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Archive for September 2012

Pedestrian orientation in central Birmingham, part two

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Centro Birmingham bus information 'tombstone', September 2012

Improving wayfinding and traveller information in central Birmingham is one of the objectives of the city council and Centro ‘Vision for Movement’ project. The Urban Buildings blogpost noted that the Interconnect Birmingham component of the Vision for Movement first phase will focus on ‘improving orientation with improved street mapping to help people locate their destination and create better mental maps of the city’.

Interconnect Birmingham, a £3 Million project, it is mentioned in the Big City Plan, and also is seen in the Vision for Movement for making Birmingham a walkable city. The contract for the first phase of the work was put out to tender, which City ID won. They are experts within the field, and show that Birmingham is really looking to achieve a high quality output.

Centro bus information 'tombstone', Carrs Lane, Birmingham

The travel orientation panels look more like tombstones than totems, and I don’t think they are very good. I’d imagine that a large proportion of public transport users, and city visitors, would not be able to wayfind using them.

It would be interesting to see if any human factors research has been done on the usability of the new tombstones and bus totems, and what the design brief said. The shortcomings may not all be down to CityID.

Written by beleben

September 28, 2012 at 3:10 pm

HS2 and low carbon transport, part four

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The Campaign for Better Transport and CPRE heart Greengauge 21

According to the Environmental Change Institute of Oxford University

The implementation cost of a 55 mph [~90 km/h] motorway speed limit in Europe, including signage and enforcement, has been calculated to be around $11 (i.e. USD11) per barrel of oil saved, or around £40 per tonne of carbon saved.

In 2006, the ECI claimed an enforced 70 mph [112 km/h] speed limit on Britain’s roads could cut carbon emissions by 1 million tonnes per year by 2010. If the limit were set at 60 mph [96 km/h], the annual reduction would be around 1.94 million tonnes. But neither the Labour nor the following coalition government were interested. (In fact, Philip Hammond, coalition transport secretary for a while, seemed quite keen to raise the motorway limit to 80 mph.)

The cost per tonne of cutting carbon emissions also featured in the April 19, 2012 Washington Post Wonkblog.

The California High Speed Rail Authority claims that by 2030, if the [proposed California high speed] train ran entirely on renewable energy, then it would start reducing the state’s carbon emissions by about 5.4 million metric tons per year. That would mean the rail network would cut California’s emissions at a cost of, at the very low end, $250 per ton of carbon dioxide over the ensuing 50 years, given the system’s current price tag. (This is being extremely generous, since it ignores the energy used to build the system — by some estimates, high-speed rail would actually increase emissions in its first few decades.)

And that’s a pricey way to cut carbon. To put this in perspective, research has suggested that you could plant 100 million acres of trees and help reforest the United States for a cost of somewhere between $21 to $91 per ton of carbon dioxide. Alternatively, a study by Dan Kammen of UC Berkeley found that it would cost somewhere between $59 and $87 per ton of carbon dioxide to phase out coal power in the Western United States and replace it with solar, wind and geothermal. If reducing greenhouse gases is your primary goal, then there are a slew of more cost-effective ways to do it than building a bullet train.

Assuming the London — West Midlands phase (‘LWM’) of HS2 cost £17 billion, and Greengauge 21’s baseline claim of “600,000 tonnes of carbon saved over 60 years” were accurate

  1. a 60 mph road speed limit would produce three times as much carbon reduction in one year, than HS2 LWM would in sixty years
  2. the per-tonne cost of carbon saved from building HS2 would be £28,300.

Automotive carbon emissions, varying by speed and size of car

Written by beleben

September 28, 2012 at 12:56 pm

HS2 and low carbon transport, part three

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Part one | Part two

Greengauge 21 diagram claiming carbon reducing effects of HS2, 2026-2086

In ‘The carbon impacts of HS2‘, Jim Steer’s Greengauge 21 “developed a base scenario, consistent with Government policies and forecasts”, in which the operation of phase 1 of HS2 was estimated to reduce emissions by 1.8 million tonnes CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) over 60 years. This would ‘comfortably offset’ the approximately 1.2 MtCO2e from building the line. The report claimed that there is

[…]huge scope to influence the carbon outcome of HS2, and specifically, to ensure that it brings about a useful reduction in emissions.

