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Archive for March 2015

How ‘British’ are Crossrail trains?

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Crossrail 1, Bombardier Aventra

Siemens was at the centre of an intense row in 2011 when it was awarded a £1.5 bn contract to build 1,140 train carriages [for Thameslink], ahead of Bombardier’s plant in Derby, wrote the Daily Telegraph’s Nathalie Thomas (28 Jan 2014). The Thameslink trains are being built in Uerdingen, Germany, and their UK content is low.

[Emphasis will be on British jobs in new rail bids, says Siemens director, DT, 28 Jan 2014]

[…] Steve Scrimshaw, managing director of rail systems for Siemens, said he expected future competitions for UK contracts to include a heavy emphasis on British jobs following the row over new trains for the busy Thameslink commuter line.

[…] “There is definitely a big push to look at what you can do to help regenerate the economy. Going forward, that focus is going to be on even more. If you look at what London Underground and Crossrail have done, they are all trying to demonstrate the spend in the UK market.”

The bidding framework for the Thameslink train contract was created by the last Labour government. After Siemens was awarded the Thameslink contract, Bombardier announced that it might close down its Derby factory, unless it received enough orders. In July 2013, Siemens withdrew from the Crossrail 1 rolling stock competition.

In February 2014, the government announced Bombardier had won the Crossrail 1 order.


The trains will be manufactured and assembled at Bombardier’s plant in Derby.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said Bombardier’s contract would support 760 manufacturing jobs and 80 apprenticeships.

[John Moylan, Industry correspondent, BBC News]

When Bombardier lost out to Siemens for the £1.6bn Thameslink contract, it put the future of the Derby-based train maker in doubt and raised fundamental questions about the government’s support for manufacturing.

Some claimed it was unthinkable that countries like Italy, France and Germany would award such a huge contract to a foreign firm and risk losing a fundamental capability like train manufacturing.

A review of government procurement followed. That has led to a wider interpretation of European Union state aid rules.

Contracts had tended to be awarded on a narrow value for money basis. Now broader issues are taken into account including the impact upon the supply chain, support for apprenticeships and the amount of the money to be spent in the UK.

It is understood Bombardier was a clear winner of the Crossrail contract. The government insists it offered the best trains at the best price.

At the Labour and Conservative parties, the Department for Transport, Hitachi, Siemens, and Bombardier, the PR emphasis may now be on ‘British jobs’. But according to Crossrail Ltd, the Class 345 trains for Crossrail 1 are 27% British by value.

So what is the GB content of the Class 800, AT200, and AT300 trains, which are to be assembled by Hitachi at a factory at Newton Aycliffe?

Written by beleben

March 31, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Posted in London, Politics

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The perspicacity of Neanderthals

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Neanderthals in the House of Lords have packaged together every half-backed [sic] snake oil claim about HS2 that it is possible to find in a report that accuses the Government of failing to make a convincing case for the £50 billion project (wrote The Chamberlain Files’ Paul Dale).

[HSBC and HS2 reinforce ‘booming Birmingham’, but also highlight tale of two cities, Paul Dale, 26 Mar 2015]

As [Birmingham council chief executive] Mark Rogers told us in his anniversary interview this week, “deprevation [sic] in this city hasn’t changed in 25 years.”

But how would building a £20+ billion high speed railway between Birmingham and London reverse forty years of second-city economic decline?

Birmingham city council: 'The scale of the challenge'

Warwick University, Feb 2013: West Midlands economy most affected by downturn

In the late 1960s, there was only one motorway connection between London and Birmingham, and fewer (and slower) train services than there are today. So one might expect that in 2015, with the improved connectivity from the M40 and the West Coast Very High Frequency train service, Birmingham’s relative productivity would be higher than in the 1960s and 1970s. But in the last forty years, a large productivity gap has opened up.

'How to kill a city (extract)', The Economist, May 2013

This month’s Lords Economic Affairs Committee report on HS2 concluded that the scheme would primarily benefit London, rather than provincial cities. Interestingly enough, Alan Wenban-Smith’s 2009 report for the the high speed lobbying company Greengauge 21 stated that “economic theory predicts that better transport between two regions or nations will tend to work to the competitive advantage of the stronger area”.

