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Archive for April 2015

The biggest greenwash going

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According to Alisdair McGregor, Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for the Calder Valley, HS2 is ‘the biggest Green project going, because it’s about freeing up freight capacity’.

Alisdair 'honestly shocked' McGregor tweet about HS2 and railfreight

The facts are as follows:

  1. The busiest section of the West Coast Main Line is the section between London and Rugby.
  2. On that section, there are four tracks (Up Fast, Up Slow, Down Fast, and Down Slow).
  3. In normal service, intercity passenger trains use the Fast lines. Freight and most Commuter traffic uses the Slow lines.
  4. HS2 is envisaged as a passenger-only two-track railway, for use by long distance trains. As such, it does not provide increased railfreight capacity on its own track, or on the existing West Coast track.
  5. Currently, about half the available freight paths on the WCML are not used (i.e., wasted).

Andrew Mcnaughton 'released capacity', February 2015

As can be seen from chief engineer Andrew McNaughton’s presentation (above), HS2’s modelling does not envisage a fall in the number of passenger services using the Slow lines. Therefore, so far as can be established, the number of additional freight paths arising from HS2 would be zero.

Written by beleben

April 24, 2015 at 10:47 am

Posted in HS2

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HS2 live you longtime

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At the ‘Next Generation Rail’ conference in December 2014, Cheshire East council leader Michael Jones explained how the HS2 railway would help people live long, and prosper.

[NGR conference, Crewe, 4 Dec 2014]

Q: What are the benefits of a fully integrated transport system on societal concerns such as public health?

[Michael Jones]: Believe it or not, there will be a very strong link between HS2 and public health. We’re in the situation where we have women (in Cheshire East) with a life expectancy of 57. Less than 30 miles away, it’s 72. That’s one of the highest discrepancies in the country. Granted, the current life expectancy has risen from 52 in the last three years, but if we continue to focus on low employment, getting people educated and giving them wealth – all things that come with the HS2, then we can expect to see big change.

ModernKulture presents NGR Cheshire, Dec 2014

Written by beleben

April 23, 2015 at 8:00 am

Posted in HS2

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Oui mais go slower

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According to Les Echos, the future ‘low cost’ TGV Ouigo high speed train service between ‘Paris’ and Aquitaine might be routed via the existing main line, rather over the high speed track (being built at a cost of several billion euro) and use Massy as its northern terminus.

As with the Paris – Lyon relation, there seems to be a need to make Ouigo inconvenient for business travel, to limit migration from regular TGV.

[La SNCF dessine les contours de sa future offre de TGV low cost Ouigo vers Bordeaux, Lionel STEINMANN, Les Echos, 14 Jan 2015]

[…] Seconde interrogation, la nature de la ligne empruntée pour relier Bordeaux. Aujourd’hui, les TGV circulent sur le réseau classique à partir de Tours, pour un temps de parcours, pour les liaisons directes, un peu supérieur à 3 heures. Mais cette ligne va être doublée à partir de 2017 par une ligne 100 % TGV, le groupe Vinci ayant remporté l’appel d’offres pour la construction et l’exploitation d’une nouvelle section TGV entre Tours et Bordeaux, qui mettra Bordeaux à 2 h 05 de Paris. En 2017, la SNCF aura donc le choix entre les deux itinéraires. Et selon plusieurs experts, elle pourrait choisir de faire circuler les TGV classiques sur la nouvelle ligne et les Ouigo sur la ligne actuelle. La SNCF récrimine en effet depuis plusieurs années sur le niveau des péages qu’elle devra acquitter à Vinci pour faire circuler ses trains. Ces péages seront déjà difficiles à supporter économiquement par les TGV classiques, assure un expert, ils sont tout bonnement inenvisageables pour les TGV low cost.

Written by beleben

April 22, 2015 at 8:38 am

Posted in Bizarre

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Quantum of Desiro

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If the HS2 railway were built into London’s Euston station, there would be a reduction in the number of platforms available for use by trains using the existing tracks, HS2 chief engineer Professor Andrew McNaughton told the High Speed Rail Bill Committee on 15 February 2015.

