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Living in Leeds City

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Having previously failed to acknowledge a FoI request for information about figures in their ‘Northern powerhouse rail booklet’, Transport for the North have belatedly provided a response.

[Response from TfN, September 2018]

I apologise for the delay in responding. Having regard to the duty to provide advice and assistance, I enclose a summary in respect of the Northern Powerhouse Rail (“NPR”) Booklet which in Figure 1 shows the present fastest time between Leeds and Newcastle as 87 minutes and the Transport for the North “(TFN”) fastest aspirational time as 60 minutes. The NPR Booklet on the TfN website has now been amended to provide the correct interpretation.
[…] I refer to your request for information held by TfN about the data and calculations underlying the diagram on page 4 of the booklet. Apart from the information supplied in the above summary, I consider that the information you have requested is exempt under Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in that the information is held by TFN with a view to its publication at some future date, the information was already held with a view to such publication at the time when your request for information was made, and it is reasonable in all the circumstances that the information should be withheld from disclosure.

The statement that “The NPR Booklet on the TfN website has now been amended to provide the correct interpretation” was more than a little baffling, because page four of the ‘FINAL‘ version, online at the time of writing, refers to the ‘number of people within reach of 4 or more city regions’. (In case TfN remove this document, it is reproduced below.)

Northern powerhouse rail booklet, ‘FINAL’ version

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'FINAL' version, page 1

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'FINAL' version, page 2

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'FINAL' version, page 3

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'FINAL' version, page 4

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'FINAL' version, page 5

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'FINAL' version, page 6

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'FINAL' version, page 7

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'FINAL' version, page 8

The Beleben blog has found out (not from TfN) that there are (at least) two versions of the booklet online at the time of writing. The ‘edit‘ version has a page four with different text, and was presumably created following the FoI request.

Northern powerhouse rail booklet, ‘edit’ version, page four

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'edit' version, page 4

How much more sense does the ‘edit’ version make? On page six, it says one of the benefits of NPR is ‘three million’ more people brought within 90 minutes of Manchester airport. But according to page four, it is ‘seven million’, not three.

Also on page four, it is stated that NPR would bring 200,000 more people within 60 minutes of Newcastle upon Tyne. How?

Newcastle’s only NPR connection with the rest of the network would be to Leeds, ’60 minutes’ away (by NPR). As the within-60-minutes-reach measurement is calculated from people’s place of residence, that would, at best, mean that ‘200,000 people’ were living in Leeds railway station.

‘Analysis supporting the Northern powerhouse rail booklet on the TfN website’ (supplied by TfN)

Analysis supporting the Northern powerhouse rail booklet on the TfN website, August 2018, page 1

Analysis supporting the Northern powerhouse rail booklet on the TfN website, August 2018, page 2

Analysis supporting the Northern powerhouse rail booklet on the TfN website, NPR Accessibility, August 2018, page 3


Written by beleben

September 13, 2018 at 8:37 am

Don’t turn back on clanger

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In December 2015, the Beleben blog pointed out that the design of HS2 and its dead-end station in Manchester made the proposed railway entirely unsuited to improving Northern connectivity.

Beleben blog, Manchester Piccadilly HS2 dead end, 2015-12-01

Two and a half years later, Manchester politicians Andy Burnham and Richard Leese have discovered the Piccadilly ‘dead end’, but not the other shortcomings of HS2 and George Osborne’s “Northern powerhouse rail” (NPR). In July 2018, they launched the ‘No turning back’ campaign to get the government to pay for a ‘Tunnel Connector’ and subterranean station for NPR at Manchester Piccadilly.

According to the ‘No turning back’ campaign, this station would cost “£1.2 billion extra” and “double the output of Greater Manchester to around £132 billion by 2050″.

No turning back NPR 'pledge card'

Of course, since there is no route defined for a transpennine NPR line, there is no way Andy and Richard could have the foggiest idea of whether the extra cost of a subterranean NPR station would be £1.2 billion, £2.2 billion, or £3.3 billion. Their support for NPR shows they have fundamentally misunderstood the nature of railway investment needed in Greater Manchester and the north of England.


