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Archive for January 2018

Senior moments with Chris

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Transport secretary Chris Grayling has ‘talked to senior people in the rail industry’ who believe that ‘there will only be one generation of diesel engines on the bi-modes, and the second generation will be hydrogen engines’.

Visualisation of '2nd generation' hydrail bimode 5-car IEP train (unofficial, Beleben)

[Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport, at the House of Commons transport select committee, ‘Cancelled electrification’, 22 Jan 2018]

[CG:] We are now looking to get the first hydrogen trains on our network within a very short space of time, and the Germans are doing the same. The technology is really moving apace. Battery trains are becoming a real possibility. We have to focus on outputs rather than on the means of locomotion.

Chris Grayling at the transport select committee, 22 Jan 2018

There is a “perfectly good and strong business case for electrification to Corby”, Mr Grayling informed the committee.

[CG:] The high value piece of the [Midland Main Line] modernisation programme and the electrification is the piece south of Corby.

That seems not to be the case, if the Beleben blog has understood the figures correctly.

The numbers say the entire MML upgrade, and all electrification north of Bedford, is materially impacted by HS2, so to speak, and the residual Bedford to Corby electrification has an apparent benefit-cost ratio of 0.99 (i.e., not “high value”).

Bedford to Corby could have been part of an unwritten policy to ‘support’ Carillion. Unfortunately, the questioning of Mr Grayling at the transport committee was of variable quality, which might be caused by a lack of technical support, or something else. Mr Grayling was also not asked

  • why the September 2016 Midland Main Line electrification economic ‘update’ had been kept under wraps for months on end
  • what planning had been commissioned by government on the feasibility of the hydrail traction which (he says) is coming ‘in a very short space of time’.

Midland upgrade following Hendy review, 'key outputs 1 and 2' (2016)


Written by beleben

January 31, 2018 at 11:08 am

Posted in Politics, Railways

Council could nott borrow for Toton extension

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'No rate of return' for NET tramway to TotonNottingham city council ‘will not pay out’ for a NET tram extension to the proposed ‘East Midlands’ HS2 train station. Its deputy leader, Graham Chapman, said any costs for a tramway to Toton HS2 would have to come out of the Government’s pocket (the Nottingham Post reported).

Councillor Chapman opined, “We don’t have the money for it. We could not borrow to extend the line because there is no rate of return.”

Written by beleben

January 30, 2018 at 11:12 am

Après-pose advice

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If Virgin Trains East Coast is having ‘revenue difficulties’ just three years into its franchise, what does that say about the ability to forecast rail passenger volumes and revenues much further into the future, for HS2?

According to journalist Tom Bower, when Richard Branson was planning to secure the renewal of the West Coast franchise, he advised then-transport minister Theresa Villiers to ignore the impossibility of accurately predicting future revenues over the length of a thirteen-year contract.

[Branson: Behind The Mask, Tom Bower, Faber & Faber, 2014, ISBN 978-0-571-29709-2]

The guaranteed profits and the opportunity to pose on engines for photographers roused Branson to plan his tactics for the renewal of the West Coast franchise in 2013, following the extension from 2012. To tilt the odds in Virgin’s favour, he visited Theresa Villiers, the new Tory transport minister. In the passengers’ interest, he told Villiers, the government should grant a long franchise in order to benefit from Virgin’s investment and experience. She should, he advised, ignore the impossibility of accurately predicting future revenues over the length of a thirteen-year contract, and also the certainty of disruption if construction started at Euston station for HS2, the high-speed train.

TV meets RB (Simpsonised)

RB advises


Written by beleben

January 23, 2018 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Politics, Transport

Drawing erroneous conclusions

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At the Commons Transport Committee on 22 January, secretary of state Chris Grayling stated that the reason that the Virgin Trains East Coast franchise had run into difficulties “is purely and simply about the revenue it has received to date”.

There was, in essence, a danger it would run out of money before 2020, and new arrangements might be needed sooner rather than later.

