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Disappointed and dissatisfied

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‘Crucial plans to massively upgrade rail links for freight traffic’ across the North of England are set to be abandoned, leaving freight bosses “disappointed and dissatisfied”, The Yorkshire Post reported.

Northern powerhouse rail director Tim Wood and transport secretary Chris Grayling

[EXCLUSIVE: Anger as plans to electrify north’s freight network are scrapped | Mark Casci | Yorkshire Post | Thursday 06 December 2018]

Officials at the Department for Transport (DfT) have let freight bosses know that they will only put forward plans to electrify the route between Leeds and Manchester for passenger trains, with plans to apply the same improvements to freight trains set to be scrapped for the foreseeable future.

The recommendation – given by the DfT’s internal Board Investment and Commercial Committee to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling – comes after more than two years of campaigning by the freight industry.

On September 18, the Beleben blog pointed out that de-scoping Transpennine North electrification down to a ‘Cispennine’ scheme between Leeds and Huddersfield, made no sense.

Money which could be spent on electrifying the Standedge and Calder Valley railways, and fixing bottlenecks in Manchester, is being squandered on HS2, and the equally absurd ‘Northern powerhouse rail’ project.

twitter, @MarkCasci, "Here we go... electrification of the Leeds to Manchester rail route will NOT cover freight. How many millions will this cost the North's economy?"

Written by beleben

December 7, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Freight, HS2, Railways, Transport

Get trucks off rail

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@Andrew_Adonis, get trucks off rail

@Andrew_Adonis, lorry platooning likely soon

Written by beleben

November 26, 2017 at 10:38 am

HS2 design has built-in obsolescence

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Network Rail’s draft Freight Network Study (August 2016) was developed “in collaboration with a range of stakeholders, including freight operating companies, The UK Governments, the Rail Freight Group, the Rail Delivery Group, and the Office of Rail and Road”. The study noted that as the “proposed new HS2 line from London to the North is not expected to provide for rail freight services”, the freight industry has an ‘aspiration’ to ‘enable new rail freight market flows by enhancing a selected number of (classic) routes to European gauge standards, specifically UIC GB1+ gauge’.

Network Rail, 'GB1+ gauge aspiration' London - Manchester - Leeds, August 2016

Network Rail, ‘GB1+ gauge aspiration’, August 2016

Implementing this ‘aspiration’ would entail the massive disruption and cost of extensively rebuilding the entire West Coast Main Line between London and Crewe, and the Transpennine North route to Leeds. Its feasibility and fundability looks minimal.

On the other hand, if an all-new railway from London to the north were being planned, it would be perfectly feasible to design-in dual passenger and freight capability, with an ‘outsize’ loading gauge (capable of carrying lorries on flatbed wagons, for example).

But HS2, a planned all-new railway from London to the north, has not been designed for potential railfreight use. Its gradients would make cost-effective goods movement a highly unlikely proposition, and its structure gauge is too small for an efficient ‘rolling motorway’.

Furthermore, the GC vehicle gauge specified for HS2 confers no meaningful passenger capacity benefit. It would not permit comfortable 3+2 seating layouts, or spacious double deck carriages.

'Engineering standards of some key European-rail links'

Written by beleben

August 31, 2016 at 11:36 am

Posted in Freight, HS2

Commissioned by Joe

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Apparently, Respublica’s Ticket to Ride report was commissioned by Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson. Does that mean that its costs were met from public funds?

We’re happy to dig tunnels in London, but not to properly connect our northern cities, by Joe Anderson, Labour Uncut, 25 Feb 2016]

On Tuesday, while her Majesty the Queen was officially naming the new Crossrail line, I was in Parliament, speaking at the launch of a major new report making the case for Liverpool’s key rail infrastructure.

A report I commissioned by the think tank ResPublica, Ticket to Ride: How high speed rail for Liverpool can realise the Northern Powerhouse, makes the case for extending the proposed HS2 line into Liverpool City Centre. Most people I speak to are amazed to learn that it isn’t already scheduled to.

