Archive for January 2013
HS2 Ltd’s Ian Jordan has defended the choice of Toton for the company’s so-called East Midlands high speed rail hub station on BBC tv.
Mr Jordan reeled off some mumbo-jumbo about Toton HS2 providing £500 million more benefit and £190 million more revenue than a station at Derby, but of course the real reason for Toton is the massive civil engineering costs involved in getting into central Derby. Nowhere on the entire proposed HS2 network does the railway actually cross a city centre.
Over 80% of the journeys on HS2 would have London as the origin or destination, making HS2 Toton a dead duck. Upon completion of Midland Main Line electrification, fast direct journeys between Derby, Nottingham, Loughborough, Leicester and London would be available. Neither a heavy rail shuttle nor an extension of the NET tramway would overcome the advantage the Midland Main Line has. Toton HS2 is a waste of resources that would be better spent on electrification of the Erewash Valley line, a station for Ilkeston, and improved regional connections.
HS2 Ltd have released a visualisation of “blockheads” using their high speed line, which from the video, is apparently going to be single track, and with no overhead lines.
HS2 Ltd has released an animated film clip to give you a taster of a larger film in production that we hope to share with you later in the year.
The film is focussed on our early thinking around passenger experience and how people will use and experience HS2 as part of their future journeys.
On 22 November 2012 the Birmingham Post reported that wheelie bins would be coming to the streets of Birmingham, after the council secured a £29 million handout from the Government.
The wheelie bins will replace black bags for the vast majority of the 400,000 households in the city from next April following a successful bid to the Government’s £250 million weekly collection fund.
As well as guaranteeing the retention of weekly collections the council bosses believe that three wheelies for each house will help boost the city’s woeful 31 per cent recycling rates.
Residents will also benefit from a rewards scheme for recycling, based on a Nectar points system piloted in Erdington and Bournville last year and see 100,000 households with fortnightly recycling collections go weekly.
City bins chief councillor James McKay (Lab, Harborne) said: “I am thrilled that the Government has recognised the strength of our bid, and wants to work with us to bring transformational change to our waste collection services.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said the grants would guarantee weekly collections for millions of householders.
He said: “Every Englishman has a basic right to have their household rubbish taken away each and every week – it is the most visible council service people get.
“Yet under the previous administration weekly bin collections halved while their Council Tax bills doubled.
“Over six million families will breathe a sigh of relief tonight because we have put a stop to the fetid fortnightly rot and saved many weekly collections from extinction, all while increasing recycling rates by hundreds of thousands of tonnes to boot.”
The £29 million grant to Birmingham is the highest grant to any local authority and will pay for the bins, which cost about £15 each, and a new fleet of trucks to replace ageing dust carts.
The three bins will be one for general waste, one for recycling such as bottles, cans and paper, and one for garden waste. Most other West Midlands councils already use wheelie bins.
All councils given grants must guarantee weekly residual waste collection for five years.
Solihull has been awarded almost £3 million to enable it to combine a number of separate recycling bins in one collection.
The Birmingham City Council news website statement, ‘Wheeled bins – your questions answered‘ provided few answers. In its accompanying video, councillor McKay said that the council is ‘consulting’ around a 3-bin model — a bin for residual (black bag) waste, a bin for recyclables, and a bin for garden waste.
[Birmingham Newsroom, 24 Dec 2012] Birmingham City Council recently won almost £30million from the Government from a scheme designed to preserve weekly collections of what is currently “black bag” waste.
The Department for Communities and Local Government told council officers that the city’s bid – based on introudcing [sic] wheeled bins for Birmingham’s households – had excelled in all areas.
In the video [above and on the Birmingham Newsroom website], Cllr James McKay, Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart city, explains some of the key points of the bid, discusses the challenges that the city’s refuse collection service faces and addresses some concerns that have been raised by citizens.
Will the Recent DCLG announcement of funding mean we will have wheeled bins in Birmingham?
Yes. This matter was debated by the city council’s Cabinet on Monday 30th July 2012 and again on the 10th December 2012. The city council has been awarded over £29 million by Central Government to introduce a wheeled bin collection service across Birmingham.
Will the Council look at the experience of Councils who have already introduced wheeled bins?
Wheeled bins are used in over 82% of all councils in England and there is a great deal of experience and knowledge about what works and what doesn’t – Birmingham will learn from this previous experience. This isn’t a unique project and all of the major cities in England already use wheeled bins.
What size bin will I receive?
It will be essential to ensure that households receive an appropriate sized container for their needs. It is recognised that some households, for example larger households, would need larger containers. The council has not determined which size containers will be used but would look at what other local authorities do and determine how best to meet the needs of residents, and the council.
How many bins will I receive?