[The Government isn’t listening to the North | Its plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail do not meet the needs of the region, Andy Burnham, Sir Richard Leese, July 17 2018, The Times]

This summer is proving to be a hot but frustrating one for the millions of northerners who rely on our trains.

Hot on the heels of the botched new rail timetable, we learned that electrification will be further delayed until the end of the year.

When Chris Grayling failed to show at the Northern Transport Summit in Manchester, the timing could not have been worse. Or more telling. The North is simply not his priority.

It is four years since George Osborne came to Manchester and promised a Northern Powerhouse. The big promises haven’t been delivered and questions are being asked about the Government’s commitment to it.

Delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail, aligned to maximise the benefits of HS2, is the litmus test for whether this Government will live up to its promise of providing much needed investment to make the Northern Powerhouse a reality. If we make the right investment choices now, the opportunity is immense.

Northern Powerhouse Rail has the potential to add £100 billion a year to economic output and create 850,000 jobs in the North. The North already has a fantastic industrial base, with huge potential for advanced manufacturing, energy and renewable investment, health innovation and digitisation. It will mean 1.3 million people will be within one hour of the four biggest Northern Cities. Today this figure is 10,000.

It will connect people to places, improve global links to Manchester Airport, driving international investment. Northern Powerhouse Rail will be the backbone of a Northern economy, driving growth and opportunity.

In Greater Manchester, Manchester Piccadilly station is the cross-roads of the North. We need it to be a transport super hub to serve the whole of the North, with an underground Northern Powerhouse Rail station as part of a new, world-class station. Providing better, faster east-west journeys for everyone in the North, unleashing inclusive growth from harnessing improved connectivity.

The Government’s preferred option is a Dead End at the heart of Northern Powerhouse Rail – above ground trains turning back and reversing down a line they just rolled in on, before moving on to their next destination. A Dead End at the heart of Northern Powerhouse Rail will delay journeys, limit capacity and stunt economic growth.

Last month we set the Government a challenge; prove you mean business by committing to delivering the best possible Northern Powerhouse Rail solution, confirming it is the next infrastructure priority after High-Speed 2.

The Government isn’t listening, which is why we are launching a campaign, ‘No Turning Back’, to get the best possible deal for the North.

We stand alongside our fellow northern colleagues fighting for what is so clearly right for the North.

Bradford must get a new through railway station in Bradford city centre as part of Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Liverpool must be fully connected to new rail lines both East-West between Liverpool, Manchester and across the North of England. Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Doncaster and Hull are making strong cases to Government as well, and they must get the right level of support from Government to ensure they get Northern Powerhouse Rail right for their city regions.

The North is standing together, and its voice will be heard. We say to the Government there can be no turning back on the promises of transformational investment. No turning back on developing a Northern economic powerhouse. No turning back from the North. No turning back at Manchester.

If this Government is serious about the North, it must commit to delivering the best possible Northern Powerhouse Rail solution as soon as possible. Build it once, build it right for the North.

Written by beleben

September 11, 2018 at 10:42 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Chrissing with confidence

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The delay in opening London’s Crossrail 1, announced today, will disappoint thousands of commuters but could also spell more trouble for cash-strapped Transport for London, which faces a near-£1 billion deficit, the Guardian reported.

[London Crossrail opening postponed until autumn next year, Gwyn Topham, The Guardian, 31 Aug 2018]

Andrew Adonis, the former chair of the national infrastructure commission, said: “It’s clearly a further massive catastrophe for Chris Grayling, who didn’t say a word in public about the scale of the crisis. He himself moved Sir Terry Morgan to be chair of HS2 and that was soon after Andrew Wolstenholme, the chief executive, left.

“The biggest infrastructure project in Europe, in a state of crisis, lost both its leaders with Grayling being awol throughout. To me it’s utterly inexplicable. How can it give anyone confidence that HS2 will be delivered?

Lord Adonis said the full scale of the problems had yet to emerge, with the industry talking of major issues with signalling systems, and predicted the opening could now be delayed until 2020.


Written by beleben

August 31, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

From failing to failed

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High speed train wreckBritain’s HS2 high-speed railway project has cost taxpayers £4.1 billion even before construction has started, the Financial Times reported.

