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HS2 green corridor video is misinformation

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On 25 June, high speed rail minister Nusrat Munir Ul-Ghani and HS2 chief executive Mark Thurston were in Warwickshire to launch the ‘HS2 green corridor’ at Dale House Farm, but apparently ended up locked in the farm, awaiting a locksmith.

twitter @joerukin, Nusrat Ghani locked in farm

Despite her envelope difficulties, Ms Ghani managed to give an interview to ITV Central News, coming across as not having much interest in the environment.

[Warwick Courier, 25 Jun 2018]

[HS2 Ltd claims] the green corridor will result in over nine square kilometres of new native woodlands and habitats for species including bats, badgers and great crested newts.

But The Woodland Trust slammed the plans and said HS2 would devastate the environment. Luci Ryan, ecologist at the Woodland Trust said: “This is utter greenwash nonsense from an organisation trying to pretend that HS2 isn’t the most environmentally destructive infrastructure project this country has seen in decades.

“Some 98 beautiful, rare, irreplaceable ancient woods will be destroyed or damaged by this scheme. That’s 98 habitats and ecosystems that support a whole host of mammals, birds, invertebrates, fungi and plants.”

HS2 Ltd also added a curious and misinformational video about the green corridor to its Youtube channel, featuring a sort of computer-game landscape with mutant trees, and stripe-free badgers.

HS2 green corridor, mutant flora and fauna

The video claimed phase one would be open ‘by 2026’.

HS2 green corridor, phase one by 2026

Other oddities of the video included: no sign of any fencing off of the railway from the surrounding land, no sign of any service roads alongside the tracks, and no overhead line structures.

In some frames, the trains in the animation seem to have a pantograph ‘well’, but no pantograph. In other frames, there is a raised pantograph drawing maints ampères from completely invisible overhead line equipment.

HS2 green corridor panto mime, arrowed

Quite an achievement, considering the massive amounts of energy the trains would consume. According to KPMG, HS2 could increase the electricity requirement of GB rail by 40 to 67 per cent. The upstream capex required to provide this power is not on HS2’s books, but would have to be paid for somehow.

The HS2 is officially estimated to cost £55.7 billion, so the green(-wash) corridor just announced, would amount to ~0.01% of the total spend.


Written by beleben

June 26, 2018 at 8:14 am

Posted in HS2

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

Elevated risk means increased cost

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Elevated risk means increased costMultiple sources close to the HS2 project have confirmed that ‘interim costs’ for main civil works for phase one submitted by contractors are currently above HS2 Ltd’s target cost of £6.6 billion (New Civil Engineer reported).

[HS2 civil works £1bn above target cost, Katherine Smale, NCE, 12 June 2018]

While one source said that the collective price was coming in at “around £1.2bn” over budget, another said that some bids were “as much as 30% to 40% higher” than their individual target price.

As a result, NCE understands that the notice to proceed has been pushed back from November until February 2019 with one source claiming that they had been told to “go away and sharpen their pencils” to cut costs.

[…] However, a HS2 spokesperson said that the project “remains on track, and within [the] original cost package”.

Last month, NCE’s sister publication Ground Engineering reported how the cost of delivering HS2 could rise sharply as a result of the use of target cost contracts without geotechnical baseline reports (GBRs).

[HS2 price hike warning over rejection of risk allocation tool, Ground Engineering, 3 MAY, 2018, BY CLAIRE SMITH]

[…] “HS2 has not got enough data to be able to get the work to target cost,” [an engineer who has worked closely on the project] told GE. “When you look at the availability and quality of the ground investigation data, in some areas it is good but in other there is none and there is a risk associated with that. Contractors will price according to this risk and so the target cost will go up.

[…] “Some will say that the technical standards are too onerous but it is the risk allocation that is the problem. HS2 choosing not to use GBRs places all of the risk on the contractor and infrastructure owners should take some of the risk.”

He told GE that a number of consultants were asked to develop GBR 0 by HS2 ahead of the hybrid bill. “GBR 0 does not exist in any guidelines for use of GBRs and was a concept developed by HS2,” he said. “It is essentially a GBR nothing.”

Written by beleben

June 13, 2018 at 8:10 am

HS2 East Midlands proposals get even worse

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twitter, @StevePField, 'Five years of talking to @hs2ltd about impacts of #HS2 at Hardwick Hall appear to have resulted in even worse proposals once road realignments and construction compounds are included'

twitter, @BBCChrisD, 'New maps published [on 4 June 2018] give more detail as to how we might get to the #HS2 station at Toton. 'Detailed design' of the station is 'still ongoing', HS2 says

Written by beleben

June 5, 2018 at 10:18 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Looking at ways to pay

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Speaking at Transport Times’ Infrastructure Summit, HS2 Ltd chief executive Mark Thurston said the client would be looking at ways to pay for the high speed line north of Birmingham in the coming months, and that a private funding model could be an option.

