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Maria lobby you big time

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Speaking at the ‘Bisnow Birmingham State of Offices event’, Midlands Connect honcho Maria Machancoses claimed that ‘the North and Midlands’ needed to work together “big time” to prevent the HS2 project from ‘sliding’.

She is co-hosting an event at Westminster in January to bring together Northern and Midlands MPs and regional transport leaders, ‘as doubts about the budgetary and technical aspects of the £56B rail project grow’.

'Midlands seeks friends in the north to save HS2', Bisnow

What happens at such private lobbying events? What ‘information’ is exchanged?

To judge the level of knowledge of some of the “regional transport leaders” who might be attending, one need only read articles written by them.

According to Ms Machancoses, “One of the most immediate impacts of HS2 will be the freeing up of capacity on the existing West Coast Main Line, releasing space for ten extra freight paths, taking the equivalent of 800 lorries a day off the road, as well as a multitude of extra passenger services”.

But, “if mismanaged”,

[MM:] “more direct, high speed services on the HS2 line could mean a loss of fast, frequent services to the likes of Coventry, Rugby, Tamworth and Lichfield. No station should suffer worse connectivity post-HS2 than it does now.”

In reality,

  • the classic capacity released by HS2 is minimal,
  • it is not possible to release any capacity without some stations, such as Coventry, getting worse connectivity post-HS2 than they have now.

The idea that HS2 would allow a ‘multitude of extra passenger services’ is delusional. On the Birmingham – Coventry – Rugby corridor, the number of local stopping trains would stay much the same as it is now. Between Euston and Milton Keynes, the indications are that the quantum of train paths would fall, not rise.

Maria Machancoses, 'Don't mismanage released capacity'

twitter, @mayor_anderson, 'Why we need the Government to listen to us about investment in rail connections across the North. '

And in an article for Citymetric published yesterday, Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson demonstrated his confusion about ‘HS3’ and the Transpennine North railway.

[Joe Anderson: Why I resigned from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership | Citymetric | December 12, 2018]
I resigned from the board of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership this week. I just didn’t see the point of continuing when it is now crystal clear the government isn’t committed to delivering the step-change in rail investment in the North that we so desperately need. Without it, the Northern Powerhouse will remain a pipedream.

Local government leaders like me have been left standing at the altar for the past three years. The research is done. The case has been made. Time and again we’ve been told to be patient – the money is coming.

Well, we’ve waited long enough.
[…]
There are no shortcuts. Ministers clearly believe there are. The second piece of disappointing news is that officials at the Department for Transport have already confirmed to the freight industry that any HS3 line will not be electrified, the Yorkshire Post reports.

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Written by beleben

December 13, 2018 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Planning, Politics

Billions more for HS2

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On 26 November, Construction News reported that HS2’s chief executive Mark Thurston had said the government will not give the project any more money despite its current cost gap.

Yet, just a few days later, the Sunday Times claimed that the government had been planning to extend HS2 to Liverpool, at a cost of £7 billion.

Sunday Times story about extending HS2 to Liverpool

The current “£55.7 billion” budget of the HS2 ‘core programme’ does not include the funds needed for the Manchester airport (Davenport Green) station, the “HS2 hub” at Crewe, and ‘growth strategies’ for the East Midlands, Leeds, Birmingham, etc.

The HS2 growth strategy for the West Midlands alone was costed at £4.4 billion

Evidence from other rail megaprojects, and the history of HS2 to date, suggests that the Y network cannot be built as planned, unless much more public money is made available. When the ‘wider programme’ and things like sterling devaluation are factored in, HS2 looks more like a £100 billion project, than a £56 billion one.

Written by beleben

December 12, 2018 at 12:47 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

People have only to look at Crossrail

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People have only to look at Crossrail to see that the government has a good recent track record in delivering major projects on time and on budget, transport secretary Chris Grayling declared, in the course of a ‘HS2 update‘ in the House of Commons chamber in July 2017.

Chris Grayling, 'People have only to look at Crossrail to see that the government has a good recent track record in delivering major projects on time and on budget'

The Guardian: 'Delayed Crossrail could cost nearly £3bn more than planned'

twitter, @TomBurridgebbc, 'Crossrail needs roughly an extra £1.5 billion and @TfLRail essentially admitting it won’t be ready before 2020...so more than 1 yr late. This station in central London supposed to be open and operating this week. The delay to #Crossrail is an embarrassment for the Govt & the Mayor'

twitter, @simonharrisitv. 'Crossrail's unfinished Bond Street station'

twitter, @BBCTomEdwards, 'Documents released by Tfl of briefing on July 26th show Mayor told it was at “high risk” & options for partial / section opening “not feasible”.'

 

Written by beleben

December 11, 2018 at 10:50 am

Posted in London, Railways

Feed in fully

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Stephen Colbert Eating PopcornSubmission of the doolally ‘£35bn Northern Powerhouse Rail strategic business plan’ is being delayed until next year to allow it to be “fine-tuned”, according to New Civil Engineer.

[Exclusive | TfN postpones Northern Powerhouse Rail plans | BY KATHERINE SMALE | 10 DECEMBER, 2018][…]

It had been due to be handed into transport secretary Chris Grayling by the end of December.

