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Archive for April 2019

We puff you longtime

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Transport for the North chief John Cridland admitted that there was ‘no guarantee’ that investing billions in transport infrastructure would benefit the north of England. But that was three years ago, and since then, Transport for the North have done ‘significant work’ – including with Friends of the Earth – according to PR man Robin Miller-Stott.

twitter, @rmillerstott, TfN have done 'work'

What exactly was this ‘work’? And how could it possibly prove that TfN’s stupid wishlist would actually benefit the north?

Surely its massive road-building programme, and ‘Northern powerhouse rail’, make TfN the ‘Enemies of the Earth’.

In essence, Northern powerhouse rail is about

  • enabling long-distance commuting, (e.g. between Leeds and Newcastle,)
  • for very small numbers of people,
  • at enormous cost.

Although TfN are refusing to provide any details of their proposed new-build high speed lines from Liverpool to HS2, and from Manchester to Leeds, it’s hard to see how they could be anything other than an environmental horror show. The greenhouse gas emissions involved in building mile after mile of Pennine tunnels to pointlessly replicate the (lightly-used) Calder Valley line, must be enormous.

On 22 March, the ‘Campaign for Better Transport’ published a laughable puff piece by Bridget Fox, called ‘How will Transport for the North’s bold vision impact the environment?’. But nowhere in the article, was that question answered.

Campaign for Better Transport, TfN puff piece, 22 Mar 2019

Shades of the ‘Right Lines Charter’, all over again.

Why is the Campaign for Better Transport sucking up to Transport for the North?

Written by beleben

April 25, 2019 at 8:54 am

Posting blatant misinformation

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Rail infrastructure PR man Chris Denham is concerned that HS2’s social media presence is comatose, and ‘all the defending’ appears to be from people like @GarethDennis and @WilliamBarter1.

twitter, @KentishHack, HS2 PR is comatose

Is there an alternative to HS2 being ‘comatose’? As a public body, could HS2 Ltd get away with posting blatant misinformation of the type produced by Mr Barter and Mr Dennis?

Example 1

Claim: ‘HS2 would allow local and commuter trains to have full use of the remaining West Coast platforms at Euston’. (@WilliamBarter1)

Claim: 'HS2 would allow local and commuter trains to have full use of the remaining West Coast platforms at Euston'

Actuality: According to the July 2017 strategic case, long distance trains providing up to 4,200 seats per hour would have to be accommodated at the remaining Euston WCML platforms.

Euston capacity, HS2 strategic case, July 2017

Example 2

Claim: ‘HS2 is the quickest way to reduce the UK’s transport emissions’. (@GarethDennis)

Gareth Dennis, 'HS2 is the quickest way to reduce the UK's transport emissions'

Actuality: HS2 phase one would increase greenhouse gas emissions, over the 120-year assessment period (according to Information paper E10).

HS2 carbon information paper E10, 'HS2 phase one would increase greenhouse gas emissions over a 120-year assessment period

Written by beleben

April 23, 2019 at 2:39 pm

Posted in HS2

Profitability versus maximum utilisation

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Rail consultant and HS2 ‘afictionado’ William Barter wants anyone who thinks the West Coast Main Line is not ‘full in the peaks’ to download Network Rail’s working timetable, and tell him where they would path another train.


Um, why? Network Rail themselves accept the line is not technically ‘full’ in the peaks. Indeed, it cannot be ‘full’, because the 20-minute interval intercity service to Manchester and Birmingham is “incompatible with maximum utilisation”.

To achieve technically optimal capacity utilisation, the route timetable would need to be re-cast. Upon which, it would be possible to operate Birmingham and Manchester intercity trains four times an hour (every 15 minutes, as was originally proposed).

Thirty-three per cent more seats. Who would object to that?

Probably, first in the queue of objectors would be Richard Branson, closely followed by Brian Souter. Having to run a fourth Virgin train each hour from London to Birmingham, and to Manchester, would likely increase costs faster than revenues, and profitability would fall.

