Monday, 2 December 2013

Southeastern shambles.

When the domestic HS1 service was introduced Southeastern reduced the service on the 'historic' line from  Ashford to London via Tonbridge.  Fast and semi-fast trains between  Ashford and Tonbridge were deleted from the timetable. The current service off-peak is every half hour stopping at all stations.   Shades of things to come if HS2 is built?

Although the service is much worse, passengers in West Kent have to pay higher fares  to meet  HS1 costs even though HS1 does not serve West Kent.  The rail companies argue that HS1 has freed up capacity on the historic route thus providing indirect benefit.  Doesn't quite seem like that to passengers from Headcorn, Staplehurst and Paddock Wood and those travelling between Ashford and Tonbridge.

Today I arrived at Ashford station to catch the 16.03 train to Tonbridge.  Change at Tonbridge for an arrival time of 16.59 at Tunbridge Wells. The 16.03 was cancelled.

Not to worry.  Although inconvenient, the next departure from Ashford at 16.33, change at Tonbridge, would see me arrive in Tunbridge Wells at 17.26.

However, the 16.33 was delayed I missed my connection at Tonbridge as the train was running 14 minutes late. Then my luck changed: the 17.22 from Tonbridge to Hastings was running 8 minutes late.  I arrived at Tunbridge Wells at 17.40.

Pity the passengers on the 16.33 from Ashford heading for Sevenoaks and London Bridge. On arrival at Tonbridge the 16.33 was sent forward to London, first stop Waterloo East.

I shall be filling in a Delay Compensation Form.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Twerp of The Year Award 2013

A bumper crop of potential winners.  I have selected Anna Cleve as the winner.  Although she does not exist she was an English Democrat candidate at the Kent County Council elections. Not only does she not exist, neither does the address given on her nomination papers.

Cinema site. No end in sight?

Since 2000 the old cinema opposite Tunbridge Wells Town Hall has rotted away. It is the 'grot spot' par excellence.  Developers have come and gone.  Likewise council leaders. Council leaders have wrung their hands and muttered about compulsory purchase.

The local Conservatives published recently 'In Touch', a campaign leaflet from which is taken the following gem.

See also:

More tosh from Steve Uncles

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

English Democrats: Paul Rimmer

Once upon a time the English Democrats was a civic nationalist party promoting the idea that England should have its own parliament within a federal United Kingdom.  Now the policy has changed. The English Democrats policy is for an independent England, shorn of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  One leading English Democrat (Steve Uncles) proposed on a blog he owned that Northern Ireland should be handed to the Republic of Ireland without so much as a referendum.

The English Democrats have gone beyond mere civic nationalism and propose to preserve English culture.

Since moving to a policy of independence for England the following has appeared on the English Democrats Facebook pages:

A dramatic shift of emphasis.  No longer is the party a civic nationalist party.  It has become a party standing up for the majority.

However, Mr Uncles informs us now as follows:


This brings me to consideration of the statements made by Paul Rimmer who has stood for the English Democrats in the elections for mayor of Liverpool and  for the Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner. He is also the second prospective candidate (behind Stephen Morris) for the European Parliament elections in the North West Region.

The following is some of Rimmer's output:

Thursday, 14 November 2013

By train to Gravesend

I travel to Gravesend from Tunbridge Wells via London Bridge.  It is not the cheapest route but there are four trains per hour on each leg of the journey.  The cheapest route is via Paddock Wood and Strood.  However, there is only an hourly service on the line between these two places and it is not unknown for trains to be cancelled.

Earlier this week I arrived at Gravesend station for my return journey and was informed that no trains were running between Gravesend and Dartford as emergency work was being undertaken at Stone Crossing to replace a broken rail.  Passengers were advised to catch the 'replacement bus service' to Dartford.  The result was a 40 minute delay to my journey.

