The 4 October 2015 edition of BBC tv’s Sunday Politics East Midlands included a snippet about the ‘unpausing’ of Midland Main Line electrification.
All the talking heads on the show spoke approvingly of the benefits of the scheme but lamented the implementation delay, etc.
But what was never explained, were the exact benefits. So, what exactly are the benefits of MML electrification, in its present form?
Britain’s rail industry is contributing up to £10.1 billion in added value to the national economy every year, a report by economists Oxera for the Rail Delivery Group ‘revealed’ (21 Sep 2015).
[…] At the same time rail boosts economic productivity by up to £11.3 billion through reduced road congestion and enabling companies to be clustered together. According to research by economists Oxera for the Rail Delivery Group which represents train operators and Network Rail, rail and its supply chain also supports 216,000 jobs. The sector also pays up to £4 billion in tax to the public purse.
But according to KPMG 2013’s (widely derided) report for HS2 Ltd, the 560 km of new high speed line could deliver annual an £15 billion boost to the economy — more than what RDG claims as the benefit from the entire existing rail system. (The existing rail network carries 18 times as many passengers as HS2 is forecast to carry.)
Did someone say “Made-up numbers”?
In a speech at London’s Waldorf Hilton on 16 September 2015, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport Robert Goodwill MP said “We estimate that HS2 will create 25,000 jobs during construction and 3,000 jobs when in operation. Not just on site, but right across the UK.”
However, the June 2013 ‘HS2 Jobs Analysis’ produced by Leo Eyles — of the Greengauge 21 high speed lobbying company — predicted that HS2 London – West Midlands ‘construction jobs’ would be nothing like 25,000. (See ‘Figure 3’ below.)
Even with the second stage Y network added in, construction jobs would not exceed 18,000 at any one time. And on average, they would be lower than 10,000 (see ‘Figure 6’ below).
The economic divide between London and other GB cities will widen in the next ten years, without more action to invigorate underperforming cities, according to a report (summary) by the Centre for Economics & Business Research and law firm Irwin Mitchell.
[London ‘to grow twice as fast as north despite Conservative policies’, Sean Farrell, The Guardian, 4 October 2015]
[…] The economy of London will be worth almost £450bn in 10 years – more than £110bn higher than the total output of cities in the north-west, the north-east and Yorkshire and the Humber, the report, UK Powerhouse: Supporting Economic Strength and Bridging the Prosperity Gap, found.
The findings take account of the proposals announced by George Osborne to revitalise Greater Manchester and other northern cities by improving transport links and devolving powers from Westminster. The project is centred on Greater Manchester and largely ignores the north-east. Osborne declared Sheffield as a second powerhouse last week.
The report, published before the chancellor’s speech to the Conservative party conference, found that business leaders in the north were unenthusiastic about the government’s HS2 high-speed rail link as a way to revitalise their cities. HS2 will run from London to Birmingham at first and will then be extended to the north west.
Businessmen favoured improving roads and local rail services over HS2. More than half the 1,000 surveyed by YouGov for the report wanted local decision making on business rates and infrastructure improvements.
But the prospects for Midland and Northern cities getting the right infrastructure have diminished, because George Osborne has recruited Labour peer and HS2 Ltd director Andrew Adonis to head a new (and supposedly ‘independent’) National Infrastructure Commission.
[Lord Adonis to resign Labour whip and chair George Osborne’s infrastructure body, Nicholas Watt, The Guardian, 5 October 2015]
Andrew Adonis, Tony Blair’s former policy chief, will sit as a cross-bench peer to allow him to chair the new statutory body that will advise the government on new infrastructure projects.
The chancellor – addressing the Conservative party conference on Monday – will hail the appointment of Lord Adonis as a sign of his determination to occupy what David Cameron has called the “common ground” as the Labour party “runs to the hills” under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
[…] The poaching of such a high-profile New Labour figure – the father of Blair’s schools academy programme and of the HS2 rail line – will be seen as a highly political move by the chancellor as he follows the former Labour prime minister’s “big tent” approach as a way of occupying the centre ground. “I think you can see what Andrew Adonis thinks of Labour’s prospects under Jeremy Corbyn by this move,” said one Tory source.
Andrew Adonis is bedazzled by grands projets, big business, and ‘intensified’ urban development (‘rabbit hutches’ in London, etc). Having given Labour the middle finger by becoming a Lords cross-bencher right in the middle of the Conservative conference, it will be interesting to see what Labour support he retains in the coming months.
On 28 November 2014, the government confirmed £16 million funding to electrify the Windermere branch line in Cumbria. Baroness Kramer (Liberal Democrat) said: “Electrifying this key rail link will support the vital tourism industry in the area, and help us build a stronger economy in the Lake District and beyond”.
But is there an actual economic case for the electrification? If there is, it is yet to see the light of day. In 2011, the McNulty Rail Value for Money Study, which looked into the efficiency of GB national railways, mentioned Windermere ‘upgrading’ trackwork as an example of muddled investment thinking.