But Transport for the North said following discussions with its members, a decision had been made “to make space for further fine-tuning” which would allow its members to “feed-in fully and have chance to digest all the details”.
[…]
The delay follows an announcement in September this year that the High Speed 2 phase 2b hybrid Bill was being delayed to ensure plans for the NPR scheme were incorporated into its design.
[…]
The rail project will connect Hull, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield and is the third project on the list of projected infrastructure spends over the next 20 years in the National Infrastructure Commission’s National Infrastructure Assessment.

twitter, @Philip_Blond, 'the cost of twenty miles more of HS2 to Liverpool is between £1.5 and 2.5 billion'

twitter, @helenpidd, picture of a page from the Sunday Times, 9 Dec 2018, featuring stories about railways in northern England

Written by beleben

December 10, 2018 at 12:55 pm

No longer be

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'Rail' magazine, HS2 no longer be, 5 December 2018With ‘cost pressures’ increasing, HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston has told MPs that HS2 may no longer be an 18 trains per hour railway with speeds up to 250mph when it opens in 2026, ‘Rail’ magazine’s Paul Stephen reported (5 December).

Never mind the “18 trains per hour”, and “250mph” cobblers.

What about the “opens in 2026”?

How is that going to happen?

In other news, the ‘freshly-resigned’ Terry Morgan appeared on LBC morning radio on 6 December, and told presenter Nick Ferrari that his relationship with London mayor Sadiq Khan had broken down.

LBC, 'Crossrail Boss Insists He Told Mayor Khan About Delay One Month Before Announcement', 6 Dec 2018

gov.uk, Crossrail and HS2 chairman steps down, 5 Dec 2018

Written by beleben

December 7, 2018 at 3:42 pm

Posted in HS2

Disappointed and dissatisfied

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‘Crucial plans to massively upgrade rail links for freight traffic’ across the North of England are set to be abandoned, leaving freight bosses “disappointed and dissatisfied”, The Yorkshire Post reported.

Northern powerhouse rail director Tim Wood and transport secretary Chris Grayling

[EXCLUSIVE: Anger as plans to electrify north’s freight network are scrapped | Mark Casci | Yorkshire Post | Thursday 06 December 2018]

Officials at the Department for Transport (DfT) have let freight bosses know that they will only put forward plans to electrify the route between Leeds and Manchester for passenger trains, with plans to apply the same improvements to freight trains set to be scrapped for the foreseeable future.

The recommendation – given by the DfT’s internal Board Investment and Commercial Committee to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling – comes after more than two years of campaigning by the freight industry.

On September 18, the Beleben blog pointed out that de-scoping Transpennine North electrification down to a ‘Cispennine’ scheme between Leeds and Huddersfield, made no sense.

Money which could be spent on electrifying the Standedge and Calder Valley railways, and fixing bottlenecks in Manchester, is being squandered on HS2, and the equally absurd ‘Northern powerhouse rail’ project.

twitter, @MarkCasci, "Here we go... electrification of the Leeds to Manchester rail route will NOT cover freight. How many millions will this cost the North's economy?"

Written by beleben

December 7, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Freight, HS2, Railways, Transport

Finding the right moment

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Chris Grayling, transport secretary, and Philip Hammond, chancellor, have urged the prime minister to remove Terry Morgan from his position as chairman of HS2, as fears grow that the high-speed rail line will overshoot its £56 billion budget by a large margin, the Financial Times reported on 30 November.

On the same day, the TSSA union issued a statement titled ‘TSSA Leader warns HS2 North imperial [in peril?] following departure of Terry Morgan’, which seemed to infer that Mr Morgan had already departed, and it was his choice to step down.

'TSSA leader warns HS2 North imperial following departure of Terry Morgan'

[Chairman of flagship HS2 and Crossrail projects to be sacked, FT, 30 Nov 2018]

Theresa May is poised to sack the “world-class” chairman of Britain’s flagship HS2 rail programme after only four months in the job, amid mounting costs and delays at the country’s most expensive infrastructure project.

Terry Morgan, who also chairs London’s delayed £15bn Crossrail project, is expected to leave both jobs within weeks after a series of recent disclosures about problems at both projects raised doubts at the top of government about his performance.

The move is a sign ministers fear there is worse news is to come, with both HS2 and Crossrail running over budget.

“They told the prime minister they have no confidence in him and she agrees,” said one government official close to the project, which will link London with Birmingham and the north of England. “It is only a question of finding the right moment to announce it.”

Between 2002 and 2009, Mr Morgan was chief executive of the disastrous London Underground Tube Lines ‘Public-Private Partnership’, so it is unclear why transport secretary Chris Grayling would hail him as “world class” (as he did just a few months ago).

gov.uk, 'Secretary of State appoints Sir Terry Morgan as new HS2 Ltd Chairman'

However, the enormous problems of HS2 go back a lot further than August 2018, indeed many of them were embedded from the get-go. The previous chairman, David Higgins, was appointed to “drive down the costs of HS2”, but failed completely.

In October 2013, Railnews reported his predecessor, Douglas Oakervee, as saying that the cost of HS2 phase one was set at £17.6 billion, and he was ‘not interested‘ in any of the £14.4 billion contingency that the Treasury had insisted should be added.

gov.uk, 'David Higgins to drive down the cost of HS2'

At the moment, HS2’s chief executive, Mark Thurston, appears not to be in the firing line, but why that should be, is not clear. The different treatments afforded to Mr Higgins, Mr Thurston, and Mr Morgan, suggest that as covering up failure gets harder, the scapegoating and back-covering intensifies.

All in all, changing the chairmanship of HS2 looks like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. The reputational downsides for any senior personnel attaching themselves to this project are potentially very significant, and it is hard to see why anyone with a full set of marbles would take on the chairmanship of HS2.

Mr Morgan will most likely have to be ‘gagged’ generously, to minimise the chances of yet more damaging news coming into the public domain.

 

Written by beleben

December 1, 2018 at 4:13 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics