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Archive for November 2016

Barking in suspense

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(What is left of) Network Rail’s electrification of the Great Western main line is supposed to offer ‘improved resilience and reliability’.

But the video for another project – the Gospel Oak to Barking scheme in north London – appears to show it has been designed with non-independent location of the overhead lines.

Screengrab from Network Rail, Gospel Oak Barking electrification video, showing tension-located overhead lines

Written by beleben

November 11, 2016 at 12:22 pm

Posted in London, Railways

West botch yet

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On 23 July 2009, the then transport secretary Andrew Adonis announced an ‘immediate’ start of detailed planning for electrification of the Great Western Main Line. But according to the National Audit Office report ‘Modernising the Great Western railway’ (9 November 2016), Network Rail was still “determining the most appropriate way of meeting the Department for Transport’s requirements” four years later.

National Audit Office report on Great Western rail modernisation, Nov 2016, showing cost changes

[Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, 9 November 2016]

“The modernisation of the route has potential to deliver significant benefits for passengers but this is a case study in how not to manage a major programme. The Department’s failure to plan and manage all the projects which now make up the Great Western Route Modernisation industry programme in a sufficiently joined up way, combined with weaknesses in Network Rail’s management of the infrastructure programme, has led to additional costs for the taxpayer. It is encouraging that since 2015 the Department and Network Rail have a better grip and put in place structures to manage the programme in an integrated way. However significant challenges to the timetable still remain and there is more to do to achieve value for money.”

The NAO mentioned the design of overhead line structures for 225 km/h running (rather than 200) as one source of confusion and increased cost.


Network Rail did not initially understand whether the Department wanted trains to run at a maximum speed of 125 [200 km/h] or 140 miles per hour [225 km/h]. This has implications for the strength of the steelwork supporting the electric wires.

In January 2014 the Department instructed Network Rail that the maximum speed should be 125 miles per hour. By this point, design work was well underway and Network Rail expected to complete it in March 2014.

In September 2014, the main design contractor was still working to a specification of 140 miles per hour.

According to HS2 Ltd, ‘high speed infrastructure’ for 300+ km/h, is only ‘10% more expensive’ to provide than conventional infrastructure (200 km/h). But in the case of the Great Western electrification, a speed increase of just 25 km/h appears to have had costly ‘implications for the steelwork’. What ’18 trains per hour at 360 km/h’ means for HS2 overhead line support, is yet to be revealed.

It seems likely that if the government proceeds with HS2, the modernisation and electrification of classic lines will be downscaled massively, to pay for it.

Written by beleben

November 10, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Posted in HS2, Planning, Politics

Misinformation is not a service

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One of the most troubling aspects of the HS2 project has been the torrent of misinformation emanating from official sources. This has even included false statements by HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins to parliamentary committees.

Statement made by HS2 chairman David Higgins to the Lords Economic Affairs Committee

Statement made by David Higgins to the Commons Transport Select Committee

In August 2016, a complaint was made to HS2 Ltd about misleading and inaccurate statements made by David Higgins and chief executive Simon Kirby. The complaint asked HS2 Ltd to withdraw the statements, and provide accurate information.

HS2 Ltd did not respond to the complaint until November. As can be seen, the company’s view seems to be that complaints can only be made about HS2 Ltd’s “service”. And, apparently, inaccurate and misleading statements made by the company chairman to parliamentary committees are not part of that “service”, so no complaint can be recorded.

[HS2 Ltd response to complaint, Nov 2016]

Thank you for your email to HS2 Ltd. Please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in responding. There was an error in sending the reply below to you which unfortunately was only picked up earlier this week. I note that you originally requested your email to be treated as a complaint. Please be advised that our complaints process covers the service that HS2 Ltd provides and we do not consider that your email request is a complaint about HS2 Ltd’s service. We have therefore treated your email as a general enquiry and our response follows.

The statements that you refer to made by David Higgins and Simon Kirby relate to the broader strategic context for high speed rail rather than a detailed plan for the operation of HS2.

