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Best return is sixty quid

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In November 2018, the Beleben blog revealed that 99.5 per cent of the £12,000 raised from the sale of Midland Metro T69 trams went not to public funds, but to RBS bank. These trams were taken out of use after just 15 years’ service, or thereabouts, and somehow ended up as the property of RBS bank.

Following the intervention of the Information Commissioner’s Office, further information has emerged about the costs of the decommissioning of the T69s.

WMCA, costs following T69 tram decommissioning, 10 Apr 2019

In summary then (from what they have said),

  • West Midlands Combined Authority spent ~£130,000 moving and storing the decommissioned trams,
  • shelled out £4.7 million in lease payments on this scrap,
  • and ultimately received, er, £60 from RBS, when WMCA sold the trams for them at e-auction.

[Councillor Roger Lawrence, WMCA]

“After many years of service it’s sad the T69 trams are headed for the breakers yard, but in the absence of any buyers for them as a going concern this represents the best return for the council tax payer.”

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Written by beleben

April 17, 2019 at 11:20 am

It shaw looks grim

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‘Early designs’ by Grimshaw and Glenn Howells Architects for a revamp of Birmingham’s Moor Street railway station ‘to get it ready for HS2’ have been slated by readers of the Birmingham Live website.

Birmingham Live readers' fury at planned revamp of Moor Street station

One of the highlights of the Grimshaw / GHA ‘vision’ must surely be the tragi-comic ‘alien spaceship’ footbridge, which would extend over the Moor Street platforms, and link to the adjacent Curzon Street high speed rail station.

Grimshaw / GHA Moor Street station redevelopment visualisation, 18 Mar 2019

Design of the Curzon HS2 terminus has also been entrusted to Grimshaw and GHA, with equally incongruous results.

HS2 Curzon, Grimshaw and GHA, interior visualisation

In essence, it resembles a Barlow trainshed, but with all of the sense of arrival eliminated by a concrete deck built right over the platforms.

This was the best of the designs submitted?

Written by beleben

March 21, 2019 at 11:06 am

The next train from platform minus one

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Greater Birmingham chambers, 'Moor Street station designs for HS2 link revealed', 18 Mar 2019

Grimshaw / GHA Moor Street station redevelopment visualisation, 18 Mar 2019

Birmingham Moor Street station vision, initial concepts, Mar 2019

Birmingham Moor Street station, visualisation of Grimshaw / Glenn Howells Architects redevelopment proposal, 18 Mar 2019

Birmingham Moor Street station, visualisation of redevelopment proposal, Grimshaw / Glenn Howells Architects, 18 Mar 2019

twitter @weinsteinlinder, Moor Street station transformation

Written by beleben

March 19, 2019 at 10:22 am

Posted in Birmingham, Centro, HS2, Politics

Mythlands Rail Hub

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This week’s cognitive dissonance suppression awayday for HS2 took the form of a get-together in Westminster, hosted by Turner and Townsend engineers on behalf of the ‘HS2 East’ special interests blobette.

railpro.co.uk, 'Minister pledges government support for eastern leg of HS2

According to Rail Professional’s write-up of the event, “The eastern leg of HS2 is a high-speed connection between Birmingham, Toton in the East Midlands, Sheffield, Leeds and Newcastle, and will improve journey times up to Scotland.”

This is misinformation. The eastern leg would only reach Church Fenton (not Newcastle), and would not link Sheffield to Leeds. Under current plans, all HS2 trains to Scotland would be routed via Crewe.

twitter, @weinsteinlinder, 'If we only take #HS2 to the #Midlands and #Birmingham “we will have failed” the people we represent and the U.K. #economy @HS2ltd chairman Allan Cook tells #HS2East @UKParliament #HS2alltheway'

At the Westminster event, Midlands Connect chief Maria Machancoses ‘implored colleagues and peers to get out into [the] community to talk to people against HS2 based on misleading BBC Panorama and C4 Dispatches programmes’.

twitter, @weinsteinlinder, 'Director @MidsConnect @MariaPMachan busts myths about cost, environmental impact & alternatives to #HS2 as she implores colleagues/peers @HS2Parliament to get out into community to talk to people against HS2 based on misleading @BBCPanorama @C4Dispatches programmes #HS2alltheway'

On the subject of ‘misleading media messages’, why is the Midlands Connect head of PR claiming that HS2 ‘under #midlandsrailhub’ would mean 24 extra passenger trains per hour on the Midlands network?

twitter, @weinsteinlinder, HS2 'under #midlandsrailhub' would mean 24 extra passenger trains per hour on the Midlands network

Written by beleben

March 8, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Birmingham, HS2

Brierley Hill tram boondoggle to cost even more

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Express and Star, 'New West Midland Metro line back on track - but costs are up £100m', By Pete Madeley, 04 Mar 2019

Work on the Wednesbury – Brierley Hill Extension of the [West] Midland[s] Metro tramway is due to start this year, after the West Midlands Combined Authority put forward a new funding package to pay for the biggest project it has ever taken on, the Express and Star reported.

