Archive for September 2015
Work to electrify the TransPennine North and Midland Main Line is to be ‘unpaused’ under plans announced today, the Department for Transport claimed.
[TransPennine and Midland Mainline electrification works to resume, DfT, 30 September 2015]
Sir Peter Hendy has outlined to the Secretary of State for Transport how work could continue. The Secretary of State has replied to the Chair of Network Rail asking Network Rail to un-pause this work.
Network Rail will work with the Department for Transport (DfT) and Rail North to develop a new plan for electrification of the TransPennine line between Stalybridge and Leeds and on to York and Selby to focus on delivering key passenger benefits as quickly as possible. This is an improvement on the previous plan which only changed the power supply of the trains.
The new plan will deliver faster journey times and significantly more capacity between Manchester, Leeds and York. The upgrade is expected to provide capacity for 6 fast or semi-fast trains per hour, take up to 15 minutes off today’s journey time between Manchester and York and be complete by 2022. When the work is finished, the whole route from Liverpool to Newcastle (via Manchester, Leeds and York) will be fully electrified and journey times will be significantly reduced compared to today’s railway.
Network Rail will also recommence work to electrify Midland Mainline, the vital long-distance corridor which serves the UK’s industrial heartland. Sir Peter Hendy is proposing that line speed and capacity improvement works already in hand are added to, with electrification of the line north of Bedford to Kettering and Corby by 2019 and the line North of Kettering to Leicester, Derby/Nottingham and Sheffield by 2023.
New Northern and TransPennine rail franchise awards will be announced before the end of the year.
[…] Chairman of Network Rail Sir Peter Hendy said:
“The temporary pause in the programme has given us the space to develop a better plan for passengers. People can expect more services and faster journeys. We face some difficult challenges, and there is more work still to do, but the Secretary of State’s decision means we can now move forward with our plans to electrify TransPennine and Midland Mainline”.
But the “temporary pause in the TPN programme to give the space to develop a better plan for passengers” actually seems to be set to continue until 2017.
[Extract from Peter Hendy’s letter to Patrick McLoughlin, 29 Sep 2015]
Network Rail is already carrying out, and has not paused, significant interventions in the route to improve journey times and speed, and this will continue.
However, in order to ensure expenditure is not wasted on abortive works, my advice is that a full planning exercise should start immediately with all the relevant parties — Network Rail, Department for Transport and Transport for the North – involved. This will establish a firm detailed design which increases benefits to passengers compared to the previous paused scheme, and this will be concluded by the end of 2017. During this time we should also explore the best methods of delivery on the Trans-Pennine route, bearing in mind the need to keep the railway operational, but also the need for necessary access to the railway for the works. My advice is that commencing electrification at the beginning of 2018 (with some enabling works carried out before then) could result in delivery by end 2022. Hence while this is a decision for you, my advice is that the project can be un-paused with immediate effect.
Judging by Mr Hendy’s letter to Patrick McLoughlin, the MML electrification unpause is being replaced by a MML electrification go-very-slow.
There’s no information about the knock-on or budgetary effects, but Control Period 6 seems to be becoming the new Control Period 5.
Although well over £600 million has been spent on the Birmingham New Street Gateway scheme, there have been few improvements in the realm of health and safety.
For example, directly outside the station entrance in Stephenson Street, the newly-installed deep kerb is an obvious hazard.
At platform level, the station environment is much the same as it was twenty years ago, with the fumes from diesel trains continuing to be trapped by the low ceiling. No information is available about the efficacy of the ventilation system, or the levels of diesel pollutants on the platforms.
Equally problematic for fumes is the confined space of the Hill Street Drop and Go, which is used by large numbers of diesel vehicles, including taxis.
[…] So let’s invest in high speed rail – and let’s make sure it can be run under public ownership, as a public service: an integrated national asset that the country can be proud of.
But she did not mention “High Speed Two” or “HS2”, even though that is undoubtedly what she was referring to. What transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin calls the “new north-south line” is a laughably ineffective way of ‘freeing up space for new commuter services’ and ‘taking lorries off our congested roads’. The so-called released capacity effects of HS2 have been thoroughly debunked on the Beleben blog.
Network Rail’s website states that “When the [Birmingham New Street Gateway] project is completed in 2015, the station will be enclosed by a giant atrium, allowing natural light throughout the station and to all 12 refurbished platforms“.
But the ‘value engineered’ atrium could not and does not allow natural light “throughout the station”, because it makes up only a small part of the roof. At platform level, there is probably less natural light than there was before (because parts of the tracks on the eastern side of the station were decked over, to create the new pedestrian approaches).
Network Rail said that implementing architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo’s idea for the atrium “would have been impossible, given the amount of movement needed in the roof: the new vaults spring from existing concrete columns, each of which are part of a separate structure and so move by up to 125mm”.
