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Archive for June 2016

HS2 is “crazy” and a “dog’s dinner”

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HS2 “will be afflicted by the same delays and inefficiencies as the rest of the rail network unless its design is radically altered”, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.

[High speed rail service HS2 will suffer the railways’ usual delays, expert warns, Henry Bodkin, Daily Telegraph, 30 June 2016]

Professor Rod Smith, the former Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Transport, said linking the new high speed lines to the existing network would be a “disaster” that would “ruin reliability and punctuality”.

He said H2S could be delivered for just over half the predicted price of around £55 billion if it was built and operated as a fully separate network, as is the case with high speed rail in Japan.

[…] “The existing plan really is a dog’s dinner that’s built with considerably more expense than it needs and will produce less favourable results,” he said.

“It’s just crazy to continue with the plan. It should be reviewed urgently.”

Prof Smith appears to be a chum of HS2 Ltd’s Professor Andrew McNaughton – who also seems to favour a closed Shinkansen-type system – but who was reported as saying that HS2 high speed trains ‘would never be late’.

It would be crazy to be continue with HS2 as an open system. But it would also be crazy to build HS2 as a closed system. The rational course of action is, ‘Do not build HS2’.

Prof Rod Smith quoted in The Times: 'HS2 is crazy'


The six phases of a big project is a cynical take on the outcome of large projects, with an unspoken assumption about their seemingly inherent tendency towards chaos. The list is reprinted in slightly different variations in any number of project management books as a cautionary tale.

One such example gives the phases as:



Panic and hysteria,

Hunt for the guilty,

Punishment of the innocent, and

Reward for the uninvolved.

Written by beleben

June 30, 2016 at 10:35 am

Posted in HS2

Under severe strain

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In June 2016, the estimated cost of delivering HS2 phase 1 including rolling stock (£27,384 million in 2015 prices) “exceeds the available funding by £204 million”, according to a National Audit Office report published on 28 June. According to Meg Hillier MP, chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, “preparations to deliver High Speed 2 are under severe strain”.

[Progress with preparations
for High Speed 2
, NAO, 2016-06-28]

[…] This estimate assumes, that the Department and HS2 Ltd secure cost saving of £1,470 million (Figure 6 overleaf). The Department and HS2 Ltd have agreed a plan for how it will secure £1,470 million of savings in phase 1. This includes:

value engineering (finding more efficient designs that reduce the amount of work required without affecting benefits); and

• implementing more efficient ways of working, such as implementing a building
information management system (BIM), which is a standard process on all
government construction projects, designed to make design and construction
more efficient.

The report did not address the effects and risks of Great Britain leaving the European Union, and it would appear that the NAO considered it a zero probability event. In the non-binding referendum that took place on 23 June 2016, 51.9% of votes were for Brexit. The value of sterling fell after the referendum result became known.

Although presented as a ‘British’ project, HS2 would be largely built with imported materials, equipment, and labour, so forex risks from Brexit could be significant. If there were a ‘tariff war’ and restrictions on foreign labour, there could easily be a cost uplift of £10 billion or more.

On 9 June the Yorkshire Post reported that Brexit would be a “threat to HS2 and HS3 in Yorkshire, says [prime minister David] Cameron”. In the event, the ‘Out’ vote share was 59.2% in the West Midlands, 57.7% in Yorkshire and the Humber, 58.5% in the East Midlands, and 53.7% in the North West.

On 28 June, it was reported that plans for a HS2 station at Meadowhall would be dropped. It seems likely that in a revised plan, Sheffield Midland station would be served by ‘classic compatible’ trains which would leave the HS2 track near Toton.

How much of a surprise is all this? The Beleben blogpost ‘HS2 de-scope options‘ (25 September 2014) noted that “Although the cost of HS2 is supposed to include plenty of contingency, it seems increasingly unlikely that the Y network could be implemented for “£50.1 billion at 2011 prices””, and mentioned the possibility of a classic tie-in near Toton.

