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Archive for October 2017

Something is technically wong

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Britain needs HS2, because a page on Wikipedia says that Britain’s railways carried more passengers than China’s.

@aquilanebula, Twitter, more than china

Wikipedia, 'Rail transport in China', revision of 24 October 2017

Wikipedia, ‘Rail transport in China’, ‘2.3 billion rail passenger trips’, revision of 24 October 2017

'The data on Wikipedia happens to be accurate and relevant' (?)

Written by beleben

October 31, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Railways, Transport

Hope and delusion

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The recent focus of Transport for the North’s “work” has been on understanding the case for Northern Powerhouse Rail to “serve eight ‘Other Significant Economic Centres’ (OSECs) across the north, which in the Leeds City Region includes Wakefield, Bradford, Huddersfield and York as well as Leeds” (according to the ‘HS2 and the HS2 Growth Strategy’ report to West Yorkshire Combined Authority dated 8 September 2017).

As can be seen from the diagram below, these “OSECs” were mostly ignored in the original ‘HS3’ / NPR vision.

The original vision for Northern Powerhouse Rail

It is interesting to compare the original TfN rail vision and the description of the “emerging vision”, reported to WYCA in October 2017.

For example, ‘6 trains per hour, with a journey time of 30 minutes’ between Manchester and Sheffield, and ‘2 trains per hour, with a journey time of 30 minutes’ between Manchester airport and Sheffield. Apparently, this is to be delivered through “significant upgrades” to the existing Hope Valley line.

Vision for NPR as reported to WYCA, 5 Oct 2017

Written by beleben

October 30, 2017 at 10:00 am

Nobody expects the Grayling inquisition

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Chris Grayling (author: Chris-McAndrew)

Nobody was ever planning to electrify the railway to Scarborough, secretary of state Chris Grayling told the Commons transport select committee on 16 October, as he extolled the virtues of ‘hybrid’ and hydrogen powered trains.

Andrew Jones MP (author: Chris McAndrew), Wikimedia

[At the transport select committee]

[Chris Grayling:] In East Anglia, all the cross-country routes will be operated by hybrid trains shortly. They offer a huge amount of flexibility. To take one example, on the trans-Pennine route hybrid trains are essential to continuing the service from Scarborough to Manchester airport. As you start to electrify the route, you have the flexibility to run electric trains over the parts that are electrified and, in this particular case, diesel on the parts that are not. Nobody was ever planning to electrify to Scarborough. It gives you flexibility that you do not otherwise have. Today, we are in the world of diesel-electric; it will soon be battery-electric, and it will be hydrogen-electric. It gives much greater flexibility to use trains in different ways around the network.

In its report (March 2015) to the then-secretary of state Patrick McLoughlin, the ‘North of England Electrification Task Force’ (chaired by Andrew Jones MP)

  • listed the Scarborough line as a ‘Tier 2 priority’,
  • stated that bi-mode / hybrid trains were “widely viewed as an unnecessarily complex and costly solution which may not be appropriate for many of the services we have been considering.”

Northern Sparks report (2015), diagram 6.3

'Northern Sparks report', 2015

Written by beleben

October 27, 2017 at 8:46 am

Posted in Planning, Politics, Railways

The difference what so ever

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On 16 October, secretary of state Chris Grayling MP faced transport select committee questions about the ‘policy priorities’ of the Department for Transport.

One of the topics of interest to the committee was the cancellation of rail electrification schemes such as Oxenholme to Windermere, Cardiff to Swansea, and the Midland Main Line north of Kettering.

Mr Grayling wanted to the focus on the journey time benefits of these projects, as he saw them, and portrayed the Midland scheme as a £1 billion outlay, to save one minute.

[HoC Transport Committee, ‘Oral evidence: Policy priorities for the Department for Transport’, 16 Oct 2017

Witness: Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State, Department for Transport

Members present: Lilian Greenwood (Chair); Ronnie Cowan; Steve Double; Luke Pollard; Laura Smith; Daniel Zeichner] […]

[Chris Grayling:] Do we really think it is worth spending nearly £1 billion to save a minute on the journey time and deliver new trains three to four years later?

And erecting wires from Cardiff to Swansea would be a ~£500 million outlay which would make ‘no difference whatsoever to passengers’.

On ‘Northern powerhouse rail’, which he supported, Mr Grayling said that ‘junction provision’ is to be funded as part of the HS2 budget.

Chris Grayling (video frame, 2017-10-16)

[HoC Transport Committee, 16 Oct 2017]

[Graham Stringer:] How does the possibility of platforms for HS3, in effect, under Piccadilly fit in with HS2 and the decisions there? When do the decisions have to be made?

