Hanging chads in Central Europe

September 5, 2019

The question of how to pay for the costs of motorways – construction and maintenance is solved in different ways in different countries. In Germany and most of the UK it comes

Motorway vignettes

Austrian sticker above; Czech Republic below

out of taxation. The exceptions are such as the M6 toll road and several high cost estuary crossings (Dartford, Humber and Tyne). In France the idea seems to be that long distance motorway travel is a bit of luxury and motorists pay substantial fees directly at toll booths. In return they get a higher maximum speed limit. Motorways around major cities are still free, in order to direct heavy traffic away from urban roads. There is an elaborate system of toll booths and motorists approaching an unfamiliar major toll plaza desperately scan the icons above each of say, fifteen booths, to locate those accepting the way they want to pay.

Some countries in Central Europe, particularly Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria collect the motorway fees by means of paid-for windscreens stickers.

In German these are vignette and in Czech etiketa (why French-based words?). Obviously, most resident motorists buy long-term stickers, probably annual. Visitors arriving at the frontier are catered for by short-term stickers. The approaching visiting motorist anxiously scans for petrol stations, shops or offices offering them for sale. One Bavarian motorway service station on the Autobahn 6 (E50, Via Carolina), nearly 100 km from the Czech frontier had to put up a sign saying that they did NOT sell Czech Vignettes.  As these stickers represent real money, there is a battle to prevent forgery or misuse. The basically plastic sticker incorporates the sort of security features you find on banknotes. Colour and design changes from year to year so that and an old one can be spotted at a glance. Once stuck to a windscreen, they are impossible to remove in one piece.

We usually cross into the Czech Republic at Rozvadov, between Nuremburg and Prague. There is a large complex of buildings and roadways there, many of which are now redundant because of the end of the Iron Curtain and the Czech accession to the EU, and there are several places to buy the stickers.
As our visit was going to be about a fortnight, ten days was too short, so it had to be for a month and the clerk punched the numbers at the top with the day of the month and the numbers at the bottom for the month. Neither of these chads were cleanly punched. It was only after I’d affixed to the windscreen that I realised that the month chad was hardly punched at all. It was down at the bottom of the windscreen, where I couldn’t get to it. I couldn’t take the sticker off, as it would break it. Just hope that no Czech policeman would inspect it and find it wanting; there was a small hope that he could see that it had been punched but without the hole being made. Just hope for the best. In the end, it was never inspected.

A few days later, as we neared the border with Austria, a roadside shop almost on the border advertised Austrian vignettes in both languages. Went in and using Czech, bought the sticker for Austria, asking which currency I should pay in – the answer was either. The chads were still hanging but much better punched. I made sure I removed them completely before fixing the vignette to the windscreen.

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Tories sucker punch BBC

June 14, 2019

Even as a schoolboy in the 1950s, I found cinema and TV advertisements a bit naff. The cinema ad that promoted a local restaurant but was obviously shot by Pearl & Dean 500 miles away in south east England was really embarrassing to watch. So my decision to join the BBC was not only because of my interests in photographic and electronic technology but also a conviction that the model that avoided silly ads interrupting programmes and undue government interference in management decisions or content was a Good Thing – it still is. (Of course, government has tried to interfere, starting back in 1926, but their attempts at interference has been resisted as a Bad Thing.)

I worked for the BBC for 29 years, as graduate and later chartered engineer in a department at one time called Planning and Installation. That meant taking part in and sometimes leading dozens of projects. The ones we hated most were ones which involved government money – External Broadcasting (paid for by the Foreign Office, to raise awareness of and goodwill towards the UK) and Open  University. We approached them in our usual way, starting with our best estimate the cost in terms capital, staff effort and future maintenance costs, with an agreed timetable. A bad sign was an attempt from the client to beat the costs down below what we knew to be possible. The next way we could start to get off on the wrong foot was an artificially prolonged approval process, sometimes leading to a further increase in costs, which, of course, government funding which had caused the overrun, wouldn’t pay.

The present hoo-ha is an extension of this government two-facedness with respect to the BBC.  First they came for External Broadcasting; a few years ago they decided that the BBC, in other words the TV licence payer, should pay for this Foreign Office work. Now they come for the pensioners’ free TV licences. If the BBC (the ordinary licence fee payers, of which I am one) pay for this, it represents a 20% cut in the income used to pay for programmes and infrastructure.