Written by beleben

June 30, 2016 at 9:56 am

The wrong infrastructure in the wrong place

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As can be seen from the Steer Davies Gleave diagram below, rail journeys into London from the South and East are over eight times as numerous as the combined total from the North of England, the Midlands and Scotland. Network Rail is planning for passenger demand on the network to double by the year 2030.

Steer Davies Gleave for Network Rail, Rail journeys to London, 2007, comparing demand from regions to be 'served by' HS2 with demand from the South East

If passenger demand doubled from the 2007 level, the number of annual journeys from the South and East into London would reach 596 million, compared with just 68 million from the North, the Midlands, and Scotland combined.

But Network Rail have never said that new lines are needed to accommodate 298 million extra passengers into London from the South and East. They claim a new line – HS2 – is only needed to accommodate the comparatively trivial volumes of passengers from the Midlands and North. Obviously, this claim makes no sense.

Why then, do they make the claim? Network Rail is funded by government grants and subsidies, and is part of the public sector. When the secretary of state for transport says, “Jump!”, Network Rail responds “How high?”.

Rail journeys to London assuming a doubling of demand from the 2007 level

Growth forecasts suggest that population, and therefore rail demand, will increase faster in the South East, than in the Midlands and North. So HS2 would be a £55+ billion investment in the wrong kind of infrastructure, in the wrong place.

Written by beleben

June 17, 2016 at 11:37 am

Posted in HS2

Is Greengauge 21 a lobby group?

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Greengauge 21 is ‘a not-for-profit company, reliant on its funders (who have very mainly been public sector authorities) to commission research, analysis and planning studies which it makes freely available. It does not engage in lobbying as Simon Jenkins’ Guardian article (6 June 2016) suggested’ (according to the Greengauge 21 blog).

Is Greengauge 21 a ‘group’, or is it ‘Jim Steer & Co’?

Is the High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Group still part of Greengauge 21?

Is HSRILG ‘not-for-profit’?

Does Greengauge 21 partake in what is commonly understood as ‘lobbying’?

And does Mr Steer derive a ‘pecuniary advantage’ from Greengauge 21, or not?

The meaning of 'to lobby'

edinburgh-council-hsr-reports-24-nov-2009The Railway Gazette described Greengauge 21 as a lobby group

[Greengauge 21, 10 June 2016]

Our influence, if any, has stemmed from the evidence we have presented.

Both the Westminster and Scottish governments have bought into Greengauge’s ‘evidence’. But how reliable is it?

In the Railway Gazette story above, Greengauge 21 claimed that a new high speed line from London to Manchester could be built for £19 billion, including optimism bias.

And its “analysis” of Anglo-Scottish high speed rail claimed that a Manchester – Scotland line had a benefit-cost ratio of 7.6.

Nonsense benefit cost evaluation of Manchester - Scotland high speed rail, produced by Greengauge 21

Written by beleben

June 15, 2016 at 10:38 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

From spanner to montgolfiere

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Alstom’s industrial activity is moving from hammer and spanner to laptop and big data, UK and Ireland managing director Henrik Anderberg told attendees at the company’s recent HS2 rolling stock “event” at the Houses of Parliament.

Account of the HS2 rolling stock 'event' hosted by Emma Reynolds at the Houses of Parliament, provided by Alstom and published by Politics Home, 10 June 2016

How could laptops and big data replace forge hammers, milling cutters, and welding kit, in train manufacture? It’s a bit of a mystery, just like Senior Vice-President of Alstom Europe Andreas Knitter’s claim that plans to develop an apprenticeships initiative in the UK illustrated ‘the company’s “track record” of investing in people and the local economies in which it operates’. As people in Newton-le-Willows, Preston, Rugby and Washwood Heath (etc) must know, Alstom’s UK track record is one of redundancies, de-skilling, downsizing, and factory closures.

At the event, Parliamentary “host” Wolverhampton North East MP Emma Reynolds told sceptics of HS2 to “stop being so negative and support what is a very exciting project”. But of course, Alstom do not give sceptics of HS2 invitations to their events. They do not have answers for awkward questions.

