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Noise in the wrong direction

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Network Rail’s chief executive described the rhetoric that had developed around the government’s Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) as “profoundly unhelpful” and stated he had decided not to comment at the time of its publication in November 2021, as the “noise in the wrong direction” meant that a defence of it at that point was “no help” (New Civil Engineer reported).

“Chief executive Andrew Haines hit out at those who have complained that the IRP has failed to deliver and said that they have ‘lost the plot’ and are doing the industry a disservice in their complaints.

[…] Haines pointed to the work on the Transpennine Route Upgrade (TRU) as an example. “When I joined Network Rail in three and a half years ago, TRU was a £3.5bn project and it is now closer to a £10bn project, not because of cost escalation, but because of scope change,” he explained. “It is now a fully electrified project, it is an ETCS [European Train Control System signally] project, it has now got key parts of IRP factored into it.”

Integrated Rail Plan opponents have ‘lost the plot’ says Network Rail boss

In the November 2021 IRP proposals, there was a much greater emphasis on upgrading existing track, with the proposed Eastern leg of HS2 curtailed, in favour of enhancements to the existing Midland and East Coast Main Lines.

But as recently as January 2020, Mr Haines was ‘warning’ that upgrading those very same lines, instead of building HS2, would lead to “30 years of disruption”. This ‘warning’ came in the guise of a deliberately leaked letter, based on figures created to support the government’s 2013 HS2 propaganda campaign.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines has warned that cancelling High Speed 2 (HS2) will lead to 30 years of disruption. A leaked letter from Haines to the Department for Transport (DFT) – first reported by the Mail Online’s financial division This is Money – warns of “significant” disruption if HS2 cash is reallocated to upgrading the existing network.

Scrapping HS2 will lead to 30 years of disruption, Network Rail chief warns

Written by beleben

February 6, 2022 at 3:46 pm

The unshared priority

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The Transport Select Committee’s call for written evidence about the government’s Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) for the North and Midlands apparently yielded a total of 95 submissions (although some contributors made more than one submission).

It was curious to see the Department for Transport’s own submission, belatedly making the case for doing less high speed rail.

[31.] “Significant criticism has been made of the Government’s decision not to include within the IRP a high-speed line between Bradford and Manchester, at an additional cost of around £18 billion. In the 2011 census, the working population of Bradford was 210,000 people. Of these,155,000 worked in Bradford itself, 27,500 in Leeds, and 13,400 in the rest of West Yorkshire. But only 650 people from Bradford (0.3%) worked in Manchester, of whom 105 travelled by train. Even if better rail links resulted in, say, a twenty-fold increase in commuting from Bradford to Manchester, this would still be only around 6 per cent of Bradford’s commuter population.”

DfT submission to the Transport Select Committee IRP inquiry | Jan 2022
Nomis travel to work data, 2011 census,  Bradford

[34.] “The Government notes that while political leaders in Leeds, Liverpool and Bradford criticised the IRP for not doing more high-speed rail, the leaders of smaller places – such as Rotherham, Wakefield and Doncaster – were more welcoming to the plan. It is also clear from opinion polling done after the publication of the IRP that the public in the North and Midlands does not share the priority given to high-speed rail by some stakeholders. By around six to one, people prioritise improvements to local rail and bus services over improvements to long-distance rail” (YouGov, 29 November 2021).

DfT submission to the Transport Select Committee IRP inquiry | Jan 2022

[51.] “[…] On NPR, the Government carefully examined the other options put forward by TfN, for full newbuild lines from Liverpool to Leeds via Manchester and Bradford. TfN’s preferred option represented poor value for money. It would have made Manchester – Leeds journeys only four minutes faster than the option chosen in the IRP, and cost an extra £18 billion.”

DfT submission to the Transport Select Committee IRP inquiry | Jan 2022

The problem, for the government, in deploying these sorts of arguments is that they are also valid against the sections of high speed railway which (it says) it remains committed to building — such as the western leg of HS2, and the ‘Manchester to Marsden’ remnant of ‘HS3’ Northern powerhouse rail.

Written by beleben

February 4, 2022 at 8:27 pm

Anyone with answers

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In December 2021 the House of Commons Transport Select Committee (TSC) announced an inquiry into the government’s ‘Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands’ (IRP) and solicited ‘anyone with answers’ to submit written evidence, to be received by 24 January 2022.

