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Midlands Connect ‘true HS2 capacity benefits’ were made up

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26 September 2019 was the day the ‘true benefits of High Speed Two were REVEALED for the first time’, according to a news release from the sub national transport body Midlands Connect about their own ‘in-depth research’ into HS2 released capacity.

Midlands Connect, news release, HS2 released capacity research, 26 Sep 2019

[Midlands Connect, 26 Sep 2019]

Revealed for the first time, 73 stations on the existing rail network stand to benefit from improved passenger services as a direct result of the capacity released by HS2, including 54 stations with no direct HS2 services;

Evidence submitted to the Oakervee HS2 Review by Midlands Connect;

* High speed line will take long-distance rail journeys off the existing network, providing capacity for new routes, as well as faster and more frequent local and inter-regional services;

* HS2 will create space for 576,000 extra seats per day on the high speed network, reducing overcrowding on existing lines;

* Released capacity essential to deliver major regional transport plans Midlands Engine Rail and Northern Powerhouse Rail;

* HS2 frees up space for 144 extra freight trains per day, enough to transport over 2.5 million more lorries’ worth of cargo on our railways each year.

HS2 will free up enough space on the existing railway network to improve rail services for 73 stations across the country, technical analysis by Sub-national Transport Body Midlands Connect has revealed for the first time.

The extra capacity provided by the new high speed line will create space on the existing network to introduce faster and more frequent services, reduce crowding and introduce new services between destinations that do no currently have a direct rail link.

Of the 73 locations that could benefit from HS2’s released capacity, 54 are stations not served by HS2 trains.

By moving long-distance traffic from our current rail infrastructure onto the new high speed line, HS2 will create the extra room needed to improve local and inter-regional services.” […]

[‘True benefits of HS2 REVEALED for the first time; extra capacity would mean improved rail services for 73 stations on existing network’ | Midlands Connect | Thursday 26 September 2019]

The news release was mostly ignored by the mainstream media, but Midlands Connect’s ‘findings’ appeared online in various places, such as the Logistics UK website.

[Zoe McLernon, Multimodal Policy Manager at Logistics UK:] “HS2 presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make Britain’s transport network more sustainable, and the opportunity for freight via released capacity from HS2 is substantial. HS2’s development will free-up space on the existing rail network for up to 144 extra freight trains per day, potentially removing 10,944 HGVs from the UK’s congested roads every day. 

[HS2: Government must pledge to grow rail freight, says Logistics UK | Friday 06 November 2020]
Midlands Connect, 'Our programme of work is underpinned by a strong evidence base'

Midlands Connect claim that their programme of work is underpinned by a strong evidence base, but curiously, they did not publish the evidence supporting their HS2 released capacity claims. All that was published was a map and ‘projected benefits’ table, allegedly created by ‘in-depth analysis of current local rail strategies, rail models and the Midlands Connect technical programme’.

So, one might ask, in which of these strategies and models can be found support for the specific claims made by Midlands Connect? For example,

  • HS2’s development will free up space on the existing rail network for up to 144 extra freight trains per day‘, and
  • ‘HS2 will free up enough space on the existing railway network to improve rail services for 73 stations across the country’?

When Midlands Connect were asked in a freedom of information request to provide the evidence supporting their September 2019 released capacity claims, West Midlands Combined Authority, which handles their FoI correspondence, did not respond. Eventually, after an intervention by the Information Commissioner’s Office, they did ‘respond’ – by sending the same evidence-free map and table that was already online.

Midlands Connect were then asked to review their response to the FoI request, and provide the ‘in-depth analysis’ mentioned in the ‘projected benefits’ table. Again, they did not respond, until the Information Commissioner told them to.

Finally, on 4 August 2021, the Combined Authority and Midlands Connect admitted, “We have conducted a review and search of the information we hold relevant to your request. We can confirm that we have not identified any additional information we hold. Therefore, we are not in a position to provide you with any further information, that represents “technical analysis”.

ICO direction for Midlands Connect to respond

Written by beleben

September 1, 2021 at 12:09 pm

Train planning for self-owners

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twitter, @alisonw, 'Higher speeds don't reduce rail capacity' [...] (?)

Since HS2 started, railway twitter has been host to copious ludicrous and technically illiterate statements about the project. So it’s little surprise to find a claim like ‘higher train speeds don’t reduce capacity, different speeds of consecutive services reduce capacity’ posted by a ‘pro-EU bitch’ (to quote the bio).

Rail line capacity, train speed and block length (Bombardier)

But it is surprising is to find someone who claims to be a train driver, weighing in, with an epic and memorable self-own on the topic.

Written by beleben

August 31, 2021 at 8:09 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

When parroting nonsense is easy but fact checking is hard

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Why is so much of the railway coverage in the UK media misleading and inaccurate? To some extent, it must be down to correspondents not having the time or background knowledge required to cut through and furnish readers with cogent and reliable information.

