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Add nearly thirty

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Liverpool Lime Street by el pollock (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

‘Cancelling electrification projects around the country will add nearly 30 minutes to journeys between Manchester and Liverpool’ (Labour press)

Cancelling electrification works will lengthen journey times, increase carbon emissions and raise the cost of running Britain’s rail network, the Labour party warned on 2 August.

Labour press release on rail electrification, 02 Aug 2017

[Labour press release, 2 Aug 2017]

Cancelling electrification projects around the country will add significantly to journey times:

* Journeys between Manchester and Liverpool will add nearly 30 minutes

* Journeys between Leeds and Newcastle will add over 20 minutes.

* Cancelling the electrification of the Cardiff to Swansea section of the Great Western Mainline puts at risk the estimated journey time saving between Swansea and London with Super Express trains of 19 minutes.

Labour has made a £10 billion commitment to “Crossrail for the North” to reverse decades of underinvestment in Northern transport infrastructure that has undermined the economic potential of the north of England and help deliver 850,000 new jobs by 2050.

Network Rail estimates that electrification and the running of electric vehicles can help to reduce CO2 emissions by an average of 20 to 30 per cent compared to their diesel counterparts and the maintenance costs for electric trains are 33 per cent lower than for diesel.

Unfortunately, the press release has a fairly tenuous relationship with the actuality. For example, the Liverpool to Manchester ‘Chat Moss’ electrification has already been completed, so it is hard to see how “Journeys between Manchester and Liverpool will add nearly 30 minutes”.

Again, with the Swansea – Cardiff cancellation, it is difficult to understand how “the estimated journey time saving between Swansea and London with Super Express trains of 19 minutes” is put at risk.

As the new intercity trains for the Swansea – London service are all being fitted with underfloor diesel engines, the Beleben blog cannot understand how their maintenance costs “are 33% lower” than diesels.

Because they are diesels. Electro-diesels.

Electro-diesel (bi-mode) trains were part of the project from the outset. The Great Western electrification shows what can happen when a scheme is poorly specified and designed. It went wrong from the word go, and as the transport secretary at the time, Andrew Adonis must be largely responsible.

Written by beleben

August 3, 2017 at 9:06 am

Beam me up potty

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Network Rail has apologised for building large new overlead line gantries in the Goring Gap without consulting nearby residents, the BBC reported.

[Network Rail apologises for Goring Gap gantries, BBC News, 15 January 2016]

[…] Goring resident Roy McMillan said: “There was no foreknowledge of the actual design Network Rail has used… it is heavily, heavily over-engineered.”

Roy McMillan, chair of South Stoke Parish Council, said there was an “absolute forest” of the new gantries “stretching over in the distance towards Didcot”.

He added: “They’re absolutely horrible… people see them the whole time, every day of their life”.

But Lucy Murfitt, from the Chiltern Conservation Board, said [a meeting between residents and Network Rail] at the village hall had been positive.

She added: “They’ve now conceded there’s a problem and they’re going to look at redesigning and removing them which is fantastic, and they’re going to involve us in it and consult the public.”

BBC News story about the overhead metal beams being erected on the Great Western Main Line, October 2015

Written by beleben

January 22, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Posted in Great Western, Railways

Dawlish random numbers

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Network Rail claim that the current Meldon viaduct could not be restored for railway use

Network Rail claim that the current Meldon viaduct (in Option 3) could not be restored for railway use

Network Rail has provided transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin with its West of Exeter Route Resilience Study, which was established following the storm damage at Dawlish earlier this year. But who actually undertook the study, is not apparent.

