The official BBC entry for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest has been notable by its lack of impact so far. But yesterday saw the launch of another song aimed at a Europe-wide event. The gathering in Ripon to mark 100 days to go for the 2014 Tour de France featured a surprise – an official song for Yorkshire’s Grand Départ was announced. Not just as an idea but with a full performance on the BBC regional news programme.
With no feedback from any music business Grandads we could be wrong but Alistair Griffin’s The Road seemed to hit all the right notes. Quite how well the track will be promoted beyond the Tour’s two days in Yorkshire is unclear but it certainly deserves to be a successful sporting anthem well beyond July. Bravo …
While the BBC keeps piling on the stories about hard times in the UK – food banks, public service cuts, pay rises below inflation, etc – in reality the economic conditions are far better than those in many other countries. And even with the UK’s ever increasing debts, there are still the funds available to back some major, and unique, sporting events this coming summer.
First the world of cycling will be focused on Belfast for a unique start to the Tour of Italy – in just 45 days time. The Giro will spend a total of three days in Ireland having to make an exception to its long tradition by starting one day earlier to allow for traveling back to Italy and stage 4. Since this annual event is ranked second only to the Tour de France big crowds are expected.
Speaking of which – Yorkshire’s successful bid to host the 2014 Tour de France means that there are now only 100 days to the race’s start in Leeds. With an estimated cost of £27 million there are plenty of locals hoping that spendin’ all that brass achieves its promised returns. But it’s not just Yorkshire involved with Cambridge and London also hosting stage 3 on the Monday after (7-July).
And Scotland is not being left out with the Commonwealth Games due to start in Glasgow just 16 days after the Tour de France leaves – on 23-July. With 17 sports at 14 venues spread over 12 days the Games can claim to be the biggest sporting event in the UK since the Olympics.
So all these countdown clocks are running and their organizers are just hoping that the British weather cooperates. But that should not be a problem if you believe today’s newspaper story – Summer heatwaves here to stay as seasons become more extreme thanks to climate change, say experts. [Link]
As the date for the vote on national independence gets nearer political pressures in Scotland mount. But let’s not worry too much about that … there are other things to keep the Scottish Parliament occupied.
After their win last year Scotland were hoping for a repeat victory in a vital competition but this year they were beaten into second place by Whitby in Yorkshire. However the national government still managed to fit this parliamentary motion into their busy schedule –
“Motion S4M-08967: Mike MacKenzie, Highlands and Islands, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 05/02/2014
Frankie’s Awards are no Small Fry
That the Parliament congratulates Frankie’s Fish and Chips in Shetland on being crowned the Best Independent Takeaway Fish and Chip Shop in Scotland at the 2014 National Fish and Chips Awards held in London; understands that Frankie’s Fish and Chips competed against nine other fish and chip shops from around the country; further congratulates Frankie’s Fish and Chips on being awarded second place in the National Independent Takeaway Fish and Chip of the Year category at the award …”
That was supported by 23 members according to the official records [link]. But this SNP motion needed a response from the Labour members. So by the end of the month the Parliament saw this further motion –
“Motion S4M-09199: Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 28/02/2014
Helensburgh Chippy Crowned Best in Scotland
That the Parliament congratulates the owners of the Wee Kelpie in Helensburgh, Nicola and Kerr Raeburn, on the shop’s success at Choice Chip Awards 2014, which were organised by the Potato Council; understands that the shop can now boast the title of the Best Chippy Chips in Scotland …”
Now this only had the official support of 18 members [link] but still that’s probably quite a crowd for the Wee Kelpie to cope with the next time the MSP’s have a staff night out in Helensburgh …
While the government’s HS2 railway project continues to spend millions just on preparations there are other – and much sooner – changes being proposed by commercial operators. Alliance Rail, part of the Arriva group (and so part of Deutsche Bahn) have been putting out proposals offering new services along the existing East and West Coast main lines.
