beleben

die belebende Bedenkung

As unconvincing as ever

with 3 comments

On 23 March, the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill cleared third reading in the House of Commons (399 to 44), with the assistance of a three-line Labour whip.

However, the project remains embroiled in controversy, and the economic rationale is as unconvincing as ever.

Consider, for example, the capacity case. According to the November 2015 ‘Demand and Capacity Pressures Technical Annex’, HS2 is supposed to provide congestion relief for the West Coast Main Line. But where is the evidence that HS2 is a cost-effective means of decongesting classic rail?

Extracted from: Supplement to the October 2013
Strategic Case for HS2, Technical Annex: Demand and Capacity Pressures on the West Coast Main Line
(Department for Transport, Nov 2015)
Solution ignored by DfT
WCML section Constraint
London Euston to
Rugby
“The mix of traffic. Fast Lines carry 125mph inter-city trains and 110mph outer suburban trains. More paths would be available if trains operated at uniform speed” Run all Fast trains at the same speed
“Flat junctions at Ledburn and Hanslope where commuter trains have to slow down to 60 mph to cross over from the Fast Lines to the Slow Lines, requiring precise timing of trains” Grade separation of junctions
“Capacity is lost due to the uneven stopping patterns of London Midland trains, and two intercity trains stopping at Milton Keynes/Watford Junction” Homogenise stopping patterns
“On the Slow Lines, there are no places for trains to pass each other between Wembley and Northampton” Provide a place for Slow Line trains to pass each other between Wembley and Northampton
Rugby to Birmingham
New Street
“Coventry station, which has flat junctions at each end and is on the main freight route from the port at Southampton the Midlands and North West. Passenger and freight services need to be carefully planned through these
junctions”
Do not route daytime freight from the port at Southampton to the Midlands and North West via Coventry station
“The approach to Birmingham New Street where five routes join together” Run some trains on other routes (e.g. by using a curve at Benson Road, Soho, to access the Great Western corridor)
“Knitting together the local West Midlands services with the Cross Country and West Coast timetable” Define what the problem is. What is the “knitting together” constraint?
Rugby to Stafford “Brinklow – Attleborough Junction – Northbound 60-75mph freight services have to be slotted in around 125mph inter-city trains on a three track section” 4th track Brinklow – Attleborough, or divert freight via other routes (e.g. F2N)
“Colwich Junction – where two northbound inter-city trains per hour leave the route and cross in front of Southbound trains on a flat junction” Replace flat junction with grade separation
“The two-track section between Colwich Junction and the approach to Stafford. Here inter-city and freight services (with significant speed differentials) share the track” Divert freight via other routes
Stafford to Crewe “Although this section is mainly four-track, the service mix and flat junctions, both at Stafford and Crewe, restrict route capacity” Grade separation, divert freight via other
routes
“Crewe is a major passenger and freight hub. Complex crossing movements limit the number of available paths for passenger and freight services and the number of useable platforms for services to stop” Remodel the station, and / or make more use of other routes

In 1994, the consultants to the ‘West Coast Rail 250’ group accepted “that the economic and financial benefits of an entirely new 300 km/h line similar to the French TGV lines could not support the costs of construction”. But the costs of building HS2 are far higher than anyone expected in the 1990s, or what the Conservative party suggested as recently as October 2009.

Extracted from: Supplement
to the October 2013
Strategic Case for HS2, Technical Annex: Demand and
Capacity Pressures on the West Coast Main Line
(Department for Transport, Nov 2015)
Effect of building
HS2 on Constraint
WCML section Constraint
London Euston to
Rugby
“The mix of traffic. Fast Lines carry 125mph inter-city trains and 110mph outer suburban trains. More paths would be available if trains operated at uniform speed” With HS2 in operation, mix of traffic types and speeds continues
“Flat junctions at Ledburn and Hanslope where commuter trains have to slow down to 60 mph to cross over from the Fast Lines to the Slow Lines, requiring precise timing of trains” No effect, flat junctions still there
“Capacity is lost due to the uneven stopping patterns of London Midland trains, and two intercity trains stopping at Milton Keynes/Watford Junction” No identifiable increase in capacity utilisation
“On the Slow Lines, there are no places for trains to pass each other between Wembley and Northampton” No effect
Rugby to Birmingham New Street “Coventry station, which has flat junctions at each end and is on the main freight route from the port at Southampton the Midlands and North West. Passenger and freight services need to be carefully planned through these junctions” No effect from HS2, but DfT “Electric Spine” exacerbates the problem
“The approach to Birmingham New Street where five routes join together” No identifiable change in number of trains approaching New Street from the east
“Knitting together the local West Midlands services with the Cross Country and West Coast timetable” Unfathomable
Rugby to Stafford “Brinklow – Attleborough Junction – Northbound 60-75mph freight services have to be slotted in around 125mph inter-city trains on a three track section” Brinklow – Attleborough Junction – Northbound 60-75mph freight services have to be slotted in around faster passenger trains on a three track
section
“Colwich Junction – where two northbound inter-city trains per hour leave the route and cross in front of Southbound trains on a flat junction” No effect
“The two-track section between Colwich Junction and the approach to Stafford. Here inter-city and freight services (with significant speed differentials) share the track” Passenger and freight services (with significant speed differentials) continue to share the track
Stafford to Crewe “Although this section is mainly four-track, the service mix and flat junctions, both at Stafford and Crewe, restrict route capacity” No effect, route capacity restrictions remain
“Crewe is a major passenger and freight hub. Complex crossing movements limit the number of available paths for passenger and freight services and the number of useable platforms for services to stop” Rebuilding Crewe station and approaches could increase throughput and usable platforms (but no details of proposed HS2 scheme available)
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Written by beleben

