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Andy’s fake cycle network ‘launched’ in Coventry

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On 25 June, The Guardian published an article about the inadequacies of cycling provision in the West Midlands, and metro mayor Andy Street’s lacklustre performance and policies.

[What the West Midlands is getting right, and wrong, for cycling | The region has made progress in getting people on to bikes, but where’s the ambition? | Laura Laker | The Guardian | Thu 25 Jun 2020]

[…] The West Midlands is proud of its industrial heritage, but unlit, isolated towpaths are no replacement for a cycle network that safely takes people places they want to be.

Happily, another part of the region’s heritage is the modern bicycle, invented on Street’s patch by JK Starley in Coventry in 1884, kickstarting an era of bike manufacturing in the region.

Street, the former boss of John Lewis, was elected the region’s Conservative mayor in May 2017. Improvement of the region’s canal network aside, just four miles of protected on-road cycle routes have been built by Birmingham since, and those were funded via the city council rather than Street’s combined authority.

[…] In the long term, West Midlands’ 200km region-wide “route network plan” lacks the scope, the cohesive branding or urgency of Street’s colleagues’ plans in Manchester – the 1,800-mile £1.5bn Bee network; Sheffield – 620 miles of walking and cycling routes; and Leicester, which is currently adding a mile a week to its active travel network.

Street recently told attendees at an online conference: “In a region like this, even if we do well, you will only get about 5% of people cycling.” An academic analysis, however, estimates that a Dutch-style cycle network would produce at least double that in the region’s most rural areas, and up to 29% in Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Street’s own figures show 41% of trips made by car in the West Midlands are under two miles, distances easily cycled. […]

It would appear that Mr Street read the Guardian story, took note of the point about the lack of ‘cohesive branding’, and decided to brand the network ‘Starley’ after the name was mentioned in the article.

On 11 August, Mr Street launched this ‘Starley network’ at a poorly attended photo opp outside Coventry Transport Museum.

TfWM, 'New West Midlands cycling network unveiled', Tuesday 11 August 2020'

The problem, of course, is that there isn’t an actual cycle ‘network’, nor is there any sign of Mr Street having any plans to create one.

TfWM, 'Starley Cycle Network Map'

Written by beleben

August 11, 2020 at 8:58 pm

Andy Street’s ‘2040 metro and rail plan’

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Andy Street at Aldridge transport museum (picture from @Andy4WM twitter)

On 4 February, West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street launched his ‘2040 plan for metro and rail in the West Midlands’ at Aldridge Transport Museum, before an audience which appeared to largely consist of museum staff and volunteers (?).

twitter, @andy4wm, 'Today I unveiled my 20 year plan to transform our metro and rail networks into a world-class comprehensive tube-style system serving our entire region. This plan is already underway with: Major expansion of the Metro in Birmingham and the Black Country.'

The event, part of Mr Street’s campaign for re-election, was not mentioned on that evening’s 6.30 pm BBC tv Midlands Today, but was briefly featured about halfway through ITV’s 6 pm Central News.

Andy4WM's metro and rail plan map 2040

The ‘£15 billion plan’ which includes new Metro (tram) lines and rail stations, and driverless pods and ‘very light’ rail, would be funded from central government, property developers, and ‘borrowing against future income from ticket sales’.

twitter, @andy4wm, 'Thank you for the encouragement and support for my 20 year metro and rail plan. We've started work on this job together and the foundations are literally being laid around the region, with the diggers in the ground. There's a long way to go but we are underway!'

An obvious difficulty with the idea of ‘borrowing against future income from ticket sales’ is that most of the additional infrastructure proposed by Mr Street would carry few passengers, generate very little income, and have to be subsidised from public funds.

There must be also be some questions about the disruption which would follow from implementing Mr Street’s scheme. If the HS2 railway is approved, as news reports suggest, there would be extensive transport disruption in central and east Birmingham over the next decade. Building Mr Street’s tram lines would in effect deepen and spread this disruption, across the wider area, for the next twenty years.



Written by beleben

February 5, 2020 at 12:55 pm

Attached and unidentified

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On 2 October, Midlands Connect published a letter from Maria Machancoses to the Oakervee ‘independent’ review of HS2.

The letter mentions ‘attached summary reports and business cases for projects and initiatives’, but these are not enumerated, and it is unclear how many of them have been published.

