die belebende Bedenkung

Archive for October 2012

Taureau absolu

with one comment

David Bull claimed that HS2 Ltd's current images for Birmingham Curzon Street HS2 did not consider the public realmAt Birmingham council’s 2012 Transport Summit, David Bull‘s presentation included HS2 Ltd’s visualisation of the proposed Curzon Street high speed station — but captioned, “current images for the [Curzon Street] HS2 terminal do not consider the public realm”.

David Bull's preferred vision of Moor Street 2026Mr Bull favoured a different vision for the Moor Street / Curzon Street area — a sort of public park, where the cars and buses that currently run along Moor Street were banished. The only vehicle in Mr Bull’s preferred visualisation was a ‘Sprint rapid transit vehicle’ (an articulated bus styled to look like a tram).

If all that wasn’t baffling enough, Mr Bull’s presentation also included a diagram showing a Midland Metro tramway branching off at the Corporation Street/Upper Bull Street intersection, and apparently heading straight through what used to be the Virgin megastore, towards the HS2 station site.

David Bull presentation of Midland Metro access to Curzon Street HS2 station

Written by beleben

October 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Posted in Birmingham, Centro

Tagged with ,

HS2 and classic service cuts

with 25 comments

HS2 Ltd, Jan 2012 appraisal update, Table 8, showing £5.1 billion of savings from reduced classic servicesIn yesterday’s Go HS2 article, rail consultant William Barter stated that ‘Service cut claims from HS2 opponents just don’t stack up‘.

What Mr Barter seems unable to accept, is that Economic Case for HS2 depends on extensive reductions in service levels on the existing rail network.

What does “extensive” mean? Well, in Table 8 of the January 2012 Updated appraisal, the present value of operating fewer classic services is £5,100 million.

Exactly what services would get cut to realise a £5.1 billion saving, has never been explained. The plan for classic-services-post-HS2 appears to vary depending on who is being asked. For example, service levels assumed in the April 2012 Demand and Appraisal Report (London – West Midlands) by MVA Consultancy are different to those in Centro’s ‘World Class Rail Network for the West Midlands’ draft.

Those service patterns also seem to be incompatible with the views of HS2 chief engineer Andrew McNaughton, and Anthony Gueterbock.

Written by beleben

October 30, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with ,

An expensive undertaking

leave a comment »

Police stop at car heading for Priory Queensway, Birmingham
For several weeks, West Midlands police have been deployed at Birmingham’s Colmore Circus, Old Square, and Moor Street, to stop cars entering the Priory Queensway. As part of the Centro and city council’s ‘Vision for Movement’, Priory Queensway has been reserved for bus and emergency vehicle use.

Police motorcyclist positioned at Old Square, to stop motorists entering Priory Queensway

At the time these pictures were taken, there were at least eight police personnel, including three motorcyclists, on the job.

Two police motorcyclists at Masshouse, tasked with stopping cars entering Priory Queensway

Written by beleben

October 29, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Cut here

with 2 comments

As part of the Midland Metro construction works in central Birmingham, trees have been cut down along the route. Transport authority Centro stated that they would be replaced on a two-for-one basis, by new saplings planted elsewhere in the city centre. At the time of writing, the location of the replacements has not been disclosed.

Destruction of trees for Midland Metro: Stephenson Place, Birmingham

Corporation Street tree destruction for Midland Metro

Destruction of trees for Midland Metro, Corporation Street, Birmingham

Tree on the future Midland Metro route in Upper Bull Street, Birmingham

Written by beleben

October 28, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Posted in Birmingham, Centro

Tagged with

Go HS2 and London to Coventry

leave a comment »

West Midlands Regional Rail Forum, 'A world class rail network for the West Midlands', Oct 2012The West Midlands Regional Rail Forum is a “body of stakeholders from throughout the West Midlands with an interest in ensuring the success of our regional rail network”, composed of ‘local transport authorities, business, the rail industry (TOCs and Network Rail), the Rail Freight Group and, Passenger Focus’.

This month, the Forum has published its draft report ‘A World Class Rail Network for the West Midlands’. According to paragraph of the report

Work by consultants CEBR, highlighted that long term growth sectors of the West Midlands economy, based on higher added value service sector activities, require a wide pool of high quality labour.

Passenger Focus, Centro, and Network Rail are among the Forum members that back high speed rail. However, on its website, CEBR described HS2 as “a triumph of PR over economics” whose sums “don’t add up”.

The Forum also presented aspirations for improved connectivity on the existing West Coast Main Line.