[Pete Madeley, Express and Star, 4 Mar 2019]

The line will now cost £449m – up £106m – with the shortfall paid for by profits from the Metro, which the WMCA has run since last year. It is set to open in 2023.

It will see 16 new trams operate on a 6.8-mile route, passing through Merry Hill, Dudley town centre, Tipton, and Dudley Port railway station along its 17 stops.

With transport secretary Chris Grayling and mayor Andy Street being big fans of the scheme, isn’t there a need for actual ‘profit forecasts’, or an updated economic appraisal?

West Midlands Metro tram visualisation, Dudley Zoo

Written by beleben

March 4, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Same as it ever was

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In June 2014 the Birmingham Post reported that the dingy St Martin’s Queensway tunnel, which runs under the Bullring shopping mall, was “set to get a £5.5 million facelift to improve the route between two of Birmingham’s busiest railway stations”.

Birmingham Post story from June 2014 on plans for a St Martins tunnel facelift

The tunnel was created as part of the botched redevelopment of the Bull Ring between 2000 and 2003.

St Martin’s Queensway tunnel, pedestrian footway, looking towards Moor Street

[Tunnel link between New Street and Moor Street stations set for facelift, Neil Elkes, Birmingham Post, 27 Jun 2014]

Council development director Waheed Nazir, in a report to councillors, said: “This [facelift] will deliver a world class public realm scheme between New Street and Moor Street stations and the proposed HS2 station via St Martin’s Queensway tunnel.”

St Martin’s Queensway tunnel (pedestrian route on right hand side)

It would be interesting to know where this ‘£5.5 million’, and ‘world class facelift’, have gone, because the experience of walking this tunnel in 2019 is pretty much the same as it ever was.

In a feature for the December 2018 edition of RTM magazine, Malcolm Holmes, executive director of West Midlands Rail Executive (WMRE) said, “I think it would be a failure of the rail industry and local government if the first HS2 trains arrive into a gleaming new Curzon Street station in 2026 and passengers still have to walk under [sic] that tunnel to get a connecting service from New Street. We’re all coming together to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

RTM magazine, James Bovill (of Midlands Connect) interviews Malcolm Holmes and Maria Machancoses (of Midlands Connect), 22 Jan 2019

Written by beleben

March 4, 2019 at 10:17 am

Posted in Birmingham, HS2

Andy and another reprehensible stunt

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Not a week seems to go by without one downside or another of the HS2 project being exposed or highlighted in the national media. In response, the special interests behind the ill-starred project have resorted to increasingly ineffectual stunts to shore up support (among themselves). A sort of collective ‘self-help’ exercise in cognitive dissonance suppression.

twitter, @railindustry, 'So much support for @HS2 Ltd'

The most recent stunt, on the morning of 25 February, saw West Midlands mayor Andy Street and HS2 minister Nusrat Ul-Ghani crawling around on their hands and knees in Birmingham’s Victoria Square, arranging a giant ‘jigsaw’ of some absurd map or other, for the cameras.

But whose cameras? The lacklustre jape received not a moment’s coverage on BBC Midlands and Central ITV’s main evening news shows.

Andy and Nus crawling around, 25 Feb 2019 (from video by @neilelkes of WMCA)

This bizarre photo-opp, set up by the High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Group (HSRILG) with the participation of the Railway Industry Association, seems to have been mainly for the lenses of the HS2 blob, rather than for the actual press or public. HSRILG’s ‘official photographer’ had to get up at 4.45am to come down from Yorkshire to record it. Though, ‘with HS2 in full operation, he need only have got up at 5.45am instead’.

twitter, @RailLeaders, jigsaw photo opp in Birmingham on 25 Feb 2019

Back in the real world, one of the many inconvenient truths of HS2 is that the much vaunted ‘released rail capacity benefits’ for Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester, would be pretty much zero. Why not put that on a jigsaw?

HS2 pretty much zero released capacity jigsaw

Written by beleben

February 25, 2019 at 9:37 pm

Posted in Birmingham, HS2