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Most transparent shortcomings

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According to West Midlands mayor Andy Street’s “Renewal Plan“, he aims, or aimed, to be the ‘most transparent mayor’ in Britain.


But at the time of writing, the “Mayor’s Expenses” page on the website of the West Midlands Combined Authority gives no information about mayoral expenditure. Nor does there seem to be any diary of Andy’s past or future meetings, etc, on the site.

WMCA, Mayor Andy Street's expenses page, at 16 Oct 2018

Unfortunately, these transparency shortcomings extend well beyond the mayor’s office, to the Combined Authority itself.


Written by beleben

October 19, 2018 at 11:08 am

Eggseptionally bad value

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HS2 and NCHSR, empty hype and mini eggs

Written by beleben

October 5, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Andy and the reprehensible stunt

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On Sunday 30 September, for the second time in less than a week, West Midlands mayor Andy Street and transport secretary Chris Grayling were kitted up in hi-vis and hard hats for a Birmingham photo opp.

Andy Street and Chris Grayling at Curzon Street | (@andy4wm), 30 Sep 2018

This time, it was part of an event to mark the ‘start of construction’ of High Speed Two, at Curzon Street, opposite Millennium Point.

Reprehensible stunt at Curzon Street, 2018-09-30 | BBC Midlands Today

However, there was no actual HS2 ‘construction’ going on, nor is there planned to be, this year. The construction workers and mechanical digger, pointlessly pushing sand around behind Andy and Chris, were, it seems, just props in a stunt for the Conservative party conference.

@andrewbooton, twitter, HS2 charade at Curzon Street

Written by beleben

October 1, 2018 at 8:49 am

Posted in Birmingham, Politics

Milking the Moseley

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twitter @TransportforWM, Chris Grayling photo-opp in Moseley, 26 Sep 2018

On 26 September, transport secretary Chris Grayling paid another visit to Moseley, Birmingham, for more ‘Camp Hill railway’ photo-opps with local bigwigs. The pretext was the ‘unveiling of the designs’ for stations at Moseley, Kings Heath, and Hazelwell (but not Balsall Heath).

According to the TfWM press release, the detailed planning for the stations is yet to take place and the ‘initial’ service will be just two trains per hour in each direction. But in “the longer term, more frequent services may be possible as part of the Midlands Rail Hub project which will build the Camp Hill Chords to link the line to Moor Street Station and allow more trains into Birmingham City Centre”.

TfWM news, designs unveiled for three new rail stations in Birmingham, 26 Sep 2018

Without frequent trains, the decongestion and air quality benefits of Camp Hill local services would be negligible. But as previously mentioned on the Beleben blog, building the chords into Moor Street, in the complicated form supported by TfWM, is a highly unlikely proposition, for several different reasons.

Building a separate Highgate to Moor Street chord would be more technically plausible, but at present, even the chances of that happening are slim.

Written by beleben

September 27, 2018 at 10:03 am

A light on disembarkations

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The rail utilisation strategies published by the Strategic Rail Authority contained information of a kind not replicated in later documents created by Network Rail. For instance, the 2005 West Midlands strategy included a breakdown of passenger arrivals at Birmingham New Street, by time of day.

Because of the existence of Silverlink, it was possible to see the relative (un)importance of both intercity and regional West Coast Main Line traffic at Birmingham New Street.

Strategic Rail Authority, 2005, alighting at Birmingham New Street by time band

Most of the passenger volume was, and is, non-WCML and / or short distance. No doubt total volume has increased since the mid-noughties, but the proportions are probably much the same.

Written by beleben

August 9, 2018 at 9:43 am

Opportunity costs of HS2 include more road traffic casualties

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The Times has ‘backed John Armitt’s call for £43 billion for local transport made in the National Infrastructure Review to make the most of HS2’.

twitter, @sjeffrey, 'The Times has 'backed John Armitt's call for £43 billion for local transport made in the National Infrastructure Review to make the most of HS2'

But is ‘a boost for major cities totalling £43 billion’, the same thing as a ‘call for £43 billion for local transport’?

[National Infrastructure Commission]

The National Infrastructure Assessment’s spending plans include funding for projects including Crossrail 2 in London, and Northern Powerhouse Rail linking the major Northern cities, and recommends a boost in funding for major cities totalling £43 billion to 2040, with cities given stable five-year budgets, starting in 2021.

The ‘facts’ and arguments put forward in the Times leader bear little relation to reality. Spending money on bum schemes like the Rotherham tram train, and £872 million airport Midland Metro, makes no sense whatsoever.

Rotherham tram-train, Parkgate

The argument that spending billions of pounds on HS2, and links to it, would encourage a shift from road to ‘a safer form of transport’, is deluded. Building and operating HS2 is bound to result in increased road fatalities, compared to an alternative scenario in which more money was spent directly on making roads safer.

HS2 modal shift as estimated in October 2013

Road travel is generally far more dangerous than rail travel, but the benefit-cost of reducing casualties on the road network by direct improvement is vastly superior to spending the same money on further increasing rail safety, or facilitating a tiny number of motorists to switch to HS2.

Written by beleben

August 7, 2018 at 12:57 pm

Not-quite-so-dirty air zone

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According to Birmingham city council, a ‘Clean Air Zone’ is not actually an area where air would be ‘clean’. Rather, it is an area where “targeted action is taken to improve air quality”. So, a more honest name might be “Not-quite-so-dirty air zone”, or somesuch.

[Birmingham council]

Clean Air Zones aim to reduce all types of air pollution, including nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, so that people breathe in less of all these pollutants.

Between 4 July and 17 August [2018], Birmingham will be consulting on a Clean Air Zone for the city centre. This would mean that the most polluting vehicles would have to pay a charge to enter the zone.

Birmingham proposed 'Clean Air Zone'

Presumably, ‘the most polluting vehicles entering the zone’ would be the two-stroke EMD Class 66 freight locomotives. So far as can be ascertained, under current plans, all diesel trains would pay £0.00 to enter the zone.

The CAZ proposals appear to be riddled with such absurdities. National Express West Midlands must be Birmingham’s largest single producer of transport pollution, but the council intends to give them a generous ‘quantity discount’. Diesel buses clocking up miles and miles, going in and out of the CAZ all day, would pay just ‘£50 to £100‘ each.

Written by beleben

August 6, 2018 at 7:12 pm

Posted in Birmingham