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Archive for July 2021

Track lies matter

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From Monday 26 July until October 2021, West Midlands Metro trams will operate between Wolverhampton St George’s and Birmingham Upper Bull Street only.

MMA, proposed Eastside extension map

This, according to the operator’s website, is to allow tie-in of “the existing track to the Birmingham Eastside Extension which will connect Metro services with Digbeth and the new HS2 station at Curzon Street. There will also be track replacement work taking place on Corporation Street at the same time”.

Midland Metro rails removal in Corporation Street, Birmingham, 2021

The disruptive and noisy works are being carried out day and night by Midland Metro Alliance, ignoring generally accepted ‘considerate construction’ norms.

Midland Metro Corporation Street track replacement, 2021

The usual lifespan of plain tramline is generally in excess of 20 years, but the Corporation Street tracks were only opened in 2016.

Midland Metro rails removal in Corporation Street, Birmingham, 2021

So, what is going on?

Midland Metro rails removal, Corporation Street, Birmingham, 2021

¿Que pasa?

Midland Metro rails removal, Corporation Street, Birmingham, 2021

Was ist los?

Midland Metro Alliance Corporation Street track replacement self selected questions

What is happening, is a misinformation campaign by the Midland Metro Alliance and Transport for West Midlands, in which the track replacement is being portrayed as a scheduled and normal event. Which, of course, it isn’t. It is most definitely not normal for tram tracks to need to be ripped up and replaced after five years.

Part of TfWM statement shown on ITV Central News, 30 July 2021

On 30 July, the story made ITV Central’s 6 pm evening news, in which the reporter revealed that the track had “degraded far quicker than expected”. TfWM issued a preposterous, dishonest and legally dubious statement to ITV which claimed that “a significant section” of the Corporation Street track needed to be “realigned and replaced” to accommodate the delta junction at Bull Street. “Significant section”, meaning what exactly? As far as Union Street? New Street?

Upper Bull Street

So one might ask who, if anyone, at TfWM (Centro) was monitoring the construction activity when the tracks were originally laid in 2015 / 2016? Who is going to foot the bill for their replacement? And who at the West Midlands Combined Authority and / or TfWM decided it would be a good idea to conduct a public misinformation campaign, and cover up the facts?

Written by beleben

July 31, 2021 at 8:46 am

When parroting nonsense is easy but fact checking is hard

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Why is so much of the railway coverage in the UK media misleading and inaccurate? To some extent, it must be down to correspondents not having the time or background knowledge required to cut through and furnish readers with cogent and reliable information.

Consider, for example, The Times article ‘Tickets, please, for the hybrid tech express‘ (Graeme Paton, Saturday July 24 2021) whose main story is about Chiltern Railways’ hype to “significantly cut” carbon emissions and air pollution by installing battery packs on its diesel trains, ensuring ‘that the “last mile” of the journey into each station runs solely on battery power’.

twitter, @GarethDennis, 'Good cutaway by 
@BenCooke135 in this Times piece... Compare Germany's sustainable transport ambitions to the UK's, and it becomes pretty clear how little interest our government has in actually tackling climate change.'

But where are the figures demonstrating this allegedly “significant” cut in emissions? And why is the main picture of Kings Cross, rather than of a station on Chiltern Railways?

Unfortunately, for the sub-article ‘It’s time Britain got on board with Germany’s rail revolution’ (Ben Cooke), The Times decided to treat Gareth Dennis as a reliable source.

twitter, @GarethDennis, 'Of course, you need enhanced regional and national links to enable suburban transport networks to exist in the first place... Again something we in the UK are desperately dragging our feet on. Good to see another journo who
S-Bahn Berlin GmbH traces 'birth' of the Berlin S-Bahn to the year 1924, although the name was apparently not used until 1930

In the sub-article, it is claimed that the S-Bahn networks in German metropolitan areas are “made possible by Germany’s intercity lines, which are dedicated to high-speed trains. In contrast, many slow, local trains in the UK share lines with faster trains, limiting capacity without a fast train crashing into a slow one.”


[Ben Cooke, parroting Gareth Dennis:] The main advantage of HS2 is not that it would speed up the journey from Birmingham to London but that it would free up space for local mass transit.

Needless to say, the S-Bahn networks in German metropolitan areas were not “made possible” by Germany’s intercity lines, nor are most of those lines “dedicated to high-speed trains”. Most high speed train travel in Germany happens on upgraded, legacy, mixed-traffic lines, and most of the S-Bahn systems were in existence years before work on the ‘InterCity Express network’ had even been thought of, or started.

And exactly where would the London to Birmingham HS2, “free up space for local mass transit”? Out of Euston, there already is a sort of S-Bahn (the ‘dc lines’), and another separate pair of outer suburban commuter tracks, running alongside those used by intercity trains.

