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The Beginning Of The End?

As noted last week in my third and final post of 2018, there is a reason for the lack of posts. After attempting to post weekly in 2017 (I failed, but the longest gap was six weeks) and complaining frequently that I didn’t have time for everything (I always seem to have too many projects on the go) I was advised to stop blogging. The time spent writing didn’t seem worthwhile given that I have received very few genuine comments (lots of spam though) and I am not aware of viewer numbers. I initially intended to phase out the blog, completing the backlog of partly written posts (mostly holiday travel reports) and then bringing the whole thing to a stop. My general level of busyness however has ensured that the partly written posts have stayed that way.

Direct Rail Services class 57 locomotive with 'Northern Belle' coaches crossing a bridge over a road in Goodwick, Pembrokeshire.
Over the limit: a class 57 leads the ‘Northern Belle’ through Goodwick on route to Fishguard Harbour. This is one of my most-recent photographs on Flickr.
Those posts might appear one day, and I have one or two ideas for new posts for this new year, but no promises. Either way, as far as this blog is concerned I think we have reached the beginning of the end. A further setback is that Flickr have decided to introduce a 1,000 photo limit on free accounts. I had over 1,120 photos hosted on the platform, some solely for the purpose of this blog, and have therefore been forced to start deleting some photos. Any new pictures for the blog will therefore have to be hosted elsewhere (I’m using old photos that I had already uploaded to Flickr at the moment).

But enough about me. As 2018 drew to a close I received two e-mails requesting that I contact the five Assembly Members representing my area in the National Assembly for Wales to ask them to vote against the proposals to build a second M4 around Newport. Apparently, the Assembly were expected to vote on the scheme by the end of that year. It soon became clear that the vote would not in fact take place until early 2019, but when it does I feel that the outcome will be profound. Sophie Howe, the Future Generations Commissioner For Wales, has spoken out against the project. The decision on whether or not to proceed could therefore have wider implications than decisions on previous road projects. For the first time a major road scheme could be shelved due, in large part, to the need to reduce car travel and greenhouse gas emissions; rather than purely on cost grounds or because of local environmental issues.

New bridge under construction at Severn Tunnel Junction
On the edge of the levels: Severn Tunnel Junction is the nearest I’ve come to a photograph of the Gwent Levels, which the proposed new M4 would run through.
Cancellation of the second M4 could therefore, at long last, be the beginning of the end for the traditional ‘predict and provide’ car culture; and the start of a meaningful shift towards sustainable transport. It might even set an example to other nations that building infrastructure is not always compatible with the need to combat climate change. If it sets such a positive precedent, it might just save life on Earth. On the other hand, if the decision goes the other way and the new motorway is built it would suggest that all the well-meaning legislation that aims to protect nature and the climate are worthless. The Future Generations Act, heralded as ‘groundbreaking’ by its promoters, would suddenly appear toothless and pointless. A dangerous precedent could be set; with road building and traffic growth continuing to be a favoured policy in government as it has been since the era of Dr Richard Beeching’s infamous ‘axe’. Climate change would likely become unstoppable; it could be the beginning of the end for many species.

Apologies for ending on such a pessimistic note, but remember that is just one possible outcome. The plans for a second M4 could yet be abandoned; for all our sakes let us hope so. Either way, 2019 could be a crucial year; let’s do humanity proud.

Legends For Christmas

First Great Western locomotive 43172 'Harry Patch: Last Survivor Of The Trenches' in remembrance livery leads an Intercity 125 set out of Carmarthen in glorious summer late-afternoon light.
Last post for the year: at the going down of the sun, we will remember them. 43172 heads out of Carmarthen with a Pembroke Dock to London service; Intercity 125 trains operated normal passenger services to/from Pembroke Dock for the last time in 2018.
Another year draws to a close… With just six days left of 2018, it’s high time I released another post so that I can say that ‘I made a crowd of posts in 2018’ (three’s a crowd; or so the saying goes). Unfortunately I cannot think of many noteworthy points about the past year to cover today; having already covered the handover of the Wales & Borders franchise in the year’s only non-winter post. The mainstream news has been dominated by arguments surrounding Britain’s intended departure from the European Union; I’m fed up of hearing about that. Politicians; please can we forget about it and get down to the serious business of tackling climate change?