Midlands Connect, HS2 Oakervee review submission letter online, page 01

Midlands Connect, HS2 Oakervee review submission letter online, page 02

Midlands Connect, HS2 Oakervee review submission letter online, page 03

Midlands Connect, HS2 Oakervee review submission letter online, page 04

Midlands Connect, HS2 Oakervee review submission letter online, page 05

Midlands Connect, HS2 Oakervee review submission letter online, page 06

Midlands Connect, HS2 Oakervee review submission letter online, page 07

Midlands Connect, HS2 Oakervee review submission letter online, page 08

Midlands Connect, HS2 Oakervee review submission letter online, page 09

Midlands Connect, HS2 Oakervee review submission letter online, page 10

Midlands Connect, HS2 Oakervee review submission letter online, page 11

Written by beleben

October 3, 2019 at 11:38 am

Majuscular pseudo veracity revelation

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'Midlands Connect''Pravda'The true benefits of HS2 have been REVEALED for the first time today (26 Sep 2019), according to Midlands Connect.

Midlands Connect, 'hs2 released capacity research' news release (extract), 26 Sep 2019

[Midlands Connect, Thursday 26 September 2019 ]

True benefits of HS2 REVEALED for the first time; extra capacity would mean improved rail services for 73 stations on existing network

Revealed for the first time, 73 stations on the existing rail network stand to benefit from improved passenger services as a direct result of the capacity released by HS2, including 54 stations with no direct HS2 services;

Evidence submitted to the Oakervee HS2 Review by Midlands Connect;
High speed line will take long-distance rail journeys off the existing network, providing capacity for new routes, as well as faster and more frequent local and inter-regional services;
HS2 will create space for 576,000 extra seats per day on the high speed network, reducing overcrowding on existing lines;
Released capacity essential to deliver major regional transport plans Midlands Engine Rail and Northern Powerhouse Rail;
HS2 frees up space for 144 extra freight trains per day, enough to transport over 2.5million more lorries’ worth of cargo on our railways each year.

HS2 will free up enough space on the existing railway network to improve rail services for 73 stations across the country, technical analysis by Sub-national Transport Body Midlands Connect has revealed for the first time.

The extra capacity provided by the new high speed line will create space on the existing network to introduce faster and more frequent services, reduce crowding and introduce new services between destinations that do no currently have a direct rail link.

Of the 73 locations that could benefit from HS2’s released capacity, 54 are stations not served by HS2 trains.

By moving long-distance traffic from our current rail infrastructure onto the new high speed line, HS2 will create the extra room needed to improve local and inter-regional services.

Meanwhile HS2 trains will be able to carry 576,000 people per day, reducing overcrowding on the existing network.

These benefits will be felt in dozens of villages, towns and cities across the country, including Coventry, Shrewsbury, Leicester, Leamington Spa, Nottingham, Newark, Newcastle and Macclesfield.

HS2’s capacity-releasing effects on the conventional network mean that Coventry will benefit from; new direct connections to and from Derby, Sheffield, York and Newcastle; more frequent services to and from Shrewsbury, Telford, Leamington Spa and along the Coventry-Birmingham commuter corridor; as well as enjoying less crowded trains on existing services to and from London.

Benefits will also spread to stations such as Lincoln, where additional capacity can be deployed to provide more frequent connections to and from Newark, Grantham, Stevenage and London. Passengers travelling to and from Milton Keynes via London, Manchester and the West Midlands will benefit from reduced crowding – these routes regularly offer standing room only, despite commuter passes costing upwards of £5,000 per year.

The increased capacity HS2 frees up on the traditional rail network also has massive implications for the rail freight industry. Space will be created for 144 extra freight trains per day, which could carry over 2.5 million lorries’ worth of cargo each year. Transporting freight by rail rather than on our roads produces 76 per cent less CO2[1].

The benefits of HS2 released capacity have been calculated using the projections outlined in local rail strategies, existing rail models and the Midlands Connect technical programme. It is operationally possible to achieve every single one of the benefits outlined in the analysis through changes to timetabling and services post-HS2.

Over the past twelve years, the number of journeys undertaken by train in the UK has more than doubled[2]. Government-sponsored studies suggest alternative upgrades on existing lines such as the West Coast Main Line would require 14 years’ worth of disruptive weekend closures[3], and would prove hugely expensive due to the proximity of existing settlements.

HS2 underpins transformational regional rail plans Midlands Engine Rail and Northern Powerhouse Rail, both of which require the released capacity and new infrastructure it provides. Neither would be wholly technically or financially feasible should HS2 be cancelled.

