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Archive for August 2017

The wrong kind of rail investment for the North

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The Northern Powerhouse Partnership, which is chaired by Evening Standard editor and former chancellor George Osborne, wants the government to redesign the second phase of HS2 to “remodel” four junctions for connections to ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ (the BBC reported). He has urged Prime Minister Theresa May ‘to commit to building high-speed rail lines across the north of England, from Liverpool to Hull’, saying it would “transform” the economy.

But does the Northern Powerhouse Partnership have any evidence that building ‘HS3’ / Northern Powerhouse Rail would transform the economy?

According to Paul Swinney of the Centre for Cities, “research shows that commuting between city regions in the Randstad [Netherlands] and Rhine-Ruhr [Germany] is not significantly greater than across city regions in [northern England], nor are train links much quicker”. The success of those regions “does not appear to be based on the strength of their transport links”.

Coverage of the Centre for Cities report about the relative importance of transport links in The Guardian, June 2016

In the view of the Beleben blog, HS3 / Northern Powerhouse Rail is the wrong kind of rail investment for the North, and the potential waste of public funds is much bigger than with Boris Johnson’s recently-abandoned London garden bridge.

'George Osborne avoided official channels with London's garden bridge scheme', The Guardian, 16 Jan 2016

Written by beleben

August 22, 2017 at 11:12 am

Reluctance to state

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Compared to conventional rail, high speed rail has lower capacity

What it says on the board

August 15’s blogpost on high speed line capacity was described as a “highly personal attack” on consultant William Barter (by Mr Barter).

twitter, @busandtrainpage

In a response posted on Twitter, Mr Barter stated that he was arguing that ‘conventional rail does not have a capacity advantage over high speed rail, not that high speed rail does have a capacity advantage over conventional rail’.

Bombardier high speed rail capacity evaluation report, 2011, Figure 3

But there seemed to be a strange reluctance to state whether or not high speed, on plain line sections, meant lower line capacity (the implication of ‘Figure 3’ in Bombardier’s 2011 report).

twitter, WilliamBarter1, status_898204008338292737_response

@williambarter1, twitter, 'minstel singing'

Written by beleben

August 22, 2017 at 9:05 am

Posted in HS2, Transport

Recommendations without evidence

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Research from Transform Scotland and supported by Virgin Trains shows that a ‘shift from air to rail has cut carbon in the Scotland – London travel market’.

'Green Journey to Growth', Transform Scotland, page 1

'Green Journey to Growth', Transform Scotland, page 2

'Green Journey to Growth', Transform Scotland, page 3

'Green Journey to Growth', Transform Scotland, page 4

'Green Journey to Growth', Transform Scotland, page 5

'Green Journey to Growth', Transform Scotland, page 7

'Green Journey to Growth', Transform Scotland, page 8

Since the emissions arising from travel between London and Scotland’s central belt are a vanishingly small proportion of the UK total, one might wonder how important these ‘findings’ were.

That is, if the report actually bothered to explain how any of its conclusions and ‘recommendations’ were arrived at.

But there is no way of checking the figures, and no information on the number of flights in 2005 and 2015, or the types of aircraft used, or the total train energy kWh for a London – Glasgow journey, etc.

Written by beleben

August 21, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Not-so-British style icon

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A ‘British high speed rail icon’ will help to train a new generation of engineers, according to the ‘Politics Home Central Lobby’ twitter.

While many of the original TGV373000 trains delivered to Eurostar have been sent to the scrapyard (replaced by German-built trains funded by UK State Aid), two refurbished ‘e300’ power cars have been allocated to the ‘National College for High Speed Rail’ (one for the Doncaster site, and one for Birmingham).

As its typename indicated, the TGV373000 was in essence, a TGV reduced in cross-section, to fit onto Southern Region tracks. A French-designed train, built by factories in France, Belgium, and England, in accordance with a work-sharing agreement not too unlike that used for the Panavia Tornado (etc).

The British factory used to part-build the TGV373000 was shuttered around 2005 as part of Alstom’s full-on retreat from UK manufacturing.

twitter @CentralLobby, status_898239252240138240

In a video posted by ‘Business Birmingham’, Clair Mowbray, chief executive of NCHSR, described the Eurostar loco as “absolutely vital”.

twitter @business_bham, 'As Birmingham's @NCHSR receives its @AlstomUK @EurostarUK train, we asked chief exec Clair Mowbray how it'll help the college's students.'

Business Birmingham

So far as can be determined, HS2 Ltd are looking at trains with distributed traction, rather than end-power-car designs. Is the loco a ‘learning tool’, or a decorative ‘point of interest’ for the college hall?

