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Archive for January 2019

How HS2 can work within its budget

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Borat, thumbs up

On the Sunday Politics tv show, West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street also explained how HS2 could be delivered within budget.

[BBC Sunday Politics WM, 27 Jan 2019]

[Andy Street:] “So what HS2 has got to do, is come forward with their revised budget… I suspect that it will be bigger than it is at the moment[…], and then they have got to work within that”.

Written by beleben

January 28, 2019 at 12:51 pm

Posted in HS2

How to protect cake, free up cake, have cake, and eat cake

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Sunday Politics WM, 27 Jan 2019, Andy Street

High Speed Two should enable released capacity to protect Coventry’s three-trains-per-hour intercity service to London, and enable us to think about better local services, West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street explained, in a response to BBC tv presenter Patrick Burns.

[Sunday Politics West Midlands, 27 Jan 2019, from ~09m20s on the iplayer version]

[Andy Street:] “One of the key issues around HS2 is that it actually frees up capacity on the existing line[…] so that should enable us both to protect the three trains per hour from Coventry and think about better local services.”

Many people were having difficulty understanding what this HS2 ‘released capacity’ was all about, but after Andy’s interview, it could be beginning to totally make sense. So in the case of Coventry for example, by taking intercity trains off the existing line, HS2 releases capacity to protect the three West Coast intercity trains each hour to Euston.

Written by beleben

January 28, 2019 at 11:41 am

Posted in HS2, Politics

Write us a blank cheque to build all of HS2, say special interests

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This morning, in an open letter, George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Midlands Connect, Midlands Engine, and Core Cities UK have urged Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Vince Cable and Nicola Sturgeon to offer unwavering and vocal support for ‘building High Speed Two in its entirety’. The missive was co-signed by about forty “business and civic leaders” / assorted representatives of the HS2 blob.

'Fightback' letter from the HS2 blob, 24 Jan 2018, page 1

'Fightback' letter from the HS2 blob, 24 Jan 2018, page 2

This cliché-heavy, fact-lite ‘fightback’ letter was part of a spin offensive which included a tv interview with Osborne gofer Henri Murison, tweets from PR staffers involved with HS2, and a speech by transport secretary Chris Grayling.

twitter, @annatwriggs, blah blah HS2

What was the point of addressing the letter to Vince and Nicola, though?

Talk Radio, Vince Cable, 'HS2 dodgy'

BBC News, 'Glasgow Edinburgh high speed rail shelved'

Written by beleben

January 24, 2019 at 2:38 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics

Blooper duper

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Following the Economic Affairs Committee hearing on high speed rail on 22 January, HS2 ‘afictionado’ William Barter took to Twitter (as newspapers say) to throw some shade at committee chairman Lord Hollick.

twitter, @williambarter1, 'Lord Hollick thinks sooper-dooper signalling can massively increase the number of commuter trains that could run on the WCML, making HS2 unnecessary. This is why he is wrong'

All sooper-dooper signalling does is reduce the technical headway between trains a bit (opined Mr Barter). But on mixed use main lines [like the West Coast Main Line] with inner and outer suburban and freight, the number of trains that can run is limited by the difference in speed between them (he continued). So to run more trains, the fastest will have to be slowed to the same speed as the stoppers, so most journey times will be longer.

Actually, under the government’s plans for HS2, the West Coast Main Line would become more of a mixed-traffic railway than it is now. Line capacity would likely fall because of this altered mix, and because of the loss of WCML platforms at Euston.

The HS2 July 2017 strategic case indicated that

  • many (most?) of the paths on the fast lines north of Euston would continue to be occupied by long distance intercity trains,
  • but the proportion of [slower] commuter trains running on those fast lines would increase.

The government has also indicated that HS2 would increase the quantum of West Coast freight paths. But introducing [much slower] diurnal goods trains onto the fast lines north of Willesden would further reduce their throughput.

Increased commingling of different types of train on the fast lines would reduce overall capacity, but these consequences are not set out in the HS2 strategic case.

On top of all this, the HS2 project entails permanently removing five platforms from Euston WCML (a theoretical capacity loss of ~10 trains per hour).

Written by beleben

January 24, 2019 at 10:18 am

A number nobody knows

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On 22 January the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee revived its exploration of HS2 with a one-off session featuring former High Speed Two chairman Terry Morgan, HS2 minister Nusrat Ul-Ghani MP, and Clive Maxwell and Nick Bisson from the Department for Transport.

Hearing of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee on 22 January 2019

Not surprisingly, it was the remarks from Terry Morgan that received the most interest. He said everyone he has met at events that HS2 Ltd have organised to promote HS2 “all think HS2 is a brilliant idea”. Er, quite remarkable, as David Coleman used to say.

[Nobody knows what the final cost of HS2 will be, Sir Terry Morgan tells committee, Ryan Tute,, 22 January 2019]

The former chair of HS2, Sir Terry Morgan, has said “something will have to give” on the triangle of time, cost and scope of the proposed high-speed rail network.

