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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

Fight for the cause

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On 21 February 2020, the government announced that its ‘integrated rail plan for the Midlands and the north’ would be ‘informed by an assessment from the National Infrastructure Commission’.

The Commission launched a ‘call for evidence’ from ‘stakeholders’, and on 28 May, as part of that process, Hilary Benn MP and ten other northern politicians wrote a joint letter to ‘grumpy grandpa’ NIC chairman John Armitt (reproduced below).

Letter from Hilary Benn MP and ten other northern politicians to John Armitt, 29 May 2020, page 1

Letter from Hilary Benn MP and ten other northern politicians to John Armitt, 29 May 2020, page 2

twitter, @Richard_rail, 'Claims from MPs in Leeds City Region regarding #HS2 and its BCR and how it's more beneficial than Manchester. What happened to the plans for a joined up North fighting for the same cause?'

'Fight,  fight, fight, fight, fight for this cause'

Needless to say, the ‘Benn letter’ is a farrago of nonsense from start to finish. For example, its claim that ‘the eastern leg of HS2 has a benefit cost ratio of 5.6 compared to 2.6 for the western leg’ comes from a July 2011 report created by Arup for the ‘High Speed Rail Eastern Network Partnership’ (i.e., a lobbying group).

www.parliament.uk, written question on HS2 sunk costs, House of Lords, 2020-04-22

Written by beleben

May 29, 2020 at 8:29 pm

Posted in HS2, Leeds, Manchester

Hidden planet

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On 4 May the Beleben twitter noted that no updates to the HS2 PLANET forecasting model had been published since July 2017.

twitter, @belebenso, 'PFM 7.1 is July 2017 IIRC, after which publication of updates ceased without explanation.'

The Department for Transport has now confirmed that it is unwilling to publish these updates, apparently because none of them have been ‘fully checked and assured’.

DfT, HS2 Planet forecasting model updates are being withheld, May 2020

So, the forecasting model updates are apparently ‘assured enough’ to ‘inform’ the decision to go ahead with HS2, but not ‘assured enough’ to be perused by the public.

'Er, quite remarkable, actually' (David Coleman)

Written by beleben

May 26, 2020 at 8:36 pm

Posted in HS2

Sunk and disorderly

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The April 2020 HS2 phase one Full Business Case (FBC) treated £5.6 billion of expenditure to December 2019 as sunk, the Department for Transport has confirmed.

DfT: HS2 sunk costs assumed as £5,600 million, May 2020

As that expenditure was factored out for the purposes of preparing the April 2020 FBC, it would seem reasonable to conclude that

CYN2020_04 = CYN2019_08 – SUNC2019_12

where CYN2020_04 is the Y network cost as estimated in the April 2020 FBC,

CYN2019_08 is the Y network cost as estimated in the HS2 Chairman’s Stocktake (August 2019),

and SUNC2019_12 are those HS2 costs incurred up to December 2019 declared as sunk for the April 2020 FBC.

HS2 Chairman's Stocktake, 2019, Table 4

The HS2 Chairman’s Stocktake stated that CYN2019_08 was between £72.1 billion and £78.4 billion.

Using the Stocktake lowest estimate of £72.1 billion, one would expect the updated April 2020 cost to be £66.5 billion.

( CYN2020_04 = 72.1 – 5.6 = 66.5 ).

Using the Stocktake highest estimate of £78.4 billion, one would expect the updated April 2020 cost to be £72.8 billion.

( CYN2020_04 = 78.4 – 5.6 = 72.8 ).

Table 2.9 of the April 2020 HS2 Full Business Case

However, item 4 in Table 2.9 of the April 2020 FBC gives CYN2020_04 as £78.2 billion.

So, after deducting £5.6 billion of sunk costs, the official cost of the Y network is, er, £0.2 billion lower than the highest estimate in the Chairman’s Stocktake.

(All of the above figures are based on year 2015 prices.)

Written by beleben

May 24, 2020 at 11:54 am

Posted in HS2

HS2’s the name

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HS2 Yougov polling, 18 May 2020, support by political view

Written by beleben

May 18, 2020 at 10:05 pm

Posted in HS2

HS2 disinformation is intrinsic

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The Department for Transport (DfT) and High Speed Two Ltd (HS2 Ltd) seemed to believe that a lack of transparency with Parliament and the public on the problems facing the programme would in some way protect it.‘ That’s one of the findings of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee’s HS2 Spring 2020 update, published today (17 May).

Of course, that particular ‘belief‘ was absolutely correct: DfT and HS2 Ltd’s enormous disinformation and obfuscation effort has been highly effective in ‘protecting’ HS2 from cancellation (even though the general public seem to have the measure of the scheme’s worth).

The official disinformation campaign has been going on ever since the project was established a decade ago, and without it, there would be no HS2.

twitter, @CommonsPAC, '#HS2 #HighSpeed2 is 'massively over budget and delayed before work has even begun. There is no excuse for hiding the nature and extent of the problems the project was facing from Parliament and the taxpayer' - @Meg_Hillier MP

twitter, @CommonsPAC, 'Read our report this morning on #HS2 #HighSpeed2:  'badly off course' with the Committee demanding a regular 'honest, open account' from @DfTstats & @HS2ltd and 'evidence of learning from past mistakes being applied to bring this project under control'

twitter, @tonyberkeley1:  It is time to stop wasting any more money [on HS2], cancel Phase 1 and spend on rail in the N and Midlands - and on economic recovery

CN, 29 May 2018: Mark Thurston, who took over as HS2 chief in March 2017, dismissed the claims [of cost overruns] and said he was confident the [HS2] line would remain on budget. He said: 'We are confident that we will build it within that budget, we wouldn’t say anything else in a public forum.'

