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Archive for October 2021

The ‘Greens4HS2’ misinformation campaign, part three

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According to Greens4HS2 group member Adam Turner, HS2 is ‘going to be really bad news for the supremacy of the car’.

Twitter, @AdamWJT. 'HS2 is going to be really bad news for the supremacy of the car'

At this point, it might be worth bearing in mind that

(1.) 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’. Using the Petrol Retailers Association and HS2 Ltd’s 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 only ~0.11%. In no way is HS2 a credible means of reducing car ownership, congestion, or miles driven.

(2.) most of the modal shift in the official HS2 forecasting is from classic rail to high speed rail – not from car to high speed rail

(3.) with the move to electric vehicles, the amount of fossil fuels saved by the minuscule modal shift from car to high speed rail would diminish every year, before disappearing altogether

(4.) thousands of parking spaces are planned for HS2 stations at Manchester Airport, Toton, Bickenhill, and Leeds, with the parkway stations creating the need for tens of thousands of new car journeys every year

(5.) “concentration on expanding the existing [rail] large traffic flows, such as London – Birmingham, London – Manchester, London – Leeds” [i.e. the flows served by HS2] “will not achieve a major modal shift – mainly because rail already has a significant slice of the market on those routes which, by themselves, do not constitute the majority of passenger travel in the UK” (Professor Roger Kemp).

Written by beleben

October 23, 2021 at 4:35 pm

The ‘Greens4HS2’ misinformation campaign, part two

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The Greens4HS2 campaign is all about misinformation and greenwashing, as is demonstrated by the Twitter feed of group members such as Pete Johnson (@pedrojuk) and Adam Turner (@AdamWJT). Today (23 October 2021) Mr Turner tweeted that ‘apparently every intercity train moved across to HS2 would free up space for *two* new local services and/or more freight by rail’.

But actual evidence for HS2 allowing two ‘local’ stopping services to run in the place of ‘one intercity train moved to HS2’, is nowhere to be found.

Consider for example, the case of the two-track Birmingham to Coventry line, which is used by intercity trains to and from London Euston, and on which capacity is supposed to be freed up by HS2.

In the ‘scenarios’ put forward in the official West Midlands Rail Investment Strategy published in 2019 (when HS2 phase one was expected to open in 2026), it can be seen that it is not possible to double the stopping service. (It is possible to tweak the service level of individual stations, but of course such tweaking could be done now, and does not require the construction of HS2.)

Irrespective of HS2, there has to be a fast service between Birmingham New Street, Birmingham International, and Coventry, meaning in practice that it is not possible to double the stopping service.

If all fast passenger trains were removed from the line, it would be possible to run a frequent stopping service, but this would cause modal shift to car, and a reduction in passengers carried. That is because the fastest train journeys from Birmingham to Coventry would become much slower, while the new frequent stopping services would run largely empty. The housing density around stations on the Coventry line is too low to support a metro-style frequency.

These observations would also apply to other stretches of line supposedly freed up by HS2, such as Doncaster to Leeds, and Stoke-on-Trent to Manchester. The official forecasting models do not support the claim that HS2 would enable ‘one stopping train to be replaced by two or more stopping services’ on existing the rail network, which is presumably why Gareth Dennis and Greens4HS2 make no reference to PFM.

WMRIS, indicative Coventry rail paths with and without HS2

Written by beleben

October 23, 2021 at 3:13 pm

The ‘Greens4HS2’ misinformation campaign

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‘Greens for HS2’ (@Greens4HS2 on Twitter) describe themselves as a group of Green Party (of England and Wales: GPEW) members who think that green opposition to High Speed Two should be ‘changed’, because it is based on ‘misunderstandings about the benefits of HS2’ and ‘the role it can play as part of a zero-CO2 future’.

Most of the arguments put forward by Greens4HS2 originated outside of the group, and outside of GPEW itself. The influence of Gareth Dennis (who is not a Green party member) is particularly prevalent, as can be seen in the group’s newsletter for the Autumn 2021 party conference (below) where he has provided the line to take, and even its Rail Alphabet-based logo.

Greens4HS2 leaflet, October 2021 (first side)
Greens4HS2 leaflet, Oct 2021
Greens4HS2 leaflet, October 2021 (2nd side)

The main job of HS2, according to the newsletter (and Mr Dennis) is to ‘free up our congested rail network, making room for many more local and freight trains’, and it could play ‘a big part’ in ‘a low carbon future for transport’.

So, exactly where on the existing railway would HS2 enable ‘many more local and freight trains to run’? Greens4HS2 members have always been completely unable to provide quantification for any particular stretch of line.

The Solihull branch of GPEW is a particular hotbed of Greens4HS2 support, so one might expect them to be eager to detail the ‘HS2-enabled uplift’ in local and freight trains achievable on the existing Coventry to Birmingham line, which runs through the north of their borough. But all they have ever been able to do, is parrot the inanities of Mr Dennis.

Written by beleben

October 23, 2021 at 2:06 pm

Posted in HS2, misinformation

Never say ever again

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HS2 Ltd is “currently reporting future potential cost pressures” of around £1.3 billion, according to the October 2021 HS2 six-monthly report to Parliament, published on 20 October 2021. The Department for Transport (DfT) anticipates that cost pressures will be “reduced” following confirmation of a “move to a smaller, less complex 10-platform single-stage delivery strategy at Euston” whose design is to be “developed over the coming months”.