“The Committee is interested in the implications of the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) for the economy and rail capacity and connectivity. We are particularly interested in receiving written evidence that addresses:

* “The contribution that the IRP will make to rail capacity and connectivity for (a) passengers and (b) freight in (i) the Midlands and the North and (ii) the UK
* Whether and how the IRP will “level up” communities in the Midlands and the North
* How the IRP will affect rail infrastructure and services outside the Midlands and the North
* The challenges to central Government, Great British Railways, regional and local authorities, transport bodies and other stakeholders in delivering the IRP
* How the rail schemes in the IRP will integrate and interact with HS2
* How the rail improvement schemes in the IRP were selected, and whether those selections represent equity between and within regions
* Whether the IRP represents value for money for UK taxpayers”.

TSC | IRP Inquiry | December 2021

A problem which would appear to face anyone trying to submit worthwhile evidence to the TSC inquiry is the dearth of substantive information available about the IRP, HS2 phase two, travel demand, and what “levelling up” even means.

twitter, @CommonsTrans, '3 days left to submit to our inquiry'

For some reason the Department for Transport decided to delay publishing (incomplete) background information about the IRP, and HS2 phase two updates, until the preannounced closing date for submissions to the TSC inquiry (24 January 2022).

The TSC then changed the closing date for submissions to 27 January. How much difference that makes to the quality of the inquiry, remains to be seen.

Written by beleben

January 28, 2022 at 9:26 pm

Billions more, straight afterwards

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Transport for the North’s “preferred option” for Northern Powerhouse Rail “would have seen the government spend billions upgrading the conventional line between Leeds and Manchester – and then tens of billions more, straight afterwards, building a second line between the same two places” (according to page 8 of the government’s November 2021 ‘Integrated Rail Plan’ [IRP]).

Actually, there are already two conventional lines between Manchester and Leeds – the Standedge line, running via Stalybridge, Marsden, and Huddersfield, and the Calder Valley line, running via Rochdale, Todmorden, and Bradford.

So the government’s preferred option, as enunciated in the IRP, would see it spend billions upgrading ‘the conventional line’ between Leeds and Manchester – and then billions more, straight afterwards, building a third line stretching about halfway between those same two places. This third line, between Manchester Piccadilly and ‘Marsden’, being the remnant of what was once known as ‘HS3’.

Construction of the ‘Marsden’ HS3 remnant would mean there were ‘two and a half’ lines between Manchester and Leeds. In the diagram of lines from the IRP (reproduced above), the portion of the Standedge line between ‘Marsden’ and Manchester is absent, presumably to obscure that bizarrerie.

On 19 November, the Guardian online published a story titled “Government planning ‘to put HS2 on stilts through Manchester’”, but a more accurate title might perhaps have been ‘Government planning to put HS3 on stilts through Manchester’.

The Guardian online story, Government planning ‘to put HS2 on stilts through Manchester’, 19 Nov 2021

HS2 would approach Manchester in a tunnel, before running into new surface level dead-end platforms at Piccadilly station. The IRP proposed that this terminus would be shared with HS3 platforms, but metro mayor Andy Burnham demanded that the station be built underground, and with through platforms. The Guardian reported the government as saying that Mr Burnham’s preference would cost £4 to £5 billion more than a surface kopfbahnhof.

Needless to say, that could be a substantial underestimate.

Regular readers of the Beleben blog may have gathered that the concentration of services at Piccadilly over the last 50 years is one of the principal causes of railway congestion and malperformance in Greater Manchester, and the station in effect faces the wrong way for the job it is being expected to do.

So the pertinent questions include:

  1. is HS3 – or more accurately, ‘half of HS3’ – necessary?
  2. how exactly would HS3 get from central Manchester, to ‘Marsden’? How much in tunnel? How much on stilts? Or what?
  3. what is its carbon footprint?
  4. what are its opportunity costs?
  5. and, why should Piccadilly be the principal regional station in Manchester?

Written by beleben

November 21, 2021 at 10:42 am

Too much on showpiece

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On 18 November, the government published its long-delayed and much-leaked ‘Integrated Rail Plan for the North and Midlands’ (IRP), to what might be described as a mixed response. Although short on detail and long on spin, it can be seen that the Plan involves significant changes in policy, affecting the High Speed Two, Northern Powerhouse Rail, and Midlands Rail Hub schemes.

“[The] vast majority of journeys in the North and Midlands are less than 30 miles. Local transport for those journeys lags too far behind the South-East, without the same convenient and green public transport options you find in London. The old [rail investment] plans got the balance wrong. They focused too much on showpiece, high speed links, and too little on local services – less glamorous, perhaps, but more important to most people.”

