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Archive for September 2014

Où se trouve le collège TGV?

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The home of Britain’s new National College for High Speed Rail will be located at Birmingham’s city centre Science Park, and at Lakeside Campus in Doncaster, prime minister David Cameron and chancellor George Osborne announced today (30 September 2014).

The sites were selected “following a consultation process which attracted a number of very strong proposals from across the country”. Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable said that ‘HS2 College’ “demonstrates that the UK is advancing as a global leader in rail manufacturing, in line with the government’s Industrial Strategy”.

The governing board of HS2 College will be chaired by Crossrail ‘chair’ Terry Morgan and will include representatives from Birmingham and Doncaster, alongside HS2 Ltd and leading industry employers.

[‘New high speed rail college to be in Birmingham and Doncaster’, gov.uk, 30 Sep 2014]

The headquarters will be based in Birmingham and the college will also have a site in Doncaster. It will provide specialist vocational training to the next generation of engineers working on the High Speed 2 (HS2) project and beyond.

As many as 2,000 apprenticeship opportunities will be created by HS2, and there will be around 25,000 people employed during construction. HS2 will support growth in the wider economy and it is predicted that this could lead to an additional 400,000 jobs.

[…] The new college will be led by employers from the sector and will set industry standards for training based on emerging technology and the use of cutting-edge facilities, with trainers who are expert in their field. The specialist training at the college will be level 4 and over.

[…] Work will now begin on building the college sites and developing the courses which will help to train the next generation of engineers and address concerns of potential future skills shortages. In due course, the college will also develop strong links to other institutions around the country.

Before it opens in 2017, it will have identified a network of other providers who will also be part of the National College in a ‘hub and spoke’ model – which will be crucial in delivering the leading edge provision that is needed for this important sector.

The High Speed Rail College is the first specialist National College to be developed and is in line with the government’s Industrial Strategy. This will help the UK economy and businesses to compete and grow as well as secure jobs and increase skills for future generations.

If HS2 College is such a good idea, why doesn’t France have a collège TGV, or Germany a Fachoberschule ICE? And if HS2 College is supposed to meet an unmet need to train railway engineers, then what was the purpose of setting up the National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering (NSARE), with public money, a few years ago?

NSARE Information sheet 1

NSARE Information sheet 2

NSARE Information sheet 3

NSARE Information sheet 4

National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering stakeholder brief, December 2010

National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering stakeholder brief, December 2010

Fittingly, the announcement was made as Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne visited the ‘Birmingham New Street Gateway’ scheme during the Conservative conference. HS2 College is a political gimmick, and New Street Gateway is Network Rail botching at its finest.

Written by beleben

September 30, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Posted in Birmingham

Tagged with ,

When a fire starts to burn

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Fire in Reddings Lane, 29 September 2014

In the early hours of this morning, a large fire swept through a cluster of warehouse / light industrial buildings in Reddings Lane, Tyseley, Birmingham, near the ‘new’ Yardleys school.

Fire in Reddings Lane, 29 September 2014

It could be seen and heard across a large swath(e) of south Birmingham.

Fire in Reddings Lane, 29 September 2014

About 70 fire service personnel from stations including Solihull, Bournbrook, and Handsworth, were called to the scene.

Fire in Reddings Lane, 29 September 2014

The road was sealed off by police, but residents were allowed to stay in their homes. The same site was the scene of suspected arson only last week.

Fire in Reddings Lane, Birmingham, 29 September 2014

At least nine major appliances were despatched, including two telescopic platforms, with one of them tackling the fire from Yardley school grounds. Because of the site’s geography, the crews seem to have had difficulty in obtaining a good hosing angle for the other platform, which was eventually set up in the school driveway.

