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Archive for July 2018

HS2 transport benefits are “inconsequential” to the West Midlands public

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In an unexpected and somewhat ratneresque development, the programme manager for the West Midlands Combined Authority’s “HS2 Growth Delivery team” has admitted that the supposed transport benefits of the HS2 high speed railway are inconsequential for the vast majority of people in Birmingham, the Black Country, Solihull, and Coventry.

Craig Wakeman: HS2 transport benefits are inconsequential to the vast majority of the people that live in the West Midlands Combined Authority

[What does High Speed Rail really mean to you?, Craig Wakeman, programme manager for the West Midlands Combined Authority’s HS2 Growth Delivery team, 30 July 2018]

When people think of HS2 they automatically think of the improvement it brings to people travelling to London, shorter travelling times and a big increase in the number of seats. In reality, these benefits are inconsequential to the vast majority of the four million people that live in the Combined Authority.

Four million people live in the Combined Authority area?

'2.8 million peple live in the WMCA area (2015)'

Anyway, according to Mr Wakeman, HS2’s benefits are

  • the “unlocking” of large areas of land for redevelopment in Bickenhill and around Curzon Street Station in Birmingham
  • the ‘creation of more than 100,000 new jobs’
  • ‘the National College for High Speed Rail, training 1,300 students annually once it is at full capacity’
  • ‘£1.2 billion of local transport connectivity investment by 2026, including Eastside and Brierley Hill tram extensions and seven ‘Sprint’ bus services carrying 23 million passengers a year’.

Where is the evidence that HS2 is a creator of 100,000 West Midlands jobs?

In its peak year, the construction of the line would briefly require about 25,000 workers in total (not just in the West Midlands). Around half, or more, of the construction and operating jobs seem likely to be taken by foreign workers.

Dependence of UK rail on EU labour

Greenfield development at Bickenhill. Is that a benefit, or periurban sprawl?

And how much land is there left to “unlock” around Curzon Street?

Most of the Eastside redevelopment was in hand well before HS2 – Millennium Point, the relocation of Birmingham City University (the polytechnic) and Matthew Boulton College.

Written by beleben

July 31, 2018 at 8:15 pm

Posted in HS2, Midland Metro, Politics

HS2 Bickenhill tramway costed at £872 million

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The meretricious extension of the West Midlands Metro tramway from Birmingham city centre to the Airport and the HS2 ‘Interchange’ station site at Middle Bickenhill is now costed at £872 million, according to the West Midlands Combined Authority. This sum is comprised of £137 million for the section from Corporation Street to Adderley Street, and £735 million for the rest.

Artist's impression of a West Midlands Metro tram in Digbeth

No buses operate over the proposed tram route to the airport, because of its indirectness and low demand, and fast trains from New Street to ‘Birmingham International’ (the airport station) take just 10 minutes. The National Express West Midlands X1 (former 900) buses are timed to reach the airport from central Birmingham in half an hour. Demand for travel from places such as Chelmsley Wood to the airport is low, as shown by the X12 bus running at 20-minute intervals, even at ‘peak’ time.

The airport tramway is part of the WMCA ‘HS2 Growth Strategy’, which has an estimated cost of £5.139 billion. This is additional to the cost of the “£55.7 billion” HS2 ‘Core Programme’, as are the HS2 expenditures of Network Rail and local authorities such as Cheshire East, Stoke, Sheffield, Greater Manchester, and Leeds.

Written by beleben

July 31, 2018 at 8:47 am

At sixes and sevens

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The latest muddled rebranding of West Midlands Transport seems destined to add to public confusion about who is responsible for transport services.

West Midlands Transport identity, 2018

Apparently, trains are supposed to be orange, but orange is the colour of the ‘Transport for West Midlands’ organisation. But the colour of, er, ‘West Midlands Transport’ is sort of purple. Or is that the colour of the trains?

'TfWM part of WMCA'

Orange Transport for West Midlands identity, 2018

Although operated by the same company, ‘West Midlands Trains’ (not the same thing as ‘West Midlands Rail’) are likely to have three different liveries – mainly purple, mainly orange, and mainly dark green – for no particular reason. But not teal. That’s for the ‘Rail Executive’.

West Midlands Rail

West Midlands Rail Executive

West Midlands Trains

West Midlands Rail, predominately purple

twitter @samjessupdesign, some West Midlands Rail trains to be orange but others purple

Buses operated by different companies in competition with each other, with different fare structures, are supposed to be repainted red, as if they were London buses, um, except in Coventry, where the National Express West Midlands buses are supposed to remain skyish blue (?).

