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Archive for August 2015

The difference in disruption, part two

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Part one

A HS2 Ltd paper estimated 183 weekend closures of a day’s duration or longer on the existing railway would be needed to allow for construction of its London – Birmingham high speed line. That figure is likely to change, because in March 2014 the government accepted recommendations from HS2 chairman David Higgins for a more comprehensive redevelopment of Euston than the plan currently in the bill, the Guardian reported.

[HS2 plans require ‘huge number’ of weekend line closures, say campaigners, Mark Tran, The Guardian, 31 Aug 2015]

[…] The number of weekend closures comes from an HS2 Ltd information paper prepared for the hybrid bill committee, based on plans submitted to parliament in November 2013. The paper said the closures would be done in normal night-time and weekend maintenance periods so as to minimise disruption to passenger and freight services.

Construction of Britain’s second high-speed rail link will lead to the closure of several lines for up to 33 weekends and Euston station for 19 weekends, campaigners have said.

Figures from HS2 Ltd, the public body responsible for developing and promoting the plans for a new London-to-Birmingham line, show that proposed closures include those of the west coast mainline near Lichfield for 31 weekends, the Derby-to-Birmingham line for 32 weekends and 33 weekend closures at Old Oak Common affecting Crossrail and the Great Western mainline.

However, that figure seems to have changed already, because page 24 of the July 2015 Government Response to the Lords Economic Affairs Committee gave the ‘indicative number of weekend closures’ required to build HS2 phase one as 223.

So why, one might ask, is there a difference of 40 weekends between the two estimates? Could it be that the numbers were just, ahem, plucked out of the air? Has anyone actually seen a site-by-site breakdown or description of the 183 (or 223) weekends? (This blog hasn’t, and it’s not for want of asking.)

It has been said that without HS2, Euston would need to be ‘rebuilt anyway’. What has never been said, is why it would need to be ‘rebuilt anyway’.

Page 24 of the July 2015 Government's HS2 Response to the Lords Economic Affairs Committee

On 19 June 2015, WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff announced that it had been contracted to undertake an ‘early phase study’ to investigate the realignment of existing tracks around the HS2 Old Oak Common site.

“Early phase study”. In other words, there was no detailed information about the amount of classic works required to accommodate HS2 at Old Oak Common.

WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff announcement about Old Oak Common works, 19 June 2015

Written by beleben

August 31, 2015 at 10:06 pm

Posted in Politics

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Railway security in Europe, part four

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Ministers from nine European countries including Britain held an emergency meeting yesterday to tighten security on rail networks in the aftermath of the foiled terror attack on a French train (wrote James Murray).

[Passengers face tighter security on train trips, James Murray, Daily Express, 30 Aug 2015]

[…] Passengers will now face tougher identity checks and baggage searches, and the possibility of rail marshals patrolling the trains was also raised.

[…] France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called the meeting in the wake of the failed attempt by a Muslim extremist to kill scores of passengers on an Amsterdam to Paris train a week ago last Friday.

[…] Mr Cazeneuve said it was “essential to put in place co-ordinated operations on certain targeted routes”.

[…] Former Metropolitan Police detective sergeant Chris Hobbs said: ‘‘France has a lot more officers than Britain, so having more officers on stations and trains could be done. Yet if terrorists see security has been improved on key international routes they will look for others, possibly suburban routes.”

The results of the conference will be debated by Europe’s rail security group on September 11.

What remains unclear, is why the Thalys attacker was reportedly granted residency in Spain in 2007 and allowed to remain there, even after becoming involved in drug dealing. Was that in the Spanish public interest? Is it in the British public interest to allow entry to large numbers of people with no identity papers, or checkable background?

Written by beleben

August 30, 2015 at 11:09 am

Posted in Politics

Nothing like a metro

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In a January 2014 article for the Rail Engineer magazine, HS2 chief engineer Professor Andrew McNaughton stated that, “The first phase of HS2 will be most useful in releasing capacity to recast the south end of the WCML and the corridor through Coventry into Birmingham. The former will then accommodate the growth into London and the latter high frequency metro style services that Centro envisages“.

