Cracking on with the HS2 timetable?

With the news about the Euston HS2 plans being paused and the results of the Phase 2 consultation delayed until late next year (the Heathrow pause having been shoved under the carpet long ago), I thought I’d check the HS2 Ltd website to find the current official timetable. After all they used to have a lovely graphic!

The graphic and timetable is gone from their key-dates page (although it is still findable on their website if you do a google image search).

The key-dates page now claims

“We are also progressing with Phase Two of the project between the West Midlands to Leeds, Manchester and beyond.”

However if you hunt around you can still retrieve the old page.

The HS2 timeline from 2013 - now out of date

The HS2 timeline from 2013 – now out of date

2015 was supposed to be the year of the “preparation of the second hybrid bill”, following the announcement of the Phase Two decision in 2014. However with the HS2 Phase 2 route not announced yet, and the general election meaning that the Secretary of State may change in May, there must be at a huge amount of uncertainty for the HS2 designers.

Delaying the decision on the HS2 Phase 2 route announcement until a year from now, also means the preparation of the Hybrid Bill gets delayed. And if the Hybrid Bill gets delayed, that will save a chunk of cash out of the HS2 budget for the legal work needed for this coming year end.

Well, one person wants Ebola here

Yesterday, at Prime Minister’s Questions, and one person wanted Ebola….

John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): The Prime Minister will be aware of the outstanding work done at Porton Down in my constituency to combat Ebola. However, Public Health England has refused to evaluate fully an option to create a UK centre for global response to infectious diseases at Porton and instead persists with its recommendation to move many key scientists elsewhere. Will the Prime Minister meet me to discuss that matter and ensure that the future of public health, the life sciences industry and the taxpayer are well served by the decision ultimately made for public health in England?

The Prime Minister: Let me, through my hon. Friend, thank everyone at Porton Down for the vital work they do on these sorts of diseases and indeed for the work they are doing on testing for Ebola, as it requires brave and courageous people to carry it out. On the meeting that he wants, the Health Secretary is sitting next to me and he says he is happy to meet him to discuss this issue in detail. We want to see life sciences and these areas succeed in Britain, and Porton Down has an important role to play.

Chaotic housekeeping, as described by Jane Austen

From Mansfield Park by Jane Austen: this description of Fanny Price’s mother would perhaps be entirely true-to-life of many harassed, hard-up mothers today.

“Mrs. Price was not unkind… Her days were spent in a kind of slow bustle; all was busy without getting on, always behindhand and lamenting it, without altering her ways; wishing to be an economist, without contrivance or regularity; dissatisfied with her servants, without skill to make them better, and whether helping, or reprimanding, or indulging them, without any power of engaging their respect.

“Of her two sisters, Mrs. Price very much more resembled Lady Bertram than Mrs. Norris. She was a manager by necessity, without any of Mrs. Norris’s inclination for it, or any of her activity. Her disposition was naturally easy and indolent, like Lady Bertram’s; and a situation of similar affluence and do-nothingness would have been much more suited to her capacity than the exertions and self-denials of the one which her imprudent marriage had placed her in. She might have made just as good a woman of consequence as Lady Bertram, but Mrs. Norris would have been a more respectable mother of nine children on a small income.

“Much of all this Fanny could not but be sensible of. She might scruple to make use of the words, but she must and did feel that her mother was a partial, ill-judging parent, a dawdle, a slattern, who neither taught nor restrained her children, whose house was the scene of mismanagement and discomfort from beginning to end, and who had no talent, no conversation, no affection towards herself; no curiosity to know her better, no desire of her friendship, and no inclination for her company that could lessen her sense of such feelings.”

FWIW, one of the main themes of Mansfield Park is choosing the right spouse. Mrs Morris, Fanny’s aunt married a vicar and was comfortably well off, but had no children. As Austen suggests, had she married Mr Price, she would have risen to the challenge of a relatively small income, and her busy-body interference would have been used to the advantage of her children. I suspect that her eldest child may well have been brought up at Mansfield Park with Sir Thomas Bertram and wife, but with plenty of advice on how to better her situation.

