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Archive for January 2015


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Sheffield City Region local enterprise partnership has launched its ‘OnTrack4HS2‘ website, which is hosted by D3 Creative (it offers ‘business websites from £3,000’).

Ontrack4hs2 Faces, 30 Jan 2015

Ontrack4hs2 Faces, 30 Jan 2015


Ontrack4hs2 is dedicated to keeping the Sheffield City Region business community up to speed on plans for HS2 phase two and maximising the benefits high speed rail will bring to the regional economy

As can be seen, the ‘Facts’ section of the website actually contains very little in the way of facts:

Top 10 reasons we’re on track for HS2

Economic success

HS2 is critical to future business growth in the north and to the economic success of the Sheffield City Region in particular. It will encourage investment and make doing business easier.

Create jobs

In the Sheffield City Region HS2 is forecast to create more than 5,000 jobs.

Supply chain opportunities

There will be fantastic supply chain opportunities for local businesses. Building HS2 is a £42.6 billion project, involving the laying of 330 miles of track, the construction of four new stations and the redevelopment of five existing stations.

In addition, new rolling stock will also be needed to run on the line – again creating potential opportunities for local businesses.

Improved connectivity

HS2 will reduce passenger journey times between Sheffield and London and will also vastly improve connectivity between the Sheffield City Region and other key cities in the UK including Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham and Derby.

Connectivity will also be improved to the regional tram and bus network.

A HS2 station within the SCR

Under the current proposals the Sheffield City Region will benefit from having one of only a small number of stations on the HS2 phase two line.

Between Birmingham and Leeds the line will only have two stops – one at Toton, serving Nottingham and Derby, and the other at either Meadowhall or the city centre. The location of the Sheffield station will be decided in mid- 2015.

Building on our rail heritage

HS2 will provide a major boost for the Sheffield City Region’s rail industry which already has more than 200 companies employing more than 6,000 people.

The region is home to a number of major rail manufacturing firms including DB Schenker, Volker Rail and Hitachi. It is anticipated that these as well as many other local firms could benefit from HS2 – and it could attract other firms into the region in the future.

Rebalancing the economy

HS2 offers the opportunity to rebalance the UK economy – shifting the emphasis away from London and allowing the Midlands, North West, Yorkshire and North East regions to thrive.

Recent decades have seen the balance of the UK economy shift away from the north as its traditional manufacturing industries have declined. HS2 phase two presents real opportunities to reverse this trend.

Creating additional capacity

HS2 phase two will significantly address the capacity issues facing the rail network – as our population grows and passenger numbers increase. It will also help to ease congestion on the motorway network.

HS2 will, for example, provide five new services every hour between both London and Birmingham – in addition to the two conventional rail services each hour between these cities, which will continue after HS2 is built.

High speed trains will also be larger and longer than existing services enabling them to carry more passengers. In turn this will free up capacity for rail freight, boosting the region’s growing logistics and rail import/export business.

Opportunity to improve existing SCR rail services

HS2 also presents real opportunities to improve capacity on existing rail services in the Sheffield City Region. A study by the West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive has estimated that by improving existing services in this way the Sheffield and Leeds City Regions will gain additional benefits of between £300m and £800m.

Becoming a Centre of Excellence for high speed rail engineering

Recently it was announced that one of two centres of excellence for high speed rail engineering to support HS2 will be built in the region. Doncaster was chosen for the site of the National High Speed Rail College in October 2014.

The college, which opens in 2017, will ensure the country as a whole has the skills and expertise needed to deliver the HS2 project. Birmingham will be second site for the college.

The real facts are

  1. demand for rail travel between South Yorkshire and London is very low
  2. demand for rail travel within South Yorkshire is pitifully low
  3. the county already has two separate main line rail links to London
  4. most people in the ‘Sheffield City Region’ would find the existing rail system and stations more useful for their journeys
  5. HS2 offers minimal opportunity to “free up” Yorkshire rail capacity
  6. the last passenger rolling stock manufacturer in Sheffield — Cravens — closed around 1966
  7. carriage manufacture in Doncaster ceased over 40 years ago
  8. the likelihood of the ‘City Region’ becoming a world leader in high speed rail is effectively zero.

