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Corporation Street hammer horror

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On 10 August BBC Midlands Today finally caught up with Birmingham’s Corporation Street Metro “maintenance” horror show, with reporter Ben Sidwell speaking to, inter alios, the appropriately named Peter Cushing of the Midland Metro Alliance.

Regular readers of the Beleben blog might recall that when the Metro tracks were originally being put in, Midlands Today offered up another case of nominative determinism when they interviewed John Daft, then of Balfour Beatty.

Mr Sidwell’s report claimed that nearly a quarter of the Birmingham City Centre Extension was being dug up and replaced at a cost of £5 million (the Beleben blog would suggest that it is going to be a lot more than a quarter, and a lot more than £5 million).

Written by beleben

August 11, 2021 at 10:52 am

Track lies matter

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From Monday 26 July until October 2021, West Midlands Metro trams will operate between Wolverhampton St George’s and Birmingham Upper Bull Street only.

MMA, proposed Eastside extension map

This, according to the operator’s website, is to allow tie-in of “the existing track to the Birmingham Eastside Extension which will connect Metro services with Digbeth and the new HS2 station at Curzon Street. There will also be track replacement work taking place on Corporation Street at the same time”.

Midland Metro rails removal in Corporation Street, Birmingham, 2021

The disruptive and noisy works are being carried out day and night by Midland Metro Alliance, ignoring generally accepted ‘considerate construction’ norms.

Midland Metro Corporation Street track replacement, 2021

The usual lifespan of plain tramline is generally in excess of 20 years, but the Corporation Street tracks were only opened in 2016.

Midland Metro rails removal in Corporation Street, Birmingham, 2021

So, what is going on?

Midland Metro rails removal, Corporation Street, Birmingham, 2021

¿Que pasa?

Midland Metro rails removal, Corporation Street, Birmingham, 2021

Was ist los?

Midland Metro Alliance Corporation Street track replacement self selected questions

What is happening, is a misinformation campaign by the Midland Metro Alliance and Transport for West Midlands, in which the track replacement is being portrayed as a scheduled and normal event. Which, of course, it isn’t. It is most definitely not normal for tram tracks to need to be ripped up and replaced after five years.

Part of TfWM statement shown on ITV Central News, 30 July 2021

On 30 July, the story made ITV Central’s 6 pm evening news, in which the reporter revealed that the track had “degraded far quicker than expected”. TfWM issued a preposterous, dishonest and legally dubious statement to ITV which claimed that “a significant section” of the Corporation Street track needed to be “realigned and replaced” to accommodate the delta junction at Bull Street. “Significant section”, meaning what exactly? As far as Union Street? New Street?

Upper Bull Street

So one might ask who, if anyone, at TfWM (Centro) was monitoring the construction activity when the tracks were originally laid in 2015 / 2016? Who is going to foot the bill for their replacement? And who at the West Midlands Combined Authority and / or TfWM decided it would be a good idea to conduct a public misinformation campaign, and cover up the facts?

Written by beleben

July 31, 2021 at 8:46 am

Andy Street disses the HS2 eastern leg

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Yesterday (14 July), the mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, told the House of Commons transport select committee that the eastern leg of HS2 (Birmingham to Leeds) “does not need to be built in full”. He called on the government to focus on “better connecting towns in the Midlands” and the ‘Midlands Rail Hub’ instead of building the eastern leg, but said it would be “cataclysmic” for the West Midlands if the western leg of HS2 to Manchester were cancelled.

This is all rather awkward, considering the sustained and vociferous support for the eastern leg from the West Midlands Combined Authority, Transport for West Midlands, and Midlands Connect.

One might well wonder, why would it be ‘cataclysmic’ to cancel the western leg, but not the eastern one?

Regular readers of the Beleben blog may be aware that the HS2 western leg is an environmental disaster and economic basket case, and that the centrepiece of the Midlands Rail Hub, the ‘Camp Hill chords’, are probably unbuildable in the form put forward by Midlands Connect.

The Beleben blog prediction is that the Midlands Connect idea of two Camp Hill chords, apparently merging in mid-air above the Great Western lines, never happens, and that would mean any feasible Midlands Rail Hub would bear no resemblance to the currently proposed scheme.

Camp hill Chords, official diagram

Written by beleben

July 15, 2021 at 1:23 pm

Posted in Bizarre, HS2

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

Much a-crewe about nothing

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HS2 supporter Pete Waterman at Crewe

In March 2014 the Crewe and Nantwich Guardian reported how the then chairman of HS2 Ltd, David Higgins, saw a “dedicated hub station in Crewe as central to the £45.6 billion railway”.

