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Archive for February 2015

Philip Rutnam: ‘Early Pacer railbus replacement is poor value for money’

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On 26 February 2015 DfT permanent secretary Philip Rutnam wrote to Patrick McLoughlin to seek a ministerial direction on the requirement to replace Pacer railbuses by 2020 (included in the Northern / TPE franchises invitation to tender).

Philip Rutnam 'Pacer' letter to Patrick McLoughlin, page 1

Philip Rutnam 'Pacer' letter to Patrick McLoughlin, page 2

Mr McLoughlin appeared to be quite happy to take responsibility.

Patrick McLoughlin 'Pacer' letter to Philip Rutnam, page 1

Patrick McLoughlin 'Pacer' letter to Philip Rutnam, page 2

It is widely understood that the HS2 economic case is based on a series of highly questionable assumptions, and has been massaged to the hilt. Alternative upgrade-based investments (such as developed variants of RP2) outperform HS2 on almost every criterion, and the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee are sceptical about HS2’s prospects of delivering value for money.

So what is curious, is Mr Rutnam’s concern about being on the hook for the value of money of Pacer replacement, but apparently not for the value for money of the (vastly larger) high speed rail expenditure.

Written by beleben

February 28, 2015 at 10:16 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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The shortcomings of Network Rail, by Mark Carne

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Network Rail is inefficient and has a poor safety record, according to its chief executive, Mark Carne (George Bradshaw Address, 25 Feb 2015).

The George Bradshaw Address

25 February 2015

The George Bradshaw Address, hosted by Network Rail, the Rail Delivery Group & the Railway Industry Association and sponsored by Bechtel, is a prestigious annual lecture for senior figures from the rail industry to debate the future of the rail sector. On Wednesday 25th February Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, will be setting out his views on the challenges facing the sector and hosting the evening will be Lord Adonis.

Written by beleben

February 27, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Posted in Politics, Railways

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Classic service reductions in HS2 phase one

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Although slide #13 of Professor Andrew McNaughton’s February 2015 “Released Capacity” presentation was labelled “The Economic case for HS2: Assumptions Report: October 2013“, the diagrams on that slide do not appear in the Assumptions report. Furthermore, the indicative service patterns do not match (see illustration below).

Diagrams from the PFM 4.3 Assumptions report and Prof McNaughton's 'released capacity' slide 13

Diagrams from the PFM 4.3 Assumptions report and Prof McNaughton’s ‘released capacity’ slide 13. For all their shortcomings, these diagrams do give an impression of the scale of the reduction of classic Long Distance High Speed services proposed by HS2 Ltd.

HS2’s entire presentation is bogus, because the principal so-called ‘Do Minimum’ classic service patterns depicted are inferior to those which have operated on the West Coast line for the last five years. Since the Very High Frequency service started, the standard intercity service pattern between Birmingham and London has been three trains per hour, but HS2’s Do Minimum is ‘two, plus one running less than hourly’ (Figure 5-7).

The service enhancements on the Slow lines, and beyond Birmingham (Figures 6-3 and 6-6) could be implemented almost immediately. In no way are they dependent on, or a result of, capacity “released” by HS2.

Written by beleben

February 26, 2015 at 10:53 am

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Return of the shed

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On 23 February, HS2’s Rupert Walker revealed the latest tranche of design slides for Euston station at a private meeting of rail officials and Camden community representatives, wrote Tom Foot. It appears that George Osborne’s plans to create “Oligarchograd” above and around the station are in jeopardy.

[HS2 chiefs set abandon plans to demolish Euston station with move back to old scheme, Tom Foot, The Camden New Journal, 24 February, 2015]

[…] The slides show a return to the idea of wedging a shed containing six high speed rail platforms on the west side of Euston Station, which would open in 2026. Five more platforms would be built inside the current station after 2034 in a move that could extend building works in Camden into the 2040s.

This new “phase 1” of HS2 – the third different official proposal for Euston by HS2 Ltd in the last two years – would cost around £2.6 billion, officials told the meeting.

The blackest sheep

The blackest sheep

Written by beleben

February 24, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Identification of released capacity

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HS2 released capacity. What is it?

Where is it?

What does it mean?

Andrew McNaughton 'Released Capacity' presentation, slide 13

Andrew McNaughton ‘Released Capacity’ presentation, February 2015, slide 13

Slide #13 from Andrew McNaughton’s presentation on 13 February 2015 provided a representation of peak West Coast paths in December 2014, and in “2026” (when the new high speed line is supposed to open). So, the right hand, year-2026, diagram should show the benefits of released capacity.

So which of the trains in the right hand diagram are actually running in the paths transferred to the new HS2 track?

In practice, HS2 “released capacity” means little more than “the ability to stop WCML long distance trains at Milton Keynes”.

Which stations?

“The stations”. Which stations?

Rail journalist Nick Kingsley has written a blogpost called “HS2: McNaughton outlines the released capacity win”, but neither he nor the Professor have explained what the released capacity actually is.

