Archive for March 2013
The 2006 Eddington Report noted that
- 89 per cent of British transport congestion delays occurred in urban areas
- new high-speed rail networks in the UK would not significantly change the level of economic connectivity, given existing aviation and rail links.
Even if a transformation in connectivity could be achieved, the evidence is very quiet on the scale of resulting economic benefit, and in France business use of the high speed train network is low.
Faced with such arguments, supporters of HSLs point to the capacity increases such new lines would deliver in London and selected urban areas by removing some or all interurban trains from commuter and freight lines. Such benefits are likely to be both real and substantial. Crucially though, these goals could be achieved by other solutions, and perhaps at much lower cost. The range of policy measures would include fares pricing policy, signal-based methods of achieving more capacity on the existing network, and conventional solutions to capacity problems e.g. longer trains. Indeed, in keeping with a non-modal approach, the measures assessed should include improvements to other modes that support these journeys (e.g. motorway, bus, and urban access improvements).
The superior cost-effectiveness of train lengthening and signalling upgrades over new-build was also identified in a 2007 report, ‘Transport Capacity Research Paper: A comparison of the costs of different methods of increasing capacity in road & rail environments’, published by Invensys Rail Group and Credo.
Many transport studies are concerned with examining project choices through cost benefit analysis. Analysts take into account many factors in their cost benefit analysis: for example, economic, safety, accessibility or environmental factors. This is driven by the need to justify the huge cost of major transport projects and to prioritise investment. Sometimes only one feasible transport option may exist for an area – for example, in central London there is no space to build new road or over ground rail, and so metro improvements are undertaken despite the high cost.
The Eddington Report recommended that there is a need for decision making to focus more on outcomes, getting people and freight from A to B and then comparing different options, rather than on justifying individual schemes.
In this context, we seek to compare transport options on a capacity per pound spent. We believe that this method is more transparent than more complex cost/benefit analysis, and suggest that it can form a useful basis for demonstrating what the most economic method of capacity enhancement is.
In this research paper we examine over thirty published sources to compare the costs and capacity increases provided by a range of real world transport infrastructure projects. This information was also supplemented by interviews with people in government bodies, trade associations and companies within the various industries.
The information these sources provided is then analysed to compare the incremental capacity increase for every pound spent, measured consistently as [people per hour] / [£m per km].
The key findings from the analysis are as follows:
• Train lengthening and signalling upgrades offer the best economics over more infrastructure based methods e.g. widening and new build
• Re-instatement is a more cost effective way of adding capacity than new build
• Widening of existing infrastructure is the most expensive form of capacity increase, it is 3x for road infrastructure.
The rail examples show that new build and widening are of similar values, however due to the lower frequency of long distance trains, the capacity benefit isn’t great when compared to the cost
• The dense urban environment has limited options for new build capacity increase, particularly in road. New metros are the most expensive dense urban transport solution, however they also give the highest capacity by a considerable margin.
A regional railway interchange with a station where the HS2 rail route would pass under on the East Lancashire Road would get Leigh ‘on track’ and provide transport solutions and an economic boost much farther afield, reported The Bolton News (28 March 2013).
Now the Transport for Leigh group wants the community to back their plans that would put Leigh at the hub of a transport network. On Thursday afternoon the plans were revealed at Leigh Sports Village.
Transport for Leigh spokesman Ged Tyrell said: “This is a 21st century low carbon transport solution. Leigh offers a natural meeting point for HS2 and the Liverpool – Manchester line.
“With massive increased demand from businesses and commuters it’s vital to the town that we improve transport links to stop gridlock in the region. We believe rail is a critical part of the solution.”
MP Andy Burnham MP and Lord Peter Smith, Leader of Wigan Council spoke in support of the plan. The idea was also backed by St Helens MP Dave Watts, Leigh Centurions CEO Trevor Barton and applauded by Susan Williams, director of the North West Rail Campaign.