The remainder of the response was “look over there” off-topic waffle:

[HS2 Ltd, Nov 2016]

The Strategic Case for HS2, published in October 2013, sets out how additional capacity will be created by building a new high speed railway line which will free space on the existing network. The “Supplement to the October 2013 Strategic Case for HS2”, published in November 2015, provides an update to some of the evidence set out in the 2013 Strategic Case. The supplementary report details that HS2 Phase One could increase the combined capacity for fast trains on HS2 and the West Coast fast lines into/from London Euston from 15tph to 23tph. In turn, increasing the number of outer suburban commuter trains on the fast lines would allow a more even stopping pattern on the WCML slow lines.

The findings of a study on whether strategic alternatives to HS2 could meet HS2’s strategic objectives of increasing capacity and improving connectivity were published in October 2013 in the “HS2 Strategic Alternatives” report. This work is summarised in Chapter 4 of the “Supplement to the October 2013 Strategic Case for HS2”. HS2 would provide a step change in route capacity by having a new dedicated high speed line which would allow crowding issues on the inter-city services on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) to be solved for the long term. In both the AM and PM peak, HS2 offers the potential to operate around 60-70 per cent additional inter-city services. HS2 would also provide a step change in commuter capacity on the WCML. This is because capacity released by operating much of today’s inter-city services on dedicated high speed lines could allow the number of West Midlands franchise services in the AM peak to increase from 28 to 41. Table 3 shows the increase in the number of seats that could be provided in the scenarios with HS2 compared with the strategic alternatives.

Further information is available in the “Supplement to the October 2013 Strategic Case for HS2” which is can be found on the HS2 website via the following link:

The Department for Transport have been notified of the situation, so it will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens.

HS2 Ltd's Beth West stands in front of HS2 Ltd's 'culture'

Written by beleben

November 9, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Lil’ Western electrification

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If HS2 goes ahead, enhancement projects on the existing network are likely to be cancelled, 'paused', 'deferred', or de-scoped (as with GWML electrification)

As a result of “scrutiny from the Hendy review”, rail minister Paul Maynard has decided to “defer” electrification projects that are part of the ‘£2.8 billion’ programme of work along the Great Western route, between

  1. Oxford and Didcot Parkway,
  2. Bristol Parkway and Bristol Temple Meads (Filton Bank),
  3. Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads (i.e. west of Thingley Junction),
  4. Slough and Windsor, and
  5. Twyford and Henley on Thames.

[Written statement to Parliament by Paul Maynard MP, 2016-11-08]

I wish to update the House on the programme of rail investment in the Great Western route and the steps we are taking to ensure this improves services to passengers while getting the best deal for taxpayers.

[…] It is a project unprecedented in scale that is building on and around ageing assets in constant use. This is an ambitious and challenging undertaking, but real progress is being made in delivering it.

[…] We have been clear that there have been difficulties with this programme. These were set out last year in the review of Network Rail’s delivery plan by Sir Peter Hendy. Following the re-planning of work that followed this review, the programme has been placed on a more efficient footing. A key part of this is the ongoing assessment of investment decisions so that passengers and taxpayers get maximum value.
[The deferral] is because we can bring in the benefits expected by passengers – newer trains with more capacity – without requiring costly and disruptive electrification works. This will provide between £146 million to £165 million in this spending period, to be focused on improvements that will deliver additional benefits to passengers. We remain committed to modernising the Great Western mainline and ensuring that passenger benefits are achieved.

This decision underscores the government’s approach to wider rail investment; that passenger outcomes must be delivered in conjunction with achieving the best value from every pound spent.

Is Great Western electrification really ‘a project unprecedented in scale‘? How does it compare in scale with the London Midland electrification of the 1960s, or electrification of the Trans-siberian railway to Vladivostok?

What must be “unprecedented”, is the scale of the incompetence of the politicians and decision-makers responsible for turning ‘Great Western electrification’ into a fiasco. It seems likely that more such ‘deferrals’ will follow, as the government diverts resources to the white-elephant HS2 project, whose ‘£56 billion’ scale and absurdity really is without precedent.

Written by beleben

November 8, 2016 at 12:26 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2, Politics

Tagged with

Unde este Tring?

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In August 2014 the then transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin popped down to the Farringdon Crossrail building site, to tell its largely eastern European workforce that he was thinking of having the service extended to Tring.

What Ștefan from Timişoara, or Piotr from Gdańsk, made of this visit, is not recorded. “Who is this man?“, or “Where is Tring?“, perhaps. But apparently, Crossrail to Tring was intended to

  1. make building HS2 less disruptive by taking some trains out of Euston
  2. reduce journey times for commuters to central London.

