October 11, 2017

Breich Station - current pictures, and future options

My previous posting described Breich - the area around the station, and the general situation on closures. As electrification comes through, though, attendion must be focused on the station itself.

It does have:
- lighting
- seats
- display boards and information
- ticket validator
- Information button
- tannoy / announcement system (with lots of standard annoucements as well as for the train that's about to call - 12

but following need consideration:
- Very low gravel platforms
- poor approach road
- footbridge in poor condition (don't know if repairable)
- no dynamic train display
- no disabled access to Edinburgh platform
- no stop signs for train lengths
- hardly any trains stopping
- hardly any passengers

What are the options?

* To same standard as other stations on line
Network Rail - £5 million
Alternative Contractor - potentially much less (Severn Beach)

* With Northern Access / path at field edge and slope, passengers cross line via main road bridge which has already been renewed and has footpath
Network Rail - £2.5 million
Alternative Contractor - say £1 million
(Final image below is a map showing this suggested path in purple; current accesses in red)

* Pilning "solution" / Keep Glasgow bound platform only
Network Rail - £1 million
Alternative Contractor - say 250k (remove footbridge, surface and hump on remaining platform)

* Closure - not without cost as the footbridge is removed and the station fenced off
Say 500k

Let me add a picture show to bring some of this to life.


Posted by gje at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)
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Some thoughts on the closure proposal for Breich station

Around 50 years ago, many railway lines and stations were closed - before, during and after the time of Dr Beeching. Some undoubteldly were correct decisions, others may have been right for there time and some, you'll be told, should never have happened. Certainly a number of stations closed at that time have been successfully re-opened too, and indeed complete lines too - especially in Scotland (where I am this week) and in Wales. In my home county of Wiltshire, just one station has been re-opened (Melksham, in 1985) and no lines; across the south west, a number of other stations have re-opened (mostly in Devon) but again no new lines. The costs involved in these re-opening projects have been eye-watering. Closures in 1966 which were seen as being prudent didn't really look at future potential and once something's gone it's very hard indeed to put back. It can be argued "better sustain losses than close and loose for ever"; I'm pretty sure that if it were still open today, the line to Portishead would be carrying a lot of passengers, but instead we have a cost estimate of over a hundred million pounds for the scheme it's part of, even if a "budget" job of a slower, hourly train is provided. There are questions, too, as to whether all the closures which happened in Dr Beeching's time were properly analysed, or whether little heed was paid to the future, and even current traffic, in a desire in some quarters to retain only stuff that was short term profitable and operationally convenient. There is some suggestion of decisions being taken based on carefully selected evidence only, such as data gathered in an exceptionally quiet week, or on ticket sales at a seaside terminus where most journeys were incoming return trips. And there were situations where the services were reduced to a minimum, and timed such that they were inconvenient for the customer, prior to analysis and then closure.

Although closures these days are few and far between, the feeling of a deliberate winding down of facilities prior to such an event give a feeling of "decision already made - let's prepare the ground". Then when it comes to a decision time, passenger usage evidence is unsurprisingly such that the station can't be logically justified in its current form, and it's very hard to argue against closure. There's a series of cases in Staffordshire - Norton Bridge, Etrutia, Barlaston and Wedgwood. Norton Bridge had its footbridge removed. Etruria was reduced to one train a day yet was the closest station for a big urban area. Barlaston and Wedgwood have had their trains temporarily replaced by buses in 2004 ... platforms no longer accessible. Our own Melksham's re-opened station, at a low point of minimal service and use about the same time, was also replaced by a bus for several weeks; whether the intent was to "do a Wedgwood" on us we'll never know, but we arranged a big party to welcome the first train back, invited high profile guests (who attended at 6 a.m.!), and the train did indeed turn up on rails not on rubber wheels.

Current concerns at a process that gives the appearance of rundown without full and public consultation and analysis include Polesworth and Pilning - in both cases, stations reduced to a platform that allows trains to call in one direction only, which is hardly going to be attractive to passengers or provide any with a two-way day-return option. Knockmore station (in Northern Ireland) suffered a similar reduction - "Unsurprisingly this arrangement was not well-used, and so on 25 March 2005 NIR closed Knockmore station." Other stations which are inconvenient to operate or outwith political or general policy can also find themselves with slimmed service; the process is an insiddeous one and I'm not highlighting currently threatened examples here, but I will point to the wrecking of the TransWilts service in December 2016, where five trains each way per day was cut to 2, with a clever spec that read as if a commuter service to Swindon was to remain, but included a loophole to allow the morning service to be run pre-peak, the evening service post-peak, resulting in the saving of a train (as the service was provided by a unit borrowed away from the peak off another line) and a loss of almost all of the passengers. I was naive at the time, and read that spec such that it did specify in such a way that a commuter service could be provided both ways. A lot of time has passed, but we still don't have the southbound leg of the commuter service even though the line has been improved out of all recognition.

