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Archive for August 2021

Train planning for self-owners

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twitter, @alisonw, 'Higher speeds don't reduce rail capacity' [...] (?)

Since HS2 started, railway twitter has been host to copious ludicrous and technically illiterate statements about the project. So it’s little surprise to find a claim like ‘higher train speeds don’t reduce capacity, different speeds of consecutive services reduce capacity’ posted by a ‘pro-EU bitch’ (to quote the bio).

Rail line capacity, train speed and block length (Bombardier)

But it is surprising is to find someone who claims to be a train driver, weighing in, with an epic and memorable self-own on the topic.

Written by beleben

August 31, 2021 at 8:09 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Spot the ‘congested infrastructure’

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In May 2020, Network Rail declared the West Coast Main Line (WCML) fast lines between Camden South Junction and Ledburn as “congested infrastructure”. (The rest of the route, including the slow lines between Camden and Ledburn, have not been declared congested infrastructure.)

Empty 4-track West Coast Main Line tracks at Ledburn, 2021

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of ‘congested’ is ‘extremely or excessively full or crowded’. So, according to Network Rail, one pair of the tracks in the picture are, in common parlance, extremely or excessively full or crowded, and the other pair aren’t.

So, if an average person visited Ledburn, would they be able to identify which pair of tracks are the supposedly ‘excessively full or crowded’ ones? Most of the time, there is not a train in sight or earshot on either the fast lines, or on the slow ones. The utilisation of both sets of lines is well below the theoretical limit dictated by safe braking distances.

Because of the lower linespeed, it is a far more practical proposition to resignal the existing WCML tracks for 18 trains per hour, than it is to run 18 trains per hour on HS2. That is, if such capacity were needed.

Written by beleben

August 27, 2021 at 1:15 pm

Posted in HS2

What a plucking nightmare

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Boris Johnson’s ruinous High Speed Two rail project makes the 2021 NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan look like a masterstroke of co-ordinated strategic planning. Now HS2 is ‘set to be radically scaled back’ – with ministers fearing the final bill could go much higher than £100 billion – as the Treasury attempts to control public spending that has ballooned during the Covid crisis (the Financial Times reported).

[…] “Cutting the eastern leg of HS2 might save £40 bn but to be honest numbers are just being plucked out of the air at the moment,” said one senior government official briefed on tense negotiations between [transport secretary Grant] Shapps and the Treasury.

[….] The Treasury, which has been forced to bail out the rail industry during the Covid pandemic, believes the “working from home” revolution has further weakened the case for expensive new rail projects.

[…] Lord Amyas Morse, former head of the National Audit Office, said of HS2: “It started as an incoherent decision and it has been incoherent in its execution as well.”’

[UK ministers set to cut back HS2 eastern route’ | George Parker and Andy Bounds, Financial Times,  AUGUST 25 2021]

Written by beleben

August 26, 2021 at 8:59 am

Posted in HS2

The ‘470 miles’ of HS2, and other unfacts

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During a visit to Crewe yesterday HS2 minister Andrew Stephenson said he was committed to ‘ensuring Yorkshire and the East Midlands benefit from high speed rail services’ amid further reports that the eastern leg of the scheme is to be scrapped (Cheshire Live reported on 24 August).

So, does this ‘commitment’ to ‘ensuring Yorkshire and the East Midlands benefit from high speed rail services’ mean that the the eastern leg of HS2 is going to be built?

In the view of the Beleben blog, probably not.

‘High speed rail services’, what does that mean? Yorkshire and the East Midlands have had high speed rail services for years, in the form of HSTs, etc.

twitter, @corecities: ;Cracking comment piece from @RAIL' [...], 23 Aug 2021

According to a ‘comment special’ focused on the HS2 eastern leg (“HS2E”) written and posted on twitter by ‘Rail’ magazine editor Nigel Harris, “Until I hear Prime Minister Boris Johnson reverse his […] unambiguous promise to “build the HS2 network in its entirety”, then Government policy remains unchanged, whatever the headlines.’

Whatever the headlines, government policy has (obviously) changed. Because HS2 Ltd has stopped development work on the eastern leg of HS2, on government instruction.

What is customarily referred to as ‘phase 2b’, now in practice refers to, ‘at best’, two different phases, with different delivery dates.

Mr Harris’s comment is the usual smorgasbord of unfacts, misinformation, and unverifiable statements, as might be expected. It gave the length of HS2 as “470 miles” (756 km), which is one of the unfacts disseminated across the internet by Gareth Dennis under his own name, and also using the ‘Permanent Rail Engineering’ moniker.

On further examination, much of the content of Mr Harris’s comment would seem to have originated in the imagination of Mr Dennis.

Nigel Harris, Rail Magazine edition 397, Comment, part one
Nigel Harris, Rail Magazine edition 397, Comment, part two
Article by Gareth Dennis published by CityMetric claiming that HS2 is 470 miles long and the Woodland Trust

Nigel Harris commentary The actuality
“Without the eastern arm, HS2’s whole purpose is destroyed and it becomes nothing more than a very expensive West Coast Main Line by-pass, benefiting only the western half of the country – and with a much worse BCR (benefit:cost ratio) as well.” With or without the eastern leg, HS2 is not much more than a very expensive West Coast Main Line by-pass.


