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Sum kind of overspend

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The “dysfunctional” HS2 high-speed rail company has pressed staff to falsify figures, mislead parliament and cover up “petrifying” overspends, according to claims reported in The Sunday Times.

[HS2 ‘covered up petrifying overspends’, Andrew Gilligan, The Sunday Times, 17 June 2018 (paywall)]

In documents seen by The Sunday Times, Doug Thornton, HS2’s former head of property, said the organisation put him under “tremendous pressure to accede to an enormous deceit” that the official budget for buying land and buildings was accurate.

As recounted by the story,

  • Mr Thornton and the former head of planning and performance, Andrew Bruce, departed HS2 in 2016, as the bill for phase one (London – West Midlands) reached a critical stage in parliament
  • both men have given evidence to the National Audit Office, which is investigating HS2’s land and property budget
  • HS2 Ltd maintains that buying the 11,000 properties needed to construct phase one would cost £2.8 billion, but Mr Bruce had calculations showing the sum could be around £4.7 billion.

At the time of writing, on his LinkedIn entry, it is stated that Mr Bruce “Developed the programme for the purchase of £4.8 Bn worth of land and property” for HS2 Ltd.

Andrew Bruce, formerly of HS2 Ltd, linkedin, extract

HS2, Estimate of expense, in parliament 2013 - 2014

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Written by beleben

June 17, 2018 at 4:56 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Elevated risk means increased cost

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Elevated risk means increased costMultiple sources close to the HS2 project have confirmed that ‘interim costs’ for main civil works for phase one submitted by contractors are currently above HS2 Ltd’s target cost of £6.6 billion (New Civil Engineer reported).

[HS2 civil works £1bn above target cost, Katherine Smale, NCE, 12 June 2018]

While one source said that the collective price was coming in at “around £1.2bn” over budget, another said that some bids were “as much as 30% to 40% higher” than their individual target price.

As a result, NCE understands that the notice to proceed has been pushed back from November until February 2019 with one source claiming that they had been told to “go away and sharpen their pencils” to cut costs.

[…] However, a HS2 spokesperson said that the project “remains on track, and within [the] original cost package”.

Last month, NCE’s sister publication Ground Engineering reported how the cost of delivering HS2 could rise sharply as a result of the use of target cost contracts without geotechnical baseline reports (GBRs).

[HS2 price hike warning over rejection of risk allocation tool, Ground Engineering, 3 MAY, 2018, BY CLAIRE SMITH]

[…] “HS2 has not got enough data to be able to get the work to target cost,” [an engineer who has worked closely on the project] told GE. “When you look at the availability and quality of the ground investigation data, in some areas it is good but in other there is none and there is a risk associated with that. Contractors will price according to this risk and so the target cost will go up.

[…] “Some will say that the technical standards are too onerous but it is the risk allocation that is the problem. HS2 choosing not to use GBRs places all of the risk on the contractor and infrastructure owners should take some of the risk.”

He told GE that a number of consultants were asked to develop GBR 0 by HS2 ahead of the hybrid bill. “GBR 0 does not exist in any guidelines for use of GBRs and was a concept developed by HS2,” he said. “It is essentially a GBR nothing.”

Written by beleben

June 13, 2018 at 8:10 am

HS2 East Midlands proposals get even worse

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twitter, @StevePField, 'Five years of talking to @hs2ltd about impacts of #HS2 at Hardwick Hall appear to have resulted in even worse proposals once road realignments and construction compounds are included'

twitter, @BBCChrisD, 'New maps published [on 4 June 2018] give more detail as to how we might get to the #HS2 station at Toton. 'Detailed design' of the station is 'still ongoing', HS2 says

Written by beleben

June 5, 2018 at 10:18 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

How diesel is my valley

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Following a ‘rigorous procurement process’, Welsh government first minister Carwyn Jones today announced that Keolis Amey had been contracted to operate and develop the Wales and Borders rail service, including the future ‘South Wales Metro’, working in partnership with Transport for Wales.

Twitter, @wgcs_economy, 'Detail of how our £5 billion investment will transform rail services for passengers across Wales'

In February 2018, UK government rail minister Jo Johnson claimed that ‘all diesel trains should be scrapped by 2040’, or somesuch.

'Minister reveals plan to shunt every diesel train from the tracks by 2040'

However, the Welsh government intends to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on new-build diesel trains, with many being ‘built’ at the new CAF factory in South Wales.

'Transport for Wales, rail fleet modernisation, 2018 - 2025'

Exactly how much of the South Wales and Valley lines electrification has been binned, remains unclear. It seems more than likely that remanufacturing off-lease electric trains from the UK rolling stock glut would be cheaper than acquiring large numbers of new diesels, allow more track to be electrified, and create more Welsh and UK jobs.