[Network Rail]

Appraisal work was commissioned by Network Rail to assess the outline business case for each of the seven potential diversionary routes described in the previous section. The scope of this appraisal activity can be summarised as follows:

• To establish a base case, the existing railway via Dawlish would remain the only rail route between Plymouth and Exeter as now. This base case also includes review of the extent to which the Dawlish route could be expected not to be available for traffic due to planned engineering possessions and unplanned disruption, and the road replacement services to be assumed

• To identify the scale of disruption compensation costs for the base case, which potentially could be avoided were an alternative/diversionary route to be available

• To devise appropriate train service specifications for each route option, taking advantage of the new route:

– For planned train services only where it offers journey time savings compared with the existing route via Dawlish

– For diversions on those occasions when the route via Dawlish is not available for traffic

• To assess the likely scale of passenger demand and revenue impacts for each option

• To assess the annual operating costs for each option

• To prepare an outline UK rail financial business case appraisal and DfT WebTAG compliant transport economic appraisal, including unpriced user and non-user benefits. The appraisal compares the seven alternative/diversionary route options against the base case

• To test the extent to which stakeholders’ aspirational higher train service level scenario would change the appraisal results, together with appropriate sensitivity testing to illustrate the robustness of the results and conclusions.

In all the options, the route via Dawlish is retained with existing calls at the intermediate stations maintained. It is assumed that in the short to medium term works will have been undertaken to the route to ensure comparable standards of resilience to levels of risk similar to the average over the last 40 years.

Network Rail Great Western route to West Devon and Cornwall, west of Exeter resilience options, 2014

The study considered the following courses of action:

• Option 1, Base Case (maintenance / repair / operating regime same as pre-breach)

• Option 2, Strengthening the existing railway, is the subject of a separate Network Rail study, due to report in the first part of 2015. An early estimated cost of between £398 million and £659 million would be spread over four Control Periods with a series of trigger and hold points to reflect funding availability, spend profile and achieved level of resilience

• Option 3, Alternative Route A – rebuild the former London & South Western Railway route from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock at an estimated cost of £875 million

• Option 4, Alternative Route B – constructing a modern double track railway on the alignment of the former Teign Valley branch line from Exeter to Newton Abbot. This has an estimated cost of £470 million. There is doubt as to whether a resilient railway is practical on this route

• Option 5, Alternative Routes C (C1 – C5) – five alternative direct routes to provide a new line between Exeter and Newton Abbot at an estimated cost between £1.49 billion and £3.10 billion.

The study found that Options 3, 4, and 5 represented very poor value for money, while the VfM of Option 2 was “To be assessed”.

Although not stated explicitly in the study, in conventional transport economic terms, the best performing option would be the current, “reactive” Option 1, but the wider economic impacts question was not really addressed. The Great Western Main Line is not an “economic lifeline” for the South West, but the option of closing all lines west of Exeter was not on the table.

Currently, the vast majority of passenger travel to and from the peninsula is by road, and railfreight volume is negligible. But if South West rail access is to be maintained and developed, the best long term option would probably be to abandon the coastal alignment at Dawlish, and build something like Option C5. The Option 2 notion that the coastal route could be made storm-proof, sea-level-proof, and electrification-ready, for “£659 million”, looks highly suspect.

According to Network Rail, Option 3 is unattractive for a number of reasons. Construction of a new viaduct at Meldon would be required, and the running of stopping trains between Plymouth, Okehampton and Exeter would generate minuscule economic benefits and revenue.

Shortcomings in the study include the lack of detail about what Option 2 would actually involve, and the absence of a cost breakdown of Option 3. The storm damage in early 2014 cut off rail access to the South West for around eight weeks in the off season, but the cumulative sum of disruption from meaningful hardening of the existing route over four Control Periods (i.e. two decades) would probably be a large multiple of that. So, in the humble view of the Beleben blog, Option 2 is likely, in disruption terms, to prove a cure worse than the disease.

Network Rail west of Exeter assessed options, 2014

Network Rail west of Exeter options, 2014. Note the curious absence of a VfM assessment for Option 2

Politically and publicly, do nothing (Option 1) is ‘not an option’, but significantly improving the resilience of the existing railway (Option 2) is not achievable without effectively rebuilding it over a distance of several miles. The study glosses over that fact, which would tend to suggest an ‘Option 2 Lite’ (Option 1 dressed up as Option 2) is the preferred option.