This pensioners’ free licence was introduced by the Labour government nearly 20 years ago. I see it as one of many sops given by governments to pensioners who were seeing their income fall further behind that of the general work-force. It is presently available to households with a member over 75. When my wife reached that age I took the deliberate decision that I would continue to pay the licence and did this with no problem at all.

My reasoning was:

  • I could well afford it and I value what it would provide. Also, I was already paying Virgin cable about 6 times the licence fee (Virgin increase their fees EVERY year.) so, if I needed to make economies, Virgin should be where I would start.
  • A major part of my income is a BBC pension. This is supposed to be entirely funded from my own and the employer’s contributions from when I was working there long ago – NOT from current licence fee. Again, it would be a bit strange if I didn’t use a little bit of that income to support today’s BBC which I believe in.

So what have the Tories done?

They announced unilaterally that the BBC would take responsibility for the whole free licence cost. This is equivalent to a 20% cut in licence income to the BBC. To put the BBC back on even keel the simple answer would be to accompany it by an 25% increase in the fee people like me pay. The government controls the BBC’s prices but not its costs.

They left to the BBC the opprobrium on announcing (as was obvious) that this would NOT work for them. The BBC propose a compromise – that the free licence should only continue for those in receipt of certain benefits. This leaves the BBC shouldering some of the costs that government should pay as a Social Service and looks as fair as many benefits are. The drawback is that many of the elderly, through fear of being thought scroungers, do NOT claim all benefits that they are entitled to. That opens up another bigger question: is the way to get everyone the benefits they should have (especially the elderly) to make the benefits universal rather that by application or means tests? A question for another time.

The main point here is:

the government paid a benefit for something it thought needed doing from general taxation;

as a clever wheeze it decided that one firm in an industry should pay it all instead;

this undermines the finances of that firm so they can’t pay it all;

the government tries to shift the blame for what it’s done to the BBC.

Back to Blogging

June 14, 2019

Although a lot has been going on, I haven’t been blogging much in the last couple of months for two reasons – a local by-election, where I was an election agent, and the European election. I obviously had a lot less thinking time on my hands and secondly, if you publish anything that might be construed as promoting your campaign you’re into formalities such as imprints and approval by the agent. Better to concentrate on campaigning and drop the blog and other worthy activities, such as mowing the lawn.

Now, after a small increase in our Liberal Democrat vote at the by-election, compared to when we last fought it and the astonishing result of Liberal Democrats coming second in Havering in the Euro-election and top in London as a whole, back to blogging. I have a store of stories waiting to be written or completed but one ‘Tories sucker punch BBC’ pushed itself to the top of the queue.

Grief for Grieve

March 31, 2019

When Any Questions was broadcast from Campion School, Hornchurch some years ago Mr. Grieve was on the panel. After the broadcast, when the panel descended to the hall, he found himself surrounded by LibDems, When I told him, he was very nice about it, and I have respected him ever since. He has a really difficult job.
Later we went over to talk to Norman Lamb, LibDem MP on the panel.

Jonathan Fryer

Dominic Grieve 4Last night, Beaconsfield Conservative Association passed a vote of no confidence in their MP, Dominic Grieve, former Attorney General and articulate proponent of a new referendum to extract Britain from its Brexit impasse. A video secretly filmed at the meeting and publicised in tomorrow’s Sunday Times shows Mr Grieve patiently explaining why No Deal would be a disaster, as members of the audience heckled him with shouts of “Lies!” and “Traitor!” It transpires that the main architect of this move to remove Dominic Grieve — deselection being a common consequence of such a vote of no confidence — was a former UKIP political opponent of his who has now joined the Conservatives. This sort of thing has reportedly been going on in various parts of the country as Hard Brexiteers have effectively infiltrated ageing and weakened Conservative associations in an attempt to influence their direction, rather as the far left…

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TfL Rapid Charger for electric Taxis

March 25, 2019

A few years ago the 2 miles or so of the A12 Colchester Road linking Junction 28 of the M25 with Gallows Corner got  about 10 days notoriety when it was announced to be the most dangerous road in England.  I say 10 days because that’s how long it took someone to revise the statistics and give that doubtful title to a moorland road, somewhere up north This section of the A12 runs through Harold Park and then between Harold Hill and Harold Wood. It is a Red Route 24/7.

