Archive for the ‘transport’ Category

Strange things happen in bad weather, and in December, traffic wardens in Edinburgh were unable to operate properly due to the sheer volume of snow.   Parking bays, yellow lines etc. were completely obscured, and piles of snow were left at the side of the roads.

Many Councils, not just Edinburgh, were left without income from parking tickets for the duration, and are now feeling the pinch.   The army of Edinburgh traffic wardens have a reputation of being extremely efficient – they have a job to do and get on with it.    But  the staggering figure is the amount issued in parking fines every day in Edinburgh:   would you believe that this is £50,000?    EVERY DAY.

Edinburgh Traffic wardens

Edinburgh Traffic Wardens in the Snow - Gie them shovels!

It makes you think though:     if the citizens of Edinburgh want to teach Edinburgh Council a lesson  for introducing the stupid, stupid tram project, they just need to obey the parking rules to the letter for a few months.

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“Have you tried turning it off and restarting it again?”  must be anyone who has worked in computer support’s favourite phrase.    To be fair, if your computer starts behaving oddly, not to mention freezing, that it a great first step to solving things.

virgin train

Virgin Train

But yesterday this was applied to a whole train.   The Virgin train from Glasgow to Euston pulled into Penrith and the ‘train manager’ announced that we would be having a ‘computer reset”.   The engine stopped, the air conditioning stopped, and all the lights went out.   Complete train darkness and silence.   Then everything fired up again, and off we went, 20 minutes late.    Well, almost everything – the power supplies at the seats for laptops never quite made it back on again, but I was not going to ask about it in case the electronics took another fit.

The man running the Shop on the train said that the problem was the alarms in the loos apparently, which all stopped working.   He said in two years of working for Virgin Trains, this was the first time it had happened!

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What a total nightmare.    The proposed Glasgow Airport Rail Link GARL is a casualty of the Scottish Govermnent’s budget, and will now apparently not be happening.

Glasgow Council are furious, and I am sure that the Commonwealth Games people will also be very unhappy – although they probably can’t say too much as they are due to receive funding from the Government to put the games on.      But GARL was a carrot used in the bid for the Games.

Why can’t Scotland manage to link its airports (Prestwick excepted) with the major cities?      Other countries seem to be able to do this.

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The Edinburgh Airport Rail Link was scrapped because basically there was no money to do it – too much going on those  wonderful Edinburgh Trams – which won’t actually now reach the airport apparently.

It is a pity, because the EARL project would have linked over 60 stations in Scotland to the airport.     You would think that if Warsaw can manage to do it (driven by the European Football competition Poland is sharing with Ukraine), that we just might manage it in Scotland.

And do you know how close the actual railway is to the airport?    It is this close, and this is not a zoomy picture.   The next set of landing lights is on the other side of the train.

Edinburgh Airport Runway from the Train

Edinburgh Airport Runway from the Train

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Heading to Edinburgh?    Lots to see and do, and shows are booking well by all accounts.   Hope the rain stays off.

But Edinburgh is a city under seige from miles and miles of Heras fencing, seas of  yellow diversion signs, diggers, men in high-vis jackets and general mess as the work for the Trams is ongoing.   

Driving between the North and South of Edinburgh is all but impossible – even for locals, as a route open one day may be suddenly closed the next.     Busses are coralled into George Street.   Clearly this is Edinburgh Council’s revenge against the electorate of Edinburgh who voted against their proposed congestion charge.    Latest encouraging news is that the Council are taking the Tram contractors to court for not fulfilling their contract.

Also, key attractions like the Royal Museum, the Portrait Gallery, the Commonwealth Pool and the City Arts Centre are all closed at the same time for months for major refurbishment.    Who planned that?

 Anyway, this is Princes Street.     Shocking.     Good luck trying to walk along it, and (even worse), cross it.    And in case you thought that you could drive North/South at Haymarket, you can’t.    It looks just like Princes Street.

Princes Street Tram Mess

Princes Street Tram Mess

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Travelling back from a haary Arbroath to a sunny Perth this afternoon on the train.  

The tea trolley came round, and my companion ordered a tea.   She rather fancied one of the muffins as well, but was not allowed to buy one.    “They are for the First Class passengers only”.    What’s that all about then?

I suggested to the cheerful trolley man that they don’t display them for the likes of us, and he said that this had been brought up, but no-one listens.

As we got nearer Perth, the trolley came back along (the train only had three carriages, and a tiny First Class bit), with its pile of muffins still unsold.    I’d be pretty cross if they get to Glasgow and unsold muffins have to be binned because they are stale.

