Friday, April 29, 2011

Less than a week to go

The royal wedding is safely over, and although I didn't spend the morning watching the proceedings on TV I do wish them a long and happy marriage.  Recent British royal weddings don't show a great track record for happiness or longevity, like so many non-royal ones.  Something is lacking in the understanding of words like Vow, or maybe we need a new word to take on the solemnity and purpose which that word used to hold.
Meanwhile there's an taking place here.  All 56 Stockton Borough Council seats are being contested, as well as a number of parishes around the borough.  Here in our ward of Eaglescliffe Preston parish has no contest as there were not enough people nominated for the seats but Egglescliffe is contested with 14 people fighting 13 seats.
There's been a bit of confusion in some people's minds about the numbers of people standing for Eaglescliffe ward.  There are 3 seats for people to represent Eaglescliffe so the Lib Dems, like Labour and Conservatives, have nominated 3 people.  Electors can then decide whether to vote for all 3 of one party or some combination of people they think might do a good job of representing the area.
Other people who live in Eaglescliffe are standing for election in other parts of the borough.  That's quite common in all parties - people have an affinity with an area, perhaps because they grew up there or their parents live there or they know a lot of people who live there - and they apply to their party for nomination for that area.
Lots of people vote by post these days and if you haven't completed and posted your form you need to do it soon - they've got to be in by 10pm on Thursday.  If for any reason you don't get it posted you can drop it into a polling box at a polling station on the day, but you can't go to the polling station and get another form.
And then of course there's the referendum - a straightforward yes or no vote.  The campaigners for a no vote have been carrying out some very misleading campaigning, telling some downright lies (no voting machines are needed - the votes can be done by hand as they are now), and frightening people about coalition governments.  But lots of countries in the world have coaltions and survive, and lots of places have some kind of alternative or proportional voting and don't have coaltions.  Look no further than Scotland and the Scottish Parliament!  AV isn't my first choice for proportionality but it's better, slightly, than the present system.
And for those who think it's just the Lib dems wanting more parliamentary seats - many analysts think we'd get fewer seats!  It's about Lib Dems wanting more democratic government, not just in Parliament but across the country.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Whose opinion and whose needs?

As councillors we represent, or are supposed to, all the people in our ward.  But there are very few issues on which everyone agrees and so there's a need for a balancing act - whose opinion should carry the most weight?  Or is there a middle way? 
The current licensing application for the Eagle Service Station is a case in point.  The part of the application causing most concern is the 24 hour provision of alcohol for consumption off the premises.  Neighbours cannot see why anyone should want to sell alcohol for 24 hours a day.  Many are really worried that young people who already take alcohol into Preston Park to drink will be encouraged to pop back to top up their supplies if there's a premises just over the road.  The applicant of course wants to make an income, and has suggested a compromise - what if the licence stops at midnight?  Some people might think this is a better deal, but the close neighbours we spoke to weren't convinced at all. So where is the right path?  Whose needs should be paramount? 
There's a group of young people who tend to play football on the road during winter because the grass they use in the summer has no lighting but the road does.  How do we provide a space for them that's safe but doesn't spoil the enjoyment of the householders around the area? 
What about the people who would like a street light on a dark path to make it safer to walk home from work or shops?  Will it encourage young people to congregate and be noisy and then make people feel less safe?  That's what some say, including at times the police.  So whose opinion carries the most weight?
The joys of being a councillor!  I remember the concentration needed to walk along the balance beam in PE at school - perhaps that was the training course for a later life.

Not made your mind up yet?

If you're one of those still wondering whether to vote Yes or No in the referendum you might like to see Dan Snow's short video.  It's short and it's easy to follow.  And because Dan Snow is a very good TV presenter he tells it much better than I could write it!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Postal Voting has started

