolton Labour Church from Darwen to Chorley, over Great Moor, finishing up at the college for supper. I bet they were ready for it when they got there! The 2020 meeting was held in the St Mary’s Parish Centre, and very comfortable it was too.

Letter Page

A bit light this week but this one from Andrew Rosthorn is particularly interesting:

“Dear Paul, Thanks for one of the very best Salvos for a long time. Kept me hooked, especially from Salford to Colne. My great grandfather John ‘The Bobby’ Taylor, often drove the morning train from Colne taking men on ‘Change. If he made up lost time he would often be slipped a half sovereign by first class passengers who might have known he was a working class Tory from Accrington.”

‘The Works’ is ready     (in case you hadn’t noticed)

Regular readers are probably sick of reading about The Works – my first novel, set around the Lancashire town of Horwich, in the former railway engineering factory where I worked for a short time in the mid-70s. Much of the action takes place in the 1970s and 80s but the story is taken through to 2025, with China looming large in the UK economy. It’s about life in a factory facing up to closure – the tensions and fears of being made redundant, as well as everyday life in a working class community.

The narrator is a trade union activist – with a secret. It’s partly a love story about his relationship with an office worker, Midge, who becomes involved in local politics and nearly gets elected as a Labour MP. In ‘real life’ the Works closed in 1983 and is now being demolished. In the novel, the factory is saved by a workers’ occupation and buy-out, with some dramatic scenes where riot police try to break the occupation. The novel links the fictitious outcome at Horwich with the actual occupation and buy-out at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, Glasgow. The novel is illustrated with photographs of the Works in the early 1980s which I took as part of a commission from Lancashire Association of Trades Councils, during the campaign to save the Works.

The story has a lot to say about local life and politics in the 1970s and 80s and Midge’s role as a community activist and councillor. Part of the story is about Horwich starting to build steam locomotives once again – for the heritage railway market – as well as making modern rolling stock. Lovers of L&Y ‘Highflyers’ please note.

There’s lots of surprises so I won’t spoil it for you. It contains strong language – and some Lancashire dialect. The planned book launches around Horwich and Bolton have all been cancelled but it’s available in (so far) three local outlets:

  • Wrights Reads, Winter Hey Lane Horwich
  • The Village Tea Rooms, Rivington
  • Justicia Fair Trade Shop, Knowsley Street, Bolton

You can of course order it by post, signed by the author (if you want). For Salvo readers, the price is  £10 plus post and packing (£2.50). Please fill in the form below.

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THE WORKS       SPECIAL SALVO READER OFFER :
ORDER FORM

Name……………………………………………………………

Address………………………………………………………………………………………

Post code……………………………………………Phone…………………………………………….

Email………………………………………………….(for notice of book signings and updates)

Please send….copy/ies of The Works to the above address. At the special price of £10 plus £2.50 post and packing. The novel will be available from March 26th in shops price £12.99. If you live within 5 miles of Horwich I can deliver without the extra £2.50 charge.

I enclose a cheque for £…….. made to ‘Paul Salveson’. Please add £2.50 for postage (regardless of number of copies ordered) unless you’re local! Would you like it signing/dedicating? If to someone else, give details:

Post to: Paul Salveson, 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU or email this form to paul.salveson@myphone.coop and use bank transfer to A/C of Paul Salveson, National Westminster Bank  Code 53-61-07 account 23448954 with your surname for reference

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events

ALL CAPED

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The Salvo Publications List  – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. There are a few hardback versions left – Normal price £25  – now at £15 with free postage. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.

‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £10.00 including post and packing. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.

‘Northern Rail Heritage’. A short introduction to the social history of the North’s railways. Price £6.00. The North ushered in the railway age  with the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 followed by the Liverpool and Manchester in 1830. But too often the story of the people who worked on the railways has been ignored. This booklet outlines the social history of railways in the North. It includes the growth of railways in the 19th century, railways in the two world wars, the general strike and the impact of Beeching.

Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin? The Winter Hill Mass Trespass of 1896′. The story of Lancashire’s Winter Hill Trespass of 1896. 10,000 people marched over Winter Hill to reclaim a right of way. Price: £5.00 (not many left). The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932 was by no means the first attempt by working class people to reclaim the countryside. Probably the biggest-ever rights of way struggle took place on the moors above Bolton in 1896, with three successive weekends of huge demonstrations to reclaim a blocked path. Over 12,000 took part in the biggest march. The demonstrations were led by a coalition of socialists and radical liberals and Allen Clarke (see above!) wrote a great song about the events – ‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’?’ Only a couple left.

You can probably get a better idea from going to my website: http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/little-northern-books-2/

Categories
Current News

Northern Weekly Salvo 277

The Northern Weekly Salvo

Incorporating  Slaithwaite Review of Books, Weekly Notices, Sectional Appendices, Tunnel Gazers’ Gazette and Northern Umbrella. Descendant of Teddy Ashton’s Northern Weekly and Th’Bowtun Loominary.

