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Archive for June 2019

At least triple

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This morning, Midlands Connect ‘launched Midlands Rail Hub [MRH] plans for a £2 billion investment’ with a photocall at Birmingham’s Moor Street station.

twitter, @Modern_Railways, Midlands Rail Hub  photocall at Birmingham's Moor Street station

In a tweet thanking @railfuture, Midlands Connect said plans had been submitted to government.

twitter, @MidsConnect, Midlands Rail Hub plans submitted to government

This is curious, because in a freedom of information response dated 20 June 2019, Midlands Connect said MRH plans were still “in the course of preparation”.

Midlands Connect, 20 June 2019, MRH plans still 'in the course of preparation'

The MRH ‘summary report‘, published today, suggests that the idea of diverting some East Midlands trains into Moor Street station, via a north chord at Camp Hill, has been ‘unditched’, and is a key element of the scheme. Whether it is still intended for the west (Moseley) and north chords to meet in mid-air above the existing line, is not clear.

Midlands Rail Hub, interventions diagram, June 2019

One of the report’s twenty four pages is given over to a picture of Network Rail technicians carrying out electrification works, yet the MRH scheme does not appear to involve such works.

The MRH scheme does not appear to involve electrification works, Jun 2019 (pic: Network Rail)

In the West Midlands HS2 connectivity package, the Camp Hill chords were costed at £240 million.

In the West Midlands HS2 connectivity package, the Camp Hill chords were costed at £240 million

But in today’s MRH summary report, they are costed at £900 to £950 million.

In today's MRH summary report, the Camp Hill chords are costed at £900 to £950 million

So, the new official cost of the chords, is at least triple the previous estimate.

The document is very short on specifics, and Midlands Connect still hasn’t even selected a preferred option for reinstatement of direct trains between Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham (via a dive under, flyover or reversal at Nuneaton).

Written by beleben

June 26, 2019 at 2:14 pm

Over and above

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From a passenger crowding point of view, the additional capacity provided by HS2 on the West Coast Main Line appears to be over and above what is required to meet capacity pressures for several decades, according to the House of Commons Library HS2 briefing paper written by Andrew Haylen (20 June 2019).

'High Speed 2: the business case, costs and spending', 20 June 2019 (cover of)

[High Speed 2: the business case, costs and spending, House of Commons Library, June 20, 2019][…]

The analysis in the paper shows that much of the capacity constraints on the network, from a passenger crowding point of view, only occur during the peak periods of the day and on confined parts of the network. During most other periods of the day, trains are travelling at less than half of their capacity.
While the [Atkins] strategic alternatives to Phase 1 [“P1”] do not provide this same step-change, the increase will be enough to ensure that there is sufficient capacity on the network during the busiest periods of the day. They can also be delivered at a much lower cost, and in the case of the West Coast Main Line constraints, they can be addressed for between 20 and 25% of the cost of HS2.

Some have questioned whether it makes sense for such a surplus of capacity to be delivered on one part of the network when other sections remain capacity constrained, particularly the lateral connections in the North of England as observed by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee.

Mr Haylen notes ‘There is a great deal of ambiguity as to how much HS2 will cost’.

HS2, formal and derived cost estimates, House of Commons Library, 21 June 2019

[House of Commons Library, High Speed 2: the business case, costs and spending, Published Thursday, June 20, 2019][…]

A large part of this confusion lies in the fact that very few estimates of the costs have been published. A comprehensive breakdown of the costs for the full Y-network of HS2 has not been published since 2013.

Various estimates of costs get circulated in the public domain, most notably the £55.7 billion for the full Y-Network. It is important to note that this is not a cost estimate, but rather a funding envelope. The former is an estimate of how much needs to be spent, the latter relates to what is available to spend. There have only been three estimates published by DfT and HS2 Ltd for the cost of the full Y network and account for the infrastructure and rolling stock costs:

• The first estimates for the costs of HS2 were published in the February 2011 HS2 Economic Case. The Phase 1 costs were estimated to be £19.6 billion (2009 prices), with the full Y network estimated at £37.5 billion.