[Birmingham New Street station review: a ‘value-engineered’ icon of compromise, Oliver Wainwright, The Guardian, 28 Sep 2015]
Plasterboard would have cracked, they say, or required 14 different movement joints. The contractors simply planned to leave the steelwork exposed, but were eventually convinced to cover it with fabric.
Chancellor George Osborne has urged Chinese investors to bid for contracts to build HS2, as he opened the bidding process for the high-speed rail line, the BBC reported.
[HS2: George Osborne urges China to pitch for £11.8bn contracts, BBC News, 24 Sep 2015]
Speaking in China, he urged firms to bid for seven contracts worth £11.8bn in total – covering the first phase of HS2, between London and Birmingham.
Mr Osborne also invited bids for £24bn of investment in northern England.
The government has already turned to Chinese investors to finance another piece of “subprime” infrastructure — the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.
[With Hinkley Point, squandermania has reached dangerous new heights,
Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, 23 Sep 2015]
[…] The hapless new energy secretary, Amber Rudd, has been forced to describe Hinkley Point as “value for money”. She must be speaking Chinese. Like the transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, with his benighted HS2, she is trapped by the chancellor’s infatuation with big construction. Rudd and McLoughlin know that their future in the Osborne universe depends not on cutting spending but on cutting ribbons.
A Network Rail press release dated 19 January 2012 stated that HS2 would free up space for faster, more frequent trains on the West Coast Main Line.
Passengers on Britain’s busiest rail route could benefit from faster, more frequent trains, less crowding and better connections if the first phase of the proposed high-speed rail line is built between London and Birmingham.
But how true are those claims?
HS2 chief engineer Andrew McNaughton’s February 2015 presentation on West Coast Main Line capacity showed that following the introduction of HS2, the number of Euston trains would fall, not increase.
What would be the speed and frequency benefit between Birmingham and Coventry? With HS2, the WCML London intercity service would reduce from three to two per hour (according to HS2 Ltd). According to SLC Rail, that would allow a net increase of just one train each hour between the two cities.
It would be helpful if Network Rail could provide actual figures for ‘speeded up’ journeys, for example, for the trips listed below.
time in 2015
|London to Milton Keynes|
|London to Coventry|
|London to Northampton|
|London to Tring|
|London to Watford|
|Birmingham to Coventry|
|Birmingham to Liverpool|
|Birmingham to Wolverhampton|
|Birmingham to Milton Keynes|
On 07:30 on 20 September the redeveloped New Street station in central Birmingham was declared open (although any visitor can see that it is not finished). Tomorrow (24 September at 10:00), the Grand Central shopping centre above the station will be opened to the public.
The architect behind the station refurb said that it ‘could have been much better’ and that lessons must be learned, Architect’s Journal reported.
[Birmingham New Street falls short says scheme’s architect, Richard Waite, AJ, 23 September, 2015 (paywall)]
Alejandro Zaera-Polo landed the £750 million job following an international competition seven years ago while jointly heading up Foreign Office Architects and retained the project when he set up his new practice, AZPML.
However the Madrid-born designer walked away from the centrepiece atrium project at the heart of the redevelopment of the 1960s station after refusing to value-engineer its designs. Haskoll took over that part of the project early last year (AJ 20.02.14) with Atkins acting as project architects.
Zaera-Polo told the AJ: ‘While we are proud of our involvement in this project, which has recycled an old infrastructure instead of building a new one … we believe that it could have been much better.
[…] He added: ‘The fundamental problem in this project arose from the fact that, after the bids had been awarded to subcontractors, the construction manager was formally appointed as design leader of the project. So, rather than concentrating on delivering what had been already agreed, bid for and awarded to the subcontractors, they attempted to down-spec different packages.
‘That was, in my view, a serious strategic mistake that produced several problems.’
Concept & Architects: AZPML
Type Of Project: Refurbishment
Structural engineer for atrium and external skin: AKTII
Engineers: Atkins M&E Engineers Atkins
Project Architect: Atkins
Design Team: Retail design team Haskoll and Hoare Lea
Client: Network Rail
Funding: Birmingham City Council, Network Rail, Department for Transport, Centro, Department for Business Innovation and Skills, European Regional Development Fund
Tender date: 2008 & 2009
Start on site date: 2009
Contract duration: 2009-2015 – Mace appointed principal contractor 2010. Platform works continue to 2016.
Gross internal floor area: Lower mezzanine – 3,000m²; platforms – 8,000m²; concourse – 20,000m²; upper mezzanine – 4,500m²; grand central – 17,000m²; JLP – 24,000m²; upper retail – 15,000m²; total – 91,500m²
Form of contract and/or procurement: Construction Management
Total cost: £750 million
M&e consultant: Atkins
Quantity surveyor: Faithful & Gould
Lighting consultant: Atkins and Hoare Lea
Principal contractor: Mace
Selected subcontractors and suppliers: NG Bailey, Coleman & Company, Elliott Thomas, Martifer UK, Fireclad, MPB, SAS, Vector Foiltech, Glazzard.