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Archive for September 2017

Aesthetically challenged overhead

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High Speed 2 Ltd has procured a £3 million licence from SNCF to use its existing high speed overhead catenary system (OCS) for the HS2 phase 1 route, New Civil Engineer reported (paywall).

[HS2 to use French overhead line technology, Katherine Smale, New Civil Engineer, 29 Sep 2017]

[…] The project promoter said while it welcomed any solution which met its standards, as a number of companies had already produced systems which were close to complying with its standards, it anticipated the work would be to upgrade and develop existing systems and not design it from scratch.

HS2 said unlike alternative systems, SNCF’s system did not prescribe suppliers, opening the way for UK-based manufacturers to bid for contracts to supply OCS components.

This suggests that HS2 phase 1 could end up looking much like HS1 – which is a French ‘high speed’ line, in all but name.

SNCF type overhead lines, as seen on 51m website

SNCF type overhead lines, as seen on 51m website

So, what happened to the aspiration for HS2 to be a design ‘exemplar’, with ‘aesthetic overhead line structures’? Perhaps Sadie Morgan knows?

RIBA competitions, 'aesthetic overhead line structures'

RIBA competitions, ‘aesthetic overhead line structures’

Did someone say ‘Tesco value’?

Allied Insulators, 'HS2 aesthetic electrification'

Allied Insulators, ‘HS2 aesthetic electrification’

Written by beleben

September 29, 2017 at 11:28 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Lost in the scrum

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HS2 arrives at Euston

HS2 executives have warned that journey time savings from the “£55.7 billion” high speed railway would be “lost in the scrum of passengers, queues and poor onward connections” at Euston station, unless the “£30 billion” Crossrail 2 is built.

[HS2 warns it will not ‘work properly’ without Crossrail 2, Gill Plimmer and Jim Pickard, Financial Times, 25 Sep 2017 (paywall)]

Euston is already severely overcrowded and currently handles more than double its supposed 20m passenger-a-year capacity. With HS2, more than 10 high-speed trains an hour, each carrying up to 1,000 passengers, could cause a huge crunch.

“We are dependent on Crossrail 2 for the train line to work properly at Euston,” said one senior person at HS2.

[…] modelling by TfL shows that — without Crossrail 2 — more than 17 Underground stations would “buckle” under crowding pressures from HS2.

A case of ‘One vanity project demands another’, perhaps. The entire economic case for Crossrail 2 remains under a cloak of secrecy.

Greater London Authority refusal to provide Crossrail 2 business case info, July 2017

If HS2 cannot “work properly” without Crossrail 2, why didn’t HS2 Ltd include statements to that effect, in its economic case?

Written by beleben

September 25, 2017 at 11:10 am

Posted in HS2, Planning, Politics

Getting Leonie excited

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HS2 would pass through Long Eaton via a 16 metre high viaduct, but the benefits for the town are “very exciting”, according to Leonie Dubois, HS2 head of consultation and engagement (quoted in the Nottingham Post, 21 Sep 2017).

Long Eaton HS2 viaduct, impression published by Derby Telegraph

Toton parkway station would be “the best connected station on the railway network, which is a massive opportunity for the people”.

Written by beleben

September 22, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Posted in HS2

Keep up to date with HS2 alt-facts

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Public understanding of HS2 has been impaired by the cloak of secrecy over much of the project, and the fake news and misinformation propagated by official sources.

For example, according to Sheffield City Region’s twitter, 250 mph is ‘how fast HS2 trains will travel’.

twitter @SheffCityRegion, '250 mph is how fast HS2 trains will travel'

And according to West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street (quoted in Aston university’s 2017 In Touch magazine), “The simple fact is that Birmingham will be just 39 minutes from Euston.”

Andy Street, 'The simple fact is that Birmingham will be just 39 minutes from Euston'

Written by beleben

September 22, 2017 at 11:44 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Inconsistent attitudes in rail safety

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Railway trespassing is ‘not all kids’, according to the British Transport Police Lancashire twitter.

@twitter BTPLancs, status_910203402109509635

Instead of using the ‘correct route of slope to road, under railway, slope up other side’, 70 year olds crossed the tracks at the end of the platforms at Garsdale station on the (little-used) Settle and Carlisle line, where there is ‘non-stopping regular freight with 70 mph linespeed’.

Actually, perhaps not 70 mph freight, judging by the curvature of the line.

twitter @BTPLancs, status_910181416767512576

The safety risk from crossing rail tracks at-grade would depend on a wide range of factors. Depending on the situation, the risk might be very high, or negligible. In many countries – including some in western Europe – crossing tracks at-grade is the only way to reach station platforms.

Statistically, how dangerous is the pensioners’ Garsdale shortcut, compared to crossing a main road in Manchester? How much of the track crossing risk arises from the lack of wooden boards between the rails, and the absence of warning devices?