Published at 109 Harpers Lane Bolton BL1 6HU email: paul.salveson@myphone.coop

Publications website: www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

No. 277 March 11th  2020

Salveson’s half-nakedly political digest of railwayness, tripe and secessionist nonsense from Up North. Sometimes weekly, usually not; but definitely Northern. Read by the highest (and lowest) officers of state, Whitmanites, weirdos, misfits, steam punks, yes women, no men, gay Swedenborgians, cat-spotters, discerning sybarites, bi-guys, non-aligned social democrats,  pie-eaters, tripe dressers, nail artists, self-managing VIMTO drinkers, truculent Northerners, grumpy Norwegians, absurd Marxists, members of the clergy and the toiling masses. All views expressed are my own and usually nobody else’s. Official journal of the Station Cat Improvement Network, Pacer Dining Club and Station Buffet Society, and the Campaign for a North with a capital ‘N’.

“We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” – Jo Cox, maiden speech in House of Commons, June 3rd 2015

General gossips

What a strange situation we’re in. In the last Salvo I suggested that the spread of the corona virus could result in the destruction of world capitalism – and it certainly seems to be heading that way. Not sure it’s anything to celebrate though, in the absence of anything better. As far as transport goes the virus may be more likely to stop people using buses and trains, preferring the safer, sanitised environment of a car. Good job I got that electric bike, which I’m making much use of in between downpours.

One of the photos from ‘The Works’ taken at Horwich in 1983 before the factory closed

It’s an excellent way of delivering orders for my novel ‘The Works’ – the market is quite local, largely, and a ride to Horwich is entirely do-able with the eee-bygum-bike. Tackling the climb up Chorley Old Road would have been too much without powered assistance, rear-end or otherwise.

The corona virus is likely to play havoc with any public events in the next month or two, maybe even longer. Hopefully the Rail Reform Group gathering in Manchester on the 19th and my book launch in the Wayoh Brewery on 20th (see below) might just be within the bounds of acceptable common sense before the shutters come down on public events.

Meanwhile, the Association of Community Rail Partnerships has announced a change of name – from April, it will become ‘The Community Rail Network’.

Farewell Arriva Rail North! A Northern Blackpool – York service with a new class 195 descends Copy Bit on the last day that Arriva held the franchise. An assessment? As Chou-en-lai said of the French Revolution, it’s too early to make a judgement.

Good move! It’s a long time since we came up with the original name and the world has moved on. It was always a bit of a mouthful to be honest. The organisation is more than just ‘community rail partnerships’ and includes hundreds of local groups such as station friends and partnerships. In time, I hope other community groups will join as well without necessarily being 100% focused on rail.

Politics, debate, controversy

The Labour leadership election grinds inexorably on, is it just me who wishes the whole thing could just be over and done with? I’m increasingly exasperated by the lack of real politics in all of it. The best statement I’ve seen in the whole campaign was that from Clive Lewis which appears in the current issue of Chartist. What a pity he isn’t in the final shortlist. I really wish Lisa Nandy would repeat, at high volume, a lot of the things she was saying in the book she co-edited with Caroline Lucas on The Alternative. All three contenders seem desperate to avoid saying anything that might upset one or other of the factions or tendencies that make up the Labour Party. Here’s an excerpt from what Clive Lewis said: “Our route back to government begins with a recognition that the core question we face today is that of democracy. We must answer the demand for greater power and control in people’s lives not only by providing the material means by which people can live better – from higher pay to public services that work – but by transforming the institutions under which we all live, from Parliament to local authorities to how our businesses are run. And by working with others today, we can show how in government we can meet the demands of our people for a fundamental change in how our country is run and how their lives are governed.” He argues for proportional representation, lowering of the voting age to 16, regional government and greater power and resources for local government. Labour in Wales and Scotland should be fully independent. Crucially, he wants to see a move away from Labour’s tribalism and a much more collaborative style of politics. Let’s hope that those ideas aren’t lost and that each of the remaining contestants pick up on his ideas.

Celebrating International Women’s Day with Hannah

It was great to see so many railway companies celebrating International Women’s Day last Sunday. LNER re-branded a train as ‘The Flying Scotswoman’ and Arriva Rail London, Network Rail, South Eastern and many others did their own thing to promote and support women n rail.

