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Archive for the ‘Birmingham’ Category

Spending twenty seven million pounds on a tram stop

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twitter @RailLeaders, £27.5 million of WMCA (public) money to be spent on a tram stop

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Written by beleben

September 19, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Where are the bin women?

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Birmingham’s bin dispute, about the long-overdue modernisation of the refuse collection service, is costing “£40,000 a day”, the Birmingham Mail reported.

bin-men-on-picket-in-lifford-lane

oneperson-comment-birmingham-bin-dispute-14aug2017

Why bin men should receive much more favourable pay and conditions at the expense of other staff, and why the Birmingham refuse collection continues to be an almost(?) wholly male occupation, has never been explained.

But misogynistic labour relations practices have a long history in the municipality, and have cost hundreds of millions of pounds.

'Birmingham council underpaid women for decades',
Anne Perkins, The Guardian

Written by beleben

August 15, 2017 at 10:40 am

Posted in Birmingham, Bizarre

Not playing catch-up

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Although Birmingham was once one of the biggest producers of bikes in the world, it is now cycle-unfriendly London mayor Sadiq Khan promised to make the capital a byword for cycling, but has achieved depressingly little in his year-and-a-bit in office (wrote Peter Walker).

[Peter Walker, Bike blog, The Guardian, 30 July 2017]

And while London has the inbuilt advantage in tempting people on to two wheels by having a central congestion charge for cars and very slow roads, others may catch up.

Last week saw Andrew Gilligan, who achieved much as [Boris] Johnson’s cycling tsar, charged by the National Infrastructure Commission with boosting cycling in Oxford, Cambridge and Milton Keynes.

More directly relevant to London was the news that the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has appointed Chris Boardman as his cycling and walking commissioner.

On the first-hand evidence available, one city not playing ‘catch up’ is Birmingham. Its cycling infrastructure is awful, and nobody in a position of power seems to be much bothered about making the city cycle-friendly.

Written by beleben

August 2, 2017 at 11:33 am

Adonis released capacity delusion

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HS2 released capacity “transforms commuter services into Euston, Birmingham, Manchester & Leeds, and [offers] more capacity for railfreight”, according to HS2 ‘grandaddy’ Andrew Adonis.

twitter, @Andrew_Adonis, 'Released capacity transforms commuter services into Euston, Birmingham, Manchester & Leeds, and more capacity for railfreight'

As the Beleben blog has pointed out on several occasions, HS2 ‘released capacity’ claims are mostly bunkum.

‘Multimodal’ railfreight from the southern West Coast Main Line generally ends taking – not ‘releasing’ – capacity on London Overground tracks like the North London Line.

HS2 would reduce the number of classic intercity trains between Birmingham New Street and Euston from three per hour, to two. The idea that this would ‘transform’ commuter capacity between Birmingham and Coventry, is laughable.

If there really were a need to ‘transform’ commuter capacity between Birmingham and Coventry, this could be done just by lengthening platforms to take 12-car (instead of the current 4-car) trains.

Spot the 'transformative' released capacity

Written by beleben

July 17, 2017 at 11:53 am

What are the costs of Midland Metro expansion?

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At its April 2017 meeting, the board of the West Midlands Combined Authority approved a public consultation on its draft 2026 ‘Delivery Plan for Transport’ running until Friday 9 June 2017.

The consultation invites comments on TfWM’s proposals for spending hundreds of millions of pounds on schemes such as expanding light rail, and very light rail. But what it does not offer are any details on the economic, financial, and environmental effects of the proposals.

In fact, TfWM is refusing to release these details.

TfWM, planned Midland Metro and Very Light Rail lines (April 2017)

TfWM, planned Midland Metro and Very Light Rail lines (April 2017)

On 26 May 2016 BBC News reported that Birmingham's Midland Metro tramway had never made a profit in the 17 years since the line opened

On 26 May 2016 BBC News reported that Birmingham’s existing Midland Metro tramway had never made a profit in the 17 years since it opened.

[BBC, 2016-05-26]

National Express, which runs the Midland Metro, has lost about £34m on the route since 1999.

Actually, the amount National Express has lost on Midland Metro is not clear, because the tramway north of Snow Hill was built and originally operated by a consortium known as Altram, under a 23-year design – build – operate – maintain concession.

‘Profits’ were to have been shared between the consortium members Ansaldo, Laing, and Travel West Midlands (NX), but A and L walked not long after the tramway opened in 1999. It soon became clear that the whole system had been shoddily built and the ridership forecasts were completely wrong. NX threatened to hand back the keys if Centro (now TfWM) did not help it out, but the details of what agreement was struck have never been made public.