In Greater London it is a rare section of the A12 that still follows the alignment that the Romans laid down – most of the other sections of the Roman road pass through town centres, so have been by-passed. It’s also forms part of the route of William Kempe‘s original “Nine Days Wonder” in 1600; this was an Elizabethan publicity stunt where Kempe danced from London to Norwich. About 30 years ago a troupe of morris men re-enacted it. Their first day took them from London to the Morris Dancer pub in Harold Hill. Early on the Sunday morning, warned by the radio, I came out to the Gubbins Lane traffic lights to watch the morris men dance out of Gooshays Drive and, in single file, eastwards along the A12.

But back to 2019. Living in Harold Wood, we drive up or down that stretch of the A12 quite a lot, and a couple of weeks ago I caught sight of a largish cabinet, not quite as big as a vending machine, just west of the Petersfield Avenue eastbound bus stop. My reaction was ‘Rapid Charger for Electric cars’, but how could I get close to it to see what it was? Firstly I went very late at night and confirmed my first impression. Then I went back in daylight, parking in a nearby suburban street.

Tfl Rapid Charger for Taxis only, Harold Hill

Tfl Rapid Charger for Taxis only, A12 Colchester Road, Romford, near Petersfield Avenue

It is indeed a Rapid charger and has leads for the two 50 kW DC rapid systems (Chademo – a Japanese standard and CCS, a European standard). It does NOT have the AC rapid system – a blank plate suggests that other versions of it could have that fitted. It has lots of ventilation grills.

TfL have arranged it for use by electric taxis ONLY and a notice tied to it directs the users of other electric vehicles to consult Zap-Map to find chargers they can use. The Red Route redline goes around the bay for a taxi to stand while charging, just as they  bypass the adjacent bus stop.

As it is Rapid a full charge should be done in less than an hour, and a quick top-up in much less.

Well done, Transport for London!  Now to look out to see if I can spot a taxi using it.

https://www.zap-map.com/

Hard Border

March 24, 2019

The year 1922 was the year my father left school at the age of 17. My grandfather had three sons and two farms, so he’d always planned that his third son (my father) would get a town job and therefore he was sent to the grammar school.  The obvious course was to follow his uncle into the Belfast Bank, so he passed the exams and went for the medical. The doctor said. “I’m not allowing a country boy to go and work in the town. You’d die of TB.”

Plan B was to apply to another bank, and armed with the endorsement of the local manager of the Provincial Bank of Ireland my father, accompanied by his father to Dublin to sit the Provincial Bank’s exams.

Dublin

Dublin in 1922 was in the throes of the Irish Civil War; a nasty conflict that erupted immediately after the signing of the 1921 Treaty between the UK and the Irish Free State which established the two states in Ireland. The protagonists were the Free State Government and those nationalists who rejected the Treaty and the partition of the Ireland. More people were killed in this war than during the preceding struggles with British. As they spent the nights in their Dublin hotel between exams, their sleep was disturbed by gunfire outside. My father said that they were surprised in the morning how few casualties the morning papers reported. Successful both in the exams and the medical, my father took up his post as the junior in the Provincial Bank in Londonderry.

Derry

Londonderry, the second city of Ulster and Northern Ireland was undergoing its own local depression in 1922. The centre of the city is on the west bank of the River Foyle, whereas the county to which it gives its name lies to the east. To ensure that the whole city is in the same county, border between Counties Derry and Donegal, after following the river upstream of the city, loops on to the Donegal side round the city and then back to the estuary downstream of the city.. This then became the international frontier. For the next half-century, until both joining the Common Market, Irish and UK governments pursued different and often antagonistic, tax and tariff policies.

British Customs at Strabane

Border post on banks of River Foyle between Lifford (County town of Donegal) and Strabane, Co, Tyrone. Probably 1960s

The effect of this on the port and merchants of Londonderry was disastrous. Half or more of their trade was with the countryside and small towns of north Donegal now in the Free State, and this almost ceased. Unemployment increased, probably made worse by the return to the job market of soldiers from World War I.

Into this was added sectarian conflict; Derry city has always had substantial nationalist and unionist communities. Many nationalists felt betrayed by the Treaty and were militant; unionists for whom Londonderry is an icon felt threatened. The previous decade of conflict meant that there were a lot of small arms available. My father lived for a time on a street that linked nationalist and unionist areas; rifle-fire up and down the street during night was common. As there was an 11 pm curfew there was little chance of anyone being hurt, but it made for disturbed nights.

