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Archive for November 2016

Carry on enjoying

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HS2's David HigginsBirmingham and the wider West Midlands region are “already enjoying the benefits of HS2“, and Stafford will have an “integrated high speed station” used by a community far wider than the county town, according to an article supposedly written by HS2 chairman David Higgins.

[‘HS2 will open up more than a high speed line’ says the boss heading multi-billion pound project, ‘David Higgins writes’, Express and Star, 31 Oct 2016]

Stafford’s integrated high speed station will be used by a community far wider than the county town, opening up services [to London] to hundreds of thousands of people and businesses to the north, west and south including Staffordshire and the Black Country.

It will also enable people to access faster and direct services to London – providing a much-needed boost to transport links [to London].

[…] Stafford Borough Council is commissioning a strategic vision and deliverable ‘route map’ and investment programme for Stafford station and surrounding areas, where the arrival of HS2 trains is expected to have the most transformative impact.

Surely, train services to London are already “opened up” – to anyone who can reach the existing Stafford railway station, and who can afford the fare. What is the difference between Stafford’s current station, and David Higgins’ “integrated high speed station”? So far as can be ascertained, they are one and the same thing.

[‘HS2 will open up more than a high speed line’ says the boss heading multi-billion pound project, ‘David Higgins writes’, Express and Star, 31 Oct 2016]

[…] Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region are already enjoying the benefits of HS2.

Through the largest devolution deal to date, the West Midlands Combined Authority has been given responsibility for an investment package worth more than £4bn to deliver the Midlands HS2 Growth Strategy with the potential to add £14bn to the economy and create and support 100,000 jobs.

So, carry on ‘enjoying’ four-hour waits in accident and emergency, carry on enjoying 3-foot potholes, carry on enjoying library closures, and carry on enjoying the results of the government’s spending choices on HS2, and the ‘Midlands Engine’.

Written by beleben

November 30, 2016 at 2:25 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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HS2 ‘released capacity’ claims are mostly bunkum

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West Coast Main Line Coventry corridor (photo: Beleben archive)

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has claimed that by “providing new routes for intercity services, HS2 will free-up space on our existing railways for new commuter, regional and freight services”.

But the available evidence suggests that

  • HS2 would create new passenger capacity – on its own track – between a handful of cities, but most of that capacity would go unused
  • HS2 would release very little capacity on the existing railway
  • there are far more cost-effective ways to increase freight and passenger capacity.

Consider, for example, the existing railway between Birmingham New Street, Hampton-in-Arden, and Coventry. The December 2009 HS2 London – West Midlands technical appendix stated that “the Coventry Corridor [the railway between Birmingham and Coventry] is constrained by being only 2-track, and having a number of intermediate stations. Removing some of the fastest services from this route enables a better use of overall capacity to be made, particularly benefitting the local passengers.”

[Proposal from the London – West Midlands technical appendix, HS2 Ltd, 2009]

[4.3] Services on the Coventry Corridor are re-cast into a more-logical pattern, with Birmingham International and Coventry both being used as turn-back locations. (The current timetable is reliant upon a skip-stop pattern on a number of different services in order to minimize the capacity usage whilst serving the required locations at the desired frequencies. This results in a sub-optimal service pattern for local customers).

The Department for Transport has proposed reducing the existing 3-trains-per-hour New Street to London Euston intercity service to 2 trains per hour, to ‘free up regional capacity’. But those trains serve both Birmingham International (the airport station) and Coventry, and as such, provide a ‘regional service’ in the West Midlands county. (In the same way, Euston to Manchester intercity trains make stops on the Manchester approach, thereby functioning as a ‘regional service’.)

On page 61 of the June 2016 draft West Midlands and Chiltern route study, Network Rail provided a ‘Potential post HS2 service structure on [the] Coventry corridor’, based on

  1. running 2 intercity trains per hour between New Street and Euston, with
  2. four tracking between Stechford and Birmingham International.