Southeastern missed a wonderful opportunity for some excellent public relations. London bound passengers could have been advised to join the HS1 service without paying the premium fare.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Twerp of the Year Awards

Yes, it is the time of year when I ponder on the cornucopia of candidates from which will come the winner and runner(s)-up of the Twerp of the Year Awards, the antidote to the self-publicists, boasters etc who actively seek to receive an award.  I discovered recently that there are organisations that work to boost the chances of a person receiving an award. You have to pay for the service of course.  All rather pathetic.


Saturday, 10 August 2013

Travel travails

I arrived at Tunbridge Wells station to catch a train to London  Bridge.  From there I planned to board a train to Gravesend.  However a train failure at Etchingham and unspecified electrical problems between Tonbridge and Hastings resulted in my having to board the 'substitute bus service' to Tonbridge.  No delays on the journey to Tonbridge and the prompt arrival of an Ashford - Charing Cross train enabled an arrival at London Bridge forty minutes late.

Coming back from Gravesend I arrived at the station and caught a late running train from Gillingham
to Charing Cross.  To make up time South Eastern  decided to terminate the train at London  Bridge and miss out all timetabled intermediate stops apart from Dartford!

The journey from London Bridge back to Tunbridge Wells was eventful.  The train was crowded as Hastings trains had  been cancelled and passengers for points south of Tunbridge Wells directed onto the trains which normally terminate at Tunbridge Wells.

We rattled along to Sevenoaks where it was announced that the train would not stop at Hildenborough as 'there was no guard on the train'.  I presume the reason for not stopping is that Hildenborough does not have platform staff.

Passengers for Hastings were advised to detrain at Tonbridge where buses would be waiting to take them to their destination.  It was announced that the train would not stop at High Brooms, again for want of a guard. At Tonbridge a guard appeared and the previous announcement was withdrawn.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Lavatory charges

Yesterday I visited Peterborough.  Interesting city with much to see and do.  Excellent theatre and arts centre.  I travelled by rail and all the trains I caught departed on time and arrived on time. Indeed, we ran into London Bridge from Tunbridge Wells without being stopped outside the former station.

Kings Cross has had a makeover and the new building  is a big improvement on what was there before.  My only gripe - 30p to use the loo!  I made my way over to St Pancras - a matter of a few yards - where the loos are free!

See  also:

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Old Fire Station Rusthall

Rusthall Parish Council is considering the purchase of the old fire station and turning it into a facility for a youth club and an office for the council.  A Rusthall resident has offered to donate the capital cost of purchase of the property.  This will leave the council to fund adaptation costs and ongoing revenue expenditure for upkeep of the building.  Inevitably this will result in a charge on the parish precept.  So far I have not seen a figure for the likely annual cost to Rusthall residents.

It is a difficult issue. On the one hand a good case can be made for more activities for young people in the village.  The Rusthall Community & Youth Project goes some way to meet the need, as do the facilities at the playing fields on Southwood Road: but more needs to be done.

However two major issues require resolving.  People living near the old fire station are concerned at the possibilities of noise and unsocial behaviour and one should not seek to disregard such concerns or play down the likelihood of problems.

The second issue is the funding of the youth activities. The parish council currently funds some of the work of the Rusthall C & YP but will this funding continue in the event that the parish council decides to fund the work at the old fire station?  We do not know how much this will cost annually.

Would it be possible to construct a made for purpose youth facility on the school site, well away from housing?

Fiveways, Royal Tunbridge Wells

Once Fiveways was a busy traffic intersection.  Then one road was turned into a pedestrianised area.  Later a major road scheme resulted in two other roads being joined up avoiding the Fiveways junction.  The remaining two roads became a restricted traffic zone: all vehicles except buses and taxis being banned from 10.00am to 4.00pm Mondays to Saturdays.  In reality many drivers ignore the restriction and little has been done to deter them.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council has taken delivery of CCTV car which will be used to photograph drivers using Fiveways illegally.  Postal fines will be issued on the basis of the photographic evidence.  The Council took delivery of the car last September and latest estimates are that it will be patrolling the area from this August.  Administrative bungling of the first order.

