For transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, talking nonsense seems to be a hard habit to break.
According to Mr McLoughlin, GB railways have grown overcrowded as the country slipped down the global infrastructure league table (whatever that is).
As can be seen, the ORR / TfL count of London commuter rail showed no real change in overcrowding over the period 1990 – 2008.
Recent speculation about HS2 de-scoping has included the possibility of terminating the line at Old Oak Common, instead of Euston. There is certainly enough land at Old Oak, but transport links to central London are not particularly good.
According to HS2 Ltd, with stations at Old Oak and Euston, about two-thirds of high speed passengers would use Euston, but of course HS2 Ltd is not a reliable or objective source of information. The real balance of advantage is not clear, because no detail is available on things like dwell time of HS2 trains at Old Oak, or the length and characteristics of the interchange at the two locations. If stopping very high speed trains twice in under 10 miles is such a good idea, why don’t Eurostar trains stop at Stratford “International”? How about domestic TGV trains? Do TGV Nord trains stop at St Denis?
Two oft-repeated objections to terminating HS2 at Old Oak are:
- ‘Crossrail 1 would be unable to handle the totality of HS2 traffic heading to and from central London’
- ‘If Crossrail 1 “broke down”, HS2 passengers would have no alternative means of getting to and from central London’.
Objection: ‘Crossrail 1 would be unable to handle the totality of HS2 traffic heading to and from central London’
Crossrail 1 is intended to operate twenty-four 205-metre trains per hour per direction on its trunk section, each of which would be able to carry 1,500 passengers.
As can be seen from Transport for London’s diagram (below), with 24 trains per hour operating east of Old Oak (36,000 pphpd), the entirety of HS2 Phase One passengers headed into central London could be accommodated on Crossrail.
What about HS2 Phase Two? Well, Crossrail 1 is also supposed to have a ‘Phase Two’, in which train frequency would increase to 30 per hour, and trainset length would increase to 250 metres.
Objection: ‘If Crossrail 1 “broke down”, HS2 passengers would have no alternative means of getting to and from central London’
One might as well ask, if HS2 “broke down”, how would long distance passengers make their journey to the North of England? The ‘weakest link’ would not be the 4 miles east of Old Oak, it would be the 90+ miles north-west of Old Oak.
Clearly, if HS2 Old Oak — Euston were not built, there would be enormous resources freed up to improve local rail links between Old Oak and other parts of the capital (including Camden). Creating better links between west and central London (e.g. Overground and tram) would perform much better in cost-benefit and social equity, than the white-elephant HS2 tunnel.
And if HS2 Old Oak — Birmingham were not built, there would be would be enormous resources freed up to improve existing main and secondary railways, across the whole of Great Britain.
According to its website, the Independent Transport Commission is “wholly dependent upon financial support from donors”, and its funders include High Speed One Ltd, High Speed Two Ltd, and the Department for Transport. Which might explain transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s presence at the launch of the Commission’s “High heels and travelators” HS2 report in Leeds Town Hall.
In his speech to the ITC on 16 May, Mr McLoughlin said that HS2 “has always been about listening to people’s views”, and “most of the things I read are wholly inaccurate”.
Perhaps he meant to say, “most of the things I read out are wholly inaccurate”. Consider the evidence.
[Speech: High speed rail and connected cities,
From: Department for Transport and The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP
First published: 17 May 2016]
[…] I know there have been various reports in the papers, about; whether HS2 is going ahead, whether it is going to Leeds and going to Manchester?
I can tell you today that it is going to Leeds and it is going to Manchester. Because we are totally committed to the whole of the high speed network.
Indeed, the HS2 project has always been about listening to people’s views, and continually improving.
At every stage we have listened, learned, and adapted to make HS2 the very best it can be.
[…] You’ll read various things in the newspapers: some of them are accurate but some of them are completely inaccurate; most of the things I read are wholly inaccurate.
In a previous speech, delivered on 11 September 2013, Mr McLoughlin suggested that ‘HS2 could mean ‘half a million fewer lorry trips a day on our main motorways’.
Some time after the ‘half a million fewer lorry trips a day’ misinformation was exposed on the Beleben blog, the Department for Transport put a note on the record of the speech, saying it had been amended to correct “original incorrect data”.
But the Department left other bogus claims from Mr McLoughlin unaltered. At the time of writing, the record of the 11 September 2013 speech still states that ‘£9 billion was spent upgrading the West Coast Main Line north of Rugby’, and that its ‘overhead wiring is getting on for 50 years old’.
Mr McLoughlin was also impressed enough by David Higgins’ expectation that the final cost of HS2 construction would be “significantly less” than £42.6 billion, to mention it in his speech.
Five days after the transport strategy for Leeds hit the buffers, “sorry” still appears the hardest word of all to say (wrote Tom Richmond).