Mr Burnham said: “People in the north-west will be paying for HS2 through their taxes, getting all of the disruption but, as it stands, too few of the benefits.
“It makes no sense at all for high-speed trains to fly through the heart of the north-west without stopping, past the areas where most people live.
“This regional interchange on the Liverpool – Manchester axis makes complete transport sense and will open up HS2 to people across our region. We urge people to get behind this campaign.
Transport for Leigh has produced detailed costings, which demonstrate the the project is both achievable and affordable. Costing for the Leigh loop from the Liverpool-Manchester line and the station alongside the A580 would be £60 [million] and a further £25 [million] to create an HS2 station. Escalators would link the low level loop line station with the ground level HS2 with the A580 elevated. A car park for commuters’ vehicles would be created to the west of the station south of the A580.
On 15 Jan 2011 the Manchester Evening News reported that Mr Tyrrell had called on transport chiefs to abandon plans for a £76 million guided busway between Leigh and Salford / Manchester city centres.
Instead he has identified a site for a new train station for the town and even got experts from Stobart Rail to work out how much it would cost.
He says the total bill for linking Leigh to the national rail network would be £52 [million] – a whopping £24 [million] LESS than the planned busway.
Mr Tyrrell, who runs Tyrrell Systems in the town, said: “When I set out, it was all about finding out what the people of Leigh wanted and establishing if there was any sort of viable alternative to the busway.
“That led to the formation of the Transport for Leigh focus group and it soon became apparent through the discussions with people in the area that a heavy rail link was by the far the most favoured option.
“We are committed to finding the best way to increase the economic growth of the town and see no common sense reason why the heavy rail link proposal should not happen in place of the guided busway.”
Mr Tyrrell has identified a site in nearby Pennington for the proposed station. He says the £52 [million] valuation includes costings for things like a car park, platform structure and CCTV network, and even an £11 [million] contingency.
Coun Ian Macdonald, chair of the Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority, said: “The busway project is a transport priority approved by GMITA and the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities. Heavy rail link alternatives were reviewed at the public inquiry but were not considered to provide comparable benefits by the inspecting Officer.
The high speed / regional rail parkway favoured by Mr Tyrrell would cost a great deal more than ‘£85 million’, and would not serve Leigh town centre. Guided busways are, nearly always, a bad idea, and TfGM’s misguided busway has a problem also found in the Transport for Leigh HS2 interchange — namely, not enough users to justify the investment.
Electric car owners should be allowed to park on yellow and red lines, and park for free, the daft Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has claimed.
The Guardian, Thursday 28 March 2013
On one of the busiest days of the year for road traffic as people take to their cars for Easter breaks, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said that a ‘green badge’ akin to the blue badge scheme for disable drivers should be introduced to drive take-up of electric vehicles, seen as a key way to cut carbon emissions. Owners of such a badge would be exempt from charges in car parks and permit areas, and allowed to drive for free through congestion charging zones such as London’s and Durham’s and across toll roads such as the M6 toll or Severn bridge.
So electric cars don’t cause traffic jams or cause road wear and tear, because, um, they’re electric.
Back on planet Reality, present-day electric cars are probably more congesting than internal combustion ones. If an electric car is hooked up for hours being recharged in a city centre parking space, its temporal-spatial occupancy is going to be the equivalent of several conventional vehicles.
And what exactly is the life cycle carbon intensity of electric cars?
Obviously, electric vehicle technology is likely to improve, and there will be a need for policy changes. In the meantime, it’s unfortunate that wacko ideas, like privileged parking for electric cars, and HS2, are gaining currency at the expense of the environmental performance of the transport sector.
Anna Minton’s report ‘The local lobby and the failure of democracy’ has some observations on the Westbourne Communications Biz4HS2 campaign.