'HS2 eyes private funding for £21bn phase two', CN, 29 May 2018

The UK private finance initiative debt mountain

[‘HS2 eyes private funding for £21bn phase two’, CN, 29 May, 2018, By Jack Simpson]

[…] Mr Thurston said: “The thing we can do through phase one is get a much better understanding of what it actually costs and what the demand will be, so we can start building that into the model for phase two; it’s very much a question mark for us, it’s a good challenge.”

Mr Thurston dismissed claims that the conventionally-funded phase one of the project alone could cost up to £51.25 billion.

[CN, 29 May]

He said: “We are confident that we will build it within that [£24.3 billion] budget, we wouldn’t say anything else in a public forum”.

Written by beleben

May 31, 2018 at 11:49 am

Posted in HS2

Loopy Richard and fuelish Jim

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The debate on high-speed rail is accelerating, with proponents of competing schemes insisting they have the best solution for the UK (wrote travel correspondent Simon Calder).

[‘Richard Branson says Britain needs 700mph hyperloop trains’, Simon Calder, The Independent, 29 May 2018]

Sir Richard Branson has laid out plans for a “hyperloop” network across Britain, carrying passengers at nearly 700mph.

The system proposed by the Virgin founder involves pods travelling over an electro-magnetic track enclosed in a low-resistance tube with very low air pressure.

Virgin Hyperloop One is intended to have a top speed of 670mph, with some other developers promising even higher speeds.
“The cost of building Virgin Hyperloop would be, I think, about a third of building high-speed rail, and much, much quicker.

“It can either be underground, it can be on the ground or it can be above the ground.”
'Oh dearie me'Meanwhile the environmental transport think tank, Greengauge 21, has called for a conventional high-speed rail network connecting Britain by 2050.

A new report, Beyond HS2, says that the move would put “rocket fuel in Britain’s economy”. It would also reduce the relative advantages of London by lowering journey times between other cities.
Jim Steer, founder and director of Greengauge 21, said: “Fundamentally, we need to completely re-orientate the railway from a ‘hub-and-spoke’ centred on London to a fully national network.
“We need a plan to put rocket fuel into our economic productivity and today’s report sets out proposals to do so.”

Apologies to Mr Calder, but

1. is Greengauge 21 an ‘environmental transport think tank’?

2. has Mr Branson really ‘laid out plans’ for a hyperloop network across Britain?


Written by beleben

May 30, 2018 at 8:42 am

Posted in HS2

West Coast capacity uncrunched

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According to the Department for Transport, the ‘scale of growth’ on the West Coast Main Line between 2008 and 2015 means that “two thirds of the additional inter-city seat capacity provided by the decade-long upgrade is already being utilised”.

What this statement means is not clear, because the total ‘seat capacity provided by the upgrade’, is difficult to establish. A substantial amount of ‘seat capacity’ has come from increasing the number of carriages, or the number of seats on trains, rather than from infrastructure interventions.

  • In 2008, the DfT contracted with Alstom for four new Pendolino 11-car trains (44 carriages) and extension of 31 existing units from nine to eleven carriages (62 carriages).
  • In 2015, 21 nine-car Pendolinos had one of their 1st class carriages converted to standard class (creating a net increase of 2,100 seats).

What is clear, is that significant capacity potential out of Euston remains untapped (without recourse to ‘old-school’ infrastructure improvements, or ‘Digital Railway’).

Consider Figure 3 of the July 2017 Strategic Case for HS2, which gave the ‘current’ intercity West Coast peak hour (5pm – 6pm) capacity out of Euston as 5,700 seats.

Euston rail capacity, July 2017 Strategic Case for HS2

Apparently, seven out of eleven intercity departures in that hour were ‘short trains’, mostly nine-car Pendolinos. The Department for Transport decided against lengthening all Pendolino trainsets to eleven carriages, which suggests that forecast demand did not support the expenditure.

The cost of adding capacity by lengthening short trains, or using higher capacity rolling stock, is, in general, far cheaper than building new lines.

On the Great Western and East Coast lines, the introduction of more space-optimised rolling stock has supported a capacity increase of 28% to 40%, according to IEP train manufacturer Hitachi.

On intercity West Coast, the use of space-optimised rolling stock would allow a ~36% increase, without platform lengthening, or the need for significant lineside interventions.

‘Long distance’ services in
5pm – 6pm peak hour out of Euston (with 11 of 15 fast paths allocated to intercity)
‘Current’ seats
(HS2 July 2017
Strategic Case)
Seating with
26 metre carriages
using full
platform length
1 Birmingham New Street 470a 715d
2 Birmingham New Street 470a 715d
3 Glasgow 591b 715d
4 Glasgow 591b 715d
5 Holyhead 512c 630e
6 Lancaster 470a 715d
7 Liverpool 591b 715d
8 Liverpool 470a 715d
9 Manchester 591b 715d
10 Manchester 470a 715d
11 Manchester 470a 715d
Total 5696 7780
a = Pendolino 9-car | b = Pendolino 11-car | c = Voyager 2 * 5-car | d = IEP 10-car | e = IEP 2 * 5-car
Figures sourced from the Department for Transport

Written by beleben

May 29, 2018 at 9:50 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2