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Dig in and tell

with one comment, 'More contractors dig in and tell HS2 to think again on contract risk'

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

Tagged with

Claire in full gush

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guardian-iep-ripoff-warningClaire Perry, head of marketing for Hitachi Rail, rail minister, made the following speech to mark the arrival, at Southampton docks, of the first IEP train in the UK.

[Claire Perry]

Good morning everyone.

And thank you Peter Lavelle (Depot Manager Southampton Dock) for your kind introduction.

It is an absolute pleasure to be here today (12 March 2015).

Before we head over to the quayside to see the train unloading from the ship, I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the government, to thank Hitachi Rail and Agility for all the work they have done.

And for getting the first train to the UK on time and on schedule.

Given Hitachi’s reputation for reliability, we expected nothing less!

Let me tell you why I’m so excited today.

First, because these superb new trains will be transformational for passengers on two of our busiest and most important rail routes to the north and the south west.

More seats.

Greater comfort.

Faster journeys.

More luggage space.

A smart and business-friendly environment in which people can work.

The trains have been designed to offer flexible and fantastic new catering facilities.

Every single pound of investment is going into improvements that passengers will be able to see and feel.

But these new trains are not just good news for passengers.

They are also fantastic news for Britain.

For British jobs.

For Britain’s supply chain.

For Britain’s economy.

And that’s my second reason for celebrating today.

The benefits will be felt all over the country.

But particularly in the north east.

Where 730 new jobs are being created at the Newton Aycliffe factory over the next 5 years.

This region – of course – played a pioneering role in the development of the early rail network.

190 years ago, the Stockton to Darlington line was the world’s first public railway to use steam locomotives.

So the railway is coming home to Newton Aycliffe bringing back rail jobs to the north east.

Continuing a proud tradition.

And also building a new centre of rail excellence in the area.

Among the suppliers to IEP are Durham-based window company Romag.

And Newcastle-based Nomad Digital, which will provide on-board servers.

And many more jobs will be created across the country.

72% of the parts, systems and services that could have been sourced from the UK actually have been.

To give some examples.

Luccini, based in Manchester, is providing the wheel-sets.

And Knorr Bremse, a company based not far from my constituency in the south west, is supplying the braking systems for the IEP trains.

In fact I visited them recently.

All in all, this is worth billions to British businesses.

I know that many more IEP suppliers are here today – too many to mention – but I’d like to thank you for being part of the project.

Hitachi Rail has also moved its global HQ to London, which is yet another sign of confidence in our flourishing rail industry.

Which leads me to my third point.

The train arriving today is tangible evidence of our rail renaissance.

Of unprecedented investment in our railway.

After decades of neglect and underinvestment, we have got a huge programme of modernisation underway, the biggest for over a century.

That’s because rail is a vital part of the government’s long-term economic plan.

Growth cannot happen without investment in our infrastructure.

It’s why we’re spending £38 billion maintaining and improving the network between 2014 and 2019.

It’s why we’re investing in Crossrail, HS2, the Northern Hub, and electrification.

And it’s why we are fully behind Hitachi as it embarks on this massive programme.

British jobs.

British investment.

And British economic growth.

There are a few more essential thank yous.

Of course, thank you to Hitachi and Agility.

Thanks also to Wallenius Wilhelmsen for safely transporting the first train here.

Thanks to the Train Operating Companies for their support and input to the design.

And I would like to acknowledge the very many passenger groups and industry representatives here today who have also contributed to the IEP project.

I would also like to thank the Department for Transport and all the policy officials, some of whom are here today, for the tireless work they have done (and continue to do) in partnership with you all ensuring these exciting InterCity Express trains go into passenger service as planned on the Great Western and the East Coast main lines.

The only thing I find uninspiring about the train is that name – IEP.

I don’t know how you feel, but it doesn’t really capture the excitement or romance.

So can I challenge you to come up with a new name.

Something that reflects their sleek design.

What they’ll be like to travel on.

How they’ll look speeding passengers across the country.

What they’ll do for the UK.

I may not be Rail Minister to decide on the best name…..

But I will always remember today.

The start of a new era for rail travel in the UK.

Thank you.

