Archive for the ‘HS2’ Category
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.
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.
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”?
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.
On 19 April, the House of Commons transport select committee questioned HS2 chairman David Higgins and transport secretary Chris Grayling about ‘the circumstances behind CH2M’s withdrawal from the HS2 phase 2b development partnership contract’ and the ‘lessons to be learnt’. As the government had announced a general election the day before, only a few members of the committee turned up, and mainstream media coverage was minimal.
Acording to committee ‘chair’ Louise Ellman MP, ‘Given the sums at money at stake’ in HS2, it is ‘essential’ for the public to have ‘full confidence in the processes’. But judging by what Mr Grayling and Mr Higgins said, there seems to be little reason to have confidence in the way HS2 has been, and is being, run.
Chris Grayling told the demi-committee that CH2M had “lost a very substantial piece of business as a result of a breach in the rules”, that had “come to our attention because somebody inside the organisation told one of the other bidders.”
Despite that ‘breach’ only having come to light as a result of the actions of a whistleblower, Mr Grayling seemed to suggest that there was actually nothing very much wrong with HS2’s bidding process. He appeared to have no problem with CH2M’s Mark Thurston having being appointed as HS2 Ltd chief executive, or David Higgins’ tacit admission that there was not a level playing field for bidders (the scope of CH2M’s earlier work on HS2 having given it an advantage).
Mr Higgins stated he ‘did not know’ why CH2M had withdrawn from the phase 2b contract, but if they had not, they would have been sacked. (?)
[‘HS2 boss admits failures over conflict of interest’, Robert Lea, The Times, 20 April 2017]
The head of High Speed Two told MPs that he and his executives had done no checks and had not monitored a former HS2 chief of staff at the centre of a conflict of interest fiasco with its key contractor on the £55 billion London – Birmingham rail line.
Revelations that HS2 Ltd had been unaware that a former executive was playing a senior role at his subsequent employer CH2M — project manager of the first phase and named this year as the preferred bidder for the same job on the second phase of the controversial high-speed lines — have led to promises of new “intrusive” investigations of personnel involved in bids for the billions of pounds’ worth of contracts coming up for tender.
Mr Higgins also said that Bechtel would be awarded the contract after its bid came in ‘15% cheaper’ than third placed Mace. (HS2 Ltd has never published details of bid cash values, or their technical scoring, so there is an almost-total lack of transparency.)
[‘HS2 to make firms name all people involved in bids’, Aaron Morby, Construction Enquirer, 20 April, 2016]
Sir David Higgins, HS2 chairman, said the body would now tighten up disclosure procedures after US consultant CH2M withdrew from a preferred development partner role on the second phase of HS2.
He revealed the move to tighten up bid requirements as he was quizzed by the Transport Select Committee about events leading up to CH2M being selected as preferred contractor.
CH2M had faced conflict of interest allegations from rival bidder Mace, after HS2’s former chief of staff Christopher Reynolds produced lessons learnt documents from phase one to inform the second phase development partner tender process.
After leaving HS2 last June, Reynolds went to work for CH2M in September.
Higgins said that HS2 had no evidence that Reynolds had influenced CH2M’s bid. But despite this CH2M withdrew “for their own reasons”, revealed Higgins.
In a statement after the hearing, a Mace spokespersons said: “As the Transport Select Committee has shown there are a lot of serious questions to be answered around HS2’s procurement process.
“If we hadn’t raised these concerns, these serious issues would never have come out.
“David Higgins admitted that HS2 needs to tighten up their process is an admission that the procurement was seriously flawed.
“It’s remarkable that he also admitted that if CH2M hadn’t withdrawn, they would have been sacked – which is a clear admission that their procurement process was riddled with errors.”
Apparently, it was only recently that Network Rail and freight train operators identified that 50 per cent of the slots reserved for freight on Britain’s railway were not being used, and “could potentially be given up for thousands of new passenger and [other] freight services”.
[‘Rail freight industry and Network Rail collaborate to increase railway capacity’, Network Rail, apparently undated]
Per week, 4,702 allocated ‘paths’ – the slots a freight train has on the railway and in the timetable – have been relinquished, freeing-up much needed capacity on the rail network. They could become available for all train operators to run additional services on a daily basis or re-time existing services to reduce congestion and improve reliability.
[…] This additional capacity has been created at zero cost and has not led to any reductions in the number of freight trains running on the network. It represents a huge opportunity for both freight and passenger operators to increase traffic on the network without the need for expensive infrastructure enhancement schemes.
Much-improved capacity utilisation and allocation could follow if GB rail access charging were reformed to better reflect path scarcity on different routes. For this to work properly, Network Rail would need to be extensively reorganised, but not in the way proposed in the Shaw report.
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.
In 2010 there were around 60,000 Virgin Trains West Coast ‘long distance’ passenger journeys each day on the section of the line south of Rugby, according to the April 2012 HS2 Demand and Appraisal report. There were only around 5,000 VTWC journeys to and from Liverpool, and 10,000 from Manchester.
- is “expected to carry over 300,000 people every day” – with ~250,000 of those journeys involving the trunk between Birmingham interchange (Bickenhill) and London
- ‘would – in the year 2036 – attract
- two thirds of passengers who would otherwise travel on the West Coast Main Line,
- one third of those who would otherwise travel on the Midland Main Line, and
- half of those who would otherwise use the East Coast Main Line.’
How these forecasts were arrived at, has never been explained, and the figures look dubious. It cannot be in the public interest for HS2 Ltd to refuse to provide details about current and forecast travel demand.
In December 2016, HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins told the House of Commons transport committee that high speed rail ‘is a very carbon-efficient way of moving people… If you compare trains with buses they are much more efficient.’
[House of Commons Transport Committee, Oral evidence: High Speed Two, HC 746, 12 December 2016]
Q88. [Chair:] Will High Speed 2 result in a reduction of carbon in the environment?
[Sir David Higgins:] It should, because it is a very carbon-efficient way of moving people. The railway can move 18,000 people an hour so it is very carbon efficient in terms of delivery. I remember seeing the stats. If you compare trains with buses — obviously it depends on the occupancy of the trains themselves — they are much more efficient.
Q89. [Chair:] What is the latest estimate for carbon reduction?
[Sir David Higgins:] I do not know that. I do not want to tell you a figure off the top of my head. I will get my experts behind me to write to you about that.
Q90. [Chair:] We would like to have that information, please.
So has the HS2 chairman provided evidence that High Speed 2 would
- result in a reduction of carbon in the environment
- be much more carbon efficient than buses — such as National Express, and Megabus?
In December 2012, Greengauge 21 stated that claims about trains leaving Euston in the evening peak being only half full were ‘wrong’.
While this is true for Virgin Trains (52% seats occupied),
(So, Greengauge 21 accepted it was true, as far as intercity was concerned.)
Network Rail has pointed out that London Midland – which runs the commuter services – is at 94% capacity, and traffic levels are growing at 4% a year.
If London Midland was at ‘94% capacity’ around 2012, and traffic levels grew at 4% a year, surely that would mean it was at ‘97.7% capacity’ a year later, and ‘101.6% capacity’, a year after that.
But according to London Travel Watch, London Midland’s “passengers in excess of capacity” (PiXC) count in 2014 was lower than in 2013.
The statement that London Midland was ‘at 94% capacity’ looks like misleading nonsense.
There is enormous scope for increasing commuter capacity out of Euston (by running longer trains, intensifying the use of the slow lines, etc).