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Archive for August 2020

Andy’s fake cycle network ‘launched’ in Coventry

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On 25 June, The Guardian published an article about the inadequacies of cycling provision in the West Midlands, and metro mayor Andy Street’s lacklustre performance and policies.

[What the West Midlands is getting right, and wrong, for cycling | The region has made progress in getting people on to bikes, but where’s the ambition? | Laura Laker | The Guardian | Thu 25 Jun 2020]

[…] The West Midlands is proud of its industrial heritage, but unlit, isolated towpaths are no replacement for a cycle network that safely takes people places they want to be.

Happily, another part of the region’s heritage is the modern bicycle, invented on Street’s patch by JK Starley in Coventry in 1884, kickstarting an era of bike manufacturing in the region.

Street, the former boss of John Lewis, was elected the region’s Conservative mayor in May 2017. Improvement of the region’s canal network aside, just four miles of protected on-road cycle routes have been built by Birmingham since, and those were funded via the city council rather than Street’s combined authority.

[…] In the long term, West Midlands’ 200km region-wide “route network plan” lacks the scope, the cohesive branding or urgency of Street’s colleagues’ plans in Manchester – the 1,800-mile £1.5bn Bee network; Sheffield – 620 miles of walking and cycling routes; and Leicester, which is currently adding a mile a week to its active travel network.
[…]

Street recently told attendees at an online conference: “In a region like this, even if we do well, you will only get about 5% of people cycling.” An academic analysis, however, estimates that a Dutch-style cycle network would produce at least double that in the region’s most rural areas, and up to 29% in Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Street’s own figures show 41% of trips made by car in the West Midlands are under two miles, distances easily cycled. […]

It would appear that Mr Street read the Guardian story, took note of the point about the lack of ‘cohesive branding’, and decided to brand the network ‘Starley’ after the name was mentioned in the article.

On 11 August, Mr Street launched this ‘Starley network’ at a poorly attended photo opp outside Coventry Transport Museum.

TfWM, 'New West Midlands cycling network unveiled', Tuesday 11 August 2020'

The problem, of course, is that there isn’t an actual cycle ‘network’, nor is there any sign of Mr Street having any plans to create one.

TfWM, 'Starley Cycle Network Map'

Written by beleben

August 11, 2020 at 8:58 pm

From Adonis concept to Boris boondoggle

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One of the most common misconceptions about HS2 is that it is somehow about capacity increases on local rail networks.

twitter, @DrSextonGreen [Solihull Green party], 'I also understand why we need rail infrastructure as a pre-requisite for the modal shift we are calling for. My understanding is that HS2 has less environmental impact than alternative proposals that achieve similar capacity increases on *local* rail networks.'

As informed Beleben blog readers will know, the available evidence suggests HS2 is not a means of facilitating increased classic rail capacity, or modal shift to rail.

Following Greengauge 21’s recent ‘true confessions‘ about the capacity case for the eastern leg of HS2, it might be worth looking at the western (Manchester) leg.

SDG’s July 2017 HS2 released capacity summary report for the Department for Transport (which cost over £100,000) included a representation of evening peak seat capacity in Manchester’s Stoke and Crewe ‘corridors’, with and without HS2.

SDG's July 2017 HS2 released capacity summary report for the Department for Transport, evening peak capacity in the 'Stoke and Crewe corridors', with and without HS2

The same diagram was included in the Department’s ‘High Speed Two From Concept to Reality’ report, but with extra information.

DfT,'High Speed Two From Concept to Reality', evening peak capacity in the 'Stoke and Crewe corridors', with and without HS2

In the SDG and From Concept to Reality reports, the opening of dedicated HS2 infrastructure in Manchester (phase 2b, column 4) has no effect on classic capacity, which is at that point lower than the 2026 No-HS2 Do-minimum (column 2).

'High Speed Two From Concept to Reality', classic evening peak capacity in the 'Stoke and Crewe corridors', with and without HS2

To maximise the utility of rail in Greater Manchester, the optimal course of action might be summarised as ‘Cancel HS2, cancel Northern Powerhouse Rail, cancel Piccadilly Platforms 15 and 16, develop S-Bahn’.

Written by beleben

August 9, 2020 at 9:19 pm

Posted in HS2

A proportion and none

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Greengauge 21, 'A proportion and none'

Although his company SDG (now Steer Group) trousered tens of thousands of pounds for providing the Department for Transport with a report on the supposed released capacity benefits of High Speed Two phase two, Jim Steer’s Greengauge 21 has now admitted HS2’s eastern leg would only allow “a proportion” of East Coast Main Line and “none” of the Midland Main Line fast services to London to transfer to the high speed line, and said its prospective delivery date is now “20 – 25 years ahead – the 2040s”.

