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On the wrong foot

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From what HS1 Ltd chairman Rob Holden has ‘seen and observed’, HS2 got off ‘completely on the wrong foot with Camden council and the local community at Euston’.

[HS1 10 years on: What can HS2 learn?, Daniel Kemp, Construction News, 7 Nov 2017 (paywall)]

[Rob Holden:] “Once you’re in that position with an authority, particularly quite an influential one like Camden, it takes a long time to get it back to where it needs to be.”

In an interview for Construction News, Mr Holden appeared to credit John ‘Two Jags’ Prescott with saving HS1 from cancellation. 2J thought it would have ‘regeneration benefits’, but that seems an odd description for reducing the Midland Main Line to four platforms at St Pancras, to make space for designer boutiques and pizza joints.

'HS1’s funding projections required every single man, woman and child in the South-east of England to be making multiple journeys every single year to Paris and Brussels' in order to generate enough cash

Mr Holden said that HS1 was a “French railway”, but HS2 was trying to do “things which have not been proven anywhere else”.

[Construction News]

[RH:] “One decision we made very early on, and I would put my name to it, is that we decided to make this railway an extension of TGV Nord,” he says. “[HS1] is a French railway, with French signalling technology. It was designed to operate out of the box – we were not going to be the first anything.

“Contrast that with HS2 and what they’re trying to do […] to create a legacy. They’re doing things which have not been proven anywhere else. That imparts huge amounts of risk, and maybe because I’m an accountant I’m more cautious than most. I like to minimise the risk I’m carrying, [which] therefore gives ourselves a better chance of success in what is a complicated environment.”

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Written by beleben

November 7, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS1, 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.

hs1ltd-leisure-journeys-2017-extract

Written by beleben

September 20, 2017 at 8:00 am

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

Going loco for Toto at lo-lo

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HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins has a ‘vision’ of people travelling to a new city around Toton parkway, at budget airline-style ‘lo-lo’ prices.

[‘Next arrival on the HS2 line: a brand new city’, Mark Hookham, The Sunday Times, 12 Feb 2017]

“Check every Eurostar — it’s always packed. You know why Eurostar is packed? It’s because it’s run on a Ryanair/ easyJet model,” he said.

However, the vision is not shared by Toton’s MP, Anna Soubry.

Anna Soubry MP described David Higgin's Toton 'vision' as irresponsible nonsense

Anna Soubry MP described David Higgin’s Toton ‘vision’ as irresponsible nonsense

Is Eurostar always “packed”?

And is it run anything like a low-cost airline?

The Eurostar service depends on billions of pounds of dedicated high-cost infrastructure (i.e. HS1, the Channel Tunnel, and LGV Nord), which means that commercial ‘low-cost’ operation is not possible.

Although Eurostar managed to take a large part of the Paris and Brussels travel market from airlines, that was only possible because of public subsidies running into billions of pounds.

Eurostar's £2 billion losses reported in the Daily Express, 2010

Eurostar had to be bailed out by the British government

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Mr Higgins predicted that a new city coud be built around the Toton HS2 station.

[‘Next arrival on the HS2 line: a brand new city’, The Sunday Times]

[David Higgins:] “You’ve got two big cities either side of it [Toton HS2]. You’ve got a big university within a very short distance. It will be well under an hour to both London and Leeds. So this is a city.”

Were HS2 to offer travel to ‘a new city’ at Toton at ‘lo-lo prices’ – assuming space for a city could be found – there would be a need for enormous subsidies, to cover HS2’s high fixed infrastructure costs.

Written by beleben

February 13, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Posted in HS1, HS2, Politics

Eurostar, terrorism, and Brexit

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Cross-channel train operator Eurostar is looking to reduce headcount as it struggles with weak demand on its services in the wake of deadly terrorist attacks in France and Belgium.

[Eurostar aims to cut 80 jobs as traffic suffers after attacks, Reuters, 18 Oct 2016]

The company could not confirm British media reports saying Eurostar would cut two daily trains to Paris and one to Brussels when it unveils its 2017 timetables in December, the spokeswoman said.

“Nothing has been finalised yet,” she said. “We’re looking at all the different options.”

“But we are offering voluntary redundancies, that’s true. We are looking at cutting 80 jobs this year,” she added.

Eurostar introduced new, bigger trains last year, with more seats, which means the reduced number of services may not have an impact on the total seat capacity between London and the continent, British newspaper the Independent said last week.

In July, the train operator, majority-owned by France’s SNCF, reported a 3 percent drop in passenger numbers in the second quarter compared with the same period last year, while revenue fell 10 percent.

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has also taken its toll, Eurostar has said.

On 13 May 2009 the European Commission approved £5.169 billion of “one-time” UK state aid ‘for the high-speed rail link service between London and the Channel as well as the restructuring of Eurostar’. Despite that massive bailout, and the ‘restructuring’ of track access charges, there must be increased doubts about whether Eurostar, in its present form, is what accountants call ‘a going concern’.

In a 2012 court case, it was admitted that 'Eurostar International Ltd was loss-making for more or less all of its existence'

Written by beleben

October 18, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS1, HS2

Still feel good

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The Treasury would probably like you to believe that the government’s sale of Eurostar last year was a marvellous result for the taxpayer, wrote James Moore.

[The Government needs to work on its sums when selling off state assets, James Moore, The Independent, 20 January 2016]

[…] Last March it agreed to offload the state’s 40 per cent stake for £585m. A further £172m was brought in through the redemption of preference shares, netting £757m for the cash-strapped Exchequer.

But here’s the first problem: the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) believes that sum represents only a fraction of the taxpayer’s investment in the business and the high-speed rail link between London and the Channel Tunnel (known as HS1). The National Audit Office says UK taxpayers have spent £3bn on these services.

[…] That could only be considered a good return by people who’d put money into the banking industry before the financial crisis struck. Still feel good about the forthcoming high-speed rail link between London, Birmingham and the North (HS2)?

Written by beleben

January 20, 2016 at 11:37 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS1, HS2

Javelins between Eurostars

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In a Rail Engineer article, HS2 Ltd’s Andrew McNaughton explained how the Channel Tunnel Rail Link’s operating model depended on inefficient capacity utilisation.

[HS2 – The story so far, Nigel Wordsworth, The Rail Engineer, 9 Nov 2015]

[AMcN:] “You can smuggle Javelins between Eurostars because there aren’t many Eurostars, there are big gaps in the service and it’s a very short distance,” explained Andrew. “You’ve only got from Ebbsfleet to Ashford that they have to get along where they’re going slower than Eurostars. The route out to Ebbsfleet is only 230km/h so they’re basically running at the same speed as the Eurostars out through the London tunnels. The faster bit of the route is only between Ebbsfleet and Ashford.”

Unexplained comment deletions on http://www.railengineer.uk/2015/11/05/hs2-the-story-so-far/

Unexplained comment deletions on The Rail Engineer story ‘HS2 the story so far’

Written by beleben

November 10, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Posted in HS1, HS2

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