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Archive for the ‘High speed rail’ Category

Jean-Cyril spin est là

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'Former Air France CEO Spinetta to assess future of French rail sector', Railway Gazette, 18 Oct 2017On 18 October the Railway Gazette published a story about an inquiry led by former head of Air France-KLM Jean-Cyril Spinetta, which “will investigate multiple issues across the French rail sector, including low ridership on regional passenger trains and the precipitous decline in rail freight seen in recent years”.

However, the story barely mentioned the role of the TGV network in the diminished performance and viability of SNCF.

According to a Le Figaro report (19 September 2017), 70% of TGV service is loss-making.

‘Surexpansion’ of the TGV service seems to have gone hand-in-hand with ‘une négligence progressive’ of the classic network.


Written by beleben

October 19, 2017 at 9:24 am

Great Western watershed

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Yesterday’s launch of Hitachi IEP trains on the somewhat electrified main line from Bristol to London might well be described as a ‘watershed moment’ for the Great Western.
@scott4sarah twitter, ceiling 'cascade' on IEP train

‘Leaking’ air-con on the 0600 IEP from Temple Meads to Paddington certainly gave new meaning to the phrase “rolling stock cascade”. The train left Bristol 25 minutes late, and lost another 16 minutes en route, having made the entire journey on diesel because of a pantograph ‘issue’.

Google news, first Great Western IEPs in service

Karen Boswell, managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe, said: “Nine years of hard work has gone into making today happen, from creating a brand new factory and workforce, to establishing modern maintenance facilities from Swansea to London.

“We’ve delivered pioneering 21st century trains for passengers to enjoy”.

Bloomberg, Kobe-steel scam hits planes, trains, autos

Written by beleben

October 17, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Unreason at the core

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In the 2014 ‘Rebalancing Britain‘ report, HS2 chairman David Higgins wrote of “the clear importance of the Manchester market”. According to the Department for Transport, there were about 3¼ million rail journeys between London and Manchester in 2013 / 2014, and 48 trains per day in each direction.

Northern markets, David Higgins 'Rebalancing Britain' report for the Department for Transport, 2014

Northern markets, David Higgins ‘Rebalancing Britain’ report for the Department for Transport, 2014

Assuming 589-seat Pendolino trains, and 360-days-per-year operation, would give an annual quantum of (589 * 48 * 2 * 360 =) 20,355,840 seats. For Monday-through-Friday, the figure would be ~14,136,000.

So, on a 7-day or a 5-day measure, less than a quarter of the ‘Manchester to London intercity seat capacity’ was actually used for journeys between Manchester and London.

The percentages for other end to end journeys, such as London to Birmingham and London to Leeds, are not that different. To get better loadings, intercity trains tend to make stops en route, enabling them to tap into commuter traffic (e.g. Macclesfield to Manchester).

In the HS2 scheme, there would be a much higher dependence on ‘end to end’ traffic, with intermediate destinations tending to be either badly served (e.g. Nottingham, Coventry), or not served at all.

But as is plain to see from the ‘Northern markets’ graphic (above), the volume of big-city to big-city demand is not very large.

The ‘capacity case’ for HS2 does not withstand scrutiny because (i) the vast majority of rail demand is for short distance travel, (ii) capacity on the existing tracks can be increased substantially, at much lower cost.

For example, Manchester-to-London and Birmingham-to-London capacity on the existing West Coast Main Line could be increased by over 50%, without resignalling, or platform lengthening. That uplift would come from recasting the timetable, and using space-efficient carriages.

On page 5 of his ‘Rebalancing’ report, David Higgins wrote, “The biggest danger in any major project is losing sight of why you are doing it in the first place. Why is it worth the effort, not to mention the cost? What is the problem that it is the answer to? What is the core purpose you are trying to achieve?”

The big chart of ‘with- and without-HS2’ journey times – on page 4 of the report – would suggest that the rationale of HS2 was more about ‘reducing journey times’, than increasing capacity.

DfT / David Higgins 'Rebalancing Britain' 2014 report, page 4 and top of page 5

DfT / David Higgins ‘Rebalancing Britain’ 2014 report, page 4 and top of page 5

But how many journeys would it speed up?

There are ~1,500 million journeys on ‘national rail’, each year. Would speeding up 3¼ million of them between Manchester and London — or 1¾ million between Leeds and London — justify an outlay of “£55.7 billion”?

Written by beleben

October 11, 2017 at 11:31 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Aesthetically challenged overhead

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High Speed 2 Ltd has procured a £3 million licence from SNCF to use its existing high speed overhead catenary system (OCS) for the HS2 phase 1 route, New Civil Engineer reported (paywall).