Written by beleben

January 30, 2015 at 3:26 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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How reliable are HS2 cost estimates?

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Earlier this month, the cost of HS2’s proposed Washwood Heath rolling stock facility was officially estimated at £51 million (2nd quarter 2011 prices), i.e., less than half the cost of the (smaller) Calvert infrastructure depot.

HS2 London – West Midlands cost estimate, January 2015 (source: HS2 Ltd)
Element £m (2Q 2011)
1.0 Land and property 1.1 London Euston 579.82
1.2 London Metropolitan 221.96
1.3 Country South 319.12
1.4 Country North 306.09
1.5 West Midlands Metropolitan 315.50
Sub total 1742.48
2.0 Tunnel works 2.1 Tunnels 2427.17
2.2 Portals 213.02
2.3 Shafts 358.13
Sub total 2998.32
3.0 Civil engineering 3.1 Cuttings and embankments 1309.00
3.2 Retaining walls 339.29
3.3 Bridges 450.95
3.4 Viaducts 836.89
3.5 Roads and pavings 391.91
3.6 Other structures 352.78
Sub total 3680.82
4.0 Stations 4.1 Euston 1506.37
4.2 Old Oak 798.84
4.3 Birmingham interchange
4.4 Curzon 283.58
Sub total 2865.87
5.0 Depots and stabling 5.1 Washwood Heath 51.01
5.2 Calvert 136.62
5.3 Heathrow Express relocation 152.87
5.4 London sidings 0
5.5 Other facilities 96.96
Sub total 437.47
6.0 Railway systems 6.1 P-way 546.56
6.2 Signals 113.30
6.3 Telecoms 93.02
6.4 Electrical contact systems 162.62
6.5 Electrical distribution
6.6 Station and depot systems 192.31
6.7 Tunnel systems 167.81
Sub total 1698.44
7.0 On-network works 7.1 Civil engineering 0
7.2 Stations and depots 0
7.3 Railway systems 528.67
Sub total 528.67
8.0 Indirect costs 8.1 Corporate 1002.99
8.2 Project management 820.58
8.3 Design 395.36
Sub total 2218.93
Gross point estimate 16171.01

For comparison,

  • Eurostar’s Temple Mills depot cost ‘up to’ £402 million, according to Lord Davies of Oldham (Hansard, 1 December 2004)
  • Network Rail’s South Wales resignalling was estimated at £400 million in 2011
  • the ‘Birmingham Gateway’ refresh of the existing New Street station was budgeted in excess of £600 million.

Written by beleben

January 30, 2015 at 11:18 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Letting Jim steer

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Greengauge 21 heart CBTOn 26 January 2015 the Campaign for Better Transport published ‘new research’ revealing how ‘investing in the north of England’s rail services is essential to tackling the north – south divide’.

[Campaign for Better Transport news release, 26 Jan 2015]

The new research, Stepping Stones to a rebalanced Britain, was commissioned by Campaign for Better Transport and reveals how investing in new trains, improved stations and better services as part of the new Northern Rail franchise would provide essential infrastructure for growing cities and maximise the benefits from billions of pounds of investment due as part of the Northern Powerhouse.

[…] Stepping Stones was commissioned by Campaign for Better Transport and written by research group Greengauge 21. Greengauge 21 is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, with a wide aim of helping to shape tomorrow’s railway. The company was founded by Jim Steer, one of the UK’s leading transport sector specialists. Initially conceived as a means to promote a debate on the case for high-speed rail in Britain, it has established a broad research base to foster and guide high-speed rail planning. Its remit now extends into all aspects of the national rail system and its wider benefits.