The postal ballot papers began to arrive in Stockton homes today.  Here in Eaglescliffe there are 2 or 3 papers - one which is common across the country, one for our ward and one for Egglescliffe parish which forms part of the ward.  Those who live in Preston, Aislaby and Newsham won't have a parish ballot paper.
The referendum one is the one with the greatest long term effect - will we have a new system of electing MPs after May 6th?  Who knows.  People seem genuinely to want to know what's involved and the reasons behind the suggested change but there's been very little factual information going out and a great deal of scary campaigning.  It shows the paucity of the No campaign's ideas when they resort to suggesting that the proposed change is just for Nick Clegg's sake.  If that were the case why are so many non-Lib Dems so keen on it?  And why can a number of Labour MPs now say that something that was in their manifesto for the last election is a flawed system?  They were the ones who went into the election with AV as a manifesto pledge, not us.  Who's breaking promises now? 
All these arguments are silly - the important question is whether we have a system that is discredited by years of abuse or whether we have a system which makes it harder to gerrymander boundaries, means that MPs have to work to keep more people satisfied with their work, and is no more expensive to administer than the current one.  Only if you want to keep the present, flawed system should you vote NO.  For any improvement at all vote YES. 
As for the borough council elections - well obviously I hope that Eaglescliffe will return 3 Lib Dem councillors again but if it doesn't I hope that whoever is elected will look after the place in which I live.  It's a great place with wonderful people and long may it stay like that. 
Ballot papers for Egglescliffe parish are long and take some reading - 14 candidates for 13 places.  It's sad when just one person can't be elected.  I'd rather there was a wider choice, but perhaps not quite as wide as in Yarm with over 20 people contesting the seats.  That paper will take some folding to get into the return envelope!
By 6pm on May 6th all the counting should be done, all the local results known and the referendum result sent in for adding to the rest of the region's results.  There'll be some parties that night and some weeping and gnashing of teeth, but the voters will have spoken.  Make sure your voice is heard - this is your council for the next 4 years and the referendum result will stand for a lot longer than that.

Caring for Your Area

I chaired the last Environment Committee meeting of this council yesterday afternoon but it certainly wasn't an easy or gentle end to the committee's year.  The new committee will be appointed by the full council at its annual meeting on May 25th but to avoid a long hiatus in the process of looking for best value for money out of council services this meeting prepared the ground for the new committee.  The service area to be looked at is the one everyone knows, even if you don't know what it's called.  Care for your Area teams are responsible for collecting waste and recyclable materials from our kerbsides, gritting the roads, filling the grit bins, cutting the grass, planting and weeding the flower beds, keeping our parks tidy, looking after the cemeteries, digging the graves, sweeping the streets, cleaning the public toilets, installing play equipment, filling potholes and so on and on.  Mostly, they're very labour intensive jobs and it's hard to see how much of that labour can be saved - they already use machines where possible to do jobs like sweeping and grass cutting.
No doubt there will be some opportunities for making sure that the work is carried out more efficiently.  This is the chance to look into those accusations which councillors hear from time to time of workers arriving late, leaving early and having several tea breaks in the middle.  But I think that finding a £1m saving from the annual budget is going to be very difficult and the new committee will end up making some very unpopular decisions before making its recommendations to the new cabinet.  Which of all those many services will most people feel aren't necessary or can be reduced?
This year's committee spent a long time discussing the information that would be needed in order to make those decisions and the need for a fresh look at some of the policies of the council on how services are delivered.  Council officers now have until June to prepare detailed papers on costs, staffing levels and levels of complaints and compliments before the new committee meets for the first time.  Good luck to all concerned!
One of the complaints for the last few days which we've had from residents and seen for ourselves is the standard of the grass cutting.  The complaints are all being looked into to see whether more training is needed for the seasonal staff who are taken on each year to do this work.
The last item on the agenda yesterday was an overview of work carried out over the last 4 years, including wastes management, cemeteries, carbon management, dog fouling and animal welfare.  They're all big issues for the borough and the results of the reviews are still being monitored.  Overall, the committee did feel that some differences had been made for the better though there are still some disappointments - the level of dog fouling hasn't reduced despite increased and higher profile efforts by dog wardens.  Why do some dog owners think that pavements, grass verges and play areas are provided as open air toilets for their dogs?  Thank you to the hundreds of dog owners who don't think that way and who use the bins provided for cleaning up after their pets.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

It's the little things that count

Out in the ward, talking to people and listening to their concerns, not many people raise the big questions of the day - the fighting in the Middle East, the war in Afghanistan, the level of immigration or the cost of living.  Rather, they raise the things that matter to them right here and now, the things that make a difference to how they feel as they go about their daily lives - the state of the roads, the amount of dog fouling in some areas, the improvements to the play areas (thanks to the Parish Council on which I also sit) and so on.
Today I've had two very different issues.  First the grass cutting - like a child with blunt scissors was one description.  Why bother?  one person asked.  I have some sympathy for that view.  The lovely milkmaids on the bend of Carnoustie Drive have disappeared and instead there's roughly chopped grass and a few dandelions.  It's not really an improvement and doesn't really demonstrate that the team working here do "Care for your area".  Complaints are being made.
The other was much nicer - thanks for the ramp at Aspen Rd, enabling a young mum on a mobility scooter to get to and from Tesco a lot quicker in her words, so she doesn't have to rush round the shop when she gets there.  It might have been designed to aid cycling but I suspect that disabled people and pram pushers will find more benefit, given how happily the young cyclists seemed to bounce up and down the steps before the ramp was put in.  If only all improvements were as straightforward.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Immigration - the thorny question that doesn't get debated

For the last few days the media have been full of David Cameron's comments on immigration and other people's responses, including Vince Cable's.
Sadly, neither the Cameron comments nor the Cable responses have been fully reported by most of the media.  As usual the debate gets lost in sound bites.
There's a real need for debate on the issue.  We had a good, open debate at our party conference what seems like a lifetime ago but it was a drop in the ocean compared to what's needed in the country as a whole.
There's no doubt that some immigrants fit in well to the town or city where they settle, learning the language and the customs, contributing to the community and becoming very much a part of it.  There's also no doubt that some don't learn the language or the customs of the place they live, instead spending their time in a ghetto style existence, surrounded by people who share their language and history, emerging only to visit the supermarket or go to work in some employment which doesn't need anything other than rudimentary English. Sometimes their school aged children become the interpreters for the family and the isolation of the adults is compounded.  The vast majority of immigrants probably fit somewhere between the two ends of the spectrum
So what should we as a country be doing to help people to move towards becoming part of the wider community?  In years gone by we talked of integration, then that became a dirty word and diversity was celebrated.  But neither can work in isolation, surely.  We need to appreciate and learn from and celebrate the diversity while helping people to become fully integrated into a wider community.  That might not be the "right" term to use, but while we argue about the terminology and try to pick holes in sound bites we're risking even more wedges being driven between communities.
Let's be brave enough to debate issues openly, honestly and with sensitivity.  Let's see if we can answer questions about who we want in the country and how many and to do what.  Let's see if we can be honest with ourselves about the impact of our membership of the European Union - the bad as well as the good, because not even the most committed Europhile can claim that everything's perfect.  And let's see if we can come to a conclusion about what's meant by the new buzz phrase "community cohesion" and whether that's what we really  want.
And as part of that open debate I wonder if this post could be the one where anonymous comments aren't made,  but people are willing to show their faces.  Or is that too much to hope for?

Save Our Cheque

Too busy last night to write about this splendid news.  Parliament's treasury committee is going to look again at the question of abolishing cheques, following huge public concern!  Well what a surprise.  It didn't seem to occur to the Payments Council that thousands of ordinary people send cheques to family members at Christmas and birthday time, nor that thousands if not millions of cheques are sent every year to charity appeals of one sort or another, nor that small businesses are often paid by cheque for jobs done or services provided.  Well done David Ward MP, Unite, Age UK, The Federation of Small Businesses and others.
And well done Alan Lewis for bringing a motion to Stockton Council expressing support for the campaign, Stephen Ede for raising it with readers of the local papers and Elliot Kennedy for spreading the word via the petition.  Public pressure combined with Lib Dems in Parliament and the subject is to be reconsidered.  Let's hope this time that common sense prevails.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

