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Archive for the ‘High speed rail’ Category

Yesterday’s solutions and today’s fantasies

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The tram, the bus, park and ride – these are all potentially yesterday’s solutions to yesterday’s opportunities. City and business leaders today should be thinking about the world in 20 years’ time, when the HS2 network is completed, according to KPMG’s Richard Threlfall.

'Northern strategy must embrace the future', Richard Threlfall, KPMG

‘Northern strategy must embrace the future’, KPMG, December 2016

[Richard Threlfall, 16 December 2016]

High speed rail will conquer the inter-urban market, potentially obliterating domestic aviation. Autonomous vehicles will provide the connections into that network, from the smallest rural hamlet, the remote suburb, or the city-centre transport interchange.

[…] By the end of [2017] Transport for the North should have brought forward a strategy for HS3, which I hope will distinguish the creation of a new high speed inter-city network for the Northern Powerhouse from the upgrading of lines to strengthen commuter flows. I would like to see a dedicated city centre to city centre network, tunneled where necessary, and using a next generation technology such as that being developed by Hyperloop in the US.

But according to global VP of business development at Hyperloop One, Alan James – who previously headed the UK Ultraspeed maglev effort –  hyperloop ‘would be a cheaper and faster alternative to HS2’.

[London to Manchester in 18 minutes? The Hyperloop may be heading to the UK, Oliver Franklin-Wallis, Wired,  5 September 2016]

Hyperloop One told WIRED it has held conversations with the government and private companies about potential UK routes and “there’s been quite a strong response” from the government. UK government representatives also attended Hyperloop One’s much-publicised propulsion test in Nevada, in May 2016.

'An Italian rapper, a hangman's noose and a $250m lawsuit: the chaotic race to build Elon Musk's hyperloop', Wired, 6 Oct 2016

Written by beleben

March 20, 2017 at 10:31 am

HS3 and the new uneconomics

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‘Unlike the Tories, the Labour party is committed to delivering the west – east rail link connecting the great cities of the north’.

'Unlike the Tories, Labour is committed to delivering the west - east rail link'

‘Unlike the Tories, Labour is committed to delivering the west – east rail link’

But what exactly is Labour’s “west – east rail link”? Is it ‘HS3’?

RMT union leader Mick Cash likened HS3 to a costly vanity project

RMT union leader Mick Cash likened HS3 to a costly vanity project

Written by beleben

February 14, 2017 at 12:04 pm

Posted in High speed rail

HS2 and level boarding, part two

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According to the March 2012 HS2 Cost and Risk Model report, ‘Two types of stock will be used to operate HS2 services. Captive sets operating on HS2 can be procured as an “off-the-shelf” item, as they are analogous to existing European high speed trains. Classic compatible sets that operate along HS2 and then on to the classic network must be of a smaller gauge, requiring adaptation of a European high speed train design and a customised assembly.

However, in the view of the Beleben blog, it is doubtful whether “off-the-shelf” designs of captive (UIC GC gauge) train on HS2 would ever be a practical proposition. One of several difficulties is HS2’s aspiration, or requirement, for ‘level boarding’ from platform to train.

For off-the-shelf captive trains to offer level boarding, they would most likely need to have a vestibule floor height which matched HS2 Ltd’s choice of platform. However

  • so far as is known, HS2 Ltd has not decided on a platform height
  • floor height of European high speed trains differs by manufacturer and model.

What 'level boarding?' is, depends on who you ask

As well as the use of slab track in stations, true level boarding would probably require (a) a means of adaptive control of carriage height, (b) some form of horizontal retractable gap closure. That is because seemingly small horizontal gaps are enough to bring pushchairs, wheelchairs and wheeled luggage to a halt.

If the gap closure devices were installed on the trains, rather than on the station platforms, that would seem to require a custom design.

