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A Varsity U-turn

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In their February 2009 Discussion Paper, the East West Rail consortium’s consultants, Steer Davies Gleave, put forward nonsensical ideas for an Oxford — Cambridge rail link, and dismissed the idea of restoring a route on the Sandy corridor.

[SDG, 2009]

[…] Consideration was also given to a direct route from Bedford generally routeing via Sandy and across country to Cambridge. This route would require an additional 20 miles of new alignment east of Sandy. The additional cost of this would very high, more than doubling the cost and deliverability challenges of any other route. Although the direct journey time to Cambridge would be the shortest, the passenger interchange opportunities with the East Coast Main Line corridor would be significantly reduced, effecting the overall demand and viability of the business case. In addition, this route would just duplicate the existing Hitchin – Cambridge line some 8 – 10 miles to the south. This route was not pursued further as it was considered undeliverable predominantly on cost grounds

On 25 March 2013, the Beleben blog noted that ‘SDG seem to have completely failed to grasp the issues, and their cost and deliverability assessments are wrong‘.

Lo and behold, on 29 March 2016, came a statement from Network Rail.

[Network Rail, 2016-03-29]

The Bedford – Sandy – Cambridge corridor is today announced as the preferred option for the Central Section of East West Rail.
[…]
Network Rail will publish written documentation, analysis and evidence supporting the decision in May.
[…]
Once the methodology behind the Bedford – Sandy – Cambridge corridor is published in May, further analysis and consultation will take place to determine options for the ‘line on a map’ route.
[…]
The development work undertaken by Network Rail will allow the central section scheme to demonstrate a solid evidence-base to be put forward for consideration for investment as part of the rail industry’s long-term planning process.

SDG’s February 2009 discussion paper appears to have (been) “disappeared” from the EWR website.

But having finally “sobered up”, East West Rail now faces a new threat. On 16 March 2016, chancellor George Osborne asked the National Infrastructure Commission to study “A plan for unlocking growth, housing and jobs in the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor”.

The “interim chair” of the NIC is Andrew Adonis.

Written by beleben

April 6, 2016 at 8:45 am

Posted in England, Politics, Railways

A snail-like top speed

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Why has it taken Eurostar 20 years to start running trains to Marseille and Amsterdam? The problem was, there were no genuine high speed lines in Britain for the trains to run on, according to an article on the ‘Citymetric’ website.

'Eurostar is expanding to Marseille and Amsterdam. But why has it taken 20 years?', Paul Prentice, Citymetric, 17 Apr 2015

[Eurostar is expanding to Marseille and Amsterdam. But why has it taken 20 years?, Paul Prentice, Citymetric, 17 Apr 2015]

There were only the East and West Coast Main Lines, with a relatively snail-like top speed of 125mph. As a result, journey times on the UK side could not match the genuine high speed networks on mainland Europe, and while British Rail did begin running a shadow service of regional trains connecting with Eurostar at Waterloo in 1995, these trains ran almost empty. They’d ended completely by 1997.

In any case, a nine-hour rail journey time between Glasgow and London simply couldn’t compete with pioneering budget airlines. […]

Aside from how to get trains through the tunnel, there are also questions over the lack of capacity on the rail network in northern France. High Speed 1, the line between the Channel Tunnel and St Pancras International, is only about half full, which allows for excellent reliability on the British side – but what happens when high speed trains meet congestion at the other end? Without French investment in their equivalent infrastructure, LGV Nord, the “paths” do not exist, and the delays might stack up.

This sounds like a load of old nonsense. Firstly, the rail journey time between Glasgow and London is not nine hours.

Secondly, the prior non-existence of through services between London and Marseille, and London and Amsterdam, cannot be a result of there being “no genuine high speed lines in Britain to run on”.

Thirdly, had they started running, the Nightstar trains would have been loco-hauled, and unable to run at more than ~160 km/h, even on new-build lines.

Fourthly, the idea that the LGV line to Paris is “approaching capacity” is questionable (especially in respect of the section between Calais and Lille). HS1 was, in essence, designed to French specifications (signalling included), so the line capacity on either side of the Channel is probably the same.

Written by beleben

April 21, 2015 at 9:00 am

Posted in England, High speed rail

Tagged with

Centro HS2 public relations and lobbying

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According to a freedom of information response dated 26 March 2013, transport authority Centro has spent “£59,000” funding the Go HS2 campaign.

The Centro-led Go HS2 campaign was established in the first half of 2011, and in April of that year Marketing Birmingham advertised the position of Go HS2 Marketing Officer.

(Fixed-term 9 months)
36½ hours per week
£28,579 – £32,790 per annum

So far as can be established, Richard Lakin, the Go HS2 Marketing Officer is still in post. So it’s likely that the Go HS2 campaign has spent considerably more than £59,000 since 2011. Several blogposts for the Go HS2 weblog were authored by Alan Marshall of Railnews, but it is not clear whether they were commissioned or paid for.

At the time of writing, the amounts paid into Go HS2 by other members, such as Birmingham city council, Marketing Birmingham, and Birmingham Airport, are not known. Also unknown is the cost of Centro’s lobbying and PR expenditure outside of Go HS2. For example, Centro is listed as one of the sponsors of Greengauge 21’s “study” of the potential of the HS2 to HS1 connection.

Written by beleben

April 3, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Posted in Centro, England

Tagged with

Kein Geschenk

with one comment

DB Schenker tweet: 'connecting HS1 and HS2 creates route for continental size freight trains to Europe'

Connecting HS1 and HS2 would create a route for ‘Continental size’ freight trains from Britain, according to freight company DB Schenker UK’s Twitter.