Eileen Murphy reads her play about Hannah Mitchell at Bolton Socialist Club on March 8th

In Bolton, were treated to a great one-woman play on Hannah Mitchell, the socialist, feminist and local politician whose autobiography The Hard Way Up remains a classic. The play was written and performed by Eileen Murphy who kept the audience absolutely enthralled. Hannah had a hard and difficult life, particularly as a girl growing up on a farm on the hills above Glossop in the 1880s. She moved to ‘down town’ Glossop, then to Bolton where she became involved in the fledgling Independent Labour Party, where she met her future husband. She was active in the women’s suffrage movement. In her later years in Manchester she became a councillor – I think for the Independent Labour Party, rather than Labour itself. She had just two weeks of formal schooling but became a talented writer. Her dialect sketches for Labour’s Northern Voice, published during the 1920s, probably did more to persuade people to become socialists than any more pompous speeches. Incidentally, the Hannah Mitchell Foundation is reviving, after a few years of quiet reflection. An open meeting will be held once the current corona cris is resolved.

Don’t miss out on The New Issue 2!

The second edition of The New Issue – from the people who bring you Big Issue North – is now winging itself to existing subscribers – and new readers can buy it from our online shop. The New Issue contains real stories – beautifully told. It offers stunning photography combined with quality writing, covering everything from changing landscapes and social issues to lifestyle and fiction.

The 80-page magazine, printed on high quality stock, is a publication for good, dedicating all its profits to creating opportunities for people who have the least. All profits from The New Issue go to supporting vendors of Big Issue North, helping them overcome barriers to employment and find secure accommodation.

The new edition contains reportage and brilliant photography from Lebanon, where discontent with the economy has spilled out on to the streets but where moments of humanity are brighter than ever. It features the exuberant competitors of the British relay fell running championships, and the young grime artists of Blackpool (also featured on page 12) moving on from dissing each other to mutual support.

With the new government still only in its infancy, the magazine goes back to Workington, whose men, if not perhaps its women, took on huge significance in the general election. There’s a rare glimpse inside the vehicles of a New Age Travellers camp and confirmation, through a group of refugees, that one of humankind’s many common denominators is the love of eating things in some sort of pastry filling. Full details here: https://www.bigissuenorth.com/our-work/our-news/2020/02/a-publication-for-good/

The Train’s Long Gone: in the tracks of Driver Shorrock

After our afternoon of culture and politics we just had time to have a mooch round the remarkably visible remains of Ringley Road station, on the former Clifton Junction to Bury line, which closed in 1970. It opened in 1846 as the southern tip of the East Lancashire Railway. The line connected the North-East Lancashire ‘cotton towns’ of Accrington and Haslingden with Manchester, joining the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway at Clifton Junction.

45699 ‘Galatea’ masquerading as 45562 ‘Alberta’ last week, storming the 1 in 65 climb from Hall Royd to Copy Pit – almost as gruelling as Baxenden, and still in operation. ‘Galatea’ made a superb job of the climb, with a load of 10 coaches on ‘The Cotton Mill Express’

Shortly after opening, it was the scene of an epic ‘battle’ over running rights between the two companies, which involved the line being blockaded by rival companies’ trains. Peace was fairly quickly restored and the line was absorbed by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1859. It was an important route from Manchester to the thriving industrial centres of Accrington, Burnley, Nelson and Colne. On of the most famous trains to grace the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway was the iconic 4.25 pm Salford to Colne, one of the early L&Y ‘commuter’ trains, consisting of 10 coaches, mostly occupied by first class season ticket holders whose business would have been on the Manchester Cotton Exchange, which was easily walkable from Salford station.

It was first stop Burnley Barracks, but ‘slipped’ a coach whilst sneaking round the tight curve at Accrington.

Two typical passengers for the 4.25 Salford – Colne – outside Th’Change. Photo from Ron Freethy ‘The Story of Lancashire Cotton’ Countryside Books 2011

What a job for the guard that must have been! The running time from Salford to Burnley was 49 minutes, which I suspect you would struggle to do that by any form of transport today.  The train was entrusted to nothing bigger than one of Aspinall’s sturdy 2-4-2 ‘Radial Tanks’ built at Horwich from the 1880s. It was Agecroft shed’s no. 1 ‘job’ and was entrusted to the care of the redoubtable Driver Shorrock and three colleagues who knew how to extract every ounce of power out of their engine up the steep gradients from Clifton Junction and then north of Bury. The job was the preserve of a small fleet of three ‘Radial Tanks’ which were kept in top condition for this job. No. 1532 seems to have been the favourite. Eric Mason, shedmaster at Agecroft for many years and author of The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in the 20th Century, described Shorrock as “one of the most skilful exponents of engine management of his day”. He also called the route of the 4.25 as “one of the most difficult lengths of railway in the country,” climbing to a height of 771 ft. At Baxenden and then dropping at a 1 in 44 gradient to Accrington, where drivers had to negotiate the 5 mph slack round the curve onto the ‘main line’ to Rose Grove. The 4.25 featured in the columns of The Railway Magazine during 1922, with the eminent author and train-timer Cecil J. Allen waxing lyrical at Shorrock’s exploits.