An even worse outcome for Messrs Branson and Souter would be another operator being handed these fourth slots, and competing against Virgin head-on. It may have escaped some people’s attention, but Virgin and Stagecoach are not a charity, and their objective is making money, not carting air.

Mr Barter is also concerned about the load factor for Euston commuter trains being ‘too high’ (he claims greater than 100%). Apparently, he remains unaware of the various ways of vastly increasing West Coast commuter capacity, such as using Thameslink-style trains.

Capacity comparison of Class 700 and Class 350/2 240 metre trains

How hard can it really be to design a Thameslink-style train, but without the torture chamber lighting and ironing board seats (etc)?

Written by beleben

April 18, 2019 at 9:53 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Best return is sixty quid

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In November 2018, the Beleben blog revealed that 99.5 per cent of the £12,000 raised from the sale of Midland Metro T69 trams went not to public funds, but to RBS bank. These trams were taken out of use after just 15 years’ service, or thereabouts, and somehow ended up as the property of RBS bank.

Following the intervention of the Information Commissioner’s Office, further information has emerged about the costs of the decommissioning of the T69s.

WMCA, costs following T69 tram decommissioning, 10 Apr 2019

In summary then (from what they have said),

  • West Midlands Combined Authority spent ~£130,000 moving and storing the decommissioned trams,
  • shelled out £4.7 million in lease payments on this scrap,
  • and ultimately received, er, £60 from RBS, when WMCA sold the trams for them at e-auction.

[Councillor Roger Lawrence, WMCA]

“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.”

Written by beleben

April 17, 2019 at 11:20 am

HS2 and aviation demand

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Last month, rail journalist Nick Kingsley asked why Greens are ‘opposed to having more trains between Scotland and Birmingham with a journey time that would all but kill the air market’.

twitter, @njak_100: 'So why are Greens opposed to having more trains running between Scotland and Birmingham/London with a journey time that will all but kill the air market? (and note: we don't need more travel overall to need more rail capacity!)'

A diagram published by the Financial Times might shine some light on the ineffectiveness of HS2 as a means of reducing air travel.

Financial Times graphic, Civil Aviation Authority, domestic and international air passengers

Written by beleben

April 16, 2019 at 2:57 pm

Posted in HS2

Department for eight security

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For several years, HS2 Ltd have stated that their high speed line “will directly connect 8 of 10 of Britain’s largest cities”.

This phrase has also found favour with various politicians, including the transport secretary, Chris Grayling.

But what are these cities?

And what does “directly connect”, mean?

Straightforward questions to answer, one might imagine.

Or actually, rather not straightforward to answer, according to the Department for Transport.

[FoI response of 2 April 2019 from Department for Transport to J Marriott]

Dear J Marriott

Freedom of Information Act Request – F0017137- Extension of deadline

Thank you for your request for information which we received on 18 February 2019. Your request is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

You asked for the following information:-

‘A statement frequently made by the Secretary of State, and included in many documents, states that HS2 will connect 8 out of 10 major cities.

What are the 10 cities?

What are the two that are not connected by HS2?

Please explain how each of the 8 cities is connected to the other 7 by HS2 and give the predicted journey times in each case on completion of Phase 2. It would be helpful if this was presented as an 8 by 8 Origin-Destination grid with an empty diagonal.

How many of the 10 cities are currently connected to each other by train? It would be helpful to present this as an O-D grid.’

You emailed the Department on the 20th & 28th March chasing for a response. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you.

The FOI Act obliges us to respond to requests promptly, in any case no later than 20 working days after receiving your request. However, when a qualified exemption applies to the information, the public interest test needs to be considered. We are not required to comply with your request until such time as is reasonable in the circumstances. We do, of course, aim to make all decisions within 20 working days, including in cases where we need to consider where the public interest lies in respect of a request for exempt information.