Another awkward question — for Emma Reynolds — is: what is to stop countries such as Hungary, Slovakia, or a post-Merkel Germany, handing travel documents, or passports, to ‘their’ migrants from outside the European Union?

Emma Reynolds MP: 'The overwhelming majority of refugees will never get the right to come to Britain'

Written by beleben

June 14, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

The lord much taken

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As the claims for its necessity have become weaker and weaker, HS2’s backers only became more adamant that it is a matter of supreme national importance that the project goes ahead, wrote Simon Jenkins.

[HS2: the zombie train that refuses to die, Simon Jenkins, The Guardian long read, 7 June 2016]
[As secretary of state for transport, Andrew] Adonis leapt on high-speed rail. He admits he was “much taken by [Jim] Steer”, while Steer recalls that he was impressed that Adonis “had actually read all the papers”. Like Steer, Adonis could see that speed was something that could be sold to politicians, in a way that other forms of rail investment might not. Playing on Brown’s perceived lack of patriotic fervour, Adonis stressed a constant theme: high-speed rail was in a great Victorian tradition, and France, Japan and Spain were forging ahead as Britain lagged behind. He told [Gordon] Brown: “I really want to do high-speed rail. Every western country has done it.” It became a matter of national pride.

Andrew Adonis was 'much taken' by Jim Steer, The Guardian, 07 Jun 2016

According to the article, Andrew Adonis felt that only the first phase of HS2, to Birmingham, “made sense”, and Euston was the “poison” at the heart of the project.

Camden New Journal, 'Andrew Adonis appeared flummoxed', 5 Jan 2014

He seems to have spent his whole time as transport secretary being taken in by Mr Steer. How much interest did he show in road safety, or diesel pollution?

Evening Standard story on diesel car pollution caused by bad Labour policy-making, 07 June 2016

Adonis and co HS2 Trainspotting

Written by beleben

June 8, 2016 at 11:09 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

How would HS2 ‘free up space for faster, more frequent trains’?

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According to Network Rail, “HS2 frees up space for faster, more frequent trains” on the West Coast Main Line.

Network Rail: 'HS2 frees up space for faster more frequent trains'

But the HS2 Economic Case is built on billions of pounds of ‘cost savings’ from running fewer trains on the existing track.

Prof Andrew McNaughton, 'Released Capacity', slide 13

Professor Andrew McNaughton’s February 2015 “Released Capacity” slides suggested that HS2 would not allow long distance services to be removed from the West Coast Main Line. Judging by page 13 of his presentation, it is hard to see how there would be “faster, more frequent trains” on the classic line.

According to ‘Released Capacity’, on the fast lines south of Rugby, fewer trains would operate. The idea that routeing trains via the Northampton loop, or inserting extra stops, would make them ‘faster’, is just silly.

Written by beleben

June 7, 2016 at 12:07 pm

A case of too little demand

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The government has “suggested cutting the number of fast trains between Coventry and London – just to speed up journey times between the capital and Birmingham”, the Coventry Telegraph reported on 12 May.

[Coventry’s fast trains to London could be cut to improve journey times from Birmingham, Jonathan Walker and Simon Gilbert, Coventry Telegraph 12 May 2016]

Department for Transport is suggesting fewer trains should stop at “intermediate” stations to speed up journeys and cut overcrowding

Plans to chop the number of long-distance services that stop at “intermediate” stations such as Coventry and Rugby are revealed in a government consultation on the future of the West Coast Main Line.

It is another potential blow to the city which is already set to be bypassed by the controversial multi-billion pound HS2 project which will build a new high-speed line through Warwickshire to link London to Birmingham and the north of England.

[…] The document makes it clear that the focus of the service is long distance services “between London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, North Wales, Glasgow and Edinburgh.”

The recommendations have been described as ‘very worrying’ by one transport organisation which says the government should be encouraging increased services to smaller stations.

So are the recommendations to cut the number of fast trains between Coventry and London (a) “just to speed up journey times between the capital and Birmingham”, or (b) “to speed up journeys and cut overcrowding”? Are there recommendations to cut the number of fast trains between Coventry and London?