Up to 3 bins – one for waste, one for recycling and one for green waste (if required). We will be testing how the bins will be used in selected areas of the city. Adjustments may need to be made for individual property types and roads.
I don’t think my property is suitable for a wheeled bin
We appreciate that not all properties are suitable for a wheeled bin collection service. Following the models from other councils, these include some properties that:
Have a steep slope / many steps between the house and the street where it would be difficult to move a wheeled bin up or down
Have no access or very limited access to the rear of the property, such as in some types of terraced housing
Have no ground floor access, such as flats above shops and some maisonettes.
In these circumstances, other councils make alternative arrangements such as retaining the collection system that was previously used.
What about elderly or disabled residents how will they manage?
We recognise that some residents would find it difficult or impossible to move a wheeled bin, such as a wheelchair user, and we will make alternative arrangements either through the provision of an ‘assisted’ service or again, through providing a different type of collection service that meets the households needs.
Why are we changing black sacks if it already works well?
Whilst we appreciate your view that the current black sack system works perfectly well, independent research has shown that where a wheeled bin system has been introduced, recycling rates have increased. Birmingham needs to reduce the amount of waste that we produce and to reuse and recycle more. Furthermore the current system causes litter due to bags being ripped open by rodents, other animals and birds with the contents strewn about the street.
When will the bins be introduced?
The bid to the DCLG outlined a 2 to 3 year timetable for the full procurement and roll-out of the bins. We intend to implement a pilot in spring 2013 in two wards looking at different options. The wards to be selected will be determined shortly.
Will my collection day change?
It is possible when wheeled bins are rolled-out that collection days may change, however it is not possible at this stage to give an indication of what those changes could be. All changes to days would be kept to a minimum.
Will wheeled bins result in redundancies?
No. It is anticipated the introduction will not cause job losses.
Times are tough. Couldn’t you be spending this on something more worthwhile?
The grant funding that the city council has been successful in obtaining from the DCLG is specifically awarded to enable the city to maintain weekly collections of residual waste. This funding cannot be used for other purposes.
I don’t have a Nectar card and want to support local businesses. What use is the incentive scheme going to be for me?
A participation-based incentive scheme was recently piloted with Nectar, which was successful in improving recycling levels in the pilot areas by around 9%. The proposed roll-out of an incentivisation scheme across the whole of Birmingham will be fully considered before implementation and a range of options and service providers will be considered for the full roll-out.
I live in a Conservation Area. You simply cannot impose wheeled bins on areas that have such a rich heritage. I hope that you will exempt us from these eyesores.
Each area will be looked at individually to see whether it will be suitable for wheeled bins. The improvements to waste collection are expected to improve the tidiness of the streets in Birmingham and reduce the amount of litter which is currently attributable to the existing bagged residual and box recycling collections.
Will you be conducting a survey?
We will ensure that there is community involvement and engagement and will harness views through a wide range of organisations and forums including an on-line survey for all residents and consultation through District Committees.
Can I have a composter, rather than a green waste bin? It would save you the collection cost, and help me produce compost for my garden!
This is a good idea and will be put forward and considered as part of the implementation plan.
Who is responsible for keeping the bins clean?
The experience of other local authorities who have implemented this type of collection methodology is that residents place bagged waste into the wheeled bins, and therefore there is minimal ongoing need to clean. If cleaning is required then it is the resident’s responsibility to undertake this.
Why are you not proposing to take food waste separately?
The council is currently considering the feasibility of a separate food waste collection. In the future it may also be possible to co-collect food waste with garden waste and the 3 bin proposed would support this method of collection. This is not part of the funding received as part of the DCLG bid. A separate consultation with residents would be undertaken if this option was considered further.
Few details of Councillor McKay’s scheme are available but it seems driven by the Daily Mail agenda of (giving the appearance of) maintaining weekly refuse collections (and having people who create lots of domestic rubbish subsidised by those who don’t). The scheme doesn’t seem sustainable, and after a 5 year period, it’s highly likely weekly collections would finish.
It cannot be about improving recycling rates (how would a 3-bin model provide the required separation?), improving labour productivity (there’s no manpower reduction), or the environment. Emissions from diesel refuse trucks must be one of the largest transport contributors to bad air quality in Birmingham.
In phase one of HS2 between London and the West Midlands, the scheme promoters stressed the importance of making the line as direct as possible, to maximise the time savings. However, the Manchester leg of the proposed stage two route, announced on 28 January 2013, features a curious routeing that avoids the most affluent areas of chancellor George Osborne’s Tatton constituency.
The Daily Telegraph reported Mr Osborne’s spokeman insisting that the chancellor played no part in choosing the route.
A Department for Transport spokesman said Mr Osborne’s constituents had not been given special treatment. “The design of the route through the constituency followed the same process as it did everywhere else and it is wrong to suggest otherwise,” he said.