But they must surely know that

* HS1 is not designed for efficient freight operation, and despite there being no shortage of paths, almost no goods trains use it

* gradients on HS2 would be even steeper

* the proposed passenger service pattern on HS2 would preclude even short, or double headed freight trains, from running.

Written by beleben

January 28, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Megabus minishelter

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To keep costs down, the Megabus UK inter-city coach service tends to use roadside stops for embarking and setting down passengers. Following Centro’s re-routeing of bus routes in Birmingham city centre, the Megabus coaches use the stops ‘SH8 and SH9’, outside the Colmore Plaza tower block (on the site of the Birmingham Post & Mail building).

Birmingham Megabus pickup point, Colmore Plaza

Written by beleben

October 15, 2012 at 10:28 am

Posted in Birmingham, England

Tagged with

Chelney hawks

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Proposals for an additional cross-London passenger railway, on the Chelsea – Hackney axis, can be traced back to the first half of the twentieth century, but funding was never forthcoming. In the days of the London Transport Executive, the ‘Chelney‘ line was generally envisaged as a self-contained small profile Underground railway. In the 21st century, the Chelney line has been re-imagined as ‘Crossrail 2’, featuring tunnels large enough for National Rail trains.

Chelney (Chelsea - Hackney) rail route, safeguarded course

Over the last six months, a working group of the “influential” business organisation London First has been looking at the case for Crossrail 2. According to its interim report, detailed planning of a suitable scheme “needs to start now”.

The study, led by former Transport Secretary, Lord Andrew Adonis, has considered work previously undertaken by Transport for London on a route for “Crossrail 2” between Chelsea and Hackney, and examined demand and congestion forecasts post 2020 and the impact of new national projects, including HS2.

Its conclusions are clear -– by the late 2020s, even after the completion of Crossrail, Thameslink and the current Tube upgrades, central, south-west and north-east London’s rail and underground networks will be heavily congested, and there will be a critical need for new capacity. This will be best provided by a second Crossrail line connecting these parts of London.

Around 1.3 million more people and over 750,000 more jobs are expected in London over the next 20 years and as such, planning for the next generation of transport improvements post 2020 must begin now.

The London First report presents some form of heavy rail Crossrail 2 as the one and only solution to providing adequate transport capacity on London’s North East to South West axis. However, it does not specify precisely what points should be served, or whether the railway should be a self-contained (possibly automated) tube line [‘Chelney tube’], or a regional interconnector built to National Rail standards [‘Crossrail 2’].

Crossrail 2, options presented by London First

Whether London First’s hawkish backing of Crossrail 2 is a good fit with the capital’s transport priorities, is open to question. In the central area, there are crowding issues on several Underground lines, which need to be tackled in the next few years (not the timescale of a new heavy rail line). Street tramways offer the possibility of replacing the Underground for short journeys in the centre, and for that role, would have a general time advantage. Using long trams, one way flows of over 10,000 passengers per hour should be feasible.

So there seems to be a good case for building a street-running tramway on the Chelsea – Hackney axis to meet the local transport needs of the next few years. In the longer term, a ‘Chelney Tramlink’ could be complemented by a Crossrail 2 tunnel using the safeguarded route, but built to take National Rail trains. There would be the possibility of connecting Crossrail 2 into the South West London and Eastern Region tracks.

Written by beleben

May 22, 2012 at 9:40 am

Great Central is the way to go

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Great Central connectionsIn her attempt to justify extra tunnelling for the HS2 route in Cheryl Gillan’s constituency, transport secretary Justine Greening stated that less use of deep cutting would “mean that we have less spoil, and the removal of spoil is often what causes huge expense”.

Actually, it is true that excavating deep cuttings produces huge amounts of spoil, and that is very expensive to deal with. But tunnels — however they are built — are also hugely expensive. So there would be large cost and environmental benefits to a route that minimised the need to move spoil, or dig tunnels. One of the great advantages of re-using the Great Central Railway (GC) corridor between Aylesbury and Leicester is that the earthworks and tunnels are, for the most part, already there.

Taken together, the West Coast, Midland, Chiltern and East Coast Main Lines have the potential to meet all likely demand for passenger rail travel between London, the Midlands, and the North. However, the government has stated that it is committed to an 80% reduction in Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. To reduce carbon from the transport sector, there would need to be cuts in emissions from long distance goods transport. One of the most cost-effective options is the use of electric railfreight.

At present, railfreight’s share of the British transport market is well below the European Union average. To enable more cargo to be moved by rail, new capacity would be required, but  not the ‘capacity’ produced by the government’s high speed rail scheme. HS2’s effect on national railfreight capacity could be fairly described as marginal, amounting to a few extra freight paths on the West Coast Main Line.

Reconstructing the Great Central corridor would facilitate a much larger volume of freight being moved by rail. To maximise the value of a reactivated line, there would need to be a connection to the West Coast Main Line trunk near Rugby, and — for access to the East Midlands — a connection to the Midland Main Line south of Leicester. As might be expected, access to and from the south coast and South West England would be provided by means of a restored Banbury connection.

The HS2 scheme does not provide any benefits to the counties through which would it pass, and its sole destination in southern England is London. However, the Great Central concept would enable improved rail access to the national rail network at localities such as Woodford (Northamptonshire) and Shawell (Leicestershire), improving passenger connectivity across southern England.

Written by beleben

January 15, 2012 at 6:33 pm