[Realising the Potential of GB Rail, May 2011]
The Windermere branch line is a 10-mile branch line in the Lake District. It is regarded as typical of many rural and secondary lines which have seen significant investment and a rapid change in the method of operation, but where the rationale for the investment is unclear, although this could have a long-term impact on the financial performance of the line.
Following privatisation there has been a series of investments in new rolling stock. These have increased passenger train weights progressively from 48.5 tonnes (two car) to 163.0 tonnes (three car) today, although demand rarely requires more than a single car. The new trains are so heavy that they have apparently been causing significant track damage, so much so that NR deemed it necessary to rebuild the entire branch line to a much higher standard. The Study estimates that the additional track renewal costs could be up to £5 million. There are a number of similar examples across the network.
What is the cost of maintaining the Windermere branch to Network Rail standards, and maintaining its future overhead line equipment? Absolutely no information is available.
What would be the cost savings if the branch was turned into a light railway, under some kind of local control? A lightweight railbus, perhaps running on natural gas, would allow big savings on track maintenance.
Most likely, it would be much cheaper for government to subsidise a light railway than a Network Rail branch. Similar conversion might also be appropriate for other lines, such as Ryde to Shanklin, Craven Arms to Llanelli, Inverness to Aberdeen, etc.
Work to electrify the TransPennine North and Midland Main Line is to be ‘unpaused’ under plans announced today, the Department for Transport claimed.
[TransPennine and Midland Mainline electrification works to resume, DfT, 30 September 2015]
Sir Peter Hendy has outlined to the Secretary of State for Transport how work could continue. The Secretary of State has replied to the Chair of Network Rail asking Network Rail to un-pause this work.
Network Rail will work with the Department for Transport (DfT) and Rail North to develop a new plan for electrification of the TransPennine line between Stalybridge and Leeds and on to York and Selby to focus on delivering key passenger benefits as quickly as possible. This is an improvement on the previous plan which only changed the power supply of the trains.
The new plan will deliver faster journey times and significantly more capacity between Manchester, Leeds and York. The upgrade is expected to provide capacity for 6 fast or semi-fast trains per hour, take up to 15 minutes off today’s journey time between Manchester and York and be complete by 2022. When the work is finished, the whole route from Liverpool to Newcastle (via Manchester, Leeds and York) will be fully electrified and journey times will be significantly reduced compared to today’s railway.
Network Rail will also recommence work to electrify Midland Mainline, the vital long-distance corridor which serves the UK’s industrial heartland. Sir Peter Hendy is proposing that line speed and capacity improvement works already in hand are added to, with electrification of the line north of Bedford to Kettering and Corby by 2019 and the line North of Kettering to Leicester, Derby/Nottingham and Sheffield by 2023.
New Northern and TransPennine rail franchise awards will be announced before the end of the year.
[…] Chairman of Network Rail Sir Peter Hendy said:
“The temporary pause in the programme has given us the space to develop a better plan for passengers. People can expect more services and faster journeys. We face some difficult challenges, and there is more work still to do, but the Secretary of State’s decision means we can now move forward with our plans to electrify TransPennine and Midland Mainline”.
But the “temporary pause in the TPN programme to give the space to develop a better plan for passengers” actually seems to be set to continue until 2017.
[Extract from Peter Hendy’s letter to Patrick McLoughlin, 29 Sep 2015]
Network Rail is already carrying out, and has not paused, significant interventions in the route to improve journey times and speed, and this will continue.
However, in order to ensure expenditure is not wasted on abortive works, my advice is that a full planning exercise should start immediately with all the relevant parties — Network Rail, Department for Transport and Transport for the North – involved. This will establish a firm detailed design which increases benefits to passengers compared to the previous paused scheme, and this will be concluded by the end of 2017. During this time we should also explore the best methods of delivery on the Trans-Pennine route, bearing in mind the need to keep the railway operational, but also the need for necessary access to the railway for the works. My advice is that commencing electrification at the beginning of 2018 (with some enabling works carried out before then) could result in delivery by end 2022. Hence while this is a decision for you, my advice is that the project can be un-paused with immediate effect.
Judging by Mr Hendy’s letter to Patrick McLoughlin, the MML electrification unpause is being replaced by a MML electrification go-very-slow.
There’s no information about the knock-on or budgetary effects, but Control Period 6 seems to be becoming the new Control Period 5.
Although well over £600 million has been spent on the Birmingham New Street Gateway scheme, there have been few improvements in the realm of health and safety.
For example, directly outside the station entrance in Stephenson Street, the newly-installed deep kerb is an obvious hazard.
At platform level, the station environment is much the same as it was twenty years ago, with the fumes from diesel trains continuing to be trapped by the low ceiling. No information is available about the efficacy of the ventilation system, or the levels of diesel pollutants on the platforms.
Equally problematic for fumes is the confined space of the Hill Street Drop and Go, which is used by large numbers of diesel vehicles, including taxis.