School Building

The James report on capital spending makes interesting reading, as one might expect.  There’s a great deal of sense in there.  Money has been wasted because every school project in the country has been treated as a separate project with little opportunity for learning from successes and problems elsewhere.  Also local authorities are not always well placed to negotiate contracts with the construction industry and it has shown.  In the past, before being elected as a councillor, I heard senior people in a local company saying that the local councils were a “soft touch” as they didn’t have the expertise to challenge the proposals.  In recent years that company hasn’t been used by Stockton, but I wonder how many other companies across the country are saying the same sort of thing.  Reading the James report makes it sound as though it could be quite a number.
However, the remedy suggested by James – having centralised design and procurement – sounds as though it will cause alarm bells to ring in local government.  How can a centralised design system work unless the new school buildings are going to be put on green field sites?  Thinking of Egglescliffe school, where the preferred option for local people would be to rebuild on the current site, would a design work for there which would also work for the proposed free school in Ingleby Barwick?  Interesting times ahead, and a challenge for both local and national government to think differently about the best ways to achieve the goal of enough fit for purpose school places for every child in the country.  I do worry about how a central procurement system will allow for local firms to bid for local work, thus ensuring that some of the funding at least goes into the local economy.  That’s a real challenge for those planning the detailed response to the recommendations.
One aspect of the report bodes well for Stockton schools - James recommends that local authorities should do a survey of all their school buildings to see what state they're in and what improvements or replacements might be needed.  Stockton has already gone a long way towards doing that, so when the government decides on the budget for new school building and for improvements we should be in a position to make a strong case for what we need.  I know that Egglescliffe isn't quite the top of the pile - Ian Ramsay holds that dubious distinction.  But I also know that Egglescliffe does need a new building in the not too distant future and I'm hoping there's enough in the kitty to make it happen sooner rather than later.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Vision or Pipe Dream?


I grew up in Norton, proud of Stockton High Street as the widest in the country, visiting it regularly and knowing it as “the town”.  The market, in existence in one form or another from 1310, was an attraction for the residents of pit villages in Durham as well as more locally.  The Shambles, with its row upon row of butchers’ stalls selling fresh meat, was a sight to behold.
Then in the 1960s “modernisation” struck and over a couple of decades beautiful old buildings were changed almost beyond recognition with their ground floors turned into clones of shops everywhere else with vast areas of plate glass windows and plastic name plates while others were demolished and replaced.  A lethal cocktail of secrecy and apathy meant that the voices of those who loved the High Street were ignored and the downward spiral went unchecked.
The town turned its back on the river which had been the centre of trade and industry for generations, and built a dual carriageway between town and river as though to separate them for ever.  Yet at the same time Tees Barrage was built and the river became cleaner and more picturesque than for hundreds of years.
Through the subsequent decades there have been attempts to reverse the decline, mostly well intentioned but ill thought out.  Cars were taken out of the High Street, but buses, taxis and delivery vehicles weren’t.
The meat market moved out of the Shambles into a new concrete "centre" but lost its soul mixed in with everything else and competing with supermarkets.  The market was moved slightly, then put back again.  An open air cafĂ© was erected, with councillors being told it was temporary and could be removed to make room for events, but then being told it couldn’t be moved and so the market had to make way for the events instead.  One part of Stockton Council would champion the market while another would call for it to be moved to make way for something more in keeping with the vision they had of how the town centre should look.
Now, the latest consultation is going on.  A “Town Centre Prospectus” has been produced.  We are told that private investment is likely to be forthcoming.  The link to the river will be reintroduced, albeit only visually.  The Globe Theatre will reopen, cars will be allowed to park at the ends of the High Street again.  A new site for the Taxi rank will be found.  And most controversially, the market will be compacted into a smaller area to make it once again into the bustling, crowded, busy market it once was. 
There are many details that need working out, not least how the market will retain its character if moved into a smaller area and how stalls can keep their character if forced to have a uniform appearance.  I’m not at all convinced that the proposals are the right solution, but I do think a solution needs to be found.  We must stop the stupidity of having to negotiate with stall holders every time an event such as the International Riverside Festival is held.  We need a space which can house events and also allow for just walking about and meeting up with people when we have lovely weather like that we’ve enjoyed for the last few days.  But we also need our market stallholders to be happy or they will find somewhere else to go and we’ll be much worse off than at present.  We need something that encourages retailers large and small to come and open in the High Street and in the smaller streets off it and parallel to it.  We need to have good places to eat and drink and relax as well as places to buy our food and clothing and household bits and pieces. 
So, does the prospectus offer a vision for the future or is it another pipe dream to be lost in the practicalities of life as it’s lived?  Perhaps only time will tell but I feel a bit more optimistic about this one which seems to have some support at least from more than just council officers.
Maybe it's spring in more ways than one.  Maybe my grandchildren will enjoy Stockton centre as much as I did when growing up?  Let's hope.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Community Participation Budget

