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Archive for the ‘HS2’ Category

From Adonis concept to Boris boondoggle

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One of the most common misconceptions about HS2 is that it is somehow about capacity increases on local rail networks.

twitter, @DrSextonGreen [Solihull Green party], 'I also understand why we need rail infrastructure as a pre-requisite for the modal shift we are calling for. My understanding is that HS2 has less environmental impact than alternative proposals that achieve similar capacity increases on *local* rail networks.'

As informed Beleben blog readers will know, the available evidence suggests HS2 is not a means of facilitating increased classic rail capacity, or modal shift to rail.

Following Greengauge 21’s recent ‘true confessions‘ about the capacity case for the eastern leg of HS2, it might be worth looking at the western (Manchester) leg.

SDG’s July 2017 HS2 released capacity summary report for the Department for Transport (which cost over £100,000) included a representation of evening peak seat capacity in Manchester’s Stoke and Crewe ‘corridors’, with and without HS2.

SDG's July 2017 HS2 released capacity summary report for the Department for Transport, evening peak capacity in the 'Stoke and Crewe corridors', with and without HS2

The same diagram was included in the Department’s ‘High Speed Two From Concept to Reality’ report, but with extra information.

DfT,'High Speed Two From Concept to Reality', evening peak capacity in the 'Stoke and Crewe corridors', with and without HS2

In the SDG and From Concept to Reality reports, the opening of dedicated HS2 infrastructure in Manchester (phase 2b, column 4) has no effect on classic capacity, which is at that point lower than the 2026 No-HS2 Do-minimum (column 2).

'High Speed Two From Concept to Reality', classic evening peak capacity in the 'Stoke and Crewe corridors', with and without HS2

To maximise the utility of rail in Greater Manchester, the optimal course of action might be summarised as ‘Cancel HS2, cancel Northern Powerhouse Rail, cancel Piccadilly Platforms 15 and 16, develop S-Bahn’.

Written by beleben

August 9, 2020 at 9:19 pm

Posted in HS2

A proportion and none

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Greengauge 21, 'A proportion and none'

Although his company SDG (now Steer Group) trousered tens of thousands of pounds for providing the Department for Transport with a report on the supposed released capacity benefits of High Speed Two phase two, Jim Steer’s Greengauge 21 has now admitted HS2’s eastern leg would only allow “a proportion” of East Coast Main Line and “none” of the Midland Main Line fast services to London to transfer to the high speed line, and said its prospective delivery date is now “20 – 25 years ahead – the 2040s”.

Greengauge 21 'Eastern arm report', 30 July 2020 (extract)

In a muddled but entertaining report called ‘HS2’s Eastern Arm’ (30 July 2020), Mr Steer seemed to question whether any of the eastern leg should be built, and then claimed parts of it should be built, but with its ‘London intercity’ raison d’être fulfilled by, er, upgrading the existing Midland and East Coast Main Lines.

But this doesn’t really fit with the October 2013 government and Network Rail ‘lobotomy’ upgrade script, does it?

Network Rail's 'lobotomy' alternatives to HS2, 'disruptive possessions'

As can be seen, in the ‘alternatives to HS2’ put forward by Network Rail in 2013 (and sent to the Oakervee review in 2019), it was the upgrading of the Midland and East Coast main lines, which accounted for the vast majority of the supposed ‘disruptive possessions’.

Written by beleben

August 6, 2020 at 10:54 am

Posted in HS2

The porkies never stop

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Upgrading existing lines, instead of building High Speed Two phase one (the London to West Midlands section) would result in 2,700 weekend closures of the railway over a fifteen year period, according to HS2 Ltd (29 June 2020).

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'It’s estimated that upgrading existing lines instead of building #HS2 Phase 1 would result in 2,700 weekend closures over 15 years. Independent rail planning consultant @WilliamBarter1 spoke from #MiltonKeynes earlier this year and explained why alternatives to HS2 don’t add up.'

However, this claim is contradicted even by Network Rail’s own scaremongering report for the Department for Transport (DfT), known as “Options for Potential Capacity and Connectivity Enhancements to the Existing Network”.

In 2013, Network Rail and Atkins were tasked by the DfT with helping to create ‘straw man’ alternatives to HS2, intended to make building a new line look like a more attractive option than enhancements to the existing railway (the standard approach elsewhere).

The outputs from the 2013 DfT / Atkins / Network Rail joint effort were the ‘lobotomy’ packages, officially known as P1, YA, YB, P2A, and P2B, replete with big scary numbers for ‘disruptive possessions’, to be fed to the mainstream media.

So, what did the public make of all this? 