The 'miracle of St Andrew': run the same number of trains on the West Coast from 2026, but save £5 billion in operating costs?

There is no justification for — or need to build — hundreds of kilometres of high speed railway, just to allow a few people to make long-distance journeys northbound from Watford or Milton Keynes.

Written by beleben

February 24, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Baldies need homes

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'HS2 land freed to create over 2,000 jobs in Washwood Heath', Birmingham Post, 24 Feb 2015

Birmingham Post story (24 Feb 2015)

Parts of the former LDV and Alstom sites in Washwood Heath can now be used for industrial development after the HS2 company agreed to give up its claim on the land following protests from Birmingham City Council and Birmingham MPs, the Birmingham Post reported.

[HS2 land freed to create over 2,000 jobs in Washwood Heath, Neil Elkes, 24 February 2015] […]

The land is part of a package of development sites, totalling 3.7 million sq ft [34.3 ha], and proposals for 9,000 jobs in the new ‘East Birmingham Growth Prospectus’ launched today.
Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne heralded the new prospectus and breakthrough on HS2 as a “triple win” for the city.

He said: “This is the biggest plan for jobs in east Birmingham we’ve ever had.

“It was hard fought. But, by demanding the Government, the council and HS2 pull together, we’ve got an amazing plan for jobs and skills.

“Here, at Washwood Heath, we’ve forced HS2 to look at new plans to ensure 2,334 jobs are created rather than a giant train carpark – plus a £1 million investment in skills for local people and the city council’s regeneration plan.

What a load of nonsense from Mr Byrne. His original proposal to relocate the “giant train carpark” away from Washwood Heath has been seen off by HS2 Ltd. His “jobs” claims seem to conveniently overlook the loss of existing employment on parts of the depot site.

Birmingham Post: 'This bold, [HS2] joint initiative with Birmingham City Council will create badly needed jobs and build baldy needed homes, transforming east Birmingham into an economic power-house'

Birmingham Mail story (9 Nov 2012)

Written by beleben

February 24, 2015 at 11:57 am

Posted in Birmingham, HS2

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‘Thirty three thousand HS2 apprenticeships’

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BBC story on the Labour party apprenticeship policies (Feb 2015)

BBC story on the Labour party’s apprenticeship policies (Feb 2015)

On 16 February 2015 Labour leader Ed Miliband spoke to Mary Rhodes on BBC Midlands Today about the party’s plans to create apprenticeships, and the HS2 railway.

For some reason, his claim that HS2 should or would create “33,000” apprenticeships went unchallenged. Crossrail 1, a scheme valued at roughly 80% of the magnitude of HS2 phase one, has only managed 400-odd apprentices, and it is not clear how many of those apprentices were UK-domiciled before starting work.

Each year in Britain, there are more than 700,000 eighteen year olds, so “creating 80,000 apprenticeships” is something which would benefit a minority.

[Labour apprenticeships guarantee ‘forgets 50% without A-levels’, Lucy Mair, Construction News, 18 Feb 2015]

[…] Labour would also raise the minimum standard for apprenticeships to national vocational qualification Level 3, introducing a new “universal gold standard” for apprenticeships.

In 2013/14, just 25 per cent of 8,020 construction apprenticeship completions were Level 3 or above, while the remaining 75 per cent were Level 2 qualifications and would not meet Labour’s criteria.

Under its proposals, Level 2 apprenticeships would continue but be renamed to protect the apprenticeships gold standard.

[Lucy Mair’s analysis of Labour’s apprenticeship plans]

“Had the minimum standard for an apprenticeship been Level 3 in 2013/14, the number of people successfully completing a construction apprenticeship would fall from 8,000 to just 2,000.”

Written by beleben

February 23, 2015 at 1:22 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics

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Fewer, slower, broadly comparable?

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West Coast intercity (Belebenpic)

On 13 February 2015, campaigners claimed that if HS2 went ahead, stations such as Sandwell and Dudley, Wolverhampton, and Coventry would see slower or fewer services to London, the Birmingham Mail reported.

[“Midland railway stations may see slower services to Euston because of HS2 – campaigner”, Andy Richards, Birmingham Mail, 13 February 2015]

[…] It follows evidence given by HS2 Ltd technical Director Andrew McNaughton to the HS2 Hybrid Bill Committee in the House of Commons.

He said: “We take off the main line most of the long-distance non-stop services, because the purpose of HS2 is to serve cities on the long-distance network.

[…] “We [HS2] basically introduce 10 long-distance services, which means all those services come off the main lines.”

He added this “gives us a chance to re-plan the West Coast Main Line with new services around the needs of the communities served by the West Coast Main Line, no longer largely controlled by the need to run non-stop trains from the likes of Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow.”

[…] A Department for Transport spokesman said: “One of the key aims for future service patterns is that all towns or cities which currently have a direct service to London will retain broadly comparable or better services once HS2 is completed.