A Footplate Ride on the 4.25

C.J. Allen edited a regular column on ‘Locomotive Practice and Performance’ in The Railway Magazine during the inter-war years. The December 1922 edition (a copy of which happens to be in my possession, as he might have said) was devoted largely to train running on the ex-Lancashire Yorkshire section of what had recently become the ‘B’ Division (huh) of the London and North Western Railway.

L&YR Radial Tank no. 1533 (sister of 1532). From ‘Railway Magazine’ Dec. 1922

Allen is unstinting in his praise of the work of the four Agecroft top-link drivers whom he timed on the 4.25 – Shorrock, Blakemore, Turner and Clough. He was permitted a footplate pass on a run driven by Shorrock, with the standard 10 coaches totalling over 250 tons. A huge load for such a diminutive loco. For those readers of The Salvo familiar with the workings of a steam locomotive, his description of the Radial Tank’s performance is quite htrilling – and astonishing. Allen makes it very clear that this was locomotive working of the highest order that copuld be exprienced anywhere on the British railway network. Let him speak for himself.

Gradient profile of the route of the 4.25 Salford – Colne drawn by C.J. Allen

He was an experienced observer of footplate working but described the run as “one of the most fascinating experiences of its kind within my recollection. Any observer who is privileged to occupy the footplate of an express engine when it is being worked under onerous conditions is bound to realise the exact science that lies behind driving and firing; but in a case like this, where a small-boilered engine is being pushed practically to the limit of her capacity for producing steam, and the slightest error of judgement on the part of the fireman in ‘placing’ his fuel, or of the driver in his method of utlising steam produced, may result in lack of steam at the critical moment, and in loss of time, or even ‘stalling’ of the engine over grades such as these – locomotive management becomes a job for thorough experts only.”

Allen was asked to sit in the fireman’s seat as the train prepared to depart.

 

C.J. Allen’s logs of the five runs on the 4.25 Colne, including one using an LNWR 4-6-0 ‘Prince’ which wasn’t really up to it…

Fireman Gough wouldn’t have any time to sit down until the train had breasted Baxenden Summit, twenty miles north. Shorrock had a poor road out of Salford, with adverse signals at Windsor Bridge (now ‘Salford Crescent’). Then, after leaving the Bolton line at Clifton Junction “Shorrcok threw his regulator right over, and at something between 40 and 45% cut-of we ascended the 1 in 96 to Ringley Road in fine style, the last three-quarters of a mile being run steadily at 32.7 mph. Steam pressure at the summit was 165 lbs per sq.inch.” The line dips slightly from here towards Bury, after which climbing began in earnest at Summerseat where “Shorrock advanced his cut-off to 50% and again threw the regulator wide, in preparation for the final climb. The effect of this was to advance our speed from 34 mph to 37 at Stubbins Junction, where cut-off was further and finally advanced to 55%.” The sound of the ‘Radial Tank’ hitting the climb at such a speed on so advanced a valve gear setting must have been volcanic. Speed was maintained up the gruelling 1 in 78 climb, “the effect of Shorrock’s conservation of energy was immediately seen in the magnificent ascent we made of the 1 in 78, mile after mile of which was mounted steadily at 29.4 mph…..a simply extraordinary achievement.” As astonishing as Shorrock’s achievement was that of his fireman, who was shovelling coal into the firebox at the rate of 50 lbs each mile, with a total effort of about 15 cwt. mostly shovelled between Salford and Baxenden.

An ignominious end

When the ‘4.25’ ceased running I don’t know; probably in the 30s. The route from Clifton Junction to Bury closed on December 5th 1966, to be followed later by the section north of Bury from Stubbins to Accrington and the branch to Rawtenstall and Bacup (with a residual service to Rawtenstall lingering into the early 70s). A disgrace bordering on the criminal that Bacup lost its trains. I travelled on one of the last trains on the weekend that Clifton Jc – Bury closed. The line was little-used by then and our diesel train (the first of the day) slipped and slid up the gradient from Clifton to Ringley Road and Radcliffe, at a much slower speed than ‘1532’ achieved at the hands of Shorrock.

For many years the former trackbed was impassable and water-logged, and part was cut by the M62 motorway.

What’s happened to that bloody train? Late again. Waiting patiently at Ringley Road

Going back a few days ago I was pleasantly surprised to see that much of it had been brought back into use as a footpath and cycle trail. Ringley Road station itself, at least the ‘down’ platform, has been restored with a couple of benches (not original!). Perhaps Driver Shorrock would have been pleased. What he would have made of the ‘sculpture trail’ that the line forms part of, who can say.