Chris Grayling, Parliamentlive tv, 22 Jan 2018

'Instead of reading nonsense written by MSM journalists who know nothing about rail, try reading real rail journalists, franchise ended early because of failings of DfT and Network Rail'

twitter, @holdmch, 'no matter what rail franchise bidders may perceive in nods / winks, the bid criteria and risks are absolutely explicit in invitations to tender'

VTEC, Someone is 'drawing erroneous conclusions'

twitter, @holdmch, 'the making of the mess'

The contract still intact

The grabbing hands
Grab all they can
All for themselves after all

[Songwriter: Martin Gore
Everything Counts © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC]


Written by beleben

January 22, 2018 at 10:11 pm

Propaganda delivery group

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New research by Daniel Mahoney, and published today by the Centre for Policy Studies estimating that ‘the cost of Labour’s renationalisation plans would be at least £176 billion’, was featured on the Rail Delivery Group’s twitter.

twitter @RailDeliveryGrp

As the RDG moves further into the political arena, lots of questions need to be asked about its role. The amalgamation of the former Association of Train Operating Companies with RDG seems to have resulted in the merged entity taking on the role of lobbyist for the maintenance of rail privatisation in its current, extremely unsatisfactory, form.

If Network Rail is part-funding RDG, that would mean public funds are being used for propaganda purposes. And of course, many of the member companies of RDG are themselves owned by the state-owned (i.e., nationalised) railways of other countries.

Other blogposts by Daniel Mahoney

Written by beleben

January 21, 2018 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Politics, Railways

(White) elephant in the corner

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On 22 January, the Secretary of State Chris Grayling is “given the opportunity to produce the information previously requested by the [House of Commons Transport] Committee, explain his responses to requests for further information from the Committee, and outline the reasoning that underpins his decision to replace three rail electrification schemes with bi-mode trains”.

The (white) elephant in the corner

[House of Commons Transport Committee, 21 December 2017]

[…] In July, the Secretary of State announced that bi-mode trains would be used instead of rail electrification schemes on three lines:

* Midland Mainline (MML), north of Kettering to Sheffield and Nottingham
* Great Western Mainline (GWML), west of Cardiff
* And on the Lakes Line (LL) between Windermere and Oxenholme

The case of the Midland Main Line (MML) electrification is particularly interesting, because — incredibly — the original cost-benefit assessment pretended that the HS2 project did not exist.

Of course, the HS2 business case is predicated on transferring intercity journeys from existing lines (especially trips to and from London). When the Midland electrification assessment was very belatedly re-done to factor in the impact of HS2, the economic case collapsed.

Updated appraisal of MML upgrade for DfT, 2016

The Transport Committee, other MPs, “stakeholders”, and the public were kept completely in the dark about this. One of the results of this secrecy was the embarrassing Commons debate on 7 November 2016, in which honourable members took turns to emphasise the ‘strong benefit-cost ratio’ of the MML scheme.

On 22 January 2018, the Secretary of State Chris Grayling is given the opportunity to speak to the Commons transport committee


Written by beleben

January 19, 2018 at 12:54 pm

What is the thinking behind Northern powerhouse rail?

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According to Transport for the North’s Northern powerhouse rail factsheet

[TfN (undated)]

Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) is a major strategic rail programme, designed to
transform the northern economy and meet the needs of people and business. It will transform connectivity between the key economic centres of the North. The programme promises radical changes in service patterns, and target journey times. By delivering NPR more than 40% of businesses identified as having the North’s prime capabilities would be within 90 minutes rail travel of four or more of the North’s largest economic centres, compared with only 12% today.

Currently fewer than 10,000 people in the North can access four or more of the North’s largest economic centres within an hour. This would rise to 1.3 million once NPR is delivered. NPR would transform the job market, giving businesses access to skilled workers in larger labour markets and offer individuals the opportunity for flexible career development and progression, all within the North.

Transport for the North, Northern powerhouse rail factsheet, undated

However, TfN’s January 2018 draft Strategic Transport Plan stated that “the North is home to 16 million people”.

It is entirely unclear why it would be worth spending billions of pounds, just so that 8 per cent of the population of “the North” could “access four or more of the North’s largest economic centres within an hour”.

John Armitt, of the National Infrastructure Commission, described TfN’s strategic plan as a ‘major step forward’.

John Armitt described the TfN strategic plan as a major step forward

Which says quite a lot about John Armitt.


Written by beleben

January 18, 2018 at 12:57 pm