As Jim Steer of Greengauge 21 admitted, HS2 would not have the capacity to take all express traffic from the Midland and East Coast Main Lines.

At the time of writing, neither the government nor HS2 Ltd have ever published a benefit-cost ratio for the eastern leg alone. (Or for the western leg, for that matter.)

“Far from ‘levelling up’, the Prime Minister would fragment the UK further by adding an east-west economic divide to the long-existing north-south problem.” There is no evidence for this claim.
“The Conservatives would be committing political suicide by scrapping HS2E” According to opinion polling, more people in northern England oppose HS2 than support it.
“Over the past 30 years, the ECML has not delivered performance much above 88%, which is an indication of how hard-pressed this near-200-year-old infrastructure is today.” The East Coast track, signalling, telecoms, and electrification is not “200 years old”, in any meaningful sense.
“Scrap HS2E and millions of people in and around Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford, Teesside and Tyneside will all have to struggle on with ancient rail infrastructure which can barely cope today” Construction of HS2 would not fix any ‘ancient rail infrastructure’ in and around Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford, Teesside and Tyneside.


Indeed, HS2 would likely crowd out investment in those lines.

“while to the west, a very expensive and shiny HS2 WCML by-pass will deliver major benefits for millions of people and hundreds of stations in western England.” There is no evidence that the HS2 western leg would deliver “major benefits” for “millions of people and hundreds of stations in western England”.
“For the UK to stand any chance of hitting its GHG (greenhouse gas) targets on time, rail needs to double its capacity in the next 30 years.” There is no evidence for this claim.
“This simply cannot be done by any amount of existing route capacity enhancement, and it is fantasy to think otherwise.” There is no evidence for this claim.
“Remember the West Coast Route Modernisation, 20 years ago? It came in five times over budget, caused a decade of ruinous and costly disruption, and yet yielded only minor capacity improvements.” WCRM was predominately replacement of worn-out assets, and deferred maintenance.


The Campaign for Better Transport stated that WCRM increased capacity by “up to three times” on key routes.

“…anyone who seriously believes that we can tackle climate change by fitting overhead live wires on motorways and pantographs on lorries is equally disconnected from reality” Anyone who believes climate change can be ‘tackled’ by HS2 would need to explain how HS2’s net increased CO2e emissions over 120 years, ‘tackles’ climate change.
“HS2E is the only way to achieve the doubling of capacity on the network as a whole.” There is no evidence for this claim.
“the fact that it’s the fast trains that will switch to HS2 turbo-charges this benefit because 125mph trains are very greedy on space – they need many miles to stop and require lots of dear track in front of them” HS2 would not serve important locations currently served by express trains (e.g. Coventry, Peterborough, Wakefield, Leicester), nor would it have the capacity to accept transfer of all express trains using the West Coast, Midland, and East Coast main lines.


The claim that 125mph trains are ‘very greedy’ on space is somewhat devoid of meaning. ‘Very greedy’, compared to what?

“Put all the WCML, MML and ECML fast trains onto HS2W and HS2E and you have three suddenly very quiet main lines on which you can run an intense 100mph stopping train service to many more intermediate stations, along with lots more freight.” HS2 would not have the capacity to accept transfer of all express trains using the West Coast, Midland, and East Coast main lines. There is no evidence  ‘you could run an intense 100mph stopping train service to many more intermediate stations, along with lots more freight.’ The PFM model makes no such claim.
“At Leeds, the removal of 125mph trunk route expresses from the East-West platforms onto HS2E’s new platforms will release both the currently heavily-congested terminus and through platforms for more services into the Wharfe and Aire valleys and towards Bradford, as well as much more space for services linking across the city towards Huddersfield in one direction and Hull in the other.” This claim is not supported in the PFM modelling, nor in the KPMG / SDG ‘Released capacity’ report.
“The emerging Transpennine Route Upgrade will become impossible because it relies on the released capacity at Leeds cre-ated by moving the fast trains onto HS2. “ Unevidenced. In fact, TRU is supposed to be completed in advance of HS2 phase two.
“At Sheffield (already congested by cut-backs), HS2E will provide greatly enhanced capacity through segregating infrastructure and enabling many more local services.” There is no evidence for this claim. HS2 trains would have to use existing track to access Sheffield, and be accommodated within the existing station envelope.
“In the East Midlands, both Derby and Nottingham would lose out because of the station capacity currently clogged up by regular direct London trains.” In the East Midlands, both Derby and Nottingham station capacity would be clogged up by Toton shuttle trains, if there were to be a shuttle to meet each HS2 train.
“Birmingham, too, would lose out heavily, as no HS2E means that New Street will have to continue serving long-distance expresses which would all move to Curzon Street.” This is ‘heavily’ nonsensical. HS2 could not replace many long distance services from Birmingham, such as cross country trains to Cambridge, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, and Reading.
“Building HS2E is by far the fastest, most cost-effective way to enable and deliver all these benefits to hundreds of stations and millions of people. Existing network upgrades, as the West Coast Route Modernisation proved two decades ago, are slower, more expensive, more disruptive and of only marginal benefit.” This is contradicted by the actuality.