This showed that even with HS2, plus four-tracking at a cost of “£175 – 375 million”, the Birmingham to Coventry timetable would still rely on a skip-stop pattern, and still provide a ‘sub-optimal service for local customers’.

If 1 intercity West Coast service per hour between Coventry and Birmingham were reduced by 1 regional train, what would be the actual gain?

If 1 intercity West Coast service per hour between Coventry and Birmingham were replaced by 1 regional train, what would be the actual gain? The stopping pattern in the West Midlands would be the same

On page 38 of the draft study, Network Rail showed an ‘unconstrained’ year-2043 service of three intercity trains per hour between New Street and Euston. Which of course, is the year-2016 frequency.

Written by beleben

November 22, 2016 at 11:39 am

Posted in HS2

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Take pride in snooping

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An extraordinary document was published by HS2 Ltd detailing how they would access and “process personal data” including details of individuals’ sexual orientation, trade union affiliation, criminal record as well as information about their physical and mental health, the Sunday Express reported.

[Rail bosses wanted to spy on sex lives of people who opposed controversial route, Caroline Wheeler, Sunday Express, 20 November 2016]

As part of the company’s Privacy Notice, HS2 said it could collect this information on a number of people, including staff and suppliers but also complainants and litigants, which would include those claiming compensation or objecting to the scheme.
HS2 did not give any indication why it wanted to collect such information, however in the document itself it said one reason was to help create a sense of “pride” in the scheme.
Hours after the Sunday Express contacted HS2 raising concerns about the policy, the document was withdrawn with “immediate effect”.

[…] The document was withdrawn from the Government website where it had been freely accessible.

A spokesman for HS2 said: “We have withdrawn the Privacy Notice with immediate effect. It does not reflect how we handle information.

HS2 privacy notice page on, after the privacy notice had been removed

HS2 privacy notice page on, after the privacy notice had been removed

Written by beleben

November 20, 2016 at 11:03 am

Posted in Bizarre, HS2

Jones crusher

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Cheshire East council's then-leader Michael Jones with The Waterman in 2014

In November 2015, at the close of the epic battle of Cheshire versus Staffordshire for the ‘prize’ of the north Midlands HS2 ‘hub’, the Waterman vanquished the Maglevman, and Cheshire East council did rejoice.

[Cheshire East council, November 30, 2015]

Cheshire East Council has hailed today’s historic announcement that the Government is committed to building HS2 high-speed rail via Crewe and will invest £5bn to help bring the project online six years early.

Chancellor George Osborne, MP for Tatton, made the landmark statement confirming the finalised route the HS2 project will take. It also confirmed that the northern section to Crewe would be completed by 2027 rather than 2033.

Cheshire East Council Leader Councillor Michael Jones hailed the announcement as a ‘game-changer’ that makes it certain that Crewe will get a HS2 hub station – helping create more than 120,000 jobs by 2040 and injecting £10bn a year into the wider region’s economy.

But how much of a prize was it, really? What does the ‘Crewe HS2 hub’ actually amount to? How much ‘game changing’ might come of it? And which cities could be reached directly by HS2 from the ‘Crewe hub’?

According to the government’s updated economic case for phase 2, the ‘HS2 hub’ looks likely to be not much more than some revamp of the existing station. It would be unable to accommodate captive high speed trains, and if the ‘service pattern for modelling purposes’ is anything to go by, just two HS2 trains would call each hour, in each direction.

The cities directly served would be

1. London
2. Liverpool
3. Preston (yes, Preston is officially a city)
4. Er, that’s it.

So, HS2 ‘hub’, or ‘just a nub’?

Network Rail diagram claiming that a Basford hub station is feasible

Network Rail diagram claiming that a Basford hub station is feasible

Written by beleben

November 18, 2016 at 5:40 pm

Posted in Politics

Visit mum in Leeds

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The various ‘modelled train service specifications’ produced for HS2 have always been good for a laugh. In the latest version, the exposure of HS2 to unreliability from the legacy railway is increased further.