Greengauge 21 'Eastern arm report', 30 July 2020 (extract)

In a muddled but entertaining report called ‘HS2’s Eastern Arm’ (30 July 2020), Mr Steer seemed to question whether any of the eastern leg should be built, and then claimed parts of it should be built, but with its ‘London intercity’ raison d’être fulfilled by, er, upgrading the existing Midland and East Coast Main Lines.

But this doesn’t really fit with the October 2013 government and Network Rail ‘lobotomy’ upgrade script, does it?

Network Rail's 'lobotomy' alternatives to HS2, 'disruptive possessions'

As can be seen, in the ‘alternatives to HS2’ put forward by Network Rail in 2013 (and sent to the Oakervee review in 2019), it was the upgrading of the Midland and East Coast main lines, which accounted for the vast majority of the supposed ‘disruptive possessions’.

Written by beleben

August 6, 2020 at 10:54 am

Posted in HS2

The porkies never stop

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Upgrading existing lines, instead of building High Speed Two phase one (the London to West Midlands section) would result in 2,700 weekend closures of the railway over a fifteen year period, according to HS2 Ltd (29 June 2020).

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'It’s estimated that upgrading existing lines instead of building #HS2 Phase 1 would result in 2,700 weekend closures over 15 years. Independent rail planning consultant @WilliamBarter1 spoke from #MiltonKeynes earlier this year and explained why alternatives to HS2 don’t add up.'

However, this claim is contradicted even by Network Rail’s own scaremongering report for the Department for Transport (DfT), known as “Options for Potential Capacity and Connectivity Enhancements to the Existing Network”.

In 2013, Network Rail and Atkins were tasked by the DfT with helping to create ‘straw man’ alternatives to HS2, intended to make building a new line look like a more attractive option than enhancements to the existing railway (the standard approach elsewhere).

The outputs from the 2013 DfT / Atkins / Network Rail joint effort were the ‘lobotomy’ packages, officially known as P1, YA, YB, P2A, and P2B, replete with big scary numbers for ‘disruptive possessions’, to be fed to the mainstream media.

So, what did the public make of all this? 

Yougov, HS2 versus alternatives, key findings, 2013-10-30 

According to Network Rail’s 2013 report, the P1 enhancement package — their ‘alternative’ to building HS2 phase one — would require 410 weekend closures. And not 2,700 weekend closures, as claimed by HS2 Ltd on their twitter.

Network Rail, HS2 alternatives, disruptive possessions scaremongering, 2013

Network Rail, scaremonger enhancements to the rail network, disruptive possession scaremongering, 2013

Written by beleben

August 5, 2020 at 11:32 am

Posted in HS2

Many facts are mything

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There is a huge amount of false and misleading information about HS2 on social media, and the number one misinformation super-spreader must surely be HS2 Ltd itself.

For evidence to support this view, one need look no further than various tweets about “myths” posted by the company’s twitter on 31 July 2020.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'There is a huge amount of false and misleading information about #HS2 on social media. Below is a myth buster thread which corrects some of the most repeated misconceptions about the project'

In these tweets, HS2 Ltd offered up five statements as ‘myths’, but did not attribute them to any particular person, or organisation.

HS2 Ltd’s Myth 1

The statement offered by HS2 Ltd as their ‘Myth 1’ concerned journey time, specifically the journey time between London and Birmingham.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'Myth 1: ‘HS2 only saves 20 minutes to #Birmingham’. FACT: #HS2 services will call at 25 stations in England and Scotland connecting 30 million people. It also frees up space on the existing network for more frequent stopping local services benefiting those who may never use HS2.'

However, their response did not attempt to prove whether the statement ‘HS2 only saves 20 minutes to Birmingham’ was true or not. Instead, HS2 Ltd stated

‘HS2 will call at 25 stations in England and Scotland connecting 30 million people. It also frees up space on the existing network for more frequent stopping local services benefiting those who may never use HS2’.

Claims like ‘HS2 will call at 25 stations in England and Scotland connecting 30 million people’, are themselves curious, because those ’30 million people’ are already ‘connected’ to each other by the existing railway network. The vast majority of the “25 stations” mentioned by HS2 Ltd are places on the existing railway network (Euston, Manchester Piccadilly, York, Newcastle, Leeds, etc).

