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Archive for November 2021

Billions more, straight afterwards

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Transport for the North’s “preferred option” for Northern Powerhouse Rail “would have seen the government spend billions upgrading the conventional line between Leeds and Manchester – and then tens of billions more, straight afterwards, building a second line between the same two places” (according to page 8 of the government’s November 2021 ‘Integrated Rail Plan’ [IRP]).

Actually, there are already two conventional lines between Manchester and Leeds – the Standedge line, running via Stalybridge, Marsden, and Huddersfield, and the Calder Valley line, running via Rochdale, Todmorden, and Bradford.

So the government’s preferred option, as enunciated in the IRP, would see it spend billions upgrading ‘the conventional line’ between Leeds and Manchester – and then billions more, straight afterwards, building a third line stretching about halfway between those same two places. This third line, between Manchester Piccadilly and ‘Marsden’, being the remnant of what was once known as ‘HS3’.

Construction of the ‘Marsden’ HS3 remnant would mean there were ‘two and a half’ lines between Manchester and Leeds. In the diagram of lines from the IRP (reproduced above), the portion of the Standedge line between ‘Marsden’ and Manchester is absent, presumably to obscure that bizarrerie.

On 19 November, the Guardian online published a story titled “Government planning ‘to put HS2 on stilts through Manchester’”, but a more accurate title might perhaps have been ‘Government planning to put HS3 on stilts through Manchester’.

The Guardian online story, Government planning ‘to put HS2 on stilts through Manchester’, 19 Nov 2021

HS2 would approach Manchester in a tunnel, before running into new surface level dead-end platforms at Piccadilly station. The IRP proposed that this terminus would be shared with HS3 platforms, but metro mayor Andy Burnham demanded that the station be built underground, and with through platforms. The Guardian reported the government as saying that Mr Burnham’s preference would cost £4 to £5 billion more than a surface kopfbahnhof.

Needless to say, that could be a substantial underestimate.

Regular readers of the Beleben blog may have gathered that the concentration of services at Piccadilly over the last 50 years is one of the principal causes of railway congestion and malperformance in Greater Manchester, and the station in effect faces the wrong way for the job it is being expected to do.

So the pertinent questions include:

  1. is HS3 – or more accurately, ‘half of HS3’ – necessary?
  2. how exactly would HS3 get from central Manchester, to ‘Marsden’? How much in tunnel? How much on stilts? Or what?
  3. what is its carbon footprint?
  4. what are its opportunity costs?
  5. and, why should Piccadilly be the principal regional station in Manchester?

Written by beleben

November 21, 2021 at 10:42 am

Too much on showpiece

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On 18 November, the government published its long-delayed and much-leaked ‘Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands’ (IRP), to what might be described as a mixed response. Although short on detail and long on spin, it can be seen that the Plan involves significant changes in policy, affecting the High Speed Two, Northern Powerhouse Rail, and Midlands Rail Hub schemes.

“[The] vast majority of journeys in the North and Midlands are less than 30 miles. Local transport for those journeys lags too far behind the South-East, without the same convenient and green public transport options you find in London. The old [rail investment] plans got the balance wrong. They focused too much on showpiece, high speed links, and too little on local services – less glamorous, perhaps, but more important to most people.”

Integrated Rail Plan, 18 Nov 2021
IRP map of proposals, Nov 2021
Announcement of publication of the Integrated Rail Plan, 18 November 2021

It seems that the IRP has been the cause of considerable sturm und drang in government circles, with the content being tweaked almost right up to the date of publication. Consider, for example, this Mail Online graphic, in which the Leeds to Clayton section of HS2 formed part of the ‘updated plan’.

Daily Mail Integrated Rail Plan graphic, 17 November 2021

But in the published IRP, there was no sign of it.

@CarlShillitoUK tweet about Clayton HS2

Written by beleben

November 19, 2021 at 11:52 am

Posted in HS2

Random access muddlery

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Tom Forth’s dotty map shows how, if delivered in full, the HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail projects “would make huge areas of the North West, Midlands, South East and even South-West more accessible to northerners”. On the map, “Black dots show areas that are quicker by train, and orange show those quicker by car”. That’s according to Kieren Williams (writing for Reach plc’s Mirror Online, 8 November 2021).

However, Mr Williams’ interpretation of the map is not correct. What the map is actually purporting to show, is the journey time from Leeds City railway station to other railway stations around the country, by train and by car. That is not the same thing at all as showing ‘areas which are quicker by train’ or ‘areas which are quicker by car’.

The map is not showing, or comparing, door to door journey times by mode. It is showing, or purportedly showing, railway station to railway station journey times. Or more precisely, Leeds City railway station, to other railway station, journey times.

Even the station journey times by rail are problematic. No definitive journey times or frequencies are available for Northern Powerhouse Rail, so it is not clear how it is possible to calculate a NPR journey time from Leeds City station to Neston station, for example.

Mirror Online, 'Incredible graphic'

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November 9, 2021 at 4:30 pm

Mapping the dotty case for HS2

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On 2 November, Leeds Live and The Northern Agenda newsletter revealed the interactive map which shows “why people in the North of England won’t give up their cars”. Apparently, it’s all to do with (a dataset of) the time taken in 2019 to get from Leeds City rail station to other railway stations in (mostly far-off) parts of Great Britain. By car versus by train. At 9 am on a weekday. Assuming there are no delays on the highway or railway networks.


As the North emerges from the pandemic people have been returning to the roads in their cars much more quickly than they return to trains. And the graphic below, comparing journey times from Leeds to every station in the country by car or rail, gives a pretty clear explanation as to why. Our map, adapted from the original data compiled by Tom Forth, Head of Data at Open Innovations, shows how it remains a better option to drive from Yorkshire’s biggest city to the overwhelming majority of places around the country. The red dots are the stations you can reach faster by car and the green dots the stations you can reach faster by public transport. […]

[Tom Forth:] “The fact that it remains a faster option to drive from Leeds to places like Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham shows the challenge we will face in using our cars less if investments like Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 are not funded”.

‘The map which shows why people won’t abandon their cars’ [Leeds Live] / Northern Agenda newsletter | 2 Nov 2021
The Northern Agenda newsletter, Reach plc, 2 Nov 2021, 'Rail journey times from Leeds'

This could be groundbreaking stuff, and totally convincing, apart from there not being any evidence that Northern people (or people anywhere else) make car ownership or travel decisions in the way suggested by Mr Parsons’ newsletter.

Actually, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Northern Powerhouse Rail or phase two of HS2 would have much effect on car ownership, car mileage, mode choice, or door-to-door journey times in the North of England, either.

For most people in Leeds, and most people in the North of England, the impact of speeding up rail journeys between Manchester and Leeds by 10 minutes[*1] (?), or Liverpool and Manchester by 2 minutes[*2] (?), would appear to lie somewhere between zero and nano.

[*1] = Comparator: Standedge; [*2] = Comparator: Chat Moss

Written by beleben

November 3, 2021 at 10:34 am