Written by beleben

July 16, 2014 at 11:04 am

‘Keep calm, just keep making up stuff’

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It seems that transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has repeated his “We spent £9 billion upgrading the route north of Rugby” nonsense at the Derby & Derbyshire Rail Forum’s annual conference.

Extract from Railnews story (10 April 2014)

Extract from Railnews story (10 April 2014)

As the Beleben blog revealed in March, the Department for Transport says it “does not hold information” on how much money was spent north of Rugby. Experience suggests that Mr McLoughlin is not someone to rely on for accurate information.

Railnews: Patrick McLoughlin mentioned a benefit-cost ratio of "one per cent"

Railnews: Patrick McLoughlin mentioned a benefit-cost ratio of “one per cent”

Keep Calm And Carry On Spinning

Written by beleben

April 10, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Great Western, HS2

Tagged with

‘The most successful high speed railway in Europe’

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In a 19 January 2012 lecture at Nottingham University, Biz4HS2‘s David Begg said “the most successful [high speed] line in Europe would be Cologne to Frankfurt… 110 miles, similar to London to Birmingham” [23 minutes, 12 seconds in].

The Cologne to Frankfurt high speed line in the wider European network

The Neubaustrecke (NBS) Köln-Rhein/Main in the European high speed network

But like Spain’s AVE, the Frankfurt to Cologne high speed line is not something that Great Britain should seek to replicate. According to Table 9 of the Bartlett School of Planning’s Neubaustrecke (NBS) Köln-Rhein/Main study, actual passenger numbers were well below forecast, and in 2002 its ‘capability’ was just ‘five trains per hour and direction’.

HS2 is a much bigger project than Frankfurt — Cologne, or Madrid — Sevilla, so the risks are much larger. But what’s common to all these schemes, is a near-total lack of transparency.

Written by beleben

January 17, 2013 at 12:32 pm

HS2 and wider economic costs

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Some years ago, the concept of ‘wider economic benefits‘ was introduced into British cost-benefit appraisal, where it has proved particularly helpful to rail projects.

The neutral term ‘wider economic impacts’ is often used, but in practice, items recognised in extended appraisal tend to be benefit-, rather than cost-oriented. In the August 2012 Economic Case update, HS2 Ltd stated that its high speed rail Y network had a benefit cost-ratio of 1.9 before wider economic impacts, and 2.5 when they are included. However, HS2 assessment of wider economy impacts is strangely selective about what is, and is not, monetised.

On 6 June 2012, the Birmingham Post reported that “Birmingham Airport could move to be closer to HS2”.

Birmingham Airport passenger terminals could be moved more than half a mile east to be closer to the planned HS2 interchange.

The airport’s runway and airside operations would remain where they are while handling operations – such as check-in, baggage handling and security – would move closer to Birmingham International station, according to chief executive Paul Kehoe.
He told a New Civil Engineer’s Airport Design and Engineering conference in London, that he wanted to embark on a consultation about moving the terminals.

“This could result in moving the airport one kilometre eastwards,” Mr Kehoe told delegates. “It may sound daft but it has to happen.

In West London, construction of HS2 would entail widespread disruption of the road network. Although the work would be phased, there is no getting away from the fact that HS2 construction would have negative economic consequences, but there is no recognition mechanism in HS2 Ltd’s appraisal process.

Disruption in West London, Camden, and Birmingham is monetised at £0 in the HS2 Economic Case, and the costs of reconfiguring transport infrastructure (e.g. re-locating Birmingham Airport, providing tram access to HS2 at Curzon Street, rebuilding Euston LUL concourse), are considered external to the scheme boundary by HS2 Ltd.

HS2 Ltd’s position is not credible. Economic appraisal of its high speed rail scheme should be conducted with a view to capturing the extent of costs, as well as benefits.

Written by beleben

November 1, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Great Western, High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with

The age of the train

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Described as a documentary about the Inter-City 125 High Speed Train, BBC television’s one-hour “The Age of the Train” (broadcast earlier this month) was as much about the British Railways Board and its relationship with government in the 1970s and 1980s.