HS2 Ltd, information response about its platform train interface (January 2017)

Written by beleben

January 30, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

HS2 and the funding envelope

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Former British Rail operations manager Lord Bradshaw described the official HS2 cost estimates as “flimsy” in a 24 January House of Lords debate that was largely concerned with the pros and cons of terminating the line, temporarily or otherwise, at Old Oak Common.

In the debate, Lord Berkeley said that ‘Michael Bing, a quantity surveyor who has written the textbook of costings for Network Rail’, had estimated the cost of HS2 phase one (London – West Midlands) at about £54 billion. (The government ‘funding envelope’ for the entire project (phase one and phase two) is £55.7 billion at 2015 prices.)

Lord Berkeley and the Baron of Camden Town in the House of Lords, 24 January 2017

On 5 June 2013, Railnews reported a proposal “to give millions of people in central England direct access to HS2” by re-activating the Stonebridge railway was backed by “Railnews editorial director Alan Marshall and specialist quantity surveyor Michael Byng”. Whether the ‘Stonebridge Michael Byng’ and the ‘£54 billion phase one Michael Bing’, are one and the same person, is not clear.

Transport for London projection showing that the entirety of HS2 Y network travellers could be accommodated on Crossrail 1

What is clear, is the continuing unlikelihood of HS2 being opened on time, or within the funding envelope.

Parliamentary written question HL4189, 15 December 2016

Written by beleben

January 25, 2017 at 2:57 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

HS2 and level boarding

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Transport secretary Chris Grayling MP has launched “the hunt” for a company to design, build and maintain a fleet of up to 60 state-of-the-art ‘225mph’ classic compatible trains for Britain’s “HS2 network”.

[‘Search underway for company to build HS2 trains in £2.75 billion government rail investment’, Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd,, 20 January 2017]

[…] Providing a world class passenger experience is at the heart of the requirements for companies interested in bidding for the £2.75 billion contract.

Hundreds of jobs will be created by the government’s investment, boosting Britain’s skills and expertise in this sector.

[…] Today sees the publication of the Periodic Indicative Notice (PIN), pre-advising the formal start of the process in spring this year. There will be an industry event on 27 March where interested companies can find out more about the bidding requirements and process. This will be followed by the launch of the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) pack which will provide further details of the specifications for the trains.

Bidders will be shortlisted following the PQQ, and the formal invitations to tender issued in 2018. The contract award will be announced at the end of 2019.

HS2 LWM jobs forecast by Leo Eyles, used by the government

One might expect a £2.75 billion spend to produce more than just ‘hundreds of jobs’, but there is no domestic supply chain for intercity rolling stock. At present, only the assembly of passenger carriages from imported parts is carried out within Great Britain (at Newton Aycliffe and Derby), and large quantities of rolling stock are imported completely built up. For the sake of appearances, potential HS2 train bidders such as Alstom and CRRC might have to offer GB assembly, even though they have plenty of spare capacity at home.

HS2 Ltd has talked up the prospect of ‘level boarding’ from platform to train, but how feasible is this ‘state of the art’ aspiration? In the view of the Beleben blog, the likelihood of true level boarding is fairly low. How a step from ‘classic’ platforms to HS2 trains could be avoided, is yet to be explained. But even with absolutely no height difference, seemingly small horizontal gaps are enough to bring pushchairs, wheelchairs and wheeled luggage to a halt.

The ‘level boarding’ conundrum might end up being offloaded onto rolling stock bidders, in much the same way that the HS2 timetabling problem is being dumped on a future ‘West Coast Partnership‘.

Written by beleben

January 20, 2017 at 11:30 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

How credible are HS2 demand forecasts?

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DfT, HS2 outline economic case, phase 2b

Diagram from DfT’s HS2 outline economic case for phase 2b, Nov 2016

HS2’s passenger demand forecasts have been questioned in a letter from the chairman of the treasury select committee Andrew Tyrie to transport secretary Chris Grayling.

