Archive for March 2011
At the Birmingham council house debate on HS2, organisations including Sustainability West Midlands, Stop HS2, and Centro, had their stands set up in the banqueting hall. At the Centro stand, I picked up a couple of leaflets, both called ‘High Speed Rail’, but with different text and reference numbers (SEP1016 and FEB1110).
Centro’s leaflet SEP1016 stated that “54,000 people a day would travel to the capital from two new stations – one by Moor Street station taking 50 minutes, and the other near Birmingham International Airport providing passengers with a 38 minute rail link.”
Birmingham’s population is about 1 million (including children and retired persons). So in effect, Centro are proposing that the equivalent of 1 in 20 of the entire population of Birmingham would be quotidian users of HS2, engaged in a 350+ km round trip commute.
Centro’s HS2 website retained the ridiculous 54,000 figure, but added further surrealism by claiming that the direction of commute would be towards Birmingham.
HS2 Ltd’s proposed ‘captive’ trains from Birmingham to London services would be 1,100 capacity, so 54,000 people represents about 49 completely-occupied trainloads. With three trains per hour, eighteen hours a day, the capacity would be 59,400. In which case, Centro’s “54,000” figure means HS2 trains would be, on average, over 90% full. This is a far higher load factor than is achieved on a high speed rail line anywhere in Europe. And of course, far higher than any railway with a tidal commuter flow. For example, the Brighton to London flow is temporally highly imbalanced, with obvious consequences for load factor.
It’s also worth comparing this load factor, with what Centro manages to achieve with its 20 km Midland Metro Line One, for Birmingham and Wolverhampton local commuters. Its load factor is about 20% (5 million passengers, about a third of what Centro stated it would carry).
‘High Speed Rail: Creating Sustainable Transport and Jobs?’ was organised by Birmingham Friends of the Earth, and Sustainability West Midlands.
The debate panel – chaired by Adrian Goldberg – included Martin Dyer and Jim Steer (in favour of HS2), and Mike Geddes and Christian Wolmar (against HS2). After the four speakers had made their presentations, questions were taken from the audience. Actually, some of the audience contributions were possibly more ‘rant’ than ‘question’, but no less interesting for that.
Councillors from the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority have written to local train operator London Midland about proposed cuts in staffing at some stations. The changes would leave more stations without a staff presence, at more times. On 2 March 2011, the Birmingham Mail reported
Bosses at London Midland plan to shut five ticket offices in the city and three more elsewhere in the West Midlands.
In Birmingham, booths at Witton, Small Heath, Jewellery Quarter, Adderley Park and Duddeston stations are set to be axed for good.
Others threatened in the region include Wythall, Lye and the Bescot Stadium.
Centro stated that it
“is urging rail passengers to oppose London Midland proposals to slash the numbers of staff at stations across the region.”
and announced that its chairman, Councillor Angus Adams, vice chairman Councillor Jon Hunt, and Opposition Group Leader Councillor John McNicholas had a written a joint letter to transport minister Theresa Villiers, saying
“the proposals would be totally unacceptable to passengers.
Councillor Adams said: ‘Their rationale for deciding changes fails to take into account the wider benefits of staff presence at stations, including the critically important role in reassuring passengers.
“We have made it clear to London Midland that were we a co-signatory to the franchise agreement the Integrated Transport Authority would not approve these changes.'”
The press release didn’t link to London Midland’s announcement on changes and consultation – which stated
“We understand that staffed stations can make people feel safer, but our ticket office staff are not best placed to combat crime. Many of our stations have CCTV and we will have help points in place at all stations, directly linked to someone who can provide reassurance or contact the emergency services. We will continue to work closely with the British Trasport Police (BTP) and monitor any changes in crime or anti-social behaviour following any changes.”(sic)
The Midland Metro tramway has no staff at any stop, but several stops have known security issues, for example, Lodge Road, Soho (Benson Road), and Winson Green (Outer Circle). Why there is a disparity in Centro’s attitude towards tram stop staffing, and railway station staffing, is unclear. Equally unclear is how the presence of a staff member would help, when many stations have longstanding design, equipment, and layout issues which prevent him or her even being able to surveil from the ticket office.
Spring Road station, showing ‘portacabin’ ticket office which affords the stationmaster no view of the station platforms (there is no closed circuit television coverage)
In July 2009, the then transport secretary, Andrew Adonis, announced the electrification of the 308 kilometre section of the Great Western Main Line from London to Swansea, along with ‘commuter’ offshoots to Bristol, Oxford, and Newbury, with preparatory work beginning “immediately”. But the scheme was put under review soon after formation of the May 2010 coalition government. The new transport secretary Philip Hammond’s statement of 25 November 2010 avoided any mention of electrification west of Didcot.
Swansea is the second largest city in Wales, with a population of over 200,000. Nevertheless, in March 2011, Mr Hammond confirmed suspicions that it was no longer part of the electrification, which he said would only extend from Paddington to Cardiff (234 kilometres). The justification offered was that electric trains on the London to Cardiff section would provide a time saving of about 20 minutes, but not much saving beyond Cardiff.
At present, the diesel London to Cardiff intercity service is generally half-hourly, with half of those trains continuing to Swansea. So, considering the 2011 London to Cardiff/Swansea passenger services as a distinct group, the Cardiff-only scheme converts 76% of route mileage, and 88% of vehicle mileage, to electric traction. However, there are other services between Swansea and Cardiff that could benefit from electrification, and it’s generally more expensive to undertake such projects separately at a later date.
Mr Hammond announced that the Hitachi Intercity Express Programme ‘Super Express’ trains would be procured in electric and electro-diesel (‘bi-mode’) versions for Great Western Main Line into south Wales. A number of Intercity 125s would continue to operate the Great Western’s line to Devon and Cornwall. The ‘bi-mode’ IEP trains would allow continuation of ‘through’ London-to-Swansea services (i.e., no need for passengers to change train), without the (small) time penalty associated with a change from electric to diesel locomotive.
Not much detail have been given as to the composition of the Hitachi Super Express fleet. The IEP programme is hardly recognisable from early 2009, when the supposedly “British led” Agility Trains consortium was named as preferred bidder by the Department for Transport – with a design that failed to meet requirements that the Department had previously deemed “essential” (e.g., weight).