Terry Miller, designer of the InterCity 125

BRB saw the Inter City 125, designed by Terry Miller and styled by Kenneth Grange, as a ‘conventional technology’ stop-gap pending the arrival of squadron Advanced Passenger Trains.

Kenneth Grange, stylist of the Inter City 125 train (BBC tv)

Along with the Inter City brand, broadcasting personality Jimmy Savile — and the HST train itself — were prominent in British Rail marketing.

Jimmy Savile seated by a picture of the APT in BBC television's 'Age of the Train'

With the mid-1990s fragmentation of the railway industry came the disappearance of Inter City as a business unit and as a brand. Neither ATOC, nor individual train operating companies, attempt to actively market journeys that involve crossing franchises.

Alan Marshall (Railnews, ex BRB) in BBC television's 'Age of the Train'

Alan Marshall (later BRB public relations manager) recounted that prime minister Margaret Thatcher disliked the open saloon design of HST and other 1970s trains. (In continental Europe, compartment and ‘semi-compartment’ accommodation was retained in new builds.)

Norman Fowler MP inaugurating a British Coachways service following deregulation of coach travel

Although Margaret Thatcher’s government did not privatise British Rail, it was hostile to nationalised industries, and minister Norman Fowler took part in the launch of privately owned ‘British coachways’ long distance buses competing against the state-owned National Express. (In the event, without recourse to subsidy, National Express trounced the Coachways consortium.)

Television presenter Peter Snow in BBC television's 'Age of the Train'

One of the most pertinent comments came from Peter Snow, who observed that most ‘long distance’ journeys in Britain are roughly 200 miles or less (e.g. London to Manchester), and therefore well-suited to a 125 mph (200 km/h) train like the HST.

Apart from Glasgow and Newcastle, all the big conurbations are relatively close to London, and reachable by train in little more than 2 hours today. In essence, British geography militates against economic success for the Adonis/Steer HS2 concept being pursued by the coalition government.

Written by beleben

September 20, 2012 at 1:09 pm

The Right Lines Charter, part three

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It's complicated

High Speed Rail, Next steps for the new Secretary of State‘ has been published by The Right Lines Charter on its website

Imminent decision on HS2 needs to be part of wider transport strategy

Posted on 25 November, 2011 by Karen Gardham

A broad coalition of campaigning groups is launching a new report on High Speed Rail, setting out what still needs to be done by the Government to meet its commitment to local communities and the environment.

When the Right Lines Charter, supported by environmental, transport, heritage and legal charities with over 600 combined years of involvement in the planning of major infrastructure, was launched in April 2011, then Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond said that ‘[these] respected organisations…should be assured that the Government is already acting on their points of concern.’ Over half a year later, on the verge of the Government announcing its decision on High Speed 2 (HS2), these organisations are launching a report to set out for the benefit of the new Secretary of State, Justine Greening, what still needs to be done.

Karen Gardham, Campaign Manager for the Right Lines Charter, says: “The two transport policies the Government is clear about are that they want High Speed Rail, but they do not want a third runway at Heathrow. We strongly support the commitment to shifting intercity transport from air and road to rail, but so far HS2 has been developed in a vacuum. If HS2 is to meet its environmental or economic potential, it needs to be planned properly within a long-term national transport strategy that cuts carbon.”

Besides setting out the need for such a strategy by 2014, before phase two of HS2 is formally consulted on, the report outlines how changes are needed to the way the future is forecasted and how communities are engaged in consultation on major infrastructure proposals. It also calls for better recognition and protection of the value of the natural and historic environment. The groups are calling for the lessons from previous schemes, such as High Speed 1, to be learned from.

Karen Gardham added: “Justine Greening has shown her environmental credentials and eye for detail during the successful challenge to the third runway at Heathrow. Now she has been promoted to run the Department for Transport, we’re hoping she will once again secure the best outcome for communities and the country by improving the planning of High Speed Rail.”

and high speed rail lobbying company Greengauge 21 has announced that three of the Right Lines Charter signatories have commissioned it to look at high speed rail and carbon emissions.