Under an environmentally-responsible scenario, the operational carbon savings could increase to 3.5 MtCO2e, increasing the net saving (taking into account embedded carbon) to 2.3 MtCO2e. But in contrast, under a laissez-faire scenario, without appropriate sustainability policies, it is possible that there will be no operational carbon savings available to offset the embedded carbon.
While the first phase of HS2 between London and the West Midlands is estimated to deliver a 1.8 MtCO2e reduction in carbon emissions, this would be increased four-fold to a saving of more than seven million tonnes CO2e when the second phase of HS2 opens. The route extensions to Leeds, Manchester and Heathrow substantially increase the scope for mode shift from air and car travel.

Further, we conclude that, in the design for HS2 and for a wider HSR network, the following would maximise HS2’s sustainability:

a) Reducing the top speed of HS2 where justified, balancing energy consumption and mode shift. Reducing the top speed of HS2 from 360km/h to 300km/h could reduce energy consumption by 19%. In the early years of HS2 operation, before the electricity supply is substantially decarbonised (say, before the 2030s), the carbon impacts of HS2 would be improved by adopting this lower top operating speed. Then, as electrical power generation is more fully decarbonised and the HSR network is extended, the journey time improvements on HS2 become even more important in delivering mode shift, and so a top speed of 360 km/h is more likely to be needed and justified by the carbon savings from reduced air and private car travel;

b) Construction of city centre stations rather than parkway stations where feasible. City centre stations are estimated to be around 7% more efficient in carbon terms than parkway stations, even when only considering the direct impacts of HSR travel. The effect of local access trips to HSR stations, which can be made more readily by sustainable travel modes to city centre stations, will only increase this benefit. All HS2 stations need to be designed around high modal shares for sustainable access travel modes and supported by planning policies that deliver sustainable patterns of land use;

c) Full use of capacity freed up on the existing rail network. HS2 Ltd has adopted conservative assumptions on how much West Coast Main Line (WCML) capacity freed by HS2 is re-used for new and improved rail services. We estimate that the HS2 carbon savings could be increased by 8% by fully using spare WCML capacity for enhanced commuter or inter-regional passenger services. Even more benefits could be delivered with policies that ensure greater occupancy of these medium-distance trains. This highlights the value in ensuring that future rail franchises are set up so that they are able to unlock the spin-off benefits of HS2. However, the carbon savings from using the additional unclaimed capacity of three train paths per hour in each direction for freight are considerably larger still, adding 55% to the direct carbon savings from HS2. This is such a strong advantage that it will be worthwhile examining complementary measures to ensure that a major switch from HGV road haulage to railfreight is achieved as a consequence of HS2.

As well as the extension of HS2 further north, wider policies that would have greatest effect in terms of maximising the potential of HS2 to reduce carbon emissions include:

a) Ensuring the rate of electricity decarbonisation set out by the Committee on Climate Change is delivered. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has recommended an ambitious decarbonisation trajectory for the UK’s electricity sector which would result in the average HSR carbon emissions per passenger reducing by 92% by 2050. A slower but still relatively ambitious reduction in the carbon intensity of electricity could see the total HS2 carbon savings in the base scenario reduced by nearly one-third. A scenario in which there is a second ‘dash for gas’ and therefore slower decarbonisation would reduce the HS2 carbon benefits by two-thirds.

b) Air capacity regulation and management. HS2 will reduce the number of passengers making short-haul flights, and even the first stage of HS2 brings about a significant reduction in carbon from aviation, estimated at 2 MtCO2e over the life of the project. The question of how this result is affected by subsequent decisions on the numbers of runways and their levels of use at the congested South East England airports cannot be addressed at a national level because constraints on airport development in one country may simply move the location of airlines’ hubs to other countries. Even if there is an uptake in longer-haul flights in place of displaced short-haul services at Heathrow, the aviation sector carbon reduction benefits of HS2 might therefore be achievable, particularly with appropriate regulation and management.

c) Management and regulation of the motorway and trunk road network to reflect the external costs of driving. Policies to manage the capacity and use of the strategic road network, including through pricing mechanisms, could increase the carbon savings of HS2 and would help ensure that the benefits of mode shift to HS2 are sustained. It is not possible to optimise the carbon savings by looking at individual travel modes in isolation; management of their use needs to be considered together.

d) Transport and spatial planning policies to encourage sustainable travel choices. Ensuring that HS2 serves locations of high demand density and locations where there is high capacity public transport should be a planning aim. The accessibility boost that HSR can provide to cities is a unique quality. It can be used to magnify the carbon benefits of HSR if complementary policies on spatial development seek to foster an intensification of development in urban areas so as to reduce trip distances and the need for private car use.