It’s curious that the Campaign for ‘Better’ Transport has chosen to let Greengauge 21 steer so much of its ‘research’ and policy-making activity. After all, the CBT claims its vision is for “a country where communities have affordable transport that improves quality of life and protects the environment”.

[CBT, ‘About Us’]

In recent decades we’ve helped to change the Government’s transport policy radically, away from building big roads and expanding airports and towards much more recognition of environmental and social impacts”.

But as early as 2006, the CBT had commissioned Greengauge 21 to write a report tacitly supporting the expansion of Heathrow Airport. CBT is also a tacit supporter of the environmentally damaging HS2 rail project.

Campaign for Better Transport homepage, 26 January 2015

Campaign for Better Transport homepage: worried about environmental damage from ‘unnecessary roads’, but apparently not worried about environmental damage from ‘unnecessary HS2’, 26 January 2015

The CBT is blind to the fact that the best opportunity to improve rail in the north of England would come from cancelling HS2, and reallocating funds to the classic railway.

Written by beleben

January 26, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Cha(u)ncey gardeners

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Written by beleben

January 22, 2015 at 8:56 pm

HS2 chairman: ‘French high speed trains travel at 225 mph’

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On 13 January 2015, the Lords Economic Affairs Committee were treated to some of HS2 Ltd chief David Higgins’ opinions about the location of FTSE companies, banks, and the effect of speed on railway capacity.

David Higgins at the Economic Affairs Committee, 13 Jan 2015

David Higgins at the Economic Affairs Committee, 13 Jan 2015

As can be seen [15:46:20] from the House of Commons video of the session, David Higgins told the committee that ‘French high speed trains travel at 225 mph‘, which is not the case.

The government appointed David Higgins to drive down the costs of HS2, but he has failed to identify savings

Written by beleben

January 21, 2015 at 3:06 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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With HS2, ‘getting to Ceredigion would be quicker’

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Figure 12 of the 2013 HS2 Strategic Case purported to show “illustrative journey time comparisons for HS2 Phase One and Two and rail alternative”.

HS2 Strategic Case  'Illustrative journey time comparisons for HS2 Phase One and Two and rail alternative'

With HS2, journey times from London to Ceredigion would fall from “between 4 and 5 hours” to “between 3 and 4 hours” according to HS2’s Illustrative journey time comparisons for HS2 Phase One and Two and rail alternative

Needless to say, Figure 12 is mostly nonsense. The idea that building HS2 would bring the journey time from London to Worcester into the “within 1 hour” range (coloured green on the diagram), for example, is plainly daft.

Was the same data set used to create KPMG’s infamous “£15 billion regional economic impacts” analysis, by any chance?

One might also ask why these bogus comparisons always seem to involve London as one end of the journey.

Written by beleben

January 20, 2015 at 9:19 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Half of West Coast Main Line freight paths are wasted

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The website described the publication “Investing in Britain’s future: why we need HS2” (October 2013) as “A leaflet setting out the case for HS2 in straightforward terms”. According to the leaflet, “HS2 will free up at least 20 [freight] paths per day on the West Coast Main Line.”

West Coast container freight train

But HS2’s London – West Midlands Environmental Statement assumes there would only be two additional freight paths per day when the new line opened. The 20-paths-per-day figure was assumed to relate to the years 2035 to 2085. How is it possible to forecast the level of freight traffic on a railway, seventy years from now?