Metro De Cymru (rheilffordd) erbyn 2023

Written by beleben

June 4, 2018 at 3:05 pm

Posted in Politics, Transport, Wales

Ambition to meltdown

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May 21 saw “one of the most ambitious attempts to recast the UK’s national rail timetable for several decades”, go into meltdown.

twitter_northernassist_status_1002103771890176000

The May 20 timetable was intended to exploit “the planned completion of major infrastructure enhancements, including the Thameslink Programme in southeast England and electrification in the northwest”.

jms-northern-gtr-network-rail-cen

[‘Too much, too quickly’, Railway Gazette, 4 June 2018]

The root cause of the [Northern franchise] disruption has been a shortage of suitably trained drivers able to deliver the new timetable over revised infrastructure. So acute is the shortage that Northern has reportedly been routinely terminating trains part way through their journey as existing drivers reach the limit of their route knowledge. […]

Railway Gazette understands that the principal cause of the driver shortage is a late request from Network Rail, in its System Operator role, for Northern to withdraw its May 20 timetable and resubmit it with changes. Behind this change request was the late completion of electrification and resignalling of the Preston – Blackpool route, and continuing delay to the electrification work between Manchester and Preston via Bolton.
[…]
Northern’s service delivery efforts have been further hampered by the refusal of drivers’ union ASLEF to enter into a new Rest Day Working agreement, which would resolve many of the immediate staffing issues and allow Northern to move ahead more quickly with training programmes.
[…]
When the Ordsall Chord opened in December last year, it was heralded as a ‘missing link’ in rail connectivity between Manchester’s two principal stations, Piccadilly and Victoria. Yet in practice, opening of the short south-to-east curve has only served to expose the fragility of the rest of the double-track corridor through Manchester Piccadilly and south towards the city’s airport, which is among the most intensively used sections of the national network.

Apparently, train operators and Network Rail must shoulder responsibility, but not the transport secretary Chris Grayling.

[Chris Grayling says rail industry ‘has failed passengers’, BBC, 30 May 2018]

[…] Chris Grayling wrote to MPs over the “wholly unsatisfactory” service on Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern.

GTR said it expected disruption to ease “over the coming month” and Northern said it has commissioned a report to “ensure lessons are learned”.

Mr Grayling said: “The way timetabling is done has to change.”

The transport secretary also criticised Network Rail, saying it “cannot cope” with the workload, and its performance was “simply unacceptable”.

He added: “We were aware there might be some disruption in the early stages of any new timetable change but the scale of the problem has far outstripped any expectation.”

He said he was now in “regular contact” with Network Rail and rail companies to deal with the issues quickly. […]

Northern rail, temporary timetable announcement

No train by ArrivaThe Northern meltdown has exposed the communication and operational dysfunctionality of the current industry structure, and the inadequacy of the ‘franchising process’. In essence, Northern got to run trains in the northwest not by demonstrating excellence, but through a secretive process, in which it impressed a few civil servants.

Written by beleben

June 4, 2018 at 11:58 am

Faster than sensible

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Italy’s transport ministry and railway safety agency have rejected plans by infrastructure manager Rfi to increase maximum linespeed on high speed tracks from 300 km/h to 350 km/h. The story was covered by la Repubblica on 28 May (in Italian).

The decision was guided by concerns about safety (in particular, flying ballast), upgrade costs, possible increases in maintenance costs for the infrastructure and energy system, and lack of evidence that greater speed would provide greater punctuality.

It might be worth bearing in mind that many of the trains operating on the Italian high speed network are limited to 250 km/h in normal service, for example, the Nuovo Pendolino units ordered by private operator NTV.

The difference in speed between a 350 km/h train and a 250 km/h Nuovo Pendolino would have potential implications for capacity. In the UK, the capacity of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link is more limited by the botched design at St Pancras, than the speed differential between Eurostar and Javelin trainsets, but to be frank, HS1 is a bit of a dog’s dinner from start to finish.

alstom-presents-the-first-pendolino-high-speed-train-for-ntv-in-italy

Written by beleben

June 1, 2018 at 2:00 pm

Posted in High speed rail

Looking at ways to pay

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Speaking at Transport Times’ Infrastructure Summit, HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston said the client would be looking at ways to pay for the high speed line north of Birmingham in the coming months, and that a private funding model could be an option.

'HS2 eyes private funding for £21bn phase two', CN, 29 May 2018

The UK private finance initiative debt mountain

[‘HS2 eyes private funding for £21bn phase two’, CN, 29 May, 2018, By Jack Simpson]

[…] Mr Thurston said: “The thing we can do through phase one is get a much better understanding of what it actually costs and what the demand will be, so we can start building that into the model for phase two; it’s very much a question mark for us, it’s a good challenge.”

Mr Thurston dismissed claims that the conventionally-funded phase one of the project alone could cost up to £51.25 billion.

[CN, 29 May]

He said: “We are confident that we will build it within that [£24.3 billion] budget, we wouldn’t say anything else in a public forum”.

Written by beleben

May 31, 2018 at 11:49 am

Posted in HS2