[HS2 costs taxpayers £4.1bn before work even begins, Gill Plimmer, FT, 27 July 2018 (paywall)]

Martin Blaiklock, an infrastructure consultant, said the £4 bn represented around 8 – 10 per cent of estimated project costs, which he said was “somewhat high” for this stage of project planning, indicating that the final project cost would be “rather higher than expected”.
The costs come amid a wave of departures from the organisation, with a third of the board leaving in the past year, including the chairman David Higgins, finance director Steve Allen and non-executive director Lord Adonis, a leading driver of the project since its inception.
The Treasury’s own Infrastructure and Projects Authority has given HS2 an “amber/red” rating for each of the past six years — meaning there is a “high risk” of it not delivering value for money. A confidential report commissioned by the IPA and released in December 2016 also warned that costs were likely to end between 20 and 60 per cent over HS2’s £56 bn budget and that it would be “classified as ‘failed’ by any internationally recognised definition”.

So Andrew Adonis has ‘made off’, it seems. Why would that be?

'The sectetary of state is not available'

Written by beleben

July 29, 2018 at 9:23 am

Posted in High speed rail

The need according to Rachel

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HS2 is needed to stop some Chiltern line passengers occasionally having to sit on the floor, claimed Redditch MP Rachel Maclean last week (onboard a Chiltern train to Birmingham).

@redditchrachel 'To all those who say we don’t need #HS2. WE DO. Standing room only on the 16.47 to Birmingham this evening. Not even peak time (I’m sitting on the floor)'

Alternatively, and saving £60 billion in the process, why not just run trains with more seats on the existing track? In years gone by, the Chiltern Main Line used to see regular full-size express trains from Paddington to Birmingham Snow Hill, not the diminished ones which run out of Marylebone today.

Loco hauled train from London to Birmingham Snow Hill and Birkenhead near Seer Green, 1962 (Ben Brooksbank)

If the demand for more London to West Midlands travel was really there, one would also expect Chiltern Railways to

(i) switch available paths away from Oxford-via-Bicester, to providing extra Birmingham services

(ii) replace locomotive hauled trains to Birmingham with multiple units, with more seats.

Written by beleben

July 23, 2018 at 8:47 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Ave caramba

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High speed rail (Ave) accounts for 26 billion euro of ‘inappropriate’ expenditure of public funds in Spain over the period 1995 to 2016, according to a study published by the Association of Spanish Geographers.

El Pais infrastructure waste story, 19 Jun 2018, English language version

That would suggest that the programmed expenditure on Britain’s HS2 railway (€70++ billion) vastly exceeds the outlay on the Spanish Ave system (which is the second largest in the world).

El Pais infrastructure waste story, 19 Jun 2018, Spanish language version

Although shorter in route length, HS2 is a much bigger waste of money than Ave.

Written by beleben

June 20, 2018 at 11:27 am

Sum kind of overspend

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The “dysfunctional” HS2 high-speed rail company has pressed staff to falsify figures, mislead parliament and cover up “petrifying” overspends, according to claims reported in The Sunday Times.

[HS2 ‘covered up petrifying overspends’, Andrew Gilligan, The Sunday Times, 17 June 2018 (paywall)]

In documents seen by The Sunday Times, Doug Thornton, HS2’s former head of property, said the organisation put him under “tremendous pressure to accede to an enormous deceit” that the official budget for buying land and buildings was accurate.

As recounted by the story,

  • Mr Thornton and the former head of planning and performance, Andrew Bruce, departed HS2 in 2016, as the bill for phase one (London – West Midlands) reached a critical stage in parliament
  • both men have given evidence to the National Audit Office, which is investigating HS2’s land and property budget
  • HS2 Ltd maintains that buying the 11,000 properties needed to construct phase one would cost £2.8 billion, but Mr Bruce had calculations showing the sum could be around £4.7 billion.

At the time of writing, on his LinkedIn entry, it is stated that Mr Bruce “Developed the programme for the purchase of £4.8 Bn worth of land and property” for HS2 Ltd.

Andrew Bruce, formerly of HS2 Ltd, linkedin, extract

HS2, Estimate of expense, in parliament 2013 - 2014

Written by beleben

June 17, 2018 at 4:56 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2