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Archive for March 2018

The difference in affordability

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In March 2017, the Secretary of State for Transport and the Chancellor of the Exchequer agreed “a package of cancellations and deferrals” from Network Rail’s enhancements portfolio, including the North of Kettering [NoK] and Oxenholme to Windermere electrification projects, the National Audit Office reported on 29 March.

According to the report, ‘Investigation into the Department for Transport’s decision to cancel three rail electrification projects’, Cardiff to Swansea electrification was in effect personally cancelled by the Prime Minister Theresa May.

The cancellations, done for ‘affordability’ reasons, were publicly announced in July 2017, some weeks after the general election. The cost of these projects was chicken feed compared to HS2, but very different affordability considerations seem to apply to that scheme.

'Three cancelled rail electrification schemes', NAO, March 2018

[NAO]

[8]
It is too early to tell the extent to which the Department will be able to deliver the benefits of electrification without electrifying the three routes. The Department still expects to deliver the majority of promised passenger benefits through planned infrastructure works and replacing existing trains. It will still introduce new electric trains to operate services between London and Corby on the Midland Main Line.

It will now use bi-mode trains to operate services on the Great Western Main Line and long-distance services on the Midland Main Line. Although bi-mode trains allow greater flexibility by being able to run on electrified and non-electrified lines, there are some disadvantages, such as increased track damage and higher energy costs, which the Department will need to take into account. For Oxenholme to Windermere the Department had interim plans to use bi-mode trains and proposes to replace existing trains with new diesel trains. It has also asked the operator to explore the use of alternative fuel trains on the route.

The Department has not yet fully costed the environmental and future financial implications of its decision on Midland Main Line and Oxenholme to Windermere. It is uncertain about how much the new trains will cost, but in October 2017 the Secretary of State told the Transport Select Committee that completing electrification would “be more expensive” than buying other trains.

[9]
In the case of Midland Main Line, bi-mode trains with the required speed and acceleration did not exist when the Secretary of State made his decision. When the Secretary of State made his announcement in July 2017, he specified that the next operator for the East Midlands franchise would deliver new bi-mode trains
from 2022. The Department expects journey times with bi-mode trains to be only one minute slower between London and Sheffield than they would have been with fully electric trains.

However, when the Secretary of State decided to cancel the project in March 2017, the Department had advised him that bi-mode rolling stock of the required speed and acceleration to meet the timetable of the route did not currently exist. The Department told us that, although it did not include it in its written advice, it expected that manufacturers would be able to develop a bi-mode train that would deliver service improvements on Midland Main Line.

NAO report, benefit cost assessments for the three cancelled rail electrification schemes

NAO gave the headline saving from NoK cancellation as around £900 million, but the underlying situation is more complicated. Last year, electrification of the track into Sheffield Midland from north Derbyshire, for HS2, was costed at around £250 million.

Written by beleben

March 30, 2018 at 2:49 pm

Sometime in April

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The delay to the opening of Kenilworth’s new rail station is down to Warwickshire County Council not sending paperwork to the rail regulator, the Kenilworth Weekly News claimed on 20 March.

Kenilworth station car park (©) BBC 2018

On the BBC Midlands Today evening news, council managing director Monica Fogarty claimed that ‘we are learning that even when you get the spec right in the first instance, there will still be adaptions and changes… that mean it’s delayed’ (?).

Council managing director Monica Fogarty

Reporter Peter Plisner stated that the station is now expected to open sometime in April (with one train per hour in each direction).

Kenilworth station exterior, (©) BBC 2018

Apparently, the station cost £13.6 million, yet has only one platform.

Kenilworth station trainside, BBC Midlands Today, 2018-03-20

Presumably the architecture was supposed to recall that of the old Kenilworth station closed in the 1960s.

Kenilworth old station,  exterior (copyright unknown)

But unlike the old station, the new one has all the distinctiveness and proportion of an out-of-town hypermarket.

Local resident Fraser Pithie said the delay to opening had turned a 'wonderful facility into a subject of ridicule for the town'

Was there actually a need to construct a station building, with a ticket office?