The ‘network identity’ is so dysfunctional that the same bus operator cannot even manage to give a unique identifying number to each of its services.

Two number sixes and two number sevens

Besides the proliferation of expenditure and public confusion, another problem with the boneheaded rebrand is the environmental waste from discarded vinyls, paint remover, etc. There are thousands of vehicles and pieces of street furniture, etc, with legacy branding, so the cackhandery is deplorable.

Written by beleben

July 29, 2018 at 11:53 am

Posted in Birmingham

From failing to failed

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High speed train wreckBritain’s HS2 high-speed railway project has cost taxpayers £4.1 billion even before construction has started, the Financial Times reported.

[HS2 costs taxpayers £4.1bn before work even begins, Gill Plimmer, FT, 27 July 2018 (paywall)]

Martin Blaiklock, an infrastructure consultant, said the £4 bn represented around 8 – 10 per cent of estimated project costs, which he said was “somewhat high” for this stage of project planning, indicating that the final project cost would be “rather higher than expected”.
The costs come amid a wave of departures from the organisation, with a third of the board leaving in the past year, including the chairman David Higgins, finance director Steve Allen and non-executive director Lord Adonis, a leading driver of the project since its inception.
The Treasury’s own Infrastructure and Projects Authority has given HS2 an “amber/red” rating for each of the past six years — meaning there is a “high risk” of it not delivering value for money. A confidential report commissioned by the IPA and released in December 2016 also warned that costs were likely to end between 20 and 60 per cent over HS2’s £56 bn budget and that it would be “classified as ‘failed’ by any internationally recognised definition”.

So Andrew Adonis has ‘made off’, it seems. Why would that be?

'The sectetary of state is not available'

Written by beleben

July 29, 2018 at 9:23 am

Posted in High speed rail

Layout of the Camp Hill chords

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In February 2018, West Midlands mayor Andy Street outlined revised plans for a restored local service on Birmingham’s Camp Hill railway, to better connect the suburbs of Moseley and Kings Heath with the city centre. In the initial phase, the difficult-to-construct Camp Hill chords would not be needed, as trains would run into and out of New Street station.

Midlands Connect Rail Hub flagship

But in a later phase, following construction of the chords, the Camp Hill local service would be re-routed into Birmingham Moor Street, as part of the ‘Midlands Rail Hub’, the “flagship plan to future-proof the Midlands’ rail network for generations to come”.

Layout of the Camp Hill chords, as envisaged by Network Rail

In the view of the Beleben blog, the practicality of the design for the Camp Hill chords favoured by Midlands Connect must be in doubt. If they actually could be built, what would they look like? Unsurprisingly, there are no scale diagrams, and no artists’ impressions. Like the ‘Piccadilly platforms 15 and 16’ in Manchester, the Midlands Rail Hub appears to be an expensive and ineffectual scheme, which ought not to go ahead (and probably will not go ahead).

Written by beleben

July 26, 2018 at 8:47 am

Posted in Birmingham, Transport

Not his specialist subject

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Not a specialist

Written by beleben

July 25, 2018 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Politics, Transport

Evolution to greater prominence

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‘The Network West Midlands brand is widely recognised, but will evolve to greater prominence across all public transport modes, complementing the strong individual brands that will continue to exist.’ So claimed Transport for West Midlands.

West Midlands bus alliance, Network West Midlands identity

How will it evolve to greater prominence, if a new ‘West Midlands Transport’ brand is being introduced?

West Midlands Rail purple train

Written by beleben

July 25, 2018 at 11:48 am

The need according to Rachel

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HS2 is needed to stop some Chiltern line passengers occasionally having to sit on the floor, claimed Redditch MP Rachel Maclean last week (onboard a Chiltern train to Birmingham).

@redditchrachel 'To all those who say we don’t need #HS2. WE DO. Standing room only on the 16.47 to Birmingham this evening. Not even peak time (I’m sitting on the floor)'

Alternatively, and saving £60 billion in the process, why not just run trains with more seats on the existing track? In years gone by, the Chiltern Main Line used to see regular full-size express trains from Paddington to Birmingham Snow Hill, not the diminished ones which run out of Marylebone today.

Loco hauled train from London to Birmingham Snow Hill and Birkenhead near Seer Green, 1962 (Ben Brooksbank)

If the demand for more London to West Midlands travel was really there, one would also expect Chiltern Railways to

(i) switch available paths away from Oxford-via-Bicester, to providing extra Birmingham services

(ii) replace locomotive hauled trains to Birmingham with multiple units, with more seats.