Carbon impacts of HS2: Interim Report

2 December, 2011

A research study into the potential full carbon impacts of HS2 has been commissioned from Greengauge 21 by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). This report sets out the interim findings, highlighting the issues that we have identified as likely to be significant in the carbon case for HS2.

The report is an interim document ahead of the full results of the research, which will be published in 2012. In the next phase of the study will examine the knock-on effects on other modes of transport, examining for the first time the carbon impacts of freeing up capacity on existing railways for more rail freight or local passenger services, and identify the policy measures that will have the most impact on the carbon emissions for high speed rail.

Notes to Editors

1. The research study, The Carbon Impacts of HS2, is being carried out by Greengauge 21, a not-for-profit research organisation on high-speed rail. Greengauge 21 has in turn commissioned various experts in the environmental and transport fields and coördinated the research programme.

2. The Carbon Impacts of HS2 was commissioned by Campaign for Better Transport, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The groups are all signatories of The Right Lines Charter, which was launched in April 2011 and which ten other organisations have now signed up to. It sets out four principles for ‘doing High Speed Rail well’, including highlighting the need for high-speed rail to be planned and justified as a strategic element of a sustainable, near zero carbon transport system.

3. The Carbon Impacts of HS2 is sponsored by Siemens, Systra and the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC).

However, the ‘interim’ report doesn’t seem to be consistent with the Right Lines charter itself:

A new strategic and transparent approach is needed for High Speed Rail in an increasingly uncertain future. Assumptions about future transport policy and trends need to be exposed to scrutiny, taking account of possible technological changes as well as changes to the cost of different forms of travel.

Written by beleben

December 2, 2011 at 11:47 am

Geoff Inskip and HS2 “released capacity” (short version)

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Full version

Centro‘s Geoff Inskip claims that HS2 would release “huge capacity” on the West Midlands rail network, for more and better local services.

But the sum total of its capacity relief is: removing *one* Pendolino path per hour from the Birmingham – Coventry line.

Written by beleben

August 24, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Economy, capacity, scalability, and resilience

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Evergreen++ | Coventry | Milton Keynes

Chiltern intercity to the West Midlands, West Coast Main Line, Varsity Line


In previous blogposts, I discussed the transfer of London – West Midlands intercity rail traffic to the Chiltern Main Line. The diagram above shows the reconfiguration of services supporting this ‘Evergreen++’ concept – which is scalable, resilient, environment-friendly, and less expensive than HS2.

Unlike Atkins’ Scenario C, Evergreen++

  • maximises the use of the Chiltern Main Line through the use of long trains – longer, in fact, than those currently operating between Euston, Birmingham, and Wolverhampton
  • uses Snow Hill, not Moor Street, as the Birmingham stopping point
  • uses Paddington, not Marylebone, as the London stopping point
  • allows for a very high capacity future London to Birmingham service (using a station at Old Oak Common as an alternative to reconstruction of Paddington)
  • does not include cruft – such as a £3.44 billion tunnel between Seer Green and Saunderton
  • provides the potential for through (no-change-of-train) service between London and Black Country towns such as Walsall and West Bromwich.

The Black Country accounts for around half of the population of the West Midlands Urban Area. Because there is no change of train needed for Black Country towns, Evergreen++ is able to compete with HS2 on journey times to London.


The Evergreen++ concept is about providing versatile, resilient, and interoperable infrastructure. The upgrade and electrification of the Coventry to Leamington Spa railway maximises realisation of these objectives.

However, it’s likely that the West Coast Main Line could continue to be used for Coventry services, by splitting a future interregio-type service on the WCML, at Rugby. Intercity trains would not run from London to Birmingham on the WCML, however; their paths would be freed for other use.

Milton Keynes

On the West Coast Main Line, upgrade works (e.g. junction grade separation) could robustify capacity between Euston and Milton Keynes.

But it’s also possible to provide a second access to southern Milton Keynes, by extending passenger services from Marylebone beyond Aylesbury, using part of the Oxford – Cambridge Varsity Line.