Having budgeted £450,000 for its Positively Stoke display at the 2014 Chelsea Flower Show, Stoke-on-Trent council has decided not to enter the Show in 2015. However, the council is continuing to spend prodigiously on campaigning to re-route the western leg of the proposed HS2 railway. Stoke ‘cabinet’ member Ruth Rosenau said that it was part of a ‘comprehensive’ approach to ensure the Government had the best data to make a ‘fully informed’ decision on HS2.
[Ruth Rosenau quoted on Potteries Eye, 13 Aug 2014]
“Our case is being recognised as compelling in the corridors of power.
“The Government is talking about HS2 connecting up cities to supercharge the national economy. Stoke-on-Trent is the only city between Birmingham and Manchester.”
In a letter published on the New Civil Engineer website ‘maglev man’ Alan James, project director of the HS2 Phase Two Stoke Route, claimed the government’s Crewe route “misses a trick” by bypassing Stoke.
[Alan James letter to NCE, published 26 August 2014]
Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s plan for HS2 will deliver the benefits of high speed rail up to seven years more quickly and require £2 bn less capital expenditure than the current proposed route. It is able to do this, in part, by upgrading a section of the existing West Coast Main Line to high speed specification and by using a route profile which limits the requirement for expensive tunnelling to a minimum.
In Stoke on Trent council’s HS2 stage two consultation response (January 2014) a “£5 bn lower capital cost” was mentioned.
At over £5 bn lower capital cost, the Stoke Route will deliver direct high speed trains to the key Manchester and Liverpool HS2 markets in 2026, seven years earlier than the Consultation Route, and with journey times that are faster than in HS2’s 2026 scenario when Phase 1 ends near Lichfield.
Is the Stoke Route £5 billion cheaper than the Consultation Route, or £2 billion cheaper? There is no way of knowing, because HS2 Ltd has never published a separate cost estimate for the western leg of the Y network. The cheapest version of the Stoke Route, ‘Package 1′, would include gauge clearance of the classic line as far north as Kidsgrove. ‘Package 2′ would see a new captive link from Kidsgrove to Occlestone Green built to join up with the West Coast Main Line and the HS2 Consultation Route to Wigan.
In ‘Package 3′, the captive HS2 “Tatton kink” route into Manchester would be completed. Obviously, Package 1 gauge clearance to Kidsgrove would make little sense, unless there was an intention to implement Package 3, or Package 2 at the very least.
Another idea put forward was for classic compatible trains to run from the Potteries to Heathrow Airport, via Old Oak Common and Airport Junction. However, current HS2 Ltd planning does not appear to provide a facility at Old Oak for such movements. The costs, and path utilisation issues between Old Oak and Airport Junction, would appear to preclude direct trains.
If there were a transport or economic case to build a new railway from Birmingham to Manchester, it would make sense to build via Stoke-on-Trent. But the Stoke Route proposition is as flawed as anything produced by HS2 Ltd.
Yesterday’s Guardian report on the so-called September 2014 ‘renationalisation’ of Network Rail stated that “the track operator appears likely to be [i.e., remain] excluded from Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation”.
["Network Rail joins the public sector: but don't call it 'nationalisation'", Gwyn Topham, The Guardian, 28 August 2014]
[...] On the railway side, one well placed Network Rail source admits: “The fear is that there will be real scrutiny of spending.”
In the foreword to Electric All The Way, the 1974 information booklet about the completion of West Coast electrification north of Weaver Junction, British Rail chairman Richard Marsh remarked that the London to Glasgow journey time had been reduced by 100 minutes at a cost of £74 million (compare with the 30 minutes of the £50 billion HS2).
The 1974 upgrade had been completed at a cost within 3 per cent over the estimates made in 1968.
[Foreword by Richard Marsh]
The extension of the electrification of the main line from Crewe to Glasgow marks another important stage in the continuing improvement of rail transport between England and Scotland. The project has involved a comprehensive improvement of the track itself, with complete resignalling, as well as the electrification of the line, so that this 400 miles long trunk route is now among the most modern in the World.
Bear in mind, too, that the train services have continued to run throughout the period of very substantial building and construction work. In round figures the rebuilding of 200 miles of route has cost £38 [million] (£200,000 a mile) and the electrification £36 [million]. There have been some small changes in the scope of the scheme, and substantial inflation but these factors apart, the whole of the work has been completed within 3 per cent over the estimates made in 1968.
