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Archive for February 2019

Andy and another reprehensible stunt

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Not a week seems to go by without one downside or another of the HS2 project being exposed or highlighted in the national media. In response, the special interests behind the ill-starred project have resorted to increasingly ineffectual stunts to shore up support (among themselves). A sort of collective ‘self-help’ exercise in cognitive dissonance suppression.

twitter, @railindustry, 'So much support for @HS2 Ltd'

The most recent stunt, on the morning of 25 February, saw West Midlands mayor Andy Street and HS2 minister Nusrat Ul-Ghani crawling around on their hands and knees in Birmingham’s Victoria Square, arranging a giant ‘jigsaw’ of some absurd map or other, for the cameras.

But whose cameras? The lacklustre jape received not a moment’s coverage on BBC Midlands and Central ITV’s main evening news shows.

Andy and Nus crawling around, 25 Feb 2019 (from video by @neilelkes of WMCA)

This bizarre photo-opp, set up by the High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Group (HSRILG) with the participation of the Railway Industry Association, seems to have been mainly for the lenses of the HS2 blob, rather than for the actual press or public. HSRILG’s ‘official photographer’ had to get up at 4.45am to come down from Yorkshire to record it. Though, ‘with HS2 in full operation, he need only have got up at 5.45am instead’.

twitter, @RailLeaders, jigsaw photo opp in Birmingham on 25 Feb 2019

Back in the real world, one of the many inconvenient truths of HS2 is that the much vaunted ‘released rail capacity benefits’ for Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester, would be pretty much zero. Why not put that on a jigsaw?

HS2 pretty much zero released capacity jigsaw

Written by beleben

February 25, 2019 at 9:37 pm

Posted in Birmingham, HS2

Pretty much zero

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Train path capacity for commuting that HS2 would bring to northern cities is pretty much zero, rail consultant Chris Stokes advised the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee on 19 February (video).

Bridget Rosewell and Chris Stokes questioned on HS2 by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, 19 Feb 2019

Another rail consultant, William Barter, commented that Mr Stokes had talked only about the inbound morning period — ‘the evening is more demanding, as the local / intercity peaks coincide’. Also, trains from London can’t arrive early [?] in ‘the North’, whereas with HS2 they could [arrive earlier, in some places anyway], which is a benefit.

twitter, @WilliamBarter1, '1) He only talked about the morning peak, the evening is more demanding as the local/InterCity peaks coincide 2) Trains from London don't arrive early at the North because they can't, with HS2 they can which is a benefit.'

Actually, the so-called northern ‘released capacity’ appears to be pretty much zero in the evening, as well. Consider, for example, the quantum of ‘Doncaster corridor’ peak-hour trains from Leeds in December 2016, and ‘with HS2’ (modelled for sometime in the 2030s).

HS2 and the Doncaster corridor capacity, DfT response

Wasn’t the building of HS2 supposed to “double the space” for trains on the conventional routes “into Leeds, into Birmingham, into Manchester”?

Chris Grayling on Good Morning Britain: 'the building of hs2 will double the space for trains on the conventional routes into our big cities, into Leeds, into Birmingham, into Manchester'

Written by beleben

February 24, 2019 at 11:12 am

Posted in HS2

Catering for beginners

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Rail travel between the north west and London has seen passenger growth of 70% between 2009 and 2017 (apparently).

How do you cater for that capacity (sic) increase if not by HS2?


Homer hedgeWell, that ‘70% demand increase’ has already happened, and was ‘catered for’.

On the existing railway.

(It may have escaped some people’s attention, but the HS2 railway wasn’t in operation between 2009 and 2017.)

So, how could another spate of 70% growth be ‘catered for’, and another 70% after that?

Here’s a clue:

“_n _h_ _x__ti_g _ai_w_y.”