[Andrew McNaughton, 15 Feb 2015]

[…] But, [in 2026 the Euston classic platforms] are now being used for […] 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.

But as can be seen from Prof McNaughton’s slide #13 (below), HS2’s proposed re-mix of the West Coast route does not feature dedicated Fast line commuter trains terminating at Milton Keynes. All the Fast line services would run on to Northamptonshire or beyond (in some cases, well beyond).

Andrew McNaughton presentation slide #13, 15 Feb 2015

According to the Department for Transport, most of the Fast line trains would be operated by Class 350 (or similar) units. These have a lower top speed than the Pendolino or IEP designs. So it seems likely that journey times on West Coast would tend to increase, rather than decrease.

At present, most peak London Midland Euston trains are short-length, which suggests a continuing insufficiency of rolling stock. The number of Class 350 (actual or ersatz) required to operate the Professor’s re-mix is unclear, but seems likely to be considerably in excess of what currently exists.

Written by beleben

April 21, 2015 at 10:30 am

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A snail-like top speed

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Why has it taken Eurostar 20 years to start running trains to Marseille and Amsterdam? The problem was, there were no genuine high speed lines in Britain for the trains to run on, according to an article on the ‘Citymetric’ website.

'Eurostar is expanding to Marseille and Amsterdam. But why has it taken 20 years?', Paul Prentice, Citymetric, 17 Apr 2015

[Eurostar is expanding to Marseille and Amsterdam. But why has it taken 20 years?, Paul Prentice, Citymetric, 17 Apr 2015]

There were only the East and West Coast Main Lines, with a relatively snail-like top speed of 125mph. As a result, journey times on the UK side could not match the genuine high speed networks on mainland Europe, and while British Rail did begin running a shadow service of regional trains connecting with Eurostar at Waterloo in 1995, these trains ran almost empty. They’d ended completely by 1997.

In any case, a nine-hour rail journey time between Glasgow and London simply couldn’t compete with pioneering budget airlines. […]

Aside from how to get trains through the tunnel, there are also questions over the lack of capacity on the rail network in northern France. High Speed 1, the line between the Channel Tunnel and St Pancras International, is only about half full, which allows for excellent reliability on the British side – but what happens when high speed trains meet congestion at the other end? Without French investment in their equivalent infrastructure, LGV Nord, the “paths” do not exist, and the delays might stack up.

This sounds like a load of old nonsense. Firstly, the rail journey time between Glasgow and London is not nine hours.

Secondly, the prior non-existence of through services between London and Marseille, and London and Amsterdam, cannot be a result of there being “no genuine high speed lines in Britain to run on”.

Thirdly, had they started running, the Nightstar trains would have been loco-hauled, and unable to run at more than ~160 km/h, even on new-build lines.

Fourthly, the idea that the LGV line to Paris is “approaching capacity” is questionable (especially in respect of the section between Calais and Lille). HS1 was, in essence, designed to French specifications (signalling included), so the line capacity on either side of the Channel is probably the same.

Written by beleben

April 21, 2015 at 9:00 am

Posted in England, High speed rail

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Defective in concept

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Wisbech Standard, 10 April 2015: 'Cambridge busway may need to be ripped up'

Wisbech Standard, 10 April 2015: ‘Cambridge busway may need to be ripped up’

The Cambridge guided busway — built on the old St Ives railway trackbed — has seen 11 million passengers since opening four years ago, but has been plagued with defects, the Wisbech Standard reported (10 April 2015).

[‘Deteriorating’ Cambridgeshire guided busway may need to be ripped up, Wisbech Standard]

A technical report six months ago said the busway, which was built by contractor BAM Nuttall, had £31 million worth of defects – in some places the track has risen four inches – which need to be addressed to tackle the “deteriorating” ride quality.

[…] Speaking to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Bob Menzies, service director for strategy and development at Cambridgeshire County Council, said they may be forced to put rubber pads under every beam of the track.

