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Archive for April 2020

Who flows about first class?

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According to the Figure 1.16 of the HS2 phase one ‘full business case’ (15 Apr 2020), 52% of ‘key West Coast Main Line flows’ have a business purpose.

DfT, 'full business case', HS2 phase one, 15 Apr 2020, Figure 1.16

Does this mean that 52% of passenger journeys on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) are for business purposes? If yes, why not just say that? Or, if not, then what exactly does this ‘key flows’ palaver mean?

On an eleven-carriage Class 390/1 train of the type used on the WCML, there are 145 first class and 444 standard seats, so the proportion of first class is only 25%.

As business travellers are assigned a higher value of time by the Department for Transport, and are supposed to be willing to pay for ‘less crowded’ travel, then why isn’t the proportion of first class seats, 52%? Could it be that a large number of supposed ‘business travellers’, don’t value their travel that highly?

Oddly enough, the HS2 full business case doesn’t seem to have a single mention of the phrase “first class”*, and there is zero information elsewhere about the intended proportion of first class on HS2*, the present-day first class load factor on intercity West Coast*, or the present-day intercity first class load factor anywhere else*.

* = Corrections welcome.

Written by beleben

April 27, 2020 at 10:18 am

Posted in HS2

Much a-crewe about nothing

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HS2 supporter Pete Waterman at Crewe

In March 2014 the Crewe and Nantwich Guardian reported how the then chairman of HS2 Ltd, David Higgins, saw a “dedicated hub station in Crewe as central to the £45.6 billion railway”.

David Higgins backs Crewe hub plan | Crewe and Nantwich Guardian | 17 Mar 2014

In 2015 the Northern Gateway Development Zone (now called the ‘Constellation Partnership’) was launched by local enterprise partnerships in north Staffordshire and Cheshire with the objective of  ‘capitalising on the investment potential arising from initiatives such as HS2’.

The Constellation Partnership’s October 2018 growth strategy was built on ‘driving growth through transformational HS2 connectivity’, meaning a ‘minimum of 5 to 7 HS2 trains each way every hour‘ serving the Crewe hub station.

Constellation Partnership HS2 growth strategy, Oct 2018, titlepage

In addition to north- and south-facing connections into the high speed line, the hub station would be endowed with exemplary 360-degree local connectivity.

Constellation Partnership HS2 growth strategy, Oct 2018

However, the April 2020 HS2 ‘full phase one economic case‘ suggests that the government has lost interest in the Crewe hub concept. The ‘full Y network train service specification’ shows no intention of five or more high speed trains stopping each hour at Crewe, and no northbound connection.

HS2 full Y network train service specification, 15 Apr 2020

Written by beleben

April 26, 2020 at 11:50 am

Posted in Bizarre, HS2

HS2 and road vehicle fuel demand

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According to HS2 Ltd, modal shift to its high speed Y network would mean an annual reduction in car travel ‘equivalent to around 18 million litres of petrol not used’.

HS2 Ltd: the high speed Y network would mean an annual reduction in car travel 'equivalent to around 18 million litres of petrol not used'

The Y network would open about around 2035 (says HS2 Ltd). However, the UK government is planning a ban on new petrol and diesel cars in 2035 “at the latest”.

BBC News, 'Petrol and diesel car sales ban brought forward to 2035

It’s not clear in what years HS2 would be “saving 18 million litres of petrol”, and why HS2 Ltd refer only to petrol. In recent years, nearly half of new cars bought in the UK have been diesel, so the amount of intercity road travel by diesel car must be significant.

(Obviously, considerable amounts of diesel and petrol would be consumed by vehicles in the construction of HS2 itself, but is there any information about the quantities?)

According to the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), in 2019 UK retail sales of petrol and diesel were 16.2 and 20.8 billion litres respectively.

PRA, UK retail road fuels market 2019

Using the PRA and HS2 Ltd figures, if the high speed Y network had been up and running in 2019, it would have reduced UK automotive petrol consumption that year by 0.11%.