Consider, for example, The Times article ‘Tickets, please, for the hybrid tech express‘ (Graeme Paton, Saturday July 24 2021) whose main story is about Chiltern Railways’ hype to “significantly cut” carbon emissions and air pollution by installing battery packs on its diesel trains, ensuring ‘that the “last mile” of the journey into each station runs solely on battery power’.

twitter, @GarethDennis, 'Good cutaway by 
@BenCooke135 in this Times piece... Compare Germany's sustainable transport ambitions to the UK's, and it becomes pretty clear how little interest our government has in actually tackling climate change.'

But where are the figures demonstrating this allegedly “significant” cut in emissions? And why is the main picture of Kings Cross, rather than of a station on Chiltern Railways?

Unfortunately, for the sub-article ‘It’s time Britain got on board with Germany’s rail revolution’ (Ben Cooke), The Times decided to treat Gareth Dennis as a reliable source.

twitter, @GarethDennis, 'Of course, you need enhanced regional and national links to enable suburban transport networks to exist in the first place... Again something we in the UK are desperately dragging our feet on. Good to see another journo who
S-Bahn Berlin GmbH traces 'birth' of the Berlin S-Bahn to the year 1924, although the name was apparently not used until 1930

In the sub-article, it is claimed that the S-Bahn networks in German metropolitan areas are “made possible by Germany’s intercity lines, which are dedicated to high-speed trains. In contrast, many slow, local trains in the UK share lines with faster trains, limiting capacity without a fast train crashing into a slow one.”


[Ben Cooke, parroting Gareth Dennis:] The main advantage of HS2 is not that it would speed up the journey from Birmingham to London but that it would free up space for local mass transit.

Needless to say, the S-Bahn networks in German metropolitan areas were not “made possible” by Germany’s intercity lines, nor are most of those lines “dedicated to high-speed trains”. Most high speed train travel in Germany happens on upgraded, legacy, mixed-traffic lines, and most of the S-Bahn systems were in existence years before work on the ‘InterCity Express network’ had even been thought of, or started.

And exactly where would the London to Birmingham HS2, “free up space for local mass transit”? Out of Euston, there already is a sort of S-Bahn (the ‘dc lines’), and another separate pair of outer suburban commuter tracks, running alongside those used by intercity trains.

On the two-track section between Coventry and Birmingham, HS2 is planned to make little or no difference to the mix of stopping and semi-fast trains, and the idea that it would somehow enable provision of ‘high frequency mass transit’ is laughable. With the possible exception of the Longbridge to Four Oaks section of the so-called ‘Cross city line’, the local train service in the West Midlands is low-capacity ‘mickey mouse transit’.

Written by beleben

July 26, 2021 at 2:01 pm

Significantly greater weakness

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Earlier this year, “MPs in Leeds City Region” were emphasising that the eastern leg of the HS2 railway had a ‘very high’ benefit cost ratio, ‘most significantly, greater than that of the Western leg’.

tweet from @richard_rail about the benefit cost ratio of the eastern leg of HS2, 29 May 2020

But according to Andrew Adonis, speaking in the House of Lords on 30 November 2020, the HS2 eastern leg has the “weakest” of the benefit cost ratios.

[Andrew Adonis | House of Lords | High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill | Volume 808: debated on Monday 30 November 2020]

“[…] The situation, which is well known in the Department for Transport and among those with whom I speak, is as follows. Dominic Cummings tried to cancel HS2. To be blunt, he does not much like Governments of any form doing big projects, but he certainly does not like big state projects of this kind. He wrestled very hard with the Prime Minister after the last election to get him to cancel HS2 outright. The Prime Minister believes in big infrastructure projects. When I was Transport Secretary, I had big discussions with him. There are many things he has no fixed belief on, but he has been prepared to commit to big transport infrastructure projects that will connect the country. He was persuaded of the case for HS2, and when the decision had to be made in February about going ahead with the first phase of HS2, from London to Birmingham, he gave that commitment. What then happened was that Dominic Cummings moved on to the eastern leg, because the weakest of the BCRs — benefit to cost ratios — is for the eastern leg. The reason the weakest BCR is for the eastern leg is very straightforward: the cities served in the east of the country are smaller than those in the west. But we are supposed to be about levelling up. That is the whole philosophy of the Government. So the fact that the BCRs are lower for the east is not a reason for not proceeding with HS2 East; it is an essential reason for proceeding.” […]

Written by beleben

December 2, 2020 at 4:32 pm

Eat, sleep, spin, reset

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On 13 October, just weeks after the official ‘start of construction‘ of its High Speed Two railway, the government has announced that new “cost pressures” are emerging. (Was für eine Überraschung.), 'HS2 6 monthly report to parliament', 13 Oct 2020

But apparently no mention in this six-monthly report of other ‘cost pressures’, like the now-proposed 5.7 km tunnel in Bromford.

HS2 phase one, proposed Bromford tunnel extension

Written by beleben

October 14, 2020 at 11:55 am

The low-down on HS2 value

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According to its April 2020 phase one Final Business Case [FBC], High Speed Two offers ‘value for the taxpayer under all but the most extreme scenarios’.

But what kind of ‘value for the taxpayer’?