March 30, 2016 at 3:47 pm

Posted in HS2

3 Responses

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  1. How much capacity would you get from fixing these constraints? The concept of a bottleneck is that it causes a major limitation on capacity and resolving it would result in an immediate and large increase in capacity. Would solving these issues immediately result in a massive increase in capacity? Unlikely. Unless you have capacity all the way from one end of a service to another, it’s not possible to use any more capacity that you could get by relieving these bottlenecks. For instance, it may well be possible to provide the capability for 20tph through a junction by grade-separating it but unless you can run 20tph elsewhere on the line, that capability doesn’t really mean a lot. The fact that these interventions have not yet happened should indicate that they have not yet been a priority because they have worse business cases than other, alternative schemes. As the schemes with the best business cases are picked first, as they provide the best value for money (why would you pick the scheme which didn’t have the best value for money?) the consequence is that there is a law of diminishing returns. As more schemes are implemented, the value for money of the remaining schemes gets worse and worse. More and more work needs to be done to squeeze out less and less extra capacity. Eventually, once you get rid of specific bottlenecks like those listed, your remaining bottlenecks are not junctions but entire sections of the route or big, expensive stations. Further upgrades means spending much, much more money in a much larger project which is far more likely to go wrong and will cost far more money. Value for money will take into account the difficulty of implementing an intervention – if you can provide an extra 2tph for £100m but that will require a two-week blockade, then an alternative costing £150m that can be implemented in a weekend which would also deliver the same extra 2tph would be picked instead. If you’re left with schemes which would require extended closures of the line to implement, what good are you actually doing in the end?

    CautiousObserver

    April 18, 2016 at 12:24 am

    • “The concept of a bottleneck is that it causes a major limitation on capacity and resolving it would result in an immediate and large increase in capacity.”

      No. The concept of a bottleneck is that it causes a limitation on capacity and resolving it would result in an increase in capacity. Network Rail’s Stafford area de-bottlenecking did not result in an “immediate and large increase in capacity”.

      “As the schemes with the best business cases are picked first, as they provide the best value for money (why would you pick the scheme which didn’t have the best value for money?) the consequence is that there is a law of diminishing returns.”

      The schemes with the best business cases are certainly not “picked first”. The 51m scheme – not a particularly well developed one – easily beat HS2 on cost-benefit.

      beleben

      April 18, 2016 at 5:11 pm

      • 2 extra long distance paths to London, 1 extra fast service between Birmingham and Manchester and 1 extra freight path, all in both directions, counts as an ‘immediate and large increase in capacity’. Would any of these schemes release that many paths an hour? No, because of the law of diminishing returns. NR chose to do Norton Bridge because it’s the cheapest way to improve things. After it is done, the remaining projects have a worse BCR. This really is not hard to understand.

        [Comment by Beleben] What you said was, “schemes with the best business cases are picked first”. You then asked, “why would you pick the scheme which didn’t have the best value for money?”. Clearly, 51m had a much higher benefit-cost ratio than HS2, but wasn’t picked first, leaving your assertion in tatters.
        “2 extra long distance paths to London, 1 extra fast service between Birmingham and Manchester and 1 extra freight path, all in both directions, counts as an ‘immediate and large increase in capacity’. Would any of these schemes release that many paths an hour? No, because of the law of diminishing returns.”
        You don’t know how many paths they would release, do you?

        NR chose to do Norton Bridge because it’s the cheapest way to improve things. After it is done, the remaining projects have a worse BCR. This really is not hard to understand.

        [Comment by Beleben:] Q. What exactly is the BCR of Norton Bridge, and of the “remaining projects”? A. You don’t know.
        Parts of the 51m scheme will very likely end up being implemented while HS2 is being built, because ICWC passenger growth figures since HS2 was first announced have been significantly higher than forecast. Even if growth slows down to be the forecast figure right now it would still mean that passenger numbers would reach targets well before they were predicted to do so. If growth does not slow down, then those targets will be reached even more quickly.

        It’s easy for small schemes to have higher BCRs because they’ve got a much smaller scope, and the law of diminishing returns means that it’s possible to achieve a smaller amount for a lot less money per unit of achievement than it is for a larger scheme.

        [Comment by Beleben] Once again: why aren’t these higher BCR schemes picked first? You said, “schemes with the best business cases are picked first”.

        CautiousObserver

        April 19, 2016 at 3:01 pm


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