• For the January 2012 economic case update, the cost of the full Y-network HS2 was estimated at £40.8 billion (2011 prices).

• In 2013 the total cost of the cost of the full Y-network HS2 was estimated at £50.1 billion, 94 including £42.6 billion for construction and £7.5 billion for rolling stock (in 2011 prices).

The official HS2 cost estimates do not include the bill for Davenport Green (‘Manchester Airport’) station, upgrading the existing line north of Sheffield Midland (for Birmingham – Sheffield – Leeds HS2 trains), or redevelopment of Crewe station as a full HS2 hub, etc.

Written by beleben

June 24, 2019 at 9:09 am

Calling Captain Invisible

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Boris boondoggle The Emirates AirlineHS2 logoBoris boondoggle Garden BridgeThe flawed Borismaster bus

'The former Labour minister Margaret Hodge, whose review of the Garden Bridge project led to its abandonment, said she was shocked at how “irresponsible” [Boris] Johnson was with public money. But during her review [of the Garden Bridge] she was also struck by the lack of scrutiny of his profligate spending decisions when mayor.'

Boris Johnson, the frontrunner in the race to become the UK’s next Prime Minister, has asked [former HS2 Ltd chairman ‘Captain Invisible‘] Douglas Oakervee to review the case for building the high speed rail line, the Birmingham Mail reported (17 June 2019).

[Tory leadership front-runner Boris Johnson has already set up a review of the HS2 high speed rail line, Jonathan Walker, Birmingham Mail, 17 JUN 2019]
But Mr Johnson, who has been a critic of HS2 in the past, also made it clear [at a private hustings in London for Conservative Party constituency ‘chairs’ over the weekend] that he would be reluctant to cancel the project outright.

He said: “I worry about cancelling a big national project of that scale without anything else to replace it.”

He floated the option of “re-profiling the spend” so that construction of the northern leg of HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme – a proposed rail line between Leeds and Manchester – become the top priority.

'Captain Invisible' [Doug Oakervee] replaced: Sir David Higgins named as new HS2 chief, Mark Leftly, The Independent, 25 Sep 2013

HS2 critics only care about house prices says Boris Johnson | Gerri Peev | Mail Online | 29 April 2014

Written by beleben

June 17, 2019 at 8:42 pm

Posted in Bizarre, HS2, Politics

Rinky-dink Victoria

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Bosses at Manchester Arena are claiming it could go bust if a rival venue is built, possibly near the City of Manchester Stadium in ‘Eastlands’, the BBC reported.

twitter, @BBCNWT, 'Bosses at Manchester Arena are claiming it could go bust - if a rival venue is built in the city. A consultation is underway looking at the future of the Eastland's area - near the Etihad Stadium. One suggestion is a new indoor arena with a capacity of 20,000.'

What is really baffling is why, in the 1990s, anyone thought it a good idea to carve up the railway lands at Victoria, build the Arena on them, reduce the station to a rinky-dink operation, and concentrate services at Piccadilly.

Demolishing the Arena would enable Victoria to be rebuilt on a bigger scale, enabling the development of an exemplary regional rail system of the type found in German cities like Munich.

Written by beleben

June 13, 2019 at 10:22 am

Posted in Manchester

Don’t touch that jar

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In a letter to New Civil Engineer magazine, former High Speed 2 technical director Andrew McNaughton has hit back at those calling for the speed of HS2 to be slashed, claiming that doing so would only have a “small effect” on cost, but would be a “major dis-benefit” to passengers.

[Ex-HS2 technical director ‘sets record straight’ on speed, Katherine Smale, NCE, 11 June, 2019]

Last February National Infrastructure Committee commissioner and economist Bridget Rosewell said “she had never understood why” the new high speed line was looking to run trains at 360km/h and the additional cost that incurred.

But in a letter to New Civil Engineer, McNaughton – who stepped down from the role last year after having held the post since the project’s inception – said that the current design speed had been meticulously calculated to provide the “best balance” between cost and passenger journey times.

Um, thanks for that bonkers ‘insight’, Prof. And very well done for making sure no-one is spending the ‘massive amount’ of ‘HS2 contingency’.

