For all the fact that I now live in a flat over looking Leeds Rail Station, next to the north bank of the River Aire, I’m lucky.

Recording station at Whitehall Quay.
Recording station at Whitehall Quay.

Some time ago I realised that the flooding height on my side of the river was 3 metres. Once the river comes out on the other side of the station it’s nearer 2 metres. There’s a webcam for LSSE which makes the point; my photo shows the river level at 2.4m, at which time the scaffolding in front of LSSE was getting slightly damp.

For the river here to flood, Kirkstall would have to be under water. It was 2.4m on Boxing Day evening and probably rose a bit higher – but then river burst its banks at Kirkstall and the water flowed along Kirkstall Road and Wellington Street instead, so it never got high enough to be a danger here.

The point is, everyone knows that Kirkstall is liable to flood. It’s the lowest point between Horsforth and Leeds city centre, and the floor of the valley is where the river, railway line and Leeds and Liverpool Canal all run. So why hasn’t anything been done about it before? When you think about the cost of the clean-up, the insurance claims, the loss of income for business and revenue for bus & train operators – surely now is the time to do something?

It’s not simply a matter of building higher defences – that just creates a faster-flowing river. Effectively, a second river was created along Kirkstall Road for a couple of days; perhaps a secondary ‘river’, a storm drain and reservoir, is what’s needed? Something to divert and / or hold on to water at peak times, then release it downriver as the river level drops? Same applies to places like Hebden Bridge, Walsden and Mytholmroyd; store, then release.

Of course, all these things cost. But we do have a new National Infrastructure Commission. I suggest that these are the things it should be looking at, not just HS2.

The view down Northern Street.
The view down Northern Street.
Wellington Street, between Northern Street and the Inner Ring Road.
Wellington Street, between Northern Street and the Inner Ring Road.

We’re very short on new / owned images of south Leeds for the A3 leaflet to go with the opening of the new Leeds Station Southern Entrance in January. So I’ve been out and about this morning. I don’t really do ‘arty’ but this would be a good Desktop photo…

Leeds Station Southern Entrance
View of the upper floor and roofline of Leeds Station Southern Entrance
Frosty station sign at Apperley Bridge Station.
Frosty station sign at Apperley Bridge Station.

We got the final sign-off to open Apperley Bridge Station last Friday, which meant trains could call from today. Hurrah!

I mean, it was supposed to open in September… then Network Rail said “January”… then just as we were about to tell people this news, DfT got involved and it got brought forward a month right into the middle of rail franchising and the new Leeds Station Southern Entrance event planning… but apart from that, hurrah!

It was a bit cold this morning, and the heavy rain meant speed restrictions between Leeds and Shipley (Kirkstall tends to flood easily) but I duly got on the 0831 from Leeds to call, 10 minutes later than planned, at Apperley Bridge, where the platform was full of people waiting to catch the first train from the station. Sadly, the BBC crew there failed to capture who was the first passenger to alight – I still think it was me but there’s no proof (boo).

Hopefully it’ll be a bit warmer on Friday when we have the official opening – two MPs, lots of councillors, rail industry types and about a dozen pupils from Woodhouse Grove School. What could possibly go wrong?

At 7am today the two winning bidders for the new Northern and TransPennine Express franchises were revealed in a Stock Exchange announcement. You can read the details of who won on Rail North’s web site.

For me, this was a whole new thing. I’m used to being on the inside track (as it were) but this is the first time I’ve had to prepare releases, comments (for Rail North and WYCA) and briefing notes without actually having the names of the winners in my possession – just the code names used for the winning bidders. The fact that everyone in the rail industry knew anyway just added to the annoyance, as I’d had to sign DfT confidentiality agreements. Someone from Northern came up to me at the PRide Awards Dinner last week and said “I heard Arriva had won” – which I couldn’t confirm or deny, even if I knew the answer.

So it was that I arrived in the office at 7.15am this morning to update the 11 briefing notes we’d prepared with the actual names, then email out to the 29 local transport authorities; then update the web site; then send the release to local authority and LEP bodies who had responded to the original consultation back in the summer of 2014.

