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Archive for February 2014

Birmingham Curzon HS2 masterplan

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Some hours after the launch of the Curzon HS2 Masterplan at Millennium Point on the morning of 27 February 2014, Birmingham city council put the draft online (part one | part two).

Birmingham Curzon masterplan area, Feb 2014

Birmingham Curzon masterplan area, Feb 2014

Curzon HS2 Masterplan

[Birmingham city council]

The Birmingham Curzon HS2 Draft Masterplan presents the proposed HS2 railway as a once in a century opportunity to radically enhance the City’s national rail connectivity and accelerate its economic growth potential. The new line and terminus will provide a catalyst to transform areas of the City Centre and unlock major regeneration sites.

The Draft Masterplan covers over 140 ha of the Eastside and Digbeth quarters and the eastern fringe of the City Centre Core, providing a detailed framework and principles to guide development, regeneration and connectivity to ensure that the City can capitalise upon the arrival of the HS2 railway. The masterplan:

* Promotes the city’s expectation of Birmingham Curzon HS2 station as a world-class 21st century landmark building that further strengthens a positive image for Birmingham and its economic role

* Seeks to ensure the station is fully integrated into the urban fabric of the City Centre and opens up accessibility between the City Centre Core, Eastside and Digbeth

* Sets out the key requirements for the station design and proposals to ensure that high quality and efficient walking, cycling and public transport connections continue into and throughout the city centre.

The draft masterplan also promotes major regeneration and growth opportunities that can provide within the plan area:

14,000 (net) jobs
600,000 m sq new business space
2,000 new homes
£1.3 billion economic uplift

Key proposals within the draft masterplan include:

* Promoting the principle of securing world-class architecture for Birmingham Curzon HS2 Station

* Identifying an extension to the Metro to a new integrated public transport hub at New Canal Street, through Digbeth to a new park and ride facility at Adderley Street

* Key development opportunities including Martineau Square and Exchange Square, Beorma Quarter, Typhoo Wharf, Banbury Wharf, Eastside Locks, Birmingham Science Park Aston, Curzon Point and within the Fazeley area of Digbeth

* Major new areas of public realm and open space including new squares at Moor Street Queensway and Paternoster Place; Curzon Promenade, Duddeston Viaduct Skypark, Eastside Locks and opportunities along the canal and River Rea corridors.


We are keen to receive your views on the proposals. Comments can be made until 24th April 2014.

Centro diagram of Curzon masterplan area, Feb 2014

Centro diagram of Curzon masterplan area, Feb 2014

Written by beleben

February 28, 2014 at 5:49 pm

The slug from Chernobyl

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A key proposal within Birmingham city council’s draft Curzon masterplan is “Promoting the principle of securing world-class architecture for Birmingham Curzon HS2 Station”.

The slug from Chernobyl?

Mutant slug from Chernobyl: HS2 Curzon in Birmingham council’s masterplan, Feb 2014

And the council’s vision met with the approval of Birmingham Friends of the Earth’s Phil Burrows.

[‘Can BCC Stop HS2 From Choking off Digbeth?’, Phil Burrows, Birmingham Friends of the Earth, 27 February 2014 16:59]

The [Shed] station proposed [earlier] by HS2 [Ltd] is monolithic and not too dissimilar in form from an out of town Tesco’s. It is in stark contrast to the organic curves put forward by Birmingham City Council’s Curzon Street Masterplan and its affectionately named ‘shingled slug’. The Shed feels impenetrable, forgetting to compensate for closing Park St and Fazeley St, by squeezing visitors to Digbeth through Paternoster Row. On the other hand, BCC have ensured that the Slug is a gateway to Digbeth with its open gentle steps and enticing public space.

The Curzon masterplan seems to have been hurriedly put together for the MIPIM real estate exhibition in Cannes (11 – 14 March 2014). Whether “Shingled Slug” or “Chernobyl slug”, the masterplan ‘vision’ is uncosted, and completely detached from reality. For example, at present, Moor Street Queensway is a major traffic artery, especially for buses to and from the city centre. In the masterplan, those buses are magicked away, with no clue as to where they would go instead. Buses are vastly more important than trams for transport in Birmingham, and that is extremely unlikely to change.