The WCRM programme had a shorter timespan than HS2, cost a small fraction of HS2, and was far more cost-effective than HS2.

“Here’s just one clear benefit which critics choose to ignore. Capacity release enabled by HS2 at Birmingham New Street, for example, has a hugely beneficial impact on key services to Aberystwyth alone. It will enable more frequent services right across central Wales and its intermediate stations, and they might actually run on time, too, rather than being perpetually delayed (as at present) by waiting outside Wolverhampton to find their way through the congestion which HS2 would eliminate.” This is laughable. There is no evidence that HS2 would eliminate ‘waiting outside Wolverhampton’, and no standout benefit to running ‘mickey mouse’ trains from the lightly used Aberystwyth line all the way to Birmingham New Street, (or Birmingham International) anyway.


Perfectly sane options might include running Aberystwyth trains as far as Shrewsbury, or Wolverhampton, with a change of train for the onward journey to Birmingham, etc.

“HS2 deserves credit for having an impact on just 58 hectares of woodland over 470 miles of route.” These numbers may be incorrect. (The second number is definitely incorrect.)
“Scrapping HS2E would be political suicide for Prime Minister Boris Johnson personally, for the MPs of the ‘Red Wall’ […] Much more importantly, millions of people will be denied the life chances, jobs and wider benefits they both deserve and need.” This is magic mushroom stuff, completely unevidenced.

Written by beleben

August 24, 2021 at 7:07 pm

Posted in gibberish, HS2

Corporation Street hammer horror

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On 10 August BBC Midlands Today finally caught up with Birmingham’s Corporation Street Metro “maintenance” horror show, with reporter Ben Sidwell speaking to, inter alios, the appropriately named Peter Cushing of the Midland Metro Alliance.

Regular readers of the Beleben blog might recall that when the Metro tracks were originally being put in, Midlands Today offered up another case of nominative determinism when they interviewed John Daft, then of Balfour Beatty.

Mr Sidwell’s report claimed that nearly a quarter of the Birmingham City Centre Extension was being dug up and replaced at a cost of £5 million (the Beleben blog would suggest that it is going to be a lot more than a quarter, and a lot more than £5 million).

Written by beleben

August 11, 2021 at 10:52 am

Convinced by twaddle

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On 4 May 2015, The Guardian published political commentator Owen Jones’ commentary on how the Tories should be ‘worried’ now that media personality Russell Brand had ‘endorsed’ the Labour party. In the general election held three days later the Tories went on to win, gaining 24 extra parliamentary seats while Labour lost 26.

But could Mr Jones ever conjure up a dafter piece of commentary than the legendary ‘Tories should be worried by Russell Brand’?

On 4 August 2021, Mr Jones decided to have a go, turning the daft-o-meter right back up to eleven, by claiming on twitter that he had been ‘convinced to support HS2’ by Jon Stone’s “brilliant” (a.k.a. risible) 22 August 2019 ‘Saturday essay‘ for the Independent.

Mr Stone’s essay was largely a regurgitation of the twaddle promulgated on twitter and elsewhere by self-styled ‘transport expert’ Gareth Dennis, but also featured what was possibly his own original tosh (such as: “Birmingham to Nottingham, which currently takes over an hour, falls [with HS2] to an almost ridiculous 19 minutes”).

[Jon Stone, Saturday essay, 22 Aug 2019, parroting Gareth Dennis:] The engineering thinking behind HS2 is to take those express services off the older mainlines, leaving them for stopping local and commuter services. When trains are all travelling at roughly the same speed on a line, you can fit a lot more in, because the gaps needed between them are smaller.

Needless to say, there is no possibility that HS2 could have the capacity to take all the express passenger trains off the West Coast, Midland, and East Coast Main Lines. And from a connectivity standpoint, it would be highly undesirable to remove all express trains from the classic lines, even if that were possible, because HS2 is obviously unable to provide express service to many places on them (such as Coventry, Leicester, and Doncaster).

Contrary to the impression given by Gareth Dennis and Jon Stone, on the busiest section of the West Coast Main Line south of Rugby, intercity and ‘commuter fast’ trains run at ‘roughly the same speed’ and have near-exclusive use of the fast lines.

Post-HS2 planning for the West Coast Main Line is actually based on turning the West Coast fast lines into a mixed traffic railway, carrying a jumble of stopping and fast passenger trains, as well as freight. This type of mix is bound to reduce overall throughput, and the idea that you could ‘fit a lot more trains in’, is the polar opposite of the truth.

Written by beleben

August 5, 2021 at 2:59 pm

Posted in HS2