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Archive for February 2014

HS2 and classic capacity, part six

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Part five | Part four | Part three | Part two | Part one

The Department for Transport’s October 2013 Strategic Case for HS2 included a diagram showing ‘expert judgement’ of post-2019 capacity pressure on [some] North — South railways. (The Chiltern  and GN/GE Joint lines were not included.)

Post-2019 'capacity pressure' in Yorkshire (SDG for Department for Transport)

Post-2019 ‘capacity pressure’ in Yorkshire (SDG for Department for Transport)

As can be seen, the ‘expert judgement’ was that the Leeds to York, Leeds to Wakefield, and Sheffield to Chesterfield lines would face “High” capacity pressure, along with Leeds station.

Post-2019 'capacity pressure' in the West Midlands

For the West Midlands, SDG’s judgement was that the Birmingham — Coventry — Rugby and Birmingham — Wolverhampton lines would face High capacity pressure, along with New Street station.

How HS2 might improve capacity pressure ‘post-2019’ is hard to see, because no part of it would open before 2026, and Leeds would not be reached until 2032 or thereabouts. But even if the complete Y network were available, in the case of Leeds, HS2 captive track would only be used for southbound travel (to Meadowhall and beyond). The prospects for capacity relief on the York / Selby (Cross Gates) line would be minimal.

The Department for Transport put forward the idea of a Dore to Meadowhall ‘shuttle’ to improve local access to the South Yorkshire HS2 station, which would presumably take up (rather than free up) capacity on the Chesterfield to Sheffield line.

Another puzzle is that only one pair of rail tracks is shown between Wakefield and Leeds (two separate routes are currently available).

The West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive allowed the former Great Western route from Birmingham to Wolverhampton to be closed in 1972, effectively cutting capacity in half. Capacity shortage on the LMS Stour Valley route via Dudley Port is largely a consequence of that closure.

The prospects of HS2 providing classic capacity uplift west or east of Birmingham New Street look quite limited, and it is interesting that no straight comparisons of ‘before HS2’ and ‘after HS2’ service patterns have been published.

One left-field threat to capacity between Birmingham, Coventry and Rugby is the half-baked ‘Electric Spine‘ proposal to route freight trains via Leamington Spa and Nuneaton. Such trains would traverse two flat junctions at Coventry, blocking the main line for several minutes at a time. Unlike HS2, the Spine concept has some potential, but is largely unworkable in its present form.

Written by beleben

February 24, 2014 at 11:27 am

Posted in Centro, HS2, West Yorkshire

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HS2 and South Yorkshire, part seven

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Part six

The proposed Meadowhall high speed rail station design is unsatisfactory, according to January 2014’s Sheffield “city region” HS2 connectivity study (produced by Arup for South Yorkshire PTE).

Arup SYPTE HS2 connectivity study, Jan 2014, map

As might be expected from an infrastructure company, the study recommended extensive investments across Sheffield city region, to support access to Meadowhall HS2. As well as tram trains to Doncaster, a ‘swift Supertram Express’ transfer is “considered critical to attracting business users to the HS2 service at Sheffield Meadowhall”.

Arup made no mention of the costs, or any benefit-cost analysis, of its proposed local connectivity package. But it seems likely that the bill would be in the £1 billion to £2 billion range.

Using MVA’s forecasts, Arup estimated passengers by time of day, who would use Meadowhall HS2 (but not a scenario where Midland Main Line offered Sheffield Midland to St Pancras in about 100 minutes, well before 2033). Their journey time comparisons with classic rail look somewhat problematic, as no interchange penalty seems to be included.

Arup SYPTE HS2 connectivity study, Jan 2014, Meadowhall patronage forecast

The morning flows would be predominately outbound in nature. As can be seen, the volumes suggest that large subsidies, and empty seats, would be hallmarks of the project. And whatever David Higgins might say, there is no possibility of ‘easing pressure on the London housing market’ by having piffling numbers of commuters coming 250 km from Yorkshire, etc.

Written by beleben

February 23, 2014 at 11:29 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Close to the Marylebone

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London Reconnections has published an article about the Thatcher government’s (and British Railways Board) attempt to close the Great Central tracks into Marylebone in the 1980s. The proposal, part of a wider vision to convert railways into roads, had the backing of Lord Howell, and the geographer Peter Hall.