Sir Terry who recently stood down as chair of both HS2 and Crossrail was appearing before the economic select committee at the House of Lords as peers attempted to find answers on whether HS2 can be delivered within the original £56bn budget.

Other questions faced by Morgan included whether the speed of trains will be lowered, could the £56 billion be better spent elsewhere and if it’s right that HS2 is being prioritised over improvements to local and regional services in the north.

When asked whether he thought it was feasible for the network to be delivered on budget, Morgan said teams “have a lot of work to do” and that “nobody knows what the number is” when it comes to the final cost.
Morgan faced resistance from the former chancellor, Lord Darling, who actually signed off Crossrail during his time in government. Darling told the hearing that he believed smaller projects along the line would have been better.

HS2 was not the product of investigation into what was needed,” he added. “It was just decided it should happen and justified afterwards. This thing is never going to get to the north of England in any of our lifetimes.”

Morgan responded by insisting the support for the project is as strong up north as anywhere else in the country. “Everyone I met at all these events that HS2 have organised to promote HS2 all think HS2 is a brilliant idea.”


Written by beleben

January 24, 2019 at 10:17 am

Posted in HS2

Andy ‘promised to be upfront’

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Transparency shortcomings of metro mayor Andy Street’s West Midlands Combined Authority extend well beyond the mayor’s office, the Beleben blog noted on October 19, 2018. Now, the topic seems to be receiving some wider coverage.

Birmingham Live, 'West Midlands Combined Authority will not identify consultants earning fortunes'

According to Birmingham Live, Mr Street “promised to be upfront about meetings, gifts and expenses”, but it took two years for such information to appear on the WMCA website.

Written by beleben

January 23, 2019 at 5:32 pm

A classic example of a politically-led project

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Transport for The North’s ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ is a classic example of a politically-led project in which rational considerations have been over-ridden, according to rail consultant Paul Salveson.

Paul Salveson, HS2, should it survive?, 16 Jan 2019

Written by beleben

January 21, 2019 at 12:37 pm

Posted in HS2, Leeds, Manchester, Politics

Greengauge HS2 landtake muddle

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In its 2018 investigation of property acquisition for the HS2 railway, the National Audit Office noted that about 70 square kilometres of land was needed for phase one.

NAO, HS2, land and property acquisition, 13 Sep 2018 (extract)

But according to Jim Steer’s Greengauge 21 blog (25 July 2013), the land needed would be 11.7 square kilometres.

GG21, HS2 land take, 25 Jul 2013

At least one of these estimates must be incorrect. So, who might be more reliable?

Jim has a track record of getting things wrong (see, for example, his early claims for the cost of HS2). In this case, his error seems to have been getting his designer to make up a fancy graphic, using figures from an unreliable blog.

Written by beleben

January 17, 2019 at 12:17 pm

Posted in HS2, Railways

This dreadful strategy

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On 15 January, the West Midlands Rail Executive published its ‘revolutionary‘ investment ‘strategy’ for the next 30 years.

twitter, @railleaders, 'A new 30 year plan for rail in the WestMidlands has been unveiled, taking advantages of the benefits of HS2'

[West Midlands Rail Executive]

In the short-term, this includes the return of passenger services and stations on the Camp Hill Line and Wolverhampton to Walsall line.

It also sets out a clear target to achieve regular high frequency services of two, four or six trains an hour at all stations, with busy urban stations receiving a service every ten minutes and quieter local stations at least every half hour during the day.

In the medium-term, the strategy builds on the benefits HS2 will bring to the region and supports the Midlands Rail Hub proposals being developed by Midlands Connect.
The Strategy has been drawn up by the WMRE in collaboration with Midlands Connect, the Department for Transport and the wider rail industry. It has been finalised following a period of public and stakeholder consultation.

The Strategy also commits to producing a supporting ‘Prospectus for Rail’, which will be published in 2019, setting out our overall ambitions for the revolution in rail services.

As with any ambitious plan, it is recognised that not all of the plans may end up being funded or delivered in practice. This particularly applies to the longer-term projects.

WMRE, 'West Midlands Rail revolution promised', 15 Jan 2019

Cornerstones of this dreadful ‘strategy’ include the impractical ‘Midlands Rail Hub’, and “making the most of capacity released by HS2”.

Q. So, in the West Midlands, what does ‘making the most of capacity released by HS2’, actually amount to?

A. According to the strategy’s “development scenarios” for the Coventry corridor (‘before’ and ‘after’ HS2 phase one), nothing very much at all.

As regular readers of this blog will know, HS2 could not release much capacity on the West Coast Main Line.

Rail Engineer, 'the capacity benefits of HS2'

After spending £27,000,000,000++ on HS2 phase one to, er, ‘release capacity’, stations like Stechford, Lea Hall, and Hampton-in-Arden would still have just two trains per hour to Birmingham.

Systra, West Midlands rail development-scenarios (extract), Coventry corridor, published 15 Jan 2019 (numbers in black squares are trains per hour)

Written by beleben

January 16, 2019 at 12:16 pm