On the two-track section between Coventry and Birmingham, HS2 is planned to make little or no difference to the mix of stopping and semi-fast trains, and the idea that it would somehow enable provision of ‘high frequency mass transit’ is laughable. With the possible exception of the Longbridge to Four Oaks section of the so-called ‘Cross city line’, the local train service in the West Midlands is low-capacity ‘mickey mouse transit’.

Written by beleben

July 26, 2021 at 2:01 pm

HS2 and the ‘railfreight capacity deficit’

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In its ‘Demand and Capacity Pressures’ (DaCP) HS2 propaganda published in November 2015, the Department for Transport reported Network Rail’s claim that 58 or more extra freight paths might be needed each day on the West Coast Main Line by the year 2044.

DaCP (2015), WMCL freight paths needed

DaCP went on to say that Phase One ‘released capacity’ could “unlock 20 – 40” additional daily freight paths. But if ’58 additional freight paths or more’ were potentially needed by 2044, that would imply that HS2 was enabling 18 fewer paths than were actually required (assuming the freight uplift achieved was the high-end 40 paths per day estimate).

But could HS2 provide forty additional WCML daily freight paths? This highly implausible claim, for which no evidence was ever provided, was dropped for the April 2020 full business case, with the high-end estimated uplift restated as “20” paths. That would mean an overall provision a whopping 38 short of Network Rail’s 2044 potentially daily needed figure of 100 paths.

Written by beleben

July 22, 2021 at 9:25 pm

Posted in HS2

Andy Street disses the HS2 eastern leg

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Yesterday (14 July), the mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, told the House of Commons transport select committee that the eastern leg of HS2 (Birmingham to Leeds) “does not need to be built in full”. He called on the government to focus on “better connecting towns in the Midlands” and the ‘Midlands Rail Hub’ instead of building the eastern leg, but said it would be “cataclysmic” for the West Midlands if the western leg of HS2 to Manchester were cancelled.

This is all rather awkward, considering the sustained and vociferous support for the eastern leg from the West Midlands Combined Authority, Transport for West Midlands, and Midlands Connect.

One might well wonder, why would it be ‘cataclysmic’ to cancel the western leg, but not the eastern one?

Regular readers of the Beleben blog may be aware that the HS2 western leg is an environmental disaster and economic basket case, and that the centrepiece of the Midlands Rail Hub, the ‘Camp Hill chords’, are probably unbuildable in the form put forward by Midlands Connect.

The Beleben blog prediction is that the Midlands Connect idea of two Camp Hill chords, apparently merging in mid-air above the Great Western lines, never happens, and that would mean any feasible Midlands Rail Hub would bear no resemblance to the currently proposed scheme.

Camp hill Chords, official diagram

Written by beleben

July 15, 2021 at 1:23 pm

Posted in Bizarre, HS2

Andrew Adonis on the cost of HS2

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In 2015, Andrew Adonis, the former Secretary of State for Transport, was telling the world that High Speed Two was not a £50 billion project, but “a £28 billion project with a 50% contingency”.

But in a 9 July 2021 Prospect Magazine article about prime minister Boris Johnson, Mr Adonis described HS2 as the “£100 bn high-speed line from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds”.

In reality, it is unlikely that the Y network as currently planned could be completed for anything close to £100 billion, so there are probably some ‘notable’ changes to the project in the pipeline, as it were.

Written by beleben

July 13, 2021 at 11:05 am

Posted in HS2

Two likely less than one

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HS2: Ministers and bosses knew railway was over budget years ago, By Tom Burridge, Transport correspondent, BBC News

On Friday [9 July 2021], Labour peer Lord Berkeley wrote to the Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, asking him to ‘consider’ whether ministers had broken the ministerial code regarding the High Speed Two railway during Theresa May’s premiership (the Daily Telegraph reported on 10 July).

The peer’s letter highlighted ‘new evidence’ showing that ministers were told in April 2019 that the line “could not be delivered to the current scope within the current schedule and budget” and cited several occasions where ‘it was made clear to government figures that the scheme would exceed its budget, including at a conference in 2015 at which officials were told costs could top £100 billion’.

The article also claimed that unredacted minutes of HS2 Ltd’s June 2021 board meeting ‘seen’ by the Telegraph stated that the ’emerging’ central case benefit-cost ratio (BCR) for the Crewe to Manchester section of HS2 is ‘likely to be below one (i.e. poor value for money)’. 

'Plurality of Britons Aware of HS2 Oppose its Development', regional support poll, R&W Strategies, 
July 9, 2021

Written by beleben

July 12, 2021 at 11:58 am

Posted in Politics

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