Community Rail and Sustainability

The annual community rail conference organised by the Department for Transport with ACoRP was in Bristol this year. The central theme was around ‘sustainability’ and we had time to kick around the implications of this key issue for ‘community rail’. It’s something that ACoRP’s chief executive, Jools Townsend, feels passionate about and recognising the full implications of what ‘sustainability’ means remains a key issue and challenge. I was invited to give a paper on ‘community rail and sustainability’ and the gist of it is what follows below:

It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come since those early days of ‘community rail’ back in the mid-90s. Remember when:

  • Car was still king with no pretenders to the throne
  • There were on-going worries over the future of rail network
  • ‘Community Rail’ was seen by some as a crank thing
  • Diesel traction was supreme in most of UK
  • ‘The Environment’ was a fringe issue
  • ‘Sustainability’ meant ‘financial viability’
  • Climate Change was unheard of (to most of us)

A lot has changed. It’s no longer a fringe issue to challenge the supremacy of the car.

Cars and towns don’t mix too well

Young people in particular are looking for alternatives. ‘Modal shift’ is seen as a desirable objective and this goes beyond party political lines. And when did we last see a passenger rail closure? The rail network is safe, and expanding! The big problem is lack of capacity and the need to expand.

‘Community Rail’ as a concept is embedded in rail industry and government thinking. There’s recognition that linking rail with community-based strategies for regeneration and social inclusion makes commercial, social and environmental sense. ‘Sustainability’ is now centre stage, in its broadest sense. And there’s a recognition, maybe belatedly, that ‘Climate Change’ is here, to most of us.

For community rail, there are some big implications of this shift. The days when we had to play it safe and avoid pressing for investment in case it scared off the powers-that-be are gone. We need to make the case for more capacity, whether it’s more trains, extra capacity on existing routes and new stations, or new railways. But we shouldn’t neglect the day job. Encouraging use of trains and buses, and reducing car dependency, is our fundamental purpose.

For community rail groups, everything you do is important, but maybe some of it is particularly vital. In particular:

  • Changing mindsets – making rail attractive
  • Getting them young: learn from the great work being done with schools amongst several CRPs across the country – a plug here for Community Rail Lancashire!
  • Developing practical integrated links: bus, bike, walk

There’s much more to do in terms of station development. It’s god that ‘station travel plans’ are being revived but we should avoid the box-ticking exercise which characterised some of the STPs last time round. The publication of ACoRP’s report is vey timely. Personally, I’d rather see them described as ’station development plans’ where the whole function of the station – and its surrounding hinterland – forms part of the plan. So West Midlands’ Trains ideas for ‘stations as places’ are very welcome. We need to ask:

  • What is the function of the modern station (large, medium, small)?
  • What goes on around it?
  • Where do people live and work?
  • How do they get to/from the station?
  • What should go on at and around the station that helps create an attractive, vibrant hub for communities?

We must come up with some visionary ideas, working with communities, local authorities, developers and businesses.  We must get away from the basic, functional idea of ‘the station’ and look at ways of making them amazing places. Yes, a lot of this is beyond what a CRP can do, but the reality – at present – is that most of what we do is about influencing, changing people’s ways of thinking. We can effect change, through consensus building, but we need to have the skills to do that. We need to develop high-level skills in effecting sustainable development. It means identifying the key decision-makers and building alliances. We need to win over the doubters, and marginalise those whom we’ll never persuade. You’ll find friends in unexpected places, whilst some whom you might hope would be on your side will have other priorities. Being clear on what you’re trying to achieve is key. Be ambitious but not utopian.  Decide what you are trying to achieve… but be responsive to others’ agendas. Look at the way in which ‘loneliness’ has shot up the Government agenda. Look at how the issue of medium and large towns has become central to Government thinking. We can help with the solutions. Get in there.

Harping on about narrowly-focused railway issues won’t be of interest. Throw out the Ian Allan ABC (or modern-day equivalents). Learn new ‘languages’ in regeneration, sustainability, cohesion. Develop a strategy for change and learn the ‘soft’ skills of effective campaigning. Avoid appearing too earnest and confrontational – but have an agenda and know what you want. Don’t play the ‘political’ game – be relentlessly non-partisan. And to repeat, be aware, and respond to, others’ agendas. Intelligent use of the media is so important, both print and social media.

But you need a physical presence as well. Prioritise events that offer opportunities for networking and influencing. Be seen around…become part of the furniture. People will see you as ‘folk who know what they’re talking about’.

It’s also about doing what you’re good at – and enjoy. Attract positive, creative people, avoid negativity and those who go round in a perpetual state of gloom and despondency. They won’t achieve anything, other than making others depressed as well. When recruiting new people, be willing to bend to their interests and passions. Don’t be slaves to ‘The Plan’!

We should spend more time celebrating success – but be frank and honest about learning from failures. Community rail has huge growth potential. When we formed ACoRP in the late 1990s we didn’t think we’d be so successful, with some 70 CRPs now in existence and hundreds of station groups. That resource can be used to change how our communities work, for the better. To paraphrase Dr Marx, the point isn’t just to gaze at the world, but to change it. But to succeed we need to get out there and engage.

  • Network
  • Network
  • Network

Thank you.