Integrated Rail Plan, 18 Nov 2021
IRP map of proposals, Nov 2021
Announcement of publication of the Integrated Rail Plan, 18 November 2021

It seems that the IRP has been the cause of considerable sturm und drang in government circles, with the content being tweaked almost right up to the date of publication. Consider, for example, this Mail Online graphic, in which the Leeds to Clayton section of HS2 formed part of the ‘updated plan’.

Daily Mail Integrated Rail Plan graphic, 17 November 2021

But in the published IRP, there was no sign of it.

@CarlShillitoUK tweet about Clayton HS2

Written by beleben

November 19, 2021 at 11:52 am

Posted in HS2

Random access muddlery

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Tom Forth’s dotty map shows how, if delivered in full, the HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail projects “would make huge areas of the North West, Midlands, South East and even South-West more accessible to northerners”. On the map, “Black dots show areas that are quicker by train, and orange show those quicker by car”. That’s according to Kieren Williams (writing for Reach plc’s Mirror Online, 8 November 2021).

However, Mr Williams’ interpretation of the map is not correct. What the map is actually purporting to show, is the journey time from Leeds City railway station to other railway stations around the country, by train and by car. That is not the same thing at all as showing ‘areas which are quicker by train’ or ‘areas which are quicker by car’.

The map is not showing, or comparing, door to door journey times by mode. It is showing, or purportedly showing, railway station to railway station journey times. Or more precisely, Leeds City railway station, to other railway station, journey times.

Even the station journey times by rail are problematic. No definitive journey times or frequencies are available for Northern Powerhouse Rail, so it is not clear how it is possible to calculate a NPR journey time from Leeds City station to Neston station, for example.

Mirror Online, 'Incredible graphic'

Written by beleben

November 9, 2021 at 4:30 pm

Mapping the dotty case for HS2

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On 2 November, Leeds Live and The Northern Agenda newsletter revealed the interactive map which shows “why people in the North of England won’t give up their cars”. Apparently, it’s all to do with (a dataset of) the time taken in 2019 to get from Leeds City rail station to other railway stations in (mostly far-off) parts of Great Britain. By car versus by train. At 9 am on a weekday. Assuming there are no delays on the highway or railway networks.

As the North emerges from the pandemic people have been returning to the roads in their cars much more quickly than they return to trains. And the graphic below, comparing journey times from Leeds to every station in the country by car or rail, gives a pretty clear explanation as to why. Our map, adapted from the original data compiled by Tom Forth, Head of Data at Open Innovations, shows how it remains a better option to drive from Yorkshire’s biggest city to the overwhelming majority of places around the country. The red dots are the stations you can reach faster by car and the green dots the stations you can reach faster by public transport. […]

[Tom Forth:] “The fact that it remains a faster option to drive from Leeds to places like Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham shows the challenge we will face in using our cars less if investments like Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 are not funded”.

‘The map which shows why people won’t abandon their cars’ [Leeds Live] / Northern Agenda newsletter | 2 Nov 2021
The Northern Agenda newsletter, Reach plc, 2 Nov 2021, 'Rail journey times from Leeds'

This could be groundbreaking stuff, and totally convincing, apart from there not being any evidence that Northern people (or people anywhere else) make car ownership or travel decisions in the way suggested by Mr Parsons’ newsletter.

Actually, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Northern Powerhouse Rail or phase two of HS2 would have much effect on car ownership, car mileage, mode choice, or door-to-door journey times in the North of England, either.

For most people in Leeds, and most people in the North of England, the impact of speeding up rail journeys between Manchester and Leeds by 10 minutes[*1] (?), or Liverpool and Manchester by 2 minutes[*2] (?), would appear to lie somewhere between zero and nano.

[*1] = Comparator: Standedge; [*2] = Comparator: Chat Moss

Written by beleben

November 3, 2021 at 10:34 am

The ‘Greens4HS2’ misinformation campaign, part three

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According to Greens4HS2 group member Adam Turner, HS2 is ‘going to be really bad news for the supremacy of the car’.

Twitter, @AdamWJT. 'HS2 is going to be really bad news for the supremacy of the car'

At this point, it might be worth bearing in mind that

(1.) according to HS2 Ltd, modal shift to its high speed Y network would mean an annual reduction in car travel ‘equivalent to around 18 million litres of petrol not used’. Using the Petrol Retailers Association and HS2 Ltd’s figures, if the high speed Y network had been up and running in 2019, it would have reduced UK automotive petrol consumption that year by only ~0.11%. In no way is HS2 a credible means of reducing car ownership, congestion, or miles driven.

