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Archive for August 2018

Chrissing with confidence

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The delay in opening London’s Crossrail 1, announced today, will disappoint thousands of commuters but could also spell more trouble for cash-strapped Transport for London, which faces a near-£1 billion deficit, the Guardian reported.

[London Crossrail opening postponed until autumn next year, Gwyn Topham, The Guardian, 31 Aug 2018]

Andrew Adonis, the former chair of the national infrastructure commission, said: “It’s clearly a further massive catastrophe for Chris Grayling, who didn’t say a word in public about the scale of the crisis. He himself moved Sir Terry Morgan to be chair of HS2 and that was soon after Andrew Wolstenholme, the chief executive, left.

“The biggest infrastructure project in Europe, in a state of crisis, lost both its leaders with Grayling being awol throughout. To me it’s utterly inexplicable. How can it give anyone confidence that HS2 will be delivered?

Lord Adonis said the full scale of the problems had yet to emerge, with the industry talking of major issues with signalling systems, and predicted the opening could now be delayed until 2020.


Written by beleben

August 31, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Crossrail 1 not on time or on budget

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Some proponents of HS2 used to argue it could be built on time and below budget because London’s Crossrail ‘is on time, and on budget’. But Crossrail is not on time or on budget.

Having used up all of its contingency funds, last month, its budget had to be increased from £14.8 bn to £15.4 bn. Today, Crossrail Limited has announced that the December 2018 opening date cannot be met, as more time is needed to complete “final infrastructure and extensive testing” to ensure a “safe and reliable railway”. The company’s new date for start of services is autumn 2019.


There is only around 22 km of new-build route in Crossrail 1, making it a small fraction of the size of HS2 phase 1.

twitter, @Andrew_Adonis: 'the chief executive of Crossrail, very highly paid, left a few months ago, along with the chair. So the biggest infrastructure project in Europe has been essentially leaderless'

'Railway Renaissance', book by Gareth David published 30 Sep 2017, why Crossrail is on time and on budget

Kensington Swan, Crossrail on time on budget, 7 Sep 2016

Evening Standard, Geoff Hoon says Crossrail will be on time on budget

NCE, Terry Morgan, Crossrail must be on time on budget

CSW, Crossrail, on time on budget, 08 Feb 2016

Written by beleben

August 31, 2018 at 9:53 am

Posted in London, Railways

It wasn’t the European Union

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It wasn’t the European Union that privatised YOUR British Rail.

twitter, @andrew_adonis, It wasn’t the EU that brought in tuition fees for students

And it wasn’t the EU that brought in tuition fees for students.


Written by beleben

August 24, 2018 at 10:22 am

Posted in Politics

Scrutiny is the enemy

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In Britain, democratic scrutiny of projects like the Oxford to Cambridge expressway is almost non-existent by intent and decisions are made behind closed doors, wrote Guardian columnist George Monbiot.

[This disastrous new project will change the face of Britain, yet no debate is allowed, George Monbiot, The Guardian, 22 Aug 2018]

Where democracy counts most, it is nowhere to be seen. The decisions that shape the life of a nation are taken behind our backs. With occasional exceptions, public choice is reserved for trivia. The most consequential choices, as they are the longest lasting, arguably involve major infrastructure. The number of disasters in this field is remarkable. A classic paper by the economic geographer Bent Flyvbjerg, Survival of the Unfittest, explains that there is an innate tendency on the part of policymakers to choose the worst possible projects, as a result of the lock-in of fixed ideas at an early stage. This is caused, his evidence shows, not by accidental error or even delusional optimism, but by “strategic misrepresentation”. Advisers become advocates, and advocates become hucksters boosting their favoured projects.

The schemes that look best on paper, and therefore are most likely to be adopted, are those that have been scrutinised the least. Democratic debate would reveal their flaws. This is why planners who wish to leave their mark treat it as a threat. To the megalomaniacs who draw lines on maps, public opinion is like landscape features: it must be cleared out of the way.

A striking example is the government’s plan for an Oxford-to-Cambridge expressway. A decision to which we have not been party, which will irrevocably change the region it affects, is imminent. The new road, says the plan, will support the construction of a million homes.

To give you some sense of the scale of this scheme, consider that Oxfordshire will have to provide 300,000 of them. It currently contains 280,000 homes.
All the tendencies Flyvbjerg warned against are evident. Instead of asking “Do we need this scheme?”, the government agency Highways England, which is supposed to offer objective advice, opens its webpage with the heading “Why we need this scheme”.

Mr Monbiot’s article did not mention the Heathrow third runway, Hinkley Point C, HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, and Crossrail 2, but these are all instances of megaprojects where information is mostly withheld from the public, and continuous attempts are made to shut down debate.

Written by beleben

August 23, 2018 at 9:21 am

Posted in Great Britain, Politics

Dive into HS2

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Who really has an interest in controlling the costs of HS2? Top management know that the more junior staff are paid, the easier it is to justify their own salaries. The more that is spent with suppliers, the bigger the overall budget, and again the more important their own jobs appear (according to SpendMatters UK/Europe).

[HS2 Rail Procurement Challenges – It’s Complicated!, SpendMatters, 21 Aug 2018]

Let’s get somewhat controversial for a moment. In a country where rough sleeping and use of food banks is growing, hospital waiting lists are lengthening, people are defending themselves in courts (badly) because legal aid has been slashed, HS2 is a luxury that we can’t afford. It increasingly just looks like a huge pile of cash spread out for the rail and construction industry to dive into. Here you go, help yourselves!


