The robust management of costs on HS2 will be a fundamental measure of its success and will attract large amounts of political and public scrutiny. Therefore, the key to delivering the scheme within budget will be the blending of collaborative behaviour, new technology and the communication between the systems, people and data, according to HS2 Ltd Head of Estimating, Simon Longstaffe MRICS.
[Simon Longstaffe, RICS website, Nov 2015]
[…] One thing I have learnt is that we need to take longer over the gestation period of schemes to ensure that we get them right first time.
Before next year’s Budget, Britain’s independent National Infrastructure Commission will publish on “three national challenges”:
[National Infrastructure Commission call for evidence, gov.uk, 13 Nov 2015]
* Improving connectivity between cities in the north of England
* Large-scale transport infrastructure improvements in London
* Improving how electricity demand and supply are balanced.
[…] For each of these studies, we will engage with the relevant government departments, regulators and delivery organisations, including Network Rail, TfL and the National Grid as we develop our thinking. We are also keen to gather evidence and ideas from local government, businesses, service providers, users and others to support and shape this work.
Hence this call for evidence, which sets out the key questions for each of the three reports.
We look forward to receiving submissions, and thank you in advance for your engagement.
The Call for Evidence will allow the National Infrastructure Commission’s work on these studies to draw upon a wide evidence base and spectrum of options.
One of the problems with the idea of a national infrastructure commission is its likely propensity to look for infrastructure-based ‘solutions’ to problems which might be better addressed in another way.
Another question is how ‘independent’ the Commission’s decision-making would be.
[Current members of The National Infrastructure Commission]
Andrew Adonis (interim ‘chair’)
Sir John Armitt
Professor Tim Besley
Sir Paul Ruddock
Improving connectivity between cities in the north of England would, no doubt, require significant investment in infrastructure. To plan such works effectively, one would need access to a great deal of up-to-date quantitative data. But open data on transport demand and suchlike is severely deficient (for example, because of rail and bus privatisation).
All in all, the prognosis is not too good. It seems likely that much of the ‘evidence’ submitted to the NIC will just be the usual special-interest and wonk-tank fare.
The catastrophic TGV accident at Eckwersheim on 14 November 2015 was caused by ‘late braking’ into the curve, according to initial findings. Safety systems were partially disabled, because the train was being used for over-speed checks on the new track.
There were ‘seven people in the driver’s cabin’, and ‘mistakes of human behaviour’.
Obviously, at the speed the train was moving, there wouldn’t be much of a time difference between a ‘normal’ brake application, and a catastrophic brake application.
At RTM Magazine’s TransCityRail North event, HS2 Ltd chief executive Simon Kirby spoke about the high speed train procurement process.
[HS2 rolling stock tender to be open to all and ‘fiercely competitive’, RTM, 17 Nov 2015]
[…] Kirby said: “Whether the rolling stock comes from China, Sunderland, France, or wherever, we can’t specify it will be built in the UK. But our tender will be focused around heavily using the UK supply chain and UK jobs.”
Kirby added HS2 will be looking for “innovative ideas” from the market when the fleet starts to be procured in just over a year’s time.
Richard Westcott, the BBC’s transport correspondent and host for the evening, asked whether Kirby worried about how it will play in the media, when contracts are given to foreign companies. “All the time,” was the reply.
But, Kirby asked rhetorically, what exactly is a British company? “For me, it is about creating British jobs and getting value in this country,” he said. “I mean, Hitachi is just building a new factory in Sunderland [sic – the factory is in Newton Aycliffe], and Bombardier in Derby is certainly not a ‘British company’, but there are a lot of British jobs there producing great products.
Presumably, if a company is registered in Great Britain, and supplies the British market, then it counts as a “British company”, even if there is no GB content in what it sells.
So if an overseas company used its UK registered subsidiary and billing address for a HS2 contract, that would in all likelihood be recorded as a contract to a British company. (For example, so far as can be established, products imported from Lucchini Italy and sold by Lucchini UK are recorded as being from a ‘British company’.)
Bombardier rolling stock ‘manufactured’ at its Derby plant is less than 30% British by value. So far as can be established, there is zero GB capability to produce items such as bogies, large aluminium extrusions for carbodies, etc. It seems inevitable that the GB content of HS2 rolling stock orders would be either low, or very low.