Yougov, HS2 versus alternatives, key findings, 2013-10-30 

According to Network Rail’s 2013 report, the P1 enhancement package — their ‘alternative’ to building HS2 phase one — would require 410 weekend closures. And not 2,700 weekend closures, as claimed by HS2 Ltd on their twitter.

Network Rail, HS2 alternatives, disruptive possessions scaremongering, 2013

Network Rail, scaremonger enhancements to the rail network, disruptive possession scaremongering, 2013

Written by beleben

August 5, 2020 at 11:32 am

Posted in HS2

Many facts are mything

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There is a huge amount of false and misleading information about HS2 on social media, and the number one misinformation super-spreader must surely be HS2 Ltd itself.

For evidence to support this view, one need look no further than various tweets about “myths” posted by the company’s twitter on 31 July 2020.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'There is a huge amount of false and misleading information about #HS2 on social media. Below is a myth buster thread which corrects some of the most repeated misconceptions about the project'

In these tweets, HS2 Ltd offered up five statements as ‘myths’, but did not attribute them to any particular person, or organisation.

HS2 Ltd’s Myth 1

The statement offered by HS2 Ltd as their ‘Myth 1’ concerned journey time, specifically the journey time between London and Birmingham.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'Myth 1: ‘HS2 only saves 20 minutes to #Birmingham’. FACT: #HS2 services will call at 25 stations in England and Scotland connecting 30 million people. It also frees up space on the existing network for more frequent stopping local services benefiting those who may never use HS2.'

However, their response did not attempt to prove whether the statement ‘HS2 only saves 20 minutes to Birmingham’ was true or not. Instead, HS2 Ltd stated

‘HS2 will call at 25 stations in England and Scotland connecting 30 million people. It also frees up space on the existing network for more frequent stopping local services benefiting those who may never use HS2’.

Claims like ‘HS2 will call at 25 stations in England and Scotland connecting 30 million people’, are themselves curious, because those ’30 million people’ are already ‘connected’ to each other by the existing railway network. The vast majority of the “25 stations” mentioned by HS2 Ltd are places on the existing railway network (Euston, Manchester Piccadilly, York, Newcastle, Leeds, etc).

HS2 Ltd’s Myth 2

For their ‘Myth 2’, HS2 Ltd offered the statement, ‘HS2 will destroy 700 local wildlife sites’.

Although HS2 did not attribute this claim to any particular organisation or person, it appears to refer to Jane Durney’s ‘What’s The Damage’ report (exact date unknown) compiled for The Wildlife Trusts. This stated that “…693 Local Wildlife Sites (LWS) covering 9,696 hectares are at risk of being significantly affected or destroyed under current plans for HS2”.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'Myth 2: ‘HS2 will destroy 700 local wildlife sites’. FACT: The whole #HS2 route partially impacts 204 such sites. Our Green Corridor will leave behind 33 square km of new woodland and wildlife habitats. [...]'

According to the Patrick Barkham article ‘HS2 will destroy or damage hundreds of UK wildlife sites, says report’ (The Guardian, 15 Jan 2020),

[Patrick Barkham, The Guardian]

HS2 will destroy or irreparably damage five internationally protected wildlife sites, 693 local wildlife sites, 108 ancient woodlands and 33 legally protected sites of special scientific interest, according to the most comprehensive survey of its impact on wildlife.
[…]
An HS2 spokesman disputed the figures in the report, saying the data was not new and that it included all sites within 500 metres of the line regardless of how they were affected.

But is the statement

693 Local Wildlife Sites are at risk of being significantly affected or destroyed under current plans for HS2‘,

the same thing as saying

HS2 will destroy 700 local wildlife sites‘?

HS2 Ltd’s Myth 3

For their ‘Myth 3’, HS2 Ltd offered the statement, ‘HS2 helps airport expansion’.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'Myth 3: ‘HS2 helps airport expansion’. FACT: High speed rail helps reduce domestic flights. In 2030 #HS2 is forecast to be 17 times less carbon intensive than air travel & will help deliver end to end low carbon journeys. Look what HSR has done to domestic air travel in Europe.'

However, the ‘FACT’ offered in response to this ‘myth’ did not address the question of whether HS2 aided airport expansion, or not. Instead, HS2 Ltd claimed

  • high speed rail (in general) ‘helps reduce domestic flights’,
  • while HS2 in particular was forecast [by whom?] to be 17 times less carbon intensive in 2030 than air transport.

Whether high speed rail has made much difference to air travel in Europe, is of course, open to question.

European Commission, 25 years of EU aviation, extract

HS2 Ltd’s Myth 4

For their ‘Myth 4’, HS2 Ltd offered the statement, ‘HS2 is old technology’.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'Myth 4: ‘HS2 is old technology’. FACT: High speed rail is one of the most carbon efficient mass transport systems available. Long after COVID we'll still need infrastructure to connect the country, provide opportunities for regeneration, jobs and growth in the midlands and north.'

