As of 31 October 2013 HS2 Ltd, the government company set up to develop a £50 billion high speed railway between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, employed 557 people, of whom 550 were based in London.
HS2 Ltd lead spokesman Ben Ruse said: “It is likely that as we move into the construction phase we would certainly expect to have our construction arm based around the West Midlands. If nothing else, that would seem logical given that Birmingham is at the heart of the country, but more importantly at the centre of HS2.”
['Thousands of jobs for Birmingham as HS2 plans move to city', Birmingham Post, 5 Dec 2013]
[...] However, the company set up to develop the £42 billion rail line set to run between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, said it was important to be near the Department for Transport while plans are being worked up. And high-speed rail is integral to the region’s growth plans. A large chunk of GBSLEP’s bid to the single local growth fund is aimed at creating jobs by making the region a centre of engineering excellence for high-speed rail.
As always, a load of old nonsense from Mr Ruse. There is no reason why 550 of 557 HS2 Ltd staff should be based in London, nor is there any need for the head office to be based there. It’s far more likely that most of HS2 Ltd’s senior staff wouldn’t dream of living or working in the Midlands (or North of England), with or without high speed rail. There is an air of Londonian condescension about the whole project.
The last railway rolling stock plant in the West Midlands closed almost a decade ago, and Britain no longer has a national rail technical centre. Hardly any railway R & D is done at Midlands universities (Birmingham University included). Unfortunately, GBSLEP‘s idea of making the West Midlands region a ‘centre of engineering excellence for rail’ (high-speed or otherwise) doesn’t seem to have much chance of happening.
Farahnaz Ashouri, head of consultation for HS2, spoke to BBC Leicester’s Jonathan Lampon about the Y network consultation (5 Dec 2013). Ms Ashouri was unable to give any assurance that there would not be cutbacks on the Midland Main Line passenger service if HS2 were built. And seemed a lot less than convinced about the project herself.
According to Alan Marshall’s Railnews blogpost (4 Dec 2013), ‘PUBLIC OPINION NEEDS FACTS TO BE CORRECTLY REPORTED‘ on the HS2 rail project.
[...] One estimate is that with HS2 around 60 Very High Speed Trains will be required – but if a similar frequency and capacity could be provided on the conventional infrastructure around 90 High Speed Trains, such as today’s Pendolinos, would be necessary.
As can be seen from HS2 Ltd’s October 2013 documents, their stated requirement is for 180 trainsets.
Mr Marshall’s blogpost is full of inaccurate statements and shaky reasoning. Pontificating in capital letters is no substitute for research and analysis.
According to HS2 Ltd’s Strategic Case (Oct 2013), the quantum of long distance high speed services running on the West Coast Main Line to Midland and North West destinations would fall from 11 to 3 per hour following implementation of the Y network. And transport authority Centro has ‘aspired’ to keep the present service level from Euston to Birmingham via Coventry, but seems to be prepared to settle for a reduction from 3 to 2 trains per hour.
So, on either HS2 Ltd’s or Centro’s reading, the service level on the existing line would be reduced. But according to Rail magazine’s Paul Prentice, that is ‘pure nonsense just made up’ by Stop HS2′s Joe Rukin. Rail magazine’s reluctance to report HS2 issues accurately is bizarre, given its repeated claims of bias and unfactual reporting in the BBC and mainstream print media.
HS2 was featured on BBC Radio 5′s Phil Williams show (3 December 2013) in an outside broadcast from Birmingham’s New Street station with contributions from, inter alios, Joe Rukin (Stop HS2), Ben Ruse (lead spokesperson for HS2 Ltd), a chap from BSA Machine Tools, Albert Bore, Christian Wolmar, and Pete “The Hitman” Waterman.
One of the things bothering Mr Wolmar was HS2′s poor environmental credentials. In HS2 Ltd’s November 2013 factsheet on carbon, it finally provided a bizarre and weasel-worded admission that HS2 would increase carbon emissions.
Over the construction and the first 60 years of operation of HS2, it is likely that carbon savings – that come about as people switch from other transport modes with higher carbon emissions, and as released capacity on existing railways is taken up by new passenger and freight services at the expense of road vehicles – will be less than the carbon emissions.
