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Dig in and tell

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building.co.uk, 'More contractors dig in and tell HS2 to think again on contract risk'

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Written by beleben

August 12, 2019 at 9:26 am

Posted in HS2, Industry

Trains on a ship

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A contract to build cutting-edge HS2 trains ‘could be on its way to England’s north east’  (reported Consett Magazine in November 2016).

[‘North East Could Land £7.5 Billion High-Speed Train Contract’, David Sunderland, Consett Magazine, November 19, 2016]

The government has implied that it will try to make sure the trains are built in Britain. Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, said, “We will not simply bring trains in on a ship with no benefit for engineering skills or apprenticeships in this country. I want a genuine process that leaves behind a skills footprint.”

If the trains really are to be manufactured in the UK, it would be great news for the north east. The region has a high-tech train factory in Newton Aycliffe, owned by the Japanese company Hitachi.

The factory is already making Intercity Express Programme trains. These trains will start replacing existing stock on the Great Western Main Line at the end of 2017 and on the East Coast Main Line from 2018.

But surely “bringing in trains on a ship with no benefit for engineering skills” is pretty much how GB train procurement has been carried out for many years. For example, as should be clear from the Asahi Shimbun article below, the Class 800 IEP trains for the Great Western and East Coast lines are manufactured in Japan, not at the Hitachi ‘potemkin factory’ in Newton Aycliffe.

Built-up IEP train carriages in Japan were pictured on the Asahi Shimbun website

Written by beleben

April 19, 2017 at 4:49 pm

Posted in Industry, Politics

Help from the driver

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GTR Southern rail users with disabilities face delayed journeys or the prospect of no longer being able to board some trains after the company said there was no “cast-iron guarantee” that assistance would be available at all stations, The Guardian reported. The change has been linked to the extension of ‘driver controlled operation’, in which guards are replaced by ‘onboard supervisors’.

[No guarantee of help for disabled passengers, says Southern, Diane Taylor, The Guardian, 17 Jan 2017]

Southern has admitted it may have to book taxis for disabled travellers who cannot complete their journey because the only member of staff on the train is the driver.

Previously there were 33 stations across the Southern rail network where passengers in need of assistance to get on or off the train could turn up and be guaranteed help.

(Of course, because of GTR’s repeated failure to recruit sufficient staff, there are no ‘guarantees’ for anyone to be able to ‘complete their journey’.)

According to Wikipedia, Southern Railway ‘operates’ 156 stations. Like other train operators, it has never offered network-wide spontaneous travel for persons of reduced mobility. How could such a facility be provided?

It would appear that implementating turn up and go nationwide would, in many cases, require the train driver to assist with boarding and alighting. That would entail changes in equipment and operating procedure, to allow the driver to leave the cab as and when required.

Written by beleben

January 18, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Posted in Industry, Politics, Railways

The semi-detached HS2 chairman

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HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins is to become chairman of Gatwick airport next month, leaving the high-speed rail project “with an increasingly occupied figurehead and no permanent chief executive”.

[HS2 chairman takes job at Gatwick, Gwyn Topham, The Guardian,`15 December 2016]

Higgins, who also spends time working in Australia as a director of the Commonwealth Bank, will take over from Sir Roy McNulty on 1 January at the Sussex airport.

He is paid £240,000 for three days a week at HS2 and is understood to be remaining in post as chair for up to a year, until a replacement is found and as the search for a new chief executive continues.
[…]
HS2 said the extra work would not affect or conflict with Higgins’s current role at HS2.

When he spoke to the House of Commons transport select committee on 12 December 2016, Mr Higgins made no mention of his new Gatwick job. He also omitted to explain that his remarks to the committee, on 17 November 2014, about the relationship between railway speed and capacity, were misleading and inaccurate.

David Higgins told the transport select committee on 17 November 2014 that 'a 220-mph railway can have twice as many trains on it'

In 2013, HS2 Ltd finally admitted that its new line would increase carbon emissions. But on Monday, Mr Higgins told the committee that HS2 was carbon-beneficial (although he had no figures to back that up).

[Transport Select Committee, 12 Dec 2016]

[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.

[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.

[Chair:] We would like to have that information, please.

In 2013 HS2 Ltd finally admitted that its new line would increase carbon emissions

An internal HS2 Ltd document on aspirations for ‘level boarding’ from platform to train stated “there are no obvious grounds” for a European ‘Technical Standards for Interoperability’ derogation. But when asked on 12 December if HS2 were seeking a derogation, Mr Higgins replied, ‘Yes’.

[Transport Select Committee, 12 Dec 2016]

[Graham Stringer MP:] There was a report in The Sunday Times yesterday that European regulations mean that the platform heights on HS2 will make it difficult for disabled people. Is that story true?

[Sir David Higgins:] I saw the article. The answer is that we are going to build platform heights between 1.1 and 1.2 metres, which will allow full access for disabled people. We have to get regulation exemptions from the current ones, and we are having that whole discussion with the European Commission. It does not make any sense whatsoever to build platforms at a low height when we want speed of access and proper disabled access to the station. I am really clear where the Government are on this. We want to discuss it with Europe and the Commission very carefully, but we do not want to build a platform height that does not deliver proper access. We will never get the turn-round times if we do that either.

