Thursday, 25 September 2008

Extended opening hours for ticket office?

Northern Rail is working on a business case to extend the opening hours of the ticket office at Morpeth Station throughout the afternoon. Currently it closes at 12.20 each day. The business case follows a trial of extended opening hours for several weeks during summer of 2006.

After the trial, Northern told SENRUG (off the record) that it had been successful [despite the extended opening not being advertised or promoted in any way]
The ticket office not only serves the purpose of selling tickets (including advance purchase fares), it provides a staffed enquiry point re train running information (there is no other form of passenger information available at Morpeth) and gives access to the toilet and the waiting room.
None of these services are available when the ticket office is closed.

If you want to support the extended opening hours, you can write to Wayne Dixon of Northern Rail (Area Station Manager North, Room 44a, Central Station Offices, Newcastle NE1 5DL). SENRUG would appreciate copies of any letter submitted.

For Information: Northern Rail sell tickets for their own services on their trains. Thus they themselves do not get extra ticket revenue from having the ticket office open, as generally the conductor has no problem reaching all passengers on the afternoon trains. However, if they sell tickets for other operator's services (eg National Express or CrossCountry), they get a commission. If the extended opening hours means that more intercity tickets are sold, the extra costs incurred could be recouped by the extra commission. Not everyone has internet facilities at home for buying intercity tickets, and if you need to travel the next day for instance you can not use the internet as there is insufficient postage time. So far, Morpeth residents are denied the discounted "advance purchase" tickets, available up to 6 pm the day before, simply because the ticket office is not open and you cannot buy them.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Rail Service Disruptions

Thanks to Trevor Watson for drawing this to my attention - despite him having to cope with the aftermath of flooding...

Planned maintenance work on the East Coast Mainline mean that no intercity trains will be running direct between Newcastle and Edinburgh on weekends from Sat 27th Sept to Sun 2nd Nov inclusive

That's on weekends 27th-28th Sept, 4th-5th Oct, 11-12th Oct, 18th-19th Oct, 25th-26th Oct and 1st-2nd Nov:
National Express East Coast services will be diverted between Newcastle and Edinburgh via Carlisle on an hourly service. Coaches will replace trains between Newcastle and Edinburgh via Berwick-on-Tweed.

Northern Rail only runs services on Saturdays (though I hope they'll be running Sunday rail services through December like last year). During these planned works, they'll have buses replace services between Morpeth and Chathill every weekend. Trains between Morpeth and Newcastle will run normally except on Sat 18th Oct when they'll be replaced by buses.

CrossCountry services: Coaches will replace trains between Newcastle and Edinburgh via Berwick-on-Tweed

All the information is on the National Rail timetable website if you look hard enough.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Roadworks - latest

The Northumbrian Water Limited (NWL) road works in Castle Square and up to Mafeking roundabout is over-running (understandably) because of technical and weather. They’ve been working 7-day weeks and nights – and should complete the top part up to the roundabout very soon.
I must say the burst water main at Mafeking roundabout (13th) was dramatic - but quite frightening for people in Middle Greens affected by the floods last week. Almost as if some crazed tourist impresario had decided to make flooding in Morpeth a weekly event.

NWL will return during the October half term to complete the work at Goose Hill. Two way traffic will be maintained at all times - we're told.

No other roadworks are planned for the next three months (clear to Christmas) apart from the Back Riggs redevelopment and some repairs where the floods lifted the road surface (Gas House Lane, Chantry Place etc)

Monday, 8 September 2008

Anger, blame and fault

People are feeling angry about the flood - it's a natural reaction, and some of that anger will get directed at the councils or the Environment Agency or whoever. But I don't think it is meant - people just need an outlet - so it would be unwise for the councils etc to start feeling defensive or try to argue the point. It is too early to be rational.

As I understand it, the approach being followed will be to keep information flowing - about what has been done, what is going to be done next and giving indicative timescales.