Obviously, Mr Steer hasn’t got the foggiest idea what the carbon intensity of aviation, cars, electricity generation, or whatever, would be in the period 2026 to 2086; because future events such as rates of technical progress, and demand distribution for travel, are not knowable. But in showing a relatively large net reduction in emissions from classic rail carbon, Mr Steer’s diagram implies a substantial reduction in train kilometres and connectivity for non-HS2 towns like Stoke-on-Trent, Peterborough, Bolton, and Coventry.

Department for Transport, historic estimates for mode contribution to UK greenhouse gas emissions

Even though calculation of carbon emissions for past years is not an exact science, the Department for Transport climate change factsheet gives an insight into the relative importance of greenhouse gas emissions by source. For the year 2009 alone, UK domestic transport emissions were estimated by DfT at 122.2 million tonnes, and the UK total was 607.2 million tonnes.

In the improbable event that Mr Steer’s estimates were accurate, the ‘direct’ carbon reduction from HS2 over the whole period of 60 years would be ((1.8 – 1.2)/607.2)*100, i.e. 0.1% of the United Kingdom’s total emissions for the single year 2009.

The Campaign for Better Transport and CPRE heart Greengauge 21

The secondary measures mentioned in the Greengauge 21 report are not dependent on HS2 for their implementation. But, through its National Planning Policy Framework, the coalition government is moving away from the approach mentioned by Mr Steer, in favour of a plus-laissez-faire approach to land-use planning.

Written by beleben

September 27, 2012 at 10:46 am

HS2 and inter-regional travel

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In its briefing on the government’s high speed rail white paper, the pro-HS2 Campaign for Better Transport noted that rail has just 4% of the Manchester — Birmingham market. According to HS2 Ltd, high speed rail would cut the Manchester — Birmingham rail journey from 1 hour 31 minutes, to 41 minutes; and the Leeds — Birmingham rail journey, from 2 hours 1 minute, to 57 minutes.

So could HS2 transform connectivity and initiate modal shift in Britain’s regions?

Although its title referred to ‘HS2 London — West Midlands’, the April 2012 Demand and Appraisal Report produced by MVA Consultancy included usage estimates relating to the Leeds / Manchester Y network concept, including a year 2037 estimate of rail travel between some regions.

MVA Consultancy for HS2 Ltd, average weekday rail demand between selected regions in 2037

MVA’s report suggested that HS2 would produce an 18% increase in rail travel between the West Midlands and the North West, which, in absolute volume terms, is not significant. Between the West Midlands and the region of Yorkshire and the Humber, the report suggested a 94% uplift from HS2 (though starting from a much lower base). Even so, in volume terms, a 94% increase from not-very-much, is still, not-very-much.

HS2 Ltd’s official journey time comparisons nearly always cite those few places with stations actually on the Y network, rather than other origin-destination pairs (e.g. Birmingham to Liverpool, Coventry to Rochdale, Wolverhampton to Stockport, Birmingham to Hull, Nottingham to Bradford, etc).

A fundamental weakness in the HS2 concept is the limited number of access points, which increases local leg and interchange penalties. In Britain’s economic geography, a HS2-like rail scheme is very bad for connectivity, providing minimal or negative advantage for the origin-destination constellation in Yorkshire and the Humber, North West England, and the West Midlands.

Written by beleben

September 26, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Le tram-train de l’ouest lyonnais

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Lyon Gorges de Loup, prior to tram train conversion works (pic by first phase of the tram-train de l’ouest lyonnais opened on 22 September 2012. The €294 million project involves reconditioning and extension of the electrification of the RFF railways west of the city of Lyon, which run into its St-Paul terminus, near the old town. Pending commissioning of 24 Alstom Citadis Dualis tram-trains for the west Lyon lines, SNCF has been using X73500 autorails as a stopgap replacement for the venerable ‘vanille-fraise’ diesel railcars (pictured).