Control effing the consultation document produced zero mentions for “recommend”, and just one for “overcrowd” (in the phrase “dealing with overcrowding of the concourse and train boarding issues at Euston Station”).

[DfT consultation, May 2016]

[3.17] Whilst some services are highly used in the peak (the times in the morning and evening when most people travel), or just outside of peak hours, there are times of the day where the level of service might not reflect the level of demand at stations. In these cases we are interested in understanding whether there may be opportunities to adjust the level of service at stations which might enable wider benefits to be delivered elsewhere. For example reducing the number of stops required at intermediate stations (each stop could increase the overall journey time by several minutes) could enable reductions in the overall journey time to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool or Glasgow or for potential new journeys to be offered.

[3.18] Whilst providing a large number of end to end journeys, ICWC services also serve a number of highly used and important connections to local services at major stations such as Birmingham New Street and Manchester Piccadilly. We know that changing trains can make travelling by rail feel complicated and increase uncertainty for some passengers; discouraging people from using the railway.

At the start of the West Coast modernisation process, the intention was to run four 8-car Pendolino services each hour from London to Birmingham, and four from London to Manchester. Today, the service is generally three 11-car trains each hour to each city.

Why is there no appetite at Virgin to request a re-cast of the route timetable to allow four trains an hour to run? The likeliest explanation is that there is insufficient demand to justify a more intensive service, so costs would increase faster than revenue.

Written by beleben

June 3, 2016 at 10:12 am

Is Rail Central ‘encouraged by Network Rail’?

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Rail Central, a ‘rail-connected freight terminal’ proposed by Ashfield Land and sited near the West Coast Main Line between Milton Malsor and Blisworth, could be ‘a base for high speed freight trains formed of converted Intercity 125 HSTs’, according to a Railnews report. The developers are hoping to have Rail Central “operational by 2019 or 2020”.

[Strategic railfreight interchange debate ignites, Railnews, 2 June 2016]

Rail Central’s Nick Gallop told Railnews it was the developer’s intention to connect with the up and down lines on both the loop and the main line, which would open the door to express freight trains consisting of converted Intercity 125 sets. Mr Gallop said that he was in discussion with Porterbrook on the potential costs.

When asked what Network Rail and franchisees would think of Rail Central, Mr Gallop said: “Rail Central is being encouraged by Network Rail to develop these proposals and more detail will follow. Ashfield Land could pay for the route enhancements over and above their requirements in exchange for a Track Access Agreement guaranteeing them paths for Rail Central’s customers.”

Is Network Rail really ‘encouraging’ this crazy scheme? Rail Central is the type of project which might arise on the West Coast Main Line as a result of HS2 being built. In HS2 phase one, the West Coast Fast lines south of Rugby would see reduced numbers of passenger trains (but the Northampton loop might see more).

The idea of there being a market for Intercity 125 sets converted to “express freight trains” sounds highly improbable. And according to the local Stop Rail Central Action Group, the developers are circumventing local planning laws by labelling the scheme as a Nationally Strategic Infrastructure Project “when in reality it is just another logistics park with some limited capability to accept rail freight”.

Written by beleben

June 2, 2016 at 10:54 am

The value of HS3

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The shortcomings and non sequiturs of the HS2 and HS3 rail schemes have received extensive coverage on the Beleben blog. And a few weeks ago, this blog pointed out that Transport for the North seemed be going up a cul-de-sac of its own making. What is the value of HS3?

The logic supporting grand projects such as HS3 is built upon faulty reasoning, according to analysis published on June 1 by the Centre for Cities (wrote Peter Spence).

Daily Telegraph story on the Centre for Cities report on northern cities performance, 01 June 2016

According to The Guardian’s coverage of the Centre for Cities report, improving transport links within northern cities, rather than between them, would have a bigger impact on improving productivity. (The 2014 “Fast Track to Growth” report from the Centre for Cities seemed to back HS3.)

Guardian story on the Centre for Cities report on northern cities performance, 01 June 2016

Written by beleben

June 1, 2016 at 12:24 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2