And then accompany DfT Minister Andrew Jones MP on a trip to Hull, to make contact with the Rail North reps over there and make sure they met, if only for 10 minutes – after the media event at Leeds Station. He’s still not sure who I am…

After having to work last Sunday, a late finish last night and today’s early start I’m pretty glad I don’t have to do this for another six years (assuming I have to do it at all)!

In the middle of October, the Chartered Institute announced changes to the way Chartership can be achieved. Instead of spending half a day filling in a form, writing a 4,000-word reflective paper then having an interview, it could all be done in one day.

When you consider that only 52 Chartered Practitioners have been created since Chartership was introduced, you can see why a change was needed.

What does this mean to a two-time fail like me? Well, there’s a cut-off date of mid-December for people if they want to change from the old scheme to the new one. But I’ve already paid for Stage 2, so I could continue. But what would be the point if I fail (okay, I know it’s not called ‘failing’) again?

It turns out that I could submit and get a decision pretty quickly – a ‘free throw’, if you wish. I spent two weekends at the end of October bashing out 3,700 words. In all my years trying to pass various courses, diplomas and degrees I’ve never written so fluently or quickly – I had the first 2,700 down in less than 24 hours (bearing in mind I had to sleep at some point, and I went to visit my mum).

Handed the essay in at the start of November; here we are four weeks later and I’ve just had the interview – or ‘viva’, as I call it, since it does remind me of defending one’s thesis. Result in a week or so, I’m told. Keep ’em crossed.

Somewhat delighted – and still a bit surprised, though I have been keeping the news secret for a few weeks – to have been made a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

Full story on the CIPR web site.

Many thanks to Paul Amourdedieu, Stefan Casey and Rebecca Benn for the nomination; and to the many people Paul tells me he rounded up to get testimony from; and to the people who have emailed, texted or tweeted congratulations today.

I promise to only use my new-found powers to annoy.

Earlier this year I managed to do something new and different – for me, anyway.

I managed to set up a MySQL database with two tables; the first had the location and details on 2,500 mainland GB rail stations, the other had the patronage figures for each station. Using the three-letter code for each station as a unique identifier I was able to use a php script to get the information from the database and write a .kml file which I then uploaded to a server. I could then use a WordPress plugin or standalone script to read the .kml file and show all the stations on one map, with stations details and patronage figures contained within each station’s ‘bubble’.

Good, hey? Except it now no longer works.

Google’s done a thing – I still don’t know what – so that only some of the stations are displayed. There’s nothing wrong with the .kml file; I used an app on my iPad to read it and it works fine. Google Maps will only read the first 2,000 stations so that isn’t an option (plus it ignores what I do with the map pins). So a potentially useful map for work and industry colleagues is now pretty useless. Not to mention the work I put into it.

This is why I don’t like to rely on Google, Apple or anyone else with ‘my’ data or services – you never know what they’re going to change that will bollocks things up for you. And it means I have to waste time investigating new solutions.

[This also appeared on my LinkedIn page – you know me, conservation of effort.]

I’ll be at a Breakfast Briefing tomorrow morning on the new Northern & TransPennine Express franchises which start in 2016 (not that I’m great with mornings). It’s being hosted by Rail North (disclaimer: I have been doing some activity for them, as part of my day job at West Yorkshire Combined Authority). According to the blurb (which I had a paw in writing):

“With the new franchises, authorities across the North will have a much greater say in shaping our rail network and it’s a positive first step towards the full devolution of wider responsibilities for rail.

“Our Long-Term Rail Strategy sets out how rail will support the growth of our economy over the next twenty years by improving connectivity for passengers and freight across the North of England.

“We are also working with industry partners to bring forward future electrification schemes, and Transport for the North on the Northern Transport Strategy, to ensure that the Northern Powerhouse becomes a reality.”

If that sounds like your thing (and at the very least it’s a free breakfast, come on!) then email info@railnorth.org.