2.2.13 Improved Connectivity on Existing West Coast Main Line HS2 will also release capacity on the existing West Coast Main Line for additional passenger and freight services and the West Midlands Regional Rail Forum will work with Centro, the DfT and rail industry to ensure to secure the optimum benefits of this for the region, especially in terms of: enhanced cross-regional connectivity local service capacity, frequency & service patterns access to the new HS2 stations new long distance links (including direct London services) capacity for freight growth

2.2.14 This will enable strategic centres such as Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Walsall, Solihull, Sandwell and Dudley to receive new and more frequent rail services, bringing improved connectivity and increased economic output.

2.2.15 As a minimum, following the completion of HS2 Phase 1, the West Midlands Regional Rail Forum also wishes to see the retention of a fast intercity service every 30 minutes between the West Midlands and London Euston with the following calling pattern:

Shrewsbury (1 train per hour)

Telford Central (1 train per hour)


Sandwell & Dudley

Birmingham New St

Birmingham Int


Rugby (1 train per hour)

Milton Keynes

Watford Jcn (1 train per hour)

London Euston

In September 13’s article I explored Go-HS2 statements on how HS2 would ‘free up capacity’ on the West Midlands rail network for more local, regional and freight services. At present, there are three Virgin intercity trains per hour between Birmingham and Euston, via Coventry. The Regional Rail Forum’s aspiration is for two ‘fast’ London trains to continue on that route, after HS2 started up.

So as far as the West Midlands conurbation is concerned, the sum total of capacity freed up by HS2 would appear to be one fast path an hour, allowing perhaps two extra local passenger services to run between Birmingham and Coventry.

Written by beleben

October 26, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Y HS2 capacity utilisation would be inefficient

with one comment

HS2 Y network concept, 2012According to HS2 Ltd, the high speed Y network would transform capacity on Britain’s railway, with up to 18 trains per hour per direction running north of London. (However, travel volume between the capital and the three Y network provincial cities might be fairly described as moderate. The vast majority of rail journeys happen well away from HS2, on the London lines of former Eastern and Southern Regions.)

In the HS2 scheme, central Birmingham would be served by a dead-end spur from the main line, with the Y network legs to northern England diverging in open country outside the city. That configuration is inefficient, because demand for rail travel from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds is much lower than demand for travel from London to Manchester and Leeds. The result is that substantial amounts of capacity on HS2’s Birmingham spur, Manchester leg, and Leeds leg, are unusable at any time of day.

The amount of unusable capacity could be mitigated (but not eliminated), by splitting and joining half-trains at the fork point. However, that strategy would require extremely good timekeeping, especially in the Up (London) direction.

Written by beleben

October 25, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with ,

Finding different ways

leave a comment »

Earlier this year, in the run-up to the vote on an elected mayor in Birmingham, there was discussion about the city council expanding its activities, and taking more powers from central government. But reality has powerful jaws and very sharp teeth, and now the council is looking at decommissioning entire services to make £600 million of savings by 2017, reported BBC News today (23 October 2012).

Cuts of £62 [million] to the Labour-run authority’s 2012-13 budget were voted for in February with warnings that 1,100 jobs could go.

Council leader Sir Albert Bore said some services would have to be “decommissioned” completely.

Sir Albert warned the authority could face an additional £60 [million] to £70 [million] of cuts on top of the £120 [million] for 2013 – 2014, depending on reductions in direct government grants.

He blamed successive cuts in government grants for the council’s “horrendous” financial situation, which he said had not taken into account population changes, inflation and other costs.

The leader said the government had banned authorities from raising council tax by more than 1.6% without holding a referendum among voters about whether they would be prepared to pay more. He refused to rule that out as a possibility.

Sir Albert said: “This is the end of local government as we have known it.

“But this is not the end of local government completely.

“It needs to be inventive, it needs to find new ways to work with partners like public agencies, schools and the business community to find different ways to do this.”
The council said it would be holding several public meetings from next month over which services should go.

The problem with ‘consultation’ (compared with say, a referendum), is that vested interests could spin the ‘findings’ in whatever way suited their agenda. Furthermore, most citizens have no idea what individual council services cost per capita. In fact, from councillor Bore’s live webchat this evening, it appears that the authority itself doesn’t have that information, and is yet to fully identify which activities are statutory. (Rudimentary high-level comparisons of service costs have been made by local authorities for years, but nowhere near detailed enough for the purpose of managing expenditure.)