I don’t think Mr Osborne intervened to change the orientation of the Manchester leg, but the routeing serves as a brutal reminder that HS2 is a political project, not a transport one. The build cost of the detour has been estimated at £600 million, but there are no details of the effect on the so-called benefit cost ratio.
The detour could not be for the benefit of Liverpool or Warrington, because their trains would leave the new track near Crewe. Furthermore, the sections of track labelled ‘HSM21’, ‘HSM22’, and ‘HSM12’ on the route map would apparently carry just 3 trains per hour per direction (January 2013 service pattern) to Wigan and beyond, so the full costs of going round the bend in Cheshire should comfortably exceed £1 billion.
The nation needs more infrastructure – in particular transport infrastructure – to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population and economic recovery. We must spend the desperately limited public funds on those projects with the best return. While HS2 may score highly in terms of political and personal legacy, it will not help the tens of millions of ordinary travellers, for whom it is an irrelevance. So wrote Stephen Glaister, emeritus professor of transport and infrastructure at Imperial College London, in an article for the Guardian (28 January 2013) on Britain’s proposed HS2 Y rail network.
There was never much sense in a link just between London and Birmingham: they are too close to justify the vast cost of building through London and the home counties. This is revealed in the government’s estimate that shows a benefit of only £1.40 for every £1 spent.
That is poor compared with other ways of using the money. The benefits of the full scheme are now claimed to be of the order of 2:1. This is better but still easily beaten by other rail and road projects.
Key figures to focus on are that the capital and operating costs are estimated, as of August 2012, at £59 bn and the revenues at £33 bn. Crucially, this leaves £26 bn to be funded by the taxpayer. No amount of clever financial engineering or attempts to involve the private sector investors can escape this.
We must decide: is this £26 bn of public spending somehow going to be extra, or will it come at the expense of an alternative way of addressing the objectives? The state of public finances suggests that each £1 dedicated to HS2 is £1 not available for something else.
The initial justification for HS2 was to expand capacity, but advocates have failed to address the extent to which this is needed only at the peak. There are plenty of empty seats on the west and east coast main lines. To unquestioningly plan to meet growing peak demand can only be described as “predict and provide”. With £26 bn at stake there must be a more committed attempt to see if there are cheaper ways of dealing with a problem that affects a relatively small number of people.
The government has applied the best analysis to assess the value of “wider economic benefits” for competitiveness, labour markets and agglomeration. Adding these only raises the total benefits from £2 to about £2.5 per £1 of spending; and they are not normally counted when appraising alternative schemes.
Everything claimed beyond that is speculation. That does not make them wrong. It’s just that they are without supporting evidence and hard to balance against the indisputable costs.
Experience overseas is helpful. But the story is mixed. Where there has been development around stations it is rarely clear to what degree this has been at the expense of competing neighbourhoods. But if development is to occur the local planning regime must encourage it, rather than restrict it – and that may be a problem in the UK.
The effects on “regional development” and the “north-south divide” could go either way and one person’s assertion is as good as the next. Where is the evidence that bringing Manchester within an hour or so commuting time of London will not amplify rather than attenuate London’s gravitational pull?
A disproportionate amount of the construction spending on HS2 will be in London and the south-east because that is where the engineering is most expensive. But jobs would be created however the public money were dispensed.
We always come back to the same question: if we have £26 bn of public money to spend in the name of regional development or job creation or whatever, should we allocate it to this single, geographically specific scheme?
The nation needs more infrastructure – in particular transport infrastructure – to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population and economic recovery. We must spend the desperately limited public funds on those projects with the best return. While HS2 may score highly in terms of political and personal legacy, it will not help the tens of millions of ordinary travellers for whom it is an irrelevance.
Yesterday’s launch of the second phase of HS2 attracted the ‘usual set of anti high-speed rail campaigners and sceptics’ back to the airwaves, according to Greengauge 21. ‘Some of their comments need to be put right.’
Connecting to HS1
Let’s start with Sir Simon Jenkins who expressed his view on BBC Radio 4 at midday that HS2 fails to deliver a connection to the European high-speed rail network (it only ‘goes to Euston’). Nobody was on hand to counter this error: the first phase of HS2 is of course to be built with a connection to HS1, i.e. the channel tunnel.
This isn’t a small point, since Simon – who also opposes other large-scale infrastructure projects such as Crossrail – acknowledged that his views on HS2 might be different if there were to be included connectivity with Europe and Heathrow (which is now ‘on hold’ pending the Davies Commission).
A lesson here for DfT: the continuing absence of a coherent service plan for international services on HS2 risks losing some intellectual support (as well as real value) from the project.