 
This is the money allocated to the ward to be spent by ward councillors in consultation with residents on a very restricted range of things in the ward.  The concept was proposed by Lib Dem councillors some years ago and finally agreed by Stockton Council in time to start spending 3 years ago.
A resident of Preston who prefers to remain anonymous has commented on a previous blog post with a question about how much of this budget has been spent in Preston as opposed to other parts of the ward.  The question reminded me that though we put a lot of information about the budget in Focus, not everyone reads it or remembers the detail and mainly from lack of space we don’t put all the costs and detailed descriptions in.
First of all it needs to be said that we ask each year for ideas for spending the budget, in Focus but also when we knock on doors doing surveys of opinion in the ward.  We have had very few suggestions from residents of Preston Parish which could mean that they are satisfied with what they have, or could mean that they don’t believe we’d listen or that they can’t be bothered or just that there are a lot fewer people living in Preston than in the rest of the ward.  For example in the 2001 census there were 1748 people living in Preston Parish but 7908 in Egglescliffe Parish. 
What we have done in Preston is to make sure that there are litter bins at any bus stops which didn’t have them; put dog waste bins where we’ve been asked including Quarry Rd and the riverside in Preston Park; put shrubs in the green area in Larch Crescent and added to flowers along the verges in Yarm Rd where possible.  We’ve been asked to put in some extra car parking bays in a couple of roads but haven’t succeeded in finding a scheme that is agreed by the majority of the residents of those roads and is affordable.  We’ve had a study done on the trees in Ashville Avenue in order to see what can be done to ensure that the road stays as a tree lined avenue but the trees don’t damage the pavements and the houses, but the solution was so expensive it would take years of the budget to carry it out and there is no guarantee that the budget will continue beyond next year.   We have asked Stockton Council officers to consult on options there. 
We have no outstanding requests from Preston Parish residents but we do have some money left in this year’s budget.  It would be difficult to get it spent now before the election but the new councillors will have it available immediately in May if there are schemes forthcoming.  Perhaps the anonymous comment leaver has some thoughts and perhaps she or he would like to send them to me by email so that they can be dealt with properly?

Friday, April 08, 2011

Week 1

The first week of the Election campaign proper draws towards the weekend and what has it brought?
Rather more people than I might have expected telling us they hope to see Lib Dems elected again in Eaglescliffe as we do a good job.
Quite a lot of people commenting on John Fletcher's forthcoming retirement and wishing him well for it. Quite a lot also expressing pleasure that Lesley Lewis is standing for election in his place, remembering her growing up in the area.
A leaflet from one of the other parties which displays a bit of confusion, with one page telling us 3 names of candidates but another page telling us differently!  It seems that one of their candidates changed before the nominations closed but no-one told the person writing the inside page.  Doesn't bode well for their claim that they'd represent the residents of Eaglescliffe better than we do if they can't even get the names of their candidates right.
It's also brought sunshine and remarkably high temperatures for this time of year.  If this is summer it's too early!  I'd like something a bit later in the year after the election is over and done with. Meanwhile we put up with the fact that most people in this weather are out in the garden or the park and aren't answering the door.  C'est la vie.
On the broader view, in the borough of Stockton-on-Tees the new fiscal year brought:
  • 81000 people getting a £200 income tax cut - benefiting 23 million people across the country
  • 4500 people have been lifted out of paying income tax altogether, with more to come
  • 36400 pensioners have been given an extra £4.50 a week – and those retiring from today will be on average £15,000 better off over their retirement.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Friends of Preston Park

Another milestone tonight in the developments around Preston Park - the protest group that developed out of the threat by the Tory/Labour coalition cabinet in Stockton Council to build a secondary school in the park transformed itself.  Protect Preston Park, having won the battles of last year, formally became Friends of Preston Park at its AGM tonight.  It was a smaller, lower key meeting than the one in All Saints Church last year which gave birth to the group but it was just as significant.  Now there's a group aiming to be a voice for the community in all the developments in the Park.
Dari Taylor had no idea what a sense of community action she was going to unleash when she wrote that fateful letter in 2009.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Preston Park

