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Joy and bunkum

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In December 2004, West Midlands transport authority Centro “responded with joy” at the announcement of government approval for extension of the Midland Metro to Brierley Hill. It claimed the extension could “create more than 750 jobs“.

'Responding with joy' in 2004

‘Responding with joy’ in 2004

On 20 November 2017, the Birmingham Mail reported that “A major extension of the Midland Metro funded with a £250 million government grant is set to create 8,000 new jobs”.

So, what is this “major extension”?

[Jonathan Walker, Birmingham Mail, 2017-11-20]

Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the West Midlands will be the first to benefit from a new £1.7 billion “Transforming Cities” designed to improve transport within regions across the country, as she visited the EEF Technology Hub in Birmingham.

The West Midlands Combined Authority will receive the grant and is set to use it to fund a new metro line from Wednesbury to the new “DY5 Enterprise Zone” for high-tech businesses at Brierley Hill, running through Great Bridge, Horseley Heath, Dudley Port, Dudley town centre, the Waterfront and Merry Hill, before terminating at Brierley Hill town centre.

[David Wood, Conservative MP for Dudley South] said: “Independent analysis suggests it’s worth just over 8,000 permanent jobs.

“It means about 15,000 extra houses a year. Brownfield sites will become viable for housing development because of the improved transport connections.”

It’s the same Brierley Hill extension that ‘created joy’ at Centro in 2004. But now, apparently, it’s going to create ‘8,000 jobs’, rather than ‘750 jobs’.

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Written by beleben

November 20, 2017 at 4:10 pm

More (m)or(e) less

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According to Network Rail, HS2 ‘frees up space’ for ‘faster, more frequent trains on the West Coast Main Line’.

Network Rail, 'HS2 frees up space for faster, more frequent trains'

According to rail consultant and HS2 enthusiast William Barter, running more West Coast trains into Euston would require enlargement of WCML Euston.

@WilliamBarter1, running more West Coast trains into Euston would require enlargement of WCML Euston

According to AJ magazine, WCML Euston is to be reduced from 18 to 13 platforms, to make room for HS2.

Architects Journal, HS2 seeks architects for stations contracts

On the evidence available, at Euston, HS2 ‘takes up space’, meaning fewer, less frequent trains on the West Coast Main Line.

Written by beleben

November 16, 2017 at 11:24 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Plummeting from infinity

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In October 2009, Network Rail described the benefit-cost ratio for electrification of the Midland Main Line as “effectively infinite“.

On 16 July 2012, the coalition announced £4.2 billion for new rail schemes, including electrification of the Midland Main Line from Bedford to Sheffield, Nottingham and Corby.

In July 2015, the then-rail-minister Claire Perry MP said that ‘initial work’ considering the overall MML upgrade, “including electrification and other works indicates that for options which retain or improve fast intercity rolling stock, on all MML services the benefit cost ratio (BCR) would be in a range between 4.7 and 7.2 dependent on train length and train type.”

On 13 September 2016, the Beleben blog stated, “It is difficult to see how Midland electrification, in its present form, could ever be value for money. It might make sense if it were designed to cater for railfreight, and future passenger journeys from the West Riding and D2N2 to London. The government’s current intention is for such journeys to be transferred to the eastern leg of HS2.

In a Commons debate on 7 November 2016, Nigel Mills MP (Amber Valley) spoke of the “strong” benefit cost ratio for Midland electrification. Nicky Morgan MP (Loughborough) said, “The point I will come on to in a moment is that [the Midland electrification and HS2] schemes go together”. She invited rail minister Paul Maynard “to address the benefit-cost ratio”.

But in his waffle-prone contribution to the debate, Mr Maynard kept schtum about benefit-cost.

On 19 July 2017, transport secretary Chris Grayling cancelled the North-of-Kettering [NoK] element of the programme. In October 2017, he gave ‘new’ figures stating NoK had a net present value of -£129 million and a BCR of 0.77.

Midland Main Line appraisal, Oct 2017, Chris Grayling’s figures
Option Capacity
programme &
full
electrification
Incremental
electrification
north of
Kettering
Capacity
programme &
electrification
to Corby
NPV (£m, 2010 PV) 209 -129 337
BCR 1.21 0.77 1.78

Those bewildered by these ‘bad numbers’ included shadow transport secretary Lilian Greenwood.

