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Archive for November 2018

Get a grip, says HS2 drip

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High speed rail ‘afictionado’ Andrew Adonis is worried that HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston “isn’t gripping things”.

twitter, @Andrew_Adonis, 'This is really silly - high-speed trains that win’t go high speed - & makes me worry that Mark Thurston at HS2 isn’t gripping things. The way you deal with excessive costs is to get costs under control, not to decimate the project!'

Written by beleben

November 22, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

And then there were three

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Until 14 December, Transport for West Midlands are ‘seeking feedback’ on plans for ‘new’ stations at Hazelwell, Kings Heath, and Moseley, on the Camp Hill line. These stations would be built in much the same locations as the original ones, closed as an economy measure during World War 2.

TfWM, Camp Hill stations engagement, 2018

TfWM’s consultation document says that a restored local train service on the Camp Hill line would

* widen the choice of transport options and decrease reliance on cars
* reduce congestion on the A435 Alcester Road and surrounding routes
* decrease air and noise pollution from traffic congestion
* address long journey times into central Birmingham, and
* improve capacity to bring goods and services in and out of the area.

However, TfWM are not consulting on the train service, only on the design of the three stations (as plans for a station at Balsall Heath have disappeared, without explanation).

As the revived Camp Hill stopping service would run just twice an hour, to and from Birmingham New Street station, it is hard to see how there could be much impact on road congestion or pollution.

TfWM plans three new stations on the Camp Hill line

Ambitions for a more practical service, into Birmingham’s Moor Street station, appear to be going nowhere, perhaps because the proposed Camp Hill chords at Bordesley have not been thought through properly. It seems safe to assume that the bus (National Express WM #50) will remain the most relevant public transport mode on the Moseley Road corridor, for the foreseeable future.

Judging from the artists’ impressions, the chosen station designs leave a lot to be desired. For example, the canopies over part of the platforms would be supported by poles on the platforms themselves, creating a sort of obstacle course for people getting on and off.

Lacklustre stations, and a mediocre train service. Why does it have to be like this?

A few years ago, West Midlands councillors were vociferous in their demands that all local rail stations should have ticket offices 'manned' during service hours. But in the new stations consultation document, there seems to be no sign of any ticket offices

At least TfWM do not seem to be frothing at the mouth about the idea of trees on railway property, unlike sections of the ‘enthusiast’ press.

TfWM impression of Moseley station, 2018

Written by beleben

November 22, 2018 at 11:50 am

Not in Newton Aycliffe

twitter, @TurnipRail, IEP made in Japan label


Because screwdriving is not making.

Written by beleben

November 21, 2018 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Politics, Railways

Egotistical subscriber line

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HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston has told the Construction News Summit his company is “in talks” with contractors to ‘get back to the funding envelope that the government can afford’, yet he doesn’t ‘subscribe’ to the idea that HS2 is over budget (?).

[HS2 ‘in discussions’ with contractors over costs gap | TIM CLARK | CN | 21 NOVEMBER, 2018]

Speaking on day one of the Summit, Mr Thurston said he could not comment publicly on reports of rising costs.

However, he admitted that the true costs of all aspects of HS2 were not fully understood prior to contractors being appointed.

Mr Thurston said: “There is a budget for HS2 and […] the company I run has been clear that it has to deliver the railway for that number. I don’t subscribe to the idea that it is over budget.

“When you think of when the budget was set for phase one in particular, which was in 2015, we always maintained that until we put contractors into play, we would not understand the true cost.

“We are sitting with our contractors as we speak to close that gap and I won’t comment on the size of that gap.”

Gare de Gap by Florian Pepellin, station sign

In an interview with New Civil Engineer, Mr Thurston said that ‘as the designs had developed it had become clear that the ground conditions were more complex than first thought and the risk taken on by the contractors was now an area to be revisited and potentially shared by HS2 Ltd‘.

[New Civil Engineer]

Over the next six months, Thurston said that there would be some “tough decisions” which would have to be made to cut costs. […]

“We’re confident we’re going to take a big chunk of this away,” he said.

Written by beleben

November 21, 2018 at 11:45 am

Posted in HS2, Politics

One-way ticket to Rotherham (and back)

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On 21 February 2018, Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) announced that thirteen of its T69 Midland Metro trams had been sold for scrap by e-auction for £12,000. They had been “phased out” of service from 2014, as new Urbos 3 trams were delivered from Spain.

TfWM website, 'Former Midland Metro trams to make final journey following auction sale'

TfWM quoted councillor Roger Lawrence, West Midlands Combined Auhority lead member for transport, as saying: “After many years of service it’s sad the T69 trams are headed for the breakers yard, but in the absence of any buyers for them as a going concern this represents the best return for the council tax payer.”

But what was this “best return”?