But it isn’t (it stops at Crewe). Ministers, worried about the allegation of profligacy surrounding HS2 have tried to rein-in project costs, meaning that sensible, evidence-based proposals to extend the line to Liverpool, or to run it into the centre of Sheffield, have been ruled out by the timorous souls at HS2 Limited.

The contrast with Crossrail is instructive. Here we have a tale of two projects. On the one hand, the £14 billion invested in Crossrail has attracted few hostile headlines in our London-based national newspapers. (The same people, no doubt, who will make use of the line?)

Yet the case for HS2 – the single most important infrastructure project in the country – and a vital new economic artery for our Northern conurbations – has to be fought and refought with irritating frequency from ill-informed naysayers.

So much so, that we are left making what I believe is a compelling and vital case even at the eleventh hour, just months before work on the line is due to commence.

But as the report makes clear, that there are massive benefits from doing so, not just for Liverpool, but for the wider Northern economy and the UK as a whole. Let me give you just one example.

The Superport proposals we have developed in Merseyside will lead to a renaissance of the Liverpool dockside, with a predicted trebling of freight in future years, as we become the only port on the west coast of Britain which can accommodate the vast new container ships that can now negotiate the widened Panama Canal.

This opens up new markets for Northern exporters, including major companies such as Jaguar Land Rover in Liverpool and Nissan in Sunderland, but the potential is there for it to become an asset for the whole country.

But we only realise this potential fully if we have a high-speed rail connection from Liverpool.

Does the Respublica report actually contain “sensible, evidence-based proposals”? Where is the evidence that building high speed tracks into Lime Street could be done for £3 billion? How would it be possible to run trains between Liverpool and Manchester, via Manchester airport, in 20 minutes? And why would it be necessary to spend billions of pounds to run more railfreight from Seaforth?

MDS Transmodal, Liverpool city railfreight, 2011 and 2020 forecast

There would appear to be numerous ways of accommodating additional Liverpool railfreight, without frittering away billions of pounds.

Written by beleben

February 26, 2016 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Freight, HS2, Liverpool

Fast and frequent dissemblance

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A Network Rail press release dated 19 January 2012 stated that HS2 would free up space for faster, more frequent trains on the West Coast Main Line.

[Network Rail]

Passengers on Britain’s busiest rail route could benefit from faster, more frequent trains, less crowding and better connections if the first phase of the proposed high-speed rail line is built between London and Birmingham.

Network Rail: 'HS2 frees up space for faster, more frequent trains'

Network Rail: ‘HS2 frees up space for faster, more frequent trains’

But how true are those claims?

HS2 chief engineer Andrew McNaughton’s February 2015 presentation on West Coast Main Line capacity showed that following the introduction of HS2, the number of Euston trains would fall, not increase.

Andrew McNaughton's presentation on West Coast Main Line capacity

What would be the speed and frequency benefit between Birmingham and Coventry? With HS2, the WCML London intercity service would reduce from three to two per hour (according to HS2 Ltd). According to SLC Rail, that would allow a net increase of just one train each hour between the two cities.

SLC Rail, visualisation of post-HS2 Birmingham to Coventry passenger services

It would be helpful if Network Rail could provide actual figures for ‘speeded up’ journeys, for example, for the trips listed below.

Journey ‘Fast’ journey
time in 2015
‘Fast’ journey
time with
‘HS2 released
in 2033
London to Milton Keynes
London to Coventry
London to Northampton
London to Tring
London to Watford
Birmingham to Coventry
Birmingham to Liverpool
Birmingham to Wolverhampton
Birmingham to Milton Keynes

Written by beleben

September 23, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Posted in Freight, HS2

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What is and is not ‘paused’

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In June 2015 the government announced that the Midland Main Line (Sheffield) and Transpennine North railway electrification schemes had been ‘paused’, but was that all?

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s letter of 1 September to Lord Hollick stated that “All Network Rail schemes will continue to be delivered, with the exception of the announced schemes that have been paused, while the new Chair of Network Rail, Sir Peter Hendy, reviews the programme delivery as a whole to re-plan the portfolio”.

