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Archive for May 2017

Stop on a pause

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On a visit to Bristol Temple Meads, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond “repeatedly refused” to confirm that electrification of the Great Western Main Line into the station would ever happen, and appeared “to put a full stop on last year’s ‘pause’”.

[Chancellor Philip Hammond refuses to confirm electrification of rail line to Bristol will ever happen, Tristan Cork, Bristol Post, 30 May 2017]

In fact, when asked if it would ever happen, the Chancellor instead spoke of the wisdom of ‘re-engineering’ the £3 billion project so that Bristol would get at least some benefit from it, ‘without the costly infrastructure’.

Wales Online, July 2013

Written by beleben

May 30, 2017 at 6:41 pm

Posted in Politics, Transport

Getting a commuter seat at Euston

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On 23 May, train operator London Midland updated its online guide to ‘getting a seat’ on trains from London Euston in the evening peak. The guide is one of a series which are produced for various stations on Govia’s London Midland and TSGN ‘franchises’.

Getting a seat from Euston on London Midland, weekday evenings, from May 2017

The May 2017 Euston guide shows that most commuter trains still do not run at ‘full length’ in the peak, yet the need for travellers to stand for more than 20 minutes is quite limited.

The December 2016 ‘getting a seat’ guides for London Victoria, St Pancras, and Blackfriars suggest that capacity out of those stations is more of a problem.

The government and Network Rail’s intention is to provide more capacity south of the Thames by upgrading existing lines. It should be fairly obvious that HS2 is not necessary to meet future commuter demand from Milton Keynes, Dacorum, and Three Rivers.

'Getting a seat from St Pancras' (Mondays to Fridays, Thameslink), from December 2016

Written by beleben

May 25, 2017 at 7:43 am

Posted in HS2

Efficiency versus vanity

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The 21 May edition of the ‘Sunday Politics West Midlands’ tv show included an interview with Green party co-leader Jonathan Bartley.

Sian Grzeszczyk

BBC reporter Sian Grzeszczyk interviewing the Green party’s Jonathan Bartley

When asked by BBC reporter Sian Grzeszczyk about the party’s opposition to HS2, Mr Bartley stated that it would be better to put the money into schemes which would deliver more and better benefits, such as improving local transport.

Jonathan Bartley (Green party)

Jonathan Bartley

After that interview was shown, presenter Patrick Burns asked studio guest Diana Toynbee, also from the Green party, about its ‘pretty consistent opposition’ to HS2.

[Patrick Burns, in a question to Green party councillor Diana Toynbee, on BBC Sunday Politics West Midlands, tx 21 May 2017]

[PB:] I don’t understand why you’re not welcoming these much more energy efficient modern locos onto the infrastructure of transport, rather than replacing the older ones which, which I would presume, are less efficient?

Diana Toynbee from the Green party

Diana Toynbee (Green party)

Unfortunately neither Mr Burns nor Ms Toynbee seemed to be aware that very high speed rail (like HS2) is inherently more energy- and carbon-intensive than conventional (200 km/h) high speed rail.

Traction energy requirements of high speed trains at different speeds (Systra for Greengauge 21)

In Britain, 200 km/h trains are the ‘efficient’ ones, and that speed looks fast enough, considering the distances between the major cities. HS2’s 360 km/h operation does not suit an economic geography in which major population centres are just 100 to 150 km apart.

Written by beleben

May 22, 2017 at 10:08 am

Posted in HS2, Politics

Building to cost and to time

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'McNaughton hits back at reports of HS2 going over budget', RTM magazine, May 2017

RTM magazine, May 2017

Written by beleben

May 18, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Posted in HS2

How to excel at muddle

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Tory Chancellor ‘Spreadsheet Phil’ Hammond went on BBC Radio 4 this morning to attack the figures in the Labour party manifesto, but ended up getting his own figures in a muddle.


The Mirror

[Tory Philip Hammond skewered in BBC interview as he gets his figures in a major muddle, Mikey Smith, The Mirror, 2017-05-17]

Mr Hammond claims there’s a £58 billion hole in Labour’s funding – but didn’t appear to know the true cost of HS2 – the major rail project linking London with Leeds, Birmingham and the East Midlands.

Asked for the cost of the major project by the BBC’s John Humphrys, Hammond said: “About £32 billion.”

Humphrys said: “£32 billion? Not £52 billion?”

A flustered Hammond replied: “Er it’s…over…I mean…there’s a huge amount of contingency built in to the budgeting for these projects.”

“And they’re usually met, these contingencies, aren’t they?” Humphrys shot back.

“These things almost always cost more than we expect.”

The Mirror seems to have been the only newspaper to have reported on Mr Hammond’s inexactitude – in contrast to ‘wall-to-wall’ coverage afforded to gaffes by the Green party’s Natalie Bennett and Labour’s Diane Abbott.

'Theresa May numbers gaffe', the Independent, 17 May 2017

Written by beleben

May 17, 2017 at 5:22 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics

Step through the obfuscation

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In a letter to Andrew Tyrie MP dated 23 January 2017, transport secretary Chris Grayling stated that if the ‘demand update’ were removed from the calculation of HS2 benefit-cost, the ratio would not fall to 1.1, because the ‘impact of the other changes made when updating the analysis, would be dampened’.

[Chris Grayling’s letter to Andrew Tyrie]

You say that if the demand update were to be removed the BCR for the scheme would fall to 1.1, referring to the step through provided in Figure 1.2 in the latest version of the economic case. However, this would not be the case. Removing the demand update would significantly dampen the impact of the other changes that were made when updating the analysis, so the impact would be significantly smaller than the bar might suggest. In practice this is a rather academic point, given it would ignore the strong growth in long distance rail journeys observed over the last few years.