My companion had shortbread instead.

You could not make it up, really.

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London Busses

london-busSince I was last on a London bus, they have introduced an audio system which tells you which bus you are on, and the name of the next bus stop.    Good idea – or at least it is for a while.    After about 20 minutes it starts to become annoying.   Goodness knows how the drivers put up with it all day.     Got to find something to spend all that congestion charge money on, I suppose.   Anyway, it is called the iBus project, if you are interested.

Perhaps the drivers are silently registering their frustration by driving with their lights on all the time.       Why is this?    And how much extra fuel does it cost?    During the day, you can hardly miss 12 tonnes of bright red London Bus coming at you.

And the 176 I was on lost the tracking system on Saturday, so we were eerily silent for a while …. until it found out where it was again.     And who, I wonder, is the voice behind the announcements?

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Trains, Trains, Trains

I had to go to London for a meeting last week, and went there and back in a day by train.    Edinburgh to London, city centre to city centre is about as quick as flying these days.

National Express

National Express

National Express now run the East Coast line, and when it works, it is a great service.    There is even Wifi on the trains now – except the Wifi was not working going down this time, but is was OK on the way back up.     Everything went to time, even down to the 6 minutes I had to change trains at Edinburgh onto the Scotrail service to Perth.    6 hours London to Perth is pretty good really.

But coming from the comfort of the National Express onto the Scotrail service to Perth was a bit of a jolt.    Just two carriages long, this new service through Fife was casebook old rolling stock.   The wind whistled in through the windows, the heating was not working well, and the train was filthy.   Really bogging.     The carpet where passengers got on and off near the door was worn flat and was brown – it looked like a herd of cattle had been through.   It is supposed to be the colour of purple heather that Scotrail uses (see photo).   The rubbish leftover from the last passengers was still there – sticky table with a half-eaten punnet of blueberries at mine.   I was not brave enough to finish them – like communal bowls of peanuts in a pub, you really never know where other fingers have been.   

scotrail interior - not brown

scotrail interior - not brown

We rattled across the Forth bridge and through Fife, and when I say rattled, I mean it:     the train shook,  grumbled and clanked.       And the automated signs and speech were not tallying up at all:   “This is Perth” announced the automated voice brightly …….   “Change here for stations to Inverness”.       The moving sign in my carriage was stubbornly stuck on ‘Dunkeld’ ……. where the train was not going.    

The Scotrail staff were very cheery, as always.    The lady checking tickets scribbled on mine in her biro.     “Why doesn’t Scotrail give you nice ticket punching pliers?” I asked.    ” Because if you punch holes in the tickets, the automatic ticket barriers can’t read them”, she replied rather sadly, “it’s just how it is”.

A scribble with a biro is ultimately rather disappointing.    National Express still punch neat holes in theirs.    And Perth does not have automatic barriers.

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Superfast Ferry

Sad news today that the Superfast Ferry between Rosyth and Zebrugge is to be axed from 13th September.     It seems that the Euro exchange rate and high cost of oil is making this unecomnomic to run.

This route is very valuable for bringing visitors directly to Scotland from Europe, and with their cars.    But, even although there are plenty of them, tourists alone are not enough to pay the bills, and from the very beginning this route has always needed freight to make it viable.

I remember the official launch in 2002 when Chancellor and local MP, Gordon Brown accompanied by then First Minister Henry McLeish toured the boat and made speeches on board.

We used to have a boat every day, but now it is every other day.   It is possible that another operator might be found to run this route – let’s hope so.     It would be a shame to lose it after so much hard work was put into getting it set up in the first place.

Indeed, there has been recent talk of developing more ferry routes using Rosyth, including a route to Norway.

Rosyth Ferry

Rosyth Ferry

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I have had to travel to Edinburgh for each of the past two days, and luckily, what I was doing fitted in with the Megabus service timetable.     Perth is a Megabus hub where busses cross over and meet, providing express bus services to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness.    The busses are large single deckers, and are comfortable.     If I have a grumble, the drivers don’t always get the ventilation setting right, and it can get a bit stuffy at times.

I have to say though that I continue to be impressed.   Although it is trickier to get the rock bottom fares, even booking the day before produces a fare which is cheaper than the cost of my fuel – and my car gets 42 miles per gallon.     And it is pretty expensive to park in Edinburgh these days.    But the Megabus staff are well trained, and there are plenty of them.    On the four busses I took, all the drivers were cheerful and helpful, as were the other Megabus staff.    It is interesting that everyone getting off the busses thanked the driver as they left.

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