Forecast benefit cost of the Y network, DfT HS2 phase two economic case, July 2017, Figure 7

In July 2017, the Department for Transport claimed that the full HS2 Y network had a ‘68% chance of having a benefit cost ratio (BCR) above 2’ and a ‘92% chance of a BCR above 1.5’.

[HS2 Phase Two Economic Case | July 2017][…]

Phases 2a and 2b demonstrate high value for money, contributing to a full network BCR of 2.3 with WEIs and 1.9 excluding WEIs.

The Department’s value for money framework (2015) stated that in ‘standard cases’, a BCR of between 1.0 and 1.5 would indicate ‘Low’ value for money (VfM), a BCR between 1.5 and 2.0 would indicate ‘Medium’ VfM, and a BCR between 2.0 and 4.0 would indicate ‘High’ VfM.

DfT VfM framework, 2015, category definitions

[DfT value for money framework]

“[…] However it may be more appropriate to report a hybrid category (e.g. ‘Medium-High’) in cases where it is likely and reasonable to believe, that a proposal may fall into another category, based on analysis using ‘switching values’.”

In the April 2020 FBC the updated benefit-cost ratio for phase one (and for phase one-plus-2b taken together) was 1.2, when wider economic impacts (WEIs) are included. For the larger Y network (phase-one-plus-phase-2a-and-2b), the figure was 1.49, including WEIs.

HS2 phase one full business case, 15 April 2020, Table 2.1

On closer examination, the gulf between the ‘July 2017’ and ‘April 2020’ BCRs turns out to be even wider. One of the changes made for the FBC was that “spend up to the end of 2019 has been treated as sunk and excluded […] except for purchase costs on land and property that could be recoverable were HS2 not to go ahead“., written question on HS2 sunk costs, House of Lords, 2020-04-22

On 6 May, the government stated that had the ‘newly-declared-sunk’ costs not been excluded in the FBC,

  • the BCR for phase one would have been 0.8 without WEIs, and 1.0 with WEIs [i.e., ‘Poor’ value for money]
  • the Y network BCR would have been 1.1 without WEIs, and 1.3 with WEIs [‘Low’ value for money].

From the start, the Beleben blog has taken the view that the economic case for HS2 has been fabricated and manipulated to serve the political purpose of keeping the project going. This has been borne out by events.

BBC News, 27 Aug 2019, 'Ministers know HS2 was over budget years ago'

Manipulation of the economic case is still happening, and if anything, the HS2 project is becoming less, rather than more, transparent.

Written by beleben

May 15, 2020 at 11:31 am

Deep concerns over objectivity

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What appear to be more emanations of HS2 Ltd’s war on transparency are mentioned in an article by Stuart Spray on the Byline Times website.

According to the article, Mr Spray is an investigative environmental journalist and a fully paid-up member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), who graduated with an MA in investigative broadcast journalism in 2019.

[Why is HS2’s Press Office Blocking a Journalist from Doing their Job? | Stuart Spray | 17 April 2020]

For the past three weeks, I have been in regular contact with HS2’s press office requesting comments, statements and evidence in support of some of its ‘innovative’ approaches to wildlife management. But it appears that it has had enough of my line of questioning.

Two days ago, following a seemingly innocuous request for a comment regarding nesting birds in an ancient woodland which is currently in the process of being felled, a member of the press team told me that “for this information, I’d recommend contacting our Helpdesk or FOI [Freedom of Information] team. Our press office is for accredited journalists only”.

In a follow-up email to one of Byline Times’ executive editors, the press team clarified its position, explaining that it had “deep concerns” over my “objectivity as a journalist” and questioned my “motives for asking the questions in the first place”. They referred to my apparent support for the naturalist Chris Packham and Extinction Rebellion (XR) on social media.

Written by beleben

April 17, 2020 at 2:41 pm

Posted in High speed rail

HS2 ignorance is grand

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According to HS2 Ltd, “there are suggestions to upgrade existing routes, like the Grand Central route between the Midlands and London. The Government is investing £40bn in the existing network, but this cannot provide all the additional capacity required for the future.”


So, people are expected to believe the Grand Central [sic] is part of the “existing network”, which the government “is investing £40bn in”.

Written by beleben

December 11, 2019 at 5:16 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Many weaknesses and huge opposition

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There is “little public support for but huge opposition against HS2”, according to  Professor Roderick Smith, who has become “increasingly concerned about the sub-optimal ways in which [the project] has evolved”.


[How to rescue Britain’s HS2 project, Professor Roderick Smith, IRJ, 28 Nov 2019]

[…] My suggestions imply criticism of the engineering staff of HS2. I know many of them well and I am aware that many are concerned by the weaknesses of the present design. They feel constrained by orders from above, but from whom the orders originate it is not clear.

Written by beleben

November 29, 2019 at 9:40 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

No opportunity to influence

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twitter, @tonyberkeley1, 2 Nov 2019, 'My role as dep chair of the Oakervee Report on HS2 finished yesterday.   Report not finished and no opportunity to influence conclusions.  We are told that, when completed by Doug O and the DfT secretariat, it will be locked into the DfT vaults for the new S of S to publish.'

Written by beleben

November 2, 2019 at 2:22 pm