[Letter to Chris Grayling, 4 Jan 2017, extract]

The largest impact to the benefit-cost ratio for the full HS2 network comes from more recent outturn demand data from 2011 to 2014. It is demonstrated in Figure 1.2 in the Department’s economic case for HS2 that the impact of this increase on the benefit­ cost ratio is 1.6. If the demand update were to be removed, the benefit-cost ratio falls dramatically, from 2.7 for the full network, to 1.1.

HS2 Ltd claim its new railway would carry ‘300,000 passengers per day’ – which is vastly more than is carried on Inter City West Coast, Inter City East Coast, and Midland-Main-Line-intercity combined. Of course, many current intercity journeys could not transfer to HS2, because they involve origins or destinations not served (e.g. Coventry, Peterborough, Leicester, Wolverhampton).

For comparison, the two largest ICWC flows – London to Birmingham, plus London to Manchester – together amount to somewhere around 25,000 passengers per day.

HS2 November 2016 Y network benefit cost, with and without 'wider impacts'

HS2 official benefit-cost with and without ‘wider impacts’, 2016

Written by beleben

January 6, 2017 at 5:51 pm

HS2 and policy-based evidence

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From its inception, HS2 has been dependent on a reverse-engineered business case ‘methodology’, in which the starting point for appraisal was the desired conclusion (‘build HS2’).

Examples of policy-based evidence can be seen in the Department for Transport (DfT) November 2015 HS2 strategic case update. According to the Department, the period from 7pm to 8pm is the ‘busiest’ for InterCity West Coast (ICWC) departures from Euston.

For planning purposes, DfT considers the demand peak as extending over four hours, between 4pm and 8pm. In autumn 2014, standing on ICWC trains out of Euston over the 4-hour peak was seven per thousand passengers (on Fridays, 24 per thousand).

DfT HS2 Strategic Case update, November 2015, Figure 5

DfT HS2 Strategic Case update, November 2015, Figure 5

The Department for Transport claimed that in the absence of HS2, if “the 2014 train timetable” were in operation in the year 2033 / 2034

  • weekday peak standing on 11-car ICWC ‘Reconfigured Pendolino’ trains “could” be 20 per thousand – rising to 90 per thousand on Friday evenings – in the ‘Reference scenario’
  • and in the ‘Higher Growth scenario’, weekday peak standing could be 140 per thousand (and 230 per thousand on Friday evenings).

But what if obsolescent Reconfigured Pendolinos were replaced in the forecasts by more space-efficient rolling stock (such as the Hitachi IEP train)? Five and nine-car versions of the IEP have been ordered for the Great Western and East Coast Main Line intercity. In DfT literature, somewhat surprisingly, IEP trains of up to twelve carriages were mentioned as an option for the East Coast Main Line.

Lengthening platforms to ~312 metres at Kings Cross for 12-coach IEP trains would appear to be much more of a challenge than running 10-car IEPs on the West Coast Main Line. A 10-car IEP train, or a similar design, would not require WCML platform lengthening, but with around 594 Standard Class seats, would have 14.6% more than a Reconfigured Pendolino.

In the DfT year-2033 Reference scenario, a 14.6% capacity uplift would result in an average unseated intercity West Coast passenger count of zero, on all evenings of the week.

Inter City West Coast, standee forecast with 260 metre, 594-standard-seat, IEP trains

Inter City West Coast, standee forecast with 260 metre, 594-standard-seat, IEP trains

In the DfT year-2033 Higher Growth scenario, there would still be some standing passengers on Friday evenings, with the 2014 timetable. However, in 2014, there were only 19 ICWC departures between 6pm and 8pm, compared to 22 between 4pm and 6pm.

Intercity West Coast departures from Euston, weekday evening peak hours, autumn 2014 timetable

If available paths were used, the available data suggests an average unseated passenger count of zero, in the year 2033 ‘Higher Growth’ scenario, on all evenings of the week.

Written by beleben

December 9, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2