The Rail Reform Group and the Enterprising Railway

If you’re interested in exploring how a modern, entrepreneurial railway for the North might work, come along to the Rail Reform Group’s first open meeting, on Thursday March 19th. It’s at the Waldorf pub near Piccadilly station starting at 18.00h. Admission is free, just turn up.

Speakers will include Chris Kimberley, Nicola Forsdyke and Laurence Hilland. Each will explore different aspects of how railways can become more entrepreneurial and customer-focused. Admission is free and doors open at 18.00. The Rail Reform Group is a small network of rail professionals. We are non-party political and not linked to any corporate group. We’ve come together to develop ideas that we think are deliverable, offer good value for money and lay the foundations for a growing railway that meets the needs of both passengers and employees. We have submitted detailed suggestions to the Rail Review chaired by Keith Williams and the short article below represents a summary of ‘work in progress’: comments welcome.

Bolton Community Update: dizzy with success? (cf J. Stalin)

We are doing pretty well. After winning accreditation for the community rail partnership and getting funding from Northern, a very welcome cheque from CrossCountry came through the door. So basically, we’re all geared up to start the recruitment process for a full-time worker to support Bolton and South Lancs Community Rail Partnership.

A last look round the upstairs rooms before major renovation works commence to transform the space into a community hub

The advert is below. Why not have a try? On the down side, the corona virus situation has forced us to limit activities for the duration. We’ll do as much as we can by email. Hopefully work will continue on the upstairs renovation, with a completion date of May 18th. Once finished we’ll throw a party to celebrate. We’re also looking to do what we think is the first ‘Community Rail Mela’ – an Asian-inspired community festival at the station and interchange. Hopefully sometime in June. Watch this space.

Community Rail Development Officer Post – £26,317 p.a. (full time 2 year contract, 35 hrs per week)

The Bolton and South Lancashire CRP is one of the newest community rail partnerships (CRPs) in the UK, formed in 2019. We are looking for a Community Rail Development Officer to take forward our ambitious plans to link local communities with the local railway network through creative projects that promote sustainable transport.

We are developing strong links with socially excluded communities within our area (stretching from Bolton to Manchester and Salford, Wigan and Preston) with positive relationships with local authorities and the rail industry.

We are looking for someone with a range of skills and experience who can work flexibly, with a mix of volunteers and professional colleagues. We welcome applicants with backgrounds in arts, community development, regeneration and related fields. We welcome job shares, and applications from all sections of the community.

For an application pack email Paul Salveson, chair of the community rail partnership: paul.salveson@myphone.coop. Deadline for applications is April 3rd 2020 with interviews on April 22nd. See also: https://www.boltoncommunityrail.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Bolton-and-SL-CRP-Job-Pack-07032020.docx

‘The Works’ is agate     

My first (hopefully not the last) novel is set around the Lancashire town of Horwich, in the former railway engineering factory where I worked for a short time in the mid-70s. Much of the action takes place in the 1970s and 80s but the story is taken through to 2025, with China looming large in the UK economy. It’s about life in a factory facing up to closure – the tensions and fears of being made redundant, as well as everyday life in a working class community.

The narrator is a trade union activist – with a secret. It’s partly a love story about his relationship with an office worker, Midge, who becomes involved in local politics and nearly gets elected as a Labour MP. In ‘real life’ the Works closed in 1983 and is now being demolished. In the novel, the factory is saved by a workers’ occupation and buy-out, with some dramatic scenes where riot police try to break the occupation. The novel links the fictitious outcome at Horwich with the actual occupation and buy-out at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, Glasgow. The novel is illustrated with photographs of the Works in the early 1980s which I took as part of a commission from Lancashire Association of Trades Councils, during the campaign to save the Works.

The story has a lot to say about local life and politics in the 1970s and 80s and Midge’s role as a community activist and councillor. Part of the story is about Horwich starting to build steam locomotives once again – for the heritage railway market – as well as making modern rolling stock. Lovers of L&Y ‘Highflyers’ please note.

There’s lots of surprises so I won’t spoil it for you. It contains strong language – and some Lancashire dialect. There will be a number of book launches around Horwich and Bolton in late March and April. If you want to secure an advance, signed, copy at the special price of £10, fill in the form below. If your community group would like a talk on the novel please contact me at the address below or email paul.salveson@myphone.coop. All orders must be paid in advance and received before March 21st.

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THE WORKS       SPECIAL PRE-PUBLICATION OFFER : ORDER FORM

Name…………………………………………………………….

Address……………………………………………………………………………..Post code……………………………………………Phone……………………………

Email…………………………………………….(for notice of book signings and updates)

Please send….copy/ies of The Works to the above address. At the special price of £10 plus £2.50 post and packing. The novel will be available from March 26th in bookshops and other outlets price £12.99. If you live within 5 miles of Horwich I can deliver without the extra £2.50 charge.