Written by beleben

February 21, 2019 at 10:36 am

Posted in HS2

Closely observed trains

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There is “no question that if you take a fast train off a main line, you make room for a couple more slow trains… we could have great deal more commuting capacity into London“, claimed ‘Modern Railways’ writer Ian Walmsley (interviewed by Kelvin McKenzie about HS2, on Lovesport radio on 8 February 2019).

twitter, @RAIL, 'This'

Actually, removing a ‘fast’ train might create less than (not ‘more than’) one path for ‘slow’ trains. This can be seen in slide #6 in Professor Andrew McNaughton’s ‘Released Capacity’ presentation (2015), where stopping Train #3 requires three technical paths (not ‘less than one’ fast path). The number of train paths available in a mixed traffic situation will vary, depending on a number of factors.

Andrew McNaughton, diagram of 2 fast trains being followed by a slow one

Slide #13 from Prof McNaughton’s presentation (2015) demonstrated that HS2 would not allow a doubling or tripling of the number of trains on the West Coast Main Line.

Andrew McNaughton, indicative HS2 and WCML service pattern, February 2015 Released Capacity slide 13

Written by beleben

February 19, 2019 at 8:04 pm

Midlands ‘needs to have an idea’

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The Midlands Connect January 2019 newsletter claimed that their ‘open letter’ to party leaders had ‘turned the tide for Phase Two of HS2’.

Midlands Connect newsletter, Jan 2019, 'The Midlands Marches on Westminster'

‘Turned the tide’, which way? According to BBC reporter Chris Doidge (18 February 2019), “Staffordshire County Council leader Philip Atkins says the region needs to start thinking about what it’ll request if phase 2b of HS2 is cancelled. He said the Midlands needs to have an idea so the money doesn’t just go back to London”.

twitter, @BBCChrisD, 'Political leaders in the Midlands are expressing growing concerns over #HS2. Some feel the latter sections are now more likely to be scrapped than go-ahead.'

Written by beleben

February 18, 2019 at 5:57 pm

The high cost of HS2 jobs

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HS2 has cost taxpayers £5.5 billion in the past nine years, The Times reported on 16 February.

[Tenth of HS2 budget has gone before a piece of track is laid, Graeme Paton, The Times, 16 February 2019]

New figures released by the government show that the money was spent up to the end of March last year on the purchase of land and property, legal fees, staffing, consultants and other overheads. It accounts for spending by both the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd — the government-owned company delivering the project. Previous estimates of spending to date had put the figure at just over £4 billion.

The news story below does not give any details of how much has been spent on HS2, but says 7,000 jobs have been “supported” (not ‘created’)., Rail minister reiterates northern benefits of HS2

So how much has each ‘HS2 job’ cost?

Written by beleben

February 16, 2019 at 10:03 am

Posted in HS2, Politics

Unjustified and ancient

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Nottingham South MP Lilian Greenwood ‘can see no prospect of replacement or upgrade of ancient [Inter City 125] stock’ in the East Midlands, by the January 2020 accessibility deadline.

twitter @LilianGreenwood, 'Minister failed to answer my question on whether all UK trains will meet accessibility standards by 1 January 2020 deadline. Government & industry have had 20 years to prepare but can see no prospect of replacement or upgrade of our ancient BR stock in East Midlands by then.'

The indications are that responsibility lies mostly with transport secretary Chris Grayling. The accessibility deadline has been in place for years, so how can he justify his failure to plan for it?

In the view of the Beleben blog, the East Midlands 125s could all be brought up to a ‘minimum sufficient accessibility’ standard by equipping just one carriage in each Mk3 rake with power doors and an accessible toilet. But even if these refits were done outside the UK, the January 2020 deadline now looks unachievable.

Written by beleben

February 15, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Politics, Railways

Diggle your fiddle

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The discarded 'One North' vision of Northern powerhouse rail

More of the ‘Northern powerhouse rail vision’ seems to have gone missing, without explanation, sometime between the appearance of the Integrated Rail Report in June 2017, and the ‘final draft’ Strategic Transport Plan in 2019. (Plans for a Pennine ‘rolling motorway’ lorries-on-rail shuttle, included in the 2014 One North report, had vanished earlier.)