She’s just had a baby, of course she’s got a bump!

Yesterday, when I saw the footage of Kate Middleton leaving hospital as a proud new mother, I was very pleased to see she still had a bump.  It is perfectly normal for new mothers to still have a definite bump, and it was great that hers was so visible.

I was therefore slightly incensed to read on Twitter that both Sky news and OK magazine (and no doubt other media as well) were wondering why she still looked pregnant.  She still looked pregnant, because she’s a real woman who had a baby yesterday.

Why back when I had little’uns, baby magazines all warned that you would still be wearing maternity clothes for a while after the birth: they suggested that you allow as long as it took to grow a baby before worrying about your figure. It would change whether you exercised or not.

At one point, I regularly went to a parent’n’toddler group, a playschool, and a primary school.  One day, for no particular reason, I can remember looking at the shapes of the women in the three different places.

At the Parent and Toddler group (children aged from 0 to 3) the overall impression was of ‘lumpy’ women.  Big bellies, wide hips, big boobs: these were women who had given birth relatively recently and their bodies showed it.

This contrasted with the women of the playschool, where the children were between three and five years old.  The women were rounded and perhaps a bit plumper than average, but their figures were less awkward then the new mothers of the toddler group.

By the time the mother’s children had reached primary school, the mothers’ figures looked normal.  Not lumpy, not particularly plump, just fairly normal.

Of course this was not a study to find how women’s bodies changed with time after pregnancy, just looking at a cross-section of normal women from one area of one normal town.  Although some of them may have embarked on years of dieting and exercise, others had just left their bodies to reshape naturally, but there was a definite progression.

Kate has now got a post-pregnancy body.  As an icon, she influences women and how they feel: and she has now shown the world that the mother’s of one-day old babies still have bumps.

It would be great if the media allow her to have a post-pregnancy body: it would be great if she doesn’t try to get it back to a pre-pregnancy flatness too quickly, to allow all the other women (and men) she influences to see that a post-pregnancy bump is normal.

And there is another good reason for her to want to stay a little rounder than normal for a little longer than the average celebrity. All the time she has a little bump, it will be harder for royal watchers to notice when or if baby number 2 is on the way…

Looking back, ten years ago,

A bit of history: the post I made to mark ten years on usenet

From: Penny Gaines <pe…>
Subject: Ten years on usenet
Reply-To: pe…
Lines: 63
User-Agent: KNode/0.7.1
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7Bit
Message-ID: <>
Date: Sat, 05 Jul 2003 17:54:37 +0000
X-Trace: 1057429431 (Sat, 05 Jul 2003 19:23:51 BST)
NNTP-Posting-Date: Sat, 05 Jul 2003 19:23:51 BST
Organization: Customer of PlusNet

It is ten years ago today since I posted my first usenet message.

I’ve been here since the days when usenet was almost exclusively for
universities and high-tech firms, when my company was unusual for using
email, and even techies didn’t know what the www in certain URLs stood
for. Back then the accepted wisdom was no-one could archive every news
posting, but even then the pre-curser to the pre-curser of google was
saving them. I can’t tell you what the web was like, because it was
still being invented.

I’d found newsgroups, not by using a newsreader, but by looking at
different files on the computer system of my new job, and wondering just
what were these files with names like /var/spool/news/misc/kids/1546.
(Worth noting that the employees of this company were expected to do
this sort of thing: anyone who would only use the proper software
to look at a file would not have a job there.)

My first post was about vi, the unix text editor, which I still use by

I didn’t post to until December that year, when I was pregnant.
Back then, mk was the only group for pregnancy, breastfeeding and

The posters on mk really influenced my parenting. For instance, I knew
“breast was best” and I like the idea of exclusive breastfeeding, but
I thought it wasn’t something ordinary mothers like me could do. But
there were ordinary women in mk who had done it, so I learnt I might
be able to. And I did. The biggest thing I learnt was that every child
is different, and I was given the confidence to trust myself, not the
experts who had written books.I hope I’ve been able to help other, newer
parents just like I was helped myself.