On 22 March 2017, the West Midlands Combined Authority announced that it would take ‘direct control’ of the Midland Metro tram service when the National Express concession finishes in October 2018. This means that future losses would have to be met from public funds. Obviously, every pound spent paying for Midland Metro losses is a pound not spent on libraries, social services, or fixing potholes.

[WMCA]

The move will enable TfWM, which is the transport arm of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), to plough millions of pounds of future profits back into expanding the network.

Existing National Express staff will be transferred over to a new subsidiary company – Midland Metro Ltd – which will be wholly owned by the WMCA.

The combined authority is set to start a number of extensions which will see the network triple in size over the next decade, with passenger numbers forecast to increase from around 6.5 million at present to more than 30 million.

That is expected to generate profits of around £50 million over the first 11 years which the WMCA will be able to channel back into the network for the benefit of passengers and the local economy.

[Councillor] Roger Lawrence, WMCA lead for transport, said: “Metro is a fundamental part of our future plans not only for transport but for the West Midlands economy as a whole.

“It is a proven catalyst for economic growth and is critical to best connect and feed into HS2 so we can reap the maximum economic benefits possible from the high speed rail line.

“The move will enable TfWM, which is the transport arm of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), to plough millions of pounds of future profits back into expanding the network.”

Given that the existing Metro has lost tens of millions of pounds, and only carries a fraction of the passenger volume originally forecast, what evidence is there to support TfWM claims that it is a ‘catalyst for economic growth‘, and would make profits in the future?

WMCA news story about taking direct control of Midland Metro

WMCA news story about taking direct control of Midland Metro

[TfWM response to FoI request, April 2017]

Q1. Requested data: the year-by-year cost and income forecasts for the Metro network in the future.

Answer: An assessment of the commercial model using benchmark data showing revenue and costs generated from the Metro operations has been carried out, to gain an initial indication of the financial performance of Metro. This information held is commercially confidential.


Q2. Requested data: the reports and analyses showing Metro has been a proven catalyst for economic growth (compared to other corridors not served by Metro).

Answer: This matter is addressed in extension Business cases which will be available on our website as and when they are approved.


Q3. Requested data: what information is held on the outsourcing process and the decision (e.g. who told the WMCA board that if it decided to continue outsourcing tram services it would cost taxpayers several million pounds).

Answer: The information held is commercially confidential and most of the information obtained was benchmarking data on other light rail schemes.


Q4. Requested data: information on the difficulty of defining the scope of services required from the operator.

Answer: The scope of services required will change as the Tram network develops and forecasting requirements at this stage is therefore difficult to predict. This approach provides the opportunity for WMCA to amend the fares which will impact the revenue growth and the business model and to work flexibly with the Midland Metro Alliance to adjust operational service requirements to match the emerging investment programme delivery, without being constrained by a fixed contract specification and performance regime.



Q5. Requested data: the assessment of the risks and advantages of bringing operations in house.

Answer: The information held is commercially confidential and most of the information obtained was benchmarking data on other light rail schemes.

Written by beleben

April 28, 2017 at 11:14 am

Posted in Birmingham, Centro, Politics

Is Midland Metro ‘a proven catalyst for economic growth’?

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Midland Metro carries far fewer passengers than Centro forecast Transport for West Midlands (formerly Centro) is to take over operation of the Midland Metro tramway from October 2018, ‘to plough millions of pounds of future profits back into expanding the network’.

[TfWM to take direct control of Midland Metro services, TfWM, Wednesday 22 March 2017]

Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is to take over the day-to-day running of its Midland Metro trams from October 2018 when the current concession, held by National Express, finishes. The move will enable TfWM, which is the transport arm of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), to plough millions of pounds of future profits back into expanding the network.

Existing National Express staff will be transferred over to a new subsidiary company – Midland Metro Ltd – which will be wholly owned by the WMCA.

The combined authority is set to start a number of extensions which will see the network triple in size over the next decade, with passenger numbers forecast to increase from around 6.5 million at present to more than 30 million. That is expected to generate profits of around £50 million over the first 11 years which the WMCA will be able to channel back into the network for the benefit of passengers and the local economy.

Cllr Roger Lawrence, WMCA lead for transport, said: “Metro is a fundamental part of our future plans not only for transport but for the West Midlands economy as a whole. “It is a proven catalyst for economic growth and is critical to best connect and feed into HS2 so we can reap the maximum economic benefits possible from the high speed rail line. “That’s why Metro is embarking on an unprecedented period of expansion and we believe bringing services in house will provide the extra flexibility and adaptability needed to meet this exciting new chapter while generating millions of pounds for the benefit of passengers and taxpayers. “I’d like to thank all National Express staff for operating the Midland Metro for the last 18 years. Through their hard work and dedication, tram passenger numbers have grown significantly and they have been nationally recognised for the high level of customer service they provide.”