As can be seen from SLC Rail’s diagram of the passenger rail timetable structure on Coventry – Birmingham corridor, the year 2013 local (stopping) train service did not resemble that of a metro.

Coventry - Birmingham corridor, passenger rail timetable structure in 2013 (Source: SLC Rail)

Coventry – Birmingham corridor, passenger rail timetable structure in 2013 (Source: SLC Rail)

But in the late 2020s, with HS2 in operation, could a “metro style service” be provided on the Birmingham to Coventry line?

Coventry - Birmingham corridor, maximum capacity limit with the 20 minute Intercity West Coast frequency (Source: SLC Rail)

Coventry – Birmingham corridor, maximum capacity limit with the 20 minute Intercity West Coast frequency (Source: SLC Rail)

According to SLC Rail, the 20-minute Intercity West Coast (Virgin) frequency limits the realisable capacity on the Coventry – Birmingham corridor to 8 trains per hour overall. Apparently, HS2 Ltd envisage that the Intercity West Coast frequency would fall from 20 to 30 minutes.

Coventry - Birmingham corridor, capacity provided by changing the 20 minute Intercity West Coast frequency to 30 minute (Source: SLC Rail)

Coventry – Birmingham corridor, capacity provided by changing the 20 minute Intercity West Coast frequency to 30 minute (Source: SLC Rail)

As can be seen, SLC Rail’s diagrams suggest that changing the ICWC frequency to half-hourly would allow just one extra train to run each hour, and the local service would still be nothing like a metro. (Consider how one would make a journey from Stechford to Tile Hill, for example.)

Plainly, HS2 would be of very little value for improving local capacity or connectivity in the West Midlands — or Yorkshire, or Greater Manchester. But rail capacity is perhaps too complex a subject for the mainstream media (or Rail magazine), and government ministers.

Written by beleben

August 28, 2015 at 11:22 am

HS2 and Stoke on Trent, part seven

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Part six/

Stoke on Trent’s Sentinel newspaper has reported that the city’s council spent £801,531 on developing and marketing its plans for the HS2 ‘Stoke Route’.

[Revealed: The £800k cost of Stoke-on-Trent’s failed HS2 bid, Phil Corrigan, The Sentinel, August 27, 2015]

COUNCIL leaders in Stoke-on-Trent have spent more than £800,000 of taxpayers’ money trying to bring HS2 to the city in a bid which now looks to have failed.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s previous Labour administration spearheaded efforts to secure a Potteries station on the high speed railway.

[…] The amount spent since 2013 includes:

£789,295 on professional services;

£6,366 on marketing;

£3,138 on travel and;

£2,732 on workshops and meetings.

The bulk of this amount, £651,732, was spent in 2014/15, while a further £16,840 has been spent in the current financial year despite the bid looking to have failed.

Written by beleben

August 27, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Posted in HS2

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Railway security in Europe, part three

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The whole debate about strengthening surveillance on trains is going nowhere – unless it is decided to post armed guards or police officers on those trains, like in the United States, which could be a sort of deterrent (wrote former French intelligence agent Claude Moniquet).

[Viewpoint: New anti-terror approach needed after France train attack, Claude Moniquet, BBC, 23 Aug 2015]

[…] Trains go from point A to point B with some (or lots) of stations in between. Can you imagine each station having scanners and checkpoints? Can you imagine turning up at train stations one or two hours before departure, like at airports? Of course not. And even if it did happen, the threat could switch to other targets: buses, tramways, underground, stores, theatres, restaurants, bars, churches and sporting events. Could we equip all these places with scanners and checkpoints? The answer is obvious.

Actually, the whole debate about strengthening surveillance on trains may not be going too far, even if armed guards were posted on trains.

Suppose a plain clothes ‘rail marshal’ were assigned to each Thalys service. What would be the probability of that marshal being in the right place on the train to make an effective intervention in the event of a terrorist incident?