In the Curzon masterplan, Moor Street is shown as being closed to bus traffic; so where would the buses go?

Written by beleben

February 28, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Posted in Birmingham, Centro, High speed rail, HS2

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Getting lucky in Stoke-on-Trent

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Who got lucky,  writing HS2 nonsense for Stoke-on-Trent council? Stoke-on-Trent council leader Mohammed Pervez discussing HS2 on BBC tv

Stoke on Trent council’s HS2 phase two consultation response stated that “optimising HS2 impact to create supercharged growth in a new super-economy bringing together the North West and Midlands, accelerating the rapid and radical growth of Stoke-on-Trent – the UK’s 13th largest city” could provide

• 100% growth in the city’s output – from £5 billion to £10 billion

• 50% population growth to 700,000

• 125,000 new jobs generated by HS2 – total new jobs could reach 300,000 by 2033

• a 40% increase in property values, and

• 85,000 new houses.

And by ‘joining the Great Western Main Line at Old Oak Common and routing via Airport Junction classic compatible units could run from Stoke-on-Trent to Heathrow Terminals 1_2_3 and Terminal 5, in the existing Heathrow tunnels’.

As previously mentioned, a PR company, Big Partnership, was appointed to lead Stoke-on-Trent council’s HS2 phase two submission work, which was “exempted from an open procurement”. The Beleben blog can reveal that the cost to the council of that work, including the sub consultancy of Dr Alan James, Ryder Architecture and Dr Nigel Harris for “high speed rail, master planning, and rail matters”, was £79,183 (excluding VAT).

Under an ‘existing Highway Agency agreement’, JMP consultants provided initial support to assess the proposed high speed route and options available to Stoke council in responding to the consultation. They also ‘supported the report author in relation to technical aspects of the submissions including transport connectivity; costing and rail freight’ and the fee for that was £37,000 (excluding VAT).

BRE were appointed to assess the environmental impact as part of Stoke council’s proposal. The work was exempted from an open procurement and the fee was £10,200 (excluding VAT).

Mickledore were engaged to undertake economic modelling work as part of Stoke’s proposal. The work was exempted from an open procurement. The fee was £4,900 (excluding VAT).

Dr Alan James the expert (

Written by beleben

February 28, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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The hitman versus the maglevman

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Pete 'The Hitman' Waterman at Crewe in 2012 (BBC)

Transport minister Susan Kramer and ‘HS2 Growth Taskforce’ member Pete ‘The Hitman’ Waterman were in Crewe yesterday (27 February 2014) “to find out more about how HS2 will benefit the town and the wider region”, reported.

[‘Baroness Kramer and Pete Waterman visit Crewe to find out how HS2 could benefit the town’,, 27 Feb 2014]

“[With HS2] passengers will be able to travel between London and Carlisle, Lancaster, Preston, Wigan, Warrington, and Runcorn without changing trains.”

In other words, passengers would be able to travel to those places without changing trains — just as they can do now. But finding out how HS2 would work in Crewe appears to be a less than straightforward task, as Richard Maund discovered when he attempted to get answers from Cheshire East council leader Michael Jones (Question 2, Crewe Chronicle, 29 Jan 2014).

Over the border in Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent city council does not accept that the government’s HS2 vision would “benefit the wider region”. Its rival (but equally bizarre) proposal would double the size of the city, apparently, by diverting the high speed line through a new station near Etruria.

So far as can be established, the lead design of Stoke-on-Trent council’s alternative high speed proposition was placed in the hands of a PR company. Authorship of the council’s response to the HS2 phase two consultation was effectively subcontracted to ‘maglevman’ Dr Alan James.

Written by beleben

February 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Persistent rough spellers

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Meanwhile, away from Curzon Street, work continues on Birmingham’s dire New Street Gateway project. By the look of things, the ‘Pareto Gateway Principle’ is that 80% of the wage bill, goes on paying people to stand around in Guantanamo orange.

Birmingham Gateway, 27 Feb 2014

Absolutely nothing has been done to ease the bike rack overcrowding at the station, but a new information panel has been installed.