David Higgins backs Crewe hub plan | Crewe and Nantwich Guardian | 17 Mar 2014

In 2015 the Northern Gateway Development Zone (now called the ‘Constellation Partnership’) was launched by local enterprise partnerships in north Staffordshire and Cheshire with the objective of  ‘capitalising on the investment potential arising from initiatives such as HS2’.

The Constellation Partnership’s October 2018 growth strategy was built on ‘driving growth through transformational HS2 connectivity’, meaning a ‘minimum of 5 to 7 HS2 trains each way every hour‘ serving the Crewe hub station.

Constellation Partnership HS2 growth strategy, Oct 2018, titlepage

In addition to north- and south-facing connections into the high speed line, the hub station would be endowed with exemplary 360-degree local connectivity.

Constellation Partnership HS2 growth strategy, Oct 2018

However, the April 2020 HS2 ‘full phase one economic case‘ suggests that the government has lost interest in the Crewe hub concept. The ‘full Y network train service specification’ shows no intention of five or more high speed trains stopping each hour at Crewe, and no northbound connection.

HS2 full Y network train service specification, 15 Apr 2020

Written by beleben

April 26, 2020 at 11:50 am

Posted in Bizarre, HS2

When you’re in a colossal hole, keep digging

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'Boris Johnson says Government must ‘keep digging’ on HS2', By Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent, 31 Jan 2020

Written by beleben

January 31, 2020 at 6:21 pm

Posted in Bizarre, gibberish, HS2

Taking stock of technical illiteracy

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As a result of a recent freedom of information request to HS2 Ltd, the company has quietly taken chairman Allan Cook’s original HS2 ‘stocktake’ report offline, and replaced it with a supposedly ‘corrected’ version.

hs2-extract-from-foi-response-dec2019-drafting-error-in-aug2019-stocktake

The ‘corrected version’ of the report bears the same date as the original (i.e., ‘August 2019’), and makes no reference to being a revised version of an earlier document. The only public admission that it is a revision, is made in a footnote on the gov.uk ‘Guidance‘ page.

gov.uk HS2 Ltd chairman's stocktake august 2019 guidance page, modified 04 Dec 2019

According to HS2 Ltd, the embarrassing statement

[Allan Cook HS2 stocktake, original version, now taken offline]

‘Each intercity train removed releases capacity for 11 new fast commuter or freight trains, by reducing the disparity in speed between different services’

was a “drafting error”.

Allan Cook HS2 stocktake (original version, now taken offline): 'Each intercity train removed releases capacity for 11 new fast commuter or freight trains, by reducing the disparity in speed between different services'

Allan Cook HS2 stocktake (original version, now taken offline): ‘Each intercity train removed releases capacity for 11 new fast commuter or freight trains, by reducing the disparity in speed between different services’

Written by beleben

December 6, 2019 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Bizarre, HS2, misinformation

Use ‘standard intercity rolling stock’ on HS2, says mayor Sadiq

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London mayor Sadiq Khan’s big idea for ‘reducing the costs of HS2’ – presented to the Oakervee ‘independent’ review – was to run lower speed ‘standard inter-city rolling stock’ on it (the Beleben blog can exclusively reveal).

Letter from Sadiq Khan to the 'independent Oakervee review of HS2'  03 Oct 2019, extract

“Run standard inter-city rolling stock”.

Um, anybody home?

In that case, why not just run the ‘standard inter-city rolling stock’ on a reactivated Great Central Main Line?

That would cost a tiny fraction of the cost of HS2, and support the provision of intermediate stations for people living along the route, such as at Calvert, Woodford, and Brackley.

Written by beleben

November 21, 2019 at 3:05 pm

Posted in Bizarre, HS2, London

Throughly madly deeply

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A proposal by Cross City Connect Limited for a private-sector reworking of the London end of the HS2 rail scheme was submitted to the Oakervee ‘independent review’ of the project, New Civil Engineer reported on 21 November.

Cross City Connect (TM) describes itself as “a special purpose vehicle (SPV) established to promote the planning, design, construction and operation of an alternative link into London for the planned HS2 project”.

It claims its idea of replacing the Old Oak to Euston section with twin 8-metre through tunnels across London linking to HS1, could work out cheaper for government than ‘HS2-to-Euston’, because of the ‘real estate opportunities’.

Cross City Connect would also allow a one-seat ride from Birmingham and Manchester to Paris (etc, zzz).