Fire in Reddings Lane, Birmingham, 29 September 2014

Fire in Reddings Lane, Birmingham, 29 September 2014

Fire in Reddings Lane, Birmingham, 29 September 2014

Fire in Reddings Lane, Birmingham, 29 September 2014

Fire in Reddings Lane, Birmingham, 29 September 2014

Fire in Reddings Lane, Birmingham, 29 September 2014

Fire in Reddings Lane, Birmingham, 29 September 2014

Written by beleben

September 29, 2014 at 8:04 am

Posted in Birmingham, Local government

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Build HS2 so people can get to the Conservative party conference a bit quicker (when it is held in Birmingham)

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Vote Conservative. You know it makes sense.

Vote Conservative. You know it makes sense.

Written by beleben

September 28, 2014 at 10:12 am

Posted in Birmingham

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Faustian packed

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Journalists attending the 2014 Conservative party conference in Birmingham (28 September to 1 October) are to be handed an ‘all you need to know about us’ pack that paints the city as vibrant and booming.

[Tory conference journalists to be given Birmingham’s ‘good news’ story, Paul Dale, The Chamberlain Files, 25 Sep 2014]

With international media camped at the ICC from this Sunday to Wednesday, council bosses are taking the opportunity to present the city as “one of the most attractive places in the world to do business.”
[…]
The pack, perhaps wisely, does not dwell on the other side of Birmingham away from the glitzy ICC and Brindleyplace – chronic unemployment, a below average skills base, and some of the worst social deprivation in the country.

On 25 September, the Birmingham Mail reported the launch of Operation Engage, a West Midlands Police crackdown on begging in the city centre “to remove the problem from the streets and help the offenders”.

[“Begging crackdown in Birmingham city centre ‘to help offenders'”, Brett Gibbons, Sep 25, 2014]

Officers in plain-clothes are carrying out dedicated patrols to identify offenders who are then referred to the Swanswell charity for help to change their lifestyle.

“We want to help people,” said PC Alex Franks. “The aim is always to provide them with the support they need, with a view to aiding them back into a perceived ‘normal’ lifestyle.

What a coincidence.

Written by beleben

September 27, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Posted in Birmingham

By moving intercity trains to HS2, it frees up capacity to run intercity trains on the existing line, which were removed to free up capacity

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The case for HS2, in a nutshell, by Labour’s Mary Creagh.

Written by beleben

September 26, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

The cost of HS3

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At the ResPublica “HS2 to HS3” fringe event at the 2014 Labour party conference,

  • Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson said that HS3 would cost ‘twelve to fifteen billion pounds’.
  • Phillip Blond said a high speed link to Liverpool would cost ‘about one point five billion pounds’.

Written by beleben

September 26, 2014 at 11:55 am

HS2 de-scope options, part two

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Part one

5. Classic connection at Berkswell

At Berkswell, the government’s preferred route for HS2 would pass close to the existing Coventry to Birmingham railway, so if a connection were provided there, London HS2 trains could reach the existing New Street station in around 50 minutes. The spur into Curzon Street, and its depot at Washwood Heath, would not be required.

Beneficiaries would include Birmingham Airport and the Black Country boroughs, but it would not be popular with Berkswell residents, or Birmingham city council. Although the net environmental and economic effects would be positive, deletion of the Curzon spur would have little effect on the scheme’s impact or cost-ineffectiveness at the national level.

Written by beleben

September 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm

HS2 de-scope options

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Although the cost of HS2 is supposed to include plenty of contingency, it seems increasingly unlikely that the Y network could be implemented for “£50.1 billion at 2011 prices”. So, what de-scope options might be available?

1. Curtailing the western leg

Apart from pandering to Pete Waterman, the rationale for routeing the Y network via Crewe must have included the town’s suitability as a curtailment point. So-called classic-compatible HS2 trains could proceed from there to Manchester, and Scotland, on existing trackage.