It's also too early to determine what went wrong and what went right. The 'lessons learned' bit comes later - but we do need to collect evidence. And since everyone is bursting with their 'flood stories' (plus photos and videos) - I think it'd be a great idea to start collecting and recording them. Then later - we'll have a broad picture of what happened from lots of different angles.

Meanwhile - I don't think it was helpful for John Healey, the Minister who visited Morpeth to start talking about the refusal of the Env Agency's flood defence proposal a couple of years back. It's almost as if he is trying to blame the people of High Stanners for being flooded out.

What actually happened - as I recall - was that the Env Agency were just talking about flood defence in Morpeth Town, and a 3m bund along the river at High Stanners. The Green Party (led by then Town Councillor Geoff Parkin - a hydrogeologist by trade) argued for a more comprehensive scheme of flood protection and flood prevention - including upstream holding ponds etc. And with a public perception that a bund would destroy the character of High Stanners - the Env Agency withdrew their proposals.
And as a matter of interest - their new Wansbeck catchment strategy sets out a far more comprehensive approach including both preventative and protective measures as the Green Party argued for last time. I hope they'll accelerate their detailed proposals for Morpeth now.

And - for the record - I gather that the 'hundred year flood' we experienced over the weekend would have overtopped a 3m bund on High Stanners even if it had been built.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

The Flood - what the councils say

CMBC & NCC have issued a joint leaflet of advice for people whose homes have been flooded. I'll post it (with annotations) below - meanwhile I gather:
i) we may be getting a visit from the relevant Minister - John Healey MP - tomorrow (Monday).
ii) people who have been flooded out and are on the official list for rehousing should here from Castle Morpeth Housing by the end of this week. (Get in touch with your local councillor if they haven't)
iii) The FirstCall office on Bridge Street was flooded and is unusable - but the 01670 535000 number will be answered - and the Town Hall is being converted into an temporary information centre
iv) the wall that collapsed near the Leisure Centre was not part of the flood defence
v) there'll be newsletters published daily
and vi) there's a risk that we may have more flooding from Weds onwards

And so - the official advice:

IMPORTANT We are advised that mains water is safe to drink and use.
Please wash your hands after handling flood damaged material.

RETURNING TO YOUR PROPERTY - Advice from the Environment Agency
§ Take care as there may be hidden dangers in the flood water like sharp objects, raised manhole covers and pollution.
§ Flood water could have caused structural damage to your property.
§ Ring your buildings and contents insurance company as soon as possible
§ In almost all cases the insurance company will send a loss adjuster to look at your property. They will confirm what repairs and replacements are needed and covered by your policy.
§ If you rent your property, contact your Landlord and your contents insurance company as soon as possible.
§ If you do not have insurance, your local council should be able to provide information on hardship grants or charities that may be able to help you.



As a safety precaution, CE Electric would like to offer householders the following advice:
  • Switch off your power supply at the fuse box if your electrical installation is likely to be affected by water.
  • Do NOT operate equipment which is in water or while standing in water. Stay away from any live equipment submerged in water.
  • If your internal wiring or appliances have been affected by water, please have them checked by an approved Electrical Contractor before switching your power back on.

UTILITY ADVICE Gas leaks should be reported to 0800 111 999

HEALTH ADVICE from the Health Protection Agency
Infection problems arising from floods in this country are rare. Usually any harmful bugs in floodwater become very diluted and present a low risk, but there are a few precautions to be aware of when dealing with flooding which should prevent unnecessary additional health problems:
Wherever possible, try to avoid coming into direct contact with floodwater. If you have to go into the water, wear waterproof gloves and rubber boots and remember to be careful of potentially concealed hazards.
Wash your hands — this is the most important way to get rid of harmful bugs. Use warm, clean water and soap, then rinse and dry your hands after going to the toilet, before eating or preparing food, after being in contact with flood water, sewage or with items that have been in the water. Use cold water to wash if warm is not available. If there is no clean water, use disposable soapy, wet wipes to carefully clean all parts of your hands and dry them.
Use waterproof plasters.
Keep children out of the water
Don’t eat any food that has been touched or covered by floodwater or sewage.