HS2 Ltd’s Myth 2

For their ‘Myth 2’, HS2 Ltd offered the statement, ‘HS2 will destroy 700 local wildlife sites’.

Although HS2 did not attribute this claim to any particular organisation or person, it appears to refer to Jane Durney’s ‘What’s The Damage’ report (exact date unknown) compiled for The Wildlife Trusts. This stated that “…693 Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) covering 9,696 hectares are at risk of being significantly affected or destroyed under current plans for HS2”.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'Myth 2: ‘HS2 will destroy 700 local wildlife sites’. FACT: The whole #HS2 route partially impacts 204 such sites. Our Green Corridor will leave behind 33 square km of new woodland and wildlife habitats. [...]'

According to the Patrick Barkham article ‘HS2 will destroy or damage hundreds of UK wildlife sites, says report’ (The Guardian, 15 Jan 2020),

[Patrick Barkham, The Guardian]

HS2 will destroy or irreparably damage five internationally protected wildlife sites, 693 local wildlife sites, 108 ancient woodlands and 33 legally protected sites of special scientific interest, according to the most comprehensive survey of its impact on wildlife.
[…]
An HS2 spokesman disputed the figures in the report, saying the data was not new and that it included all sites within 500 metres of the line regardless of how they were affected.

But is the statement

693 Local Wildlife Sites are at risk of being significantly affected or destroyed under current plans for HS2‘,

the same thing as saying

HS2 will destroy 700 local wildlife sites‘?

HS2 Ltd’s Myth 3

For their ‘Myth 3’, HS2 Ltd offered the statement, ‘HS2 helps airport expansion’.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'Myth 3: ‘HS2 helps airport expansion’. FACT: High speed rail helps reduce domestic flights. In 2030 #HS2 is forecast to be 17 times less carbon intensive than air travel & will help deliver end to end low carbon journeys. Look what HSR has done to domestic air travel in Europe.'

However, the ‘FACT’ offered in response to this ‘myth’ did not address the question of whether HS2 aided airport expansion, or not. Instead, HS2 Ltd claimed

  • high speed rail (in general) ‘helps reduce domestic flights’,
  • while HS2 in particular was forecast [by whom?] to be 17 times less carbon intensive in 2030 than air transport.

Whether high speed rail has made much difference to air travel in Europe, is of course, open to question.

European Commission, 25 years of EU aviation, extract

HS2 Ltd’s Myth 4

For their ‘Myth 4’, HS2 Ltd offered the statement, ‘HS2 is old technology’.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'Myth 4: ‘HS2 is old technology’. FACT: High speed rail is one of the most carbon efficient mass transport systems available. Long after COVID we'll still need infrastructure to connect the country, provide opportunities for regeneration, jobs and growth in the midlands and north.'

But instead of trying to demonstrate whether ‘HS2 is old technology’ or not, HS2 Ltd’s ‘rebuttal’ focused on carbon emissions (which is always going to be weak ground for the company).

Assessing the veracity of the claim that high speed rail (in general, not HS2 in particular) is ‘one of the most carbon efficient mass transport systems available’, would seem to present some significant problems.

Who has reliable estimates for the embedded carbon of building Spain’s high speed rail network, for example?

HS2 Ltd’s Myth 5

For their ‘Myth 5’, HS2 offered the statement ‘We can just upgrade the existing railways’.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'Myth 5: ‘We can just upgrade the existing railways’. FACT: Network Rail have rejected alternatives. Their upgrade scenario would only deliver 66% of #HS2's capacity and the East Coast Main Line would be closed every weekend for nearly 30 years.'

Of course, upgrading the existing infrastructure has been the standard approach to increase capacity on Britain’s railways for decades.

Because upgrading existing infrastructure would be more cost-effective, less risky, and less disruptive than building HS2, it was important for special interests and HS2 supporters inside government to ensure that ‘smart upgrades’ were kept out of sight, and out of any comparison. The ‘lobotomy’ P1, YA and YB Atkins / Network Rail schemes were devised for that purpose, i.e. as straw man ‘alternatives’, serving as political cover for the HS2 scheme itself.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'It’s estimated that upgrading existing lines instead of building #HS2 Phase 1 would result in 2,700 weekend closures over 15 years. Independent rail planning consultant @WilliamBarter1 spoke from #MiltonKeynes earlier this year and explained why alternatives to HS2 don’t add up.'

Written by beleben

August 3, 2020 at 5:03 pm

Posted in HS2