Now, Peter Hall is one of the proponents of the £50 billion HS2 ‘Andrew Adonis memorial railway’, which is also championed by Lord Howell’s son in law, Gideon Osborne. That would destroy the Great Central’s former trackbed in Buckinghamshire (which could otherwise be reactivated to provide better connectivity, for less money).

Written by beleben

February 21, 2014 at 10:36 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Help yourselves by stopping HS2

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Subordination to Leeds is built into HS2

Subordination to Leeds is built into HS2

Sir David Higgins, “the man who delivered the London Olympics on time and on budget“, visited Leeds with the board of HS2 Ltd and told an audience of business and civic leaders that they “must help themselves if they want to realise the benefits of high-speed rail”, the Yorkshire Post reported.

[‘Cities must work together to get benefits of high-speed rail’, Bernard Ginns, Yorkshire Post, 20 Feb 2014]

He said that Greater Manchester sees itself as a big integrated commercial centre but Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield act as totally different cities with little in common.

“No-one here behaves as one big combined conurbation that all trades off each other,” he said.

Mr Higgins also claimed that French cities like Reims or Lille had boomed because of high-speed rail, while other cities like Tours had “done absolutely nothing”.

“It is just a parkway halt with no advantage whatsoever because they have just sat back and said ‘high-speed rail is going to deliver a boom and we just need to sit and wait for it’ whereas other cities have said ‘it is coming in five or ten years’ time, we are going to have a clear business plan and get our act together’.”

What he did not mention was that unlike Tours, Reims and Lille, the West Yorkshire cities of Bradford, Halifax and Wakefield would not be served by a new high speed rail line at all.

Written by beleben

February 20, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2, Leeds

Tom leeds people astray

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Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan wants business leaders to “unite behind plans for HS2 – or get used to standing all the way to London”, Business Insider reported (19 February).

[‘Back HS2 or “stand all the way to London” – Riordan’]

“The government hasn’t made the case well enough.

“But if we don’t do anything, we will be standing all the way to London. The capacity point has to be made over and over again. The time the journey takes doesn’t matter to me.”

As might be expected, there is a massive gap between Mr Riordan’s claims, and reality. According to MVA’s Demand and Appraisal v2.2 report (written to support building HS2) average weekday rail trip demand between Leeds and London would take until 2026, to reach the level of Manchester — London demand four years ago (i.e. 2010).

Furthermore, it is possible to provide intercity service to Leeds along two separate, largely-four-tracked, main lines (Midland and East Coast), both of which have plenty of spare capacity. So the ‘capacity’ case for the Eastern leg of the Y network, is even worse than that for the Western one.

Written by beleben

February 19, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Posted in HS2, Leeds

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HS2 and Buckinghamshire

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Buckinghamshire is one of many English counties that would be despoiled and disadvantaged if the HS2 rail project went ahead. In version 2 of its Mitigation Blueprint, Buckinghamshire county council, a member of the 51m group, reiterated its opposition, but set out changes it wanted to minimise adverse impacts, in the event of HS2 construction going ahead.

With speed having recently been ‘relegated’ in the government’s rationale for building HS2, Buckinghamshire CC have included a HS2 station in the county in their list of asks. They have also requested that the scheme provide local economic opportunities (i.e., jobs).

At present, the HS2 scheme provides no benefits to the most of the areas through which it would pass. It seems reasonable for local authorities to oppose the project, while demanding worst-case mitigation. Unfortunately, the design shortcomings of the HS2 concept are so great, that stations to serve communities in Bucks and Northants would not be possible. Indeed, even without such stations, the 18-trains-per-hour service intensity proposed by HS2 Ltd looks doubtful.

Contrary to the impression given by HS2 lobbyists, most high speed lines are low-capacity, low-intensity systems. There is no example of any line operating the “18 trains per hour at 360 km/h” proposed by HS2 Ltd, anywhere in the world.