Even with its front canopy removed, Kenilworth's 1883 railway station looked vastly better than its '2017' replacement

Even with its front canopy removed, Kenilworth’s 1883 station looked vastly better than its ‘2017’ replacement

The arch shape platformside does not even match the shape entranceside

The arch shape platform-side does not even match the arch shape on the entrance side

Written by beleben

March 21, 2018 at 12:03 pm

Heathrow Crossrail to have premium fares

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In a press release dated 16 March 2018 and titled “Mayor of London announces TfL fares will apply to Elizabeth line”, mayor Sadiq Kahn was ‘delighted to announce that the cost of travelling on the Elizabeth Line [Crossrail 1] in Zones 1 – 6 will be the same price as a similar journey on the tube – fulfilling a key manifesto pledge’.

The press release then went on say that journeys to Heathrow Airport on Crossrail 1 would not be the same price as by Underground.

In other words, the title of the article, and the prominent mayoral quote, are directly at odds with what is actually intended.

Transport for London press release, 'Mayor of London announces TfL fares will apply to Elizabeth line', 16 Mar 2018

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March 19, 2018 at 11:58 am

The lack of detail on HS2 costs

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On 15 March Lord Berkeley wrote to transport secretary Chris Grayling to update him on Michael Byng’s costings for HS2 phase one.

twitter @tonyberkeley1, 'HS2 Phase 1 costs now £51 bn, due to increased scope', 17 Mar 2018

Lord Berkeley letter to Chris Grayling, 2018-03-15, page 1

Lord Berkeley letter to Chris Grayling, 2018-03-15, page 2

Lord Berkeley letter to Chris Grayling, 2018-03-15, page 3

Written by beleben

March 18, 2018 at 10:22 am

Posted in HS2, Politics

Boondoggle versus cleaner air and safe cycling

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UK recommended route cycle signThe number of cyclists killed or seriously injured because of Britain’s badly maintained roads has more than trebled since 2007. But campaign group Cycling UK believes the statistics do not tell the full story because they only cover incidents where police attended the scene – and not all cyclists report injuries to the police (reported the BBC on 16 March).

“Cycling UK is incredibly concerned to see what is clearly a trend on the up showing more people being killed or seriously injured while cycling, all because our roads are in a shocking state,” said campaigns director Simon Jones.

“Unfortunately for cyclists if they hit a pothole, then it’s not just a costly repair bill but also a strong possibility of personal injury or in the worst cases death.”

Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West told BBC News that funds earmarked for HS2 should be raided to fix roads.

She said the government would never be able to meet its clean air targets unless it made cycling to work safer for people living in “big cities”.

Written by beleben

March 16, 2018 at 8:29 pm

Posted in Cycling, HS2, Politics

Barca-ing Mad claims

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Since the opening of the Camp de Tarragona – Barcelona section 10 years ago, 85.5 million passengers have travelled on the Madrid – Barcelona AVE high-speed rail. Considering the impact on climate change, pollution and accident rates it can be estimated that €1.3 billion has been saved during the 10 years of the high-speed line’s operation. The environment has been spared 4.2 million tonnes of CO2 [sic], which in energy consumption is equal to almost 1 million tonnes of oil [Global Rail Review reported on 21 February].

grr-mad-barca-ave-21feb2018

However, no source was given for any of these claims. The idea that the environment has been ‘spared’ 4.2 million tonnes of CO2 looks fanciful in the extreme, given the massive greenhouse gas emissions associated with building the line.

Frontier, Atkins, ITS ex post economic evaluation of Mad - Barca AVE, 2011

Written by beleben

March 16, 2018 at 2:24 pm

Emerging baloney research

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The economy of northern England is set for a £15 billion boost if a Northern powerhouse rail station is built in Bradford city centre, according to a report commissioned from Genecon by Bradford city council.

Apparently.

West Yorks Combined Authority, 'North’s economy set for £15 bn boost from Bradford city centre station on Northern Powerhouse Rail', 14 March 2018

Although the report’s claims have been publicised on the West Yorkshire combined authority and Bradford council websites, there seems to be no way of actually consulting the report itself.

Bradford Council, Northern economy set for £15 bn boost, 14 March 2018

Written by beleben

March 14, 2018 at 2:47 pm

Will ‘HS2 college’ train 1,200 students every year?

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The young apprentices at the National College for High Speed Rail [NCHSR] in Birmingham will train 1,200 students every single year, using cutting-edge technology and world-class teaching to get the qualifications and experience they need to build our future railway, according to a Birmingham Mail article ‘written by’ West Midlands mayor Andy Street and HS2 Minister Nusrat Ghani.

'The young apprentices at the National College for High Speed Rail in Birmingham will train 1,200 students every single year' (?)

