Seeing Colin again at the E&TV railway reconstruction is a pleasure in itself – his quirky humour, passion for railway and inexhaustible knowledge are certainly entertaining – but learning from the site he built and staying in the railway carriage is a very special experience.
The map below shows, in black, the railway lines that were decommissioned a few decades ago. Those of us that have grown up with a rubbish railway connection service may think that it has always been that way. It has not. Many of the lines are still 80 or even 90% intact and were decommissioned not because they were unprofitable, but as part of a policy move towards car use.
For forty years Colin has been campaigning for the reinstatement of the railways. He lives what he preaches, having reconstructed a section personally, and travelling around by bike, train, and occasionally this highly efficient mini truck called Bee.
A climate change and justice activist, and a wonderful friend, Mel is inspiring in many ways, but it’s her commitment I’d most like to tell you about. Mel came on the first two days of the tour. But it was supposed to be four. When she told me that sorry, she was going to have to change plans, I knew better than to ask why.
Two days later I heard she was one of thirteen people arrested at Heathrow airport for blocking the runway in protest of the proposed airport expansion. The group of friends from Plane Stupid put up a tripod and fencing on the runway and locked themselves on to it to protest the airport commission’s recommendation that Heathrow expand.
The UK has made a commitment to it’s people, to other nations, and to all future generations that it will reduce it’s carbon emissions. If Heathrow expands we will break that commitment.
There are citizens who believe that that we must keep our word, and they are committed to ensuring that we do.
My bike Polly (Pollination) has a difficult relationship with trains. It’s one of those relationships that should work, but when you live it, it just doesn’t. Bikes are technically allowed on trains, but all is not well amongst our many rail companies. Every rail company has a different policy regarding bikes – some require an advance reservation, some it’s turn up and see, some railways stations do not allow you to board trains with bikes at all, and none of them let you book your bike in online or necessarily tell you these things.
First Great Western usually has a separate luggage carriage where bikes are strapped in, and the station staff are sometimes helpful and tell you where to stand. However, the seat reservation was for a carriage at the other end of the train, leaving you not enough time to run down the platform to get back to your bike. With other rail companies you may need to strap it into a specific area or just hold it in the doorway. You may be treated as a nuisance or menace by railway staff and other passengers, or you may not be able to travel at all if there is not enough space for your bike.
It took two and a half hours to book my return ticket from Edinburgh with Virgin West and then East. Nearly 50 minutes of which was spent on hold. One company can not see the train times or bike spaces of another, and overarching companies like trainline.com can not see bike spaces at all. So on a standard journey you may go through several train companies, each of which you will have to call separately to book your bike space, having already booked your ticket.
If we want people to cycle, we need a joined up public transport system which allows them to transport their bikes. Here’s my suggestion of a vision of the future. One publicly owned railway system where you book your bike in online at the same time as you book your ticket, into a designated bike carriage. Those travelling with bikes sit in the carriage with their bikes. Amble space for bikes and luggage, and sufficient time for loading and unloading. And to complete the logic, bike racks on the front of buses.
We were a nation of railway builders, engineers and logistics organisers. We can make it possible to transport a few bikes.
For the Buzz Bike Tour’s first night I partnered up with Steph Bradley for a Journey to the Heart at Bowden House Community in Totnes.
In Steph’s entrancing storytelling style she told of 13 aspects of wisdom in the warriors way, based on a month long walk in Wales, using a found object to represent each.
So much of what Steph said resonated with my own experiences and journey in a way that was very grounding. With immense relief I discovered that the lovely people attending really enjoyed the Buzz Tour documentary and found it very inspiring.
It was a good reminder to relax and that after all the hard work, logistics and sleep deprivation of putting it together, it’s now time to just enjoy the journey.