Archive for January 2017
Stadler’s proposed train design for Merseyrail includes an offset sliding door at each end of a trainset, to allow emergency egress from a two-unit train in single line tunnels.
From the illustration provided by Merseyrail, with a two unit train, it would appear that the emergency apertures would be on opposite sides. But perhaps there is some other explanation.
According to the March 2012 HS2 Cost and Risk Model report, ‘Two types of stock will be used to operate HS2 services. Captive sets operating on HS2 can be procured as an “off-the-shelf” item, as they are analogous to existing European high speed trains. Classic compatible sets that operate along HS2 and then on to the classic network must be of a smaller gauge, requiring adaptation of a European high speed train design and a customised assembly.‘
However, in the view of the Beleben blog, it is doubtful whether “off-the-shelf” designs of captive (UIC GC gauge) train on HS2 would ever be a practical proposition. One of several difficulties is HS2’s aspiration, or requirement, for ‘level boarding’ from platform to train.
For off-the-shelf captive trains to offer level boarding, they would most likely need to have a vestibule floor height which matched HS2 Ltd’s choice of platform. However
- so far as is known, HS2 Ltd has not decided on a platform height
- floor height of European high speed trains differs by manufacturer and model.
As well as the use of slab track in stations, true level boarding would probably require (a) a means of adaptive control of carriage height, (b) some form of horizontal retractable gap closure. That is because seemingly small horizontal gaps are enough to bring pushchairs, wheelchairs and wheeled luggage to a halt.
If the gap closure devices were installed on the trains, rather than on the station platforms, that would seem to require a custom design.
When the Leeds NGT ‘clumsybus’ scheme was cancelled last year, the government agreed the city could keep the £173m allocated for the trolleybus to spend on ‘other transport improvements’. On 26 January, transport secretary Chris Grayling MP told business leaders at the Leeds Chamber Annual Dinner that the money “will make a real difference to transport in this city”.
But how is the money to be spent? At the moment, there does not seem to be any public explanation, but there are uncosted plans for new railway stations at ‘Leeds Airport parkway’ (somewhere on the Leeds to Harrogate railway), Thorpe Park, and the White Rose Shopping Centre.
Would these stations “make a real difference to transport” in Leeds? According to a 2014 Atkins report, the proposed station site at the White Rose Centre
[New Railway Stations in North and West Yorkshire Feasibility Study for West Yorkshire Combined Authority]
was felt to be unsuitable due to the changes which would be needed to the track and signalling equipment. The site is located on a curve with a high line speed and a high degree of cant. Constructing a station at this location would be costly.
The site is also relatively close to Leeds City Centre which means that the
impact of stopping services in this area would be detrimental to journey
times for existing passengers and line capacity is already constrained. Morley
and Cottingley stations are both less than 1.5 km either side of the
White Rose Centre.
The Atkins claim that ‘new stations close to Leeds City Centre would be detrimental to journey times for existing passengers’ would probably hold true if re-worded: ‘new stations would be detrimental to journey times for existing passengers’. One could make a perfectly good case for building new stations in the city centre ‘corona’, for example, at Marsh Lane, and Armley.
The indications are that a Leeds Bradford Airport parkway station would make next to no difference to traffic congestion. So what is the value for money, compared to just running a better bus service from the city centre to the airport?
One of the biggest obstacles to the creation of an S-bahn-type rapid transit in Leeds is the planned HS2 terminus just south of City station. If built, it would probably prevent four-tracking of the railway out of Leeds towards Neville Hill.
Former British Rail operations manager Lord Bradshaw described the official HS2 cost estimates as “flimsy” in a 24 January House of Lords debate that was largely concerned with the pros and cons of terminating the line, temporarily or otherwise, at Old Oak Common.
In the debate, Lord Berkeley said that ‘Michael Bing, a quantity surveyor who has written the textbook of costings for Network Rail’, had estimated the cost of HS2 phase one (London – West Midlands) at about £54 billion. (The government ‘funding envelope’ for the entire project (phase one and phase two) is £55.7 billion at 2015 prices.)
On 5 June 2013, Railnews reported a proposal “to give millions of people in central England direct access to HS2” by re-activating the Stonebridge railway was backed by “Railnews editorial director Alan Marshall and specialist quantity surveyor Michael Byng”. Whether the ‘Stonebridge Michael Byng’ and the ‘£54 billion phase one Michael Bing’, are one and the same person, is not clear.
What is clear, is the continuing unlikelihood of HS2 being opened on time, or within the funding envelope.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling MP has launched “the hunt” for a company to design, build and maintain a fleet of up to 60 state-of-the-art ‘225mph’ classic compatible trains for Britain’s “HS2 network”.
[‘Search underway for company to build HS2 trains in £2.75 billion government rail investment’, Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd, gov.uk, 20 January 2017]
[…] Providing a world class passenger experience is at the heart of the requirements for companies interested in bidding for the £2.75 billion contract.
Hundreds of jobs will be created by the government’s investment, boosting Britain’s skills and expertise in this sector.
[…] Today sees the publication of the Periodic Indicative Notice (PIN), pre-advising the formal start of the process in spring this year. There will be an industry event on 27 March where interested companies can find out more about the bidding requirements and process. This will be followed by the launch of the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) pack which will provide further details of the specifications for the trains.
Bidders will be shortlisted following the PQQ, and the formal invitations to tender issued in 2018. The contract award will be announced at the end of 2019.
One might expect a £2.75 billion spend to produce more than just ‘hundreds of jobs’, but there is no domestic supply chain for intercity rolling stock. At present, only the assembly of passenger carriages from imported parts is carried out within Great Britain (at Newton Aycliffe and Derby), and large quantities of rolling stock are imported completely built up. For the sake of appearances, potential HS2 train bidders such as Alstom and CRRC might have to offer GB assembly, even though they have plenty of spare capacity at home.
HS2 Ltd has talked up the prospect of ‘level boarding’ from platform to train, but how feasible is this ‘state of the art’ aspiration? In the view of the Beleben blog, the likelihood of true level boarding is fairly low. How a step from ‘classic’ platforms to HS2 trains could be avoided, is yet to be explained. But even with absolutely no height difference, seemingly small horizontal gaps are enough to bring pushchairs, wheelchairs and wheeled luggage to a halt.
The ‘level boarding’ conundrum might end up being offloaded onto rolling stock bidders, in much the same way that the HS2 timetabling problem is being dumped on a future ‘West Coast Partnership‘.
HS2 provides a “real opportunity to take Northern Powerhouse Rail forward” in that “we” will be able to “use some parts” of that network [HS2] to help us improve connections across the north, according to Transport for the North chief David Brown.
[‘Vital transport links closer to being a reality’, RTM, Jan 2017]
The new and improved northern rail network cradling and interfacing with a fast HS2 rail link is exactly what is needed to provide the capacity and connectivity the north needs to grow and develop its full potential. Working in cohesion, the services will together deliver our vision of city to city links, both east-west and north-south, effectively mobilising one of the most powerful workforces in the UK.
“Exactly what is needed”?
There is no way that rail, or road, development could ‘mobilise’ disparate workforces in cities like Liverpool and Newcastle upon Tyne, into a single so-called ‘Northern powerhouse’. They are simply too far apart.
And there is no way that HS2 – a ‘transport for London’ project – could play a significant role in northern connectivity.
HS2 does not link northern cities, and attempting to re-use sections of phase 2 to perform that function (e.g. between Manchester and Liverpool) is likely to waste enormous sums of public cash.
Building a very high speed railway to London is not a way of improving rail in the north.