Plummeting MML electrification VfM 'raises more questions than it answers' - @liliangreenwood

The Beleben blog can reveal that the cryptic clue to the ‘mystery of the plunging BCR’ lies in the seemingly-innocuous statement, “All three scenarios take account of the assumed impact of HS2 Phase 2 on the Midland Main Line upgrade programme.

Chris Grayling, updated MML electrification VfM takes account of HS2

According to a ‘sensitive’ document created for the Department for Transport in 2016, “the introduction of HS2 Phase 2 would have a material impact on the value-for-money of the Midland Mainline Upgrade Programme, reducing the BCR from 9.4 to 1.2” (i.e., low value for money).

Updated appraisal of the MML upgrade for the Department for Transport in 2016

In other words, contrary to the claims of Nicky Morgan, and the hopes of Lilian Greenwood, the Midland electrification and HS2 certainly do not “go together”.

As the Beleben blog stated in September 2016, the case for Midland electrification is completely undermined by HS2. Actually, HS2’s deleterious effects could be expected to impact other enhancement projects, such those backed by the ‘Consortium of East Coast Main Line Authorities‘ for the East Coast Main Line.

If HS2 were built, the government could not allow competition for long distance passengers with classic rail (which would have lower costs). The political embarrassment from such passengers choosing to keep using the existing railway would be immense.

So, what lies behind HS2 phase 2? On the evidence available, it is not a transport project, but a London real-estate project, ‘needed’ to justify the land grab (for over-platform development) at Euston. The ‘imperative’ of the Camden land-grab would also explain the government’s determination to avoid having Old Oak Common as its HS2 terminus.

De-scoped Midland Main Line electrification is a consequence of the government's obsession with its £60+ billion HS2 vanity project (picture: Network Rail)

Written by beleben

November 13, 2017 at 2:59 pm

Posted in Planning, Railways

Respublica on the inside

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Respublica North, Max Wind-Cowie

Interesting to see that Max Wind-Cowie, deputy director of ‘red tory’ Phillip Blond’s Respublica North lobbying vehicle, is ‘lead on cities’ for the government’s National Infrastructure Commission.

Max Wind Cowie

Written by beleben

November 8, 2017 at 5:20 pm

On the wrong foot

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From what HS1 Ltd chairman Rob Holden has ‘seen and observed’, HS2 got off ‘completely on the wrong foot with Camden council and the local community at Euston’.

[HS1 10 years on: What can HS2 learn?, Daniel Kemp, Construction News, 7 Nov 2017 (paywall)]

[Rob Holden:] “Once you’re in that position with an authority, particularly quite an influential one like Camden, it takes a long time to get it back to where it needs to be.”

In an interview for Construction News, Mr Holden appeared to credit John ‘Two Jags’ Prescott with saving HS1 from cancellation. 2J thought it would have ‘regeneration benefits’, but that seems an odd description for reducing the Midland Main Line to four platforms at St Pancras, to make space for designer boutiques and pizza joints.

'HS1’s funding projections required every single man, woman and child in the South-east of England to be making multiple journeys every single year to Paris and Brussels' in order to generate enough cash

Mr Holden said that HS1 was a “French railway”, but HS2 was trying to do “things which have not been proven anywhere else”.

[Construction News]

[RH:] “One decision we made very early on, and I would put my name to it, is that we decided to make this railway an extension of TGV Nord,” he says. “[HS1] is a French railway, with French signalling technology. It was designed to operate out of the box – we were not going to be the first anything.

“Contrast that with HS2 and what they’re trying to do […] to create a legacy. They’re doing things which have not been proven anywhere else. That imparts huge amounts of risk, and maybe because I’m an accountant I’m more cautious than most. I like to minimise the risk I’m carrying, [which] therefore gives ourselves a better chance of success in what is a complicated environment.”

Written by beleben

November 7, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS1, HS2

The shape and the size

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The Guardian online, 5 Nov 2017 TSGN breakup planned

The Guardian online, 5 Nov 2017

The Department for Transport said it was “actively looking at the shape and size of the next Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) franchise on expiry of the existing contract in 2021”, the Guardian reported on 5 November.

Who’d have thought it?

Beleben blog, 4 May 2017

Beleben blog, 4 May 2017

Written by beleben

November 6, 2017 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Politics, Railways

How do vey do that?

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Not long ago, Conservative MP Esther McVey was a big supporter of the government’s high speed rail scheme. But according to the Winsford Guardian, she is now questioning the whole ‘value and purpose’ of HS2.

Has HS2 lost its 'vey'?

Has HS2 lost its ‘vey’?

Written by beleben

November 6, 2017 at 2:03 pm