Preston Park management group met this morning with some good news and some sad.  The good news was mostly already public - the successful bid for lottery funding to restore the walled Kitchen Garden and orchard.  Preparation work is already underway on the ground for that.  One discordant note is the loss of a walnut tree, aged something between 70 and 200 years old.  Apparently walnuts are very difficult to age accurately because they're very slow growing, hence the latitude.  The loss of this one has upset some people and wasn't well handled.  It wasn't on the plans of the orchard so was assumed to be relatively young and therefore would need to be removed in order to restore the orchard.  But its removal hadn't been flagged up and discussed in advance so when it went some people thought vandals had done it, others assumed some clandestine plot.  The remnants of the tree are now maturing in readiness for the wood turners and carvers to produce "Park Made" items for sale in the shop once it reopens.
The rest of the work seems to be rattling on apace, and there's much excitement.  The new play area will take shape over May and June ready for the summer holidays, the small gauge railway people told us about the possibility of a major event in a couple of years time with lots of small steam engines coming to the park; the cafe will reopen for Easter; there's a chance that a bid for funding for a better interpretation and commemoration of the railway heritage of the park will be successful; there's the sculpture/artwork for the Tees Heritage Park gateway feature; and who knows - we might finally get the skate facility we've been waiting and working for since about 5 years ago. 
Sadly, some of the staff who've been part of all the planning and hoping and dreaming over the last few years won't be with Stockton Council to see it come to fruition.  As a result of the cuts we're having to make in the council's staffing budget we'll lose not just some very experienced office staff but people who go out and about in the parks and the countryside making sure that fences are mended and paths are passable along with numerous other tasks to keep the area accessible and pleasant.  They'll be missed.  Just an example of the sort of work they do was mentioned today - a guided walk wasn't accessible to an electric scooter for a disabled person so the ranger led another walk the following week which was accessible.  Fine until they came to a narrow "pinch gate" designed years ago to stop motor cyclists on a footpath.  It was a very tight squeeze for the scooter and times have changed - now there's a brand new cycle path which won't have such a gate on it.  Brief discussion this morning led to permission to remove the obstacle.  Next time a disabled person wants to do that walk it'll be much easier, as well as for people with prams and manual wheelchairs.  Win all round, except that the ranger concerned might lose their job in the next stage of the staff cuts.  That's the sad reality of Mr Pickles' decision that Local Government can manage with so much less money.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Counting blessings

Mothering Sunday today (not Mothers' Day which takes place in the USA and various other countries around the world later in the year) was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how lucky Denis and I are.  We could share the celebration at church together, take time to have coffee and sell Fairtrade goodies afterwards and then go out for lunch with both our mothers.  Not a lot of people our age can do that and we're very conscious of how fortunate we are.
To do that does now necessitate going to a very limited selection of places as we have to cope with 2 wheelchairs and various other problems but it's worth every bit of hassle.  The staff at The Horse & Jockey in Roseworth are wonderfully helpful and cheerful despite being rushed off their feet.  Service like that deserves recognition.
The day was made extra special for them by having phone calls from Australia.  Once again modern technology makes the world seem that bit smaller for a while. 

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Ghost Station

We have a great airport on our doorsteps - still known as Teesside Airport to most people despite the best efforts of the owners to change it to Durham Tees Valley.  10 minutes walk in the other direction takes me to a railway station with a reasonably frequent service that goes past the airport on its way to Darlington.  The airport has a railway station too - ideal you might think.  Think again.  Trains stop there once in each direction on Saturdays and now on Sundays too.  For the rest of the week the trains hurtle through without stopping.
The Train arrives, 75 minues late.
Yesterday a small group of enthusiasts made the effort to get to the airport, unfortunately having to do it by car, in order to catch the train back home and publicise this absurd situation. The local press turned up, both Gazette and Northern Echo, but the train didn't!.  A phone call to customer services elicited the information that there was a problem on the track and it hadn't yet left Bishop Auckland.  So why no announcement over the tannoi?  Presumably because they didn't expect anyone being on the station!  There was an announcement at the next station down the track.  Eventually the train which should have come through after ours hurtled towards us.  Would it stop and pick us up?  No chance - it carried straight on through, with its passengers looking slightly bemused to see a group of people on the platform being ignored.
Several phone calls later and we were told ours was on its way, finally arriving 75 minutes late.  The press photographers had long since gone to their next assignment, taking with them shots of an empty track.
If we are ever to get people out of cars onto public transport we have to sort out the lunacy that allows a service to stop so infrequently that the conductor says he's never before had to find that station on his machine and when a train is delayed makes sure that the other one stops to pick people up.