Written by beleben

July 23, 2018 at 8:47 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

The iconic red Birmingham bus

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Public transport in the West Midlands is to get a brand new look in what is a UK first, the West Midlands Combined Authority claimed on 20 July. To give a distinctive look to the network and set it apart from others like London, buses are to be painted, er, red.

A brand for the West Midlands – TfWM reveals new public transport identity

Friday 20 July, 2018

Public transport in the West Midlands is to get a brand new look in what is a UK first.

West Midlands Transport (WMT) brings a single identity to bus, rail and tram services plus cycling initiatives in the region in what is the first integrated transport system outside London.

Each has its own distinctive livery – orange for trains, blue for trams, red for buses, green for bikes – centred on the distinctive WMT diamond logo.

Andy Street, left, Cllr Roger Lawrence and Laura Shoaf with a tram and bus in their new West Midlands Transport livery

Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), has introduced the new look to spearhead the drive towards a comprehensive and integrated system for the region.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “Branding is not merely dressing, it is about more people using public transport in an easy way.

“Think of the iconic red London bus – it is recognised the world over and the capital is rightly proud of it.

“This is our chance to inspire a similar sense of pride and identity for people in our region and the transport links that connect their lives.

“For the first time we will have trains, trams, buses, and cycles with one uniting identity which is enduring and, over time, becomes something which defines the West Midlands.

“We are fortunate the stars have aligned to enable us to do this in a cost effective way.

“TfWM recently took over the Metro so we would have needed to rebrand this in any case.

“Similarly, rebranding was part of the new rail franchise terms and the bus companies are constantly refreshing their own branding.

“We will be rebranding bus stops and stations in the months and years to come as part of the normal process of replacing them, meaning while this will be gradual, it will mostly be natural.”

Cllr Roger Lawrence, leader of City of Wolverhampton Council and WMCA portfolio holder for transport, said: “We are building an integrated transport system that will plug into HS2 and which is critical in unlocking the economic benefits for the region.

“Making our transport system look and feel like a world class experience starts with giving it a unique identity that builds trust and confidence.

“The scale of public transport infrastructure investment now underway in the region gives us the perfect opportunity to rebrand and deliver services that meet the needs of residents, businesses and visitors.

“Doing so supports the economic growth prospects in the region, thus enabling a positive change in the lives of millions of people.”

Much of the cost of the WMT rebranding is covered through existing schemes and contracts.

Rebranding of trains and stations was a contractual requirement when the West Midlands Trains franchise was awarded to operators by Abelio, which began operating local rail services carrying the West Midlands Rail logo last December.

Metro services are operated by West Midlands Metro and run by Midland Metro Limited, a subsidiary of the WMCA which took over running the network in June.

The first blue West Midlands Metro tram went into service on Monday (July 16) and the St Chads stop in Birmingham city centre was the first to be converted to the new colours and logos.

Through the West Midlands Bus Alliance, TfWM is working with all operators on the use of the new regional branding.

Buses operated in Coventry by National Express are expected to retain their distinctive sky blue livery but will carry the WMT logo.

West Midlands bikeshare, which is scheduled to begin trials in the autumn, will see bikes and docking stations carrying the WMT bike logo.

Laura Shoaf, managing director of TfWM, said the region was seeing massive investment in public transport infrastructure, with £1 billion being invested in the train network by West Midlands Railway, plus new Metro routes being built.

Public transport would be key for the showpiece Coventry UK City of Culture in 2021 and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham a year later.

“In 2022 the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham will see 1.5m visitors to the region who will be ticketed as part of the event to use public transport during their stay,” she said.

“The eyes of the world will be on this region so it is really important we have a strong brand for transport to support these events and beyond.”

Obviously, this rebrand is not a ‘UK first’. The ‘Network West Midlands’ brand, implemented from 2005 onwards, also featured colour coding (orange for bus, magenta for tram, green for rail), and according to Centro (now TfWM), “presents public transport as a clearly recognisable network”.

But it utterly failed to bring about modal shift. The number of journeys on West Midlands public transport is about half what it was in the mid 1980s, and a small fraction of what it was in the 1950s.


  • “Much of the cost of the WMT rebranding is covered through existing schemes and contracts.” What does that mean?
  • How much is Mr Street’s rebrand going to cost?
  • Why is it going to be more successful than ‘Network West Midlands’?
  • Why does Mr Street believe that rebranding a mediocre system will make it work better?

West Midlands Rail livery (not a joke) as presented in 2017


Network West Midlands Presentation 2011

Network West Midlands Presentation 2011

Network West Midlands Presentation 2011

The 'iconic colour' of Birmingham buses is not red (picture: Peter M Collier)

Written by beleben

July 22, 2018 at 6:13 pm

Posted in Birmingham, Politics