Redoubling the effort, but forgetting the point.

March 21, 2019

Long ago, when Morse was still the late John Thaw, there was a memorable exchange between Morse and Lewis. It concerned someone, possibly a suspect, exhibiting obsessive compulsive behaviour. Morse asked Lewis about this, and Lewis neatly defined it as: ‘Redoubling the effort, but forgetting the point.’

Who does that remind you of in March 2019?  Doesn’t it define trying to meld a spectrum of inconsistent dreams of Brexit into one winning solution that would make people happy? Isn’t returning to the Commons repeatedly with a deal they have always rejected in the hope that enough MPs will change their minds exactly that? And what about going on television talking to ‘the people’ attacking the very MPs she has to convert to get her deal through?  Our Prime Minister has to convert, bully or charm enough MPs to see Brexit through. There is no alternative.

So what was the point of Brexit in 2016 and before?  David Cameron had a problem. He and most of his cabinet (including T. May) were quite happy to work within the EU but out in the shires and suburbs the Tories were revolting. For half a century they had been reading in newspapers owned by rich foreign residents that the EU was a Bad Thing; that it was a Socialist Plot; that the powers in it didn’t speak English as their first language; that people who ran it had no electoral mandate (a bit rich from a country where the Upper House is effectively appointed by Prime Ministers and somebody who elected for Witney or Maidenhead whose party got less than half the votes in an election formed the government .) and that it was stopping the British Government doing some of the things it would like to do (such as lowering safety and welfare standards). This poison was amplified by the fact that there was no thoughtful reporting of EU matters and parliament in much of our media.

David Cameron had a Cunning Plan in reserve. He would appeal over the head of the Tory faithful to the people as a whole, as Harold Wilson had done in the first referendum in 1975. The entry into the European Economic Community had been achieved by the recently defeated Edward Heath and was viewed by some in Labour as a Capitalist Plot. Wilson would re-unite Labour by submitting this Tory achievement to a referendum and consigning the grumbling to history. This he basically did, as leading Labour and Conservative figures, such as Roy Jenkins, Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher campaigned to keep us in the EEC.

During the Coalition, there was no more talk of this Second Referendum, as the Liberal Democrats would not countenance it; they saw, as the leading Tories did not, what chaos and problems would follow a Leave vote. So Cameron embarked on‘re-negotiation’ which produced a few cosmetic concessions, and then sat back to await a Remain vote to silence the grumbling Tories. But he was not the Wizard of Huddersfield and Huyton and Leave were much better organised than in 1975, and benefitted from dislike of the Posh Boys in government and 40 years of anti-EU propaganda. As a would-be conjurer, Cameron failed, the audience booed, and he rapidly left the stage, taking George Osborne with him, no doubt muttering ‘Serve the People right.’

So Theresa May took over, promising, with the zeal of a recent convert, to produce Brexit. It was notable that her election as Leader was unopposed – perhaps no other Tory grandee really wanted the poisoned chalice of Brexit.

We can pity her. The easy Brexit promised airily by its advocates has been an illusion. Even when she got them into Cabinet to help implement it, they found reasons to resign without progress.

Perhaps the Tory party has been re-united, but not the country. A reasonably competent Labour leader – an Attlee, Gaitskill, Wilson, Kinnock, or Blair – would have laughed Mrs. May’s government out of office. Achieving Brexit, when the drawbacks are fully evident may be to David Cameron’s Tory party what the Corn Laws were to Robert Peel’s.

 

The United Kingdom Abolition Party

March 20, 2019

When I was an Assistant Scout Leader, I taught the bit about the Union Flag that new scouts had to learn before being invested.  Here is an expanded version:

A little history

At the time of the Romans, there was a province called Britannia, which the settled area extended, for a time, to Central Scotland, but was then moved back to Hadrian’s Wall, close to the present border of England with Scotland. Britain is thus a name for the area the Romans ruled – England and Wales.