[…] The council instigated the review into the contract after the project ran into problems and delays, resulting in BAM Nuttall, repaying £33million of the £147m costs to settle a long-running dispute about who should pay for the overspend for the concrete route.

The report found BAM Nuttall did not think the design was as complete as it expected it to be when the contract was awarded.

Involving a consultant to review the design was not value for money and removed responsibility from the contractor’s designer, the report added.

SDG website case study, Cambridge Guided Busway

SDG website case study, Cambridge Guided Busway

Like the HS2 scheme and the Borders Railway, the Cambridge busway is ‘political’ infrastructure. Its biggest defect lies in the concept, rather than the execution. The concrete guideway is little more than a very expensive way of stopping normal road traffic using the right-of-way. Had the old St Ives railway been rebuilt as a conventional road, there would have at least been the possibility of bicycles, and emergency vehicles, being able to use it.

In general, reserved track transport schemes — bus or rail — tend to require high levels of demand to be worthwhile. According to its website, Steer Davies Gleave ‘co-ordinated a multi-disciplinary PPP team, to develop a robust scheme for the Cambridge Guided Busway from conception through to scheme design’, but what has been provided could hardly be described as robust. Perhaps BAM Nuttall are not the only ones who have questions to answer.


[…] Steer Davies Gleave guided the evolution of the project from a private sector developer promoted project, to a joint public/private project with the powers sought by Cambridgeshire County Council.

How we did it

We managed a multi-disciplinary team from conception through to scheme design and the preparation for the Transport and Works Act application

It included:

Developing briefs for consultants
Defined scopes of work
Provided strategic advice as part of the client team
Wrote papers to obtain political sign-off
Facilitated key third party discussions
Managed the stakeholder and public consultations
Managed the preparation for the Transport and Works Act application
Acted as strategic advisor to the QCs during the public inquiry process
Steer Davies Gleave’s management of the team meant that we were able to develop a robust scheme within the extremely tight timeframes. Our expertise in technical issues and an understanding of the political sensitivities and requirements ensured that the right solution we developed.

The project director for Cambridge summarised SDG’s input as “at all times professional and undertaken to an extremely high standard. The particular strengths were creativity, problem solving and project management”.

Written by beleben

April 12, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Politics

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What are the HS2 classic line savings?

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HS2 Ltd’s October 2013 Economic Case included £5.67 billion (year 2011 present value) of classic service cuts in phase one, rising to £8.26 billion in HS2 phase two

HS2 economic case, Oct 2013: £5.67 billion (2011 present value) classic service cuts - net - with HS2 phase one; £8.26 billion (2011 present value) classic service cuts - net - with HS2 phase two

Is HS2 technical director Andrew McNaughton’s ‘illustrative representation’ of West Coast train services in HS2 phase one, compatible with claimed net savings of £5.67 billion?

Andrew McNaughton, HS2 phase one released capacity presentation, Feb 2015

Written by beleben

April 10, 2015 at 10:05 am

Posted in HS2

Künftig langsamere Züge

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'Deutsche Bahn bringt den Super-ICE an den Start', Die Welt: 18 Feb 2014On 18 February 2014 Die Welt reported on the introduction of the new generation of Velaro ICE high speed trains in Germany (Baureihe 407, maximum speed 320 km/h).

The story mentioned that the next generation of long-distance trains after the BR 407 — the ICx — would be designed only for maximum speeds of 230 to 250 km/h. For Germany’s economic geography, what mattered was high average speed, not high maximum speed, explained Deutsche Bahn chief executive Ruediger Grube.

[Deutsche Bahn bringt den Super-ICE an den Start, Nikolaus Doll, Die Welt, 18 Feb 2014]

[…] Deutschland hat im Vergleich zu Frankreich oder China relativ viele Haltepunkte auf den Fernstecken, die eng beieinander liegen. “Einen ICE 3 auf einer normalen Fernstrecke voll zu beschleunigen, lohnt sich hierzulande oft gar nicht, weil man kurz darauf schon wieder abbremsen muss”, sagt ein DB-Lokführer.

