Rails and roads from Tim Ward

I have enjoyed the recent Society newsletters more than ever, so I am reluctant to criticise, but the Unmanned Level Crossings article [Issue  213] puzzled me and contained some inaccuracies.

The author appears to be using the opportunity to climb aboard the anti-rail bandwagon by choosing an incident at Trimley that, he or she admits, only had “knock on” effects for the town. As a country, we do seem to tolerate thousands of deaths annually and daily disruption on our roads but are notably intolerant of railway failings.

The piece also refers to the railway between Haughley Junction and Diss and people being delayed at Peterborough station. I’m not sure that has much to do with Ipswich.  But if you can persuade me it is at least of local interest, it is factually incorrect to state that the line speed to Norwich is “by default” 60mph. It is actually 100mph all the way from near Hadleigh Road bridge in Ipswich to the outskirts of Norwich with only a slight drop (to 80 and 90mph when going towards Norwich only) passing through Stowmarket.  I travelled over the line in mid October the train I was on happily sped to Norwich at line speed for the bulk of the journey in 40 minutes. Try matching that in a car! I would be interested to learn where the “vast majority” of crossings with a 60mph limit are located. Furthermore the line to Norwich is certainly not the East Coast Main Line. That runs to the north east and Scotland from London.

I am not sure how the authorities legislate for a man who choses to drive a car on to a level crossing and in the path of a train but it seems harsh to blame the railway for the resulting disruption.                  

I can suggest a much more relevant incident that directly caused massive problems for Ipswich. The Orwell Bridge was closed for over 8 (yes, eight) hours after the death of a motorist in October 2017. Of course it was a tragic event but the lengthy closure caused mayhem and misery to the people of Ipswich. The railway typically re-opens within two hours of a fatality.

Or better still, we should question the Highways Agency over their suddenly acquired enthusiasm to shut the Orwell Bridge every time we have a storm. It happily existed for nigh on thirty years without ever being shut yet now Ipswich is frequently brought to a complete and chaotic standstill at the whim of some unaccountable former civil servants.


Railway points from Graham Hardinge (Vice President, Ipswich Transport Society)

Congratulations on the production of the latest, very readable, Newsletter. The splash of colour makes a big difference.

That said, I really must take issue with parts of the item entitled Unmanned Level Crossings, or User Worked Crossings (UWCs) in railway parlance. As you may recall from a past article of mine (regarding never-ending engineering works), the subject of railways is one dear to my heart.  

I must firstly point out that the ‘vast majority (of unmanned level crossings) do not have a maximum approach speed of 60mph with an instruction to whistle’. As for the ‘many’ between Haughley Junction and Diss (in fact there are only four UWCs along that stretch), after receiving confirmation from a Greater Anglia driver of InterCity trains I can confirm that the line speed is an unbroken 100mph and no whistling is necessary. ‘Norwich in 90’ would be even more difficult to attain if the restrictions mentioned were in place!

As regards the incident at Trimley (half-barriered Thorpe Lane, not the full-barriered station crossing), so far as I can detect, the records indicate that there were 14 full and one part train cancellations in consequence, all of which would have been of Felixstowe branch services. Unless the author of the article was unfortunately affected by other unrecorded cancellations that I can find no record of, then I am at a loss to understand the references made to the main line services, Peterborough and 'stranded commuters at Liverpool St had the incident occurred on a weekday'. Felixstowe would not have been served after the 17:58 ex Ipswich/18:28 return on the Saturday or all day on Sunday, anyway as the branch has been closed during these periods since April for the construction of the new loop at Trimley and will be for another year or so.

Finally, I would add that the East Coast Main Line actually runs between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh, not as stated. The author should have said ‘Great Eastern Main Line’.

I hope this clarifies matters.

The Chairman responds

Tim Ward very usefully corrects a couple of details in my article published in the October Newsletter. Firstly my sincere apologies for failing to add my name to the bottom of the piece. I had no intention of publishing anonymously.

I wasn’t trying to knock the railways, rather highlighting the difficulties experienced by numerous passengers when an incident occurs, similar to the delays caused by accidents and incidents on the roads.

The contents of the article came from a number of different sources, some of which are full of acronyms and I mixed the GEML with the ECML.  The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) did have some early notes and the national press (which are renowned for their inaccuracies in technical matters) made much of the human interest side of the story but skipped key details.

I fell into the simple trap of misinterpreting 100 mph for 100 kph and then converting the later into understandable units. Tim is absolutely right to suggest that similar incidents on the public highway also cause disruption, delays beyond what most motorists consider acceptable whilst accident investigation takes place.