But the enhancements stopped or paused cannot just be Midland and Transpennine North. For example, only a few days ago the Ely Weekly News reported that plans to double-track the railway between Ely and Soham had been postponed.

[Network Rail’s plans to double railway line between Ely and Soham are postponed, Jordan Day, Ely Weekly News, September 8, 2015]

Ambitious plans to build a second railway line between Ely and Soham have been put on hold, Ely News can confirm.

Network Rail bosses say that surveys and ground installation works they have carried out show that the proposals would be “far more complex than anticipated”.

The work would have been carried out as part of Network Rail’s wider programme to provide additional capacity for freight services operating to and from the port of Felixstowe.

The Ely to Soham double-tracking was one of a small number of projects to be funded separately using the Department for Transport’s Investment Fund Framework and public consultation exercises got underway in the spring.

But the scheme is now being postponed until funding can be identified to deliver it.

Looking at the picture on Network Rail’s project page (below), it’s hard to see how the proposals are “far more complex than anticipated” engineering-wise. The page suggests the ‘complexity’ is that Network Rail can’t find any money for it, because the Department for Transport is putting its money elsewhere (into HS2).

The Ely to Soham doubling scheme has been 'paused'

The Ely to Soham doubling scheme has been ‘paused’

At least one of Network Rail’s freedom of information team was under the impression that Great Western electrification had been ‘paused’, so confusion abounds. It might be helpful if the Department for Transport could provide a list of what is, and isn’t, paused.

Written by beleben

September 17, 2015 at 7:54 am

Posted in Freight

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He says with knowledge

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Business trends at sea mean the HS2 rail plan is essential, according to HS2 Chief Information Officer James Findlay.

[HS2 CIO James Findlay interview – Boats, trains and CIO reveals, Mark Chillingworth, CIO, 19 Mar 2015]

[…] Speaking at his Canary Wharf office, James Findlay told CIO UK that “95% of our trade is by sea, so transport is critical to our ability to compete.”

When a ship such as Globe unloads (it takes 24 hours), its load would form a single line measuring 72 miles, Birmingham to Manchester as it happens, and the next phase of HS2.

“The ports at London and Southampton are being dredged for the new mega ships, so the challenge is the ability to distribute the loads. The ability to interface are critical to our survival and that requires a lot of strategic thinking about the hub cities in the UK.” While politicians try and sell HS2 to the public with everything but the truth; Findlay deals in facts and he knows the facts. Not just because he’s a well aligned CIO, but because he has a heritage on the seas, having been IT and projects leader at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for close to a decade and before that a career in ports and defence. To this day, the coast plays a major part in his life, and he sees what’s happening on our waves and to our demands of our economy.

“Over the next 10 years we will be at peak capacity on the existing rail network,” he says returning to dry land. “HS2 provides a relief to primary freight traffic. We won’t build more roads,” he says with knowledge, as Findlay doubles up as Technology Leader for the Department for Transport. “Network Rail has been re-engineering some of the lines through a process of dropping the lines,” but as he explains, because the UK was the first adopter of rail networks, the nation is lumbered with a legacy of Victorian lines that can’t take the growing capacity of local, intercity and freight rail. A new rail infrastructure is required.

So what is the relief which would be provided by HS2 to primary freight traffic? Careful scrutiny of the evidence suggests the uplift in railfreight capacity would be, at best, minimal.

And there may not be any uplift at all. When the Department for Transport were asked about HS2 released capacity for railfreight, the answer was

[…] there is good reason to believe that 3 additional freight paths per off-peak hour on the WCML corridor would be compatible with the HS2 Phase Two service set out in the PFM assumptions report.

3 additional freight paths per off-peak hour on the WCML corridor would be compatible with the HS2 Phase Two service set out in the PFM assumptions report. And 3 additional freight paths per off-peak hour on the WCML corridor would be compatible with no HS2 service at all.

Because 3 is the hourly two-way number of freight paths currently allocated on the WCML, but not used.

Written by beleben

March 19, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Freight, High speed rail, HS2

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