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Archive for August 2012

Remote humiliation

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The Midland Metro has become “the first tram system in the UK to win a prestigious award for passenger safety and crime reduction”, according to the Centro press release ‘Metro system first in UK to win safety award‘ dated 29 August 2012.

Judges from the Secured by Design organisation and the Association of Chief Police Officers have given the coveted Safer Tram Stop Award to all 23 stops on the system, which is owned by transport authority Centro and operated by National Express.

The initiative rewards operators who reduce crime and anti-social behaviour at tram stops. It also advises operators, designers and architects on how to develop better and safer environments.

Assessors for the award, a joint scheme between Secured by Design and British Transport Police, travelled the line between Birmingham and Wolverhampton inspecting facilities at the stops.

They also interviewed passengers, asking questions such as how safe they felt using the Metro and what they felt could be done to improve it.

The award follows a number of initiatives by the Safer Travel Partnership, which involves Centro, West Midlands Police, British Transport Police and National Express, to deter crime and anti-social behaviour on the system.
Offenders have also played a role through the Community Payback project by cutting back foliage to improve visibility and by cleaning and painting stops. The scheme has involved the Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Birmingham Community Payback Units as part of the Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust.

The Secured by Design website gives the following information about it.

ACPO Secured by Design
Established in 1989, Secured by Design (SBD) is owned by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and is the corporate title for a group of national police projects focusing on the design and security for new & refurbished homes, commercial premises and car parks as well as the acknowledgement of quality security products and crime prevention projects.

Secured by Design Membership
The company operates a licensing scheme and includes member companies who are entitled to use the Secured by Design logo and promote the term ‘Police Preferred Specification’ on products which have passed the tests specified by ACPO Secured by Design.

Conspicuous by their absence from Centro’s press release are any hard facts about the number of crimes on the Midland Metro over time, by type and location. The award just seems to be an ACPO whizz to raise money, but again, there is no information about how much the “assessment” cost.

A feature of the offender work scheme used by Centro is that participants have to wear jackets with ‘Community Payback’ ‘COMMUNITY PAYBACK’ written on them, presumably for humiliation purposes. But although passengers waiting for trams can identify workers as offenders, the photos used to promote the scheme don’t show their faces. So it seems humiliation in person is fine, but remote humiliation is a step too far.

Written by beleben

August 31, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Gloom unit scrapper

with one comment

The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) is unhappy with the Department for Transport’s May 2012 draft WebTAG Unit on smarter choices, feeling that it is too gloomy about their potential.

Smarter Choices initiatives, which combine a range of different measures into a concerted plan to promote and improve facilities for sustainable travel, are now a well-established way of cutting traffic and getting people on more buses, trains, bikes and walks. The Sustainable Travel Towns programme from 2004 to 2009 proved that for a relatively small cost, car trips can be cut by 10%, and many similar recent initiatives – from simple travel plans to car clubs, cycle lanes and interactive bus apps – have also helped to increase sustainable travel in towns and cities around the UK.

Despite this, when the DfT published a new draft WebTAG unit late last year containing guidance for the appraisal of Smarter Choices, the text was very pessimistic about the possible effects of these programmes, suggesting wrongly that there was a lack of evidence and failing to emphasise the ‘package effect’ of implementing a range of measures all at once.

To help improve the draft unit, Campaign for Better Transport helped to arrange a meeting between DfT officials and a group of experts in the field of Smarter Choices and, afterwards, the group submitted some suggested amendments.

Because of this, we were all very disappointed when the Department’s new draft, published this May, only contained a small number of changes and still maintained a rather gloomy view of the benefits.

CBT would like DfT’s version to be scrapped in favour of something more favourable to smarter choices. It has been working on its own alternative draft.

If you work for a local authority, a school, a workplace or group of workplaces, or any other body that’s implemented travel planning, information, new services or infrastructure projects for sustainable travel – and if you have evidence for how well it all worked – we want to hear from you over the next three months.

Similarly, if you’re a transport planner or consultant and have new data or new methods you can share with us to help improve the appraisal process, get in touch.

But is fishing for evidence to support a preconceived line of thinking, the right way to go about planning public transport? I don’t think so.

Written by beleben

August 30, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Jetting from Heathrow with HS2

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The uncorrected transcript of House of Commons transport committee evidence, taken in public on 13 September 2011, included some remarks on the benefits of HS2 from Philip Hammond, transport secretary at the time.

Q553 Julie Hilling: One of the criticisms that people are making is that this is just going to be a rich person’s toy and people of low or moderate means will never be able to travel on this. Can you reassure people that it is going to be a railway for everybody and what will happen about regulating fare prices, etc.?