So, after more than a decade of development, there is still no finalised design for Euston HS2. Multiple failed redesigns have cost the public purse tens of millions of pounds, as can be seen from a New Civil Engineer report of August 2021.

Grimshaw and Arup won the Euston concept design job in 2012 but were replaced by WilkinsonEyre with WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff in February 2017. The original team was brought back for the detailed design work a year later, with more than £100M already spent on Euston station’s design.

‘HS2’s updated plan and timeline for Euston station redesign’ | NCE | 16 AUG, 2021 | BY ROB HORGAN

As is to be expected, the six-monthly report to Parliament is more of an exercise in spin than in transparency. In a section headed ‘Benefits’, the narrative laboured over the jobs allegedly created and supported by construction of the railway, although in financial and cost-benefit terms, these would be considered as costs rather than benefits. As a Keynesian make-work scheme, High Speed Two construction is a poor proposition, with the net gain in employment reported by HS2 Ltd in September 2021 as just 1,100 jobs.

Apparently, “over 2,200 businesses have delivered work on HS2, with 97% UK registered”, but being so registered does not necessarily mean that a supplier’s particular goods and services were actually confected in the UK. Much of the construction machinery must have been imported, such as the tunnel boring machines, and the on-site main d’oeuvre is largely migrant labour from inside and outside the EU.

The confirmation of a move to a 10-platform Euston design led to some interesting messages from the HS2 amanti on Twitter, with the editor of ‘Rail’ magazine, Nigel Harris, claiming it meant it can ‘never ever do more than 14 trains per hour’, and Towcester’s finest HS2 consultant, William Barter, contradicting him. Of course, the original plan for HS2 Euston never involved running 17 or 18 trains per hour in and out, as some services were intended to run (mostly empty) to and from the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and Heathrow airport.

With LGV PSE re-signalling, the French state railway SNCF appear to have taken the view that 16 high speed trains per hour is the limit, irrespective of terminus configuration, but for HS2 this would be moot in the case of the eastern leg to Yorkshire being cancelled, as seems increasingly likely.

@Modern_Railways, twitter, 'HS2 cut to 10 platforms', and @Rail response
@GarethDennis, twitter, '11 platforms was reasonably okay', and responses
@WilliamBarter1, twitter, '16 trains on 10 platforms would work'
@CarlShillitoUK, twitter, 'Will the negative spin ever end?'

Written by beleben

October 21, 2021 at 3:31 pm

Labour intensiveness of HS2

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Earlier this year, HS2 Ltd published revised information about the alleged jobs and skills impacts of constructing its high speed railway, including the construction labour person hours for phases one, 2a, and 2b (Western leg only).

(Why no estimate for the Eastern leg? Presumably, because there is no intention of ever building it.)

HS2 construction, labour person hours by phase, estimated by HS2 Ltd, 2021

From this information, the Beleben blog has estimated, at a high level, the labour intensiveness of each phase. Pro rata, it can be seen that phase 2b is much more labour intensive than phase one is overall. The high labour intensiveness of the London end of phase one is diluted by the Country sections of plainline northwest of the capital.

Section of HS2
Labour demand
to construct)
per km
Phase one
Phase 2a
Phase 2bWL
Person-years sourced from:

At the time of writing, HS2 Ltd have not produced any public estimate of the carbon footprint of the phase 2b Western leg. The Beleben blog would postulate that on a per-kilometre basis, phase 2bWL has the highest carbon footprint of the entire scheme.

Written by beleben

October 11, 2021 at 7:41 pm

Posted in HS2

Cost of the eastern leg of HS2 ‘could exceed £40 billion’

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Ministers are ‘shortly expected to announce a delay to the eastern leg of HS2 between Birmingham and Leeds’, with priority given instead to Northern Powerhouse Rail between Leeds and Manchester, the Financial Times revealed on 3 October. Transport secretary Grant Shapps will set out a new integrated rail plan ‘in the coming weeks’, and there is to be a ‘competition among railway towns to become the headquarters of Great British Railways, a new state-owned body that will oversee rail travel from 2023’.

[George Parker:] ‘The western leg [of HS2] to Manchester will be built, but the eastern section to Leeds is in jeopardy given concerns that the cost could exceed £40bn.

[…] Asked whether the eastern leg of HS2 would be axed, Shapps said: “We want to make sure we get trains to Leeds in a way that actually benefits people on the network and not blindly follow some plan invented 15 to 20 years ago which no longer benefits people.”’

‘UK transport secretary Grant Shapps signals major rethink of HS2 rail line’, George Parker in Manchester, Financial Times, 3 October 2021

The plan for the eastern leg of HS2 was ‘invented’ at the same time as the rest of the project. So the government’s support for phase one and the western leg could equally validly be described as ‘blindly following some plan invented 15 to 20 years ago which no longer benefits people‘. (Of course, the vast majority of the British public would would rarely or never use HS2, and the scheme is crowding out investment in the conventional rail network.)

The site of the proposed HS2 platforms at Manchester Piccadilly
Picture: The site of the proposed HS2 platforms at Manchester Piccadilly

HS2 makes the railway network more London-centric, whereas developing good east – west lines would make it less London-centric. Unfortunately, the Northern Powerhouse Rail ‘new line between Manchester and Leeds via Bradford’ is a monkeydust scheme, while the centrepiece of the Midlands Connect ‘Midlands Rail hub’ – the Camp Hill chords (with the eastern and western chords connected to the bay platforms at Birmingham Moor Street) – is probably unbuildable.

Written by beleben

October 4, 2021 at 4:21 pm