(2.) most of the modal shift in the official HS2 forecasting is from classic rail to high speed rail – not from car to high speed rail

(3.) with the move to electric vehicles, the amount of fossil fuels saved by the minuscule modal shift from car to high speed rail would diminish every year, before disappearing altogether

(4.) thousands of parking spaces are planned for HS2 stations at Manchester Airport, Toton, Bickenhill, and Leeds, with the parkway stations creating the need for tens of thousands of new car journeys every year

(5.) “concentration on expanding the existing [rail] large traffic flows, such as London – Birmingham, London – Manchester, London – Leeds” [i.e. the flows served by HS2] “will not achieve a major modal shift – mainly because rail already has a significant slice of the market on those routes which, by themselves, do not constitute the majority of passenger travel in the UK” (Professor Roger Kemp).

Written by beleben

October 23, 2021 at 4:35 pm

The ‘Greens4HS2’ misinformation campaign, part two

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The Greens4HS2 campaign is all about misinformation and greenwashing, as is demonstrated by the Twitter feed of group members such as Pete Johnson (@pedrojuk) and Adam Turner (@AdamWJT). Today (23 October 2021) Mr Turner tweeted that ‘apparently every intercity train moved across to HS2 would free up space for *two* new local services and/or more freight by rail’.

But actual evidence for HS2 allowing two ‘local’ stopping services to run in the place of ‘one intercity train moved to HS2’, is nowhere to be found.

Consider for example, the case of the two-track Birmingham to Coventry line, which is used by intercity trains to and from London Euston, and on which capacity is supposed to be freed up by HS2.

In the ‘scenarios’ put forward in the official West Midlands Rail Investment Strategy published in 2019 (when HS2 phase one was expected to open in 2026), it can be seen that it is not possible to double the stopping service. (It is possible to tweak the service level of individual stations, but of course such tweaking could be done now, and does not require the construction of HS2.)

Irrespective of HS2, there has to be a fast service between Birmingham New Street, Birmingham International, and Coventry, meaning in practice that it is not possible to double the stopping service.

If all fast passenger trains were removed from the line, it would be possible to run a frequent stopping service, but this would cause modal shift to car, and a reduction in passengers carried. That is because the fastest train journeys from Birmingham to Coventry would become much slower, while the new frequent stopping services would run largely empty. The housing density around stations on the Coventry line is too low to support a metro-style frequency.

These observations would also apply to other stretches of line supposedly freed up by HS2, such as Doncaster to Leeds, and Stoke-on-Trent to Manchester. The official forecasting models do not support the claim that HS2 would enable ‘one stopping train to be replaced by two or more stopping services’ on existing the rail network, which is presumably why Gareth Dennis and Greens4HS2 make no reference to PFM.

WMRIS, indicative Coventry rail paths with and without HS2

Written by beleben

October 23, 2021 at 3:13 pm

The ‘Greens4HS2’ misinformation campaign

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‘Greens for HS2’ (@Greens4HS2 on Twitter) describe themselves as a group of Green Party (of England and Wales: GPEW) members who think that green opposition to High Speed Two should be ‘changed’, because it is based on ‘misunderstandings about the benefits of HS2’ and ‘the role it can play as part of a zero-CO2 future’.

Most of the arguments put forward by Greens4HS2 originated outside of the group, and outside of GPEW itself. The influence of Gareth Dennis (who is not a Green party member) is particularly prevalent, as can be seen in the group’s newsletter for the Autumn 2021 party conference (below) where he has provided the line to take, and even its Rail Alphabet-based logo.

Greens4HS2 leaflet, October 2021 (first side)
Greens4HS2 leaflet, Oct 2021
Greens4HS2 leaflet, October 2021 (2nd side)

The main job of HS2, according to the newsletter (and Mr Dennis) is to ‘free up our congested rail network, making room for many more local and freight trains’, and it could play ‘a big part’ in ‘a low carbon future for transport’.

So, exactly where on the existing railway would HS2 enable ‘many more local and freight trains to run’? Greens4HS2 members have always been completely unable to provide quantification for any particular stretch of line.

The Solihull branch of GPEW is a particular hotbed of Greens4HS2 support, so one might expect them to be eager to detail the ‘HS2-enabled uplift’ in local and freight trains achievable on the existing Coventry to Birmingham line, which runs through the north of their borough. But all they have ever been able to do, is parrot the inanities of Mr Dennis.

Written by beleben

October 23, 2021 at 2:06 pm

Posted in HS2, misinformation