[Tom Richmond: The Trolleybus scandal. Leeds humiliated by breakdown of transport leadership, Yorkshire Post, 17 May 2016]
Indeed this lack of contrition, after a Government planning inspector rejected the city’s ill-conceived £250m trolleybus plan, is precisely the type of dismissive behaviour which brings politics – and public life – into disrepute. Is no one going to accept responsibility?
Already £72m of taxpayers’ money has gone to waste on legal costs in a congested city no nearer to developing a light rail system than it was three decades ago. And some of the key figures are the same individuals driving transport policy for the wider region.
There’s Keith Wakefield, the longstanding leader of Leeds Council until he stepped down in May 2015. The Labour veteran now heads transport on the Combined Authority and says trolleybus was pursued “in line with government advice”.
There’s Tom Riordan who headed the profligate Yorkshire Forward regional development agency before becoming council chief executive in 2010.
There’s Trolleybus champion James Lewis who headed Metro, the area’s passenger transport body, before it was replaced by West Yorkshire Combined Authority. The Labour councillor is deputy leader of Leeds Council.
And then there’s Martin Farrington, the director of city development in Leeds since 2010 and project leader. Under cross-examination, he conceded that he was “not an expert” in “transport planning”.
It’s summed up by the closing legal submission of bus firm First West Yorkshire Limited: “Despite claiming that there was a need for a rapid transport system, Mr Farrington was not aware of the average speed of the proposed trolleybuses…
“When asked what proportion of passengers using the trolleybus would come from using the car, he candidly said that he was not in a position to answer and had ‘no idea’.”
On 16 May, the Independent Transport Commission released a ‘major report’ at a ‘major launch’ event held in Leeds with Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin and other high-profile attendees.
[Independent Transport Commission, ‘ITC releases major report on High-Speed Rail’]
High Speed Rail and Connected Cities: Accessible Places for Growing Economies, sets out the regeneration and transport benefits of high-speed rail (HSR), and provides guidance on ways to enhance the process of urban change by maximising the social and economic benefits that stem from developing an integrated transport system.
[Independent Transport Commission, ‘High Speed Rail and Connected Cities’]
The Distinctiveness of Leeds – High Heels, Black Suits and Sneakers
The Leeds and West Yorkshire city region displays a wide variety of economic activities. The financial, insurance, legal, and retail sectors have particularly shaped the image of Leeds, whereas in the wider region 50% of the UK’s manufacturing is within a two-hour drive from Leeds.
In the workshop discussions that the ITC held with various stakeholders in Leeds, it was clear that the real aspiration is to use the HS2 and TransNorth connections as catalysts for generating economic benefits for the whole region. But it was also clear that there should be something to ‘catalyse’. There is a good understanding of the region’s assets, but what was seen to be missing was something binding those assets and translating them into a comprehensive story: the narrative of Leeds City Region based on the past, being told in the present and opening the future.
This narrative for Leeds City Region can form the basis for a long-term city region brand, comparable with the spirit of Yorkshire Cycling stemming from the Grand Départ event of the Tour de France in 2014. In parallel, the narrative can also be a starting point in creating a long-term vision for the city region. It can frame the role of the HS2 station in tandem with the revised Leeds station to create a place of arrival that everyone in the region can be proud of and to which they want to invite people.
An interchange between the interchange
In the Birmingham area, an interchange between the Bickenhill HS2 interchange and classic rail stations would be possible via a ‘travelator’ system (according to the report).
[Independent Transport Commission, ‘High Speed Rail and Connected Cities’]
Travelator is a people-mover or moving sidewalk, such as those found in airports.
Although the region will be served by two HS2 stations, there are reasons for concern. Without a direct rail link and a cross-platform connection between classic and HSR, excellent passenger information and education will be essential alongside conveniences such as smart and integrated ticketing.
In central Birmingham, it is hard to see how ‘excellent passenger information and education’ would be a solution to the problem of separate stations. Because, after all the excellent education in the world, HS2 travellers would still face a transfer of several hundred yards, on the public highway. Perhaps screen-based ‘excellent hypnosis’, delivered at-seat on HS2 trains, could make passengers think “There is no walk“, “This connectivity is excellent“, etc.
In July 2012 Justine Greening, transport secretary in the coalition government, said that the Leeds NGT trolleybus scheme would make “public transport in Leeds more accessible and attractive than ever before”.
[Green light for Leeds trolleybus, Department for Transport and Justine Greening, July 2012]
[JG:] …and I know trolleybuses will be transformational for growth and jobs in West Yorkshire.
But on 12 May 2016, the Department for Transport (DfT) issued a statement saying the scheme was “not suitable for development“.
What a shame that so much money has been spent on this ‘transformational’ boondoggle.
Percentage of “intercity rail trips made on the corridors that will be served by HS2” which are for business:
(according to section 2.4 of the Department for Transport’s HS2 and the Market for Business Travel, Nov 2015).
Percentage of intercity rail trips made on the West Coast Main Line which are for business:
(according to section 2.4 of the Department for Transport’s InterCity West Coast franchise consultation, May 2016).