It turns out that

  • the T69 tram lease was ‘contracted out’ to the Royal Bank of Scotland ‘through until September 2017’
  • moving the decommissioned T69s from the Metro depot at Wednesbury to storage at Long Marston cost “approximately” £2,000 per vehicle, paid from public funds
  • storing the trams at Long Marston cost “approximately” £35,500 per annum, paid from public funds
  • 99.5 per cent of the £12,000 raised from the sale of the trams went not to public funds, but to RBS bank.

How then, one might wonder, did TfWM end up paying £35,000 a year, to store someone else’s scrap metal?

Did TfWM have to pay leasing charges for the trams, even after they had been scrapped?

How much public money, altogether, was wasted?

At the time of writing, TfWM are refusing to release any more information, citing ‘commercial confidentiality’.

Written by beleben

November 20, 2018 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Midland Metro

Tom’s personal delight

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HS2 connectivity fails in Birmingham, the West Midlands, London, and the East Midlands

Improving Euston Road will form a “key part” of making the connection between High Speed 2 (HS2) and HS1 a success, Camden Council’s director of regeneration and planning David Joyce has said.

[Call for Euston Road to be ‘sorted out’ for HS2 to HS1 connection, Katherine Smale, NCE, 13 November 2018]

A 10 minute, 750m walking route is currently the favoured option to connect the two stations [Euston and St Pancras]. However, the main route of the two proposed walking routes would be along the major six lane road running through north London.
Joyce said the council was not in favour of some of the other schemes which had been presented. These include an elevated automated people mover (APM or monorail solution) priced at around £226M to build or a direct rail link between the two which was taken out of the hybrid bill at an early stage.
“We also weren’t in favour of putting in things like a monorail through Somers Town.”

HS2 commercial director Tom Venner said he was “personally delighted” that the two stations were not physically connected as he said making people walk between the two would “enliven” the area.

Referring to £248M sub-surface APM which was also proposed, he said there would be a “missed opportunity” if people remained underground between the two stations.

Written by beleben

November 13, 2018 at 12:56 pm

Posted in HS1, HS2, London

What are the decongestion benefits of HS2?

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The official documentation for the proposed HS2 railway does not seem to make much mention of ‘decongestion’ as a benefit of the scheme. Where the word does occur, it tends to be in the context of the supposed road, rather than rail, decongestion effects.

However, some supporters of HS2 are claiming the scheme would ‘decongest the existing rail network’.

What is patently lacking, is any meaningful definition of ‘decongestion’, or evidence of how that would take place.

twitter, @WhatTrainToday,

Consider, for example, the idea that ‘HS2 is decongestive’ because ‘each express train on the existing West Coast line eats up 3 to 6 stopping paths’.

In fact, ‘express trains’ out of Euston run on their own separate tracks, and have done for decades. The idea that removing one of those express trains, would allow 3 to 6 stopping trains to run in its place, is laughable.


Written by beleben

November 6, 2018 at 1:12 pm

Posted in HS2, misinformation

Consigned to history

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A Virgin West Coast trainVirgin Trains has “consigned Friday afternoon peak restrictions from London Euston to history, enabling thousands of people to start the weekend earlier, for less”, the company announced on November 1.

The existence of the peak restrictions played a huge part in the so-called ‘capacity case for high speed rail’, so by abolishing the restrictions, one of the last remnants of the HS2 capacity case has also been consigned to history.

[Virgin Trains]

Restrictions will be removed permanently from 2 November 2018, following a 13 week trial that has also helped dramatically reduce congestion on key evening services.

During the trial, the popular 19:00 London Euston to Manchester service saw the average maximum number of passengers fall by 61%. Normally this would be the first service available for passengers with off-peak tickets. Similar benefits were seen on the West Midlands route where the average maximum number of passengers on the 19:03 London Euston to Birmingham New Street fell by 75%.

'Virgin Trains scraps Friday afternoon peak restrictions', 01 Nov 2018

In the complete absence of any better ‘story’, the government’s West Coast Demand and Capacity Pressures (DaCP) report had to focus on the remote possibility of future crowding in the evening, created and driven by peak restrictions. DaCP was a ‘supplement’ to HS2’s October 2013 Strategic Case, but did not appear until November 2015, which might indicate the difficulty in coming up with a case for spending tens of billions of pounds on something that is not needed.

DaCP doom-mongered what ‘might’ happen, if Euston’s intercity service in the year 2033 / 2034 was like the service in 2014 – i.e., with peak restrictions until 7pm, and with just 9 trains leaving between 7pm and 8pm. Plainly an absurd and artificial scenario, concocted just for HS2 propaganda purposes.

DfT, West Coast DaCP report, Nov 2015 extract, ICWC evening crowding

With a sensible ticketing policy, available paths taken up, and the right rolling stock, all forecast demand, and more, could be accommodated using the existing infrastructure, without building a single yard of HS2.

Written by beleben

November 1, 2018 at 8:13 pm