The January 2013 Y network service pattern shows no trains running from HS2 to HS1. There’s no obvious way of solving the lack of path capacity on HS2, and the likely very low demand for such services. Reallocating paths from Euston to HS1 would have seriously negative effects for economic benefits, operating costs, revenue, and load factor. The same is true of paths reallocated from Euston to the Heathrow spur (now ‘on hold’).
Loadings on current rail services
Next up, there was Chris Stokes who at 5pm (BBC R4 again) trotted out the familiar argument that the West Coast wasn’t really full, because the evidence is that evening peak trains from Euston have an average load factor of only 52%. He acknowledged helpfully that of course the ‘19h00’ train – the first after the peak period ticket ban – was full. Well, we’d all agree that the current fares system is crazy and should be changed.
What was not said was that these numbers were all about the intercity services run by Virgin Trains. West Coast also supports London Midlands trains, and these carry the majority of peak period passengers and their services are 94% full today, on average across the peak.
Chris also questioned the idea that services on the West Coast would improve for intermediate locations once HS2 opened, suggesting that in the project appraisal it has been assumed that there will be £5bn savings from ‘classic line services’.
But savings in cost do not necessarily mean service cut-backs. Local passenger services don’t have the same costs per train mile as express intercity trains and additional freight services are expected to make use of some part of the capacity released too – and their costs are ignored in the project appraisal.
Then there’s the argument Chris added that in other countries that have introduced HSR the existing rail service has been withdrawn. In general, he’s right, but here in Britain we don’t have that opportunity or intention. Across Europe, there aren’t established and growing longer distance commuting markets, nor major growth areas such as Milton Keynes/South Midlands. In the British case, we need the spare capacity on the West Coast that HS2 creates to support growth in these ‘intermediate’ places.
The specification of services on the classic lines for when HS2 is opened has been under study by Network Rail and the results of their work is awaited. What is clear is that there will be as much debate about this service specification as the HS2 alignment.
HS2 would serve a very limited segment of the intercity and interregional travel market. The Y network would only link four cities directly, with service to other places relying on existing trackage (either through classic compatible trains, or change of train). Cuts to classic rail services are embedded in the HS2 economic documents, so if there are to be no cuts, the HS2 economic case needs to be updated, with the savings from not running them removed.
Regional economic benefits
Professor John Tomaney got a lot of coverage, appearing on R4’s Today programme and then on BBC’s TV news as well. His message was that he’d studied a lot of HSR systems around the world and they didn’t stimulate regional city development, but tended to strengthen the capital city instead.
It would have been better if he had concentrated on the real message which is that the evidence is not very clear either way. Taking a case like the development of the French regional city of Lyon, M Messalun’s evidence to the Transport Select Committee in 2011 revealed positive growth stimulus effects over time in both Paris and Lyon as a result of the transformed connectivity that TGV brought, with no clear ‘winner’. Against recent (and long-standing) trends of lower GVA growth at a regional level in the UK, achieving some kind of parity with London’s economic performance would have to be considered a success.
But each national HSR network has to be considered on its merits. As Greengauge 21 has shown in its evidence to the Independent Transport Commission’s inquiry into the spatial consequences of HS2, there are some basic effects that will benefit both ‘the north’ and the capital: faster journey times helping business productivity in both London and Manchester, for example. But some factors don’t operate in both directions and our work has identified two of these that are unique benefits from HS2 to ‘the north’ – they don’t apply to London.
These two unique ‘northern benefits’ are:
Connectivity to international gateways (the Channel Tunnel and Heathrow in particular; London has this connectivity advantage already)
Connectivity between the key regional cities.
Ever since the Eddington Transport Report of 2006 and the emergence of interest in agglomeration economics both of these factors are recognised as being of significance.
But the problem is that ultimately these factors will change where businesses choose to locate, and where individuals live and work, but we haven’t worked out how to take those effects into account. The only analysis that considers how the distribution of activity across Britain might change as a result of HS2 remains the work carried out by KPMG for Greengauge 21 in 2010. In the published HS2 project appraisal which follows standard DfT guidelines, land use, local population and employment levels are all assumed to be unmoved by the transformational accessibility that HS2 brings.
Of course, putting values on these effects is extremely difficult. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be considered.
If the evidence is “not very clear either way on whether HSR systems stimulate regional city development”, perhaps Greengauge 21 might like to state that in their reports (instead of presenting such benefits as clear and verified).
Evidence for agglomeration benefits from high speed rail is scant. Evidence on the Assessment of Wider Economic Impacts of High-Speed Rail for Great Britain‘ concluded that‘s ‘
even under a very optimistic scenario for the improvement in long-distance travel times and the market share of classic and high-speed rail trips, the potential order of magnitude of the agglomeration benefits is small.