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Archive for the ‘High speed rail’ Category

(Belatedly) speaking truth unto trainspotters

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Twitter, @CarlShillitoUK at the 'National Rail Conference'

At Bauer’s “National Rail Conference” today (15 June 2017) the ‘moderator’ is Steve Norris, and the ‘keynote speaker’ is HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins.

Would that be the same Steve Norris who helped run the incompetent and now-defunct track maintenance company, Jarvis?

The Guardian, 'Jarvis crash year bonuses', 15 Sep 2004

And the same David Higgins who

  • mismanaged Network Rail’s Great Western electrification project, contributing to costs almost tripling?
  • was appointed to “drive down” the cost of HS2, and completely failed to do so?
  • on 17 November 2014, told the House of Commons transport committee that “a railway line where trains travel at 220 miles an hour as opposed to 120 miles an hour clearly has nearly twice the capacity because you can have twice as many trains on it”?

Mr Higgins’ capacity dissemblance was revealed on the Beleben blog on 18 November 2014. But the largely trainspotter readership of Bauer’s “Rail” magazine had to wait more than two years to be told the capacity truth.

Extract from, Rail magazine 823, March 2017, 'HS2 fails to spark public imagination'

Written by beleben

June 15, 2017 at 10:47 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

HS2 and self-driving cars

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Although KPMG UK were happy to take the government’s shilling(s) to eulogise HS2, KPMG worldwide seems to take a different view on high speed rail.

Twitter, @JennyBelleW, 'KPMG have long suggested that high speed rail isn't needed when you have autonomous cars'

Written by beleben

June 2, 2017 at 10:40 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Ramming all whingers

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Is it time to ram all HS2 ‘whingers’ on the 1713 Euston to Milton Keynes and see how they like standing in a crush?

Twitter, @chris_railway

But (a) how much of a crush is there on the 1713? And (b) in the normal course of events, how many people are standing? According to the latest available train company advisory (below), (a =) not much, and (b =) everyone should be able to get a seat.

But perhaps having to go to Milton Keynes is punishment enough, même en place assise.

London Midland, 'Getting a seat from Euston', 12 December 2016 edition

London Midland, ‘Getting a seat from Euston’, 12 December 2016 edition

If commuters did have to stand on the 1713, some might describe it as a ‘first world problem‘, affecting a handful of mostly well-off people for a few minutes of their day. People have to stand on lots of trains all over the Southern Region, so why should north of the Thames be any different?

In what universe would ‘every single traveller seated for every minute of a 30 minute journey’ be a priority issue for £60 billion of public cash? How many people should have to forego their NHS treatment, or whatever, to pay for it?

Fortunately for Milton Keynes commuters, future demand growth could be addressed at comparatively low cost, by running longer trains, and making better use of the slow lines (for example). As can be seen, the majority of peak London Midland trains still do not run at current maximum length (12 coaches).

Written by beleben

May 5, 2017 at 9:02 am

Disparately seeking capacity

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Train journeys from the East Midlands and Sheffield to London could take longer from next year, the Nottingham Post reported. For Derby and Sheffield, the journey to London on the Midland Main Line might take an extra 12 minutes, and for Nottingham, an extra 9 minutes.

[‘Another kick in the teeth’ as journeys from Nottingham to London to get longer, by Tresidder, Nottingham Post, May 04, 2017]

This is a story of fast trains, slow trains and congested rail lines south of Bedford to St Pancras. Next year, Thameslink, the services south of Bedford to Brighton which embrace London suburbs and its commuter belt, will see the completion a £7 billion modernisation programme including new stations, extended platforms, new and longer trains and more frequent services.

So, 'running trains with disparate performance characteristics, reduces capacity'. Who knew?Thameslink plans to step up the frequency of trains running out of London to Bedford, Luton and St Albans using the Midland Mainline to 16 trains an hour.
Rail industry experts are trying to work out a timetable which fits the 16 Thameslink trains and EMT’s existing services onto the same tracks while maintaining timetables.

The problem is that new electric Class 700 trains ordered for Thameslink – 115 are on order – do not go as fast as those used by East Midlands Trains, the 15 year old Meridian fleet and ageing High Speed Trains (Intercity 125), now nearly 40 years old. EMT trains run at 125mph and Thameslink’s Siemens Class 700 at 100mph.
The complexity does not stop there. First, the trains are timetabled together to Bedford but going north to Leicester, Nottingham and beyond, EMT’s trains will have to weave round other trains and freight, possibly missing their timetable path.

A third issue which has the potential to become a fiasco is the significant investment already made in the Midland Mainline ahead of the widely anticipated electrification to increase the frequency of East Midlands Trains, reduce journey times and achieve ‘Nottingham [to London] in Ninety [minutes]’.

So, ‘running trains with disparate performance characteristics, reduces capacity’. Who knew?