A lot of the webchat questions seem to come from staff of the council and its associated bodies, such as the Connexions careers service. Apparently, schools are choosing not to contract with Connexions to provide careers advice, but again, it’s not clear how efficient or cost-effective Connexions is, or why Birmingham council should be involved with dictating who should be providing non-statutory careers advice.

A few weeks ago, Birmingham hosted the Conservative party conference — which cost the city hundreds of thousands of pounds. The Chamberlain Files reported that councillor Bore doubted whether subsidising political conferences was cost-effective. While evidence of general economic benefit from them is very thin, it’s likely that vested interests, such as the council’s Marketing Birmingham affiliate, are pushing very hard for continued subsidy of such events.

Since relocating there in 1990, Birmingham Royal Ballet has received millions in council cash, yet it does not even perform one full free show a year in the city. Its public performance, at Artsfest, has amounted to about 15 minutes in the last two years. So Birmingham council might want to look at ensuring at least one free-to-the-public full production a year is included in future funding contracts.

Written by beleben

October 23, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Shopping on a building site

with 2 comments

BBC Midlands Today report on Birmingham bus stop resitings, 23 July 2012

In February 2005, the Birmingham Mail reported on doubts about extending the Midland Metro tramway on-street 2.8 km to Five Ways across Birmingham city centre.

Liberal Democrat transport expert Councillor Paul Tilsley insisted a proper city centre underground system was needed.

“It is the only way,” he declared last night.

“The people of this city would never stand for years of mayhem.”

The Conservative – Liberal Democrat partnership that ran Birmingham council at the time subsequently did a U-turn, agreeing that the tramway should be built, but only the 1.4 km section between Snow Hill and Stephenson Street. By Autumn 2012, the consequences of that U-turn could be seen across the city centre, with tramway works having disrupted visitors, shoppers, and workers for months.

To enable trams to run along Corporation Street and Upper Bull Street, all buses using them have had to be permanently re-routed. On 22 July 2012, BBC Midlands Today reported on the closure of bus stops, and shop owners’ fears about loss of trade.

BBC Midlands Today report on Birmingham bus stop resitings, 23 July 2012

The report featured a time-lapsed trek by reporter Bob Hockenhull across the city centre, illustrating the distance between old and new pickup points for some buses. In an attempt to reduce the confusion caused by bus stop relocation, Centro and Birmingham city council staff had been sent out into the city centre to advise the public, apparently with little success. One of the traders interviewed said that the Midland Metro construction would make retailing in the Corporation Street area like “shopping on a building site”.

On July 26, the Birmingham Mail reported that work has begun to uproot nearly 30 trees in central Birmingham to make way for the £125 million [sic] Midland Metro extension.

Transport authority Centro has agreed to pay £6,698 to compensate for the trees which are being cut along Upper Bull Street, Corporation Street, Stephenson Place, Ethel Street and Pinfold Street.

The trees are less than 20 years old and will be replaced on a two-for one basis within the city centre by Centro.

A Centro spokesman said: “These are American plane trees and of no historic merit, being less than 20 years old.

“They are unpopular with Corporation Street traders because they are too tall, block out light and detract from the shopping environment. Some were also diseased.

On 10 August, the Mail reported that Corporation Street shops had claimed trade had plunged by up to 50 per cent since bus stops were removed for Midland Metro.

Businesses have reported a dramatic drop in customers since the stops were relocated three weeks ago by Centro, to make way for the Midland Metro extension.

Kamlesh Patel, 45, manager of News Express, said: “Business has been reduced dramatically – by 50 per cent. If the council do not reduce the rates, there won’t be a single shop left on Corporation Street. ‘The work hasn’t even started yet.”

On October 18, the Birmingham Mail reported that independent traders around St Philip’s cathedral had threatened to hold a Saturday strike to show what will happen if they are forced to shut up shop. The council was now offering a “package of financial support and business advice” and pledging to cut business rates for “those badly affected”.

What a mess Birmingham’s ‘Vision for Movement’ has turned out to be. But there is a lot worse to come, if Centro’s current leaders get their way. If bigger fiascos are to be avoided, Birmingham’s urban and transport planning processes need to be overhauled urgently.

Written by beleben

October 23, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Zero newsum game

with 2 comments

Ruth Newsum of HS2 Ltd, at Kenilworth, Oct 2012On October 20th 2012, HS2 Ltd representatives attended the public Information Day meeting in Kenilworth organised by the town’s Stop HS2 Action Group. But judging from BBC Midlands Today’s coverage, it seems that they had little to offer residents in the way of hard information.