After the Romans withdrew, the British Isles became more fluid.  Picts and Scots struggled for control in Scotland and part of present-day Northern Ireland. The Britons in England and Wales were invaded by Angles, Saxons (both German) and Jutes (Danes) and England became several kingdoms, with Celts holding on in Cumbria, Wales and Cornwall. (The slightly pejorative word for English in Gaelic and Welsh is literally ‘Saxon’).  Just as the Anglo-Saxons had got a sort of united England, the Vikings appeared and settled all around the British Isles, where they could arrive by water. By around 1000 AD, there were England and Scotland as kingdoms and more local chieftains, princes and kings ruling in Ireland and Wales. Then came Vikings Mark II from France – the Normans.  They took over England and their successors started pushing in to Wales and Scotland and started the English push into Ireland. Kings of England started styling themselves ‘Lord of Ireland’ (along with some even more fanciful titles).

So we have the Kingdom of England –with a Cross of St. George- and the Kingdom of Scotland – with the Cross of St. Andrew. This brings us down around 1603, when Queen Elizabeth died and James VI of Scotland was recognised as her heir in England. In spite of sharing a king (and sometimes a queen regnant) the two kingdoms were separate for 104 years, with separate parliaments, aristocracies, legal systems and established churches.

In 1707 the powers that be in the richer kingdom (England) decided that the parliaments and government should be united, persuading the Scottish parliament to go along with this. So Queen Anne became Queen of Great Britain, which had a new Union Flag, combining the crosses of St George and St Andrew.255px-Flag_of_Great_Britain_(1707–1800)

Meanwhile in Ireland, which had started being a Kingdom, there was a parliament, but since 1495 (Poynings’ Law) its Acts had been subject to those of Westminster. Of course, like Westminster, its members were entirely Anglicans. In the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, both these restrictions began to be questioned and Poynings’ Law was effectively repealed in 1782. The eighteen years after that is regarded by some (Anglicans) in Ireland as a golden age. However, influenced by the French Revolution, some Catholics and Presbyterians in Ireland believed in more reform and that resulted in the 1798 rebellion of the United Irishmen, with some French help.

The Great Britain government in Westminster then decided to subsume the Irish Parliament into the Great Britain parliament, making George III King of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and adding the Cross of St Patrick to the Union Flag.

Union Flag (UK)

Flag of United Kingdom since 1800

The next stage was the Partition of Ireland in 1921, when the Irish Free State left the United Kingdom, so that it was now The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, still with the Union Flag with all of the Cross of St Patrick.

The End of the United Kingdom?

So what about Brexit? Northern Ireland and Scotland voted REMAIN, Although Brexit would cause a lot of upset for people throughout the UK, and the effects are potentially most disastrous in Northern Ireland. In the early days, the Dublin government embodied much that Ulster people dreaded – as would have most British people if they had been threatened with it. This included rigorous application of conservative Catholic doctrine to the laws and constitution, state enforcement of the Irish language on a populace that mostly chose to speak English and hostility to anything that looked like a British National Health Service.

But the Republic, in the European Union, has come on a lot in the last 40 years, becoming more liberal and progressive in attitude. It has also become co-guarantor of Northern Ireland. There are still reasons for partition, but Brexit makes the chances of voluntary re-unification of the Island of Ireland stronger than ever.

If that happens, it is the end of the United Kingdom; the lands on the east of the Irish Sea will only be Great Britain, which should use the Queen Anne Union Flag.255px-Flag_of_Great_Britain_(1707–1800)

In 1993, when Professor Alan Sked changed the name of the party he had founded to United Kingdom Independence Party, he got it wrong. He should have called it the United Kingdom Abolition Party

Time for Theresa May’s Neville Chamberlain moment

March 14, 2019

Neville Chamberlain wasn’t a bad minister; in fact he was an effective Minister of Health in the 1920s and a National Government Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1930s, but

Premier Chamberlain

Neville Chamberlain

his reputation took a dive after his premiership 1937-40 and the publication pseudonymously of the book ‘Guilty Men’ in 1940. (It was subsequently revealed to be the work of 3 journalists – one each Labour, Liberal and Conservative).

Guilty Men

Cover ‘Guilty Men’

The picture that many people have is of Chamberlain in September 1938 coming back from the third of the three meetings with Hitler waving a piece of paper bearing Hitler’s signature and declaring it meant ‘Peace in our time’.