The project is another example of the superior quality of metropolitan public transport investment in continental Europe, compared to Great Britain. Of Birmingham’s “partner cities”, Lyon already has a rubber tyred metro and trolleybuses, Milan has an extensive underground railway, and Leipzig is constructing an S-Bahn tunnel under the city centre.

In the last couple of years, West Midlands transport authority Centro has been championing tram train interoperability, but its policy making has been riddled with inconsistencies. The single largest ouvrage d’art on Midland Metro Line One — the Queen’s Head viaduct, near Handsworth — was built expressly so that Centro trams would not need to be interoperable with Network Rail trains. And, so far as is known, Centro’s recently-ordered Urbos trams are also unsuitable for inter-running on the South Staffordshire Line.

Plan of the Lyon ouest tram-train projectAlthough Centro’s Rail Development Manager, Toby Rackliff, opined that the newly inaugurated Lyon tram-train provides ‘direct rail access to city centre streets’, that is not the case. The tram-trains are only being used on the RFF tracks from St Paul, and there is no timetable for extending the route on-street to the Part-Dieu. It’s likely that Lyon’s tram-trains are a cheaper option than standard electric multiple units, because the latter are unnecessarily large for the level of demand. In Britain, the economics are more likely to favour conventional rolling stock, except where on-street operation is an integral part of the economic case.

Lyon tram train on test, Fleurieux-sur-l'Arbresle

Written by beleben

September 25, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Bikes and metropolitan public transport (part two)

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Midland Metro ridership compared to bus and local rail

Midland Metro, which runs between Birmingham and the Black Country, is a tramway system seemingly designed to encourage the use of private cars. Fares are extremely high, services stop every few hundred yards, connectivity is poor, and cycle-enabled journeys are not supported. None of the Midland Metro stops offer secure cycle storage. No surprise, then, that ridership has stagnated at around 5 million passengers a year ever since it opened in 1999.

In April 2012, transport authority Centro signed a contract to acquire ‘up to 25’ CAF Urbos 3 tramcars to replace the Ansaldo T69s used on the Midland Metro. However, Centro has stated that it does not intend to remove the current prohibition on bicycle carriage.

The first section of Tranvía de Zaragoza, the Aragonese capital’s new tramway, opened in April 2011, and it uses Urbos 3s, which are manufactured locally. The operating company allows riders to take their bikes on the tram.

Las bicis son bienvenidas, se permite entrar con ellas al tranvía cuando el periodo de paso de unidades por paradas es mayor a cinco minutos, siempre y cuando no suponga molestias para el resto de usuarios en caso de alta ocupación.

Written by beleben

September 24, 2012 at 12:45 pm

HS2 and traffic congestion

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‘Congestion is proving costly for Birmingham businesses -– we need HS2’, according to Centro’s Go HS2 blog.

Birmingham businesses are suffering unacceptable delays and rising costs caused by congestion, according to a Chamber of Commerce survey.
Birmingham Chamber chief executive Jerry Blackett said that, although half of the businesses responding agreed regional transport infrastructure was ‘fairly good,’ something had to be done to reduce road congestion.

“It is clear from our survey that congestion is costing our businesses money and harming their reputations.

“These are difficult times and we must do all we can to remove these obstacles and ensure business in Birmingham is as competitive as it can be.

Mr Blackett is a keen supporter of HS2 and said a new high speed rail network would release capacity on existing lines for more passenger and freight services.

The reality is somewhat different.

  1. As a ‘long distance’ transport scheme, HS2 would not offer any direct decongestion benefit for local West Midlands travel. The only two points in the West Midlands connected by HS2 would be Birmingham Curzon Street, and Bickenhill.
  2. The secondary decongestion benefit (through re-use of ‘freed rail capacity’) from HS2 in the West Midlands would be minimal. The only West Midlands rail line relieved by stage one (London to West Midlands) would be the Birmingham — Coventry — Rugby section of the West Coast Main Line.

    Even there, the capacity relief offered would be limited, because of the need to retain acceptable rail journey times from the Black Country to London. HS2 would only reach the dead end station at Curzon Street and would not speed up travel between Wolverhampton, Sandwell, and the capital.

Written by beleben

September 24, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Posted in Birmingham, Centro, HS2

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