NCE, 'HS2 chief engineer rails against construction inefficiency' | 21 May, 2013 | By Alexandra Wynne

Written by beleben

June 12, 2019 at 4:47 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

When the going gets stuffed

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Billy Ocean, 'Go and get stuffed'

Britain’s West Coast Main Line is absolutely stuffed, at peak time it is basically the busiest conventional rail corridor in the world (claimed Jon Stone, Europe Correspondent at the @Independent [7 June 2019]).

But he doesn’t have any data to back that claim up, though [NCHSR lecturer] ‘Gareth Dennis may be able to help’.

twitter, @joncstone, West Coast Main Line is stuffed at peak time, 07 Jun 2019

According to Mr Dennis, passenger crowding data on the DfT website shows that suburban crowding into all north-facing London stations is “pretty dreadful, which will be helped from Day 1 of HS2 Phase 1 opening”.

But the DfT figures do not show that north-facing suburban crowding is ‘pretty dreadful’, compared to other lines.

Nor do they show that the West Coast Main Line at peak time is ‘basically the busiest conventional rail corridor in the world’.

In the Table ‘RAI0215’, peak am crowding on a typical autumn weekday in 2017, Mr Dennis highlighted the “Passengers standing” for Thameslink, Great Northern, and West Midlands Trains.

But ‘passengers standing’ is not the same thing as ‘overcrowding’. Obviously, standees make up a high proportion of the ‘official’ (non-overcrowded) capacity on many commuter routes, e.g., Thameslink and London Overground.

A somewhat more relevant measure would be the ‘Passengers in excess of capacity’ (PiXC) metric. For West Midlands Trains, the RAI0215 morning PiXC figure in 2017 was 7%, and for Thameslink, 0%.

So, to reduce Euston outer suburban PiXC to zero (and save £60 billion by not building HS2), run 12-car Thameslink-type trains out of Euston.

twitter, @joncstone, 'From now on I’ll be writing a fortnightly column on transport policy for @Independent, by the way'

Written by beleben

June 10, 2019 at 10:02 am

Posted in Bizarre, HS2

Nonsense bunched up closely

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According to Network Rail, HS2 phase one would ‘free up space‘ for ‘faster, more frequent trains‘ on the West Coast Main Line.

According to Network Rail, HS2 phase one would 'free up space' for 'faster, more frequent trains' on the West Coast Main Line

And according to ‘Rail’ magazine writer Gareth Dennis (@PermanentRail), ‘Once HS2 is operating, services on the existing railway can bunch up nice and closely together, more like Crossrail or Thameslink. […] Capacity can leap upwards.’

twitter, @PermanentRail, 'Once HS2 is operating, services on the existing railway can bunch up nice and closely together, more like Crossrail or Thameslink. [...] Capacity can leap upwards.'

However, the October 2013 strategic case for HS2 is based on the use of the West Coast fast lines being reduced, not increased.

HS2 strategic case, Oct 2013, 'The critical difference here arises on the West Coast Main Line, and specifically on the fast pair of tracks. Whereas the use of these lines will be reduced in the HS2 case, it will be intensified under the [Atkins] upgrade options.'

So much for ‘faster, more frequent’ trains on the existing railway, and ‘services bunching up nice and closely together’.

How much would the use of the West Coast fast lines have to be reduced, with HS2?

  • At Euston, the number of classic platforms would be cut, and one of the approach tracks taken out.
  • The fast lines between London and Milton Keynes would become more of a mixed traffic railway than they are today,
  • with increased commingling of commuter and intercity trains,
  • and more flat crossing manoeuvres to and from the slow lines.

According to the July 2017 strategic case and PFM v7.1 modelling, the peak hour ex-Euston commuter fast capacity with-HS2 would be 5,300 seats, with more trains heading to Northampton.

DfT, July 2017 HS2 strategic case, Figure 3

However, the Department for Transport are declining to say where these trains would transition to the slow lines in order to get to Northampton.

On the evidence available, the modelled classic service provision in HS2’s July 2017 strategic case seems unlikely to be achievable.

Written by beleben

June 3, 2019 at 10:36 am

Posted in HS2