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Archive for the ‘HS2’ Category

Andy Street disses the HS2 eastern leg

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Yesterday (14 July), the mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, told the House of Commons transport select committee that the eastern leg of HS2 (Birmingham to Leeds) “does not need to be built in full”. He called on the government to focus on “better connecting towns in the Midlands” and the ‘Midlands Rail Hub’ instead of building the eastern leg, but said it would be “cataclysmic” for the West Midlands if the western leg of HS2 to Manchester were cancelled.

This is all rather awkward, considering the sustained and vociferous support for the eastern leg from the West Midlands Combined Authority, Transport for West Midlands, and Midlands Connect.

One might well wonder, why would it be ‘cataclysmic’ to cancel the western leg, but not the eastern one?

Regular readers of the Beleben blog may be aware that the HS2 western leg is an environmental disaster and economic basket case, and that the centrepiece of the Midlands Rail Hub, the ‘Camp Hill chords’, are probably unbuildable in the form put forward by Midlands Connect.

The Beleben blog prediction is that the Midlands Connect idea of two Camp Hill chords, apparently merging in mid-air above the Great Western lines, never happens, and that would mean any feasible Midlands Rail Hub would bear no resemblance to the currently proposed scheme.

Camp hill Chords, official diagram

Written by beleben

July 15, 2021 at 1:23 pm

Posted in Bizarre, HS2

Andrew Adonis on the cost of HS2

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In 2015, Andrew Adonis, the former Secretary of State for Transport, was telling the world that High Speed Two was not a £50 billion project, but “a £28 billion project with a 50% contingency”.

But in a 9 July 2021 Prospect Magazine article about prime minister Boris Johnson, Mr Adonis described HS2 as the “£100 bn high-speed line from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds”.

In reality, it is unlikely that the Y network as currently planned could be completed for anything close to £100 billion, so there are probably some ‘notable’ changes to the project in the pipeline, as it were.

Written by beleben

July 13, 2021 at 11:05 am

Posted in HS2

Why the country needs HS2 misinformation

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With a benefit cost ratio ‘consistently above two’ , the High Speed Two railway project is needed to provide extra capacity, according to Alison Munro’s article ‘HS2 railway, UK – why the country needs it’, which appeared in the Transport Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, February 2021 (published online on 4 January 2021).

Extract from 'HS2 railway, UK - why the country needs it, Alison Munro, ICE, Feb 2021'

Of course, the article contains a great deal of questionable and incorrect content. For instance, HS2’s benefit cost ratio has not been ‘consistently above two’. With sunk costs and wider impacts included, the official BCR for the London – West Midlands phase was last reported as 1.0, in 2020.

And what about the description of London Midland as “the main commuter operator running to Euston”? That company ceased operations more than three years ago.

Written by beleben

March 16, 2021 at 5:51 pm

Posted in HS2

The meaning of Doug

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In September 2013, the Independent published an interview with HS2 Ltd’s then-chairman Douglas Oakervee in which he claimed, “It would be catastrophic for the UK actually [if HS2 were cancelled]. What it is going to mean is that the services on the West Coast Mainline initially and East Coast Mainline will rapidly deteriorate. We estimate on the mainline up to Birmingham that for every 10 people seated there will be 10 standing, and you get the same pattern having developed to Manchester by the mid-2020s or 2030.

In September 2013, the Independent published an interview with HS2 Ltd's then-chairman Douglas Oakervee

Having been stood down and replaced by David Higgins as HS2 chairman, Mr Oakervee became ‘newsworthy’ again in 2019 when he was selected to chair prime minister Boris Johnson’s ‘independent’ review of the project. A freedom of information request was submitted to HS2 Ltd in October of that year, asking about Mr Oakervee’s 2013 claim that (without HS2), ‘on the mainline up to Birmingham that for every 10 people seated there will be 10 standing, and you get the same pattern having developed to Manchester by the mid-2020s or 2030’.

HS2 Ltd, response to freedom of information request, 2019
HS2 Ltd, response to freedom of information request, 2019
HS2 Ltd, response to freedom of information request, 2019

As can be seen, HS2 Ltd’s response to that FoI request stated they held no information supporting Mr Oakervee’s claim (and no information about their claim that HS2 would allow trains on the West Coast Main Line to run “much closer together”).

Written by beleben

December 3, 2020 at 4:32 pm

Posted in HS2

Significantly greater weakness

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Earlier this year, “MPs in Leeds City Region” were emphasising that the eastern leg of the HS2 railway had a ‘very high’ benefit cost ratio, ‘most significantly, greater than that of the Western leg’.

tweet from @richard_rail about the benefit cost ratio of the eastern leg of HS2, 29 May 2020

But according to Andrew Adonis, speaking in the House of Lords on 30 November 2020, the HS2 eastern leg has the “weakest” of the benefit cost ratios.

[Andrew Adonis | House of Lords | High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill | Volume 808: debated on Monday 30 November 2020]

“[…] The situation, which is well known in the Department for Transport and among those with whom I speak, is as follows. Dominic Cummings tried to cancel HS2. To be blunt, he does not much like Governments of any form doing big projects, but he certainly does not like big state projects of this kind. He wrestled very hard with the Prime Minister after the last election to get him to cancel HS2 outright. The Prime Minister believes in big infrastructure projects. When I was Transport Secretary, I had big discussions with him. There are many things he has no fixed belief on, but he has been prepared to commit to big transport infrastructure projects that will connect the country. He was persuaded of the case for HS2, and when the decision had to be made in February about going ahead with the first phase of HS2, from London to Birmingham, he gave that commitment. What then happened was that Dominic Cummings moved on to the eastern leg, because the weakest of the BCRs — benefit to cost ratios — is for the eastern leg. The reason the weakest BCR is for the eastern leg is very straightforward: the cities served in the east of the country are smaller than those in the west. But we are supposed to be about levelling up. That is the whole philosophy of the Government. So the fact that the BCRs are lower for the east is not a reason for not proceeding with HS2 East; it is an essential reason for proceeding.” […]

Written by beleben

December 2, 2020 at 4:32 pm

Eat, sleep, spin, reset

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On 13 October, just weeks after the official ‘start of construction‘ of its High Speed Two railway, the government has announced that new “cost pressures” are emerging. (Was für eine Überraschung.)

gov.uk, 'HS2 6 monthly report to parliament', 13 Oct 2020

But apparently no mention in this six-monthly report of other ‘cost pressures’, like the now-proposed 5.7 km tunnel in Bromford.

HS2 phase one, proposed Bromford tunnel extension

Written by beleben

October 14, 2020 at 11:55 am

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