Sir John Peace, chair of Midlands Connect and Midlands Engine said:

“The benefits of HS2 will be felt by millions of people across the UK, including passengers that never set foot on a high speed train. Regional and local rail services are in desperate need of improvement and it’s time we face facts, without the space and flexibility created by HS2, the transformational change needed is not possible.

“It is the capacity released by the line – not just its speed – that will give the whole network a desperately needed overhaul. We haven’t built a new inter-city railway north of London in a century – piecemeal interventions will do no more than paper over the cracks of an overloaded, tired network. Left unchanged, these deficiencies will stifle growth and prosperity for decades to come. Our message to Government is clear; commit to HS2, commit to the regions you serve and give us a transport network fit for the future.”

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership commented:

“HS2 is not just about speed or getting to London more quickly, it is about bringing the Northern Powerhouse closer to the great cities of the Midlands. It will create more capacity for local services, the same way Northern Powerhouse Rail does for freight and local passengers across the Pennines.

“Connecting Britain will be a major factor in rebalancing the economy – new lines both to the north west from Birmingham and up the eastern side of the UK, will expand labour markets, grow jobs, helping the North and Midlands to become as prosperous and successful as London. New direct links from a city like Coventry to Sheffield, York and Newcastle, by upgrades to the existing network, demonstrate that even those who don’t use an HS2 service will still see the benefits.”

Tom Thackray, CBI Director of Infrastructure, said:

“The business message on HS2 is clear-cut – back it, build it, benefit from it. The first phase of HS2 has already led to record levels of investment in the West Midlands and created thousands of jobs.

“We firmly believe committing to HS2 in full will spur further investment, boost productivity and in turn bring huge benefits to the whole country.”

Lindsay Durham, head of rail strategy at Freightliner added:

“Our biggest challenge is success and that means trying to get more capacity to move more trains. Businesses are asking us all the time to move more of their materials by train, they want to reduce their carbon footprint, and actually moving freight by rail uses 76% less carbon compared with the equivalent road movement.”


[1] DfT Rail Freight Strategy: September 2016.



twitter, David Blackadder-Weinstein (@weinsteinlinder), '#HS2releasedcapacity to all those saying “spend the money on the existing network” #HS2 is an upgrade of the existing network! More frequent, reliable trains to 73 stations [|] 144 more freight trains a day [|] Network cheaper to maintain due to fewer fast heavy trains [|]  #HS2alltheway'

Written by beleben

September 26, 2019 at 10:54 am

Posted in Birmingham, Bizarre, HS2

Blackadding a step-change in capacity between Reading and Birmingham

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By not taking long distance rinky-dink trains off the existing railway between Reading and Birmingham, HS2 would release capacity between Reading and Birmingham, for more passengers. Apparently.

twitter, @weinsteinlinder, 'Late morning on a Tuesday from Reading to Brum & Manc. No cancellations, no delays. But no spare seats! Reading has just been upgraded to increase capacity.  If only we had a plan to build a new railway that could create a step change in national rail capacity? #HS2alltheway #HS2'

Written by beleben

September 18, 2019 at 9:08 am

Posted in Birmingham, HS2

Seniority complex

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On 22 August a frail-looking Doug Oakervee, chairman of the ‘independent’ HS2 review, was taken to Birmingham to hear from local bigwigs and special interests. ITV Central News reporter Mark Gough attempted to interview him outside UCE, but Mr Oakervee was ushered away by a ‘minder’. (Hopefully a minder, that is.)

Reporter Mark Gough, 'Independent' HS2 reviewer Doug Oakervee and 'minder' outside Birmingham UCE (ITV Central News, 22 Aug 2019)

Mr Oakervee was apparently pushed out as chairman of HS2 Ltd a few years ago, because he was considered no longer to be up to the job. Heaven knows what inspired Boris Johnson to install him as chairman of this ‘review’, and all that that entails (like having to listen to Maria Machancoses, head of Midlands Connect).

Maria Machancoses (ITV Central News, 22 Aug 2019)

Written by beleben

August 23, 2019 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Birmingham, Bizarre, HS2

Tramway to Curzon HS2 ‘delayed four years’ by Curzon HS2

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The “£137 million” extension of the West Midlands Metro tramway to the proposed Curzon HS2 station and Birmingham ‘Eastside’ may not be operational until 2026, the BBC “understands“.

Laura Shoaf of TfWM on BBC Midlands Today, 14 Aug 2019

TfWM chief Laura Shoaf regrets a possible four-year delay in delivery of this boondoggle

‘Initially earmarked for a 2022 opening’, the extension might now have to be ‘built in two halves and connected in the middle once HS2 has built its station’.