With that background, and with a handful of stations in the South West (one in Wiltshire) having "curious and perverse" services, I take an ongoing interest in lesser used stations and lines / stations that are under threat in some way, across the UK. This is very much a learning tool / experience where the asset in question is a long way from home, but it's a learning experience and also an eye being kept for examples and precedents, together with a note of local circumstances seen personally if possible to help me be aware. There may be occasions where a closure makes total sense for the short and long term, where there's no potential of anything that we would look back on in 30 to 50 years and say "what a pity" as we do with Portishead. But once a station is closed / an asset raised to the ground, it's a very high hurdle to put it back later and the answer might be to keep it running; mothballing is probably an empty gesture sometimes made, though it does protect the right of way, which is another option.

And so ... to Breich.

A station on the Glasgow to Edinburgh line via Shotts. There are many stations on this line, and when I first travelled on it, many years ago, there was a service about once an hour with first generation diesel units, calling at all (virtually?) all stations and taking an age. I remember it, in the dark, as a journey where my boredom got the best of me for once. I don't recall whether or not we called at Briech. Today, there are two services an hour, one a "stopper" and the other a semi-fast that takes 20 minutes less for the journey. And looking at the pattern on the timetable display, there's one almost blank line - the station at Breich is served by but 2 trains a day - at 8 O'Clock in the morning towards Edinburgh and at 18:38 towards Glasgow.

The Glasgow to Edinburgh line is being electrified, and Network Rail have proposed the closure of the station during this process, rather than spending what they state would be a lot of money on upgrading it in line with the rest of the route. Consultations were requested have gone it (to Network Rail, I believe), and at the time of writing there's not been a public decision. It's not clear to me how far-sighted the decision made will be, nor am I clear on the separation of the people who have proposed the closure from the people who evaluate the case and make the decision. Which - based on past records - will lead me to doubt the trueness of the decision should it come down in favour of closure, even if that's actually the right choice.

It so happens that I have stopped at Breich many times in the past. It's at the road junction where the trunk A71 east - west artery crossed the A706 - an excellent road from the middle of the lowlands toward the south, which I've driven many times. Busy enough for traffic lights, plenty of turns (4 phases?) and a bit truck sale / rental business on one corner. And into that junction (unsignalled!) comes the unmade track up from the station.

Notice the orange and white "thing" on the pole on the left of this picture? That's the station sign. Standing at the junction, you see

and looking down the track

I'll admit it - I had neither the time nor the enthusiasm to arrive at Breich by train and leave by train - so I walked from Fauldhouse. I fell for the line I had read that said "there are too many stations along this section". Fauldhouse is marginally nearer (from reading a map) that Addiewell - but it still took me nearly an hour to walk. There's a footpath on the side of the road all the way from Faulhouse to the junction of the B7015 and A706 - about 800 metres north of the station. And indeed there's pedestian lights to help the walker at that crossing and the footpath continues down the hill to the burn that's about 300 metres from the station where it ... runs out, so for the last few hundred yards to get to the station track you have to take your life in your hands and step onto the unmown verge to avoid the heavy trucks that make very good use of the road. I suppose it's no great surprise there's a footpath most of the way, as there's a speinking of homes, farms, small businesses along the way; only one of the four corners of the B7015 / A706 junction has no habitation - though from the map when you get to the station, you would thing you were in the back of beyond.

Here's the map

And here's that same map, but with my own graffiti on in (on my computer - I did not alter the map at the station!) showing where I observed places where people live and / or work routinely. Note please that as I only approached the station on one of the roads, I don't know what's down the others and not shown on the map - I suspect there's other habitation there too as if the station map is misleading about one direction, it's probably misleading about the others too.

One can't help but wonder that is this is the map shown to arriving passengers, is it the official map? And if it's the official map, is it being shown to an used by officials who are making a decision about the station's future?

Passenger number at Briech are abysmal - around 80 round trips a year, someone gets on or off a train once every three days. When the train stopped to pick me up on Monday at 18:38, the conductor jumped out to set it off again without releasing the train doors, then had to get back on to release them because he actually had a passenger joining (me!) which rather says something about the infrequency of passengers. But what's cause and what's effect? Would the numbers be higher if more trains called? How much higher? Could or should traffic be encouraged, and could that make an economic case now, or in the future?