Daytime journey times have been reduced substantially below those achieved before the project started – by 100 minutes between London and Glasgow, by 100 minutes between Birmingham and Glasgow, and by 60 minutes between Manchester / Liverpool and Glasgow — and frequency of service has been improved.
In the 1980s, British Rail obtained government funding to electrify the East Coast route to Edinburgh and Leeds. That ~£400 million project was also completed more or less within the anticipated budget and timescale — in fact, commissioning generally ran ahead of schedule.
In the mid 1990s, the government and the newly-privatised rail industry embarked on a project to upgrade the West Coast Main Line (‘PUG2′). It was intended was to deliver a 140 mph railway at a cost of around £2 billion. In 2008, it was announced that the de-scoped (no-140-mph) and re-named West Coast Route Modernisation had been ‘completed’, at a cost of something like £9.5 billion.
One might ask, why were the 1970s and 1980s BR main line modernisation projects so much more successful than the late-1990s West Coast scheme?
|Project||Cost (unadjusted) £m||Glasgow London Journey time reduction (mins)||Cost/minute (£m)|
|North of Weaver Junction upgrade (1974)||74||100||0.74|
|HS2 (2011 prices)||50,100||30||1670|
In the Huffington Post article ‘How Rail Companies Could Avoid Increasing Train Fares‘, Henry Stewart questioned whether first class passengers on GB rail pay their way. On the (currently FoI-able) East Coast service, first class carriages appear to produce substantially less income.
[25 Aug 2014]
[...] It was reported earlier this year that the government was to pay one operator (First Great Western) to convert a first class carriage to standard class. However it is not clear why government subsidy is needed to make a change that seems to make blindingly obvious business sense.
If standard class carriages generate 61% more income, then it would seem to be a simple financial decision to start converting first class carriages on their own initiative? This does depend on more demand being created for standard class. But, given the crowded nature of many services, and the fact that first class use is normally such that it could be fitted into less carriages, it seems likely to lead to extra income.
This also adds weight to the argument of those campaigning against HS2 that an easier way to increase capacity would be to convert first class carriages to standard class on the lines to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.
So we seem to have a case of all rail operators (except Chiltern, who did remove nearly all their first class carriages) pursuing a policy that annoys and disrupts the majority of its customers (those packed into standard class) and makes no financial sense at all. Instead of increasing rail fares still further, converting first class carriages to standard class could be a direct way to increase income.
None of this should come as a surprise to readers of the Beleben blog.
[Beleben blog, July 2011]
there’s no evidence [...] that First Class is a cash cow that subsidises Second Class travellers.
Millions of bus passengers outside London are getting overcharged as local authorities do not have the necessary powers to control fares, the Institute of Public Policy Research has warned in its report “Greasing the Wheels” (Mark Rowney and Will Straw, August 2014).
["Bus fares soar due to 'lack of local powers', Dom Browne, Transport Network, 26 August 2014]
Fares in England outside the capital have increased at least a third more than inflation in the past two decades [...] This has hit many of the country’s poorest the hardest as they rely on buses the most.
Outside London fares increased by 35% above inflation between 1995 and 2013, by 34% in Wales and 20% in Scotland, with a lack of local competition also preventing prices being held in check.
In response IPPR has called on the Government to give greater powers and responsibilities to local bodies to shape local bus markets replicating the Transport for London (TfL) model at the city-region and combined authority level.
So, if other areas had TfL-style authorities and subsidies, their citizens could enjoy the lower bus fare increases of the capital.
Unfortunately, the evidence from the Office of National Statistics and Department for Transport suggests that
- in London, fare increases in recent years have not been much different from other English metropolitan areas;
- fare increases in shire counties were substantially lower than in metropolitan areas.
In other words, areas without passenger transport authorities had the lowest fare increases — the opposite of the impression given by the IPPR.
This does not mean that there is no useful role for municipal involvement in local transport. But it does mean that things are way more complicated than Mr Rowney and Mr Straw would suggest.
The arguments in favour of HS2’s Wigan spur — the location of a goods yard and 10 minutes off the journey to Glasgow — do not stack up to £1 billion, according to Warrington South Conservative MP David Mowat, who most definitely isn’t a Nimby.
Definitely Not a Nimby.
So, to be, er, clear:
1. Anyone in the Midlands (whether they live near the HS2 route, or not), who says “20 minutes off the journey from London to Birmingham is not worth £20,000,000,000″, is a Nimby.
2. But anyone in the North (who happens to be MP for part of Warrington), who says “10 minutes off the journey to Glasgow is not worth £1 billion”, is definitely not a Nimby.