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Plummeting from infinity

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In October 2009, Network Rail described the benefit-cost ratio for electrification of the Midland Main Line as “effectively infinite“.

On 16 July 2012, the coalition announced £4.2 billion for new rail schemes, including electrification of the Midland Main Line from Bedford to Sheffield, Nottingham and Corby.

In July 2015, the then-rail-minister Claire Perry MP said that ‘initial work’ considering the overall MML upgrade, “including electrification and other works indicates that for options which retain or improve fast intercity rolling stock, on all MML services the benefit cost ratio (BCR) would be in a range between 4.7 and 7.2 dependent on train length and train type.”

On 13 September 2016, the Beleben blog stated, “It is difficult to see how Midland electrification, in its present form, could ever be value for money. It might make sense if it were designed to cater for railfreight, and future passenger journeys from the West Riding and D2N2 to London. The government’s current intention is for such journeys to be transferred to the eastern leg of HS2.

In a Commons debate on 7 November 2016, Nigel Mills MP (Amber Valley) spoke of the “strong” benefit cost ratio for Midland electrification. Nicky Morgan MP (Loughborough) said, “The point I will come on to in a moment is that [the Midland electrification and HS2] schemes go together”. She invited rail minister Paul Maynard “to address the benefit-cost ratio”.

But in his waffle-prone contribution to the debate, Mr Maynard kept schtum about benefit-cost.

On 19 July 2017, transport secretary Chris Grayling cancelled the North-of-Kettering [NoK] element of the programme. In October 2017, he gave ‘new’ figures stating NoK had a net present value of -£129 million and a BCR of 0.77.

Midland Main Line appraisal, Oct 2017, Chris Grayling’s figures
Option Capacity
programme &
full
electrification
Incremental
electrification
north of
Kettering
Capacity
programme &
electrification
to Corby
NPV (£m, 2010 PV) 209 -129 337
BCR 1.21 0.77 1.78

Those bewildered by these ‘bad numbers’ included shadow transport secretary Lilian Greenwood.

Plummeting MML electrification VfM 'raises more questions than it answers' - @liliangreenwood

The Beleben blog can reveal that the cryptic clue to the ‘mystery of the plunging BCR’ lies in the seemingly-innocuous statement, “All three scenarios take account of the assumed impact of HS2 Phase 2 on the Midland Main Line upgrade programme.

Chris Grayling, updated MML electrification VfM takes account of HS2

According to a ‘sensitive’ document created for the Department for Transport in 2016, “the introduction of HS2 Phase 2 would have a material impact on the value-for-money of the Midland Mainline Upgrade Programme, reducing the BCR from 9.4 to 1.2” (i.e., low value for money).

Updated appraisal of the MML upgrade for the Department for Transport in 2016

In other words, contrary to the claims of Nicky Morgan, and the hopes of Lilian Greenwood, the Midland electrification and HS2 certainly do not “go together”.

As the Beleben blog stated in September 2016, the case for Midland electrification is completely undermined by HS2. Actually, HS2’s deleterious effects could be expected to impact other enhancement projects, such those backed by the ‘Consortium of East Coast Main Line Authorities‘ for the East Coast Main Line.

If HS2 were built, the government could not allow competition for long distance passengers with classic rail (which would have lower costs). The political embarrassment from such passengers choosing to keep using the existing railway would be immense.

So, what lies behind HS2 phase 2? On the evidence available, it is not a transport project, but a London real-estate project, ‘needed’ to justify the land grab (for over-platform development) at Euston. The ‘imperative’ of the Camden land-grab would also explain the government’s determination to avoid having Old Oak Common as its HS2 terminus.

De-scoped Midland Main Line electrification is a consequence of the government's obsession with its £60+ billion HS2 vanity project (picture: Network Rail)

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Written by beleben

November 13, 2017 at 2:59 pm

Posted in Planning, Railways

2 Responses

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  1. Presumably, the reduction of the north-of-Kettering electrification BCR is goverment confirmation that no new local passenger or freight services will replace the cancelled inter-city services. So that with HS2, local rail commuters (the majority of rail passengers) into Nottingham will now face infrequent, congested trains.

    Expect Toton residents to continue using the cheaper trains from Long Eaton & Nottingham, rather than Toton.

    From HS2 itself, Toton sidings was chosen over East Midlands Parkway because the district councils approved property development around Toton and not around Parkway.

    Mike

    November 14, 2017 at 1:02 am

  2. Part of the recently announced £300 million “cash pot” is now stated to be to allow trains from Leicester to go north via Toton to use HS2 infrastructure. That would require the line north of Leicester to be electrified. This applies to any proposals to run HS2 trains on more of the classic network.

    Leicester-Sheffield trains might as well use the Derby or Erewash routes. The Erewash route is 3km shorter than the HS2 route and spur through Newton. As only 24km would be on the hilly HS2 infra, the time saving would be negligible. The Birmingham – Leeds demand of 800/day in 2043 (Network Rail Long Distance Market Study Table 7.12) is too low to support an hourly train. The very low Leicester – Leeds demand of 200/day could not justify running another hourly train between Toton and Leeds with no intermediate stops.

    johnma

    November 14, 2017 at 11:44 am


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