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Archive for August 2017

Apostrophe’s wanted

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'Apostrophe's wanted'

But comma’s not.

Written by beleben

August 31, 2017 at 6:32 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Unpause and uncancellation

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On 20 July 2017, transport secretary Chris Grayling MP cancelled the ‘unpaused’ Midland Main Line electrification north of Kettering. However, at the time of writing, Network Rail’s project page still says “397 miles of track” are to be electrified, and “12,500 masts” erected.

Many of Mr Grayling’s “justice” policies were reversed, so one might argue that Midland electrification could be ‘uncancelled’ at some point.

Network Rail, 'Midland Main Line improvement' at 31 Aug 2017

Network Rail, ‘Midland Main Line improvement’ at 31 Aug 2017

In the view of the Beleben blog, Midland electrification would be viable, if HS2 phase two were cancelled. The case would be stronger, if north – south railfreight were re-routed over the Midland (and Settle and Carlisle), allowing more passenger trains on the West Coast Main Line, and cancellation of HS2 phase one.

Written by beleben

August 31, 2017 at 5:35 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics

Summit must be done, part two

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Andy Burnham, 'Chester to Manchester rail journeys take longer than in 1962'

At last week’s transport ‘summit’, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham highlighted that a train journey between Chester and Manchester is now slower than in the 1960s, the Chester Chronicle reported.

[‘Manchester to Chester train journey slower than in 1962’, says Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, David Holmes, Chester Chronicle, 27 August 2017]

Speaking to political and business officials, Mr Burnham said: “It takes four minutes longer to travel by train from Manchester to Chester than it did in 1962.

“I think that pretty much makes for why we are here today.

[…] ITV Granada reporter Daniel Hewitt recently tested out public transport links between Manchester and Thornton Science Park near Ellesmere Port which received millions of pounds worth of investment as part of the Northern Powerhouse vision.

He found a 35-mile journey that would take 50 minutes by road can take almost two and a half hours by train.

An accompanying article on the ITV website stated: “There’s anger from businesses about how plans for the Northern Powerhouse are stalling at the starting gate. When it comes to public transport for example you can get from Manchester to London in two hours eight minutes.”

Andy Burnham, 'how much have your journey times changed'

[Reality Check: Does the North get a raw deal on rail?, BBC, 27 Aug 2017]

[Transport for Greater Manchester]’s analysis of historical train timetables show that in 1962 the fastest service from Chester to Manchester took 56 minutes, stopping at one station in between.

Today it takes 60 minutes but makes seven station stops.

By contrast, according to TfGM, the fastest journey from Manchester to London in 1962 was 220 minutes.

It is now 124 minutes, a reduction of nearly 44%.

On 28 August, the Guardian reported that trains connecting Britain’s major towns and cities are up to four times slower outside the south-east, ‘according to research’.

[British trains ‘up to four times slower outside the south-east’, PA, 28 Aug 2017]

Press Association analysis of the quickest possible trains on 19 routes found that services from London travel at average speeds of 65 – 93 mph, compared with 20 – 60 mph elsewhere.

The slowest route featured in the study was Liverpool Central to Chester, which takes 41 minutes to make the 14-mile journey (as the crow flies) at 20 mph.
Many of the slowest routes featured in the analysis, which featured trains operating on Fridays, are served only by trains with multiple stops.

Steve Rotheram, the mayor of the Liverpool city region, claimed the figures highlighted the “investment deficit that is seriously undermining growth potential in the north”.

He said: “You simply cannot deliver a ‘northern powerhouse’ as long as the regions that delivered the industrial revolution are reliant on transport infrastructure that is operating on a 19th-century timetable.”

Luke Raikes, a senior research fellow at thinktank IPPR North, said slow journey times were “down to decades of underinvestment as the government has just responded to congestion problems in London”.

Written by beleben

August 30, 2017 at 10:31 am

Summit must be done

with 3 comments

Yesterday (23 August), at a ‘summit’ in Leeds, ‘policy-makers, metro mayors and industrialists from across the North’ called for greater transport investment in the region.

Northern Transport Summit 2017, Statement

The North’s huge economic potential is being held back by an outdated, expensive and slow transport system

The idea of a “Northern Powerhouse”, driving forward a rebalanced UK economy in the 21st century, was supposed to right this wrong, and is still strongly supported. A successful North means more jobs, a stronger tax base, better inward investment opportunities and greater success for business for the whole of the UK.

But none of this will be realised unless there is substantial new investment in modern transport infrastructure linking the great cities of the North. Recent statements by the Transport Secretary have sent worrying messages that this essential investment may not be delivered in full, with some key commitments dropped, or substantially delayed.

We believe that people across the North have waited long enough for transport services on a par with other parts of the country. The disparity between transport in the North of England and London must now be addressed.

Therefore, this summit calls on the Government to:

• honour in full commitments already given to deliver improvements to rail services across the North, including full electrification, track and signaling [sic] improvements on key commuter routes and the upgrade of hub stations, and to remove uncertainty about this at the earliest opportunity;

• prioritise its manifesto commitment to deliver new west-east rail infrastructure reaching across the North, work with Transport for the North to set out a clear timetable for its delivery in the Autumn Budget, and provide evidence that this timetable will not be adversely affected by decisions to fund other large infrastructure projects elsewhere in the country; and

• set out a fairer distribution of transport funding (revenue and capital) across all regions of the country.

Finally, at a time when crucial long-term decisions are about to be taken, not just on transport but also on the country’s relationship with the EU, this summit agrees to establish a representative forum of political and business leaders to enable the voice of the North of England to be properly and effectively represented on issues of common concern. This summit agrees to update all Members of Parliament on the conclusions of today’s discussion and will work with them to build a broad-based campaign, and seek Parliamentary endorsement of our calls on the Government, including a debate when Parliament returns.

People attending the summit “heard how civic leaders were ‘incensed’ by comments from Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, that improvements to Northern transport links must be ‘designed and managed by the North itself’”.

[‘Northern leaders accuse Chris Grayling of treating region with contempt’,
Dean Kirby, inews, 23 Aug 2017]

Steve Rotheram, the Mayor of Liverpool City Region, accused Mr Grayling of an “abdication of responsibility” while Julie Dore, the leader of Sheffield City Council, said his remarks were “extremely disappointing”. She said[,] “To get a very senior Government minister coming out with some sort of defensive, adversarial comment just quite clearly shows his particular contempt for the North of England.”

Anger has been growing in the North since Mr Grayling gave his backing to another £30bn Crossrail line for London just days after announcing he was scrapping a manifesto pledge to electrify railway lines in the North, the Midlands and Wales.

More than 80,000 people have signed a petition calling for regional body Transport for the North to be given the same powers as Transport for London and urging Mr Grayling to reconfirm his commitment to the electrification of the trans-Pennine line between Manchester and Leeds, known as Crossrail for the North.

But is ‘Crossrail for the North’, the ‘electrification of the trans-Pennine line between Manchester and Leeds’? Surely the full name of CftN should be ‘Crossrail for the North, Whatever That Is’.

Map of 'HS3' published in the Yorkshire Post, 23 Aug 2017

And does CftN equal ‘HS3’? According to a diagram published in the Yorkshire Post, HS3 could be a [bonkers] new railway between Manchester, Manchester Airport, and the eastern leg of HS2. Of course, the government’s preferred route for the Yorkshire section of HS2 is now quite different from that shown in the diagram.

Written by beleben

August 24, 2017 at 9:48 am

Posted in Planning, Politics

The wrong kind of rail investment for the North

with 2 comments

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

with 2 comments

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 7 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?

with one comment

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