But on 5 August 2016, Hemel Today reported that Mr McLoughlin had written to Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning to say the scheme has been pulled because it represented “poor overall value for money to the taxpayer”.

[Crossrail off the tracks as plans are shelved, Hemel Today, 2016-08-05] 

Although the letter [from Mr McLoughlin] explicitly mentions Tring, Mr Penning said he was trying to find out what it meant for other stops along the line.

The news comes as a blow to commuters, who thought the extension would take the pressure off the line into Euston during the construction of the HS2 high-speed rail link.

As the Beleben blog pointed out at the time, Crossrail 1 to Tring could not offer much disruption alleviation for HS2. When the government eventually realised that, they pulled the plug.

However, it is interesting to consider the connectivity benefits of allowing commuter trains to serve a number of locations in the centre of London. According to the Department for Transport, Tring Crossrail via Old Oak Common would have meant ‘faster journeys to central London’ than via Euston. But the Department contrarily claimed that HS2 and Crossrail, changing at Old Oak Common, would mean ‘slower journeys to central London’, than via Euston.

What is the likely explanation for this doublethink?

If HS2 were terminated at Old Oak Common, the land grab at Euston would be in jeopardy. That fact must lie behind all the mendacity and dissemblance about ‘journey times’, and suchlike.

Patrick is #4

Written by beleben

November 7, 2016 at 3:29 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with

HS2 infrastructure abrasion

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The Centro Go HS2 blog seems to have been abandoned by its creators, but at the time of writing, at least some of its content remains accessible. The blogpost of 13 December 2013 mentioned the “pounding” of the West Coast Main Line as a reason to build HS2.

[The challenge of maintaining the West Coast Main Line, Alan Marshall, Go HS2, 2013-12-13]

David Higgins has already talked to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee about how the WCML south of Rugby is being “pounded” and has also said the route will be “trashed” by the time the first stage of HS2 is due to open in 2026.

But would the building of HS2 mean the West Coast Main Line would no longer be “pounded”?

According to Network Rail, “HS2 frees up space for faster, more frequent trains on the WCML”.

Obviously, “faster, more frequent trains on the WCML” would mean more “pounding”, not less.

Network Rail: 'HS2 frees up space for faster, more frequent trains on the WCML'

The reality is

  • large parts of the West Coast Main Line, even south of Rugby, are not particularly heavily used
  • HS2 track would take a far bigger “pounding” than anything seen on the West Coast Main Line.

Andrew McNaughton slide (2015) showing use of West Coast Main Line tracks

The busiest WCML tracks are the fast lines, south of Ledburn. According to HS2 Ltd’s Professor Andrew McNaughton, for most of the day, they carry about 12 trains per hour in each direction, which run at speeds up to 200 km/h.

How does this compare with the proposed HS2 trunk from Euston to Bickenhill?

According to HS2 Ltd, in full operation, it would carry 18 trains per hour in each direction, at speeds of 360 km/h or more, even outside the peak hours.

A 400-metre Siemens Velaro D high speed train, of the type used in continental Europe, has a weight of ~908 tonnes, or around 56.75 tonnes per carriage. The Velaro has been used in official illustrations of future HS2 trains.

The longest (265-metre Class 390/1) Pendolino trains currently used on the West Coast Main Line have a reported weight of 567 tonnes, giving an average vehicular weight of around 51.54 tonnes.

HS2 would see more and heavier trains, operating at speeds ~80% faster than the West Coast Main Line. This suggests that the track, pantograph, and overhead line “pounding” on HS2 would be far higher than anything seen on the West Coast Main Line, or anywhere else. The enormous maintenance costs must be one of the reasons that HS2 could never compete on a ‘level playing field’ with a separate West Coast intercity operator.



Written by beleben

November 7, 2016 at 12:57 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

HS2 operation to be a ‘management contract’

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On-rail-competition: not really compatible with HS2

'A management contract'?The government has announced that operation of HS2 is to be part of a non-competitive ‘integrated’ long distance West Coast contract (in much the same way HS1 domestic services were bundled into the ‘Integrated Kent Franchise’).

This should come as no surprise. On a level playing field, competing against a commercial Inter City West Coast operator, a separate HS2 operator would likely go out of business (because of its much higher cost base).

