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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

The emerging vision of the daft

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The folly of planning Northern rail links around HS2 is exposed in Transport for the North’s 98-page “Strategic Transport Plan” draft for public consultation, which is being launched today (16 January 2018).

The draft, which is supposed to cover both road and rail, is very short on detail, numbers, and evidence. (Unless statements like “the North is home to 16 million people and 7.2 million jobs”, count as ‘evidence’.)

'Vision' for Northern powerhouse rail (in 2016)

Many of the target journey times and frequencies of the original ‘vision’ (above) seem to have been ‘forgotten’ in the January 2018 iteration of ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’. But, as before, NPR is a dreadful project, which would do almost nothing for everyday transport in the north.

[TfN, Strategic Transport Plan Draft for public consultation, 16 Jan 2018]

The emerging vision for the Northern Powerhouse Rail network includes:

• A new line between Liverpool and the HS2 Manchester Spur via Warrington

• Capacity at Piccadilly for around eight through services per hour

• A new Trans Pennine rail line that connects Manchester and Leeds via Bradford

• Significant upgrades along the corridor of the existing Hope Valley line between Sheffield and Manchester via Stockport

• Leeds to Sheffield delivered through HS2 Phase 2B and upgrading the route from Sheffield

• Leeds to Newcastle via HS2 junction and upgrades to the East Coast Mainline

• Significant upgrades to existing line from Leeds to Hull (via Selby) and Sheffield to Hull (via Doncaster) Alternative concepts will continue to be assessed between Liverpool – Manchester, Manchester – Sheffield, and Manchester – Leeds as part of developing a Strategic Outline Business Case for the programme.

TfN are also exploring plans for shorter term improvements along the Hope Valley corridor between Sheffield and Manchester as a joint priority for both TfN and the Sheffield City Region, and whether transformational journey times could be realised along the existing rail corridor.

If the evidence demonstrates that significant upgrades to the Hope Valley corridor do not look promising in terms of moving towards the transformational outputs, TfN will consider the case for and further assessment of a new line between Manchester and Sheffield. The business case for the elements of this vision require the evidence base to be worked up and completed, and therefore decisions as to the right proposals to implement will depend on further work to establish costs and benefits of these options.

TfN wants to ensure that Northern Powerhouse Rail is fully integrated into the planning of HS2 Phase 2B, to ensure both maximum value for money and that Northern Powerhouse Rail can be developed without delay.

To enable the possibility for Northern Powerhouse Rail services to make use of HS2 infrastructure, it is necessary to incorporate passive provision in the HS2 Phase 2B Hybrid Bill, with funding announced by the Chancellor in October 2017 intended to future proof HS2 for delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail connectivity.

A series of touchpoints between Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 Phase 2B have been identified across the Eastern (Sheffield to Leeds) and Western (Liverpool to Manchester) corridors, as well as at Manchester Piccadilly.

TfN 'emerging vision for Northern powerhouse rail network', 16 Jan 2018 (Contains Ordnance Survey data
© Crown copyright and database right 2017)

Northern powerhouse transport let down, ITV, August 2017

Written by beleben

January 16, 2018 at 11:16 am

A Varsity U-turn

with 8 comments

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

Spanish contradictions

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Planned AVE railway in Galicia, SpainIn Spain, the high speed rail network is being extended into the province of Galicia, and the works include an AVE station in the city centre of Ourense.

The new high-speed Ourense Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) train station will be built over the existing track level, integrating a bus station and parking area below.
Ourense is a city [of] just over 100,000, the capital of the province of Galicia, and the third most populous city in the province.

The amount of money involved in building a high speed rail station, integrated with a central transport interchange, must be enormous. Is it about transport, Keynesian economic stimulus, or prestige?

Nevertheless, it makes an interesting comparison with Britain’s HS2 scheme – in which

  • Coventry (population 300,000) would be by-passed by high speed rail,


  • Birmingham (population 1,000,000) would only be served by a dead-end high speed station, remote from its existing New Street and Snow Hill stations.

If one applied the ‘Ourense principle’ of stopping intercity trains at places with a population of 100,000 to Great Britain, the result would be (more-or-less) the West Coast Main Line, with its current stopping pattern. So ‘HS2 española’ would be stopping at Birmingham Calle Nueva, Sandwell y Dudley, Wolverhampton (etc).

Renfe S-104 AVE trains have a maximum speed of 250 km/h

S-104 high speed train, by Femenias, CC-BY-SA 3.0 (

The AVE system also makes use of trains with wildly different maximum speeds – which destroys capacity. As is the case with Britain’s HS1, this isn’t a problem, because the lines aren’t used very much.

Written by beleben

January 3, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Geoff Inskip and HS2 “released capacity”

with 9 comments

According to Centro‘s chief executive, Geoff Inskip, the West Midlands can’t afford to be without HS2.

Critics of HS2 have poured scorn on the time saving between London and Birmingham, but they’re missing the point. While time savings are very important for business, the key benefit for the West Midlands is the huge increase in capacity HS2 would provide.

