HS2 rail line, China and £11.8bn contracts

hi speed train
Face of the future?

24 September, 2015:  BBC News reported that George Osborne is urging Chinese firms to pitch for £11.8bn in construction contracts for the UK’s proposed HS2 rail line, during his recent visit to China. On the same day, The Guardian reported that Osborne was to invite competition for bids at an event in Chengdu – to attract Chinese investors to back HS2 and other major UK rail infrastructure projects, particularly across the north of England.

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La Petite Ceinture de Paris

Petite Ceinture track
Walking the line

Recently the BBC presented a feature on the Petite Ceinture (“Little Belt”), a historical and defunct railway route skirting the outer edge of central Paris.  The feature appeared on its News Magazine Web site and was titled “The wild abandoned railway in the centre of Paris” and included a fascinating short video.

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Liverpool Edge Hill Station making Railway History

0-8-0 hauled freight train from Wapping Goods station
Edge Hill – photo: Michael Delamar.

Railways, as we understand them, have been around for the best part of two centuries. The world’s first “modern” railway system was engineered by George Stephenson and used flange wheeled, self-propelled [steam] trains operating on nowadays traditional railway tracks. The railway connected the industrial cities of Liverpool and Manchester and it is on this route we find Liverpool Edge Hill station making railway history.

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The World’s fastest Railway Locomotive

Taurus Loco

Railway history has demonstrated the corporate fascination with speed and the development of high-speed networks across Europe, including the proposed HS2 addition to HS1 in Britain, illustrate a prevailing theme. One interesting question – which is the world’s fastest railway locomotive?

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Live SBB Trains Map – Swiss Railway System

The Swiss Railway (SBB) system is one of the most intensive in the world and it used to be possible to view a real-time Live Trains Map of the SBB, complete with train identification and train search functionality?  Unfortunately, as you will by now have found, it longer seems to be offered; indeed the http://swisstrains.ch/ web site is apparently up for sale (as at October 2015).   The map used to look like the image shown below.

Swiss Live Trains map
The original Live SBB Trains map used to show actual real-time movements – alas, no longer.

However, all is not lost, as an alternative is out there – to provide Swiss fans an opportunity to “watch” local, regional and inter city/national trains busily making their way across the country.

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Railway Station Coffee Shops and Bars with Character

Railway stations vary greatly in functionality, aesthestics, and appeal; such characteristics can be exaggerated on a cold, wind-swept day and even more so, when you arrive either too early to catch a train, or the train is delayed.  If you’re like me, the first objective will be to find a decent coffee bar/cafe/bar (whatever your persuasion!) and pass the time away, hopefully with something to read.

Recently, I have begun to take note of train stations that have an unusual coffee shop or bar; this has been partly stimulated by the TV programmes on railway journeys that appear periodically (e.g. Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys, accompanied by his Bradshaw Guide).  So, I thought it would be interesting to try and find out just where the best examples of train station hospitality can be found, in distinctive settings.    Continue reading “Railway Station Coffee Shops and Bars with Character”