[“HS2 London – West Midlands Environmental Statement, Volume 3: route-wide effects”]

[…] Currently, on the WCML, there are three standard off-peak freight paths per hour; although currently, approximately 1.5 paths an hour are used. The Government wishes to encourage more freight to shift from road to rail. Coupled with the rising costs of road transport, demand for rail freight paths is expected to increase over the next 15 years. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that there may be insufficient capacity to meet the total demand for rail freight by the time the Proposed Scheme is due to open in 2026. Based on a number of assumptions, many of which are the same as those used for the Economic Case for HS2, and its presumption for passenger services, there is still the potential for one to two additional freight paths in each direction between London and the Midlands, outside the peak periods of 07:00 – 10:00 and 16:00 – 19:00. This means that 10 of the 16 operational hours of the Proposed Scheme (06:00 – 22:00) could accommodate two to four freight paths an hour, making a total of up to 20 – 40 additional freight paths a day (300 days a year). The carbon footprint has assumed 20 paths per day, released linearly from two in year 2026 to 20 in 2035, from which point there are 20 freed up paths per day to 2085. “

Written by beleben

January 19, 2015 at 12:12 pm

A long way to go

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Overhead line equipmentThe Department for Transport has a long way to go to prove that it is being more effective in realising benefits from major rail investment programmes, according to the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

[PAC, 16 January 2015]

The Department still lacks a clear strategic plan for the rail network according to the Public Accounts Committee’s report, published on Friday 16 January 2015.

The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, today said:

“Investment in major rail infrastructure programmes takes a long time and costs a lot of money. It is therefore hugely important to ask the right questions and make properly informed judgements on priorities. Yet the Government takes decisions without a clear strategic plan.

For instance, the Government recently announced proposals for High Speed 3. It did not carry out an assessment of High Speed 3 before it gave the go-ahead to High Speed 2 and it therefore did not test whether improved connectivity in the North was a greater priority.

The Department has still to publish proposals for how Scotland will benefit from High Speed 2, including whether the route will be extended into Scotland.

The Department should set out a long term strategy covering the next 30 years for transport infrastructure in the UK, and use this strategy to inform decisions about investment priorities and specific investment decisions.

We are sceptical about whether the Department can deliver value for money for the taxpayer on High Speed 2. The overall funding envelope of £50 billion includes a generous contingency, and we are concerned that this will simply be used to mask cost overspends, rather than valid calls on contingency funds.

The contingency includes provision for likely inflation based on the Treasury’s guidance on the rates to apply, but construction costs can increase more quickly than general inflation.

Furthermore, David Higgins, the Chair of HS2 Limited, had said in announcing HS3 that he believed both HS2 and 3 could be built at the same time but the Department has not yet properly considered the impact of this on construction capacity, capability and costs. […]

Written by beleben

January 16, 2015 at 5:39 pm

HS2 and London Midland commuting, part two

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Part one

London Midland commuter train at Bletchley

On 4 February 2014 the Financial Times published a story setting out the government’s plans to relaunch the HS2 rail project (paywall).

[“HS2 relaunch to focus on benefits to commuters”, George Parker, Mark Odell and Andrew Bounds, FT, 4 Feb 2014]

The HS2 high speed rail project will be relaunched next month, with a public relations offensive highlighting benefits to commuters and the north of the UK.

There are also plans to cut the £50bn price tag by speeding up construction work.

Ministers have backed a new sales pitch for HS2, abandoning a previous emphasis on intercity speed and focusing instead on the role of the line in cutting overcrowding on commuter routes.

The recent rebranding of the project as the “north-south railway” will also be accompanied by a much sharper focus on the project as part of general rail improvements to connect northern cities.

Of course, HS2 would not connect any Northern cities to each other (unless Meadowhall counts as a city, in which case it would connect Leeds and ‘Sheffield’). And so far, there is no sign of ‘cutting the £50bn price tag’ by speeding up construction work (or by any other means).

But what of “the role of the line in cutting overcrowding on commuter routes”?

On the evidence available, the overall long term commuter benefits of HS2 would be negligible. And during the HS2 construction phase, there is a strong likelihood of negative impacts on commuting on the West Coast Main Line, because of the massive disruption from rebuilding Euston station.

The available evidence suggests that HS2 would not provide benefits for for most Euston commuters

Diagram 1. Commuters to London using the stations on the section of line shown in red would not benefit from HS2 ‘released capacity’

All the available evidence suggests that HS2 would not provide benefits for most Euston commuters. Only those travelling from Leighton Buzzard, and beyond, into London would be advantaged by HS2 released capacity.