Overcrowded bike stands at Birmingham New Street, 27 Feb 2014

The information panel must have cost quite a lot of money. Unfortunately for anyone looking to get further details from it, the project web address ‘’ was misspelt ‘’.

Misspelt web address on Birmingham Gateway infopanel, 27 Feb 2014

A short walk away, at the Stephenson Street entrance, the British Transport Police were facing their own orthographical challenges. They warned ‘persistant rough sleepers’ about how withdrawal of “implied permission to enter the station” would ‘effect’ them.

Orthographically challenged British Transport Police sign at Birmingham New Street, 27 Feb 2014

Written by beleben

February 27, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

World class severance

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Birmingham city council has launched a consultation on its new ‘Curzon HS2 Masterplan’ for the area around the proposed high speed rail terminus around Moor Street. The HS2 station is referred to as “Curzon”, rather than “Curzon Street”.

As can be seen from the visualisations, the Masterplan combines a sort of bubblewrap-gone-wrong high speed station, with extensive urban redevelopment.

Birmingham Curzon HS2 Masterplan, artist's impression, 27 Feb 2014

Birmingham Curzon HS2 Masterplan, artist’s impression, 27 Feb 2014

[Express and Star, ‘Dramatic images show new Birmingham HS2 station’, 27 Feb 2014]

Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council said: “Today we set out our vision for how Birmingham can use HS2 as a catalyst to transform a huge part of our city, bringing with it jobs and prosperity for people in the West Midlands.

“We’re not waiting around for HS2 to get built before we get started. We’re announcing our plans today, and we’re ready to start building as soon as the new railway gets the green light.

Birmingham Curzon HS2 Masterplan, artist's impression, 27 Feb 2014

Birmingham Curzon HS2 Masterplan, artist’s impression, 27 Feb 2014

Waheed Nazir, the council’s director for planning and regeneration, said “The potential of HS2 can only be realised if we build a world class station that seamlessly connects people to the rest of the city centre.” But from the Masterplan visualisation, it looks as if the planners have been unable to solve the problem of how to ‘seamlessly connect’ Curzon and New Street stations.

The visualisations also show

  • Midland Metro trams running to the HS2 station,
  • Moor Street as being more or less pedestrianised, and
  • new passageways over the existing rail tracks into Birmingham New Street.

Clearly the costs, and disruption, involved in realising the Masterplan would be enormous. The disruption to travellers using the existing bus and rail services into Birmingham city centre would be much higher than previously recorded.

Written by beleben

February 27, 2014 at 8:14 am

Eland of confusion

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According to HS2 Ltd’s official map, Crewe would be provided with a high speed station on the Y network. However, other HS2 documents say that

  • the high speed line would pass under Crewe in a tunnel,
  • there would be no HS2 station there, and
  • trains would not stop anywhere between Manchester Airport and Bickenhill (“Birmingham Interchange”).
HS2 Ltd map showing a full high speed station at Crewe

HS2 Ltd map showing a full high speed station at Crewe

Another example of HS2 Ltd staff not understanding their own scheme can be seen in the company’s map of Toton connections. There is no northbound access from Nottingham to the East Coast Main Line.

HS2 Ltd map showing northeastern classic link to 'the East Coast Main Line'

Written by beleben

February 26, 2014 at 11:37 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Denox denial

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'50 most polluted roads in the UK' report, ITV, 24 Feb 2014

London has some of the poorest air quality in Great Britain

London has the highest nitrogen dioxide levels in Europe, ITV London reported (24 Feb 2014).

London has the highest levels of NO2 of any European capital city and the UK has the highest proportion of zones breaching legal limits.

The need to denox transport in cities has been neglected, not only by Transport for London, but also authorities such as Centro, and Transport for Greater Manchester. Cancellation of the HS2 project would liberate resources to clean up public transport in the metropolitan areas. Electrification of road public transport in Birmingham has previously been discussed on the Beleben blog.

Written by beleben

February 25, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

HS2 and Buckinghamshire, part two

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Part one

Buckinghamshire Conservatives have “stolen Aylesbury Labour’s policy on HS2”, according to a press release.


