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When were ministers informed that HS2 could not be delivered on time and on budget?

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The National Audit Office has today published its latest report on the High Speed Two project.

The focus of the report is on HS2 phase one. According to NAO, “In March 2019, HS2 Ltd formally advised the Department for Transport that it would not be able to deliver Phase One of the programme on time or within available funding”.

National Audit Office, High Speed Two, A progress update, outline, 24 Jan 2020

What no-one seems to be asking, is whether ministers or the Department had been ‘informally’ advised by HS2 that it would not be able to deliver phase one, prior to March 2019.

HS2 minister Nusrat Ghani 'standing condidently' on HS2 budget

BBC News, 'HS2: Ministers and bosses knew railway was over budget years ago', Tom Burridge, 27 August 2019


Written by beleben

January 24, 2020 at 12:22 pm

Posted in HS2

The capacity case for not building HS2

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Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has delayed a decision on whether the government will go ahead with the HS2 rail line by stressing the problem was about capacity rather than speed and making clear he was examining alternatives (the Guardian reported).

To see how capacity uplifts are not dependent on spending £100 bn (?) on HS2, one might consider the example of the commuter services into Euston operated by London Northwestern Railway (previously London Midland).

The November 2015 West Coast Main Line ‘Demand and Capacity and Pressures’ (DaCP) report (produced to promote the case for HS2), claimed that the high speed line would enable morning peak (Standard class) commuter capacity into Euston to be increased from 20,234 passengers (in December 2014) to 41,103.

DfT, Demand and Capacity Pressures, Nov 2015, WM franchise, am peak capacity into Euston

But the breakdown of the December 2014 morning peak train service (not given in DaCP) showed how much capacity went unused, apparently for want of rolling stock.

Euston, LM am peak commuter weekday train capacities, Dec 2014
As can be seen, in the high peak (8 am – 9 am), there were thirteen commuter trains into Euston, but in the hour before that, only seven. This suggests six peak paths went unused.

And in the 9 am – 10 am period, five paths appear to have gone unused.

Another obvious feature of the December 2014 timetable is the extensive use of short trains.

By operating more ‘full length’ trains, and taking up unused paths in the shoulder peak, Euston commuter capacity could be more than doubled. The “41,103 with-HS2′ figure from DaCP could be matched, without building one yard of HS2.
The Euston commuter service is to be re-equipped from ~2021 with Bombardier 5-car Class 730 trains with increased capacity. A 10-car dense pack Class 730 train should provide around 852 seats, and accommodate ~430 standees (1282 total).

West Midlands Franchise,
Class 730 5-car capacity (tbc)
Seats Standing Total
Dense pack version 426 215 641
Standard version 368 201 569

While the stations south of Northampton are already mostly set up for 10-car Class 730 trains, that is not the case elsewhere, such as on the Birmingham – Birmingham International – Coventry section.

In the view of the Beleben blog, platform lengthening north of Northampton is a much lower cost and more attractive capacity proposition than HS2.

Other relatively low-cost capacity options would entail constructing diveunder crossovers between the fast and slow tracks to the south (and perhaps the north) of Milton Keynes, and equipping commuter fast services using these diveunders with 200 km/h rolling stock.

Written by beleben

January 22, 2020 at 11:57 am

Posted in HS2

Spinning in different ways

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On 12 November 2019 the Financial Times reported that a leaked ‘early draft’ of the Oakervee review of HS2 had recommended that the UK government should proceed with the full high speed network from London to Leeds and Manchester, despite the potential for further cost increases.

Financial Times story on a leaked version of the Oakervee HS2 report, 12 Nov 2019

But on 19 January 2020, the newspaper published content apparently leaked from a later ‘draft’ of the report, in which only ‘lukewarm’ support was offered for the scheme.

Financial Times story on a leaked version of the Oakervee HS2 report, 19 Jan 2020

[Financial Times, 19 Jan 2020][…]

The review led by Doug Oakervee, a former chairman of HS2, also recommends that work on phase 2b of the project from the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds be paused for six months for a study into whether it could comprise a mix of conventional and high speed lines instead.