Andrew Adonis's infrastructure commission and other reports suggest that new communities be developed at or near existing transport infrastructure, and (except for the owners of "Valley View" who look out over Breich Water, I don't expect there would be too many objections. To come in a year or so - fast electric trains into Glasgow and Edinburgh. Major roads to north, south, east and west already extant. Perhaps there's no need for more housing in this area? Yet I saw a large newbuild estate going in just over a mile away as I walked out of Fauldhouse.

How about potential as a park and ride - collecting travellers from further than walking distance? It's a possibility - but then perhaps there are enough park and ride spaces in the area for the forseeable future? But the following day I passed through Uphall by train - that's around 8 to 10 miles away - and noted the station car park so full that people were parked all up the approach road, straddling the pavement, in considerable numbers. I don't have data as to where they had driven from, but it leads me to question whether there's potential at Breich now or in a few years.

I do note - you'll see in my picture - buses serving the station location. No timetable for them at the station or elsewhere close by that I saw, but there were quite a number of bus services in Fauldhouse, and quite a number of them terminating / starting at the station -poorly signed there too. I do wonder if return tickets between Fauldhouse and Breich on the train are valid back on the bus, and vice versa - that would be rare in England, but perhaps in Scotland its common place. And I am aware that I lessen the case for a station if there's a properly integrated bus connection that's stable for the future to both Fauldhouse and Addiewell.

Wouldn't it be a shame if the park and ride, new town, or other prospects for the future were chucked out because of a short term expedient to save money by not upgrading the station, and not stopping trains there?

Breich Station - if it closes - would be the first station in Scotland to close for 30 years, they tell me. It's certainly one to keep an eye on - not just for itself, but as a precedent that could be set if the decision taken is based on short-termish, and / or isn't seen to have been clearly and properly taken by people who have no conflict of interest in the matter.

Posted by gje at 06:38 AM | Comments (0)
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October 10, 2017

Regex Reference sheet

For PCRE (Perl Compatible Regular Expressions)

Character classes


[[:word:]] style
alnum letters and digits
alpha letters
ascii character codes 0 - 127
blank space or tab only
cntrl control characters
digit decimal digits (same as \d)
graph printing characters, excluding space
lower lower case letters
print printing characters, including space
punct printing characters, excluding letters and digits
space white space (not quite the same as \s)
upper upper case letters
word "word" characters (same as \w)
xdigit hexadecimal digits

. yes, just a full stop - (almost) any character

\p{xx} a character with the xx property, see unicode properties for more info
\P{xx} a character without the xx property, see unicode properties for more info

\d any decimal digit
\D any character that is not a decimal digit
\h any horizontal whitespace character
\H any character that is not a horizontal whitespace character
\s any whitespace character
\S any character that is not a whitespace character
\v any vertical whitespace character
\V any character that is not a vertical whitespace character
\w any "word" character
\W any "non-word" character

Anchors (zero width assertions)


\b word boundary
\B not a word boundary
\A start of subject (independent of multiline mode)
\Z end of subject or newline at end (independent of multiline mode)
\z end of subject (independent of multiline mode)
\G first matching position in subject

Individual Characters (literals)

just the character, or

\% really want a "%" (and others)
\a alarm, that is, the BEL character (hex 07)
\cx "control-x", where x is any character
\e escape (hex 1B)
\f formfeed (hex 0C)
\n newline (hex 0A)
\r carriage return (hex 0D)
\R line break: matches \n, \r and \r\n
\t tab (hex 09)
\xhh character with hex code hh
\ddd character with octal code ddd, or backreference
Note - need in your version
[*] to match an asterisk (also . and | have same need)


? 0 or 1

+ 1 or more
* 0 or more
{2} exactly 2
{2,4} 2 to 4
{2,} 2 or more
?? 0 or 1 spares
+? 1 or more sparse
*? 0 or more sparse
{2,4}? 2 to 4 sparse
{2,}? 2 or more sparse


() Capture, alternation, counts, sunbpatterns
(?:) Groups regular expressions together (no capture)
(?i) Case Insensitive
(?u) Makes a period (.) match even newline characters




\1 \g{1}

Back references to the named subpatterns can be achieved by (?P=name) or, since PHP 5.2.2, also by \k or \k'name'. Additionally PHP 5.2.4 added support for \k{name} and \g{name}, and PHP 5.2.7 for \g and \g'name'.