HS2 contingency: 'Doug's not interested'

twitter, @wheres_ally_2016, 'Why is this relevant'?

Written by beleben

May 17, 2020 at 7:30 pm

Posted in HS2

The low-down on HS2 value

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According to its April 2020 phase one Final Business Case [FBC], High Speed Two offers ‘value for the taxpayer under all but the most extreme scenarios’.

But what kind of ‘value for the taxpayer’?

Forecast benefit cost of the Y network, DfT HS2 phase two economic case, July 2017, Figure 7

In July 2017, the Department for Transport claimed that the full HS2 Y network had a ‘68% chance of having a benefit cost ratio (BCR) above 2’ and a ‘92% chance of a BCR above 1.5’.

[HS2 Phase Two Economic Case | July 2017][…]

Phases 2a and 2b demonstrate high value for money, contributing to a full network BCR of 2.3 with WEIs and 1.9 excluding WEIs.

The Department’s value for money framework (2015) stated that in ‘standard cases’, a BCR of between 1.0 and 1.5 would indicate ‘Low’ value for money (VfM), a BCR between 1.5 and 2.0 would indicate ‘Medium’ VfM, and a BCR between 2.0 and 4.0 would indicate ‘High’ VfM.

DfT VfM framework, 2015, category definitions

[DfT value for money framework]

“[…] However it may be more appropriate to report a hybrid category (e.g. ‘Medium-High’) in cases where it is likely and reasonable to believe, that a proposal may fall into another category, based on analysis using ‘switching values’.”

In the April 2020 FBC the updated benefit-cost ratio for phase one (and for phase one-plus-2b taken together) was 1.2, when wider economic impacts (WEIs) are included. For the larger Y network (phase-one-plus-phase-2a-and-2b), the figure was 1.49, including WEIs.

HS2 phase one full business case, 15 April 2020, Table 2.1

On closer examination, the gulf between the ‘July 2017’ and ‘April 2020’ BCRs turns out to be even wider. One of the changes made for the FBC was that “spend up to the end of 2019 has been treated as sunk and excluded […] except for purchase costs on land and property that could be recoverable were HS2 not to go ahead“.

www.parliament.uk, written question on HS2 sunk costs, House of Lords, 2020-04-22

On 6 May, the government stated that had the ‘newly-declared-sunk’ costs not been excluded in the FBC,

  • the BCR for phase one would have been 0.8 without WEIs, and 1.0 with WEIs [i.e., ‘Poor’ value for money]
  • the Y network BCR would have been 1.1 without WEIs, and 1.3 with WEIs [‘Low’ value for money].

From the start, the Beleben blog has taken the view that the economic case for HS2 has been fabricated and manipulated to serve the political purpose of keeping the project going. This has been borne out by events.

BBC News, 27 Aug 2019, 'Ministers know HS2 was over budget years ago'

Manipulation of the economic case is still happening, and if anything, the HS2 project is becoming less, rather than more, transparent.

Written by beleben

May 15, 2020 at 11:31 am

Who flows about first class?

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According to the Figure 1.16 of the HS2 phase one ‘full business case’ (15 Apr 2020), 52% of ‘key West Coast Main Line flows’ have a business purpose.

DfT, 'full business case', HS2 phase one, 15 Apr 2020, Figure 1.16

Does this mean that 52% of passenger journeys on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) are for business purposes? If yes, why not just say that? Or, if not, then what exactly does this ‘key flows’ palaver mean?

On an eleven-carriage Class 390/1 train of the type used on the WCML, there are 145 first class and 444 standard seats, so the proportion of first class is only 25%.

As business travellers are assigned a higher value of time by the Department for Transport, and are supposed to be willing to pay for ‘less crowded’ travel, then why isn’t the proportion of first class seats, 52%? Could it be that a large number of supposed ‘business travellers’, don’t value their travel that highly?

Oddly enough, the HS2 full business case doesn’t seem to have a single mention of the phrase “first class”*, and there is zero information elsewhere about the intended proportion of first class on HS2*, the present-day first class load factor on intercity West Coast*, or the present-day intercity first class load factor anywhere else*.

* = Corrections welcome.

Written by beleben

April 27, 2020 at 10:18 am

Posted in HS2

Much a-crewe about nothing

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HS2 supporter Pete Waterman at Crewe

In March 2014 the Crewe and Nantwich Guardian reported how the then chairman of HS2 Ltd, David Higgins, saw a “dedicated hub station in Crewe as central to the £45.6 billion railway”.

David Higgins backs Crewe hub plan | Crewe and Nantwich Guardian | 17 Mar 2014

In 2015 the Northern Gateway Development Zone (now called the ‘Constellation Partnership’) was launched by local enterprise partnerships in north Staffordshire and Cheshire with the objective of  ‘capitalising on the investment potential arising from initiatives such as HS2’.

The Constellation Partnership’s October 2018 growth strategy was built on ‘driving growth through transformational HS2 connectivity’, meaning a ‘minimum of 5 to 7 HS2 trains each way every hour‘ serving the Crewe hub station.

Constellation Partnership HS2 growth strategy, Oct 2018, titlepage

In addition to north- and south-facing connections into the high speed line, the hub station would be endowed with exemplary 360-degree local connectivity.

Constellation Partnership HS2 growth strategy, Oct 2018

However, the April 2020 HS2 ‘full phase one economic case‘ suggests that the government has lost interest in the Crewe hub concept. The ‘full Y network train service specification’ shows no intention of five or more high speed trains stopping each hour at Crewe, and no northbound connection.

HS2 full Y network train service specification, 15 Apr 2020

Written by beleben

April 26, 2020 at 11:50 am

Posted in Bizarre, HS2