Extract from 'Complementary measures to facilitate regional economic benefits from High Speed Rail', 2009

Alan Wenban-Smith on competitive advantage of the stronger area

Written by beleben

March 29, 2015 at 12:21 pm

Footprint of an Old Oak HS2 terminus

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The Lords Economic Affairs Committee report on HS2 was highly critical of the entire scheme, but suggested that if did go ahead, it might be less silly to terminate the line at Old Oak, rather than Euston.

Needless to say, the cost and disruption savings would be enormous.

The HS2 Ltd design for Old Oak was for a through station, to Euston and HS1. A terminus of the same capacity as Euston HS2, would require more land, for perhaps 12 platforms. But how much more?

Clearly, nothing like as much as this:

Bogus visualisation of the footprint of an HS2 terminus at Old Oak

For comparison, here is a drawing showing the footprint of the ‘through’ version of the station:

Old Oak Common HS2 (DfT hosted drawing)

Old Oak Common HS2 (DfT hosted drawing)

Footprint of Old Oak HS2 six platform through station, and Waterloo

Written by beleben

March 27, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Posted in HS2

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In praise of orange trousers

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‘HS2 will boost local economies along and beyond the route’, according to the CBI. But surely, there must be a question mark over how much a bunch of HGVs and men in orange trousers could really ‘boost’ towns and villages in Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire, etc.


CBI: 25 March 2015 tweet-link to Katja Hall’s comment on the ‘David Higgins HS2 phase two’ report

Sadly, the CBI don’t even seem to be able to distinguish between high speed rail, and a maglev.

CBI comment on-David Higgins HS2 report, illustrated with picture of Transrapid maglev

Written by beleben

March 25, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Outdated and unconvincing

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Following premature publication of details by Railnews on 24 March, the full House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report on HS2 was officially published just after midnight on the 25th. It suggested that

  • HS2’s huge public subsidy conflicted with the declared objective of making rail less dependent on government, and noted that its cost-benefit analysis relied on out-of-date evidence
  • applying a BIS Tender Price adjustment to the cost of HS2 would give a Q1 2014 equivalent figure of £56.6 billion.

[Comments from press release by Lord Hollick, chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee]

“At £50 bn HS2 will be one of the most expensive infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK but the Government have not yet made a convincing case for why it is necessary.

“The Committee are supportive of investment in rail infrastructure, but are not convinced that HS2 as currently proposed is the best way to deliver that investment. The Government are basing the justification for HS2 on two factors – increased rail capacity and rebalancing the UK economy; we have not seen the evidence that it is the best way to deliver either.

“Overcrowding on the West Coast Main Line is largely a problem on commuter trains and on long-distance trains immediately after peak time on Friday evenings and at some weekends. The Government have not carried out a proper assessment of whether alternative ways of increasing capacity are more cost effective than HS2.

Full information on railway usage has not been made publicly available by the Government on grounds of commercial sensitivity. The plausibility of the Government’s claim that there are current long distance capacity constraints and also its forecast of future passenger demand are difficult to assess without full access to current railway usage. The investment of £50 bn investment of public money demands nothing less than full transparency.

“In terms of rebalancing, London is likely to be the main beneficiary from HS2. Investment in improving rail links in the North of England might deliver much greater economic benefit at a fraction of the cost of HS2.

“We have set out a number of important questions on HS2 that the Government must now provide detailed answers to. Parliament should not approve the enabling legislation that will allow HS2 work to begin until we have satisfactory answers to these key questions.”

One might also recall that in January 2015, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said they were “sceptical” as to whether HS2 could deliver value for money. But judging by soundbites from the CBI and the Labour party, everything about HS2 is hunky dory.

[HS2: Government has no ‘convincing case’ for £50bn rail line,
Chris Johnston, BBC, 25 Mar 2015]

[…] Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher said that Labour supported HS2. […] We have said there will be no blank cheque for the project under Labour.”

[Ben Ruse, HS2 Ltd Rhian Kelly, CBI director for business environment]

“HS2 will better connect eight of our 10 biggest cities, boosting local economies along and beyond the route together with complementary road and rail investment. It’s vital we avoid any further delays to the project.”