As can be seen from the extract below, Birmingham to Leeds HS2 services would use legacy track for some or all of the Yorkshire part of the journey, and stop en route at Sheffield Midland station. For some reason, those services are shown as being ‘Captive HS2 trains’.

HS2 eastern leg 'Modelled train service specification (M18 loop)', November 2016

HS2 eastern leg ‘Modelled train service specification (M18 loop)’, November 2016

By the look of the ‘service specification’, someone high up in Birmingham Airport needs to visit his mum in Leeds. But there are no bigwig family ties with Newcastle upon Tyne, or York, it seems.

Written by beleben

November 18, 2016 at 11:44 am

Bickenhill beetroot

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In the November 2016 HS2 train service specification ‘for modelling purposes’, the Bickenhill parkway (‘Birmingham Interchange’) station is shown as having a total of just 5 trains calling each hour in each direction.

Presumably, between London and Birmingham, there would be an awkward 20 – 20 – 40 minute interval between trains.

DfT, HS2 phase 2b, modelled train service specification, M18 route, Nov 2016

Just one train to / from the eastern leg would call at Bickenhill gare des betteraves.

What a shocking waste of £65 billion, this project is.

Written by beleben

November 17, 2016 at 4:14 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Hull railway electrification has been cancelled, bi the way

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Hull North MP Diana Johnson voted in Parliament to spend £50++ billion on HS2, yet is now 'extremely disappointed' to find the '£100 million' rail electrification to Paragon has been cancelled

Hull North MP Diana Johnson voted in Parliament to spend £50++ billion on HS2, yet is now ‘extremely disappointed’ to find the ‘£100 million’ rail electrification to Paragon has been cancelled

How out of touch were those MPs who voted for the £65 billion HS2 scheme, and then expected to see ‘world class Northern Powerhouse Rail’, or a ‘rolling programme of electrification’? The ‘part-privately-financed’ project to electrify the Selby to Hull railway – proposed by train operator First Hull Trains and estimated to cost about £100 million in 2013 – has been abandoned, the BBC reported on 16 November.

[BBC News, 2016-11-16]

The Department for Transport said the introduction of bi-mode trains, powered by diesel or electric, by First Hull Trains and improved services on both the East Coast Mainline and the Northern Rail franchises meant electrification was unnecessary.

Under secretary of state Paul Maynard said in a letter to the area’s MPs: “The passenger benefits can be delivered without the significant disruption of electrification.

“There is almost no further benefit to justify further publicly funded investment and the disruption electrification would bring.”

[…] First Hull Trains has not yet commented.

Although First Hull Trains had promoted the project, their decision to procure bi-mode electro-diesel IEP trains to operate their service to London showed they had little or no serious intent to pursue electrification to Paragon.

[Electrification of Hull to Selby railway line ‘will power future investment’, Hull Daily Mail, 21 March 2014]

Will Dunnett, managing director at First Hull Trains, said: “Electrification is a must-have for the region and will drive improvement to our rail services for many years to come with the promise of new rolling stock in time, better connectivity and faster services.”

Is Selby to Hull rail electrification 'too disruptive'? Or 'too expensive', when £65 billion has to be found for HS2?

Is the ~57.6 km Selby to Hull rail electrification ‘too disruptive’? Or just ‘too expensive’, when £65 billion has to be found for HS2?

The long distance train operator on the Midland Main Line (MML), East Midland Trains, recently proposed a new bi-mode fleet for that route. If every new MML long distance train is going to be equipped with a bank of underfloor diesel engines, one might well ask, what is the point of electrification north of Bedford? If HS2 is going to be built, what is the rationale for electrification north of Bedford?

