A factory on rails, the first of its kind to be used on Britain’s railways, will slash years off the time it will take to electrify the Great Western main line, claimed Network Rail (25 July 2013).
[Groundbreaking factory train slashes years off electrification programme, Network Rail]
With 235 route miles to electrify from Maidenhead in the East to Swansea in the West and many thousands of trains to keep running while the work is done, we’re working with German manufacturer Windhoff to build the High Output Plant system (HOPS) train to do the job.
The 23-vehicle train, in effect several trains in one, will work its way west, building the railway electrical infrastructure as it goes.[…]
The High Output Plant system
The HOPS will leave the purpose-built depot in Swindon and split up, to head to different parts of the line at its 60mph top speed. It carries enough supplies and equipment to avoid the need to bring anything to the trackside on lorries. Staff can be picked up at stations en-route.
Operating six nights a week, the £40m HOPS will do its work after dark, with adjacent lines open for business at speed aiming to sink up to 30 piles per shift. This equates to the usual length of one stretch of conductor wire – between 1,200 and 1,500m. And there are 17,000 piles to be sunk before Swansea.
Electrifying the Great Western using the HOPS will be a much more efficient process than methods used in this country in the past, with work able to be carried out while trains are still running. The factory train will allow us to work overnight, when the railway is less busy. Without it, we’d have to work at weekends, with disruptive line closures.
We hope to have electric trains running to Swansea by 2018.
The different elements to the HOPS train are:
A piling rig (with two multi purpose vehicles with Movax vibro piling heads, to vibrate the steel piles into the soil, two pile carrying wagons, and a Fambo hydraulic percussion hammer multi purpose vehicles for tougher ground)
An excavation and concrete batching unit with an Hitachi excavator plus a Kniele concrete unit to mix concrete from onboard aggregate, cement and water tanks
A structures unit which erects the masts, portal booms and twin track cantilevers
An ancillary conductor to install the earthing wires, return wires and small parts such as registration arms and other equipment
The contact and catenary unit to string up the remaining wires under tension. Another unit installs other things such as contenary wires under low bridges, and records information such as height and stagger
Each of the above elements includes two multi purpose vehicles with full driving cabs, powered by MTU power packs, which can be driven at 60mph off-site. On site driving cabs means the train can be driven very slowly when installing contact wire.
How “high” is the output of the High Output Plant train?
There appears to be no information — but the Midland Main Line is apparently scheduled to be wired by road-railers and cherry pickers (and not with a factory train). It seems likely that BR’s flat-roofed electrification train (video below) would be much more ‘high output’ than anything run by Network Rail.
Over the last 12 months rail workers’ wages have soared by 11.6 per cent – about six times the average increase enjoyed by the bulk of employees and contract staff across the UK, reported the Daily Mail.
[Pay for rail construction workers soars a staggering 74% in last three years as demand grows for their skills, Ray Massey For Thisismoney.co.uk, 2 March 2015]
By contrast, over the same three year period, average wages in construction as a [whole has barely risen – from £582.50 in 2012 to £587.70 last year – an increase of just £5.20 or a fraction under 1 per cent (0.9 per cent rounded up). And they even fell slightly from £597.60 in 2013.
[…] Detail are revealed in a new report by the NoPalaver Group which provides accounting services to contractors.
[…] NoPalaver director Graham Jenner said: ‘This increase in wages is excellent news for workers and contractors, but there will be concern in some quarters that this could lead to the ultimate cost of HS2 spiralling up.
Rail infrastructure employment is heavily regulated, and general construction workers looking to the sector face barriers such as the need for Personal Track Safety certification. In effect, PTS functions as a form of modern-day medieval guild, but the ‘guild members’ are, for the most part, fairly low skilled.
What is odd is why most HS2 construction work sites would be classified as ‘railway’ for the purposes of employment, and health and safety. In essence, the line would be built with HGVs, and there would be no trains running until a fairly late stage in the programme schedule. A large proportion of the construction work would be low-skilled and generic (similar to building a new road or bus station, etc).