Written by beleben

August 27, 2015 at 10:32 am

Posted in Politics, Railways

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Railway security in Europe, part two

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The 25 August Daily Telegraph story about rail security after the Arras train attack stated that “Britain is regarded as one of the keenest supporters of greater transport security in Europe, with David Cameron pushing for the sharing of passenger data, known as PNR”.

[France terror attack: British railway passengers could be forced to use full body scanners, Matthew Holehouse, Daily Telegraph, 25 Aug 2015]

[…] EU sources says there are no proposals to collect and share such data on rail travellers with police Europe-wide, although some European rail companies, including Thalys, do collect PNR.

Arras might be a golden opportunity for apologists for the surveillance state and the security ‘solutions’ industry, but there can never be security when the European Union’s borders are so weak. If the would-be Thalys assassin was ‘known’ to European intelligence agencies, and Thalys collect PNR, what exactly is the value of PNR? Does the Thalys booking process ask how many AK-47s you would like to take on board?

Written by beleben

August 26, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Politics, Railways

Railway security in Europe

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HS2 Ltd passenger experience visualisation

HS2 Ltd’s passenger experience vision was for open, barrier-free, high speed stations

On August 21 passengers on an Amsterdam to Paris Thalys train managed to overpower a 25-year-old Moroccan armed with a Kalashnikov and other weaponry, thereby averting a more serious incident.

[French Railways Security In Question After Thalys Attack, Andrea Rothman and Helene Fouquet, Bloomberg, 24 Aug 2015]

[…] While the French rail operator will increase random luggage checks on board trains, it is unthinkable to introduce the kind of security measures routinely applied to air travel, Transport Minister Alain Vidalies told Europe 1 radio Monday. That’s partly because of the greater numbers of people riding trains, and partly because of the nature of train travel, he said.

Trains are a soft target. Thousands of trains a day go to stations in cities where there aren’t even ticket offices or barriers. […]

The Eurostar connecting London to the European continent is the only train that has airport-style security. Because Britain is not part of the so-called Schengen group of countries including France and Belgium that have relaxed border controls, passengers traveling to or from London must arrive early, pass immigration officials, and be subject to searches while their luggage is screened.

According to a 26 August Daily Mail report, British rail passengers could face airport-style security before boarding trains under EU plans being considered after last week’s attack in France.

[Train users may face airport-style security: X-ray machines for high-speed services and ‘rail marshals’ could be introduced in wake of attack in France, John Stevens, Daily Mail, 26 Aug 2015]

[…] Surveillance cameras could be mandatory and X-ray machines introduced for high-speed services, along with the possibility of armed ‘rail marshals’.

The options are being discussed by officials in Brussels as they look at the possibility of drawing up EU-wide rules on railway security for the first time after an attack on a train between Brussels and Paris was foiled on Friday.

[…] An EU source said the measures under discussion would cover international routes as well as domestic high-speed trains, describing France’s TGV network as a ‘sexy target, far more attractive than commuter rail’.

Eurostar may be the ‘most secure’ train service in western Europe, but that is not saying much. For years, anyone could get on a Eurostar in Brussels without a passport or ticket and travel to England without challenge, bringing anything they liked onto the train. Britain’s HS1 is road patrolled by two-person teams in pickup-type vehicles, but their effectiveness must be considered dubious (and the cost of patrolling the wider rail network in the same way would be enormous).

More than a decade ago, following terrorist incidents, self-service luggage lockers were taken out of use and waste bins replaced by cardboard trays at SNCF stations, but as can be seen from the recent incursions into the facilities at Calais, security is variable.

The French authorities have also extended the (armed) police presence at certain stations at certain times, but how much of that is security, rather than security_theatre, is open to question. Do such measures reassure, or unnerve, or do they raise the question of how France — and other western European countries — came to be like this?

Written by beleben

August 26, 2015 at 11:21 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2, Politics

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HS2 and Meadowhall

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Presumably, Sheffield City Region’s High speed rail Meadowhall connectivity ‘factsheet’ was intended to make the case for a HS2 station at Meadowhall.