[, 4 Nov 2016]

West Coast Partnership

This franchise brings together the operation of the InterCity West Coast (ICWC) franchise services and the design, mobilisation and initial operation of High Speed 2 (HS2) passenger services.

ICWC services

The ICWC franchise provides passenger services between London (Euston), the West Midlands, north-west England, North Wales and Scotland. Its services call at major towns and cities including London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
HS2 shadow operations

The specification for the ‘shadow operator’ element of the franchise will be developed more fully in the expression of interest (EoI), prospectus and invitation to tender (ITT), but is currently expected to include activities such as:

  • identifying the markets across the West Coast corridor (both high speed and conventional passenger services) and developing the products and the passenger proposition for those markets
  • engaging with the HS2 design and build programme to ensure the franchise operator’s and passengers’ requirements are fully considered
  • innovating and exploiting emerging technologies to deliver a step change in passenger experience and the delivery of services on WCP
  • leading industry consultations on services and developing service patterns (both high speed and conventional services) for the period after high speed services commence
  • developing implementation plans for HS2 rolling stock and infrastructure and recruitment and training in respect of the period after high speed services commence
  • collaborating with Network Rail and HS2 Ltd to develop an organisational model for the delivery of services on HS2
    • this will more closely align the incentives between the management of infrastructure and the operation of train services enabling them to jointly focus on delivering a service in the best interests of passengers and taxpayers
    • this could pave the way for the future establishment of an integrated railway
  • developing transitional plans for the conventional network
  • having responsibility for HS2 mobilisation activities such as
    • testing and acceptance of rolling stock
    • staff recruitment
    • obtaining regulatory approvals and contracts for operations
    • testing infrastructure to support HS2
    • the phased introduction and testing of HS2 services

HS2 operations

It is envisaged the franchise operator will then operate both the West Coast and high speed services as an integrated operation in order to provide operational stability and a trading history in advance of the department retendering the services.

HS2 big trainThe franchise operator will therefore need to be capable of operating high speed rail services to deliver the full benefits of the HS2 scheme.

Structure and duration of franchise

It is currently anticipated that the ICWC services will be operated until the commencement of HS2 on a partial revenue risk basis. On commencement of HS2 services it is anticipated that the franchise operator would provide integrated ICWC and HS2 services for a further period of approximately 4 years on an incentivised management contract basis.

It is recognised that the role of the ‘shadow operator’ will evolve over time and, as such, flexibility will be built in to the contract to manage this. This is likely to involve some form of review mechanism to enable refinement of the role over time.

‘High speed rail’, meaning: ‘in excess of 250 km/h’.

Additional information about the WCP competition

The franchise EoI for the WCP competition will contain a number of mandatory further technical questions. The questions will include a test of participants’ ability and competence to:

exploit new technology and drive innovation to develop new products and services for customers

deliver the shadow operator role

plan, design, develop, operate and mobilise high speed rail services, ie speeds in excess of 250 kmh

Applicants should note that due to the unique nature of the WCP proposition, the department is considering the potential for a franchise specific approach to the operation of the ‘temporary visa’ mechanism as currently set out in the Passport process document. In the event that a franchise specific approach is adopted, details will be set out in the ‘WCP franchise EoI process document’.

Due to the unique nature of the WCP proposition the department anticipates that bid vehicles will need to draw upon a wider range of participants and skills than would usually be the case in a rail franchise competition. Participants are encouraged to form bid vehicles in a manner which will enable them to deliver as strongly as possible all the constituent elements of the WCP franchise as described above. The department reserves the right to refine further its requirements in relation to the nature of the contributions to be made by the participants in a bidding vehicle.

How “the new West Coast Partnership franchise will provide a strong private sector partner”, is open to question. How many genuinely-private-sector high speed rail operators are in existence?

Written by beleben

November 4, 2016 at 1:03 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics

Northern rail threatened by vanity projects

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‘New research commissioned by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority shows that the high-speed rail links could deliver a £15bn boost to the economy, as well as 20,000 jobs, 10,000 homes and an extra 2.9 million visitors a year’ (reported RTM Magazine on 31 October).

[Liverpool leaders call for £15bn boost from HS2 and HS3 links, RTM, 2016-10-31]

Councillor Liam Robinson, chair of the Merseytravel committee, added that Merseytravel’s aim was to secure “a brand new, twin-track, rail line between Liverpool and Manchester” with direct connections to HS2, and a new station at Liverpool Lime Street capable of receiving HS2 trains.