RSSB, Crossrail 1 trains, no yellow ends

The inconsistency of treatment of risk is not just between rail and road, but also within the rail industry itself. For example, trains for Crossrail 1 are being delivered with low-visibility front ends, for no obvious advantage. It is perfectly possible to imagine scenarios where ‘high intensity’ train lights malfunctioned, or were not recognised, for some other reason, leaving trackworkers exposed to unnecessary risk.

Written by beleben

September 20, 2017 at 11:07 am

Posted in Railways

HS1 and Kentish tourism

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The economic impact that High Speed 1 has had on Kent’s tourism economy ‘has been revealed for the first time in a report independently produced by Visit Kent and tourism economists Destination Research Ltd’.

HS1 website with Kentish tourism story, on 20 Sep 2017

But what role did HS1 Ltd play in commissioning and funding the ‘tourism impact study’? And how plausible are its findings?

[‘HS1 adds £72 million to Kent economy in 2016 as leisure journeys increase nine-fold’, HS1 Ltd news, 15 Sep 2017]

[…] Almost three quarters (73%) of tourism businesses in Kent believe that leisure tourism in the county has increased as a result of HS1. Over half (54%) believe that HS1 has specifically benefitted their own business. 94% of these tourism businesses said that they had benefited because of HS1’s high speed connections, with 80% saying that HS1 has helped attract visitors from further afield.

Almost a third (30%) of tourists said they were influenced in their decision to visit Kent by the presence of the HS1 service. Almost half (47%) of all visitors to Kent who travelled by rail did so via the HS1 service.

Interviews for the study seem to have been mainly conducted in places served by HS1 trains, rather than across Kent as a whole. Another oddity is the distribution of interviews in particular locations.

HS1 tourism impact study 2017, interviewees, extract

All in all, the report’s plausibility looks suspect. It is difficult to make sense of the claim that “only a proportion of journeys made on HS1 infrastructure were on HS1 trains, and not on regular (or classic) rail stock”. Because the only passenger trains using ‘HS1 infrastructure’ are (a) Eurostar (which mostly don’t stop in Kent), and (b) ‘Javelin’.  No classic passenger trains circulate on HS1.


Written by beleben

September 20, 2017 at 8:00 am

Spending twenty seven million pounds on a tram stop

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twitter @RailLeaders, £27.5 million of WMCA (public) money to be spent on a tram stop

Written by beleben

September 19, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Gross point blank

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twitter @joerukin, status_908356768350265345

FoI request via WhatDoTheyKnow, ‘All 2015 HS2 MPA reports

Written by beleben

September 15, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics

Aire of familiarity

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twitter @CityMetric, status_908305412105043968

@CityMetric twitter, 14 Sep 2017

As regular readers of the Beleben blog might know, the idea of a new approach to Leeds City station from the east – across the Aire Valley – is not new, and seems to have originated with HSUK.


Beleben blog, 30 July 2015

An Aire valley link, and ‘Leeds S-bahn’, looks like a better investment than high speed rail.

HSUK Yorkshire map, showing Aire valley link concept

HSUK Yorkshire map, showing Aire valley link concept

There is now a similar rail traffic imbalance in Manchester – at the city’s Victoria station – as a result of a conversion of the Oldham and Bury railways to Metrolink tram. Conversion of Bury Metrolink back to heavy rail looks like a good idea, as part of a 21st century Picc-Vic system (‘Picvic 21’).


Written by beleben

September 15, 2017 at 9:04 am

Posted in Leeds, Railways

Inexactitude of additionality

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Scotland will benefit from 34,000 additional seats per day from London when HS2 is completed in 2033, according to Rail magazine.

[‘HS2 offers thousands of extra seats to Scotland’, Richard Clinnick, 13 Sep 2017]

Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell revealed the figure in a Commons Written Reply to Alan Brown (SNP, Kilmarnock and Loudon), who had asked three questions relating to HS2.
He said the business case assumes two 400-metre HS2 trains per hour between London and Scotland, and that these will split or join at Carstairs, with half serving Glasgow and the other half serving Edinburgh.

[…] Each 400m train is assumed to have 1,056 seats.

“Assuming 16 hours of departures per day, the services assumed in the business case would provide a total of 34,000 seats between London – Glasgow and London –
Edinburgh on HS2 in both directions each day,” said Mundell.

Rail magazine, '34000 additional seats per day to Scotland from London when HS2 is completed in 2033'

“Additional” means “supplementary to what is already present or available“. The story does not say what London – Scotland seat capacity is already present or available, or what would happen to it when HS2 trains started running.

Of course, it is not at all necessary to spend £60 billion to increase Anglo-Scottish rail capacity. Furthermore, as a percentage of total UK passenger traffic, the volume of cross-border travel is chicken feed.

Written by beleben

September 13, 2017 at 11:52 am

Posted in HS2, misinformation