[Chris Grayling:] The truth is that I do not know. The Chancellor has agreed that, as part of the HS2 budget, we will fund the junction provision that we need to enable the northern powerhouse rail network and HS2 to link together. That applies to the route from Liverpool to Manchester, because clearly you want the two routes to follow the same track from the eastern point, through the airport and into Manchester. Likewise, you want provision in south Yorkshire and, indeed, the east midlands, to create the potential to link up Leicester and Nottingham in the future. The Treasury has agreed that the money will be provided. We will put that into the hybrid Bill when it comes. That passive provision is there as part of that project.

I am now waiting for Transport for the North to come forward with their recommendations on how northern powerhouse rail should be rolled out and what shape it should take. I have been expecting those for a while and expect to get them this autumn. The next stage is for them to come and say to us, “We have studied this. These are the priorities for us.”

Project ‘Journey
MML electrification north of Kettering (cancelled) 1 1,000 1,000 Source: Chris Grayling
Cardiff – Swansea electrification (cancelled) 0 500 infinite Source: Chris Grayling
Cardiff – Airport Junction electrification 0 2,800 infinite No discernible change in line speeds from those of the late 1970s
HS2 phase 1 30 27,000 900 DfT, based on London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly, via Handsacre
Northern Powerhouse Rail
Liverpool spur
? ? ? Liverpool – Manchester target time is 20 minutes
(~10 minute reduction on 2017)
Northern Powerhouse Rail
Leeds – Manchester
new build
? ? ? Leeds – Manchester target time is 30 minutes
(~10 minute reduction over ‘Upgraded Standedge’)

Written by beleben

October 23, 2017 at 9:47 am

The inexplicable need for 400-metre HS2 platforms in Leeds and Manchester

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Data from David Higgins’ 2014 ‘Rebalancing Britain‘ report showed that

  • Manchester-to-London rail passenger volume was much larger than that between Leeds and London
  • Leeds, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and York generated similar amounts of London traffic
  • together, Newcastle upon Tyne and York produced roughly the same London traffic as Manchester did.


At both Leeds and Manchester, new-build terminal stations, with 400-metre platforms, would be built for the exclusive use of HS2 trains. But HS2 services to York and beyond would make use of existing platforms, and be limited to 200-metre length.

With destinations between Newcastle and York taken into account, the cumulative demand to and from York might actually exceed the demand at Manchester.

If short HS2 trains, and short platforms, are deemed adequate to meet expected demand from York, and points north thereof, why are HS2 Ltd proposing to build new termini in Manchester and Leeds?

The available information suggests that the Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds HS2 termini, and their 400-metre platforms, do not serve an obvious or clearly-defined transport purpose.

Written by beleben

October 20, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Posted in HS2

Jean-Cyril spin est là

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'Former Air France CEO Spinetta to assess future of French rail sector', Railway Gazette, 18 Oct 2017On 18 October the Railway Gazette published a story about an inquiry led by former head of Air France-KLM Jean-Cyril Spinetta, which “will investigate multiple issues across the French rail sector, including low ridership on regional passenger trains and the precipitous decline in rail freight seen in recent years”.

However, the story barely mentioned the role of the TGV network in the diminished performance and viability of SNCF.

According to a Le Figaro report (19 September 2017), 70% of TGV service is loss-making.

‘Surexpansion’ of the TGV service seems to have gone hand-in-hand with ‘une négligence progressive’ of the classic network.

Written by beleben

October 19, 2017 at 9:24 am

Right to be sceptical

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A 420-mile (676 km) high speed railway between London and Scotland could be built for ‘as little as £11 billion‘, according to Network Rail chief Iain Coucher, The Times reported on 9 May 2006.

Responding to the proposal, the Shadow Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, said, “The public are right to be highly sceptical […]

the Government should be concentrating on delivering projects that could actually make a difference to people’s lives in the short term.

'High speed trains to take on planes', The Times, 9 May 2006 (h/t @YorkshireNo2HS2)

Written by beleben

October 18, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Posted in HS2

Great Western watershed

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Yesterday’s launch of Hitachi IEP trains on the somewhat electrified main line from Bristol to London might well be described as a ‘watershed moment’ for the Great Western.
@scott4sarah twitter, ceiling 'cascade' on IEP train

‘Leaking’ air-con on the 0600 IEP from Temple Meads to Paddington certainly gave new meaning to the phrase “rolling stock cascade”. The train left Bristol 25 minutes late, and lost another 16 minutes en route, having made the entire journey on diesel because of a pantograph ‘issue’.

Google news, first Great Western IEPs in service

Karen Boswell, managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe, said: “Nine years of hard work has gone into making today happen, from creating a brand new factory and workforce, to establishing modern maintenance facilities from Swansea to London.

