die belebende Bedenkung

The height of obsolescence

with 3 comments

On Radio 4’s The World This Weekend, transport secretary Chris Grayling discussed the obscure topic of railway platform heights.

[The World This Weekend, BBC, 2 Oct 2016]

[TWTW:] I imagine there are lots of laws in your area of transport both in aviation and road transport that are affected by EU legislation. Any you want to get rid of?

[Chris Grayling:] Well let’s get back to some practical examples, there are EU laws around the running of railways about the height of platforms, for example. Our rail system, apart from HS1, is not in any way linked to the continental rail network, so there is actually no reason for us to have European platform heights, so that’s one area of regulation that could certainly change.

If GB rail, apart from HS1, is “not in any way linked to the continental rail network”, then there would indeed be no reason to adopt European “interoperability” standards.

Why then, have obsolescent and bogus European Technical Standards for Interoperability dictated the design of the flagship HS2 project?

HS2 Ltd has, it seems, been seeking a platform height ‘derogation’ — for ergonomy and accessibility — but HS2’s 400-metre platform length, and the structure gauge, are equally pointless TSI diktats.

In Germany, with its ICE4 trains purposely limited to 249 km/h, Deutsche Bahn has gone out of its way to avoid having to comply with counter-productive interoperability standards.

The platform height differential of a Class 395 HS1 train at St Pancras (Matt Buck, Creative Commons)

Written by beleben

October 4, 2016 at 3:17 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics, Railways

3 Responses

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  1. The EU interoperability standards are not just pointless for the UK, they would create a sub-system of trains and infrastructure which would not be interoperable with our current system and would require tens of billions of pounds just to link London to Manchester and Leeds.

    It does seem rather obvious that DB have chosen a maximum speed of 249kph to avoid EU rules for high speed trains and lines; but is there any proof?

    The height of platform issue was mentioned in Modern Railways in March 2014 and may have been raised long before that. As far as I am aware HS2 has made no progress in getting a derogation and have not announced what height the platforms will be. This seems rather odd given that Chris Grayling keeps saying that HS2 is on course to start construction next year.


    October 4, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    • The ICE4 was designed to comply with the ‘conventional’ TSIs, but not, it seems, the high-speed ones (document in German).


      October 5, 2016 at 7:14 pm

  2. According to this ERA statement the conventional and high speed TSIs have been merged.

    “The geographical scope of the previous TSIs was the TEN-T plus the vehicles likely to travel on it.

    The Framework Mandate to the Agency states that ’the Agency shall analyse the feasibility of extending the geographical scope of the TSIs (…), and provide a work programme aiming at the development of new TSIs and/or review of TSIs already adopted with a view to covering the lines and rolling stock not yet covered (…)’.

    The Agency has prepared the relevant recommendation report available here: Recommendation Report.

    Click to access IU-ExtScope-20090807-ERA-ExecutiveDirector-Recommendation-V1-00-EN.pdf

    In 2010 the mandate was issued by the Commission for developing and reviewing the TSIs with a view to extending their scope to the whole rail system in the European Union.

    The mandate also made a provision for merging the TSIs related to HS and CR rail systems into single TSI for each subsystem.

    The corresponding TSIs were eventually adopted by the Commission in 2014 and entered in force on 1 January 2015.”

    The Recommendations Report stated

    “4.2. Cost safeguards The cost-benefit analysis of the proposed measures will take into consideration, among others, the following:
    – cost of the proposed measure,
    – benefits to interoperability of an extension of the scope to particular subcategories of networks and vehicles,”

    Unfortunately no one in the UK argued that the benefits did not cover the extremely high costs. The obsolescent and bogus TSIs are a major factor in making HS2 so expensive, together with its ridiculously high speed.

    Research carried out by UCL in 2015 for HS2 shows that HS2 cannot meet its requirement for two minute dwell times unless it has level boarding. This requires 1200mm high platforms. The study concluded that it is only by providing level access that HS2 can achieve the accessibility objectives that it has set. Somewhat bizarrely the study used people carrying empty suitcases! High platforms are therefore not just a nod towards DDA; they are fundamental to the current ludicrous HS2 proposition.


    October 24, 2016 at 11:13 am

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