Written by beleben

August 21, 2018 at 1:45 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics

Avoiding huge regret

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Lord Adonis says future generations would “hugely regret” HS2 tunnels going through the Chilterns.

Well, the way to avoid ‘regret’, is to cancel the project. As the former chairman of Eurostar, Adam Mills, said in 2013, forecasts of HS2’s benefits are “away with the fairies”.

European Court of Auditors: cost efficiency checks in high speed rail projects are rare

Written by beleben

August 16, 2018 at 9:48 pm

Posted in HS2

The plot to build a station at Darlaston

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With the Combined Authority having acquired a plot for a station at Darlaston, passengers could be buying tickets and riding trains between Walsall and Wolverhampton by 2021, Rob Mayor reported.

twitter @robmayor, passenger trains could be running between Walsall, Darlaston and Wolverhampton by 2021

However, ‘more work needs to be done on the feasibility’, according to Andy Mayor (Andy Street).

twitter @andy4wm, land secured for Darlaston station

Darlaston and Willenhall are two of nine new stations proposed for the West Midlands county by the Combined Authority. Most likely, they would be served by just an hourly shuttle between Walsall and Wolverhampton, and an hourly service between Wolverhampton and Birmingham New Street.

TfWM, proposed new stations in the West Midlands

Because Darlaston town centre is some distance for the railway, most local public transport journeys would continue to be done by bus, and the value of the new stations is more totemic than real.

No doubt the case for Willenhall and Darlaston would be much better, for longer journeys, if a frequent (4 to 6 trains per hour) service could operate between Wolverhampton and Birmingham. This could be done if the Benson Road curve were built, and trains ran via the Soho loop, into Snow Hill station.

Benson Road ought to be the #1 priority for railway investment in the West Midlands, but the Combined Authority has a very different view.

Soho loop line, showing location of possible new stations and the Benson Road curve (none of which are supported by the Combined Authority)

Soho loop line, showing location of possible new stations and the Benson Road curve (none of which are supported by the Combined Authority)

Written by beleben

August 14, 2018 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Politics, Transport

Does Yin have a yen to save twenty minutes?

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What kind of journey benefits could arise, if the “£56 billion” HS2 project were built as planned? The Greengauge 21 (Jim Steer) ‘Beyond HS2‘ report (May 2018) gave two illustrations of future rail journeys.

Case 1, Oli

Oli is travelling from Gravesend to Middlesbrough. He begins his journey on HS1 in Rochester, and, once in London, he makes his way to the new Euston Station (via a travelator). Oli’s journey to the new Hub station in Darlington will take 1h52, a saving of 27 minutes from pre HS2 days.

But in the very same report, Greengauge argued that London to Newcastle and York intercity trains should “remain on the [East Coast Main Line] with a target of closely matching the journey times that would be achieved by HS2″. So if that happened, Oli wouldn’t need the “£56 billion” HS2 line from Euston to make his journey to Darlington, nor would he need the travelator from St Pancras to Euston (which is not even included in the HS2 budget).

Greengauge 21, 'Beyond HS2', illustrative future journey 1, Oli

Case 2, Hui Yin

Hui Yin, from China, is spending a few days in London before travelling to the University of Birmingham to deliver a lecture and attend a number of meetings – the main purpose of her visit. She will then continue her journey up to Glasgow, to visit some family. She arrives into the UK at Heathrow Terminal 5 and travels into Central London on the Elizabeth Line. She travels up to Birmingham Curzon Street from Euston a few days later and uses the tram to New Street to catch a local train to University station.

If Hui Yin has travelled (at least) 10 hours from China to London, is she really going to be bothered about saving about 20 minutes on a trip to the University of Birmingham? And it is ~20 minutes, not “33 minutes”. The tram between Curzon Street HS2 and New Street station would run five times an hour (according to Transport for West Midlands), and take about 5 minutes, giving an average transit time of ~11 minutes.

Greengauge 21, 'Beyond HS2', illustrative future journey 2, Hui Lin

According to Jim, Hui Yin would travel into “Central London”, presumably because he has decided that most HS2 trains should not stop at Old Oak Common.

These ‘illustrations’ are further evidence that the best course of action available to government is to cancel the HS2 project immediately.

Written by beleben

August 12, 2018 at 2:06 pm

Posted in HS2

Well beyond the highest

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The service plan proposed by HS2 Ltd of 17 trains per hour out of Euston is “well beyond the highest service frequency achieved to date on a high-speed line” noted Greengauge 21 (Jim Steer).

Greengauge 21, Old Oak Common should only be served by 4 trains per hour

The Greengauge ‘Beyond HS2’ report (May 2018) suggested that no more than 16 trains per hour should run in each direction on the Euston – Water Orton trunk, with just 4 stopping at Old Oak Common. However, there was no indication of which Country destinations would then no longer be reachable from Old Oak, or any crowding effects on the Northern and Victoria lines (etc).

Greengaue 21 Newcastle intercity trains should stay on the East Coast Main Line

Jim has also decided that Newcastle and York intercity trains should “remain on the [East Coast Main Line] with a target of closely matching the journey times that would be achieved by HS2”. So, the East Coast Main Line should, er, be upgraded. But what about the ‘14 years of weekend closures‘ this would ’cause’? And if existing lines were upgraded in that way, what remains of the case for HS2’s eastern leg?

Written by beleben

August 12, 2018 at 11:14 am

Posted in HS2

Passion or luck

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@rail, Peter Hendy, Carne passion saved lives

@philatrail, Network Rail near misses

Written by beleben

August 10, 2018 at 10:28 am

Posted in Railways