“We’ve delivered pioneering 21st century trains for passengers to enjoy”.

Bloomberg, Kobe-steel scam hits planes, trains, autos

Written by beleben

October 17, 2017 at 3:19 pm

The no-evidence base for Northern Powerhouse Rail

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The 'vision' for Northern Powerhouse Rail

According to the ‘Initial Integrated Rail Report, Strategic Transport Plan Evidence Base‘, the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme ‘has been developed with a definitive remit to ultimately deliver the following:’

[Initial Integrated Rail Report, Jacobs and SDG, June 2017]

* The delivery of new and substantially upgraded rail corridors across the North. To release capacity on the existing rail network, which in turn could allow it to be used differently, e.g. for new service patterns, additional local trains or to accommodate more freight traffic;

* To be fully integrated, to allow the benefits of faster journeys to Northern cities to be spread to those places not directly served by new and upgraded routes by through running. NPR stations will become integrated transport hubs, with co-ordinated rail services which also offer convenient connections to local transport services;

* To significantly upgrade hub stations, with more platforms and better facilities for all passengers;

* To mirror HS2 in the integration of NPR within long terms land use planning
considerations around station hubs;

* To drive innovation in rail through the creation of a critical mass for investment in new smart ticketing and information systems which can be used by all rail operators.

Although the ‘Evidence Base’ runs to 83 pages, there is no actual evidence in it which supports the ‘vision‘ for Northern Powerhouse Rail.

The topology is questionable, and the target frequencies, and target journey times (e.g. ‘Sheffield to Manchester in 30 minutes’) seem to be round numbers plucked from the air. Evidence about corridor demand, capacity utilisation on the existing rail lines, etc, is conspicuous by its absence.

In its current form, ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ is a dreadful project which would do almost nothing for everyday transport in the north.

Commuting patterns into Greater Manchester (Paul Swinney, using 2011 Census data)

Commuting patterns into Greater Manchester (Paul Swinney, using 2011 Census data)

Written by beleben

October 12, 2017 at 11:00 am

Unreason at the core

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In the 2014 ‘Rebalancing Britain‘ report, HS2 chairman David Higgins wrote of “the clear importance of the Manchester market”. According to the Department for Transport, there were about 3¼ million rail journeys between London and Manchester in 2013 / 2014, and 48 trains per day in each direction.

Northern markets, David Higgins 'Rebalancing Britain' report for the Department for Transport, 2014

Northern markets, David Higgins ‘Rebalancing Britain’ report for the Department for Transport, 2014

Assuming 589-seat Pendolino trains, and 360-days-per-year operation, would give an annual quantum of (589 * 48 * 2 * 360 =) 20,355,840 seats. For Monday-through-Friday, the figure would be ~14,136,000.

So, on a 7-day or a 5-day measure, less than a quarter of the ‘Manchester to London intercity seat capacity’ was actually used for journeys between Manchester and London.

The percentages for other end to end journeys, such as London to Birmingham and London to Leeds, are not that different. To get better loadings, intercity trains tend to make stops en route, enabling them to tap into commuter traffic (e.g. Macclesfield to Manchester).

In the HS2 scheme, there would be a much higher dependence on ‘end to end’ traffic, with intermediate destinations tending to be either badly served (e.g. Nottingham, Coventry), or not served at all.

But as is plain to see from the ‘Northern markets’ graphic (above), the volume of big-city to big-city demand is not very large.

The ‘capacity case’ for HS2 does not withstand scrutiny because (i) the vast majority of rail demand is for short distance travel, (ii) capacity on the existing tracks can be increased substantially, at much lower cost.

For example, Manchester-to-London and Birmingham-to-London capacity on the existing West Coast Main Line could be increased by over 50%, without resignalling, or platform lengthening. That uplift would come from recasting the timetable, and using space-efficient carriages.

On page 5 of his ‘Rebalancing’ report, David Higgins wrote, “The biggest danger in any major project is losing sight of why you are doing it in the first place. Why is it worth the effort, not to mention the cost? What is the problem that it is the answer to? What is the core purpose you are trying to achieve?”

The big chart of ‘with- and without-HS2’ journey times – on page 4 of the report – would suggest that the rationale of HS2 was more about ‘reducing journey times’, than increasing capacity.

DfT / David Higgins 'Rebalancing Britain' 2014 report, page 4 and top of page 5

DfT / David Higgins ‘Rebalancing Britain’ 2014 report, page 4 and top of page 5

But how many journeys would it speed up?

There are ~1,500 million journeys on ‘national rail’, each year. Would speeding up 3¼ million of them between Manchester and London — or 1¾ million between Leeds and London — justify an outlay of “£55.7 billion”?

Written by beleben

October 11, 2017 at 11:31 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2