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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