Of course, many of the shortcomings of HS2 have been explored in depth, by the Beleben blog.

Written by beleben

March 25, 2015 at 6:00 am

The perfect curve from ticketing to toilets

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Good design? The DRMM website homepage, 24 Mar 2015

Sadie Morgan, of dRMM de Rijke Marsh Morgan Architects, has been appointed ‘chair’ of the HS2 Design Panel.

[Sadie Morgan to chair HS2 Design Panel, Enda Mullen, Birmingham Post online, 24 March 2015]

[…] She said: “The fact I am an architect gives me a good oversight – because this role is all-encompassing, from ticketing to toilets.

[…] Ms Morgan’s appointment coincides with the publication of HS2’s Design Vision document, which aims to provide a framework going forward to engineering, architectural and design teams.

[…] “We have to make sure everything works intuitively and well for everyone and all elements are fit for purpose but sensitive to context.

“The overriding feature is what good design looks like.

What good design looks like, seems to depend on who is doing the looking. HS2’s Head of Architecture, Laura Kidd, has some strange ideas on the topic. She was involved with the design of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (HS1), which resulted in ‘Tesco value viaducts’, and carbuncles such as Stratford International station.

What good design looks like? HS1 Stratford International railway station

What good design looks like? HS1 Stratford International railway station

Siobhan Sharpe of Perfect Curve

Written by beleben

March 24, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Posted in HS1, HS2

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He says with knowledge

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Business trends at sea mean the HS2 rail plan is essential, according to HS2 Chief Information Officer James Findlay.

[HS2 CIO James Findlay interview – Boats, trains and CIO reveals, Mark Chillingworth, CIO, 19 Mar 2015]

[…] Speaking at his Canary Wharf office, James Findlay told CIO UK that “95% of our trade is by sea, so transport is critical to our ability to compete.”

When a ship such as Globe unloads (it takes 24 hours), its load would form a single line measuring 72 miles, Birmingham to Manchester as it happens, and the next phase of HS2.

“The ports at London and Southampton are being dredged for the new mega ships, so the challenge is the ability to distribute the loads. The ability to interface are critical to our survival and that requires a lot of strategic thinking about the hub cities in the UK.” While politicians try and sell HS2 to the public with everything but the truth; Findlay deals in facts and he knows the facts. Not just because he’s a well aligned CIO, but because he has a heritage on the seas, having been IT and projects leader at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for close to a decade and before that a career in ports and defence. To this day, the coast plays a major part in his life, and he sees what’s happening on our waves and to our demands of our economy.

“Over the next 10 years we will be at peak capacity on the existing rail network,” he says returning to dry land. “HS2 provides a relief to primary freight traffic. We won’t build more roads,” he says with knowledge, as Findlay doubles up as Technology Leader for the Department for Transport. “Network Rail has been re-engineering some of the lines through a process of dropping the lines,” but as he explains, because the UK was the first adopter of rail networks, the nation is lumbered with a legacy of Victorian lines that can’t take the growing capacity of local, intercity and freight rail. A new rail infrastructure is required.

So what is the relief which would be provided by HS2 to primary freight traffic? Careful scrutiny of the evidence suggests the uplift in railfreight capacity would be, at best, minimal.

And there may not be any uplift at all. When the Department for Transport were asked about HS2 released capacity for railfreight, the answer was

[…] there is good reason to believe that 3 additional freight paths per off-peak hour on the WCML corridor would be compatible with the HS2 Phase Two service set out in the PFM assumptions report.

3 additional freight paths per off-peak hour on the WCML corridor would be compatible with the HS2 Phase Two service set out in the PFM assumptions report. And 3 additional freight paths per off-peak hour on the WCML corridor would be compatible with no HS2 service at all.

Because 3 is the hourly two-way number of freight paths currently allocated on the WCML, but not used.

Written by beleben

March 19, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Freight, High speed rail, HS2

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To Pendolino, and back

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In 2012, HS2 chief engineer Prof Andrew McNaughton explained to a trade magazine how his new railway would allow the existing West Coast tracks to run a much better commuter service.