Construction of a chord allowing Bletchley trains to reach St Pancras would provide similar commuter capacity, at a much lower cost than HS2

Diagram 2. Between Milton Keynes and London, commuter stations on the section of line coloured in green would be the only ones benefiting from HS2 released capacity. But construction of a chord (dotted line on diagram) allowing Bletchley trains to reach St Pancras would provide much the same commuter capacity, at a tiny fraction of the cost of HS2

A far cheaper way of achieving the same capacity for Milton Keynes commuters would be to connect the city to the Midland Main Line by means of a new chord (see Diagram 2 above).

Written by beleben

January 15, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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A catalogue of problems

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BBC coverage of Network Rail's disruption report

BBC coverage of Network Rail’s disruption report

On 12 January 2015 Network Rail published its internal report into the post-Christmas chaos on the East Coast (Finsbury Park and Kings Cross) and Great Western Main Lines (Paddington). The report, by Dr Francis Paonessa, found a catalogue of problems including poor planning, equipment failures and communication breakdowns.

[‘A review into the causes of passenger disruption affecting King’s Cross and Paddington station services on 27 December 2014’, Dr Francis Paonessa, Managing Director Infrastructure Projects, Network Rail, 12 January 2015]

[…] Like all infrastructure, railways wear out over time and the rail, ballast and sleepers (foundations) have to be renewed. The timing depends on the rate of deterioration, which is a function of the speed, weight and frequency of trains. Also, the rail infrastructure is being enhanced, extended and upgraded to cope with increasing passenger growth.

To do this type of renewal and enhancement work, the railway needs to be shut. There are very few opportunities to shut the railway completely for any extended period of time on urban routes and, therefore, the Christmas period, when passenger numbers are about 50% lower than at other times of the year, has traditionally been considered a suitable time to deliver these types of projects.

The engineering works at Holloway Junction [ECML] and at Old Oak Common [GW] were complex and very extensive. The plans of the project teams to undertake the works had been reviewed using the standard processes that were introduced by Network Rail to improve the delivering of project work following engineering overruns in 2007.

Both projects had also been assessed using an industry standard risk assessment tool and both passed with a greater than 95% likelihood of handing back the railway into service on time. This exceeded the threshold level of confidence generally deemed appropriate for this type of critical operation and is consistent with the regulatory funding available to Network Rail. Given the limitations of service recovery options, it is reasonable to question whether a higher level of delivery confidence might have been appropriate in this case. There were shortfalls in the delivery of the project plans, in the management of the project contingency plans during the work and in the service recovery plans after an overruns were recognised.

The issues causing the engineering activities to overrun at Holloway Junction, affecting King’s Cross Station, and at Old Oak Common, affecting Paddington Station, were of a very different nature. When the issues arose, they were escalated within Network Rail’s and the respective contractors’ management teams. The nature of the issues meant that the Train Operating Companies (TOCs) were given around 14 hours advance warning of the overrun affecting King’s Cross Station, but no warning at Paddington Station.

The internal report is no substitute for an objective external investigation and might be best seen as a way of putting clear water between the chaos and Network Rail’s management. Apparently, Francis Paonessa and Mark Carne were on holiday at the time of the imbroglio, but they should not be able to dodge responsibility for the failures. It’s also worth noting that when he was chairman of Network Rail, HS2 chief David Higgins used to talk up “alliancing” as a way of improving efficiency on the railway. But the post-Christmas chaos on East Coast was brought about by just such an ‘alliance’, between Network Rail and Amey Rail.

Official Network Rail diagram suggesting that 'the railway was disrupted back to Highgate and Alexandra Palace

Official Network Rail diagram suggesting that the railway was disrupted back to Highgate and Alexandra Palace (LOL)

Written by beleben

January 12, 2015 at 5:27 pm

Posted in Politics, Railways

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