[Appoint HS2 minister to get grip on costs, urges Lord Adonis, Gwyn Topham, The Guardian, 30 August 2013 ]
The architect of HS2, the high-speed rail scheme between London, the Midlands and the north of England, has demanded that the government appoint a dedicated minister for the project to guard it against ballooning costs, poor management and vanishing support.
Lord Adonis, who set out the plans for the network as transport secretary in 2010, lambasted the coalition’s inertia and “extremely poor project management”. He warned that increased contingencies in the project’s expanded budget were “an invitation to massive overspending“.
In October 2013, Labour’s Mary Creagh repeated the get-a-grip shtick.
But the “get-a-grip” / “no blank cheque” shtick appears to have gone down the pan. Now, Labour is calling for ‘up to an extra £500 million’ of public cash to be spent on HS2’s Euston station, for something or other.
Euston HS2 has the potential to be a kingsize money pit, so Lilian Greenwood’s “£500 million extra” brainwave would be quite an odd way of “getting a grip”.
The new Conservative majority government seems to hold Andrew Adonis in high esteem, as he was appointed as ‘chair’ of the National Infrastructure Commission. The NIC is supposed to ‘enable long term strategic decision making to build effective and efficient infrastructure for the UK’.
With Andrew Adonis installed as NIC chair, why isn’t he reversing HS2’s “ballooning costs, poor management, and vanishing public support”? Why hasn’t the government removed the increased contingencies which Mr Get-a-grip claimed were “an invitation to massive overspending”? Could it be, perhaps, that he is a big-mouth charlatan?
At least eleven people were killed when an Alstom TGV Duplex derailed and caught fire on Saturday 14 November during a non-passenger high-speed test run on phase two of LGV Est near Eckwersheim (Bas Rhin), about 20 km from Strasbourg. The line was scheduled to open in April 2016.
At the time of writing, the cause of the accident is unknown.
[‘Children were aboard doomed TGV test ride, French rail says‘, Laurent Geslin, AFP, 15 Nov]
Officially, 49 technicians and railwaymen were assigned to conduct a test run Saturday of the next-generation of the TGV, France’s flagship high-speed train, which was due to go into service next spring.
The accident near Strasbourg killed 11 and injured 37, of whom 12 remain in critical condition, according to local deputy prosecutor Alexandre Chevrier.
[…] Investigators were unable to say how many children were aboard. Asked about their assertion Saturday that five people were missing, Chevrier said they were still trying to piece together “how many passengers may have boarded and how.”
[…] A senior official in the Alsace region on Saturday blamed “excessive speed” for the disaster.
[Onze morts à Eckwersheim, premiers éléments d’enquête, L’Alsace, 15 Nov 2015]
Selon un premier scénario d’accident dévoilé ce dimanche soir par le parquet de Strasbourg, la motrice a «percuté» le pont [du canal de la Marne-au-Rhin] et «le train a ensuite déraillé avant de basculer sur le tallus de la ligne ferroviaire».
Un porte-parole de la SNCF a confirmé ce premier scénario, précisant que dans le choc de l’accident, le train s’était séparé en deux. «Le TGV a quitté la voie au niveau du pont et a percuté des rambardes de protection. Une partie des voitures est tombée dans le canal et l’autre dans un champ», a-t-il indiqué.
But at Eckwersheim, there was a complete break-up of the trainset. One might argue that in many circumstances, the “semi-rigid link between cars” of articulated bogies could result in reduced, rather than improved, safety. And with or without articulation, the quantum of kinetic energy in very high speed operation is bound to result in reduced accident survivability.
Britain’s HS2 trains would operate at higher speeds than those of LGV Est, so projectile debris from an accident would be even more energetic. HS2 is a deeply flawed vanity project, and there is no reason why GB trains need to operate at speeds greater than 250 km/h.
According to a building information modelling video featuring its chief engineer Andrew McNaughton, the HS2 railway is to be a ’24-hour transport system’.
But the same video says HS2 would be closed for maintenance between midnight and 05:00.
So, on that reasoning, a shop that is open to the public between 08:00 and 18:00, but cleaned and restocked overnight, is a ’24 hour retailing system’.