Calculating the road vehicle petrol saving if the HS2 Y network had been open in 2019

Written by beleben

April 18, 2020 at 11:57 am

Posted in HS2

Deep concerns over objectivity

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What appear to be more emanations of HS2 Ltd’s war on transparency are mentioned in an article by Stuart Spray on the Byline Times website.

According to the article, Mr Spray is an investigative environmental journalist and a fully paid-up member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), who graduated with an MA in investigative broadcast journalism in 2019.

[Why is HS2’s Press Office Blocking a Journalist from Doing their Job? | Stuart Spray | 17 April 2020]

For the past three weeks, I have been in regular contact with HS2’s press office requesting comments, statements and evidence in support of some of its ‘innovative’ approaches to wildlife management. But it appears that it has had enough of my line of questioning.

Two days ago, following a seemingly innocuous request for a comment regarding nesting birds in an ancient woodland which is currently in the process of being felled, a member of the press team told me that “for this information, I’d recommend contacting our Helpdesk or FOI [Freedom of Information] team. Our press office is for accredited journalists only”.

In a follow-up email to one of Byline Times’ executive editors, the press team clarified its position, explaining that it had “deep concerns” over my “objectivity as a journalist” and questioned my “motives for asking the questions in the first place”. They referred to my apparent support for the naturalist Chris Packham and Extinction Rebellion (XR) on social media.

Written by beleben

April 17, 2020 at 2:41 pm

Posted in High speed rail

Transparency in full retreat

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BBC News, 'HS2: Ministers and bosses knew railway was over budget years ago', Tom Burridge, 27 August 2019

In a written statement to parliament on 3 September 2019, transport secretary Grant Shapps mentioned the importance of having ‘facts’ about the High Speed Two rail project.

[GS:] An independent review is now underway to give us the facts about the costs of the HS2 project. I want to be clear with colleagues that there is no future for a project like this without being transparent and open, so we will be candid when challenges emerge.

HS2 transparency in action: the chairman's stocktakeMr Shapps’ statement was made on the same day as the publication of the HS2 Ltd chairman’s “stocktake”, which, in the spirit of the government’s newly-discovered ‘need’ for HS2 openness and transparency, had entire pages of text blacked out.

The ‘independent review’ referred to by Mr Shapps, was led by former HS2 Ltd chairman and ‘Team Boris’ stalwart Douglas Oakervee. The same Mr Oakervee, who in 2013 said, “The most important thing is that HS2 forms the backbone of the UK rail network for the future”, and “We estimate on the [West Coast] mainline up to Birmingham that for every 10 people seated there will be 10 standing […] by the mid-2020s or 2030”.

In 2013, Mr Oakervee was “confident” HS2 Ltd would keep within the £42.6 bn budget to complete the entire project, but in his review of the scheme – published on 11 February 2020 to coincide with prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that HS2 would go ahead – even he had to accept that the costs had escalated well above the government’s funding envelope.

The terms of reference for the Oakervee review of HS2 were published on 21 August 2019.

[Terms of reference for the independent review of HS2 | Published 21 August 2019 |]

The Prime Minister has stated his wish to review “whether and how we proceed” with HS2 ahead of the ‘Notice to Proceed’ decision for Phase 1 (London-West Midlands) due by the end of 2019. The review will assemble and test all the existing evidence in order to allow the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Transport and the government to make properly-informed decisions on the future of Phases 1 and 2 of the project, including the estimated cost and schedule position.

