Archive for the ‘Great Britain’ Category
Railways in the north of England have a high cost base, and a low user base. They tend not to provide satisfactory connectivity. But PR-led initiatives like replacing ‘Pacer’ trains are unlikely to change the fundamentals.
The scale of change required is much greater, but government does not seem to have a plan, or funding, in place. ‘Transport for the North’ seems to be away with the fairies.
At Birmingham’s refurbished New Street railway station, there is a screen which displays the next fastest train to various destinations.
“The next fastest train.” What does that mean?
Presumably, it is not intended to mean, “the second fastest train”.
So why isn’t the screen just labelled “Next fast train”?
On the west side of the station, near the main taxi rank, Network Rail provided a “Dog Spend”. It turns out that “Dog Spend” is Network Railspeak for a canine toilet.
As well as bizarre and bombastic terms such as “Dog Spend”, “conditional outputs”, and “High Level Output Specification”, Network Railspeak also features the use of the word “route” to denote a geographical operating area. In other words, a Network Rail “route” is what most other railway administrations would call a ‘region’.
HS2 Ltd “have insisted whoever is granted the £4bn contract to build superfast trains for the HS2 rail line should hold a strong UK presence to boost domestic jobs”. Politics Home reported.
And Terence Watson, the Alstom UK chief and Rail Supply Group ‘co-chair’, has ‘laid out the case for bolstering Britain’s rail exports’. Alstom’s ‘hiatus from train making in Britain was ended after the company filed a planning application worth between £80m and £100m for a technology facility in Widnes’.
[‘High-speed technology is our DNA: Alstom plans to resume train building in the UK after a near 15 year hiatus. Country president Terence Watson talks to Sebastian Whale about what drew the company back to Britain.’ Politics Home, 3 March 2016]
The rail transportation heavyweight closed its UK train building operations at the completion of its contract building Pendolino tilting trains for Virgin Rail 15 years ago. The previous “fit and start” nature of the rail industry in Britain, reliant on short-term contracts, meant cashflow was an omnipresent concern, [Mr Watson] says.
The construction would be built in three phases, the first a near 28,000 sq m facility fit with car parking, service yards, rail sidings, landscaping and associated engineering operations. The later phases have the potential to include a new British factory, which would build HS2 trains if Alstom were to win that order.
[…] “We reached a point around a year ago where a clever supply model, assembling in Britain, roughly matches the price of a product shipped in from, for example, India in total. In other words we’ve reached that point of inflection. It is now, again, a reasonable proposition to make things in Britain competitively,” he says.
In fact, the hiatus hasn’t ended. Alstom isn’t making trains in Britain. It seems to be offering to assemble HS2 trains in Britain in the future, if it won the order, because of the government requirement to demonstrate some domestic employment benefit, no matter how minimal.
That requirement does not exist for other GB train orders — such as the Merseyrail fleet replacement, where Alstom has teamed up with Japan’s Mitsui and J-Trec to bid against Siemens, CAF, Bombardier, and Stadler.
If Alstom UK was ‘too reliant’ on the “fit and start” nature of the rail industry in Britain, one might well ask why it didn’t try to seek out export business, instead of closing its factory.
Britain’s fastest growing cities are all in the south, and its shrinking ones all in the north, wrote Citymetric’s Jonn Elledge (14 Aug 2015).
The main point to notice is that only one of Britain’s boom towns is above the line from the Bristol Channel to the Wash: that’s Telford, in the Midlands. All of the others are pretty comfortably within London’s orbit.
And as can be seen from SLC Rail’s regional population trends table (below), population growth in London and the South East is expected to be considerably higher than in the West Midlands and North West.
Contrary to the impression given by HS2 ‘blobbyists’, the primary need for additional rail capacity is going to be in the south east of England. Spending £56+ billion on 560-odd kilometres of HS2 track to Manchester and Leeds makes no sense in capacity terms, and is bound to crowd out improvements for places where capacity is actually needed.
One of the many shortcomings of HS2 is the lack of connectivity benefits for places between Birmingham and London. If the Great Central route between Calvert and Leicester were reactivated, it would be possible to provide connectivity for points such as Woodford, Brackley, and Calvert.
Interconnection of the Great Central with the West Coast Coast Main Line could be implemented by a chord running to the east, or west, of Rugby.
The Department for Transport has mandated the use of the Intercity Express Programme train in the Great Western and East Coast franchises at an excess cost which must run into hundreds of millions of pounds.
Rail Magazine contributors Nigel Harris and Paul Clifton were invited to the press launch of the first but incomplete 5-car IEP in Japan (whether Hitachi paid the travel and accommodation costs, is unclear). Judging from the coverage in issue 762 of the magazine, almost no new information was forthcoming (with Hitachi’s Keith Jordan refusing to detail the actual per-vehicle cost). Anyone reading the magazine would have got the impression that Hitachi invented friction stir welding.
Mr Jordan did say that the trains would be “more than 70% British”, but how that could be, was not explained. Even items which are claimed as being sourced from Great Britain, such as the Lucchini wheelsets, turn out to be imported, part-finished, from overseas.
From 2017, Intercity Express Programme trains built in Japan and fitted out in Newton Aycliffe, county Durham, are scheduled to replace most of the InterCity 125 and 225 formations operating on the Great Western and East Coast routes. Hitachi invited the British press to Japan to see the Class 800 IEP roll-out on 13 November.
The IEP’s thinner seats and longer carriages allow it to carry more people per unit length than current GB intercity trains. A ten-carriage train with the IEP layout could seat 715 people between London and Birmingham without any need to lengthen platforms (the tilt feature of Pendolinos is of limited value on the West Coast Main Line south of Birmingham).
As can be seen from the example above, a wider process of rolling stock optimisation on the West Coast Fast Lines would allow a passenger capacity increase of around 40%, with few infrastructure changes, and every fifth path unused, to allow recovery. In the example presented, ‘Ledburn’ suburban capacity would be doubled, with small trade-offs (affecting Watford, Milton Keynes and North Wales intercity). Various permutations are possible; much larger increases could be achieved by wider infrastructure upgrades.
(Legend for diagram above)
Green – IEP type intercity train, 225 km/h, ~715 seats
Orange – New generation commuter train, capable of 225 km/h, 830 seats (Desiro replacement)
Dark red – Pendular 265-metre intercity train (Pendolino type, 11 car)
Blue – Pendular 290-metre intercity train (Pendolino type, 12 car – would potentially require platform lengthening at up to 5 stations)
Brown – Pendular 145-metre intercity train (Pendolino type, 6 car – would potentially require platform lengthening at up to 5 stations for paired portion working)