[Andrew McNaughton, quoted in The Engineer, 28 May 2012]

‘If you stand on Milton Keynes platform during morning peak [now], you’ll see lots of Pendolino trains but they don’t stop; they’re all full of people going to Manchester. In 2025, when HS2 opens, they’re gone. Trains will stop at Milton Keynes every 10 minutes.’

And on 11 February 2015, he offered a few comments at the High Speed Rail Bill Committee.

[Andrew McNaughton at the High Speed Rail Bill Committee, 11 Feb]

When HS2 is in operation, then the long distance services, the HS2 Services, run off their platforms, there will be less of the [Euston] classic platforms left. But, they are now being used for these new services, which don’t take so long to turn around. A train from Glasgow spends 40 minutes being cleaned, victualled, watered, before it disappears off north again. So, it uses a platform for a very long time. A commuter train from Milton Keynes comes in, decants everybody, puts more people on, disappears off in five or six minutes. So, the mix of train services does affect the number of platforms you need, as well.

Andrew McNaughton, 'released capacity', Feb 2015

But the Professor’s presentation did not show Fast-commuter trains starting from Milton Keynes, and running into London; it showed them starting at places like Birmingham and Glasgow, and calling at Milton Keynes, en route. Because travel-to-London demand from points north of Milton Keynes is much lower, that service pattern is unlikely to be very efficient. A more cost-effective approach would be to run pure commuter services, perhaps by connecting Milton Keynes into the Midland Main Line.

HS2 Ltd want classic services to occupy less Euston platform space by replacing current long distance trains with pseudo-commuter ones serving the ‘long-distance’ market, running beyond the normal commuter threshold (Northants). Are Class 350 trains really suitable for journeys of 300 km or more?

DfT explanation of Euston fast and relief lines capacity pre-and-post-HS2, 2014

In a further bizarre twist, the Department for Transport seem to want some commuter services to switch from Desiro to Pendolino, and then back again [see table above].

Written by beleben

March 19, 2015 at 11:49 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS1

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Assumptions of a muddle

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Two different versions of Figure 6-6, in HS2 PFM Assumptions reports labelled with the same version number

Two different versions of Figure 6-6, in HS2 PFM Assumptions reports labelled with the same version number

Written by beleben

March 18, 2015 at 5:33 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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HS2 and London Midland commuting, part four

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Figure 9 of the October 2013 HS2 Strategic Case

Figure 9 (above left) of the October 2013 HS2 Strategic Case compared one-hour-one-way passenger throughput on the West Coast Main Line (at that time) with a situation ‘after HS2’. The simplified diagram (above right) just shows the ac lines commuter capacity in October 2013, and a DfT impression of the situation after the implementation of HS2 phase two.

However, with the further implementation of London Midland ‘Project 110’, in the December 2014 timetable, capacity on the ac lines increased – as shown in column B in the diagram below.

West Coast Euston ac lines commuter scenarios (Beleben)

West Coast Euston ac lines commuter scenarios (Beleben)

In the evening peak, only a third of London Midland Euston trains run at ‘full length’ (12 carriages). Even in the high peak (5 till 6 pm), most are not full length. If all current peak trains did run at full length, the capacity would be as shown in column C.

The West Coast Slow lines are only signalled for one train every four minutes, but not all available paths are used. If an additional 12-car train ran on the relief tracks, capacity would be as shown in column E.

The October 2013 HS2 Strategic Case sought to associate increased future West Coast commuter capacity with HS2, but the fact is that most Euston commuters do not use the WCML Fast lines in the course of their journey. HS2 would really only be of potential benefit to those commuters travelling to Leighton Buzzard, and beyond.

The number of commuters travelling from Coventry and Northampton into London is small compared to the volumes from Milton Keynes, and points south thereof. But if it were necessary, would it be possible to accommodate a large increase in commuting from Milton Keynes into London, without spending £20+ billion on HS2 phase one?

The answer is yes. One of the most cost-effective approaches would be to run fast trains from St Pancras, reaching Bletchley via a new connection from the Midland Main Line (diagram below). Four Thameslink trains extended to Bletchley would bring the capacity to the level shown in column F above.

Bletchley MML / Varsity connection concept (Beleben)

Written by beleben

March 16, 2015 at 3:25 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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