For the whole HS2 project, the review should rigorously examine and state its view on:

whether HS2 Ltd is in a position to deliver the project effectively, taking account of its performance to date and any other relevant information

the full range of benefits from the project, including but not limited to:
capacity changes both for services to cities and towns on HS2 and which will not be on HS2


economic transformation including whether the scheme will promote inclusive growth and regional rebalancing

environmental benefits, in particular for carbon reduction in line with net zero commitments

the risk of delivery of these and other benefits, and whether there are alternative strategic transport schemes which could achieve comparable benefits in similar timescales

the full range of costs of the project, including but not limited to:

whether HS2 Ltd’s latest estimates of costs and schedule are realistic and are comparable to other UK infrastructure

why any cost estimates or schedules have changed since the most recent previous baselines

whether there are opportunities for efficiencies

the cost of disruption to rail users during construction

whether there are trade-offs between cost and schedule; and whether there are opportunities for additional commercial returns for the taxpayer through, for example, developments around stations, to offset costs

what proceeding with Phase 1 means in terms of overall affordability, and what this means in terms of what would be required to deliver the project within the current funding envelope for the project as a whole

whether the assumptions behind the business case, for instance on passenger numbers and train frequencies, are realistic, including the location and interconnectivity of the stations with other transport systems, and the implications of potential changes in services to cities and towns which are on the existing main lines but will not be on HS2

for the project as a whole, how much realistic potential there is for cost reductions in the scheme as currently planned through changes to its scope, planned phasing or specification, including but not limited to:

reductions in speed

making Old Oak Common the London terminus, at least for a period
building only Phase 1

combining Phases 1 and 2a

different choices or phasing of Phase 2b, taking account of the interfaces with Northern Powerhouse Rail

the direct cost of reprioritising, cancelling or de-scoping the project, including but not limited to: contractual penalties; the risk of legal action; sunk costs; remediation costs; supply chain impact; and an estimate of how much of the money already spent, for instance on the purchase of land and property, could be recouped

whether and how the project could be reprioritised; in particular, whether and, if so how, Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) (including the common sections with HS2 Phase 2b) could be prioritised over delivering the southern sections of HS2
whether any improvements would benefit the integration of HS2, NPR and other rail projects in the north of England or Midlands

any lessons from the project for other major projects


'Oakervee Review' [link to pdf]In the final Oakervee report, “rigorous examination” of the topics listed in the 21 August 2019 terms of reference, turned out to be minimal or non-existent, and transparency, sorely lacking. There are parallels with the March 2014 ‘HS2 review‘, undertaken by another HS2 Ltd chairman, David ‘Twice the speed means twice the capacity‘ Higgins. That March 2014 review was promoted as a process to identify ways to ‘drive down the cost of HS2’ (but conspicuously failed to find any).

The Oakervee report certainly does not “give us the facts” the costs of HS2. Virtually all its cost estimates come from HS2 Ltd itself, a company which has a well established record of getting its numbers wrong by millions (and billions).

According to the report,

[Oakervee report, s 7.13 (part)]

“Evidence provided by Network Rail to the Review indicated that major
rail infrastructure cost plans generally exhibit certain characteristics. Such
characteristics were not evident in the estimate developed by the
external consultant in that it seemed to the Review that the amounts
allocated towards major construction works were too low, and the
amounts allocated towards rail systems seemed too high. This view was
confirmed by evidence provided to the Review by Network Rail.”

Needless to say, actual figures from the ‘evidence provided by Network Rail’ are nowhere to be found.

As well as more of this genre of baffling nonsense, the Oakervee report is strewn with demented and bewildering ideas such as ‘reducing costs’ by moving construction risks from contractors to the public purse, and building an intermediate station at Calvert in Buckinghamshire. On a supposedly ’18 trains per hour, 330 km/h’ railway.

Now, in the midst of Britain’s enormous Covid-19 public health and economic emergency, the cumulative effects on HS2’s all-out war on transparency can be seen in its misleadingly named ‘Full HS2 Phase One business case‘, published on 15 April 2020 to coincide with the issue of ‘Notice to proceed‘ to the contractor groups enlisted to build the London to West Midlands phase.

DfT / HS2 'phase one full business case', 15 Apr 2020, Table 2.1

Written by beleben

April 17, 2020 at 7:12 am

Posted in HS2