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Archive for January 2017

Renewal of the Merseyrail fleet, part two

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Stadler Merseyrail train design, showing arrangement of coupled unitsStadler’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.

Written by beleben

January 31, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Railways

HS2 and level boarding, part two

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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.

What 'level boarding?' is, depends on who you ask

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.

HS2 Ltd, information response about its platform train interface (January 2017)

Written by beleben

January 30, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

From clumsy to lacklustre

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Leeds City station from the west

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.

A Leeds S-Bahn-type rapid transit could re-use the abandoned Farnley viaduct in Holbeck

A Leeds S-Bahn-type rapid transit could re-use the abandoned Farnley viaduct in Holbeck

Written by beleben

January 27, 2017 at 1:01 pm

After five months of struggles

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On 18 October 2016, the government announced that Roy Hill of CH2M had been appointed interim chief executive of HS2 Ltd.

Now, after “a five month global search led by Heidrick and Struggles”, a new permanent HS2 chief executive has been sourced from, er, CH2M., CH2M's Mark Thurston appointed CEO of HS2 Ltd, 26 January 2017

CH2M, Mark Thurston, bio


Written by beleben

January 26, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Posted in HS2

HS2 and the funding envelope

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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.)

Lord Berkeley and the Baron of Camden Town in the House of Lords, 24 January 2017

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.

Transport for London projection showing that the entirety of HS2 Y network travellers could be accommodated on Crossrail 1

What is clear, is the continuing unlikelihood of HS2 being opened on time, or within the funding envelope.

Parliamentary written question HL4189, 15 December 2016

Written by beleben

January 25, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

HS2 and level boarding

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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,, 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.

HS2 LWM jobs forecast by Leo Eyles, used by the government

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‘.

Written by beleben

January 20, 2017 at 11:30 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Way we won’t

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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.

Written by beleben

January 19, 2017 at 11:04 am

Posted in HS2, Transport

Leading the way in increasing greenhouse gases

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According to the ‘High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Group’, HS2 and Crossrail are leading the way in the vital task of reducing carbon emissions for new infrastructure projects.

Twitter @railleaders, 'HS2 and Crossrail are leading the way in reducing carbon emissions'

[David Shirres, ‘Reducing project carbon’, Rail Engineer, 17 Jan 2017]

Transport for London (TfL) is reducing its contribution to climate change to support the Mayor’s ambition of London becoming a zero-carbon city by 2050. To do this, TfL is taking action to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent by 2025 (from 1990 levels), including reducing project embodied carbon.

So, TfL are planning to reduce carbon emissions.

But what about HS2?

[David Shirres]

For Crossrail and HS2, sustainability is a high priority. Considering carbon at the early design stage enables these mega-projects to achieve significant carbon (and cost) reductions for both construction and operation. Crossrail’s operational energy usage will be minimised by a vertical track profile that aids deceleration and acceleration, responsive escalators, specially developed LED lighting and lightweight energy-efficient rolling stock. Crossrail has so far achieved an 11 per cent reduction in embodied project carbon against its baseline. This is mainly due to reduction in construction materials and the amount of cement used in concrete, subject to cement performance requirements and curing time.

Project construction is estimated to generate 1.7 million tonnes CO2e, against which the carbon footprint model indicates annual operational CO2 savings of between 70,000 and 225,000 tonnes, largely due to car journey replacement. Crossrail estimate that, after 9 to 13 years, the project will provide net CO2 savings.

The construction carbon footprint for HS2 Phase One is estimated to be between 5.3 and 6.5 million tonnes CO2e. Some of this is from the construction of tunnels and earthworks as mitigation for environmental noise and visual amenity. Operational emissions are estimated to be a net 3 million tonnes CO2e over a 60- year period taking into account modal shift, mitigation from planting two million trees and freight benefits from released capacity on the classic network. Emissions per passenger kilometre from high-speed rail, inter-city rail, car and plane are estimated to be respectively 8, 22, 67 and 170 grams of CO2e.

49 per cent of the embodied carbon for the construction of a high-speed railway comes from steel while 28 per cent is from concrete. HS2’s opportunities to lower embodied carbon include maximising opportunities to re-use excavated material on site, the use of 4-D modelling to plan efficient logistics with low carbon modes such as rail and development of new materials including sustainable concrete.

In all the verbiage, Mr Shirres never got around to saying whether building and operating HS2 would reduce, or increase, carbon emissions.

HS2 Ltd admitted that HS2 would increase carbon emissions

Written by beleben

January 19, 2017 at 10:57 am

Posted in HS2

Justified and ancient

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The Economist magazine, Jan 2017

The Economist magazine, Jan 2017

The OECD, a rich-country think-tank, reckons it costs 90% more to build lines for trains that reach 350kph than it does to lay ones that allow speeds of 250kph, according to The Economist.

[China has built the world’s largest bullet-train network, the Economist, 14 Jan 2017]

For longer lines with more than 100m passengers a year and travel times of five hours or less — such as the one between Beijing and Shanghai — the more expensive type may be justifiable.

So how many rail passengers are there to ‘justify’ a 350 km/h HS2 link between London and Leeds, for example?

Written by beleben

January 18, 2017 at 3:47 pm

Posted in HS2

Help from the driver

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GTR Southern rail users with disabilities face delayed journeys or the prospect of no longer being able to board some trains after the company said there was no “cast-iron guarantee” that assistance would be available at all stations, The Guardian reported. The change has been linked to the extension of ‘driver controlled operation’, in which guards are replaced by ‘onboard supervisors’.

[No guarantee of help for disabled passengers, says Southern, Diane Taylor, The Guardian, 17 Jan 2017]

Southern has admitted it may have to book taxis for disabled travellers who cannot complete their journey because the only member of staff on the train is the driver.

Previously there were 33 stations across the Southern rail network where passengers in need of assistance to get on or off the train could turn up and be guaranteed help.

(Of course, because of GTR’s repeated failure to recruit sufficient staff, there are no ‘guarantees’ for anyone to be able to ‘complete their journey’.)

According to Wikipedia, Southern Railway ‘operates’ 156 stations. Like other train operators, it has never offered network-wide spontaneous travel for persons of reduced mobility. How could such a facility be provided?

It would appear that implementating turn up and go nationwide would, in many cases, require the train driver to assist with boarding and alighting. That would entail changes in equipment and operating procedure, to allow the driver to leave the cab as and when required.

Written by beleben

January 18, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Posted in Industry, Politics, Railways