2. Curtailing the eastern leg

Curtailing the western leg alone would create political difficulties for north west local authorities. However, the routeing of the eastern leg via Toton appears to have been intended to allow a degree of equity in de-scope. With electrification of the Erewash valley line, classic-compatible trains could proceed from a junction at Toton to Sheffield, Leeds, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

3. Deleting Bickenhill parkway (a.k.a. ‘Birmingham interchange’, ‘Solihull interchange’)

Removing the awkwardly sited Bickenhill HS2 station might only reduce direct costs by £400 million, but total savings to government could exceed £1 billion. Centro’s connectivity package wish-list would cost more than Bickenhill station itself.

4. Making Old Oak Common the London terminus

The Old Oak Common to Euston stretch of HS2 must be the most expensive section of the whole project, but in George Osborne’s vision, land-grab-max at Euston appears to be paramount. Indeed, HS2 could now be described as a Euston real-estate scheme, with a railway attached. De-scoping HS2 in the North could release funds for the ‘more comprehensive development of Euston’ favoured by the government.

Of course, none of the de-scopes mentioned would have much effect on the commercial viability of HS2. If the Y network, or ‘Y-network-lite’, is built, future governments will need to find hundreds of millions of pounds each year, to meet the operating losses.

Written by beleben

September 25, 2014 at 11:26 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

High speed rail and the northern economic powerhouse

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French unemployment by region, 2012

Is Lille at the centre of France’s northern economic powerhouse? French unemployment by region, 2012

Nowhere is the beneficial impact of high speed rail clearer than in the northern French city of Lille, claimed Conservative MP Theresa Villiers in 2009.

[Speech to the Arup Conference on High Speed Rail, Theresa Villiers MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Feb 2009]

[…] Lille fought hard to ensure that the TGV network served the city rather than taking the shortest route between Paris and Calais. The result was a major influx of business attracted by the city’s new accessibility in relation to
both Paris and Brussels.

Unemployment levels fell dramatically and are now only marginally above the French national average.

And on 5 August 2014, at Manchester’s Beetham Tower, chancellor George Osborne set out ‘the pathway to a Northern economic powerhouse’ in Britain.

[“Responding to the ‘One North’ report, the Chancellor sets out the pathway to a Northern economic powerhouse”, gov.uk]

I said that if we can bring our northern cities closer together – not physically, or in some artificial political construct – but by providing modern transport connections, supporting great science and our universities here, giving more power and control to civic government; then we can create a northern powerhouse with the size, the population, the political and economic clout, to be as strong as any global city.
[…]
In October, David Higgins – who’s here today – will publish the report government asked him to produce on the northern phase of HS2.

He’s taken on board my request to look at a new high speed route across the Pennines. An HS3.

Your work today is, in part of course, a contribution to David’s ongoing work – with your ideas for high speed cross-Pennine rail and bringing the benefits of the existing HS2 proposal to the north more quickly.

I’ve spoken to David recently. I know he is ambitious in his thinking. I know he is working on the new cross-Pennine possibilities.

Let us leave him to complete his task – but I am looking forward to his thoughts on ambitious plans that will bring our northern cities closer not just to the rest of the country, but to each other.

Extension of high speed rail to Lille included so-called connectivity packages (i.e., complementary investment in local and regional transport). But claims that these measures created an ‘economic powerhouse’ effect, are at odds with the evidence.

'Nord Pas de Calais has the second highest unemployment of all French regions'

‘Nord Pas de Calais has the second highest unemployment of all French regions’, DirectLille, November 2012

Written by beleben

September 24, 2014 at 8:54 am

Posted in Great Britain, High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with ,

The balance of advantage

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At the time of writing, Conservative MP Theresa Villiers’ February 2009 speech to the Arup Conference on High Speed Rail is still online.

[Theresa Villiers, 2009]

On the crucial corridor from the West Midlands, [Labour’s] White Paper contained the following wisdom:

“The balance of advantage would appear to favour services running at conventional speeds on reopened alignments between London and Birmingham.” Delivering a Sustainable Railway, July 2007, p67

Written by beleben

September 23, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2