Midland Metro Alliance, Metro routes

West Midlands Metro tramway, airport route (2003 version)

This potheaded scheme forms part of Transport for West Midlands’ bizarre plan to build a tramway from central Birmingham to Elmdon airport and the HS2 ‘interchange’ at Middle Beetroot Bickenhill, at a cost probably exceeding £1,000 million.

Borat, thumbs up

Written by beleben

August 15, 2019 at 6:54 am

Taking ownership of BRCW

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The Beleben blog’s claim that West Coast rail capacity out of London Euston could be doubled by using land earmarked for HS2 was ‘challenged’ by the twitter troll ‘@BRCWCo’ on 7 August.

This person alleged it was ‘the standard stop HS2 scam of double counting’ [?], ‘using 12 coach IEPs on commuter services’ [?], and ‘adding one coach to the current Pendolino’ [?].

@brcwco on twitter, bizarre interaction, 07 Aug 2019

At this point, it might be worth recalling that

  1. the HS2 land at Euston is intended to provide ‘extralong’ platforms for HS2 trains
  2. this land could be used to facilitate extralong platforms for longer West Coast trains, and reorganisation of existing platforms, instead
  3. the fast lines out of Euston are capable of supporting twelve intercity trains per hour, in and out
  4. with signalling renewal, these lines ought to be able to support more than twelve long-distance trains per hour.


  1. if there were twelve intercity departures in an hour, operated by 12-car IEP trains (for example), the total capacity would be in the region of 10,800 seats (i.e. 12 * 900)
  2. 10,800 is roughly double the figure for Euston’s ‘year 2014’ hourly long-distance capacity, as reported by the Department for Transport. (As previously discussed on the Beleben blog.)


'Grey fail'This piece of trolldom foundered on the usual lack of knowledge (for example, believing a 12-car IEP would only have a ‘9% increase in capacity’ over an eleven-car 589-seat Pendolino), combined with an abject failure to read what had actually been written.

Written by beleben

August 8, 2019 at 8:08 am

Posted in Birmingham, Bizarre, HS2

Midlanders mostly unenthused by HS2

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Jake Gyllenhaal shaking head (gif)A YouGov survey for ITV News Central has found that just 26 per cent of Midlanders are ‘supportive’ of HS2, and just 8 per cent describe themselves as ‘strong supporters’.

  • A majority in the region either oppose the scheme, or have no strong opinion.
  • 34% don’t believe phase one of HS2 (Euston to Birmingham and Armitage) will be completed, 33% think it will happen, and the rest (34%) don’t know.
  • The survey ‘involved 1,119 adults in the ITV News Central region who were quizzed between July 26 and 31, 2019’.

Written by beleben

August 1, 2019 at 8:05 am

Completer says no

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'Accurate information about HS2 is bad, m'kay?'

Allan Cook, the chairman of HS2 Ltd, has written to Bernadette Kelly, permanent secretary at the Department for Transport, to warn that the HS2 rail project cannot be completed for the official £56bn budget, the Financial Times reported. (Whether the missive also included information on what bears do in the woods, was not immediately clear.)

[HS2 cost overrun stretches to £30bn, review shows, Gill Plimmer and Jim Pickard, FT, 19 Jul 2019][…]

[One] person close to the project said the costs had increased because of a “combination of poor ground conditions found during the surveying work, the costs of engineering a railway to a very high specification, and the further additional costs of it being designed to run at even higher speeds than other comparable rail projects”.

Long ago, the Beleben blog pointed out that if a new north – south line were needed (it isn’t, at the moment), the lowest-cost and lowest-risk option would be to reactivate the largely-intact Great Central alignment between Ashendon, Rugby, and (south of) Leicester.

Concept: Transfer Manchester -- London intercity trains from the West Coast route to a reactivated Great Central via a connection near Brinklow

[Nusrat Ghani, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport), 10 July 2019]

“I stand here to state confidently that the [HS2] budget is £55.7 billion and that the timetable is 2026 and 2033.”

HS2 technical director Andrew McNaughton said all cost estimates for HS2 were 'based on a worst credible case'  (Railnews, 30 October 2013)

HS2 technical director Andrew McNaughton said all cost estimates for HS2 were ‘based on a worst credible case’  (Railnews, 30 October 2013)


Written by beleben

July 20, 2019 at 8:58 am

Posted in Birmingham, HS2, London, Politics