Look ahead and look behind

(?= ) Positive Look Ahead
(?! ) Negative Look Ahead
(?< ) Positive Look Behind


Symbols must be in square brackets in order to be matched on.
Symbols .*| are not supported for data identifier patterns.
\w does not match _ when implemented in a Data Identifier pattern.
\s cannot be used to match whitespace, please use whitespace character.


Use PCRE Compatible regex syntax.
Only search in the appropriate message part.
Avoid using an asterisk (*) where possible.
Limit the scope, and change the string to a range instead
Start as literal as possible

Appendix - Modes

i - ignore case
s - or dotall - matches all to .
m - metches ^ and $ at intermediate new line
x - comments in regular expressions
o - once only

Appendix - Unicode

\p{L} or \p{Letter}: any kind of letter from any language.
\p{Ll} or \p{Lowercase_Letter}: a lowercase letter that has an uppercase variant.
\p{Lu} or \p{Uppercase_Letter}: an uppercase letter that has a lowercase variant.
\p{Lt} or \p{Titlecase_Letter}: a letter that appears at the start of a word when only the first letter of the word is capitalized.
\p{L&} or \p{Cased_Letter}: a letter that exists in lowercase and uppercase variants (combination of Ll, Lu and Lt).
\p{Lm} or \p{Modifier_Letter}: a special character that is used like a letter.
\p{Lo} or \p{Other_Letter}: a letter or ideograph that does not have lowercase and uppercase variants.
\p{M} or \p{Mark}: a character intended to be combined with another character (e.g. accents, umlauts, enclosing boxes, etc.).
\p{Mn} or \p{Non_Spacing_Mark}: a character intended to be combined with another character without taking up extra space (e.g. accents, umlauts, etc.).
\p{Mc} or \p{Spacing_Combining_Mark}: a character intended to be combined with another character that takes up extra space (vowel signs in many Eastern languages).
\p{Me} or \p{Enclosing_Mark}: a character that encloses the character is is combined with (circle, square, keycap, etc.).
\p{Z} or \p{Separator}: any kind of whitespace or invisible separator.
\p{Zs} or \p{Space_Separator}: a whitespace character that is invisible, but does take up space.
\p{Zl} or \p{Line_Separator}: line separator character U+2028.
\p{Zp} or \p{Paragraph_Separator}: paragraph separator character U+2029.
\p{S} or \p{Symbol}: math symbols, currency signs, dingbats, box-drawing characters, etc.
\p{Sm} or \p{Math_Symbol}: any mathematical symbol.
\p{Sc} or \p{Currency_Symbol}: any currency sign.
\p{Sk} or \p{Modifier_Symbol}: a combining character (mark) as a full character on its own.
\p{So} or \p{Other_Symbol}: various symbols that are not math symbols, currency signs, or combining characters.
\p{N} or \p{Number}: any kind of numeric character in any script.
\p{Nd} or \p{Decimal_Digit_Number}: a digit zero through nine in any script except ideographic scripts.
\p{Nl} or \p{Letter_Number}: a number that looks like a letter, such as a Roman numeral.
\p{No} or \p{Other_Number}: a superscript or subscript digit, or a number that is not a digit 0–9 (excluding numbers from ideographic scripts).
\p{P} or \p{Punctuation}: any kind of punctuation character.
\p{Pd} or \p{Dash_Punctuation}: any kind of hyphen or dash.
\p{Ps} or \p{Open_Punctuation}: any kind of opening bracket.
\p{Pe} or \p{Close_Punctuation}: any kind of closing bracket.
\p{Pi} or \p{Initial_Punctuation}: any kind of opening quote.
\p{Pf} or \p{Final_Punctuation}: any kind of closing quote.
\p{Pc} or \p{Connector_Punctuation}: a punctuation character such as an underscore that connects words.
\p{Po} or \p{Other_Punctuation}: any kind of punctuation character that is not a dash, bracket, quote or connector.
\p{C} or \p{Other}: invisible control characters and unused code points.
\p{Cc} or \p{Control}: an ASCII or Latin-1 control character: 0x00–0x1F and 0x7F–0x9F.
\p{Cf} or \p{Format}: invisible formatting indicator.
\p{Co} or \p{Private_Use}: any code point reserved for private use.
\p{Cs} or \p{Surrogate}: one half of a surrogate pair in UTF-16 encoding.
\p{Cn} or \p{Unassigned}: any code point to which no character has been assigned.

Posted by gje at 06:21 AM | Comments (0)
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