[HS2 to use French overhead line technology, Katherine Smale, New Civil Engineer, 29 Sep 2017]

[…] The project promoter said while it welcomed any solution which met its standards, as a number of companies had already produced systems which were close to complying with its standards, it anticipated the work would be to upgrade and develop existing systems and not design it from scratch.

HS2 said unlike alternative systems, SNCF’s system did not prescribe suppliers, opening the way for UK-based manufacturers to bid for contracts to supply OCS components.

This suggests that HS2 phase 1 could end up looking much like HS1 – which is a French ‘high speed’ line, in all but name.

SNCF type overhead lines, as seen on 51m website

SNCF type overhead lines, as seen on 51m website

So, what happened to the aspiration for HS2 to be a design ‘exemplar’, with ‘aesthetic overhead line structures’? Perhaps Sadie Morgan knows?

RIBA competitions, 'aesthetic overhead line structures'

RIBA competitions, ‘aesthetic overhead line structures’

Did someone say ‘Tesco value’?

Allied Insulators, 'HS2 aesthetic electrification'

Allied Insulators, ‘HS2 aesthetic electrification’

Written by beleben

September 29, 2017 at 11:28 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Keep up to date with HS2 alt-facts

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Public understanding of HS2 has been impaired by the cloak of secrecy over much of the project, and the fake news and misinformation propagated by official sources.

For example, according to Sheffield City Region’s twitter, 250 mph is ‘how fast HS2 trains will travel’.

twitter @SheffCityRegion, '250 mph is how fast HS2 trains will travel'

And according to West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street (quoted in Aston university’s 2017 In Touch magazine), “The simple fact is that Birmingham will be just 39 minutes from Euston.”

Andy Street, 'The simple fact is that Birmingham will be just 39 minutes from Euston'

Written by beleben

September 22, 2017 at 11:44 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

HS1 and Kentish tourism

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The economic impact that High Speed 1 has had on Kent’s tourism economy ‘has been revealed for the first time in a report independently produced by Visit Kent and tourism economists Destination Research Ltd’.

HS1 website with Kentish tourism story, on 20 Sep 2017

But what role did HS1 Ltd play in commissioning and funding the ‘tourism impact study’? And how plausible are its findings?

[‘HS1 adds £72 million to Kent economy in 2016 as leisure journeys increase nine-fold’, HS1 Ltd news, 15 Sep 2017]

[…] Almost three quarters (73%) of tourism businesses in Kent believe that leisure tourism in the county has increased as a result of HS1. Over half (54%) believe that HS1 has specifically benefitted their own business. 94% of these tourism businesses said that they had benefited because of HS1’s high speed connections, with 80% saying that HS1 has helped attract visitors from further afield.

Almost a third (30%) of tourists said they were influenced in their decision to visit Kent by the presence of the HS1 service. Almost half (47%) of all visitors to Kent who travelled by rail did so via the HS1 service.

Interviews for the study seem to have been mainly conducted in places served by HS1 trains, rather than across Kent as a whole. Another oddity is the distribution of interviews in particular locations.

HS1 tourism impact study 2017, interviewees, extract

All in all, the report’s plausibility looks suspect. It is difficult to make sense of the claim that “only a proportion of journeys made on HS1 infrastructure were on HS1 trains, and not on regular (or classic) rail stock”. Because the only passenger trains using ‘HS1 infrastructure’ are (a) Eurostar (which mostly don’t stop in Kent), and (b) ‘Javelin’.  No classic passenger trains circulate on HS1.


Written by beleben

September 20, 2017 at 8:00 am

High speed rail and cost efficiency

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The world’s longest high-speed rail journey is the 2,760 kilometre Beijing – Kunming service. Only China has high speed trains which run at 350 km/h, China Daily reported.

[High-speed rail trips get easier as network expands,, 11 Sep 2017]

Service on several Chinese lines have reached that speed, including Beijing – Tianjin, Beijing – Shanghai and Shanghai – Ningbo.

However, journeys of 2,700 km are probably not optimal for high speed rail, in terms of competing against air travel.

In a paper published in the Journal of Transport Geography in 2014, Jianhong Wu, Chris Nash and Dong Wang questioned the ‘appropriateness’ of China’s high speed rail network. They argued that new-build conventional rail would, in general, be more suitable for China’s economy.

How 'appropriate' is China's high speed rail?

Increasing rail speed from 250 to 350 km/h in China has reportedly led to ‘a near doubling of capital costs per route-km’.

Increasing rail speed in China from 250 to 350 km/h appeared to lead to a near doubling of capital costs per route-km

‘Design operating speeds seem to be a key driver of capital costs’. In Britain, the HS2 project is being designed to allow trains to run at 400 km/h at a later date. One of the made-up claims for HS2 is that ‘building for very high speed is only ~10% more expensive than building for conventional speed’ (< 250 km/h).

Written by beleben

September 11, 2017 at 9:55 am