Cllr Lawrence said the move and the transfer of staff over from National Express would ensure existing skills and expertise were retained helping to ensure the Metro’s 99 per cent reliability and its other strengths were taken forward. Bringing operations ‘in house’ would also enable TfWM to introduce new lines, trams, technology and operational practices safely, efficiently and with best value to the public purse, he said. In taking the decision, the WMCA board was told that if it decided to continue outsourcing tram services from October next year then the tendering process alone to appoint a private operator would cost taxpayers several million pounds.

Laura Shoaf, managing director of TfWM, said: “The end of the existing concession provides us with an ideal opportunity to change the way we operate services to better meet the needs of passengers, the wider community and ultimately the economy. “If we didn’t do this and instead outsourced operations to a private company at a time of such major expansion then it would be extremely difficult to accurately define the scope of services required from the operator. “That would lead to continuous and expensive commercial negotiations to agree the price for the delivery of those network changes. “So while bringing operations in house is not without risk we believe those risks are far outweighed by the advantages and that ultimately the move is good for passengers, good for taxpayers and good for the future prosperity of the West Midlands.”

Colin Saward, general manager of National Express Midlands Metro, added: “It’s disappointing we won’t get the chance to run the tram service when our current contract is up next year. But we appreciate TfWM’s reasons for taking services back in house when the network is about to change so much. “We will continue to work closely with TfWM to ensure a safe handover that is as smooth as possible for passengers and staff.”

The planned expansion of the Midland Metro network includes an extension of the route from New Street Station to Centenary Square, with services expected to start running in 2019. At its meeting last Friday (March 17) the WMCA board authorised TfWM and the Midland Metro Alliance to submit a Transport and Works Act Order application for the Centenary Square line to go further along Broad Street, past Five Ways and on to Edgbaston by 2021 and confirmed funding of £59 million towards the cost of the extension.

A Transport and Works Act Order has also been submitted for an extension through Digbeth in Birmingham, running from Bull Street via Albert Street and on to the forthcoming HS2 high speed rail station at Curzon Street. From there it would go along New Canal Street and Meriden Street into High Street Deritend, stopping at Digbeth Coach Station and the Custard Factory. It is anticipated the line could be open by 2023. In Wolverhampton work is set to start on an extension through the city centre as part of the £51.8 million Wolverhampton Interchange project. The route will take trams along Pipers Row, stopping directly outside the bus station before continuing on to the railway station which is also being redeveloped as part of the project. The line is expected to open in 2019.

Meanwhile a business case is also being prepared to extend the Metro from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill. Forthcoming extensions of the tram network will be built by the Midland Metro Alliance, a new partnership set up by WMCA. The Alliance consists of the WMCA, rail construction specialists Colas Rail and a consortium of design experts from Egis, Tony Gee and Pell Frischmann.

The Midland Metro currently runs from Wolverhampton St Georges to New Street Station via Bilston, Wednesbury, West Bromwich, the Jewellery Quarter and Snow Hill Station.

Written by beleben

March 23, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Posted in Birmingham, Centro, Politics

Who wood believe them?

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About four years ago, as part of the Midland Metro ‘Birmingham city centre extension’ to Stephenson Street, the council had all the trees cut down in Upper Bull Street, Corporation Street, and Stephenson Place. This morning (25 February 2017), as part of the advance works for a further extension of the tramway and ‘redevelopment’ of Centenary Square, contractors cut down one of the oldest remaining trees in the city centre.

[Birmingham council and Transport for the West Midlands (Centro) statement]

“We have looked long and hard at all the options to retain this particular tree but because the Metro extension and the Centenary Square development, with its in-built anti-terror measures, have been designed as one integrated scheme it has sadly not been possible.”

But who would believe them?

Everything points to TfWM and the council just wanting rid of the tree. There was, and is, plenty of room to run their boondoggle tramway between where the tree stood, and the Municipal Bank. And to claim that the destruction was necessary for ‘anti-terror’ purposes, is absurd.

The tree was surrounded by metal screens, presumably to limit people's view of what was going on

View of the tree destruction compound from above

Tree destruction in progress

A worker cutting down the branches

The tree succumbs to the chainsaw

The tree is attacked by a workman

A section of the doomed tree is lowered to the ground

Cutting down the trunk

The felled trunk of the tree

The  remains of the tree were loaded onto a lorry

Written by beleben

February 25, 2017 at 5:42 pm