However, Mr Grayling’s statement seems to be at odds with the ‘step through’ in the phase 2b economic case (below).

DfT, HS2 outline economic case, phase 2b

Diagram from DfT’s HS2 outline economic case for phase 2b, Nov 2016

That diagram presents the effects of the demand update as ‘freestanding’, and as such, removing the update would reduce the assessed BCR by 1.6. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is no quantification in Mr Grayling’s letter as to what ‘significantly dampen‘ actually means.

Letter from the SoS for Transport to Andrew Tyrie MP about HS2 demand, 23-Jan-2017

Annex to the letter from the SoS for Transport to Andrew Tyrie MP about HS2 demand, 23-Jan-2017 (page 1)

Annex to the letter from the SoS for Transport to Andrew Tyrie MP about HS2 demand, 23-Jan-2017 (page 2)

Annex to the letter from the SoS for Transport to Andrew Tyrie MP about HS2 demand, 23-Jan-2017 (page 3)

Whether annual long distance rail demand is rising at 2%, 3.7%, or 5.5%, is rather less important than Mr Grayling might imagine. That is because:

  • Long distance rail volumes are not very large.
  • The crowded bits of the rail network are mostly the approaches to London, on which most of the traffic is short-distance commuting.

On those approaches, a 2% increase in commuter passengers would, in general, represent a bigger real volume increase than a 5% increase in intercity passengers.

Written by beleben

May 6, 2017 at 11:22 am

Posted in HS2, Politics

Ramming all whingers

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Is it time to ram all HS2 ‘whingers’ on the 1713 Euston to Milton Keynes and see how they like standing in a crush?

Twitter, @chris_railway

But (a) how much of a crush is there on the 1713? And (b) in the normal course of events, how many people are standing? According to the latest available train company advisory (below), (a =) not much, and (b =) everyone should be able to get a seat.

But perhaps having to go to Milton Keynes is punishment enough, même en place assise.

London Midland, 'Getting a seat from Euston', 12 December 2016 edition

London Midland, ‘Getting a seat from Euston’, 12 December 2016 edition

If commuters did have to stand on the 1713, some might describe it as a ‘first world problem‘, affecting a handful of mostly well-off people for a few minutes of their day. People have to stand on lots of trains all over the Southern Region, so why should north of the Thames be any different?

In what universe would ‘every single traveller seated for every minute of a 30 minute journey’ be a priority issue for £60 billion of public cash? How many people should have to forego their NHS treatment, or whatever, to pay for it?

Fortunately for Milton Keynes commuters, future demand growth could be addressed at comparatively low cost, by running longer trains, and making better use of the slow lines (for example). As can be seen, the majority of peak London Midland trains still do not run at current maximum length (12 coaches).

Written by beleben

May 5, 2017 at 9:02 am

Disparately seeking capacity

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Train journeys from the East Midlands and Sheffield to London could take longer from next year, the Nottingham Post reported. For Derby and Sheffield, the journey to London on the Midland Main Line might take an extra 12 minutes, and for Nottingham, an extra 9 minutes.

[‘Another kick in the teeth’ as journeys from Nottingham to London to get longer, by Tresidder, Nottingham Post, May 04, 2017]

This is a story of fast trains, slow trains and congested rail lines south of Bedford to St Pancras. Next year, Thameslink, the services south of Bedford to Brighton which embrace London suburbs and its commuter belt, will see the completion a £7 billion modernisation programme including new stations, extended platforms, new and longer trains and more frequent services.

So, 'running trains with disparate performance characteristics, reduces capacity'. Who knew?Thameslink plans to step up the frequency of trains running out of London to Bedford, Luton and St Albans using the Midland Mainline to 16 trains an hour.
Rail industry experts are trying to work out a timetable which fits the 16 Thameslink trains and EMT’s existing services onto the same tracks while maintaining timetables.

The problem is that new electric Class 700 trains ordered for Thameslink – 115 are on order – do not go as fast as those used by East Midlands Trains, the 15 year old Meridian fleet and ageing High Speed Trains (Intercity 125), now nearly 40 years old. EMT trains run at 125mph and Thameslink’s Siemens Class 700 at 100mph.
The complexity does not stop there. First, the trains are timetabled together to Bedford but going north to Leicester, Nottingham and beyond, EMT’s trains will have to weave round other trains and freight, possibly missing their timetable path.

A third issue which has the potential to become a fiasco is the significant investment already made in the Midland Mainline ahead of the widely anticipated electrification to increase the frequency of East Midlands Trains, reduce journey times and achieve ‘Nottingham [to London] in Ninety [minutes]’.

So, ‘running trains with disparate performance characteristics, reduces capacity’. Who knew?

Of course, a few years ago, the government of the time decided to equip the West Coast Main Line with commuter trains limited to 100 mph [160 km/h], creating a speed mismatch with intercity trains running on the same tracks. Some of those trains were subsequently modified to run at 110 mph [177 km/h], but there is still an ongoing capacity loss from the performance mismatch.

Even if the 1980s Midland Main Line electrification between London and Bedford had been ‘done right’ (allowing electric commuter trains to run at 200 km/h), Thameslink would still be an overly ambitious project. In the view of the Beleben blog, the proposed future Thameslink service pattern is too complicated, and the TSGN ‘franchise’ is too large to be effectively managed.

Written by beleben

May 4, 2017 at 11:41 am