Mr Hammond: Uncomfortable fact perhaps No. 1 is that the railway is already relatively a rich man’s toy – the whole railway. People who use the railway, on average, have significantly higher incomes than the population as a whole. That is a simple fact[…]

There is another point here which I think we have to be absolutely clear about. If you are working in a factory in Manchester you might never get on HS2, but you will certainly be benefiting from it if the salesman and sales director of your company is routinely hopping on it to go and meet customers, to jet around the world from Heathrow in a way that brings in orders that keep you employed. So the benefits of greater connectivity, the benefits of bringing businesses closer to their markets, the benefits from released freight capacity and moving goods efficiently around the country, do not only accrue to the people who will actually use the railway. They accrue to some people who will never even get on the railway. They certainly accrue to people who will use services on the West Coast and East Coast Main Lines that would not have been able to be provided if we had not been able to move the long distance city to city traffic on to a high speed railway. It is a complicated model and the ripple effects will spread across the whole of the economy in ways that it would be foolish to even try and pretend we can wholly predict and quantify at this stage.

Because journeys from provincial England (or Scotland) to/from destinations such as China, the United States, Japan, and India, are dominated by the long in-flight component, speeding up the rail link at the British end — even with a direct track into Heathrow — by an hour or so (at best), is not going to make much difference.

For example, the direct air journey from Heathrow to Beijing Airport is 10 hours, and getting into the city from there takes at least another 20 minutes. Taking account of baggage recovery, passport/customs, interchange time, etc, a Leeds — Heathrow — Beijing journey that involves HS2, is not going to be noticeably shorter than today.

If a Heathrow access journey does not start/finish in central Birmingham, Leeds, or Manchester, it’s likely that a better connection could be devised using classic rail. In any event, it would make more sense for international journeys from Northern and Midland cities to employ a Northern airport.

In the Y network concept, the new-build track would stop in only three provincial city centres:

* one city on the East Coast Main Line, i.e. Leeds,

* two cities on the West Coast Main Line, i.e. Birmingham and Manchester.

With the Y network in place, the following journeys would all require continued use of the existing railway. Which of them would be ‘sped up’ by HS2?

  • Sheffield — Northampton
  • Peterborough — Leeds
  • London — Wakefield
  • London — Bradford
  • London — Stockport
  • Watford — Manchester
  • Milton Keynes — Bolton
  • Doncaster — London
  • Sheffield — Nottingham
  • Chester — Milton Keynes
  • Wolverhampton — London
  • Coventry — London
  • Stoke-on-Trent — London
  • Stoke-on-Trent — Watford
  • Halifax — Coventry
  • Nottingham — Huddersfield
  • Bristol — Derby

Britain’s economic geography means that Adonis/Steer pattern high speed rail cannot speed up most journeys.

Written by beleben

August 29, 2012 at 8:13 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with

Designer non-shelters

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Pathetic Birmingham bus shelter replacement

The Birmingham Mail of 17 August had a letter about West Midlands transport authority Centro’s latest botch, the introduction of bus non-shelters in Birmingham city centre.

I am trying not to leap in with negative comments about the new bus routes before they have settled down but what I am really annoyed about is the lack of good quality and effective bus shelters.

I refer specifically to the new 50 and 35 stops now from outside Selfridges. They really are pathetic.

This is one of the busiest bus routes with huge numbers of passengers waiting. Previously, we had the very sensible bus shelters which held lots of people.

– Linda Gresham, Kings Heath

Written by beleben

August 28, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Birmingham, Centro

Tagged with ,

A ‘technically incorrect’ update

with 2 comments

In my previous blogpost, I noted that Centro’s Alex Burrows had claimed that HS2 phases 1 and 2

have a CR of 2.5 before you factor in much wider real economy benefits

but that did not match the claimed benefit-cost ratio in HS2 Ltd’s January 2012 Economic Case update.

Extract from Alex Burrows' blogpost, "have the anti HS2 groups finally hit the buffers?", 23 Aug 2012

Mr Burrows subsequently updated his blogpost, with a link to HS2’s Ltd August 2012 Updated Economic Case.[Note 1]

Alex's little BCR helpa (Aug 2012)

Which turned out to be helpful, but also rather disappointing. Anyway, as can be seen from Table 1 of the August 2012 update (below), HS2 Ltd’s assessment of the Y network benefit-cost ratio is now 1.9 before wider economic impacts, and 2.5 after they are included. I won’t bother to discuss stage one (LWM), because its numbers are lower still.

HS2 Ltd, another update to the Y network benefit cost ratio, Aug 2012

So in the August 2012 update, the Y network BCR is not 2.5 before “much wider real economy benefits” are included. Quod erat demonstrandum, as they say.

