Holy Island, 2015

A Northern Wake-Up Call: IPPR North Report Confirms Westminster Failings

How COVID-19 has intensified inequalities in Northern England

This week, IPPR North’s report The State of the North has confirmed what many Northerners have known since the height of Thatcher’s term in office. With Brexit and COVID-19, the North-South divide has grown dramatically – to a point that the gap between South East England and North West England could be akin to that of West Germany and East Germany prior to reunification.

Before last week, one of the few things that set Northern England apart from the South East of England was consigned to history forever. If you wanted to know where the North of England really began, it was at the most southerly terminus of a rail service that was served by Class 142 Pacer units. With franchised buses as part of a fully integrated transport system, Greater London feels like another planet compared with Greater Manchester.

Continue reading “A Northern Wake-Up Call: IPPR North Report Confirms Westminster Failings”
Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge, 11 October 2009

What Has the North Done For Us?

Quite a lot to be honest!

Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge (widescreen)
The iconic Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge

Imagine a world without Northern England. It would be a dull place devoid of The Beatles, iconic suspension bridges, daft footballers, and railway lines. Prior to the late 1970s, we were the manufacturing heart of the world. We built bridges, ships, made cutlery and built the world its locomotives and carriages. Today, most of what manufacturing capacity we had has been eviscerated by London-centric governments and globalisation. Prior to the mid 1980s, we kept most of our country’s power stations ticking over and our houses warm, before they closed down the pits and started importing its coal.

Continue reading “What Has the North Done For Us?”
Durham Cathedral Square

Can You Get From Westminster to Durham By Bus?

If you have any sense at this moment in time, the answer should be ‘No’

The list of places associated with disreputable goings-on with present and previous Conservative governments have grown in the last five years. There are now enough places to muster a Best of British coach tour. Till last week, we had a suitable coach operator with the hotels and pick up points to pitch a possible inclusive tour.

Continue reading “Can You Get From Westminster to Durham By Bus?”
D6700 Class 40, York (Image by Calflier001).

A Lost Train to London: The Highwayman

The cheap yet slow way of getting from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to London

Road and rail competition, whether private car versus train or scheduled coach versus train is far from new. The private car was, and remains, a threat to the viability of any communal transport options due to its convenience and perceived economy. The opening of the M1 and M6 motorways was also attractive for coach operators as well as motorists.

Continue reading “A Lost Train to London: The Highwayman”

Northern Nationalised: Franchise Transfers from Arriva Rail North to DfT

Northern franchise taken over by DfT as Operator of Last Resort from the 01 March

After several rumours and persistent lobbying by Northern English political figures in the last six months, it was announced today that Arriva lost its Northern rail franchise. Under the Anglo-German company’s tenure, the rail franchise was dogged by poor service, delayed rolling stock deliveries and gross overcrowding.

Continue reading “Northern Nationalised: Franchise Transfers from Arriva Rail North to DfT”
Generic Euphonium picture

Westoe Brass Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club, 19 January 2020

Another tight performance from Westoe Brass Band

After being forced to choose from singers dressed as yellow ducks or unicorns, or ice-based pratfalls, the people of Saddleworth (and Boarshurst Silver Band’s avid streaming audience) were saved from such misfortune last night. At 7pm, Westoe Brass Band began the 2020 season of concerts in style.

Continue reading “Westoe Brass Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club, 19 January 2020”
Northern Class 195, Manchester Airport

Should Northern Rail Be Nationalised? Be Careful What You Wish For

Or: is the Grayling Curse to blame for Northern’s woes?

The rail franchising system is dead. Long live the rail franchising system. In the last year, we have seen a recasting of the rail franchising system in favour of management contracts. Since 1994, rail franchises in Great Britain have mirrored former British Rail profit centres, which in turn have roots in BR’s sectorisation programme by Sir Robert (Basil) Reid.

Continue reading “Should Northern Rail Be Nationalised? Be Careful What You Wish For”

Packed Pacer Problem Solved for 2019 Deadline

East of the M60 EXCLUSIVE: Nodding Donkeys become beautiful bi-modes with revolutionary technology

  • 10-car Pacers set for DDA compliant overhaul;
  • New breed of Nodding Donkeys go electric.
40 more years? Imagine these units, only five times longer, with a pantograph, a steam funnel and a tender.

Set to carry on for a longer period of time than the UK’s Brexit negotiations is the fate of Northern’s Pacer units. Due to disability legislation, the much-maligned family of diesel units were scheduled for withdrawal in 2019. In reality, the delivery of Northern’s replacements have delayed the Pacer family’s withdrawal. So much so that one of the units scheduled for inclusion in the National Railway Museum’s collection is still in service.

According to reports from an informed source, East of the M60 can confirm that the Pacer family of units will be seeing continued service for another 40 years.

Continue reading “Packed Pacer Problem Solved for 2019 Deadline”

Westoe Brass Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club

South Shields band kicks off 2019 season of Boarshurst concerts in style

Only three weeks ago, Boarshurst Band Club finished off its 2018 season of Sunday Brass nights in style with the Friends of Music For Youth Brass Band. That concert got us on a high for the 2019 programme, which has a tasty selection of bands coming our way. Kickstarting the new season last night [20 January] was Westoe Brass Band.

Continue reading “Westoe Brass Band: Sunday Brass at the Boarshurst Band Club”

The Greatest Cover Versions by The Toy Dolls: The Not So Perfect Ten

Ten “must-listen to” cover versions by Sunderland’s finest musical export

Nellie the Elephant
An elephant, in South Africa. Supposedly called Nellie. Image by Chris Hills, 2010 (Creative Commons License – Some Rights Reserved).

Hagiographies of punk and new wave music in Northern England seldom breach the Standedge Tunnel’s Diggle end. Lazily, history tells us about the Buzzcocks, Joy Division, Slaughter and the Dogs, and the Sex Pistols’ gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. Fewer column inches are devoted to the Liverpool groups, or the Leodisian contributions of the Gang of Four and The Mekons. What about the North East of England? Usually Penetration and another band famous for the cover of a soppy elephant song. Continue reading “The Greatest Cover Versions by The Toy Dolls: The Not So Perfect Ten”