Speaking at a conference of distinguished guests in 2012 the lobbyist went on to explain other lobbying strategies for winning the case for HS2: how they create compelling stories designed to change the parameters of the debate. They didn’t want the HS2 ‘narrative’ to be about shaving minutes off journey times to Birmingham and in the process cutting through swathes of countryside. The debate they sought to create was about pitting wealthy people in the Chilterns worried about their hunting rights, against working class people in the north. The strategy was “posh people standing in the way of working class people getting jobs” the lobbyist said. The lobbyist went on to explain how they enlisted support for HS2 with a bus tour of the big northern cities, working with celebrities, local radio and high status politicians with the aim of enthusing local people to tell 1,000 stories about just how good high speed rail would be.
Also in the audience was an academic who was shocked by the “cold, militaristic approach” outlined and the use of intimidation and threats promoted by the lobbyist. “This is a debate which is tricky and nuanced. But this wasn’t open at all, it was very coldly targeted and very strategic in the way that images were put forward. That’s the way PR works but it was so calculating. I came away thinking this has implications for the way democratic debate develops in this country, particularly the element about the scaring the living daylights out of people,” the academic said.
The lobbying company leading the HS2 Campaign is Westbourne Communications and their employees James Bethell and Lucy James were described on the invite list as representing the Campaign for High Speed Rail. […]
Westbourne’s Biz4HS2 Campaign was behind the creation of an ‘All-Party Parliamentary Group for High Speed Rail’, whose press contact was Lucy James.
But outside Westminster, the Biz4HS2 operation was less successful. No ‘real people’ were on hand when the Biz4HS2 bus reached Birmingham’s Victoria Square, and nationally the only celebrity endorsement was from Pete Waterman. ‘Their lawns or our jobs’ leafleting was apparently abandoned.
The Campaign Youtube video saying “Yes to jobs, yes to high speed rail”, featured some strange ‘vox pop’ soundbites, and was narrated by someone who seemed to metamorphose from Sean Bean to John Prescott in half a minute. The narrator worked himself up into a frenzy of indignation, which ended, 32 seconds in, presumably when nurse managed to give him his injection.
Britain’s proposed High Speed 2 requires ‘some joined up thinking’, according to LeighFisher director Toby Cuthbertson. The joined up thinking seems to entail turning south central England into a British equivalent of the Randstad.
Which of Britain’s key infrastructure problems can HS2 address?
Two key problems facing the British economy relate to a shortage of housing in the South East and overcrowded transport networks – particularly on routes into London. At first glance, HS2 does not address these issues. However, it can and to an extent it does. Firstly, new capacity will be created on existing rail routes, particularly on the West Coast Main Line but also on the East Coast and Midland Main Lines (as their passengers transfer to the new route). However, there is no new station or hub in the South East of England to serve passengers either travelling North or to provide new London commuting opportunities.
Strategically, we should not think of transport in isolation, but how transport can and should serve and interact with the rest of the economy. The Institute for Public Policy Research forecasts that that Britain will be short of some 750,000 houses by 2025 (just prior to HS2 opening). Most of the shortfall lies along the route, ie in London, the South East, Yorkshire, and the West and East Midlands. Orientating new housing/town development opportunities along the route would help solve these problems and could radically improve the economics of HS2.
It will however, require joined up thinking between Government departments and political courage.
The fact is that new capacity will not be created on existing rail routes, because large numbers of their passengers could not transfer to the new route. HS2 would not provide access to and from Coventry, Stoke-on-Trent, Stockport, Wolverhampton, Peterborough, Bradford, or Chester. And it is not suitable for passengers in the South East of England outside of London, travelling North.
Improving the economics
The project’s affordability could be dramatically improved by taking advantage of gains in land values. These could be very large, with land prices for residential development in the South East fetching millions of pounds per acre against just a few thousand for arable land. In London of course the gains would be order of magnitudes greater (but there is no arable land left to take), while further north the gains will be less than the South East but still very significant.