Fiveways is the home of the Millenium Clock, a work of art which has not met with universal approbation by the local populace.  At one time there were underground toilets reached by very narrow staircases.  They were swept away as part of the road scheme.  A letter writer in the local press suggested that a railway station should be built at Fiveways with escalator connections to platforms in the tunnel of the  line which runs beneath the site!

Now a new dispute has surfaced:

Friday, 21 June 2013

Soup Bowl - a year on.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council kicked the Soup Bowl out of its premises with indecent haste a year ago. The efforts of the local MP and the Bishop of Rochester to persuade the Council to change its mind came to nought.

A year on the premises remain empty.  The anniversary of the ejection of the Soup Bowl is to be marked.  The Soup Bowl has issued this:

Next Friday 28th June 2.30-3.30pm,  we shall distribute sandwiches and food bags from the steps of the Town Hall. 

We hope to have a reporter/photographer from the courier present.
This is to highlight that fact that it is a whole year since the Soup Bowl premises were closed and that one year on the premises remain empty, in spite of promises to refurbish them and rehouse families.

This will be a 'peaceful demonstration'

Would you please email anyone who may be supportive to this cause

Friday, 14 June 2013

Dennis Smith MBE

Dennis Smith has died aged 87. He was a former councillor on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and served a term as mayor.

I met Dennis on numerous occasions at voluntary sector events or at committee meetings of organisations to which we both belonged.  He could come across as being somewhat pedantic with his insistence on precision in the use of words in documents.  In fact he had a very sharp brain and a marvellous very dry sense of humour.

You could rely on Dennis to be at a meeting, such was his devotion to duty.

He will be remembered most for his work with Headway and the care and support he gave to his wife who predeceased him.  His work for many organisations in Tunbridge Wells and Kent bear testimony to his support for the voluntary sector.

I was privileged to know and work with Dennis, to listen to his wise counsel and see in action his determination to make Tunbridge Wells a better place for many disadvantaged people.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Kent Tories wobble but not toppled.

The Conservative held on to control of Kent County Council....just.

UKIP came from nowhere to win 17 seats, Labour failed to regain all the seats lost in 2009 and the Liberal Democrats trod water.  Had UKIP been able to mount contests in more Conservative seats, as distinct from fielding 'paper' candidates, we could have been looking at a council with no overall control.

As it is the Conservatives will form the cabinet.  We await with interest signs that opposition councillors are capable of mounting  effective scrutiny.

UKIP gained Tunbridge Wells East from the Conservatives.  A good result, followed by a stab in the back.

The UKIP challenge in Tunbridge Wells North came to nothing as the electorate followed the lead of Capel's electorate last year and refused to elect Brian Ransley.

The English Democrats had a hopeless campaign and dismal results.  At least they brought comedy to the elections with a candidate living at a non existent address and two candidates who live in Swanley, stood under other names and gave as their home address a location outside the county.

The English Democrats performance in Kent was matched  in Doncaster where they lost the Mayoral election having been successful in 2009.  It wasn't even close.  Hower, in typical English Democrat fashion, a gloss was put on the heavy defeat.



Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Anna Cleves

Perusing the list of candidate for the forthcoming Kent County Council elections I was intrigued that an Anna Cleves is standing in the Malling Central division.

However, I was unable to find such a person living in Kent, nor was I able to find her address.  Indeed I went so far as to visit the postcode area where she claims to live and of her property not a sign.

So who is she, where does she live?

A study of her consent to nomination form elicited the information that she is not claiming to be registered as a local government elector in Kent.  However she does claim to have occupied premises as tenant or owner for the previous 12 months at the address given and also to have resided for the whole of the previous 12 months at the given address.

The mystery deepened.

It has been established that the address she gave - Elm Cottage - did exist once, but it was demolished and stood on land adjacent to the house of her election agent.

It is claimed by her agent that the nomination was a 'sting' by a group he calls 'UKIP Black-Ops'.