Sheffield City Region, 'High speed rail Meadowhall connectivity', Figure 1

Central Sheffield has a much larger ‘professional services’ sector than Meadowhall (source: Sheffield City Region, ‘High speed rail Meadowhall connectivity’, Figure 1)

[High speed rail Meadowhall connectivity, Sheffield City Region]


The first major national transport infrastructure project since the inception of the motorways, HSR will modernise travel in the UK. It will provide a genuine alternative for long distance journeys by providing more seats at the right times of day for the UK rail network.

Our early forecasts are that up to 15% of customers who currently use the Midland Main Line (Sheffield) and 50% from the East Coast Main Line (Doncaster) will transfer to HSR.

In addition to this, we project up to 66% of Cross Country users could utilise HSR when they make inter-city journeys. This transfer provides the opportunity for rail planners to overhaul the traditional rail network and and serve new destinations and provide improved connectivity for people within our region.

‘Up to 15% of customers who currently use the Midland Main Line (Sheffield) would transfer to HSR’, i.e. 85% of Sheffield customers who currently use the Midland Main Line would not transfer to HS2. Never mind, wouldn’t new-build HS2 at least avoid the need to do disruptive enhancements work on the existing lines?

[High speed rail Meadowhall connectivity, Sheffield City Region]

Improvements to existing lines are required, in addition to building a national HSR network, to enhance the capacity and performance of the current railway and to promote economic growth.

Written by beleben

August 25, 2015 at 9:16 am

Posted in HS2

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How strong is the (ring) fence?

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Britain’s ‘everyday’ local transport is in line to take a large proportion of government cuts in the forthcoming Spending Review because funding for national road and rail networks is essentially ringfenced, campaigners have warned (wrote Richard Johnstone).

[Local transport ‘set to take brunt of Spending Review cuts’, Public Finance, 20 Aug 2015]

[…] Groups including the government-backed Transport for Greater Manchester and the Campaign for Better Transport have warned that what they describe as “everyday transport” could be hit by up to 40% budget cuts.

This is because funding for local roads as well as bus services, cycling and walking are set on an annual basis through funding to local government, whereas budgets for Network Rail and Highways England are agreed in five-year cycles, making them more difficult to cut. […]

But according to the Sunday Times, Network Rail has been told “to brace itself for deep spending cuts as George Osborne prepares to slash its £38.5bn budget”.

[Osborne takes knife to Network Rail budget, John Collingridge, Sunday Times, Business Section, 23 August 2015]

The owner and operator of Britain’s 20,000 miles of railway has been dragged into the Treasury’s spending review, which is demanding that non-protected departments make cuts of 25%-40%. This could mean Network Rail has to slash another £1.5bn from its budget over the next three and a half years, leading to drastic reductions in upgrades, pay, materials and even maintenance.

The state-owned company was told of the extra cuts in a letter from a senior Department for Transport (DfT) mandarin, Jeremy Rolstone. […]

There is a world of difference between ringfencing a capital budget, and ringfencing a programme of works. With Great Western modernisation having ‘eaten nearly all the pies’ in the current ‘Control Period’, the prospects for schemes like Transpennine North and Midland electrification do not look good.

Written by beleben

August 24, 2015 at 9:06 am

Posted in HS2

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Does Jeremy Corbyn support HS2?

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Much of the success of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party leadership campaign has been down to the perception that he speaks the truth as he sees it, wrote Mike Geddes.

[Is HS2 a defining issue for Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign?, HS2: The Regional Impact, 20 Aug 2015]

But is this true in respect of HS2? A week or two ago, newspapers reported that Corbyn was about to state his opposition to HS2, saying that it was a project to turn regional cities into dormitories for London businesses. But then, in the event, he did not, and his Northern Future policy paper made no reference to HS2 when discussing transport. The word was that Corbyn had been ‘got at’ by trade union interests who support HS2. Then, a couple of days ago, a statement from Corbyn’s camp made a positive reference to high speed rail (though not to HS2 specifically). We cannot know what has actually been going on, unless Corbyn issues a precise and clarifying statement. Does he support HS2, and if so why?

Written by beleben

August 20, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Posted in HS2