Mr Maynard is MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys. So Yorkshire residents might wonder, can ‘benefits for Blackpool passengers also be delivered without the significant disruption of electrification’? The railway to Blackpool North was included in the coalition government’s programme of Lancashire electrification works.

The Selby – Hull U-turn looks like more evidence that if the government proceeds with HS2, the modernisation and electrification of classic lines will have to be downscaled massively, to pay for it.

Written by beleben

November 17, 2016 at 10:21 am

Crewel delusions, part five

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In ‘The tunnel or the hub‘ (14 October 2016), the Beleben blog exclusively reported that HS2 Ltd’s planned tunnel under Crewe, and the HS2 Ltd / Network Rail plan for a ‘hub’ station south of Crewe, were mutually incompatible proposals. The reasons were set out in ‘Crewel delusions part four’ (9 October 2016).

So, was the Beleben blog analysis correct?

Network Rail U-turn on Crewe station relocation revealed in DfT command paper, 15 November 2016: 'if the Crewe Hub scheme is to be taken forward, it should be located at the site of the existing station'

As can be seen, Network Rail have done an embarrassing hard U-turn at Crewe station, and are now ‘recommending’ that their previous recommendations are ignored.

HS2 chairman David Higgins also emerges from the debacle with more egg on his face, after having been completely taken in by Steer Davies Gleave’s absurd ‘case for relocating Crewe station’ report.

'David Higgins backs crewe hub plan' report in Crewe and Nantwich guardian, 2014-03-17

Written by beleben

November 16, 2016 at 12:11 pm

A new link between our major cities

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Today, the government has published some information about its preferred route for ‘phase 2b’ of HS2 from ‘Crewe to Manchester’, and ‘the West Midlands to Leeds’, but many details are still lacking. There are a few minor changes to save money – such as not tunneling under East Midlands airport – but with the post-June 2016 devaluation of sterling by 15%-plus, the overall cost of HS2 must now be in the region of £65 billion., HS2 phase 2b route announcement, 2016-11-15

Although the ‘case for HS2’ is built on egotism, delusion, and misinformation, not everything the government says about the project is untrue. For example, the claim that HS2 would be a ‘link between our major cities’ might be said to be true, according to a map created by the BBC. As can be seen from the map, HS2 would run “between” Derby and Nottingham, and “between” Sheffield and Doncaster. But HS2 trains to London from Leeds, and Manchester, would not stop at any city inbetween.

BBC graphic of the route of HS2 'between major cities'

Written by beleben

November 15, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Northern crock

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Whatever the amount the government has paid outfits such as Westbourne Communications to try to ‘change opinion’ about building the HS2 railway, it seems not to have made much difference with the public. That’s if a survey for ITV’s Tonight tv show is any indication.

[High-Speed Rail: Is It Worth It? , ITV, 10 November 2016]

[In] an exclusive survey for the Tonight programme, less than 20% of respondents thought they would use HS2 when built, and only one in ten people thought the high speed rail link would benefit the majority of commuters.

Additionally, people felt it was mainly a project for London – with only a third of people feeling that HS2 will benefit the north.

The other results of our survey of 2,000 people were as follows:

23% not aware that HS2 is being planned

15% feel that HS2 is worth £56bn

58% don’t think it’s a price worth paying

77% of people would prefer that the money was spent in other areas, like the NHS

In a tragi-comic interview with reporter Jonny Maitland, HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins likened the project to bailing out a bank. Perhaps not the best way of selling the scheme to the public, when one remembers he was previously chief executive officer of Network Rail – an organisation which awarded bonuses to directors for failure, and which ran up derivatives trading losses of hundreds of millions of pounds.

On the ITV Tonight show, HS2 chairman David Higgins avoided answering the question, 'The price of it... how much higher is going to go?'

On the ITV Tonight show, HS2 chairman David Higgins avoided answering the question, “The price of it… how much higher is it going to go?”

Written by beleben

November 11, 2016 at 2:40 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2