But instead of trying to demonstrate whether ‘HS2 is old technology’ or not, HS2 Ltd’s ‘rebuttal’ focused on carbon emissions (which is always going to be weak ground for the company).

Assessing the veracity of the claim that high speed rail (in general, not HS2 in particular) is ‘one of the most carbon efficient mass transport systems available’, would seem to present some significant problems.

Who has reliable estimates for the embedded carbon of building Spain’s high speed rail network, for example?

HS2 Ltd’s Myth 5

For their ‘Myth 5’, HS2 offered the statement ‘We can just upgrade the existing railways’.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'Myth 5: ‘We can just upgrade the existing railways’. FACT: Network Rail have rejected alternatives. Their upgrade scenario would only deliver 66% of #HS2's capacity and the East Coast Main Line would be closed every weekend for nearly 30 years.'

Of course, upgrading the existing infrastructure has been the standard approach to increase capacity on Britain’s railways for decades.

Because upgrading existing infrastructure would be more cost-effective, less risky, and less disruptive than building HS2, it was important for special interests and HS2 supporters inside government to ensure that ‘smart upgrades’ were kept out of sight, and out of any comparison. The ‘lobotomy’ P1, YA and YB Atkins / Network Rail schemes were devised for that purpose, i.e. as straw man ‘alternatives’, serving as political cover for the HS2 scheme itself.

twitter, @HS2ltd, 'It’s estimated that upgrading existing lines instead of building #HS2 Phase 1 would result in 2,700 weekend closures over 15 years. Independent rail planning consultant @WilliamBarter1 spoke from #MiltonKeynes earlier this year and explained why alternatives to HS2 don’t add up.'

Written by beleben

August 3, 2020 at 5:03 pm

Posted in HS2

The compellingly poor case for HS2

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Yesterday (20 July 2020), the Department for Transport published the High Speed 2 (HS2) Phase One: accounting officer assessments from the period March to December 2019.

This follows the recommendation of the House of Commons public accounts committee, in its report ‘High Speed 2: Spring 2020 update’ (17 May 2020) that, “The Department must publish the summaries of its Accounting Officer assessments for all projects and programmes in line with HM Treasury guidance, including those already made and future assessments on High Speed Two.”

Department for Transport, HS2 phase one, accounting officer assessment of 23 July 2019, VfM (extract)

[Department for Transport, HS2 phase one, accounting officer assessment of 23 July 2019, VfM (extract)]

The value-for-money case for the HS2 programme compared against alternative schemes remained compelling. For Phase One in isolation, measuring cost to go against the funding envelope produced a BCR of between 0.9 and 1.0 including WEIs; this is considered ‘poor’ value for money.

However, the enabling nature of the Phase One scheme means that the value for money position for the ‘Full Y’ HS2 scheme remained intact.

Despite this, the value for money category fell to ‘low’ (BCR of 1.3 including WEIs).

'Bernadette Kelly became Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport on 18 April 2017'

Official Parliamentary Portrait of Nusrat Ul-Ghani, who was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport from 9 January 2018 to 13 February 2020

Written by beleben

July 21, 2020 at 11:56 am

Posted in HS2

HS2 is shovel reddy

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twitter, @GreenRupertRead, 'The official Infrastucture & Projects Authority, hardly a hot bed of pro-XR radicals, have just issued a report that damns HS2. For the first time, they have moved it into the worst category, “red”. Of schemes that are now unaffordable.'

Infrastructure and Projects Authority HS2 project rating update

Infrastructure and Projects Authority, meaning of a 'red' rating

Shovelling cash cartoon gif

Written by beleben

July 12, 2020 at 7:57 pm

Posted in HS2

Wide does he bother

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In his propaganda video for HS2 Ltd filmed at Milton Keynes Central station, ‘independent rail planning consultant’ William Barter raised the prospect of having to ‘widen’ the West Coast Main Line, if HS2 were not built.

He also claimed that ‘most of the trains on this line are running to the length that the stations can deal with’.

Which is, of course, complete nonsense.

The facts are,

  • ‘most of the trains on this line’ are not ‘running to the length that the stations can deal with’,
  • the capacity of the West Coast Main Line can be vastly increased,
  • and there is no sign of any need for fifth and sixth track plainline north of Watford.

In the Department for Transport’s ‘Maximising WCML capacity without HS2’, the end-state ‘smart-upgrade’ one-way WCML capacity is given as 27,800 passengers per hour, which is considerably higher than the HS2-phase-one-plus-WCML capacity in HS2’s July 2017 economic case.