[Conservative leader] Martin Tett has now co-opted the strategy proposed by Aylesbury Labour as long ago as at the 3CRadio County Council Election hustings in St Mary’s Church back in May 2013. We asked him why the County Council only appeared to have one idea on HS2, and had not positioned itself to allow the County to benefit should the line be constructed. In particular, Mr Tett was asked why the Council was not looking at;

• A Regional Hub Station on HS2 at Steeple Claydon which will connect with the reinstated East-West “Varsity Line” from Oxford to Bedford (and in future to Cambridge).

• Lobbying for the maximum number of high quality engineering jobs at the Calvert Maintenance Depot for HS2 including future-proof, high tech apprenticeships for our local young people.

• Through running to Continental destinations via the Channel Tunnel including from the Buckinghamshire Regional Transport hub to maximise economic benefits and make Bucks a natural location for new enterprises.

Aylesbury Labour seem to be unaware of a number of issues.

Firstly, the intensity of working proposed on the high speed trunk, between Old Oak and Bickenhill, would preclude any trains stopping at an intermediate station.

Secondly, HS2 Ltd’s 2011 factsheet about Calvert Maintenance Depot estimated that it would only employ 250 people in its day-to-day running. Depot jobs would not be particularly ‘high tech’.

[“HS2’s Infrastructure Maintenance Depot”, Factsheet HSRFC07]

There would be many things to look after on a high speed railway: track, sleepers, signalling equipment, train power supplies, bridges, tunnels, stations, cuttings and embankments. All would need regular maintenance so that the railway could be kept running safely and efficiently. To carry out all this work an Infrastructure Maintenance Depot would be needed, which would:

● provide a base for planning and managing all infrastructure maintenance work;

● be a central point for taking deliveries and storing all replacement parts before they were used; and

● provide sidings where maintenance trains could be stored when not in use.

Thirdly, ‘through running to Continental destinations from the Buckinghamshire Regional Transport hub’ is doubly unlikely, because of the very low demand.

Written by beleben

February 25, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

The return of bigfoot

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Euston station 1962 (Ben Brooksbank), Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license 2.0

Euston station, 1962 (Ben Brooksbank)

The original plans for the HS2 rail project included a complete rebuild of London’s Euston station on a larger footprint. On 15 March 2012 HS2 Ltd’s chief engineer, Andrew McNaughton, said that the new Euston, which would include housing as well as commercial and retail developments, would be the size of 17 Emirates’ football stadiums.

However, on 7 January 2012, the Beleben blog had stated that the cost of rebuilding Euston had been “vastly underestimated“. Lo and behold, on 19 April 2013, the BBC reported that HS2 Ltd had abandoned the proposal to completely rebuild Euston. Instead, the company proposed to build a lower cost annexe for HS2 services, on the west side of the existing station. The revised proposal, which still involved substantial disruption and landtake, was derided as “a shed being bolted on to an existing lean-to” by Camden council leader Sarah Hayward.

The de-scope at Euston was not enough to stop the estimated cost of HS2 reaching £50 billion (at 2011 prices) in June 2013. Following his appointment as the new chair of HS2 Ltd, David Higgins was tasked with “reporting on how to reduce the £42.6 billion cost of the scheme” (the £42.6 billion figure excludes rolling stock).

However, on 21 February 2014, chancellor George Osborne told the Evening Standard that “maybe we should go for a really big re-development of Euston”.

[‘George Osborne paves way for rebuilding of Euston Station for HS2 arrival’, Evening Standard, 21 Feb 2014]

“There is a really big opportunity for jobs and for housing in the area. Let’s face it — Euston is not one of the prettiest of the London stations. It was last redeveloped in the middle part of the last century.”

Obviously, the profits for construction and real estate companies from a land-grab at Euston could be massive, but they are incompatible with the objective of reducing the cost of HS2. A ’17 Emirates’ development would push the cost of HS2 still higher, and also expose the shortcomings of metropolitan transport in North London. An intensive ‘rabbit hutch’ redevelopment of Euston would increase local transport demand, doubtless triggering calls for billions of pounds of additional infrastructure, such as Crossrail 2.

Written by beleben

February 24, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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