There is a reason why my blog has been so quiet in 2018, and that is unlikely to change much in 2019. More on that (very) early next year (I hope). In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy the ‘Christmas present’ I have prepared for any readers. This ‘present’ takes the form of a belatedly completed video project, featuring First Great Western’s Intercity 125 trains, which bowed out on ‘The Pembroke Coast Express’ at the end of the summer 2018 season.

First Great Western Intercity 125 train in the Carmarthenshire countryside on the 'Pembroke Coast Express'
Summer in Pibwrlwyd: the westbound ‘Pembroke Coast Express’ approaches Carmarthen in June 2016.
The Pembroke Coast Express is the focus of the video, which I originally hoped to publish during 2017 (Visit Wales’ Year of Legends). My project is therefore coming to fruition a whole year late. Still, it is a slightly better performance than Network Rail who, sadly, have missed the ‘Hendy date’ for December 2018 completion of Paddington-Cardiff electrification. My excuse is equipment failure; the computer I use for video editing died and it took me many months to find a suitable replacement part, replace it and recover the data.

I must confess that I have ‘cheated’ a little since not all the trains featured in the video are the ‘Pembroke Coast Express’. There is probably footage of the two nameless Great Western workings to/from Pembroke Dock in there and the Carmarthen – London Paddington service makes at least two appearances. There is even one shot (I think only one anyway) of a London-Swansea service and one that is not even a train to or from Wales!

Summer Of Sorrow

A series of unfortunate announcements meant that the UK Parliament headed into its summer break with a trail of destruction in its wake. I have very little time for this blog and I was unable to keep up with the tide of depressing and controversial announcements in order to form them into a coherent post.

One of the announcements was a particularly big blow; the cancellation of the Midland Main Line electrification to Nottingham and Sheffield with only Bedford to Corby going ahead. Cardiff-Swansea electrification was also ditched but for reasons I hope to explain in future isn’t perhaps as serious a disaster. I did start to write about these announcements in more depth but never finished.

Some of that may surface in time, but for one reason or another there’s been several weeks without posts on this blog and for that I apologise. I cannot promise much in the way of future posts either, although a six-day holiday gave me material for a travel report series which I intend to publish in fortnightly instalments starting next Sunday.

Reconstruction

As can be seen by the comment below, this site is hosted by 000webhost. The plus side is that it is free of charge; and that’s a big plus in my book. The negative side is that the service is not particularly great, there is little or no support and they recently decided to move servers (I think) without providing an automated facility to move our websites. Their instructions were to backup our existing websites, delete them and recreate the site on the new system. I did this last Thursday (6th April).

Unfortunately, the backup procedure they suggested wasn’t the easiest to restore a WordPress site (which this is), so I’ve been struggling to bring the site back online. I think I have managed to import all the posts and comments, but some of the settings are missing. The dynamic Ordnance Survey Open Space maps I have on the site are not working either, and the new theme hasn’t been customised (and makes a mess of the image margins). I will have to fix all this at some point but I don’t have the time right now; I’m just happy that I’ve managed to get the site working at all.

Photogenic

Welcome to 2014. I have just updated my post, ‘End Of An Era’ to include photographs. The delay is due to the poor quality of the photographs, given they were taken at night. I have attempted to improve things with Photoshop.

At the momement I am using my Flickr account to host the images, displaying just thumbnail previews on the blog. Clicking an image should take you to the same image on my Flickr, allowing you to see larger sizes of the image.

The new year has begun. Let’s hope it turns out to be a happy one.