There are unanswered questions.

1. If it is a sting operation did it extend to the appointment of Anna Cleves' agent?

2. The candidate's description is:

     English Democrats - "Putting England First!"

In order to put the name of a political party on a ballot paper the candidate has to be permitted to use the name by the Nomination Officer (or a deputy).  So, did the 'sting' extend to this as well?

3. As far as I am aware there has not been statement from the English Democrats stating Anna Cleves is not an English Democrat candidate.  Why not?

4. Her agent published this on his blog:

Note the misspelt surname.  The question is: from whom did Anna's agent secure the information  set out above?

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Travel by train and feel the strain

Yesterday I attended an event to celebrate the opening of a cafe operated by the community interest company of which I am a director.  Opportunity to meet up with friends and a have few drinks. So, rather than take the car I decided to go by train from Tunbridge Wells to Gravesend.  Big mistake.

I worked out that by catching the 10.39 train from Tunbridge Wells I would connect with a train to Gravesend at London Bridge which would arrive at my destination in good time.

However, I had not factored in the problem of buying a ticket at Tunbridge Wells station.  I refuse to use the ticket machines having had problems in the past.  I joined the queue in the ticket office, or to be precise the end of the queue outside the office, at 10.25.  By the time I paid for my ticket the 10.39 was long gone.

Only one person on duty in the ticket office.  However a second person then appeared having returned from a 'break'.  Of course staff need a break but in this instance the queue had formed behind one passenger whom it took a good ten minutes to serve.  No flexibility shown by the staff, a case of sod the passengers.

I have completed and posted a complaints form but I shall not be holding my breath in the expectation of any improvement in 'customer care' by South Eastern.

UPDATE: 16th May.

I have received a reply:

Thank you

Southeastern Customer Relations, PO Box 63428, London, SE1P 5FD

Tel: 0845 000 2222

Ref: 598288 / 465846

Dear Mr Hopkinson

Thank you for your comments card dated 26 April 2013.

I'm sorry to hear that when you travelled from Tunbridge Wells station, there was a queue at the ticket office window. I can appreciate how frustrating this would have been. Please accept my apologies for this and for the inconvenience that this caused you.

We do aim to ensure that our ticket offices are manned as advertised, so that they're able to meet expected passenger demand. At busy periods, we also expect them to do everything possible to keep queues to a minimum.

Whilst this is the case, as a commuter network, we operate a turn up and go service. This means that any passenger can turn up at anytime, at any station, purchase a ticket and join the first available train. This can mean that, despite our best efforts, there may be occasions when queues are unavoidable. It's for this reason that we do ask passengers to allow enough time before their trains due to allow them to purchase their tickets.

I can appreciate your concern about the queues on this occasion, especially as it meant that you missed your train. To ensure that the issues you've raised are fully addressed, I've brought your comments to the attention of our station management team. They'll be able to investigate what happened on this occasion. They'll also be able to take appropriate action to make sure that our staff do everything possible to keep queues to a minimum.

Once again, my apologies for the difficulties you experienced on this occasion. I hope that your experience with us is more positive and trouble free.

Yours sincerely

Allan Bradshaw
Customer Relations Officer

Monday, 22 April 2013

KCC election update

So far, two election addresses delivered to chez Hopkinson.  The Labour candidate's is as good as the one delivered for last year's borough council election.  Sharp, easy to read: looks professional.

The Conservative candidates election address repeats the problems of last year's election address: verbose, badly laid out and self-congratulatory.  No mention of the critical reports on children in care and primary schools.

Tunbridge Wells East is even more difficult to call.  The Independent candidate's chance of winning has been boosted by his being proposed by the successful Independent candidate at last year's borough elections.  Now looks like a four-way marginal.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

UKIP Black-Ops

According to Steve Uncles and Robin Tilbrook a shadowy organisation known as UKIP Black-Ops is intent on damaging the English Democrats.  The reality is rather more prosaic, an informal group monitors and comments on the activities of the English Democrats.  Some of the members support UKIP,  some the Conservatives, some the Liberal Democrats and there are a few who do not claim any allegiance to a political party.