Getting Mr Ruse to admit that fact on Radio 5 was a task too far, even for Mr Williams. The HS2 spokesman also trashed his own claim that HS2 was a ‘transparent organisation’ by refusing to admit that upgrade based alternatives were accepted to have a higher benefit-cost ratio (even by Network Rail).
For Felix Schmid, a professor of engineering at Birmingham University and member of the ‘HS2 Leaders Group’, the main challenge in the HS2 rail project is not only to create a ‘truly integrated network’, but also one that is ‘attractive to look at’ (wrote Jamie Merrill in The Independent, 1 Dec 2013).
[...] Professor Schmid believes the Government has “rolled over” and allowed many local campaigners to convince designers to build tunnels to reduce the line’s visual impact [...] “if much of your journey is in a tunnel or below ground level you might as well have trains without windows.”
[...] To the engineering community one of the biggest decisions has been whether to use a concrete slab track or the traditional ballasted track, familiar to British train passengers for its rhythmic clunkity clunk. It might sound arcane, but according to Professor Schmid it’s crucial.
“They need to make is sustainable,” he said. “The British are traditionally more keen on ballasted track, but at 200mph you’ve got to get it right and don’t want ballast thrown up damaging the trains and damaging the rails.”
There is an amenity benefit in high speed rail users being able to see countryside they pass through, but a noise and visual disamenity for people in its vicinity. In the HS2 project, everything seems to revolve around the users of the high speed railway.
Prof Schmid’s views on fenestration seem out of step with current practice, because even on entirely-underground rail systems in cities such as Montreal, trains are fitted with windows.
Despite the problems caused by flying ballast, most high speed rail constructors have eschewed slab track, because that comes with its own set of problems.
The article quoted HS2 technical director Andrew McNaughton on the demand for HS2.
“Are people suddenly going to stop travelling? The answer to that is clearly no,” [Andrew McNaughton] says.
A more pertinent question might be: ‘Are people suddenly going to start travelling long distances, by rail, to London?’.
On a per capita basis, the number of long distance journeys made by people in Great Britain is low. London is the key market in the HS2 project, with more than 80% of journeys starting or finishing there.
The number of long distance journeys made by rail between London and the HS2 provincial cities (Leeds, Birmingham, and Manchester), is very low. And the number of long distance journeys made by people between Birmingham and Leeds, and Birmingham and Manchester, is minuscule.
Expressing his “personal view as a non-cyclist”, Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe told BBC London last month that regardless of who caused a road accident, it was the cyclist who would fare worst. He would ‘never cycle in London’ due to traffic and safety concerns.
['Met police chief backtracks over cycling comments', Órla Ryan, The Guardian, Friday 22 November 2013]
[...] Fourteen cyclists have been killed in London so far in 2013, six of them within a two-week period this month. All but one of the six were killed by lorries, coaches or buses, prompting renewed calls for restrictions on HGVs in the city.
The commissioner’s view seemed to shape the Met’s response to the fatalities, which saw police deployed on-street to ‘robustly enforce the law and educating road users about dangers’.
[Police launch major London road safety operation after spate of cyclist deaths, Peter Walker, Monday 25 November 2013]
[...] There was criticism from some cyclists after they were pulled over to be advised by police that they should be wearing high-visibility jackets or helmets, neither of which is compulsory. Police note that both are recommended in the Highway Code.
Whether police pulled over HGV drivers and asked whether they should be driving vehicles with massive blind spots in busy city traffic, is not recorded. Surely, there needs to be a complete change of approach to provision for goods vehicles, and cyclists, in London.
London Mayor Boris Johnson’s cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan ‘urged caution’ in interpreting a poll for the BBC of 1,070 Londoners on attitudes to cycling in the capital. He said the sample size of the Comres poll was “manifestly tiny”, and claimed that “all-consuming focus” on recent cycle deaths had “contributed to the fear that cyclists and potential cyclists feel”.
[...] “We know that fear about safety is a real and major deterrent to cycling and the mayor is doing more than any other politician in the country to address it,” [Mr Gilligan] said.
Money was being spent and new staff hired to “improve London’s roads for cyclists, something that was happening before this recent tragic spate of deaths”.