DfT 'Maximising WCML capacity without HS2' vs Fig 3 from the HS2 July 2017 economic case

If anything, in the view of the Beleben blog, the “27,800” figure is an underestimate of what the WCML should be able to achieve.

Written by beleben

July 10, 2020 at 11:06 am

Posted in HS2

Apparently now accepted

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On 22 January 2020 the Beleben blog noted that by measures such as operating more ‘full length’ trains, taking up unused paths in the shoulder peak, and using high capacity rolling stock, capacity on the busiest section of the West Coast Main Line could be massively increased.

Beleben blog, The capacity case for not building HS2 (extract)

The Department for Transport (DfT) apparently now accepts that the Beleben blog’s analysis was correct.

DfT, 'Maximising capacity without HS2'

Macca, thumbs up

Written by beleben

July 8, 2020 at 12:12 pm

Posted in HS2

How much HS2 ‘released capacity’ is fake?

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‘Independent rail planning consultant’ William Barter has been working with High Speed Two bosses to explain ‘why Milton Keynes needs HS2’, the MK Citizen reported on 23 June.

twitter_HS2ltd, 'Transferring inter-city passengers to #HS2 enables more services on the existing network, which could provide #LondonEuston with a 76% increase in peak-hour commuter seats. Rail expert  @WilliamBarter1  spoke from #MiltonKeynes about how commuters will benefit from more capacity.'

This working together included Mr Barter speaking about rail capacity in a a 94-second HS2 Ltd Youtube video filmed at Milton Keynes Central station.

In the video, Mr Barter said “Released capacity is the space that’s left on the railway once the non-stop trains transfer to HS2 and the opportunity then comes to refill that space with trains that do stop at stations”.

Department for Transport, May 2019 northbound peak pm service pattern on the West Coast Main Line

At this point, it might be worth having a look at the May 2019 peak hourly pm service pattern on the West Coast Main Line (above) and comparing it with the future ‘released capacity’ scenario in the April 2020 HS2 phase one full business case (below).

Department for Transport, northbound peak pm service pattern on the West Coast Main with HS2 phase one (April 2020 phase one full business case)

As can be seen, the fast train offer from London to Milton Keynes Central in the April 2020 released capacity scenario is not much different from that of May 2019.

  • The total number of MK trains in the April 2020 released capacity scenario is twelve, of which seven could be described as ‘fast’.
  • In the May 2019 timetable, there were ten trains, of which seven were fast.

What is notably different in the April 2020 released capacity scenario, is the increased number of trains serving places like Tring and Hemel. But this increase seems to be happening largely on the relief lines, which are not normally used by the intercity trains that HS2 would allegedly replace. So, how much of the ‘increased commuter provision’ for Tring, Hemel, etc, is really a by-product of HS2?

In the considered view of the Beleben blog, the increase in Dacorum service, etc, is dependent on unadvertised interventions on the WCML itself. And little, if anything, to do with HS2.

When asked which future passenger (and freight) trains would use the relief lines, the Department for Transport refuses to say. Which is interesting, to say the least.

DfT confirmation of fewer (not more) trains on WCML South, in HS2 scenarios

Having just appeared banging on about released capacity benefits in a HS2 propaganda video, Mr Barter then popped up in the July 2020 edition of ‘Modern Railways’ magazine to, er, cast doubt on the rationale for, and feasibility of, the WCML service pattern in HS2’s April 2020 full business case.

twitter, @Modern_Railways proclaim the July 2020 edition

Written by beleben

July 3, 2020 at 2:00 pm

Posted in HS2, misinformation

Beleben visits some fake HS2 claims (part two)

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Aha! Boost commuter capacity with HS2 by taking intercity traffic off the slow lines [Picture of Alan Partridge]

HS2 has always been about boosting commuter capacity by taking intercity traffic off the slow lines, according to IanVisits, of the IanVisits blog.

twitter, @ianvisits, 'HS2 has always been about boosting commuter capacity by taking intercity traffic off the slow lines - read the early documents.'

This is a puzzling statement, because on the four-tracked section of the West Coast main line out of Euston, no regular intercity traffic uses the slow lines.

Department for Transport, West Coast Main Line, pm peak Euston hourly outbound, (May 2019, fast and relief lines)

Another baffling statement claimed that if you want to boost commuter capacity between towns, then removing high speed trains from slow lines is the best way to achieve it.

twitter, @ianvisits, 'If you want to boost commuter capacity between towns, then removing high speed trains from slow lines is the best way to achieve it. [...]'

‘Best way’?

‘Between towns’?

Between which towns?

Written by beleben

June 1, 2020 at 10:30 pm

Posted in HS2