I enclose a cheque for £…….. made to ‘Paul Salveson’. Please add £2.50 for postage (regardless of number of copies ordered) unless you’re local! The book will be posted to you before March 26th. Would you like it signing/dedicating? If to someone else, give details:

Post to: Paul Salveson, 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU or email this form to paul.salveson@myphone.coop and use bank transfer to A/C of Paul Salveson, National Westminster Bank  Code 53-61-07 account 23448954 with your surname for reference

 

………………………………………………………………………..

Special Traffic Notices: Coming Events

Saturday March 14th:                      Lancashire Authors Association AGM, St Mary’s Church, Chorley

Thursday March 19th                      Rail Reform Group ‘The Enterprising Railway’ 18.00 The Waldorf, Manchester (free event, collection)

Friday March 20th                             Launch of The Works Wayoh Brewery,  nr. Blackrod Station 18.00

Saturday March 21st:                       Cumbrian Railways Assocation, Penrith.

Friday March 27th                             Talk on Horwich Works and the novel, Bolton Socialist Club, 16 Wood Street, Bolton 20.00

Tuesday April 14th                                           Horwich Heritage: Talk on ‘Railways and Literature in Lancashire’

Saturday April 18th                           Horwich Library, 13.00: ‘Horwich Loco Works’ in Art, Literature and History

………………………………………………………………………………..

The Salvo Publications List  – see www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

The Settle-Carlisle Railway (2019) published by Crowood and available in reputable, and possibly some disreputable, bookshops price £24. It’s a general history of the railway, bringing it up to date. It includes a chapter on the author’s time as a goods guard on the line, when he was based at Blackburn in the 1970s. The book includes a guide to the line, from Leeds to Carlisle. Some previously-unused sources helped to give the book a stronger ‘social’ dimension, including the columns of the LMS staff magazine in the 1920s. ISBN 978-1-78500-637-1

The following are all available from The Salvo Publishing HQ, here at 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU. Cheques should be made out to ‘Paul Salveson’ though you can send cash if you like but don’t expect any change. Bottles of whisky, old bound volumes of Railway Magazine, number-plates etc. by negotiation.

‘Lancashire’s Romantic Radical – the life and writings of Allen Clarke/Teddy Ashton‘ (2009). The story of Lancashire’s errant genius – cyclist, philosopher, unsuccessful politician, amazingly popular dialect writer. Normal Price £15  – can now offer it for £10 with free postage. There are a few hardback versions left – Normal price £25  – now at £15 with free postage. This book outlines the life and writings of one of Lancashire’s most prolific – and interesting – writers. Allen Clarke (1863-1935) was the son of mill workers and began work in the mill himself at the age of 11. He became a much-loved writer and an early pioneer of the socialist movement. He wrote in Lancashire dialect as ‘Teddy Ashton;’ and his sketches sold by the thousand. He was a keen cyclist and rambler; his books on the Lancashire countryside – ‘Windmill Land’ and ‘Moorlands and Memories’ are wonderful mixtures of history, landscape and philosophy.

‘With Walt Whitman in Bolton – Lancashire’s Links to Walt Whitman‘. This charts the remarkable story of Bolton’s long-lasting links to America’s great poet. Price £10.00 including post and packing. New bi-centennial edition published in May 2019. Bolton’s links with the great American poet Walt Whitman make up one of the most fascinating footnotes in literary history. From the 1880s a small group of Boltonians began a correspondence with Whitman and two (John Johnston and J W Wallace) visited the poet in America. Each year on Whitman’s birthday (May 31) the Bolton group threw a party to celebrate his memory, with poems, lectures and passing round a loving cup of spiced claret. Each wore a sprig of lilac in Whitman’s memory. The group were close to the founders of the ILP – Keir Hardie, Bruce and Katharine Bruce Glasier and Robert Blatchford. The links with Whitman lovers in the USA continue to this day.

‘Northern Rail Heritage’. A short introduction to the social history of the North’s railways. Price £6.00. The North ushered in the railway age  with the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 followed by the Liverpool and Manchester in 1830. But too often the story of the people who worked on the railways has been ignored. This booklet outlines the social history of railways in the North. It includes the growth of railways in the 19th century, railways in the two world wars, the general strike and the impact of Beeching.

Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin? The Winter Hill Mass Trespass of 1896′. The story of Lancashire’s Winter Hill Trespass of 1896. 10,000 people marched over Winter Hill to reclaim a right of way. Price: £5.00 (not many left). The Kinder Scout Mass Trespass of 1932 was by no means the first attempt by working class people to reclaim the countryside. Probably the biggest-ever rights of way struggle took place on the moors above Bolton in 1896, with three successive weekends of huge demonstrations to reclaim a blocked path. Over 12,000 took part in the biggest march. The demonstrations were led by a coalition of socialists and radical liberals and Allen Clarke (see above!) wrote a great song about the events – ‘Will Yo’ Come O’ Sunday Mornin’?’ Only a couple left.