Clearly, large scale developments and new towns would lead to significant local opposition and much of the money gained should be set aside for projects within the local communities. This would mark a significant change from the current project where for example the line traverses the Colne Valley and the Chilterns, but where residents gain nothing apart from property blight, construction disruption and a legacy of visual intrusion and noise.
The opportunity should also be taken to develop the new settlements with the specific aim of promoting sustainable living and transport, perhaps developing along the lines of recent ‘eco town’ proposals.
Promoting any public investment on the back of gains in land values is bizarre considering how the last few years have shown the outcome of building economies on property prices. Having increased land values as a public policy objective is absurd, and in the HS2 project, large towns like Nottingham and Milton Keynes were not even deemed large large enough to justify a station. So how big would a new HS2 bubbletown between Birmingham and London have to be, to justify its station?
Would new stations and towns show benefits?
Interestingly, conventional transport appraisal approaches are not well suited to pick up the benefits of these developments. For example, a new town and station between London and Birmingham could actually show a reduction in the benefits as the increase in journey times caused by the new station would significantly reduce the benefits of HS2. However, this would be reversed if the benefits of land reclassification driven by the project were taken into account. As well as improving project affordability, such schemes would also feed directly through into GDP benefits, with recent research by Cambridge University showing clear benefits to GDP from land re-classification as well as from transport improvements.
There is no public interest in reclassifying large tracts of land in central England. HS2, and property bubbles, are the economics of desperation.
The Telegraph’s transport correspondent David Millward’s strangely titled article ‘How Beeching is being reversed‘ mentioned that plans are “in place for the re-opening of the Varsity Line between Oxford and Cambridge”, but didn’t explain what the plans are.
Currently, the East West Rail consortium doesn’t have a viable plan for a route east of Bedford. In their February 2009 Discussion Paper EWR’s consultants, Steer Davies Gleave, put forward nonsensical ideas, including a convoluted rail connection to Stansted Airport.
The only rational option for Varsity reinstatement would be to rebuild to Cambridge on an alignment similar to the original route. But according to Steer Davies Gleave
Consideration was also given to a direct route from Bedford generally routeing via Sandy and across country to Cambridge. This route would require an additional 20 miles of new alignment east of Sandy. The additional cost of this would very high, more than doubling the cost and deliverability challenges of any other route. Although the direct journey time to Cambridge would be the shortest, the passenger interchange opportunities with the East Coast Main Line corridor would be significantly reduced, effecting the overall demand and viability of the business case. In addition, this route would just duplicate the existing Hitchin – Cambridge line some 8 – 10 miles to the south. This route was not pursued further as it was considered undeliverable predominantly on cost grounds
The real undeliverables are nonsensical ideas like building a railway from Luton to Stevenage, or hobbling capacity on the East Coast Main Line by running East West Rail trains between Sandy and Hitchin. Clearly, an East West rail route would need to facilitate competitive journey times between Oxford and Cambridge and provide the ability to move substantial quantities of railfreight from the Haven Ports. SDG seem to have completely failed to grasp the issues, and their cost and deliverability assessments are wrong.
According to David Begg, railways offer an hourly capacity of 9,000 passengers per hour, per metre of width. But that figure would be only be found in the top tier of urban mass transit systems, generally with large numbers of standee passengers. In general, railway utilisation is Great Britain is fairly inefficient, and capacity is much lower than portrayed by Mr Begg. With efficient operating practices, the existing West Coast, Midland, Chiltern, and East Coast Main Lines could carry far more passengers than they do now.
It might be worth considering the proposed HS2 high speed railway, which is described as a high capacity system. According to the December 2009 Technical Appendix HS2 would have a normal ‘fenced width’ of 25 metres, or 12.5 metres per track. One-way capacity would be ’18 trains per hour’, and trains would carry up to 1,100 passengers.
So its hourly track capacity would be 19,800 passengers, or 1,584 passengers per metre of width.