I’ve got the t-shirt (my yougest still just fits into her “I’m a misc.kid”
one), and a photoalbum, even a fridge magnet.

The great thing about mk is it survives and adapts. It is a different
newsgroup now to what it was them, but thriving in a different way.
It has gone downhill at least twice, sufficiently badly for me to either
unsubscribe, or nearly unsubscribe. And both times it has re-vitalised
itself. I love it for being so open: it wants new people to come along
and wants to adapt to them. I hope it continues to adapt, continues to be
aviable newsgroup.

At one particularly low spot for mk, I got involved in the creation team
for mkm – a group that has developed into yet another different newsgroup.
I’m very proud of what I helped to create (although it is the moderators
who are doing the hard part now: merely creating it was relatively easy.)

So, I suppose I’m an old-timer now (but to me old-timers were around
before the “great renaming”, not before “the endless September”). I just
hope I don’t start saying “in my day, things were better”, I hope I
continue to see that people who have only just started on the internet
may have good ideas and ways of doing things that are better then the
old ways.

And I hope I’m still on usenet to post my twentieth anniversary message.

Penny Gaines
UK mum to three
PS I wanted to crosspost to mkm, but my system is playing up, so I’ve
had to send two copies.

First Usenet post

Twenty years ago, I made my first usenet post:

Newsgroups: comp.editors,
From: pe… (Penny Gaines)
Subject: Re: Demystifying vi one step further..
Message-ID: <>
Organization: UniSoft Ltd., London, England
References: <1993Jun29.163526.19829@Celestial.COM> <> <1993Jul01.161714.15055@Celestial.COM> <1993Jul2.210933.17371@ucsu.Colorado.EDU>
Date: Mon, 5 Jul 1993 13:59:19 GMT
Lines: 24

In <1993Jul2.210933.17…@ucsu.Colorado.EDU> cro…@ucsu.Colorado.EDU (Matthew Crosby) writes:

>Ok. Why is dd delete line? Wouldn’t dl be better? Is it just because dd is
>fast to type? Does anyone know.

>-Matt cro…

dl will delete to next character left, but most people use its fast form, ‘x’.

In commands that process text that character twice acts on the whole line –
hence dd, cc, yy.

In vi you can combine any command that processes text (e.g. c,d,y)
with any command that moves the cursor (e.g. l, M, w).

Once you realise this (i.e. so you can use it without thinking about it), you will
realise one of the reasons why vi is so powerful. For the record, when deleting
the stuff in your posting I used d} and d4L, to delete most of the extraneous stuff.

Penny Gaines

It was almost a throwaway comment

It was almost a throwaway comment, but sometimes even throwaway comments cause ripples.

In an article on HS2 for Engineering and Technology magazine, I concluded

One option would be government support to decarbonise the electricity industry. Many people think that a better use for the money would be to build a world-class digital infrastructure in Britain. If it’s transport the government wants to build, we could start putting in place the infrastructure needed to make electric cars – possibly driverless – a real option.

But for all their romance, modern railways are essentially updated versions of 19th century technology. So, I’d say, cancel HS2 and build new infrastructure that looks forward to the future, not back.

As far as I’m aware, no-one else had previously suggested electric cars as a HS2 alternative, but in some ways they are very obvious.  They clearly need an infrastructure network, but that is appearing already, with supermarkets putting in charging points, as well as car parks in places like Milton Keynes.

As to driverless cars, again that is being discussed at length, mentioned on BBC Click, and in other places as well.

Having been first to mention electric cars as an alternative to HS2, I was gratified to see Allister Heath’s article in the Telegraph today: HS2 is already obsolete, David Cameron should be preparing the UK for self-driving cars. It would be nice to think that Allister read my article, allowed the ideas to permeate, and then wrote the Telegraph article.

Or maybe it’s just the zeitgeist of the times.

Read my article for E&T magazine here