Of course, a few years ago, the government of the time decided to equip the West Coast Main Line with commuter trains limited to 100 mph [160 km/h], creating a speed mismatch with intercity trains running on the same tracks. Some of those trains were subsequently modified to run at 110 mph [177 km/h], but there is still an ongoing capacity loss from the performance mismatch.

Even if the 1980s Midland Main Line electrification between London and Bedford had been ‘done right’ (allowing electric commuter trains to run at 200 km/h), Thameslink would still be an overly ambitious project. In the view of the Beleben blog, the proposed future Thameslink service pattern is too complicated, and the TSGN ‘franchise’ is too large to be effectively managed.

Written by beleben

May 4, 2017 at 11:41 am

A trip aboard HS2

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HS2 step at platform, diagram

On 20 April an OJEU tender notice was issued for the ‘£2.75 billion, 60-train’ HS2 phase one rolling stock procurement. HS2 Ltd’s Pre-Qualification Technical Summary states its intention to procure “a single fleet of rolling stock that will be capable of operating on the HS2Network and the Conventional Rail Network (CRN), referred to as the ‘Conventional Compatible’ or ‘CC’ fleet”.

A perusal of the PQTS seems to confirm the view that the rolling stock specifications are as muddled as the rest of the project, but HS2 Ltd do not intend to change them in any substantive way.

[HS2 Ltd]

This PQTS is a precursor to the full Train Technical Specification (TTS) which will be provided with the Invitation to Tender. The requirements of this PQTS will be incorporated into the TTS along with other more detailed performance and functional requirements. Note that the TTS will supersede and replace the PQTS. HS2 Ltd does not intend to change in any substantive way the requirements set out in this PQTS. However, HS2 Ltd reserves its right to do so and will identify any such changes in the TTS in due course.

Contrary to all the accessibility hype, the PQTS suggests that there is little to no intention to provide ‘step free access’ between all stations served by HS2 trains. Even on the handful of stations on the captive network (“HS2 Platforms”), ‘step free’ access would involve negotiating, er, steps.

[HS2 Ltd]
The maximum vertical step between the deployed Moveable Step and an HS2 Platform shall be +20/-0mm except under Exceptional PTI Conditions.
Rationale: The maximum single step negotiable, unaided, by 98% of wheelchair users is +20mm; higher steps are negotiable but with decreasing success rates.

[…] The maximum vertical step between the deployed Moveable Step and an HS2 Platform shall be +30/-10mm under all conditions including Exceptional PTI Conditions. The TMM and HS2 will agree the Exceptional PTI Conditions, which are expected to include rarely-experienced vehicle conditions such as deflated suspension or Exceptional Payload.

[…] The maximum horizontal gap between the deployed Moveable Step and an HS2 Platform shall be 30mm.

[…] When deployed, the Moveable Step shall have a minimum horizontal surface depth (perpendicular to the bodyside) of 240mm

[…] The maximum vertical distance between the Moveable Step and the floor of the vestibule shall be 30mm.

Wouldn’t vertical discontinuities of those sizes, on a pavement of the public highway, be considered as “trip hazards”?

Does the claim of HS2 'step free access' match the reality?

Does the claim of HS2 ‘step free access’ match the reality?

The technical standards which HS2 is being designed to are obsolescent and inappropriate. For example, the train crashworthiness is based on a low-speed ‘level crossing’ collision with a heavy goods vehicle (which would be much lighter than the train), yet there would be no level crossings on HS2.

Survivability in realistic crash scenarios at actual HS2 operating speeds, is not considered at all.



Written by beleben

April 23, 2017 at 5:50 pm

More concentration in London

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Construction of the HS2 Y network would result in a migration of corporate decision-making away from the north of England, and increased concentration of managerial jobs in London, if French microeconomic research is to be believed. The findings, by Pauline Charnoz, Claire Lelarge and Corentin Trevien, are to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference in Bristol in April 2017.

HS2 could further concentrate corporate decision making in London

Written by beleben

April 11, 2017 at 11:51 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS1, HS2

Exports on their mind

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The United Kingdom’s expertise in high speed rail, should be seen as a ‘potential export sector’, according to the ‘High Speed Rail Leaders’ industry lobby group.

'Potential export sector?' 'Potential export sector?'

[HSRILG response to the government’s Industrial Strategy Green Paper, April 2017]

[…] In order to take advantage of these opportunities [in the high value growth sector in the global growth area of high speed rail] we should explore the creation of a “HS2 International” which brings together HSR delivery businesses and the government-owned client body HS2 Ltd to create a public-private partnership to market the UK skill base and experience abroad, offering a whole exportable package to potential customers.

How much credible domestic expertise the UK can present in overseas rail markets, must be open to question. If such expertise existed, then why are large parts of the GB railway network operated by foreign companies, such as Deutsche Bahn, MTR (Hong Kong), and SNCF? And why is virtually all new passenger rolling stock imported?

Written by beleben

April 11, 2017 at 10:54 am