“On balance”, it says that ministers should proceed with the 250mph railway, which would stretch from London’s Euston station to Birmingham in its first phase and then to Leeds and Manchester by 2040, seven years later than the original target. But although the final draft of the review recommends that the project should proceed, this is subject to “a number of qualifications,” it says.

“Further work” is needed to assess the scheme’s impacts on regional growth and it is “hard” to say what economic benefits will result from building it. HS2 would need to be accompanied by investment in local transport and “transport investment alone will not ‘rebalance’ the UK economy,” it adds.

On BBC Radio 4’s World At One (20 January 2020), Oakervee panel member Professor Tony Travers described the report as being in ‘final draft’ form. However, on the same channel’s ‘PM’ show a few hours later, another Oakervee panel member, Andrew Sentance, said he was surprised to hear it described as a ‘draft report’.

twitter, @omrgriffiths on comments made by Andrew Sentance on Radio 4 'PM'

Mr Sentance then popped up on the 7pm Channel 4 News to claim “various people in government” were ‘spinning in different ways’.

Written by beleben

January 21, 2020 at 11:44 am

Posted in HS2, Politics

HS2 and car miles driven

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With the HS2 Y network in full operation and ‘released capacity’ on other lines, car travel would be reduced by 1.2 million miles [1.93 million kilometres] every day, according to HS2 Ltd.

HS2 Ltd, Why HS2, car miles would be reduced by 1.2 million per day

This would equate to an annual reduction in car travel of ~438 million miles.

According to the RAC Foundation, GB car traffic totalled 255.0 billion miles in the year 2018.

RAC Foundation, motoring faqs, 'A26',  2018

It would appear that the yearly reduction in annual car mileage from building the full HS2 network would amount to ~0.17 percent of the 2018 total.

Written by beleben

December 16, 2019 at 12:30 pm

Posted in HS2

HS2 ignorance is grand

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According to HS2 Ltd, “there are suggestions to upgrade existing routes, like the Grand Central route between the Midlands and London. The Government is investing £40bn in the existing network, but this cannot provide all the additional capacity required for the future.”


So, people are expected to believe the Grand Central [sic] is part of the “existing network”, which the government “is investing £40bn in”.

Written by beleben

December 11, 2019 at 5:16 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Taking stock of technical illiteracy

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As a result of a recent freedom of information request to HS2 Ltd, the company has quietly taken chairman Allan Cook’s original HS2 ‘stocktake’ report offline, and replaced it with a supposedly ‘corrected’ version.


The ‘corrected version’ of the report bears the same date as the original (i.e., ‘August 2019’), and makes no reference to being a revised version of an earlier document. The only public admission that it is a revision, is made in a footnote on the ‘Guidance‘ page. HS2 Ltd chairman's stocktake august 2019 guidance page, modified 04 Dec 2019

According to HS2 Ltd, the embarrassing statement

[Allan Cook HS2 stocktake, original version, now taken offline]

‘Each intercity train removed releases capacity for 11 new fast commuter or freight trains, by reducing the disparity in speed between different services’

was a “drafting error”.

Allan Cook HS2 stocktake (original version, now taken offline): 'Each intercity train removed releases capacity for 11 new fast commuter or freight trains, by reducing the disparity in speed between different services'

Allan Cook HS2 stocktake (original version, now taken offline): ‘Each intercity train removed releases capacity for 11 new fast commuter or freight trains, by reducing the disparity in speed between different services’

Written by beleben

December 6, 2019 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Bizarre, HS2, misinformation

Many weaknesses and huge opposition

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There is “little public support for but huge opposition against HS2”, according to  Professor Roderick Smith, who has become “increasingly concerned about the sub-optimal ways in which [the project] has evolved”.


[How to rescue Britain’s HS2 project, Professor Roderick Smith, IRJ, 28 Nov 2019]

[…] My suggestions imply criticism of the engineering staff of HS2. I know many of them well and I am aware that many are concerned by the weaknesses of the present design. They feel constrained by orders from above, but from whom the orders originate it is not clear.

Written by beleben

November 29, 2019 at 9:40 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2