“In addition, we are investigating how we can maximise the benefits of released capacity as a result of HS2. Decisions on future services will be taken nearer the time, and will be based on consultation and engagement with passengers and communities.”

The October 2013 economic case for HS2 was built on net classic savings whose 2011 present value was £5.67 billion (phase 1) and £8.26 billion (full network)

The October 2013 economic case for HS2 was built on net classic savings whose 2011 present value was £5.67 billion (phase 1) and £8.26 billion (full network)

On 19 February, the slides used by Professor McNaughton at the Hybrid Bill Committee were published on the Houses of Parliament website. Slide #13 contained diagrams of the December 2014 West Coast evening peak Fast and Slow line paths, and indicative year-2026 paths for HS2 stage one and West Coast. Slide #14 showed the December 2014 and 2026 paths in the West Midlands and Cheshire.

Unlike Network Rail’s Rupert Walker, Prof McNaughton does seem to know that two thirds of West Midlands – Euston intercity trains start at Birmingham. However, he seems to be a bit confused about the calling pattern of other trains, such as Euston-to-Chester (Virgin).

In slide #13, the number of Euston classic trains shown in the December 2014 and 2026 diagrams is almost the same; yet HS2’s October 2013 economic case listed a saving (i.e. cut) of £5.6 billion net from phase one. What £5.6 billion would mean in terms of annual train-kilometres — or connections between particular towns — has never been explained.

And, so far as can be determined, the present value of the total cost of running West Coast classic trains has never been given by HS2 Ltd. All that has been given, is the present value of the reduction in cost of running them following activation of the high speed line.

Prof McNaughton, 'Released Capacity', slide #13

Prof McNaughton, ‘Released Capacity’ slide #13 (11 Feb 2015)

Professor McNaughton’s presentation was framed in terms of travel to and from London, so the change in connectivity between, (say) Coventry and Birmingham, is unclear. But it would seem that HS2 Ltd’s assumption is that ‘London Midland’ as a service group would cease to exist.

Prof McNaughton, 'Released Capacity', slide #14

Professor Andrew McNaughton’s problematic Released Capacity slide #14. Between Coventry and Birmingham, the ‘year 2026’ diagram shows fewer trains than for 2014.

How is it possible to run a ‘broadly comparable’ service of classic trains

  • but with a cost reduction of £5.6 billion PV,
  • and one-third fewer platforms at Euston?

Written by beleben

February 23, 2015 at 11:40 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Digest to re-innovate

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China's high speed rail: All dressed up with no place to sell? Christian Science Minitor, 17 Feb 2015China built its high speed rail network by buying rolling stock and technology from foreign firms such as Kawasaki, Siemens, Alstom and Bombardier. Having adapted and reverse-engineered that technology — a process known as “digestion and re-innovation” — Chinese companies are looking for overseas sales (wrote the Christian Science Monitor’s Peter Ford).

Unlike Great Britain, China does not intend its main lines to be showcases for trains built in other countries. The export push is being driven by national prestige, and by over-capacity.


“The factories that produce high speed rail equipment overbuilt their production facilities,” says Gao Bai, director of the Center on China’s High-Speed Rail Development Strategy at Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu. As the domestic rollout slows, rail firms are pinning their hopes on foreign sales.

Officials appear bullish about the prospects. “A lot of countries are interested and there is a big market out there,” says Han Jiangping, spokesman for China Railways.

Others are less optimistic. Zhang Jian at the Beijing Transport University says only three large high speed projects have come close to making enough profit to pay for their construction – the rail links between Tokyo and Osaka, Paris and Lyon, and Beijing and Shanghai. (A short line connecting Beijing to the port of Tianjin has also been in the black.).

Written by beleben

February 20, 2015 at 11:34 am

HS2 and London Midland commuting, part three

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Part one | Part two

During its construction phase, HS2 would obviously not be helpful in reducing crowding on London Midland commuter trains — because of the disruption involved in building it into Euston, and rebuilding the station itself. But what about the longer term?

LM 'Finding a seat from Euston', May and December 2014 timetables

London Midland: ‘Finding a seat from Euston’, May and December 2014 timetables

Judging by London Midland’s “Finding a Seat” information for 2014, crowding is not generally caused by a lack of Fast line paths. The company uses red dots to indicate trains where passengers tend to outnumber seats.

Much of the crowding takes place on the Commuter Slow trains, not the Fast ones (see right hand diagram). Path utilisation on the Slow lines is poor.

Another cause of crowding is the use of short-length trains. Consider, for example, the 16:34 to Tring. In the May 2014 timetable it is shown as a 12-car consist, with ‘plenty of seats’. In the December 2014 timetable, it is an shown as an 8-car consist, with ‘standing room only’ (one red dot).

If the 18:13 or 18:52 to Birmingham New Street were 12-car, would there be red dots?

As previously explained on this blog, building high speed rail is a ludicrous and unbelievably wasteful way of addressing London Midland commuter crowding.

Written by beleben

February 20, 2015 at 10:22 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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