As one audience member told BBC reporter Laura May McMullan,

I applaud the fact that they’re here today, but so far as I can see, they [HS2 Ltd] have said absolutely nothing.

Speaker Ruth Newsum, from HS2 Ltd, told Ms McMullan

It’s important for us to listen to local views and concerns, particularly around mitigation, because that’s very important information for us… we can, if possible, factor it into our local design.

“Can, if possible?” The design of HS2 is being imposed by the government at the national level. The route was developed in secret, and imposed on local communities. So, what exactly is the scope for “local design”?

Alan Marshall of 'Railnews' at the Kenilworth HS2 information day, Oct 2012

Also present was Railnews writer Alan Marshall, who said:

The passenger railway this year is going to carry 1.5 billion passengers…that’s double in fifteen years. And the railway network has not grown at all.

I’m struggling to see the relevance of Mr Marshall’s comment. The vast majority of Great Britain rail passenger journeys are made on the former Southern and Eastern Regions. Inter City West Coast is only around 30 million passengers, or 2 per cent of the national rail total.

London Underground, with a shorter route length than the West Coast Main Line, carries over 1 billion passengers in a year. So, the West Coast Main Line is not particularly intensively used.

Written by beleben

October 22, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with ,

No end of shelter trouble

with 3 comments

Centro Trueform open bus shelter in Moor Street, Birmingham, 2012

Centro Trueform open bus shelter in Moor Street, Birmingham, with ‘end panels’ providing minimal weather protection for passengers

On 18 October 2012, the topic of Centro‘s bus shelters was brought up by listeners phoning Adrian Goldberg’s BBC WM local radio show. A caller named Valerie berated the new Birmingham city centre shelters‘ lack of weather protection and perch ‘seating’, which was especially unsuitable for elderly people.

Chris Perry, head of ‘integrated services’ (?) at Centro, was also a contributor to the programme. He said that £14 million was being spent on the Birmingham city centre interchange project’s “upgrading” of bus shelters and highways, and

  • “a significant amount of ergonomic design work” has been done to make sure that the new shelters worked for the whole city;
  • fully enclosed shelters didn’t work very well for people getting off a bus, and encouraged queue-jumping by people waiting to board;
  • in narrow city streets, fitting bus shelters with perches instead of seats would work better for everybody;
  • buses are very frequent, so people shouldn’t need to wait for long anyway.

Mr Perry also stated that work on the shelters had not yet been “finalised”. In some locations, 800-millimetre wide roof panels were being replaced with 1200-millimetre ones, “so that passengers will get more shelter […] There are end panels in place, and we are installing advertising panels at the back of some of the shelters as well”. At places where there are “concentrations of elderly people”, such as the markets, gull-wing style shelters would be installed, with perches on one side, and flat seating on the other.

Centro two-sided open shelter in Birmingham Priory Queensway, 2012

With bad bus shelters not restricted to Birmingham city centre, contributors described Mr Perry’s comments as “nonsense” and “flannel”. Caller ‘Les’ mentioned the poor bus shelter arrangements at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Northfield, while ‘Pete’ pointed out that overloading of bus stops encouraged queue-jumping.

In the evenings, on Sundays, and at times of traffic disruption (a regular occurrence in Birmingham), the wait for a bus can be quite long. So Mr Perry’s comments on not-having-to-wait-very-long-so-why-worry, are inappropriate, and probably not those of a regular bus user. (On a previous phone-in, he had stated that he was unaware of the long-standing problems with Centro’s real time bus information system.)

The Integrated Transport Authority should commission an independent investigation of the whole Birmingham city centre Midland Metro works and bus re-routeing programme. They should also ensure that the Passenger Transport Executive

  • releases its ergonomic or passenger research (or whatever it is called), to the public
  • explains how the bus ‘perch’ arrangement is ergonomic
  • explains how having waiting passengers face away from the street (on the far side of gull-wing dual-sided shelters) is ergonomic
  • explains how the new street furniture makes movement around the city easier
  • demonstrates how the new shelter arrangement prevents queue-jumping
  • justifies why stops on wide pavements (such as Colmore Row and Moor Street) have been fitted with such useless shelters
  • details the costs of the shelter installations, and reworkings at certain sites with gull-wings and/or 1200 millimetre roof glazing, etc.
Newly-installed Centro clutter in Birmingham Carrs Lane, 2012

The wide totem and tombstone street clutter installed by Centro in narrow Birmingham streets makes pedestrian circulation worse

Written by beleben

October 21, 2012 at 2:52 pm