Cllr Robinson said this would reduce the journey time between Liverpool and Manchester by 50% and between Liverpool and London by 25%.

But where is this “new research” to be found? At the time of writing, it does not feature on what passes for the Combined Authority’s website. And there is no sign of an e-mail address for freedom of information requests.

Current fast trains between Manchester and Liverpool complete the journey in around 32 minutes, and the cost of a new line to cut that “by 50%” would be enormous.

HS2 Linking Liverpool website homepage, viewed 04 Nov 2016 

Councillor Robinson’s “aim” looks like a vanity project in the same vein as the proposed Manchester to Leeds ‘HS3’. If progressed, these absurd schemes could destroy the chances of creating a coherent rail system in the north.

Earlier this year, 'Linking Liverpool' claimed a '£10 billion benefit' from building high speed rail track into Liverpool - now, it seems, the claimed benefit is '£15 billion'

Home page of Liverpool City Region website, viewed 04 Nov 2016

Written by beleben

November 4, 2016 at 10:18 am

HS2 ‘released capacity’ deceit

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One of HS2’s key benefits is the ‘releasing of capacity for city region rail service expansion on existing lines’, according to Greengauge 21’s Jim Steer.
Greengauge 21 implementing hs2 north inseparable

How plausible is this claim? According to Mr Steer’s Steer Davies Gleave company, for Yorkshire city regions, the “opportunity and scope to remove services from the existing network is ‘limited'”.

The Steer Davies Gleave HS2 Yorkshire timetable options report stated that the scope to remove services from the existing network is 'limited'

For ‘limited’, read ‘almost non-existent’. Another way of looking at the potential for released capacity is to examine what places could be served by a Leeds to London HS2 train.

Leeds to London HS2, possible station stops, Oct 2016

As is plain to see, HS2 could not provide fast-service connections from Leeds for East Coast Main Line destinations like Wakefield, Doncaster, and Peterborough. It is not much more than a ‘railway to London, and London only’.

If ECML fast trains were withdrawn to “release capacity for new services”, the “new services” would have to be more or less the same as the ‘old’ withdrawn ones. Otherwise, there would be a loss of connectivity.

Manchester to London HS2 captive service, possible station stops (Oct 2016)

On the western leg of HS2, the situation would be much the same. Capacity ‘released’ by HS2 on existing lines would have to be ‘unreleased’, by replacing the old discontinued services with new ones, which would be more or less the same – or perhaps a bit slower.

Written by beleben

November 3, 2016 at 3:56 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

How would HS2 ‘improve links between the north’s major cities’?

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Transport for the North must become “the client and guiding mind for HS2 in the north of England”, according to Greengauge 21 (Jim Steer).

[High Speed in the North of England, Greengauge 21, 1 November, 2016]

The HS2 project is now recognised as having multiple functions, including improving links between the north’s major cities, as well as to/from London. Decisions about how and when to implement HS2 in the north, including developing service plans and providing for access to HS2 stations, must be recognised as a core part of Transport for the North’s transport strategy.

“Multiple functions”?

“Improving links between the north’s major cities”?

The HS2 network diagram in the October 2016 'Taking root' report showed neither Crewe nor Sheffield as having 'HS2 stations'

The HS2 network diagram in the October 2016 ‘Taking root’ report showed neither Crewe nor Sheffield as having ‘HS2 stations’

As can be seen in the diagram from the October 2016 ‘Taking root’ report (above), the HS2 ‘M18 route’ provides no connection between Leeds and Sheffield. The first stop south of Leeds would either be a parkway somewhere east of Rotherham, or a parkway somewhere west of Nottingham. There would be no city stop anywhere on the entire HS2 journey between Leeds and London.

On the western leg, plans for a Crewe ‘hub station with 360-degree connectivity’ seem to have hit the buffers. The ‘Taking root’ report showed the Crewe HS2 stop as having no more status than Sheffield Midland station. HS2’s first stop south of Manchester would be the parkway west of Ringway airport, and there would be no city stop anywhere on the entire HS2 journey between Manchester and London.

So much for HS2 “improving links between the north’s major cities”.

Written by beleben

November 2, 2016 at 10:22 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with