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Heeding Dutch history

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Labour leader Ed Miliband must put principle before political calculation, ‘heed Dutch history‘, and abandon support for HS2, wrote former special adviser Damian McBride in The Times (paywall).

[“Labour must scrap HS2 to avoid a rail disaster”, The Times, 19 Aug 2014]

“HS2 is a bad idea simply because it will not happen as planned. And even if politicians can’t see into the future to appreciate that, they should at least look back at every other major transport project of the past three decades that relied on bulldozing people’s homes, gardens and forests”.

In the Dutch Betuwe project, decision-making was inflexible and incomplete, the “solution” rather than the problem was taken as the starting point, and alternatives were not really considered. If Ed can’t hear the bells ringing, a visit to an audiometrist might be in order.

On Twitter, rail journalist Nick Kingsley accused Mr McBride of producing gibberish, and disputed the claim that the Betuweroute had started out as a ‘three-branch high speed freight railway’.

Rail journalist Nick Kingsley accused Mr McBride of producing gibberish

Rail journalist Nick Kingsley accused Mr McBride of producing gibberish

At the time of writing, English Wikipedia states that “The original [Betuwe] plans foresaw three branches towards Germany. However, the northern branch via Oldenzaal was abandoned in 1999 and the southernmost track via Venlo saw the axe in 2004.” Other references online suggest that the unbuilt northern branch has the name ‘Noordtak’, and the unbuilt southern branch has the name ‘Zuidtak’.

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Written by beleben

August 19, 2014 at 8:45 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

6 Responses

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  1. The Betuwe project suffers from being only a small component of a wider freight network that no other European country seems interested in building. Once complete, this network would provide real benefits though. In a UK context the Betuweroute is similar to the ideas of reopening the Great Central as a freight railway – it’s not a bad idea if you can build enough of it to actually make a difference but if you just build a small section it’s going to end up as a white elephant. A euro-gauge freight railway in the UK needs to be long enough to allow piggyback lorries to go for journeys all the way from Dollands Moor up to Coatbridge Eurocentral via the Midlands and Lancashire, removing these lorries from the roads and saving them 8 or more hours of driving and clogging up our motorways. If you only build the line up to Daventry or the West Midlands, or don’t build it down to Dollands Moor, you don’t save enough time for it to be worth putting your lorry on the train and thus the line as-built becomes a white elephant.

    Now, what exactly would you feel to be a sufficient amount of looking at the alternatives to the HS2 project as planned? It’s a genuine question; in my own opinion the work done by Network Rail (who would have to deal with the consequences of their stupidity, unlike Railtrack) is more than enough to say why HS2 is justified. There are obviously other schemes and network permutations that are technically feasible – High Speed UK, for one – but they have their own set of tradeoffs that have to be examined. Before HS2 Ltd were founded and the politicians got too involved Network Rail suggested building new lines at 400km/h as part of their New Lines Programme, although they didn’t forsee the eastern branch to Leeds and Newcastle running from Birmingham. How much evidence would you like to see before saying that you feel all reasonable options have been explored?

    CautiousObserver

    August 19, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    • The Betuwe project suffers from being only a small component of a wider freight network that no other European country seems interested in building. Once complete, this network would provide real benefits though.

      Thanks for your opinion. But have you got any evidence?

      Before HS2 Ltd were founded and the politicians got too involved Network Rail suggested building new lines at 400km/h as part of their New Lines Programme, although they didn’t forsee the eastern branch to Leeds and Newcastle running from Birmingham. How much evidence would you like to see before saying that you feel all reasonable options have been explored?

      “New Lines”? Why the plural?

      As the New Line Programme documents show, Network Rail aren’t in the business of providing verifiable evidence.

      beleben

      August 19, 2014 at 10:24 pm

      • http://www.networkrail.co.uk/newlinesprogramme/

        On the page there are ten mentions of ‘lines’ (plural) and four mentions of ‘line’ (singular). The title of the page and the document uses the plural, so I think it’s quite clear what NR’s intention is. There were then the reports about them planning a multitude of lines, so I think it’s beyond doubt that what I said there was entirely accurate.

        The number of trains using the Betuweroute has steadily increased since it was built. Most of the articles about it on the internet were written back when it was new, when traffic levels were far lower and saying that the line was underperforming counted as news because of the high cost. When the line actually works as intended, as it is at the moment, it isn’t news and so you don’t get the media reporting about it.

        CautiousObserver

        August 20, 2014 at 11:58 am

      • The fact is, Network Rail’s so-called “New Lines Programme” was in essence, a ‘programme’ consisting of one line. From London to Scotland, with a couple of minor branches.

        The problem with building a new railway to Scotland on capacity grounds, is the absence of a suitable capacity shortage. Most capacity problems in the GB transport network are within ~80 km of London — as Tom Worsley noted.

        When the [Betuwe] line actually works as intended, as it is at the moment, it isn’t news

        It doesn’t “work as intended”. Because it was never completed, as intended. The German section was not built (etc).

        beleben

        August 20, 2014 at 2:34 pm

  2. ‘How much evidence would you like to see before saying … all reasonable options have been explored?

    As a cautious observer myself, I do not see an uber-speed-first HS2 as a reasonable option.

    Michael Wand

    August 20, 2014 at 7:32 am

    • How much evidence would I like to see?

      Any at all, would be nice.

      Here’s a couple of examples.

      1.

      [From “HS2: 12 arguments for and against”, Tom de Castella, BBC, 24 Sep 2013]

      […] HS2 will increase capacity from London to Birmingham by 143%, while enhancements to the existing railway would increase capacity by just 53%, a DfT spokeswoman says.

      What does ‘capacity from London to Birmingham’, mean? If HS2 “will increase capacity from London to Birmingham by 143%”, that implies the following

      (Capacity_With_HS2 / Current_Capacity) * 100 = 243

      (Capacity_With_Upgraded_Existing_Lines / Current_Capacity) * 100 = 153

      but Current_Capacity = ?, Capacity_With_Upgraded_Existing_Lines = ?, and Capacity_With_HS2 = ?

      The values for the inputs haven’t been given by the unnamed DfT spokeswoman, or anyone else.

      There’s no evidence that “enhancements to the existing railway” would be limited to a capacity increase of “just 53%”.

      2.

      [‘2,770 weekend rail closures needed to rival HS2‘, ITV, 29 Oct 2013]

      The Government is due to publish a report, prepared by Network Rail and management consultancy Atkins, setting out the case for the HS2 high-speed rail project.

      This is believed to have concluded that there would have to be 2,770 weekend closures – totalling 144,000 hours of work – on the East Coast, West Coast and Midland main lines if it was to replace the intended capacity of HS2.

      So where exactly would these “2,770 weekend closures” take place? What is their repartition, and purpose, by worksite?

      I asked DfT about this, and (of course) they said they hold “no information”.

      Needless to say, Network Rail are not covered by FoI.

      beleben

      August 20, 2014 at 10:26 am


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