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Journey of the Danned

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The ‘West of England Combined Authority’ (WECA) is asking its residents to participate in a competition to originate a transport logo to be used across buses, trains, e-scooters and other public transport – giving their design to WECA for free, and waiving all moral rights. The winning entry “will be finalised by professional designers”, who presumably won’t be working for free. 

West of England Combined Authority area

The rules are simple. The logo should feature the words “West of England Sustainable Transport”, it should work in colour or black and white, and you must live or work in the West of England Metro Mayor region to take part.

The competition runs from Wednesday 5 January to Friday 12 February. The aim is for the logo to start appearing on the West of England region’s public transport in 2022.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “It’s a new year, and we’re looking for a new logo for West of England Sustainable Transport. I’m determined to transform our region’s transport system making it easier for people to get from A to B and to help us reach our stretching net zero targets.

As we begin this journey I want people right across the West of England to be at the heart of our ambitious plans. There is so much talent across our amazing region and so much innovation, history and culture to be inspired by. I’m excited to see what I know will be some brilliant local designs.”

‘New transport logo for the West of England – local residents asked to create stand-out design’ | WECA | 5 January 2022
'New transport logo for the West of England – local residents asked to create stand-out design' | WECA | Jan 2022
West of England Combined Authority | 'Inspire our region's new transport logo!' | Jan 2022

On their website WECA have a section called ‘Hints and tips for designing your new logo’. This perhaps might have been better titled as ‘Hints and tips for designing our new logo’, because any designs submitted become the intellectual property of WECA.

One might also wonder why the authority is even called ‘West of England Combined Authority’, when it actually only covers Greater Bristol. To start with, why don’t they ditch the stupid name, and then maybe think about running a less daft competition?

Written by beleben

January 14, 2022 at 4:37 pm

Mapping the dotty case for HS2

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On 2 November, Leeds Live and The Northern Agenda newsletter revealed the interactive map which shows “why people in the North of England won’t give up their cars”. Apparently, it’s all to do with (a dataset of) the time taken in 2019 to get from Leeds City rail station to other railway stations in (mostly far-off) parts of Great Britain. By car versus by train. At 9 am on a weekday. Assuming there are no delays on the highway or railway networks.

As the North emerges from the pandemic people have been returning to the roads in their cars much more quickly than they return to trains. And the graphic below, comparing journey times from Leeds to every station in the country by car or rail, gives a pretty clear explanation as to why. Our map, adapted from the original data compiled by Tom Forth, Head of Data at Open Innovations, shows how it remains a better option to drive from Yorkshire’s biggest city to the overwhelming majority of places around the country. The red dots are the stations you can reach faster by car and the green dots the stations you can reach faster by public transport. […]

[Tom Forth:] “The fact that it remains a faster option to drive from Leeds to places like Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham shows the challenge we will face in using our cars less if investments like Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 are not funded”.

‘The map which shows why people won’t abandon their cars’ [Leeds Live] / Northern Agenda newsletter | 2 Nov 2021
The Northern Agenda newsletter, Reach plc, 2 Nov 2021, 'Rail journey times from Leeds'

This could be groundbreaking stuff, and totally convincing, apart from there not being any evidence that Northern people (or people anywhere else) make car ownership or travel decisions in the way suggested by Mr Parsons’ newsletter.

Actually, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Northern Powerhouse Rail or phase two of HS2 would have much effect on car ownership, car mileage, mode choice, or door-to-door journey times in the North of England, either.

For most people in Leeds, and most people in the North of England, the impact of speeding up rail journeys between Manchester and Leeds by 10 minutes[*1] (?), or Liverpool and Manchester by 2 minutes[*2] (?), would appear to lie somewhere between zero and nano.

[*1] = Comparator: Standedge; [*2] = Comparator: Chat Moss

Written by beleben

November 3, 2021 at 10:34 am

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.


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 ‘Guidance‘ page. 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