[‘CROSS CITY CONNECT (CCC)’, ’17 Nov 2016′ (page includes the video ‘An introduction to Cross City Connect’, dated Nov 2019], Buro Happold]

The founding parties are:

Mark Bostock, independent consultant and Chair of the SPV;
OTB Engineering Limited, civil and geotechnical engineering consultants
Salamanca Group LLP, a privately-held merchant banking business
Buro Happold Limited, an international, integrated engineering consultancy

The SPV is advised by the international law firm CMS.

Cross City Connect, proposed tunnel under London linking HS1 and |HS2

[Can Buro Happold cross city plan save HS2?, Tim Clark, NCE, 21 Nov, 2019]

The plan involves a vast tunnel beneath London from Old Oak Common in the West to Rainham in the East. Called Cross City Connect (CCC), the new 30km long, twin bore tunnel plan would also include new stations on the Southbank and potentially at Canary Wharf.
[…]

Cross City Connect Ltd, route interfaces

This scheme seems to exchange one set of intractable problems for another. Such as: when the “14” or “18” hourly HS2 trains arrive at Ebbsfleet after passing through the tunnel, what happens then?

Whether CCC could be implemented for ‘£10 billion’ must be open to serious doubt, especially when the size of the underground platforms needed at ‘South Bank Central’ and possibly two other locations is factored in.

Written by beleben

November 21, 2019 at 12:05 pm

Posted in Bizarre, HS2

Mythter know-it-all

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HS2 offers ‘the same capacity as a ten-lane motorway in normal use’ and could deliver ‘more efficient use of three of the UK’s main railway lines’, Jim Steer’s High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Group claimed on 11 November, in a tweet promoting an ‘independent review of the carbon case for HS2′.

twitter, @RailLeaders, '#HS2 will have the same capacity as a ten-lane motorway in normal use and will also deliver more efficient use of three of the UK’s main railway lines. Read more in our latest report written by @safemyth: https://rail-leaders.com/publications/hs2-towards-a-zero-carbon-future/ #GoHS2GoGreen #HS2AllTheWay'

[HSRILG, 11 Nov 2019]

HS2 will have the same capacity as a ten-lane motorway in normal use and will also deliver more efficient use of three of the UK’s main railway lines. Read more in our latest report written by @safemyth […]

“Read more in our latest report.”

So this supposedly ‘independent’ HS2 carbon review (‘HS2 – towards a zero carbon future’) by Raiph (a.k.a. Ralph) Smyth, is actually a report written for the High Speed Rail leaders lobbying group.

twitter, @njak_100, 'Excellent sustainability report on #HS2 out today. This table highlights DfT's conservative modal shift targets vs OECD figure for *actual* modal shift achieved by completed European HSR schemes. Full report at https://bit.ly/2pRTG4P' (11 Nov 2019)

As such, the misleading and inaccurate statements packing out Mr Smyth’s report should come as no surprise. Consider, for example, his ‘Figure 9’, the ‘Comparison of high-speed rail modal shift’, which is intended to ‘suggest’ that HS2’s forecasts of transfers from car and aviation are way too low.

The fact is, the vast majority of HS2 travel would be conducted within a radius of ~300 km of London, and for journeys within this zone, aviation’s share of journeys is already effectively nil. So with HS2, there is no possibility of anything like an overall 30% shift from air to high speed rail. Obviously, HS2 is mainly about (i) shift from classic rail, and (ii) new journeys.

No evidence is offered by Mr Smyth for the claim that HS2 would provide ‘the same capacity as a ten-lane motorway in normal use’ or ‘deliver more efficient use of three of the UK’s main railway lines’. He has not explained what the terms “in normal use” and “more efficient use” are supposed to mean. The Department for Transport has confirmed that the modelled post-HS2 use of the West Coast Main Line South involves fewer (not more) trains operating. This is an inevitable consequence of the HS2 idea of turning the WCML fast lines into a mixed-traffic railway.

DfT confirmation of fewer (not more) trains on WCML South in the modelled HS2 scenarios

Mr Smyth’s report presents HS2 as ‘essential for meeting a legally binding target of net zero carbon emissions’ by 2050. Needless to say, it would not be possible for HS2 to be carbon neutral by 2050, and it is not clear why ‘zero carbon electricity’ would be available to HS2 but not to alternative modes, such as other railways, road coaches, and private automobiles.

Even if the embedded carbon from constructing HS2 were considered as zero, the scheme would still not make any sense from an environmental standpoint, because the cost per-avoided-tonne of carbon would be gargantuan.

 

Written by beleben

November 12, 2019 at 12:32 pm