Despite the relatively small distances between Lancashire, the Midlands, and London, Britain’s HS2 railway project has been foolishly designed for speeds of 400 km/h. If built, the cost and disruption would be enormous.

Existing disused routes — the Great Central Railway and the New North Main Line — could be reactivated to provide a fast route between London and the Midlands, at a small fraction of the cost of HS2. The GC route could also function as a genuine “North – South” connector, rather than a “North to London” one.

Written by beleben

April 9, 2015 at 10:10 am

Posted in Germany, Politics

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The readily available capacity

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Alstom French redundancy fears

On 2 April, Alstom UK Director of Government Affairs, Craig Jones, tweeted a “personal view” about the HS2 scheme.

Extract from HS2 documentation tweeted by Alstom director Craig Jones: 'For those who still think HS2 is about the speed'(?)

‘For those who still think HS2 is about the speed’ (?)

But what does “Euston seats” actually mean?

For HS2 Ltd, it seems to mean, “seats on trains, apart from the dc lines, which use Euston as their London terminus“.

However, the numbers in Mr Jones’ tweet (from the HS2 October 2013 Strategic Case) are dubious. The “current” Euston seats figure is not 11,300. For instance, in the December 2014 timetable, additional capacity was provided on the London Midland services out of Euston.

Furthermore, HS2 is supposed to take over the role of intercity carrier to the East Midlands, Yorkshire, the North East, and eastern Scotland. But the current London terminus of the trains serving those destinations is not Euston.

So “Euston seats”, is a meaningless yardstick. Meaningful comparisons need to be based on the capacity between city pairs, not particular stations.

In HS2’s October 2013 modelled service pattern (below), eleven paths were allocated to places on the West Coast corridor. If all eleven HS2_West_Coast services were full length (“1,100-seat”) trains, there would be a theoretical 12,100 seats. To establish the capacity uplift from high speed rail, the theoretical “With_HS2 figure” would need to be compared against the theoretical maximum “Without_HS2” figure.

HS2 Y network modelled service pattern, Oct 2013

Even when compared against ‘readily available’ capacity rather than theoretical maxima from classic platform lengthening or line-of-route resignalling, the benefit from HS2 is unimpressive.

If four 260-metre IEP trains provided the Birmingham intercity service on existing track, the quantum of seats would be (4 * 715 =) 2,860. If eight 11-car Pendolinos provided the North West / Glasgow services, the quantum would (8 * 617 =) 4,936 seats, assuming conversion of one first class carriage to standard.

If four 12-car Desiro (350/2) provided the Outer Suburban Fast service, its seat provision would be (4 * 810 = ) 3,240. If nine 12-car Desiro 350/2 provided the Slow service, its total would be (9 * 810 =) 7,290.

The readily available hourly capacity to West Coast destinations would therefore be 18,326.

The equivalent from HS2 appears to be 27,107 (i.e., 15,007 [West Coast] + 12,100 [from the New HS2 Line]).

The capacity increase is much lower than portrayed by HS2 Ltd. And the “18,326” no-HS2 figure does not include any increases from line-of-route interventions or changes in route utilisation, such as:

  • train lengthening or resignalling on the West Coast line,
  • providing additional capacity to Milton Keynes, via a link to the Midland Main Line,
  • providing additional capacity to the Midlands, by more intensive use of the Chiltern Line,
  • diverting Haven Ports railfreight to the cross country F2N route.

Written by beleben

April 7, 2015 at 11:44 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Stuck on repeat

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For more than a year, senior Labour party politicians have been pontificating about the need to “get a grip” on HS2 costs, without ever explaining how they would get a grip themselves. Ed Balls has kept repeating that there should be “no blank cheque” for HS2, without explaining what that means.

Google search result, for get a grip on HS2 costs

Judging by their history with programmes such as Nimrod MRA.4, and NHS informatics, it seems unlikely that Labour would be any more successful at keeping HS2 costs under control.

Daily Telegraph story on the abandonment of a failed NHS computer system, 2011

Written by beleben

April 2, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Posted in HS2

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