On 26 February 2015 DfT permanent secretary Philip Rutnam wrote to Patrick McLoughlin to seek a ministerial direction on the requirement to replace Pacer railbuses by 2020 (included in the Northern / TPE franchises invitation to tender).
Mr McLoughlin appeared to be quite happy to take responsibility.
It is widely understood that the HS2 economic case is based on a series of highly questionable assumptions, and has been massaged to the hilt. Alternative upgrade-based investments (such as developed variants of RP2) outperform HS2 on almost every criterion, and the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee are sceptical about HS2’s prospects of delivering value for money.
So what is curious, is Mr Rutnam’s concern about being on the hook for the value of money of Pacer replacement, but apparently not for the value for money of the (vastly larger) high speed rail expenditure.
Network Rail is inefficient and has a poor safety record, according to its chief executive, Mark Carne (George Bradshaw Address, 25 Feb 2015).
The George Bradshaw Address
25 February 2015
The George Bradshaw Address, hosted by Network Rail, the Rail Delivery Group & the Railway Industry Association and sponsored by Bechtel, is a prestigious annual lecture for senior figures from the rail industry to debate the future of the rail sector. On Wednesday 25th February Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, will be setting out his views on the challenges facing the sector and hosting the evening will be Lord Adonis.
Although slide #13 of Professor Andrew McNaughton’s February 2015 “Released Capacity” presentation was labelled “The Economic case for HS2: Assumptions Report: October 2013“, the diagrams on that slide do not appear in the Assumptions report. Furthermore, the indicative service patterns do not match (see illustration below).
HS2’s entire presentation is bogus, because the principal so-called ‘Do Minimum’ classic service patterns depicted are inferior to those which have operated on the West Coast line for the last five years. Since the Very High Frequency service started, the standard intercity service pattern between Birmingham and London has been three trains per hour, but HS2’s Do Minimum is ‘two, plus one running less than hourly’ (Figure 5-7).
The service enhancements on the Slow lines, and beyond Birmingham (Figures 6-3 and 6-6) could be implemented almost immediately. In no way are they dependent on, or a result of, capacity “released” by HS2.
On 23 February, HS2’s Rupert Walker revealed the latest tranche of design slides for Euston station at a private meeting of rail officials and Camden community representatives, wrote Tom Foot. It appears that George Osborne’s plans to create “Oligarchograd” above and around the station are in jeopardy.
[HS2 chiefs set abandon plans to demolish Euston station with move back to old scheme, Tom Foot, The Camden New Journal, 24 February, 2015]
[…] The slides show a return to the idea of wedging a shed containing six high speed rail platforms on the west side of Euston Station, which would open in 2026. Five more platforms would be built inside the current station after 2034 in a move that could extend building works in Camden into the 2040s.
This new “phase 1” of HS2 – the third different official proposal for Euston by HS2 Ltd in the last two years – would cost around £2.6 billion, officials told the meeting.
HS2 released capacity. What is it?
Where is it?
What does it mean?
Slide #13 from Andrew McNaughton’s presentation on 13 February 2015 provided a representation of peak West Coast paths in December 2014, and in “2026” (when the new high speed line is supposed to open). So, the right hand, year-2026, diagram should show the benefits of released capacity.
So which of the trains in the right hand diagram are actually running in the paths transferred to the new HS2 track?
In practice, HS2 “released capacity” means little more than “the ability to stop WCML long distance trains at Milton Keynes”.
Rail journalist Nick Kingsley has written a blogpost called “HS2: McNaughton outlines the released capacity win”, but neither he nor the Professor have explained what the released capacity actually is.
There is no justification for — or need to build — hundreds of kilometres of high speed railway, just to allow a few people to make long-distance journeys northbound from Watford or Milton Keynes.