Archive for April 2014
BBC Television’s “popular science” show Bang Goes The Theory (first broadcast 28 April 2014) stated that on GB National Rail,
1.5 billion people a year use 7.2 million train services over 32 thousand kilometres of track
passenger numbers are expected to double in the next thirty years.
But, according to the British Chambers of Commerce, Britain’s railways are full already.
[Extract from the open letter “Be bold on HS2 and radical infrastructure, BCC tells PM – The BCC publishes an open letter to the Prime Minister urging him not to abandon the HS2 project”, BCC]
Future business success depends on infrastructure networks that meet demand. Rail is no exception. The UK rail network must have the capacity to meet rocketing business demand – for long-distance services, for commuter rail services, and for the transport of freight.
Detailed research makes it clear that the three North-South main lines will all reach their effective capacity in the next fifteen years. Piecemeal, sticking-plaster upgrades to existing routes will not solve Britain’s looming rail capacity crunch.
The HS2 Y network — running between London, Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester — would add about 530 route-kilometres to the railway, so 1,100 track-kilometres or thereabouts. In 2011, HS2 Ltd forecast that 136,000 passengers would use the line between ‘Birmingham Interchange’ (i.e. Middle Bickenhill) and Old Oak Common each day (so ~50,000,000 per annum), with about two thirds of high speed passengers having previously travelled by classic rail.
If 80% of journeys had London as their origin or destination (as stated by HS2 Ltd), one could estimate the total number of annual journeys [London plus non-London] as ((100/80) * 50,000,000) = 62.5 million. If (as stated by HS2 Ltd), around two thirds of HS journeys were shift_from_classic_rail, the net annual passenger uplift from HS2 would be (62,500,000 – (62,500,000 * 0.67)), i.e. 20,625,000.
So to summarise:
- if National Rail passenger volume is “predicted to double” from 1,500,000,000 to 3,000,000,000 in thirty years (as stated in Bang Goes The Theory)
- HS2’s net annual passenger uplift in 2043 were 20,625,000
HS2’s direct contribution to meeting the oft-mentioned capacity crunch is
(20,625,000) / (1,500,000,000)
Labour is backing the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill because it would cut congestion on the railways, better connect our major cities and help deliver a one-nation economic recovery, wrote Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh before the vote on 28 April.
[‘Costly but worth it: why Labour backs the HS2 rail-link
Advanced engineering skills must become a national priority’, Mary Creagh, (The Independent on Sunday, 27 April 2014)]
High Speed 2 (HS2) will improve connections between the North and South and between northern cities. It can be a key element in Ed Miliband’s Agenda 2030 plan to create an economic recovery that reaches every part of our economy. Freeing up capacity on the congested West Coast Main Line will allow more frequent commuter and regional services and more rail freight.
Thousands of commuters are already standing on rush-hour trains into Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Euston. Major infrastructure takes years to plan and construct. We must act now to deliver the infrastructure needed to deal with the looming capacity crunch on our railways.
There can be no blank cheque. Ed Balls was right to raise Labour’s concerns after four years of delays and mismanagement which have caused costs to rise. Labour will press the issue of value for money as the Bill proceeds.
How the cause of “advanced engineering skills” would be served by HS2, is as unfathomable as all the other clichés favoured by Ms Creagh. There’s nothing particularly “advanced” about operating a JCB, or pouring concrete.
On rail projects such as HS1 and Crossrail, the high value and technology-intensive engineering was almost entirely provided by overseas companies. For example, the Crossrail tunnel boring machines were built in Germany (and there is no longer a GB capability to produce such equipment).
Network Rail’s “high output” Great Western electrification train was also built in Germany. Domestic capability to design and build intercity railcars faded away in the late 1980s, as BR’s Mk4 carriages were equipped with Swiss bogies. By the time of the order for Fiat Pendolinos, Birmingham’s Metro Cammell plant had been reduced to an assembly-only operation.
The culture at London’s Crossrail 1 worksites is “almost entirely counterproductive” to delivering the project safely, on time and on budget, according to a damning internal analysis seen by the Observer.
[“Crossrail managers accused of ‘culture of spying and fear'”, Daniel Boffey, The Observer, 26 April 2014]
[…] Leaked documents reveal a crisis in the £15bn Crossrail project, Europe’s largest construction site, with industrial relations close to collapse and workers too scared to report injuries for fear of being sacked. Crossrail’s managers are accused of photographing or videoing contractors’ staff who may be in danger and emailing it to others “with unmasked glee”.
[…] The report was compiled by independent consultants MindSafety, on the direction of Balfour Beatty, BeMo Tunnelling, Morgan Sindall and Vinci Construction, the companies behind BBMV, the joint venture developing two parts of the Crossrail project on sites at Whitechapel and Finsbury Circus.
The latest Office of Rail Regulation (ORR)’s ‘Regional Usage Profiles’ statistical release (24 April 2014) showed that in 2012-13 the total number of ‘National Rail’ passenger journeys across England, Scotland and Wales increased by 3.3% to 1.27 billion. The lower journey numbers in the Regional Usage metric arise from the origin and destination named on each ticket being recorded as one journey instance and so do not take into account any changes of train (whereas Passenger Rail Usage statistics are based on counting each leg of the journey).
As can be seen,
- National Rail usage in London is more than ten times that of the West Midlands region
- growth in North West England was negative
- outside of the capital, the greatest growth was in the East of England.
Merseyrail accounts for more than a third of rail journeys in the North West, so the general use of rail across Northern England is very low. East to west links in the North and Midlands are poor, and because of the HS2 funding misallocation, largely set to remain that way.