Northern powerhouse rail corridor options in final draft strategic transport plan, 2019

Unlike the Midlands Rail Hub, the 2019 Northern powerhouse rail options still include infrastructure dependencies with HS2, and fantastical sections of new-build track. However, the ‘corridor concepts under consideration’ now include a ‘Fiddlers Ferry upgrade’ (?) instead of a new high speed line into Liverpool, and ‘Diggle upgrades akin to a new line’ between Manchester and Leeds.

In other words, there is now a relatively ‘monkey dust free’ version of Northern powerhouse rail, in which there is no dependence on HS2, or billion-pound tunnels under Bradford.

Nevertheless. the underlying ‘thinking’ behind Northern powerhouse rail, is as daft as ever. There’s not going to be any sense in spending hundreds of millions of pounds to enable a handful of people to ‘commute from Leeds to Newcastle in 58 minutes’, or whatever. It might be a better use of public money to create a more useful ‘Northern counties rail’ network, fix potholes, develop safe cycling, etc.



Written by beleben

February 13, 2019 at 10:46 am

Posted in HS2, Politics

The Midlands delusion connect

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What Monday night’s Channel 4 Dispatches “completely failed to reference” is “how #HS2 will release capacity on the existing railway and particularly in Birmingham New Street. It will allow @MidsConnect to add 24 trains an hour to the #Midlands’ rail network through the #MidlandsRailHub project’, claimed Midlands Connect PR chief David Blackadder-Weinstein.

twitter, @weinsteinlinder, 'What tonight’s @C4Dispatches completely failed to reference is how #HS2 will release capacity on the existing railway and particularly in Birmingham New Street. It will allow @MidsConnect to add 24 trains an hour to the #Midlands’ rail network through the #MidlandsRailHub project'

But according to Network Rail (August 2017), the Midlands Rail Hub

  • would allow “up to 10 extra trains every hour”
  • does not depend on HS2 infrastructure being in place, at any point.

Network Rail, Midlands Rail Hub, Aug 2018

‘Midlands Rail Hub’ appears to be just a umbrella name for a random collection of different projects (which have changed over time). However, the centrepiece remains the bonkers plan to build a junction in mid-air at Bordesley, to allow trains from both Kings Norton and Water Orton to run into bay platforms at Moor Street station.

There is no truth in the claim that HS2 would ‘particularly release capacity at Birmingham New Street’, nor would “HS2 allow Midlands Connect” to add 24 trains an hour to the Midlands’ rail network.

Written by beleben

February 12, 2019 at 2:10 pm

Posted in Birmingham, HS2

To maximise rail capacity, do not build HS2

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A survey of more than 2,000 people published today found that only 12 per cent believe HS2 represents “good value for taxpayers’ money” (The Times reported on 11 February).

[Cost of HS2 never properly analysed, warns rail expert, The Times, 11 February 2019][…]

The government defended the scheme, which is already being built by about 7,000 employees working on the line. It said that more capacity was needed on the main north-south rail route in England and insisted that HS2 would drive economic growth.

HS2 is not needed to provide ‘more capacity on the main north-south rail route’, nor is there any evidence that it is a good way to ‘drive economic growth’.

The most cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way to increase intercity and commuter capacity on the West Coast main line, is to use higher capacity trains.

Comparison of Class 700 and Class 350/2 Standard train capacities (240-metre train)

For example, using 12-car trains similar to the Class 700 running out of St Pancras would increase Standard passenger capacity on Euston’s commuter services by ~65% (assuming Euston’s existing commuter services are 12-car Class 350 trains).

In fact, many Euston commuter services in the peak are not ‘full length’ 12 cars, so the potential capacity increase from this measure alone would be more than 65%.

As has been pointed out on the Beleben blog, space-efficient trains could also meet all foreseeable requirements for intercity capacity on the West Coast route. The £56+ billion freed up by not building HS2 could be redirected to numerous better projects, such as creating S-Bahn systems in Leeds and Manchester, and a ‘Northern counties rail’ network across the North of England.

Quicksilver media HS2 poll, Feb 2019

Written by beleben

February 11, 2019 at 2:26 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics, Railways