You can probably get a better idea from going to my website: http://www.lancashireloominary.co.uk

 

Categories
Current News

The Enterprising Railway

The Rail Reform Group and the Enterprising Railway

If you’re interested in exploring how a modern, entrepreneurial railway for the North might work, come along to the Rail Reform Group’s first open meeting, on Thursday March 19th. It’s at the Waldorf pub near Piccadilly station starting at 18.00h. Admission is free, just turn up.

Speakers will include Chris Kimberley, Nicola Forsdyke and Laurence Hilland. Each will explore different aspects of how railways can become more entrepreneurial and customer-focused. Admission is free and doors open at 18.00. The Rail Reform Group is a small network of rail professionals. We are non-party political and not linked to any corporate group. We’ve come together to develop ideas that we think are deliverable, offer good value for money and lay the foundations for a growing railway that meets the needs of both passengers and employees. We have submitted detailed suggestions to the Rail Review chaired by Keith Williams and the short article below represents a summary of ‘work in progress’: comments welcome.

A Railway for the Common Good

Britain’s railways are going through a tumultuous period, with fundamental questions being asked about the way they are owned and managed. Any change of direction must build on some of the positive achievements of the last 25 years. We reject the binary simplicities of public good/private bad (or vice-versa). But we must move on from a structure that is no longer fit for purpose. A new approach should be based on greater integration of railway operations and infrastructure, long-term stability and a wider social purpose than purely shareholder profit.

We use the example of the North of England, particularly the ‘metropolitan belt’ from the Mersey to the Humber – as a prototype for a ‘railway for the common good’ which is part of the economic and social fabric of the North; big enough to achieve economies of scale but focussed on key regional markets which have suffered historic neglect but are experiencing (in part) regeneration.

A fresh approach should combine a strong degree of commercial freedom and initiative whilst maintaining public sector support and accountability. We need to rebuild traditional railway skills, complemented by new ones.

Our key argument is for a regional railway company – Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways – constituted as a mutual business, in which most of the profits generated would be re-invested into the railway. A closer relationship between operations and infrastructure, combined with long-term stability, would provide the vital basis to develop a modern railway which the North sorely needs.

The reality is that modern-day railway technology has moved, in practice, back towards much stronger integration between train operations and infrastructure, yet this is not yet reflected in how the railways are run. At the same time, the need for long-term stability and growth to meet the potential of significant modal shift (to help meet a range of pressures, not least Climate Change), has become greater.

We consider it essential that Network Rail’s regional structure should be aligned with that of the suggested new railway company, covering the North of England as a whole. The current structure of  east and west regions, based on the East and West Coast Main Lines, is London-centric and deeply unhelpful to the North of England, with split responsibilities and lack of focus on the needs of the North as a whole. We advocate a Network Rail (North) that would takes on most functions currently provided across the North by Network Rail’s two regions (LNE and LNW), whilst retaining a smaller ‘system operator’ for critical oversight of the network as a whole.

As a mutual business, Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways would be accountable to its Board of Trustees who would be independently selected on the basis of wide-ranging expertise and knowledge of the region and its needs, some by key stakeholders such as TfN, TfGM and similar bodies. Beneath the board, an executive with high-level rail expertise, would run the day-to-day operation. We have used the example of Welsh Water/Glas Cymru as a business which delivers vital services to the public with a mutual structure.

It should have a contract to operate for a long-term period (e.g. 30-50 years) with periodic reviews which are aligned with current rail industry Control Periods. It would be very closely aligned (but legally separate) from a re-structured and devolved Network Rail (North). Its geographical spread should be smaller than the current Northern franchise, with a separate business covering the North-East and Cumbria, which would also come under Network Rail (North).

We propose a hierarchy of services, with high quality inter-regional trains serving key locations (based on a merger of existing TPE and ‘Northern Connect’ services), integrated with local and regional services and rural routes. There is potential to do much more with the ‘community rail’ concept, with partnerships serving urban as well as more rural networks, with a clear focus on social and economic regeneration. We should not take the current network as static, but develop a long-term plan for new routes and stations.

An organic process of gradual integration between infrastructure and operations would start by Network Rail (North) and Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways working together at board level, with a long-term business plan aligned by control periods and the train company’s periodic reviews. A joint culture and ethos would be established, over time, at all levels of the railway to achieve ever-closer integration in the practicalities of running a dynamic and responsive railway.

Any railway manager will tell you that there’s considerable scope to look at a range of pragmatic solutions which bring track and train closer together. The industry must work together collaboratively and creatively, with a clear understanding of responsibilities and a reduction of unhelpful interfaces, which are expensive, inefficient and cause delays in decision making.

Our focus has been on the North of England, but a similar approach could work in other parts of the UK. Our approach avoids the short-termism of the current system but doesn’t risk a return to the dead-hand of the Treasury which BR experienced in the 1970s and 1980s.