Clearly there are readers who know much more about how our rail network operates and the editor would welcome short articles with key items of local news. If you need an idea to start, let us know the latest on a new (Westerfield) station for the Northern Fringe.

John Norman


Litter, leaves, level crossings, mowing and the market from Izzy Lane

Thank you for your editorial efforts with regard to the latest Ipswich Society Newsletter [Issue 213– it was both informative and interesting.

I have to agree with Keith Faull’s comments in the ‘Letters to the Editor’. I moved from Hackney, in East London, to Ipswich in 2005 and one of the things I really liked about Ipswich was that it was, generally, clean and tidy. Rubbish and leaf litter was quickly cleared away, the grass verges and hedges were kept neatly trimmed plus there were odd patches of flowers. Now the pavements are strewn with rubbish, the leaf litter is turning into a slippery mulch, the verges are left uncut until the grass is knee-high and are then cut haphazardly, leaving behind patches of long, uncut grass while the cut grass is sprayed across the pavement. The trees and hedges are uncut, to the point where the lights on some roads are now being shaded by them, and the rose under the Maidenhall Approach road sign seems to be the only sorry reminder of the flowerbeds. I’ve been in contact with both Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council about the footpath in the middle of Oak Hill Lane so many times it’s silly, and the response has got worse and worse so, at the moment, I’ve given up; I’m just waiting for somebody to slip on the stairs, either because of the layer of leaf-mulch or because, in the dark, you can’t see the steps.

With regard to the comments about unmanned level crossings, it’s worth remembering that these are now a major cause of accidents and injuries on the railways. I think they are the main cause of accidental deaths too. Plus, a lot of the incidents involve misuse of the crossing by members of the pubic – e.g. drivers dodging round the barriers, people jumping the barriers, etc. Check out [https://youtu.be/rcmiNqF6wnc] or [https://youtu.be/Sk0NW3l21PA] for some examples and you’ll understand why Network Rail want to get rid of as many level crossings as possible.

Finally, with regard to the Chairman’s remarks about the market not moving back to the Cornhill, the bit that concerns me is what will happen to the market? The number of people who walk along Queen Street and upper Princes Street seems to me to be considerably less than the number who walk along Westgate Street or up Princes Street to Westgate Street. While dedicated market users will go to the market where ever it is located, I suspect the stall holders rely heavily on the ‘passing trade’ of people who spot something as they walk by, and will the lack of these passing people reduce their trade to the point where it is unsustainable for them to remain on the market at all?

John mentions a plan to use the Cornhill for special events. But that already happens along the waterfront, and what we see there is that the special event brings in hundreds of people but, once the event is over, visitor numbers fall back to the handful we usually see. So, while the special events do bring in trade, and make the waterfront ‘come alive’ they don’t seem to have a long lasting impact on the number of people visiting the waterfront. Will holding events on the Cornhill be similar ‘flashes in the pan’ rather than increasing on-going business in the way that the market does now?


The market in Ipswich from Peter Robinson

I'm responding to John Norman's article on siting the above. We do seem to have a very small market for the size of the town, compared with others around the country.

For two reasons I believe we should do all that we can to ensure that the Council keeps it on Queen St. etc. Firstly, the facilities are much better, and the townscape of the area is more suited to the variety and colour of the market. Secondly, John is correct to say that the use of the Cornhill for a wide range of other activities would be a real improvement in the town centre ‘offer’. It would also add important life and vitality to the Cornhill amidst the trials and tribulations that ‘Shopping’ is now suffering. Perhaps in offering a variety of  activities that ‘Advise, Educate and Entertain’, we could emulate the BBC as well as pointing towards the future for town centres, after the demise of shopping!


Christchurch Park Butterflies in 2018 from Richard Stewart

Since the publication of The butterflies in Christchurch Park my wife and I have monitored species each year. In 2018 the only expected butterfly not recorded was the Essex skipper, which has only a few past records. Brown argus, another rare park species, wasn't seen in the normal area, the long grass below the tennis courts, but was thankfully recorded in the butterfly garden. Green hairstreak also was missing from the tennis court area but one was seen in the new planting of gorse and broom, the larval food plants, at the top north of the park. Purple hairstreaks are often overlooked as they live high in the park's oaks, mainly feeding on aphid honeydew. However several were seen in 2018, probably because the long hot and dry spell of weather produced many still evenings, when they are usually most active. The small copper butterfly again had a late brood flying in October and we counted a total of fifteen, our highest ever on one day. They are usually found nectaring on late flowering yarrow, which was abundant , particularly around the long planting of trees on the Westerfield Road side of the Park Road entrance.