What if I start to feel unwell?

If you feet unwell this does not necessarily mean that you are suffering from any infection. If you are concerned, then call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or visit your family doctor.
Both the physical stress associated with overexertion in cleaning up premises and the mental stress caused by temporary relocation may make you feel unwell. Remember that tiredness, difficulty steeping and anxiety are normal in these circumstances and may go away with time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, contact friends, relations or your family doctor. And keep warm — cold can lead to hypothermia.

What Castle Morpeth Borough Council’s doing now:
• CMBC Green and Clean teams have started to clear debris from streets in the affected areas in Morpeth
• Skips are being placed near to homes in affected areas for residents’ use
• The Council is currently assessing what needs to be done to assist residents and will be working with all key agencies to do this
• The council will continue to offer advice through FirstCall Castle Morpeth on 01670 535000.
• If you’re worried about what to do after a flood or about safeguarding your property if there is more rain, check the environment agency website on

What Northumberland County Council is doing now:
• The County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service are pumping out water from streets in Morpeth. • Alternative accommodation is being found for those who need it.
• Highways officers are inspecting bridges, roads, signage, ditches for damage and to ensure that roads and transport links are safe for use by the public.
• A clean up operation has begun — council staff are removing sludge and debris from the roads and pavements.
• Northumberland Care Trust and the County Council are assessing needs of vulnerable people to see what help and support can be offered.

The Flood – the bits I saw – Sunday morning

7:30am Market Place – to confirm that no one had turned up for the cancelled farmers’ market. Pleasant, dry morning – why did I cancel the market?

8am Water had cleared from the New Market, the Chantry, Terrace Car Park – but the Library and Gas House Lane still under water. Road surface ripped up by floods in Chantry Place and Wellwood Gardens.

8.20am Wellwood Gardens, Staithes Lane and the new Low Stanners Car Park still under water.

10am Phone call: “why are they pumping out the Waterford, when Staithes Lane is still under water? Priorities?”

10.30am Checked out Staithes Lane – water retreating but still there, and still getting run-off from Dark Lane. Water level in Low Stanners Car Park is same as river level. Car park was designed to soak away water and that is working, but the water level is too high – which is why there’s no pumping going on. There’s nowhere to pump to.

3pm Debrief for emergency team

4pm Briefing for Morpeth councillors…

Saturday, 6 September 2008

The Flood – the bits I saw - Saturday afternoon

2.30pm at the Red Bull: Staithes Lane was under four foot of water with several stranded cars, rising rapidly. Lots of run-off down Dark Lane from both Morrisons filling station and down Stanley Terrace from the bus station into Staithes Lane. Several elderly and poorly people trapped in both Staithes Lane and Wellwood Gardens, but no apparent plans for evacuation. High Stanners and Middle Greens were reportedly being evacuated.

3.30pm Text from Staithes Lane resident saying water was halfway up the stairs, electricity cut-off. Water from Terrace Car Park and Library moving up Dark Lane. Dark Lane flooding to north. One fire engine monitoring Terrace Car Park flooding. Phoned 999 call to alert rescue team on need for evacuation in Staithes Lane. Another fire engine arrived within five minutes – firemen starting ‘assessing problem’, identifying evacuation need.

4pm Third fire engine arrived. Water from Terrace Car Park now flowing down Dark Lane into Staithes Lane and Highways Depot. Dark Lane impassable to north. Burnside Terrace at risk from flooding from springs/drains in front gardens.

4.30pm Vet arrived to evacuate animals from surgery. No boat available for humans (or animals). River Wansbeck effectively flowing past the Red Bull with water up to window sills. Stanley Terrace becoming impassable. Decided to cancel the farmers’ market!

5-5.30pm Fire crew requisitioned a skip from Morrisons and used it as a substitute boat to start evacuation.

6.30pm Finish phoning round the farmers’ markets producers.

8pm Peak of flood. Reported 14 ft deep in some houses. Nearly all residents evacuated from Staithes Lane, though people left in Wellwood Gardens overnight.