“72% of the parts, systems and services that could have been sourced from the UK actually have been.” So what does that mean? The UK can’t produce aluminium extrusions, bogies, traction motors, gangways, doors (…etc)?

What a cringeworthy speech.

Written by beleben

March 12, 2015 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Industry, Politics

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How high is the output?

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'Groundbreaking factory train for GW electrification'

A factory on rails, the first of its kind to be used on Britain’s railways, will slash years off the time it will take to electrify the Great Western main line, claimed Network Rail (25 July 2013).

[Groundbreaking factory train slashes years off electrification programme, Network Rail]

With 235 route miles to electrify from Maidenhead in the East to Swansea in the West and many thousands of trains to keep running while the work is done, we’re working with German manufacturer Windhoff to build the High Output Plant system (HOPS) train to do the job.

The 23-vehicle train, in effect several trains in one, will work its way west, building the railway electrical infrastructure as it goes.[…]

The High Output Plant system

The HOPS will leave the purpose-built depot in Swindon and split up, to head to different parts of the line at its 60mph top speed. It carries enough supplies and equipment to avoid the need to bring anything to the trackside on lorries. Staff can be picked up at stations en-route.

Operating six nights a week, the £40m HOPS will do its work after dark, with adjacent lines open for business at speed aiming to sink up to 30 piles per shift. This equates to the usual length of one stretch of conductor wire – between 1,200 and 1,500m. And there are 17,000 piles to be sunk before Swansea.

Electrifying the Great Western using the HOPS will be a much more efficient process than methods used in this country in the past, with work able to be carried out while trains are still running. The factory train will allow us to work overnight, when the railway is less busy. Without it, we’d have to work at weekends, with disruptive line closures.

We hope to have electric trains running to Swansea by 2018.

The different elements to the HOPS train are:

A piling rig (with two multi purpose vehicles with Movax vibro piling heads, to vibrate the steel piles into the soil, two pile carrying wagons, and a Fambo hydraulic percussion hammer multi purpose vehicles for tougher ground)
An excavation and concrete batching unit with an Hitachi excavator plus a Kniele concrete unit to mix concrete from onboard aggregate, cement and water tanks

A structures unit which erects the masts, portal booms and twin track cantilevers
An ancillary conductor to install the earthing wires, return wires and small parts such as registration arms and other equipment

The contact and catenary unit to string up the remaining wires under tension. Another unit installs other things such as contenary wires under low bridges, and records information such as height and stagger

Each of the above elements includes two multi purpose vehicles with full driving cabs, powered by MTU power packs, which can be driven at 60mph off-site. On site driving cabs means the train can be driven very slowly when installing contact wire.

How “high” is the output of the High Output Plant train?


RTM, Dec 2014

There appears to be no information — but the Midland Main Line is apparently scheduled to be wired by road-railers and cherry pickers (and not with a factory train). It seems likely that BR’s flat-roofed electrification train (video below) would be much more ‘high output’ than anything run by Network Rail.

Written by beleben

March 2, 2015 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Industry

Tagged with ,

Digest to re-innovate

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China's high speed rail: All dressed up with no place to sell? Christian Science Minitor, 17 Feb 2015China built its high speed rail network by buying rolling stock and technology from foreign firms such as Kawasaki, Siemens, Alstom and Bombardier. Having adapted and reverse-engineered that technology — a process known as “digestion and re-innovation” — Chinese companies are looking for overseas sales (wrote the Christian Science Monitor’s Peter Ford).

Unlike Great Britain, China does not intend its main lines to be showcases for trains built in other countries. The export push is being driven by national prestige, and by over-capacity.


“The factories that produce high speed rail equipment overbuilt their production facilities,” says Gao Bai, director of the Center on China’s High-Speed Rail Development Strategy at Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu. As the domestic rollout slows, rail firms are pinning their hopes on foreign sales.

Officials appear bullish about the prospects. “A lot of countries are interested and there is a big market out there,” says Han Jiangping, spokesman for China Railways.

Others are less optimistic. Zhang Jian at the Beijing Transport University says only three large high speed projects have come close to making enough profit to pay for their construction – the rail links between Tokyo and Osaka, Paris and Lyon, and Beijing and Shanghai. (A short line connecting Beijing to the port of Tianjin has also been in the black.).

Written by beleben

February 20, 2015 at 11:34 am