Written by beleben

August 18, 2017 at 11:29 am

Posted in Politics

Will high scam

with 6 comments

twitter_WilliamBarter1, 'Conventional rail might match the capacity of a high speed line with rigid separation'

With [1] “rigid segregation” (?) conventional rail might match the capacity of a high speed line, according to HS2 ‘evangelist’ William Barter. But [2] it would cost nearly as much, and only provide [3] a fraction of the benefits.

But where is the evidence for statements [1], [2] and [3]?

Où? Wo? ¿Dónde?

Bombardier capacity evaluation for HS2 Ltd, 2011, 'Figure 3'

Consider claim [1]. According to Bombardier, the line capacity of high speed rail is lower, not higher, than conventional speed rail.

Mr Barter’s response to the Bombardier diagram was to pretty much ignore its whole point, and claim that headway on plain line rarely, if ever, presents the binding constraint on rail capacity.

@williambarter1, twitter, 'Headway on plain line rarely, if ever, presents the binding constraint on rail capacity'

But high speed trains don’t travel into or out of terminals at ‘high speed’, and can’t change tracks at high speed (turnouts are limited to circa 230 km/h). So where could Mr Barter’s capacity advantage come from?

The answer is, there is no capacity advantage. As the Bombardier diagram shows, there is a capacity disadvantage, which comes from running at very high speed, on plain line.

Written by beleben

August 15, 2017 at 1:55 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Where are the bin women?

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Birmingham’s bin dispute, about the long-overdue modernisation of the refuse collection service, is costing “£40,000 a day”, the Birmingham Mail reported.



Why bin men should receive much more favourable pay and conditions at the expense of other staff, and why the Birmingham refuse collection continues to be an almost(?) wholly male occupation, has never been explained.

But misogynistic labour relations practices have a long history in the municipality, and have cost hundreds of millions of pounds.

'Birmingham council underpaid women for decades',
Anne Perkins, The Guardian

Written by beleben

August 15, 2017 at 10:40 am

Posted in Birmingham, Bizarre

Ex post in vacuo

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Improving public transport and encouraging car-pooling, walking and cycling are best for taking cars off the road. There is little robust evaluation evidence on the impact road schemes have on local economic development, wrote Centre for Cities researcher Adeline Bailly on the Centre for Cities blog.

[Is road investment the route to local economic growth?, Centre for Cities, 2 Aug 2017]

The What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth reviewed 2,300 evaluations of the local economic impact of transport projects, and found only 17 robust evaluations looking at the local economic impact of roads – and the findings on impacts are rather mixed.

twitter, @CentreforCities: 'How to reduce congestion? Improve public transport, encourage car-pooling, walking & cycling but not road investment '

But the July 2015 What Works evidence review was mainly concerned with economic outcomes, rather than congestion, and does not really argue the effectiveness of measures for congestion relief.

What Works Growth, Policy Reviews, Transport (extract)

[WWG Evidence Review: Transport – July 2015, extract]

• We found no high quality evaluations that provide evidence on the impact of rail infrastructure on employment, and only a limited number of evaluations showing that road projects have a positive effect.

• We found no high quality evaluations that provide evidence on the impacts of trams, buses, cycling and walking schemes on any economic outcomes.

• Even when studies are able to identify a positive impact on employment, the extent to which this is a result of displacement from other nearby locations is still unresolved. More generally, the spatial scale of any employment effects varies and we do not have enough evidence to be able to generalise about the spatial distribution of effects if they occur. The same is true for other outcomes. The scale at which the studies evaluate impact varies from adjacent neighbourhoods to much larger US counties.

• Surprisingly, very few evaluations consider the impact of transport investment on productivity (we found just three studies, two for roads and one for rail). Although the use of such productivity effects to calculate ‘wider economic benefits’ in transport appraisal is underpinned by a larger evidence base, it is still worrying that so few evaluations can demonstrate that these effects occur in practice.

• We have little evidence that would allow us to draw conclusions on whether large-scale projects (e.g. high speed rail or motorway construction) have larger economic growth impacts than spending similar amounts on a collection of small-scale projects (e.g. light rail or junction improvements).

• More generally, we do not know how differences in the nature of improvements (e.g. journey time saved or number of additional journeys) affect any local economic outcomes.

The review also noted disconnect in the evaluation of schemes, before and after the fact.

Our review of the literature discovered a large number of ex-post [transport investment] evaluations that appear to live in a vacuum, with no attempt made to link the findings from these reports back to scheme appraisals.

Written by beleben

August 15, 2017 at 8:58 am