This diplomatic initiative was wildly popular in the UK. It was indeed ‘The Will of the People’ all the way down from the King and Queen. The UK and to an even greater degree France, had been traumatised by the memories and sacrifices of the Great War (our First World War) and there was widespread determination to avoid repeating them. The steps toward re-armament made in the 1930s were denounced by some as warmongering. The most vocal of those who warned of the coming danger – Churchill – was tarnished by his reputation developed since 1925 as an extreme right-winger. Many in the Tory dominated National Government viewed Churchill as toxic.

What Chamberlain had done at Munich was to sacrifice the defence and stability of Czechoslovakia – the last remaining parliamentary democracy in central and eastern Europe and a country clearly on the same wavelength as the western powers. His description of it as a ‘faraway country of which we know little’ ranks as one of the most cringe-making utterances of a British Prime Minister. The betrayal by France was worse, as the links between France and Czechoslovakia were stronger. Czechoslovakia had an efficient army, formidable border defences (ceded by the Munich Agreement), and lots of industry including armaments. When Rommel’s tank division invaded France in 1940, it was equipped with Czech, not German, tanks. By the end of the war and for a decade after, the British Army’s light machine gun was the Bren, designed by ZB in Brno.

When did Chamberlain start working out that assurances from Hitler had no value? Did he have doubts even as he flew back from Munich to adulation and wild popularity? He didn’t have the advantages of present day politicians, who know their opposite numbers well through regular EU meetings. In any event, the defence preparations in the UK continued and intensified through 1939, while Germany took over the rest of what is now the Czech Republic in March, and prepared for invasion of Poland at the start of September.

I’m pretty sure that Chamberlain saw the necessity of going against ‘The Will of the People’ by March 1939 at the latest and most publicly broke with his earlier policy by declaring war on 3rd September. He was still the archetypal Tory figure and after he was displaced as Prime Minister in May 1940, the Conservatives retained him as their Leader. He remained an effective member of the small War Cabinet, and chaired it in Churchill’s absence. But later in 1940 he became terminally ill, resigned his offices and died in November.

Perhaps the lesson for Theresa May is that when a policy, however popular, comes apart at the seams, it is the job of a leader to abandon it. It is clear by now that the simple vote for Brexit in 2016 embodied a number of different dreams. No one Brexit really has a majority. The negotiations and preparations for different Brexits have dragged on, wasting our resources and those of our European partners and making consumers and businesses nervous. Will Theresa May take us over the waterfall? The UK government has many domestic responsibilities, and for the last two years the price of Brexit has been that many of them have been put on the back burner.

Is it not the time for Theresa May, about Brexit, come to the same conclusion as Neville Chamberlain about Appeasement? The policy was ‘The Will of the People’ and we’ve tried our best to implement it, but it doesn’t work. Time to dump it; no need for the third referendum.

Destination Paddington?

March 7, 2019

Our trains on the Liverpool St. – Shenfield line were for many years Type 315, which dated from the 1980s. An eight-coach train is made of two four-coach units, each carriage with 2 sets of sliding doors per side.

Ilford - Crossrail train

Type 345 Crossrail train at Ilford Station

When TfL Rail took over the line a few years ago they made improvements to the stations and increased station staff, so that staff are always visible. (I believe Greater Anglia always had one person on duty, but often invisible.) The 315s gradually became plain battleship grey outside, but inside there were improvements to the upholstery and a lot more safety notices.

In 2017, about 2 months after scheduled, isolated Type 345 trains – Crossrail stock – started to appear. Travelling on one was quite a thrill – Barbara accuses me of being a small boy at heart.  The numbers have increased. I estimate that they are about half the trains on our line. Each 345 coach is longer than the 315 and has 3 double-doors instead of 2. Nearly all the seats face inwards and there is lots of room for standing passengers. Like current Met, District and London Overground trains they are completely walk-through – you can walk from one end of the train to the other through all 7 coaches (later to be 9).

There are passenger information displays giving Next Stop and destination visible throughout the train. In addition, for those waiting on the platform, Destination and Next Stop is showing on the outside of all coaches.

Which brings me to about 11 pm on Monday evening, when we were coming home from Central London.  Outside rush-hours, the Gidea Park sidings now contain a mixture of 315s and 345s. As we went past, a 345 Crossrail train in the sidings showed on its side ‘Next Stop Paddington’. I know that night hours in the tunnel section are, for safety reasons, divided by those who run test trains and those are completing the stations.

Had I spotted a train going to make a run the tunnel in the early hours?