What was almost the highlight of the year occurred on 22 June when we found a pristine white admiral floundering on the pavement at Westerfield Road, close to the park entrance. It appeared to have been caught in a vehicle's slipstream. I carefully caught it in cupped hands, took it across the road and released it just the park side of the boundary railings.

This was one of the new species predicted to appear in the park in future years but regrettably it was just a few yards short of inclusion. The butterfly garden has been replanted, with a nettle bed established behind the seat. This necessitated removal of some bramble, the main summer nectar source for many insects. I was initially concerned about the replanting of the middle bed, since an early flowering buddleia was removed, but, once established, it now provides good sources for feeding bees, butterflies and other insects. In October there were still many flowers in bloom, including four attracting butterflies, namely sedum, verbena bonariensis, lavender and Michaelmas daisies. 

Finally, strips to the top north of the park have been made into a wildflower meadow as part of the Urban Buzz project organised by David Dowding from Buglife. Already some flowers are in bloom and it will be interesting to see what happens next year. 


River Gipping from Lewis J. Tyler, Secretary – The River Gipping Trust

We read with interest the letter from Mike Neale [Issue 213], particularly his point about the wasted amenity of the Gipping Valley. Whilst the ultimate aim of the River Gipping Trust is to restore the whole of the former Stowmarket Navigation to its former glory (a very, very long term project), we in the Trust have plans to improve, in the foreseeable future, at least part of the valley between Needham Market and Baylham, by making the long distance footpath suitable for disabled use.

Taking the points in order:-

A proper cycleway/pathway would be a great asset but there are some major engineering problems that would faced by anyone trying to create such a path. To attract likely funding sources any path MUST have enough room for all users; that means pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchairs. Such a path must have a minimum width of 2.5 metres for cyclists and another 1.5 metres for wheelchair users. The land take for such a path would be extremely difficult to achieve and very expensive. Having said that, we agree that such a path would be an enormous asset to everyone living in and around Ipswich.

We certainly do not agree with the idea that such a path should be fenced. Why should it be? To keep people out or keep them in? We are not advocating a towing path (although a passenger boat towed by a horse would seem like a pretty good attraction), but having to view the cleaned up river through a fence doesn't sound very attractive.

We agree entirely with the fact that the river should be cleaned up. That responsibility lies with the Environment Agency and if you ask them what they intend to do about it you will get the standard reply: we haven't got any money. There is a secondary problem with putting boats on the river. There are no navigation rights on any part of the river. That means nobody can use a craft of any sort on the river (including canoes) unless they have permission from all the riparian* owners on either side of the river.

That should not be an insurmountable problem but it needs to be addressed by getting all of them to put in writing their agreement to such a use.

We will leave the points about the town centre to others but referring to the parable of the Three Bridges and the latest news that there is a 'black hole' of £42 million and that the Council have already spent £9 million, just think what a very small part of that could have been used to create the cycle/pedestrian/wheelchair path and clean up the river?


Litter-picking from Jonathan Williamson, Wines of Interest

I agree completely with Keith Faull’s letter [Issue 213, Oct 2018] about the problem of litter

in our town.  Some while ago I decided that enough was enough in the area immediately surrounding our shop and bought a litter picking stick.  I conduct a daily check of the immediate area picking up as much litter as I am able.  Initially, this was a daily task, but it’s probably only every 2-3 days now.  The small area I cover contains one council bin near the local bus stop so there is provision for the proper disposal of litter if only people could be bothered to use it.  Some do, of course.

Completing this task regularly has given me a clearer understanding of where the litter comes from, and who must be dropping it.  At least 50% of what I pick up is smoking or beer related.  Clear cellophane wrappers and wet wipes are also predominant along with the occasional take-away coffee cup.  I have picked up mobile phone parts, instruction leaflets, bottle tops, straws and even a shower cap.

There are simply too many cigarette butts to pick them all up; it is clear that car ash trays are emptied onto the street regularly so those are a little easier since it’s possible to pick up several butts at once.  On one occasion I did try to pick all the cigarette butts up but I found that the constant use of the picking stick made my hand ache so I had to stop.  I didn’t even attempt to tackle the various piles of sunflower seeds and have to leave those to the occasional passes of the council road sweepers.

I would certainly encourage others to take up this challenge in their own areas of our town.  It’s actually strangely satisfying and takes only a few minutes.  I have received several compliments from local residents who can see what I’m doing and are grateful, which can be a nice start to the day.