BILL Bryson is one of my favourite writers and has the extra bonus of being a great fan of the North-East too.
He went up even further in my estimation last week with his leadership on ridding our public spaces of litter.
As you may have heard, he is leading a perfectly legal “mass action” to get us ordinary people to use Litter Abatement Orders – something I didn’t even know existed.
As President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, he has a wide remit, but it was his comments on rail lines which really grabbed my attention.
As just one example, he is leading action against Network Rail to force them to clean up the approach to Cambridge railway station.
The way these wonderful orders work is pretty simple by legal standards – and very effective for the public.
The order can be served by any member of the public through a magistrates’ court.
It costs about £100, which is often refunded if the case is successful.
And here’s the great bit – if the public body fails to respond to the order within a week, the case will go to court and they can be fined.
Bill Bryson is dead right about Cambridge. I’ve been there by train and the approach is a disgraceful introduction to one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Of course, you could say the same about just about every town and city in the country.
I do thousands of miles a year on British trains, and it’s weird how often the approach to a town is scruffy and junk ridden.
Hartlepool is no exception, and it’s a great pity when our rail situation has come on a ton in recent years.
We almost take it for granted now that we have our very regular direct service to London courtesy of Grand Central.
It’s a monster advantage for the town and its service has evolved into a very reliable system which wins national awards.
The station too has come on a lot since I described as being like Godzilla’s graveyard some years ago.
It could do with more, though.
If we are going to get huge numbers of repeat visitors after the claimed million people in for tall ships last summer, they need a bit more. The café and ale house are superb, but it can’t be a proper station without a news stand.
The people side is getting so much better with the Grand Central ambassadors and many others giving a comforting hand to people who are strangers to rail travel.
I’m on Bill Bryson’s side. A challenge to land owners to clean up the approaches to Hartlepool from north and south would make a huge difference.