The latest proposal is for direct express train services on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) between London King’s Cross and stations in West Yorkshire / Lincolnshire starting in December 2017. The headline points for them being a two-hourly service to Leeds calling at a new East Leeds Parkway station with 6 trains a day continuing to Bradford and one to Ilkley, all 7 calling at Leeds’ Kirkstall Forge station. Also up to 4 trains a day to Cleethorpes via Doncaster, Scunthorpe and Grimsby. These new services expect to use the latest Hitachi Super Express trains capable of running at the route’s maximun speeds.
However this is not the only bid on the table. Last month Alliance Rail also proposed an hourly express train service on the East Coast Main Line from London King’s Cross to Newcastle and Edinburgh starting in December 2016. This service would use new nine-coach Pendolino trains to cut the present Edinburgh journey time from an average 4 hours 20 min to 3 hours 43 min (compared to 3 hours 38 min via HS2 but that’s not available until 2033).
Both of these routes are under the GNER brand – but Alliance Rail have further proposals under their GNWR brand covering the West Coast Main Line. There are no less than three new services here for 2016 – a 2 hourly train from London Euston to Leeds (via Milton Keynes, Rugby, Lichfield, Crewe, Stockport, Huddersfield); a 2 hourly train from London Euston to Bradford Interchange (via Milton Keynes, Rugby, Lichfield, Crewe, Warrington Bank Quay, Manchester Victoria, Halifax) and up to 7 trains per day split between London Euston to Carlisle (via the Cumbrian coast) and London Euston to Blackpool.
Now parent company Arriva have had a hard time with train service submissions to the government. According to our calculations they have had 5 franchise bids rejected over the past two years. But at least these proposals by Alliance Rail are framed under Open Access rules and so might have a slightly better chance of success.
Hopefully they do succeed since they have a lot going for them. They are strictly commercial offerings with no tax payer’s money committed that will provide improved services on new routes that could be available decades before HS2 has spent all of its £43,000 million budget (excluding power and operating costs). But the downside is that other Open Access services have not always been a commercial success with Grand Central loosing money every year and the Wrexham & Shropshire services lasting less than 3 years before closure.
Events reflecting upon the First World War abound as the 100th anniversary of its declaration approaches. The causes of WW1 were complex but there is no doubt that the German Kaiser believed in expansion through military force. And when the German Army invaded neutral Belgium in 1914 on its way to attacking France, Britain was called upon to honour its 1830 guarantee of Belgium’s independence.
Jumping forward to 1994, we again had the UK agreeing to protest a country’s independence. This time it was Ukraine; as part of a deal to disarm its nuclear weapons. Now we have the Russian Army moving into Ukraine. So Britain could soon be called upon to honour its 1994 guarantee to protect Ukraine.
Back in 1938 Hitler ordered German troops to occupy Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia so annexing the territories to the Third Reich. His excuse then was that the troops were needed to restore order and protect ethic Germans. This week we have Russia seemingly annexing Crimea and parts of Ukraine – the excuse to restore order and protect ethic Russians.
In 1914 and 1939 the above events lead directly to start of the 20th century’s two great wars. Let’s hope that our current leaders have learned enough from history to avoid starting a third.
Eurovision 2014 – Last Friday saw a curiously low-key announcement from the BBC via the Executive Producer, BBC Eurovision [Guy Freeman] who blogged “I’m pleased to announce the premiere of our UK act and song will be in a Red Button / iPlayer exclusive Monday 3rd March at 7.30pm” … “It was a real treat to discover the work of artists highlighted by BBC Introducing and what most excited us was the quality of singer-song writing. We carefully approached a few artists who stood out to us and once they understood what we were trying to achieve, they embraced the idea of writing a song for the competition from scratch. Knowing that they’d be the one who’d have to go out there and sell it, they could write specifically to exploit their talents. The end result is that we now have a powerful and impressive song that we hope will do us proud in Copenhagen” So at least something is happening …