The following is from Mr Uncle's Facebook page:

As there is no 'UKIP Black-Ops' its 'sting' cannot have 'backfired'.

Mr Uncles does not inform us how the Kent Messenger and Kent Police came to be involved.  Will he enlighten us?

Saturday, 20 April 2013

All aboard the fish and chips special

Down to the Spa Valley Railway for a ride on the fish and chips special. Two round trips to Groombridge on a glorious evening.  Fish and chips served on the first round journey and dessert on the second.  Excellent fare.

The train was packed,  a birthday party filled one coach.  Real ale on sale.

All in all an excellent night out.

Comedy hour

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Did you know?

Looking through the names and addresses of candidates for the Kent County Council elections it struck me that in a few cases there is a need for investigation of their provenance.  I discovered that the public is entitled to view nomination papers and consent to nomination papers (and make notes) at any time up to one day before the election.

I have arranged to visit council offices to inspect the documents.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Anna Cleves?

According to the Statement of Persons Nominated Anna Cleves is standing for the English Democrats at the Kent County Council election in Malling Central Division.

An evocative name, I needed to know more about her.  Glory be, Steve Uncles has provided the following:

'Cleves' has become 'Cleve'  and 'Anna' is also 'Teresa'.  'She' becomes a 'he'.  Confused?

So, where does Anna (Teresa) Cleves (Cleve) live?  Must say I was scratching my head when a search of the Royal Mail Postcode Finder produced a blank.  A site visit would clear this up - but alas, look as I did, I could not find the abode.

Help! Steve Uncles is her agent, can he help me locate his candidate's address? After all, should she (he) win  to where will constituents' mail be delivered?


The information on Anna Cleves has been amended (See below).  But why persist in calling her Cleve when she is listed as Cleves in the Statement of  Persons Nominated?  Note the use of the word 'live' for 'life' in both versions and the comedy of commas.

Who is Rob?

Friday, 12 April 2013

Well I'll be Cload

Terry Cload, former Conservative councillor in Tunbridge Wells, is standing an as Independent in the forthcoming county council elections.  Mr Cload states he is in it to win.

In a letter in the local newspaper he expresses the opinion that Kent County Council and all the district councils should be abolished and replaced by two unitary authorities, one for the eastern part of the county, the other for the western area.

Now, look at this:

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Cload and dagger

The county council elections are upon us.  Expect an avalanche of election literature in Tunbridge Wells as the Conservatives seek to repulse UKIP's charge and forays by the Liberal Democrats and Labour.

The most intriguing contest is in Tunbridge Wells East.  The Conservatives held the seat in a by-election last year, just - the seat is a three-way marginal.

The recent surge by UKIP in the opinion polls must encourage the party to believe it can win the seat.  The Liberal Democrats also hope to win as the electoral division includes their strongest ward.

The decision of Terry Cload to stand as an Independent adds to the uncertainty in predicting the result.  Mr Cload is a former Conservative councillor on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and a former Vice-Chairman of the local Conservative Association.

In 2012 an Independent achieved a resounding victory in Pembury at the Borough Council elections. He is also a former Conservative councillor.

Tunbridge Wells North should be interesting.   The long-serving Conservative member was de-selected.  One ward in the division is a Conservative/Liberal Democrat marginal.  Labour has won two seats on the Borough Council in one of the other wards making up the division.  The 'surprise' candidate is the former Conservative borough councillor, Brian Ransley, who is standing for UKIP.  Mr Ransley has had a few mentions on this blog.

Finally, the contest in Tunbridge Wells West could produce a surprise.  Normally a very safe Conservative seat,  UKIP has won two seats from the Conservatives on the Borough Council in Rusthall ward.  Last year UKIP gained a seat by ousting the Leader of the Borough Council.