But how would young apprentices be able to train students?

And are there plans to train 1,200 people every single year?

According to figures seen by the Beleben blog, NCHSR had just 69 learners enrolled in January 2018.

NCHSR, learners enrolled in October 2017 and January 2018

For the year 2018 / 2019, the target is 639 learners (apprentices plus ‘Cert HE’), and for the year 2019 / 2020, 852.

How cost-effective, or viable, is NCHSR?

Written by beleben

March 13, 2018 at 12:11 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics

De-scoped ‘hub vision’ is a longer platform

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Woo-hoo Homer SimpsonOn 9 March the government announced its support for ‘the’ Crewe HS2 hub, following a consultation which yielded just 146 responses (some of which were categorised as null responses, including: identical responses from a single respondent, blank responses, and requests for specific information).

[Government confirms commitment to Crewe Hub vision, gov.uk, 9 Mar 2018]

“… the government’s support for the Crewe Hub vision means plans for HS2 Phase 2a from the West Midlands to Crewe will be modified to include:

* extension of Platform 5 at Crewe to 400 metres, to allow for the splitting and joining of HS2 services, which also opens opportunities to serve Stoke-on-Trent with HS2

* a more efficient design for the proposed platform on the Manchester independent lines, incorporating a transfer deck to the main station

* a change to the design of the southern connection from HS2, so that HS2 joins, and takes over, the central 2 lines on the existing network

The Secretary of State also intends to ask the franchise operator, West Coast Partnership, to include a high speed service to Stoke-on-Trent in its market development and service plans.”

But what exactly is ‘the’ HS2 hub?

It certainly doesn’t resemble what Cheshire East council were promoting, or even what Crewe town council were promoting.

Crewe HS2 Farrells hub visualisation

[Government confirms commitment to Crewe Hub vision, gov.uk, 9 Mar 2018]

Combined with a HS2 junction north of Crewe (which will be considered as part of Phase 2b), this could allow 5 to 7 HS2 trains per hour to call at Crewe and improve connectivity on the lines from Crewe to Shrewsbury, Chester and Stoke-on-Trent (subject in some cases to further investment beyond Crewe itself).

In summary: HS2 Crewe hub (March 2018 version) = a platform extension at the existing Crewe station, to allow portion working of one HS2 path to Liverpool and Preston.

Written by beleben

March 12, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

More photo-opps than answers

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twitter, @andy4wm at Brierley Hill

On a whistle stop photo-opp tour of the Black Country with mayor Andy Street yesterday, transport secretary Chris Grayling visited “the future site of Willenhall Railway Station”, the Midland Metro depot at Wednesbury (to see an ‘upgraded’ battery bi-mode tramcar), and the planned terminus of the Metro extension at Brierley Hill.

twitter @BBCPeterPlisner, 'Transport sec Chris Grayling was in town to see the first upgraded [Metro] vehicle'

Another photo-opp at Moseley village, in nearby Birmingham, was in support of ‘reworked plans’ to reopen some stations on the Camp Hill line.

twitter, @TransportforWM, Transport secretary Chris Grayling MP meets @Andy4WM in a visit to the Midlands and confirms @transportgovuk will consider plans to reinstate passenger services on Birmingham's Camp Hill line

Previous local authority plans to restore stopping services on the Camp Hill line had envisaged the construction of a new viaduct at Bordesley, to enable trains to run into Moor Street station.

This “Bordesley chord” was promoted as an essential part of the Camp Hill ‘reactivation’, helping to de-congest New Street station.

The Bordesley chord, mentioned in a BBC Midlands Today report in March 2017, now appears to have been abandoned

But in February, West Midlands mayor Andy Street said that the difficult-to-construct Bordesley chord would not be needed if existing trains from Hereford ran via the Camp Hill line, stopping at the rebuilt stations, and then ran into, er, Birmingham New Street.

[Birmingham Mail, 28 Feb, updated 1 Mar 2018]

[Andy Street:] “But instead of turning round [at New Street] and taking up platform space for valuable extra minutes, the service would then go forward to somewhere like Shrewsbury”.

twitter, @andy4wm, reopening Walsall to Wolverhampton railway is a key priority

Beyond the photo-opps, how much of all this stands up, in terms of value for money?

twitter, @andy4wm, talking with Neil Elkes

Written by beleben

March 9, 2018 at 9:33 am

Posted in HS2, Politics, Transport