On a more serious note, HS2 Ltd’s BCR updating process remains silent on details such as

* the number and type of trains that would run on the West Coast Main Line following startup of HS2;

* the amount of operating subsidy required for HS2,

* the amount of operating subsidy required for the West Coast Main Line following loss of varying amounts of intercity patronage to HS2;

* demand analysis of the effects of alternative premium fare structures on HS2 (nearly all high speed lines in the world, including HS1, implement a premium fare structure);

* sensitivity of traffic volume to possible continued intercity operations on the WCML;

* economic quantification of disruption arising from construction (e.g. on the borough of Camden, people travelling from Euston, etc)

* credibility of construction cost estimates (e.g. for rebuilding Euston station).

And of course, the August update provides no insight as to how the Y network legs would be routed, or where the northern stations would be.

Note 1. The August BCR update “incorporated the economic forecasts published by the Office for Budgetary [sic] Responsibility in March 2012”. According to the Guardian (8 August 2012) the Bank of England “cut its growth forecast for 2012 from the 1.25% pencilled in three months ago and believes the bounce-back next year will be weaker than previously anticipated”.

Written by beleben

August 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Centro, High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with

Technically incorrect

with one comment

HS2 phases 1 and 2 have a benefit cost ratio of 2.5 without including wider economic impacts, and “can compete with and beat the new Virgin flights between Manchester and Heathrow”, according to Centro’s head of ‘strategy’ Alex Burrows.

the intransigent mantra – no business case (technically incorrect, phases 1 and 2 have a CR of 2.5 before you factor in much wider real economy benefits), no environmental case (well, HS2 can compete with and beat the new Virgin flights between Manchester and Heathrow for starters…), no money to pay for it (the equivalent annual budget for building HS2 is currently being spent on building crossrail) – has never really been developed further as it exposes the premises they have based it on to be ultimately flawed. There is plenty of information available if you check out the go-hs2 website and various others as to why hs2 is so desperately needed for rail capacity for intercity, local/regional and freight services that the opposition case cannot answer whatsoever.

But phases 1 and 2 do not have a benefit cost ratio of 2.5, even according to HS2 Ltd’s January 2012 Economic Case update.

2. Conclusions on value for money
[2.1] The headline findings from our value for money scrutiny of HS2 are that phase 1 (London to West Midlands) lies towards the lower end of the medium value for money category.

2.2 Until important choices regarding the route and station locations for phase 2 (West Midlands to Leeds and Manchester) are made it is not possible to provide a definitive value for money assessment for the full Y network. Further details of the second phase of the scheme, including a recommended route, will be provided by HS2 Ltd in March 2012.

[2.3] For London to West Midlands HS2 Ltd estimate the benefit cost ratio (BCR) to be 1.4. This takes into account those impacts where there is a firm evidence base to support their conversion into monetary units. The Department then takes into account additional impacts that can be monetised, but where the evidence base is less certain i.e. wider economic impacts and landscape.

[2.4] Including the additional effects of wider economic impacts (+£4.1 bn) and landscape (-£1.0 bn) produces an adjusted BCR of 1.6. Including the impact of recent updates to the Office of Budget Responsibility’s economic outlook is expected to reduce the BCR by around 0.1. Including this impact moves the adjusted BCR to the boundary between medium and low value for money.

[2.5] We judge that while some of the non-monetised impacts would place downward pressure on value for money e.g. heritage and biodiversity, others would contribute to improving value for money e.g. improvements to accessibility and to station facilities at Euston. However, we cannot say whether taken together the net impact would be sufficient to move the scheme into the low value for money category, although there is a risk that this could be the case.

[2.6] For the proposed extensions to Leeds and Manchester, key route choices are yet to be made. As such HS2 Ltd currently estimates the BCR to be 1.6 to 1.9. The upper end of this range represents an assessment based on city-centre station locations with good links to other transport hubs. The low end of this range represents a conservative estimate as it assumes all stations are outside city centres and offer poor connectivity to the existing rail network.

[2.7] Given that a route for the Y network beyond the West Midlands has not yet been proposed or decided, it is not possible to evaluate a number of impacts of the scheme e.g. townscape, heritage, biodiversity, noise etc. Adding HS2 Ltd estimates of Wider Economic Impacts for the Y network produces a BCR range of 1.8 to 2.5, although this omits a wide range of effects that will be captured in the value for money assessment.

And HS2 cannot “compete with and beat” the new Virgin flights between Manchester and Heathrow, because HS2 doesn’t exist. The first stage would not open until 2026. In the meantime, the centre-to-centre journey time by train is already quicker than by air. So the existence of flights from Manchester to London is evidence of commercial viability being determined by other factors, such as the fares charged.

