Monthly Archives: June 2010

Half-term day trips: Rural Tring, Whipsnade and Thame

Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire were the destinations of a series of day-trips during half-term.

Pitstone, Ivinghoe and Tring

Back in February we visited the pleasant town of Berkhamsted. On Bank Holiday morning we pushed a little further north to the area around Tring, as two museums were open. The Pitstone Farm Museum (situated in the village of the same name) and the Ford End Watermill in Ivinghoe are unusual in only being open on a handful of days a year. The reason being is that both are volunteer-run and require a good number of volunteers in place to operate.

Tractor rides at Pitstone Farm Museum

The Pitstone Farm Museum is a real medley of attractions. At its heart is a preserved farm, however farm buildings have been turned into historic shops including a fascinating Smithy. There are also tractor rides, preserved vehicles, model railway and canal, crafts and stalls, and a brilliantly reconstruction of a Lancaster Bomber cockpit, to name but a few. There’s also a pleasant cafe selling home-made food at down to Earth prices.

Neighbouring Pistone is the attractive village of Ivinghoe, probably best known for the nearby Ivinghoe Beacon, one of the highest points in the Chiltern Hills. Also open for the Bank Holiday was the Water End Mill. This watermill is hundreds of years old and sells itself as being one of the only functioning watermills still to use its original machinery. There are friendly volunteers on hand to answer questions and activities for children to play with. The highlight undoubtedly was seeing the mill in full action, rattling away and actually grinding to make flour, which is for sale.

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Improving the commute – Part 2: the legacy of history

Much of the rail infrastructure in the UK dates back a good century or more. This leaves us with a mixed legacy of inspiring architecture but also slow journeys, limited capacity and antiquated practices.

Rickmansworth station and the line it is built on are no exception. It seems unlikely that the tight curves of the line and the short platform wedged between two bridges would have been considered if the station and line were built today. However this the legacy with which we have to live.

The whole line to Aylesbury is itself something of a peculiarity of history. Built by the Metropolitan Railway deep into rural Buckinghamshire, the quite separate Grand Central Railway arranged the share the line for its trains to travel into London. Although both companies are long gone, the relative successors of both, TfL’s Metropolitan Line and Chiltern Railways, continue to play somewhat similar roles.

We need to understand the history of the line, not just to appreciate the limits imposed on the service today but also to show that the train service Rickmansworth receives has not always been as it is today.

How Rickmansworth used to be served

Old timetables aren’t easy to come by, but those available online indicate that in the past some elements of Ricky’s train service were better than it is today:

There are fewer Marylebone trains, fewer Metropolitan Line trains and longer journey times today compared to past timetables. And of course we’ve lost the link to Watford Junction.

The campaign

There’s historical precedent for a better service than we receive today. As rail usage continues to rise we should be demanding more trains, more capacity and faster journeys. Not only should service match that of the past, it needs to better it.

According to Wikipedia Metropolitan Line trains ran at 70mph until the 1990s when they were reduced to 50mph to help maintain the ageing trains. The line speed was also dropped, affecting Chiltern services also. As new Metropolitan Line trains are introduced we need to push for a train and line speed increase as quickly as possible. The new trains are initially set to have a top speed of 62mph, however we should push for 70mph to be reinstated at the earliest opportunity.

Chiltern Railways services need to call at Rickmansworth station during peak periods. Without these Rickmansworth remains underserved compared to all other stations on the line, most being much smaller in size and far less used than Rickmansworth station. Chiltern don’t seem to be required to serve Rickmansworth during the peak, so an argument needs to be put to the regulatory bodies for this to be required in the future.

Still not convinced?

In part 3 we’ll be looking at how the service compares with others today and highlight some stats that will show that there’s little to inspire in the service we receive.

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