Your request, however, raises complex public interest considerations which must be analysed before we can come to a decision on releasing the information.

The exemption that applies to the information you have requested is: ‘information intended for future publication’ – Section 22(1) of the FOI Act.

In your case we needed to extend our response time limit by 20 working days in order to assess whether the public interest is in withholding the information or disclosing it. Therefore, we plan to let you have a response by 15 April 2019. If we can respond sooner we will of course do so.

Unfortunately, although I extended the deadline on our FOI tracking system I failed to send you a confirmation by e-mail that this had been done. I can only apologise for this oversight. Our system does not automatically send notice that the deadline has been extended and I should have double checked that I had in fact notified you.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are unhappy with the way the Department has handled your request or with the decisions made in relation to your request you may complain within two calendar months of the date of this letter by writing to the Department’s FOI Advice Team at:

Zone D/04
Ashdown House
Sedlescombe Road North
East Sussex TN37 7GA

Please send or copy any follow-up correspondence relating to this request to the FOI Advice Team to help ensure that it receives prompt attention. Please also remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

Please see attached details of DfT’s complaints procedure and your right to complain to the Information Commissioner.

Yours sincerely,

Christopher Curson
High Speed and Major Rail Projects Group

Your right to complain to DfT and the Information Commissioner

You have the right to complain within two calendar months of the date of this letter about the way in which your request for information was handled and/or about the decision not to disclose all or part of the information requested. In addition a complaint can be made that DfT has not complied with its FOI publication scheme.

Your complaint will be acknowledged and you will be advised of a target date by which to expect a response. Initially your complaint will be re-considered by the official who dealt with your request for information. If, after careful consideration, that official decides that his/her decision was correct, your complaint will automatically be referred to a senior independent official who will conduct a further review. You will be advised of the outcome of your complaint and if a decision is taken to disclose information originally withheld this will be done as soon as possible.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane

Written by beleben

April 10, 2019 at 11:17 am

Posted in HS2

Astroturf or bussed

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James Bethell, 5th Baron Bethell — whose Westbourne Communications company ran the astroturf ‘Campaign for High Speed Rail’ for David Begg (‘Transport Times’) and Nigel Harris (‘Rail’) — is not even sure who HS2 passengers would be.

twitter, @JimBethell, 'I am not even sure we know who HS2 passengers will be'

Westbourne PR Birmingham photo-opp for the Campaign for High Speed Rail with bussed-in Centro (TfWM) staff

Written by beleben

April 8, 2019 at 11:26 am

Posted in HS2

How much latent capacity

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Virgin Trains, the operator of intercity trains from London to major cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Preston and Glasgow, recorded 39.5 million journeys over the last year (2018/2019), compared to 14 million in 1997, when it took over the West Coast route. Based on the last six years of growth, passenger journeys would reach 55 million in 2026, ‘when HS2 is due to open’, if growth were unconstrained.

This announcement came as a new report by Campaign for Better Transport [CBT], Transformation of the West Coast Mainline, found that upgrades to the service, including the Virgin High Frequency timetable, had led to 7 million fewer car journeys a year between London and Manchester (etc).

'Virgin Trains on course for 50m passengers ahead of HS2 after breaking new records'

The increase from 14 million to a possible 50+ million annual ‘intercity’ passengers is an indicator of how much latent capacity there was — and is — on the West Coast tracks. HS2 is not mentioned in the main text of the CBT report, and available information suggests that it is not required to meet foreseeable future demand, even in the Department for Transport’s so-called Higher Growth scenario.

As an aside, there must be a question mark over the CBT claim that the enhanced West Coast service has led to ‘7 million fewer car journeys a year between London and Manchester’.

How was that number arrived at? Are there even 7 million rail journeys a year — in total — between those two cities?

Written by beleben

April 5, 2019 at 10:13 am

Posted in Politics, Railways