Shropshire’s direct rail link to London, due to start running in December 2014, will not be properly sustainable until the £50 billion HS2 high speed line between the capital and Birmingham opens, South Shropshire MP Philip Dunne said (24 April).
“Our efforts for a regular service have been held back due to a fundamental lack of capacity on the West Coast Main Line. Sufficient capacity to maintain a proper, sustainable service between London and Shrewsbury is only likely once HS2 has been built.”
But as can be seen from HS2 Ltd documents dated October 2013, through services between Shrewsbury and London are not part of post-HS2 West Coast service planning (and never have been). Certainly, London to Wolverhampton intercity services could be extended to Shrewsbury, but that is not dependent on HS2 being built.
If HS2 is built in its present form, there would be massive disruption to London West Coast Main Line services for around 10 years. It is also likely that platform capacity for intercity West Coast trains at Euston would be permanently lower than it is today.
Lack of electrification beyond Wolverhampton makes London to Shrewsbury through services more difficult and expensive to operate. Cancellation of HS2 would allow early electrification of the Holyhead, Wrexham, Barrow-in-Furness and Caldervale routes.
Another problem is that the shortest electric trainsets in the intercity West Coast fleet are 9-car Pendolinos. Two coupled 6 x 23-metre units would be more suitable for portion-working through services to destinations such as Blackpool, Shrewsbury, Barrow-in-Furness, and Rochdale.
The Department for Transport has accepted the recommendations of David Higgins’ flimsy “HS2 plus” report (which was supposed to find ways to reduce HS2’s £50 billion cost, but failed). According to David Prout’s 11 April 2014 letter to HS2 Ltd chief executive Alison Munro, HS2 is “the right project at the right price”.
David ProutDirector General,High Speed 2 GroupDepartment for Transport33 Horseferry RoadLondon SW1P 4DR
High Speed 2 Ltd
London SW1E 5DU
11 April 2014
Higgins Review ‘HS2 Plus’
As you will be aware, the Secretary of State welcomed the publication of Sir David Higgins’ report HS2 Plus on 17 March. He shares the ambition to build HS2 better and bring the benefits to the North sooner, and has welcomed Sir David’s view that HS2 is the right project at the right price. As we have discussed with Network Rail, our three organisations should now work together to take forward the report’s recommendations.
The Secretary of State has accepted the Higgins report’s recommendation with regard to the HS2-HS1 link, and on 17 March announced to Parliament that he intends to take the necessary steps to remove the link from the hybrid Bill and withdraw the safeguarding of this section of route at the earliest opportunity.
Taking forward the report’s other proposals will require more detailed work. I am writing this instruction letter to you and copying it to the Chief Executive of Network Rail to set out the broad objectives for this work. In this letter where I use the phrase “the Company” I mean High Speed Two (HS2) Limited.
The Company should now work with Network Rail to explore the following:
• A more comprehensive solution at Euston, working with the rail industry and the local community, with the aim of reaching a decision that would allow introduction of an additional provision to the hybrid Bill by December 2014;
• Options for improving connections with the Continent, with the aim of providing advice both on improved pedestrian connections at Euston/St Pancras, and on options that will stand the test of time for improving links from HS2 and the existing rail network to the Continent that could be implemented once the initial stages of HS2 are complete;
• Advice to the Secretary of State, as part of his consideration of the consultation responses on Phase Two, on potential refinements to the proposals for Phase Two and options to reduce the cost;
• Initial advice to the Secretary of State on the section of the HS2 route between the West Midlands and Crewe and the feasibility for accelerating its construction to allow completion by 2027. He would also like advice on the feasibility of building a hub station at Crewe, including the benefits that could be delivered to the region and the cost implications to the HS2 Project for the connection into such a hub station. We would like to put proposals on both the route to Crewe and a possible hub station to the Secretary of State in 2014; and
• A process for integrated development of Network Rail’s Control Period 6 (2019-2024) Strategic Business Plan with decisions on Phase Two of HS2, with the aim of providing initial advice in 2014 to the Secretary of State about connectivity in the Midlands and North with a final report on options in 2015. These should include proposals on city centre to city centre connectivity, east-west links and local connectivity. We envisage that Network Rail will lead this work and the Department will have a key role in this process particularly in relation to how options affect the regulated rail industry outputs and funding set by the Secretary of State for CP6 and CP7, or affect plans for future rail passenger franchises.
Proposals by July 2014 for engagement with stakeholders on each of these issues, to ensure the evidence used and the options being developed are widely understood and accepted, and to provide consolidated views to Government on priorities for enhanced connectivity in the Midlands and the North.
Finally, as a result of the Government’s acceptance of the recommendations in the Growth Taskforce report published on 21 March, the Company should now work with London and Continental Railway to make proposals on the form and function of an HS2 regeneration company. I would like to have recommendations on this to put to the Secretary of State by July 2014.
All the work set out in this letter will report to the Department and we expect it to be delivered within existing budgets. In developing this work, the Company and Network Rail should consider the analysis required to ensure outputs are supported by robust evidence, in line with the Department’s analytical assurance framework Strength in Numbers. Those requirements should be considered against the wider analytical demands of all three organisations to ensure that opportunity costs and risks are identified and, that delivery is feasible.
I am copying this letter to Sir David Higgins and Mark Carne.
According to Birmingham city council’s Forward newspaper (spring 2014) an estimated 3,600 passengers each day would pass through the ‘Chernoslug’ HS2 station at Curzon Street in 2026. Not a particularly large number, considering that a single train would have 1,100 seats (and there would be ~100 trains arriving or departing in a 24-hour period).
Forward also mentioned the provision of a seventh platform, for “services to Europe”, and that funding sources for the station would include “Birmingham city council” (i.e., council tax payers).