[Graham Stringer MP:] Getting the platforms at the right height effectively depends on getting a derogation from the regulations?

[Sir David Higgins:] Correct.

Internal HS2 Ltd document about level boarding stating there are no obvious grounds for a 'TSI derogation'

Internal HS2 Ltd document about level boarding stating there are no obvious grounds for a TSI derogation

Written by beleben

December 16, 2016 at 10:54 am

Posted in HS2, Industry, Transport

The anti-data agenda of special interests

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The home secretary, Amber Rudd, has defended proposals to require companies to publish the number of international staff they employ, the Guardian reported.

[Amber Rudd defends proposal to make firms reveal foreign staff numbers, Jessica Elgot, The Guardian, 5 October 2016]

The proposal has been criticised by several high-profile business leaders, including the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). Rudd, who has set out a consultation paper on how to encourage businesses to hire British staff, denied the lists were intended as a “badge of shame”.

“We should be able to have a conversation about immigration, we should be able to have a conversation about what skills we want to have in the UK and whether we need to go out of the UK in order to get them to boost our economy and I don’t think we should have a situation where we can’t talk about it,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

“Badge of shame.”

Is collection of data about the numbers of people on zero-hours contracts a “badge of shame”, or useful information for debate and public policy?

If data about international staff employed is ‘xenophobic’, then presumably, data about numbers of male and female staff is ‘misandrist’ or ‘misogynist’. And figures about differently-abled staff must be ‘disablist’.

Special interest groups, such as chambers of commerce, and the Confederation of British Industry, would prefer that there was no information about the number of female staff, number of people on zero-hours contracts, or number of foreign workers.

It seems unlikely that companies will be required to publish the number of international staff they employ. It could be quite embarrassing for the government. For example, London’s Crossrail project has been promoted by the government on its ‘UK job benefits’. But what proportion of Crossrail’s workforce are ‘UK workers’?

Written by beleben

October 5, 2016 at 10:03 am

Posted in Industry, Politics

Link into Jim (again)

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All data 'non-attributable and confidential 'The High speed Rail Industry Leaders Group has released an ‘independent report‘ claiming that Britain will forgo nearly 27,000 jobs by the end of the decade if it does not press ahead with the HS2 rail project, The Times reported (19 September 2016).

But, the “independent report” is the work of Albion Economics – which is run by Leo Eyles, an “associate director” of the high speed rail lobbying company Greengauge 21.

HSRILG was set up by Greengauge 21, and seems to be run by Jim Steer as a for-profit business, charging foreign rail and civil engineering contractors, and Network Rail and HS2 Ltd, for membership.

As might be expected, the jobs report is extremely short on detail, and contains no verifiable figures. It eschews discussion of the cost-per-job of HS2, or the opportunity employment costs (which are enormous).

Given its dependence on foreign contractors and labour, there is no doubt that HS2 would a very expensive way of creating a small number of UK jobs.

Leo Eyles, Linked into Greengauge 21

Written by beleben

September 19, 2016 at 12:39 pm

A clever supply model

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HS2 Ltd “have insisted whoever is granted the £4bn contract to build superfast trains for the HS2 rail line should hold a strong UK presence to boost domestic jobs”. Politics Home reported.

And Terence Watson, the Alstom UK chief and Rail Supply Group ‘co-chair’, has ‘laid out the case for bolstering Britain’s rail exports’. Alstom’s ‘hiatus from train making in Britain was ended after the company filed a planning application worth between £80m and £100m for a technology facility in Widnes’.

[‘High-speed technology is our DNA: Alstom plans to resume train building in the UK after a near 15 year hiatus. Country president Terence Watson talks to Sebastian Whale about what drew the company back to Britain.’ Politics Home, 3 March 2016]

The rail transportation heavyweight closed its UK train building operations at the completion of its contract building Pendolino tilting trains for Virgin Rail 15 years ago. The previous “fit and start” nature of the rail industry in Britain, reliant on short-term contracts, meant cashflow was an omnipresent concern, [Mr Watson] says.

The construction would be built in three phases, the first a near 28,000 sq m facility fit with car parking, service yards, rail sidings, landscaping and associated engineering operations. The later phases have the potential to include a new British factory, which would build HS2 trains if Alstom were to win that order.

[…] “We reached a point around a year ago where a clever supply model, assembling in Britain, roughly matches the price of a product shipped in from, for example, India in total. In other words we’ve reached that point of inflection. It is now, again, a reasonable proposition to make things in Britain competitively,” he says.

In fact, the hiatus hasn’t ended. Alstom isn’t making trains in Britain. It seems to be offering to assemble HS2 trains in Britain in the future, if it won the order, because of the government requirement to demonstrate some domestic employment benefit, no matter how minimal.

That requirement does not exist for other GB train orders — such as the Merseyrail fleet replacement, where Alstom has teamed up with Japan’s Mitsui and J-Trec to bid against Siemens, CAF, Bombardier, and Stadler.

If Alstom UK  was ‘too reliant’ on the “fit and start” nature of the rail industry in Britain, one might well ask why it didn’t try to seek out export business, instead of closing its factory.

Written by beleben

March 14, 2016 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Great Britain, Industry

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