Most high speed lines are low capacity systems. Deutsche Bahn's Hannover - Wuerzburg line operates at a fraction of the frequency proposed for HS2

Most high speed lines are low capacity systems. Deutsche Bahn’s Hannover – Wuerzburg line operates at a fraction of the frequency proposed for HS2

It’s also difficult to see much upside for places like Bucks and Northants in terms of local, sustainable, or enjoyable, jobs. There are few rail industry suppliers in the English counties, and the navvies that would build HS2 would probably move to place to place as the line was being built (living in portacabin-type encampments). The job appeal of digging unnecessary holes or standing around in stiff orange trousers waiting for ready mix lorries, must be somewhat elusive.

Written by beleben

February 19, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Iced Frankfurter

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Unfortunately-timed 'HSR leaders' (Greengauge 21) tweet about Frankfurt to London high speed rail

Unfortunately-timed ‘HSR leaders’ (Greengauge 21) tweet about Frankfurt to London high speed rail

In September 2010 Spiegel Online announced Deutsche Bahn “could be on track to introduce passenger services direct from Cologne to London in time for the 2012 Olympics”. Now Deutsche Bahn has put its proposed high-speed Frankfurt to London Channel tunnel rail service on ice, Reuters reported (February 18).


Deutsche Bahn had hoped to open the route last year and said the 640 km (400 mile) journey would take five hours, but late in 2012 it put back that deadline to 2016 when its 500-million-euro (410 million pounds) order for 16 trains was delayed.

DB has given a variety of reasons for not starting services to London, but the real difficulty is low demand and high costs. Even without competition from DB in the Channel Tunnel, Eurostar has struggled to run a profitable business.

GB domestic rail franchises are low-risk, high return. The British government might hand Eurostar a lifeline by awarding the company the domestic intercity East Coast (or some other) franchise. That would enable GB taxpayers to be used to indirectly subsidise Channel Tunnel trains.

Written by beleben

February 19, 2014 at 11:25 am

Posted in High speed rail

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Spin shoveller

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In a discussion with the BBC’s Richard Westcott, the South West train company’s Tim Shoveller said that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, HS1, had ‘got through the [recent southern England] storms unscathed’. On other routes operated in Kent, there had been extensive disruption.

'Tree-free HS1'

Given the vast amounts of public cash that have been poured into HS1, it’s not particularly surprising that it hasn’t suffered the same level of disruption as other lines. Indeed, 23 km of HS1 is bored tunnels, according to Structurae. And surface sections of HS1 feature ‘managed embankments’, where vegetation is strictly controlled.

[Playing the subsidy game, ‘Trains 4 Deal’ campaign]

[HS1 domestic train operator] Southeastern is the second most highly subsidised train operating company (TOC) in the UK, costing a total subsidy of £341.8 million in 2012/13. Its overall subsidy is far in excess of any other operator serving London and the South East.

Written by beleben

February 17, 2014 at 8:29 pm

Posted in HS1, HS2

Ten miles of HS2

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Something like 10 miles of HS2 could shore up the Dawlish line properly for the next 50 years and electrify a large part of the Taunton and Exeter line to offer a faster route into London, said Adrian Sanders, the Liberal Democrat MP for Torbay (The Guardian, 15 February 2014).

The cost of the 330 mile (531 km) Y network, without the rolling stock, is £42.6 billion at 2011 prices. So ten miles costs about £1,290 million. That would pay for electrification from Newbury to Penzance, and from Swindon to Cheltenham Spa.

Written by beleben

February 17, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

HS2 load factor

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According to the February 2011 Economic Case

The Y network would deliver reduced journey times of up to an hour between some of the UK’s largest cities. This, combined with greater reliability and capacity (reducing crowding levels on long distance trains across the rail network) leads us to estimate that around 240,000 passengers per day in 2043 (or 85 million passengers per year) would be expected to use the main high speed line into and out of London

and HS2 is supposed to operate 18 trains per hour, between 6am and midnight.

The claimed quotidian one-way passenger volume is 120,000.

So the average number of passengers on a train would be something like 120,000 / (18 * 18) = 370; more than double what Virgin Trains currently achieves.

If 400-metre trains ran, the load factor would be 120,000 / (18 * 18 * 1,100) = 33%. That is disastrously low from an energy efficiency point of view, because HS2 trains would use vast amounts of electricity.

Written by beleben

February 14, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Posted in HS2

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