Demand for rail continues to soar. The number of passengers in the West Midlands is forecast to grow by 32% by 2019. And the West Coast Main line will be full by 2024. Even the most ardent opponent of HS2 cannot contest the fact that our trains are becoming increasingly overcrowded.

If we don’t do something about this we won’t meet demand. This would seriously hamper our ability to do business as a region. How would people get to work? How would companies reach the best talent? How would we attract employers to the West Midlands?

The reality

West Midlands time savings

If time savings are “very important for business”, Midland business people should be pretty disappointed by what HS2 has to offer. According to HS2 Ltd, 80 percent of travel using its central Birmingham (Curzon Street) station would be for journeys starting or ending within the city of Birmingham:

HS2 Ltd: 'central Birmingham station's traffic origin-destination forecast to be 80% within the city'

So HS2 Ltd are forecasting that rail travel to or from the four Black Country boroughs would not be based on usage of a high speed service.

From central Birmingham, HS2 stage one serves just one destination: London. The only other HS2 station in the West Midlands county, ‘Birmingham Interchange’, would be a remote parkway (not even within Birmingham’s city limits, and time consuming to reach).

Transforming the West Midlands

Centro produced brochures purportedly showing ‘How HS2 will transform the West Midlands’ for Birmingham and Solihull and the Black Country. There was also supposed to be a Coventry guide, but Centro seem to have had problems in thinking up any benefits.

The brochures state that Centro has developed a detailed timetable showing exactly how local rail services could be improved by using the capacity freed up by HS2, and by introducing a series of matching infrastructure improvements.

Birmingham and Solihull ‘capacity benefits’

Centro described these as follows:

Key benefits for Birmingham and Solihull include:

• Increased local services between Birmingham, Birmingham International and Coventry including doubling the frequency of services serving key regeneration areas such as the Eastern Growth Corridor (Lea Hall and Stechford) and Bordesley Park (Adderley Park)

• An increase from 3 to 7 trains per hour between Birmingham International and Wolverhampton.

• An increase from 4 to 6 trains per hour between Birmingham and Walsall including improved services at key regeneration areas such as Perry Barr and 4 new services per hour from Birmingham International to Walsall

• Improved services to Milton Keynes, Shrewsbury and Telford

Black Country ‘capacity benefits’

Centro described these as follows:
Centro Black Country claims of extra services with HS2

High Speed Rail is not just about reducing journey times between the West Midlands and London. By transferring the majority of West Coast Main Line inter-city services to the High Speed Rail Network, considerable capacity is released from the existing West Coast Main Line which can be used for new local, regional or national services.

Centro has developed a detailed timetable showing exactly how local rail services could be improved by using the capacity freed up by HS2, and by introducing a series of matching infrastructure improvements. As part of these improvements Centro would be looking to reinstate services between Walsall and Wolverhampton calling at new stations at Darlaston and Willenhall.

The timetable also includes;

• Significant improvements to services at Walsall and Sandwell and Dudley stations

• The ability to deliver new Cross City style local services between Wolverhampton and Birmingham with potentially 4 trains per hour available;

To deliver this future service scenario requires the following infrastructure:

• New High Speed 2 Line to allow Pendolino services to be reduced to half-hourly

• The electrification and upgrading of the Walsall to Rugeley and Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury lines

• Various planned resignalling projects to deliver improved network capacity and capability

The Black Country Benefits from the HS2 Network
The Black Country will receive direct transport benefits from the availability of High Speed Rail services from the proposed Birmingham city centre station and the Interchange station next to the NEC/Airport which will have a direct people-mover link from Birmingham International Station.

Under this full network vision, passengers from the Black Country would be able to change onto High Speed trains at Birmingham Interchange and access:

• Leeds in just over an hour

• Manchester in under an hour

• Glasgow/Edinburgh in just over three hours

• Paris in under three hours

Heathrow Airport in around 40 minutes

• The Stratford, East London and Docklands area in around 45 minutes

This excellent connectivity via both of the proposed HS2 stations puts the Black Country close to the future national hub of the UK High Speed Rail Network and will transform the area’s connections to large parts of the

As the text above shows, the Black Country will become a much more accessible destination if these regional rail enhancements are delivered in conjunction with HS2.

The reality

The only route on which capacity is actually freed up by HS2 is Birmingham – Coventry – Rugby. Centro assumes that the Pendolino service to London using that line is (a) cut from three trains per hour to two, and (b) turned into a ‘semi-fast’, calling at some intermediate stations. By this re-cast, Milton Keynes would get no-change connection with Wolverhampton, at the expense of the Wolverhampton to London timing being slower.

On other lines across the West Midlands, HS2 does not facilitate improved local services. The improved frequencies, and aspirations for new services such as Walsall to Wolverhampton, rely on unfunded regional rail enhancements. But transport secretary Philip Hammond isn’t minded to fund such improvements on the back of high speed rail.

Written by beleben

August 24, 2011 at 8:59 am