Saturday, 6 February 2016

Ovingham Bridge and an electric railway

I was obviously mulling over Colin Tapping, the Hexham Courant (see and Ovingham Bridge in my sleep. I awoke with this perfectly formed. So Mr Tapping acknowledges Prudhoe is larger than Hexham but his best advice is learn to live without Ovingham Bridge. Many of you have (his evidence?). In this expression of fraternal concern, there is this point to be made. Next time Hexham bridge falls, Mr Tapping will not be in the least bit put out if we suggest that Hexham learns to live without it. After all, they have the bypass bridge just to the west and Corbridge to the east. No difference at all to Prudhoe, Bywell and Wylam. Hexham could happily and without agitation do without Hexham bridge. This line of thought is clearly so preposterous that it leaves you wondering why has Mr Tapping written as he has? To cynically ensure his letter columns fill for weeks?

Mr Tapping's views however tap into something else deeply worrying about the north east in the 21st century. Our region seems entirely unable to pull together. When Prudhoe and Hexham can argue amongst themselves, when Ashington can stuff Morpeth, when Prudhoe's own are unable to agree without hesitation that a new road to the A69 is essential, when Sunderland and Newcastle cannot work together (instance Sunderland museums being pulled from the joint service), when people cannot agree who should chair the LEP, etc, etc, the North West and Yorkshire run circles around the North East. Middlesbrough and Tees Valley don't even want to be part of the North East. The reason they run circles around us is because they have learnt to come together and share. Greater Manchester (as in Tyne and Wear) has effectively been reconstituted and each council (large and small just like the EU) takes it in turns to chair. Is Nick Forbes in Newcastle willing to come up with that?

Problems both in Prudhoe and in the region may seem worringly complex and intractable. However I think they come down to simple roots. Will you trust others and will you share? If you won't, look forward to a lot more of the same and the best folk packing bags. On the horizon is another instance. Mr Tapping threw into the mix the electrification of the Tyne Valley line as a reason for Prudhoe not getting a new connection to the A69. I have news for him, according to Network Rail electrifying our railway is on a par with the Barton on Humber branch. Something not remotely on the radar. However doubtless he could retort "well at least the coming Arriva rail franchise, promises us new trains for the Pacers to go". News there as well, if you know which meetings and briefings to go to , which newsgroups to look at, it is now ABSOLUTELY CLEAR Arriva are not bringing new trains to the North East. The many new trains they are buying are going to Yorkshire and Lancashire. What you will see passing through Prudhoe station is something called a Class 158. A nice train in itself but here is the rub, already 26 years old and as I will attach a photo below, a type of train Tyne Valley communters were used to riding in the early 1990s. Until we can get our act together, this is what we are worth, other people's cast offs. Even so this will be a 90mph train running on a 65mph railway so the real challenge is as Mr Tapping suggests the infrastructure, but there is so much to do to it before wiring becomes good sense.

The winter of 1990/91 at Prudhoe and a Class 158 four car rake handles the commuter traffic. This is the new train Arriva will deliver to us in a year or so.

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