According to the 2007 Booz report there was no emissions case for building a high speed railway between Manchester and London, because of embedded carbon. But even if embedded carbon from building a new line were zero, the traction carbon from Y network trains operating at 330+ km/h is unsustainable. Even if only half-trains (200 metres long) were operated, how could a satisfactory passenger volume could be achieved for services that connected no towns other than Manchester and London, every 20 minutes? And some form of classic fast service would have to operate as well, unless places like Stoke-on-Trent were reduced to having just stopping trains.

The diversion of funding into HS2 is particularly harmful for rail development in the north of England. For example, in Network Rail’s Control Period 5 (2014 – 2019) there is no funding for electrification to Hull, Blackburn, Lincoln, Rochdale, Halifax, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Rotherham, Harrogate, and Barnsley.

In southern England, there is no money allocated for rebuilding the Varsity Line between Cambridge and Bedford, electrification of Gospel Oak to Barking, or reinstatement of Uckfield — Lewes.

For Wales, there is no funding for electrification to Holyhead or Wrexham, and no trackwork programmed to improve linkages to Manchester and Liverpool.

In the Midlands, there is no money to re-open and develop the South Staffordshire Line, modernise the West Midlands suburban rail network (Birmingham Crossrail), or create an East Midlands regional tram-train (‘Big NET’).

Because of growing congestion on London’s Underground, there is a need to develop new high capacity transport. However, the HS2 elephant means there is no money available to develop tramway services in west London, along the Chelsea – Hackney axis, or between Camden and Peckham.

Written by beleben

August 23, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Posted in Centro, High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with

Disconnected city

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The disconnected city:  Birmingham city centre map, Centro, 2012

According to Centro’s project website, the ‘Connected City’ scheme lays down a shared vision designed to benefit all users of Birmingham city centre.

For the first time the city’s business community and its public sector have come together to support a Vision for Movement designed to benefit all users of the city centre and secure Birmingham’s future prosperity. This vision is the result of that close collaboration and lays down a shared Vision designed to benefit the city centre in the years ahead.

[…]Our transport vision is based on a well connected city, an efficient city and a walkable city. By linking the city centre together we will be making it easier for everyone to use – pedestrians, those travelling by public transport, cyclists and those using cars.
A world class city centre and transport system will be created for residents, businesses and visitors. Improvements to the movement network and transport information will help connect people with places.

Different transport projects have been co-ordinated to achieve common goals and to maximise user benefits including:

* A highly accessible place and movement system that is inclusive for people with mobility and sensory impairments

* Designated transport interchanges for more intuitive use, revealing travel options

* Higher frequencies and improved vehicles

* Improved stations, stops and facilities

* New information products and services

* Extended use of real time information and the latest technology

Who the Vision was shared with is unknown, as the reconfiguration of roads and bus routes was done without any public consultation or input. According to Birmingham city council, the design work was done by Amey, the same concern that holds the city’s 25-year highway maintenance PFI contract. Apparently even Centro’s head of ‘strategy’ Alex Burrows seemed to think it was more of a nightmare, than a vision.

Centro 'strategist' Alex Burrows: interchanging is a nightmare

Bus services have been grouped into five impressive-sounding ‘interchanges’ serving different parts of the city, but these turned out to be just names applied to groups of on-street bus stops (with no seating and minimal protection against the rain).

Birmingham 'Connected City', so-called interchanges, 2012

There doesn’t appear to be much functional real-time information, either. All in all, I’d be surprised if any of the Connected City design staff ever used Birmingham public transport. On the evidence available, there must have been some involvement of ‘Telly Savalas designers’, who have never set foot in Birmingham.

Centro's explanation of Connected City claimed that public comments were welcome, but the public have been presented with a fait accompli

Looking at Centro’s map of routes updated following July’s bus reorganisation, it’s clear that Birmingham’s public transport is anything but ‘well connected’. Lack of connectivity and through routes makes for slow and inconvenient travel between points on opposing sides of the city centre (e.g. from the Jewellery Quarter to Bordesley). Centro’s intention is to revive a version of its failed Stationlink bus to link the various ‘interchanges’, so that a 4 km journey might entail changing bus twice.

Birmingham city centre most hold some kind of world record for the number of times the streets have been dug up. A Central News report from February 2000 showed similar disruption and confusion affecting the same streets as those being dug up in 2012.

One of the areas most badly affected by incompetent planners was Moor Street, where a bus mall was built and demolished, before it had even fully opened.

Written by beleben

August 22, 2012 at 10:51 am