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The no-evidence base for Northern Powerhouse Rail

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The 'vision' for Northern Powerhouse Rail

According to the ‘Initial Integrated Rail Report, Strategic Transport Plan Evidence Base‘, the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme ‘has been developed with a definitive remit to ultimately deliver the following:’

[Initial Integrated Rail Report, Jacobs and SDG, June 2017]

* The delivery of new and substantially upgraded rail corridors across the North. To release capacity on the existing rail network, which in turn could allow it to be used differently, e.g. for new service patterns, additional local trains or to accommodate more freight traffic;

* To be fully integrated, to allow the benefits of faster journeys to Northern cities to be spread to those places not directly served by new and upgraded routes by through running. NPR stations will become integrated transport hubs, with co-ordinated rail services which also offer convenient connections to local transport services;

* To significantly upgrade hub stations, with more platforms and better facilities for all passengers;

* To mirror HS2 in the integration of NPR within long terms land use planning
considerations around station hubs;

* To drive innovation in rail through the creation of a critical mass for investment in new smart ticketing and information systems which can be used by all rail operators.

Although the ‘Evidence Base’ runs to 83 pages, there is no actual evidence in it which supports the ‘vision‘ for Northern Powerhouse Rail.

The topology is questionable, and the target frequencies, and target journey times (e.g. ‘Sheffield to Manchester in 30 minutes’) seem to be round numbers plucked from the air. Evidence about corridor demand, capacity utilisation on the existing rail lines, etc, is conspicuous by its absence.

In its current form, ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ is a dreadful project which would do almost nothing for everyday transport in the north.

Commuting patterns into Greater Manchester (Paul Swinney, using 2011 Census data)

Commuting patterns into Greater Manchester (Paul Swinney, using 2011 Census data)

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Written by beleben

October 12, 2017 at 11:00 am

Aire of familiarity

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twitter @CityMetric, status_908305412105043968

@CityMetric twitter, 14 Sep 2017

As regular readers of the Beleben blog might know, the idea of a new approach to Leeds City station from the east – across the Aire Valley – is not new, and seems to have originated with HSUK.

beleben-blog-screen-grab-aire-valley-proposal

Beleben blog, 30 July 2015

An Aire valley link, and ‘Leeds S-bahn’, looks like a better investment than high speed rail.

HSUK Yorkshire map, showing Aire valley link concept

HSUK Yorkshire map, showing Aire valley link concept

There is now a similar rail traffic imbalance in Manchester – at the city’s Victoria station – as a result of a conversion of the Oldham and Bury railways to Metrolink tram. Conversion of Bury Metrolink back to heavy rail looks like a good idea, as part of a 21st century Picc-Vic system (‘Picvic 21’).

 

Written by beleben

September 15, 2017 at 9:04 am

Posted in Leeds, Railways

Adonis released capacity delusion

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HS2 released capacity “transforms commuter services into Euston, Birmingham, Manchester & Leeds, and [offers] more capacity for railfreight”, according to HS2 ‘grandaddy’ Andrew Adonis.

twitter, @Andrew_Adonis, 'Released capacity transforms commuter services into Euston, Birmingham, Manchester & Leeds, and more capacity for railfreight'

As the Beleben blog has pointed out on several occasions, HS2 ‘released capacity’ claims are mostly bunkum.

‘Multimodal’ railfreight from the southern West Coast Main Line generally ends taking – not ‘releasing’ – capacity on London Overground tracks like the North London Line.

HS2 would reduce the number of classic intercity trains between Birmingham New Street and Euston from three per hour, to two. The idea that this would ‘transform’ commuter capacity between Birmingham and Coventry, is laughable.

If there really were a need to ‘transform’ commuter capacity between Birmingham and Coventry, this could be done just by lengthening platforms to take 12-car (instead of the current 4-car) trains.

Spot the 'transformative' released capacity

Written by beleben

July 17, 2017 at 11:53 am

From clumsy to lacklustre

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Leeds City station from the west

When the Leeds NGT ‘clumsybus’ scheme was cancelled last year, the government agreed the city could keep the £173m allocated for the trolleybus to spend on ‘other transport improvements’. On 26 January, transport secretary Chris Grayling MP told business leaders at the Leeds Chamber Annual Dinner that the money “will make a real difference to transport in this city”.

But how is the money to be spent? At the moment, there does not seem to be any public explanation, but there are uncosted plans for new railway stations at ‘Leeds Airport parkway’ (somewhere on the Leeds to Harrogate railway), Thorpe Park, and the White Rose Shopping Centre.

Would these stations “make a real difference to transport” in Leeds? According to a 2014 Atkins report, the proposed station site at the White Rose Centre

[New Railway Stations in North and West Yorkshire Feasibility Study for West Yorkshire Combined Authority]

was felt to be unsuitable due to the changes which would be needed to the track and signalling equipment. The site is located on a curve with a high line speed and a high degree of cant. Constructing a station at this location would be costly.

The site is also relatively close to Leeds City Centre which means that the
impact of stopping services in this area would be detrimental to journey
times for existing passengers and line capacity is already constrained. Morley
and Cottingley stations are both less than 1.5 km either side of the
White Rose Centre.

The Atkins claim that ‘new stations close to Leeds City Centre would be detrimental to journey times for existing passengers’ would probably hold true if re-worded: ‘new stations would be detrimental to journey times for existing passengers’. One could make a perfectly good case for building new stations in the city centre ‘corona’, for example, at Marsh Lane, and Armley.

The indications are that a Leeds Bradford Airport parkway station would make next to no difference to traffic congestion. So what is the value for money, compared to just running a better bus service from the city centre to the airport?

One of the biggest obstacles to the creation of an S-bahn-type rapid transit in Leeds is the planned HS2 terminus just south of City station. If built, it would probably prevent four-tracking of the railway out of Leeds towards Neville Hill.

A Leeds S-Bahn-type rapid transit could re-use the abandoned Farnley viaduct in Holbeck

A Leeds S-Bahn-type rapid transit could re-use the abandoned Farnley viaduct in Holbeck

Written by beleben

January 27, 2017 at 1:01 pm

Northern rail delusions

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According to the publicity for today’s Bauer ‘National Rail Conference’ – titled “The North: Leading The Way” – a world class rail service has been promised to the north of England.

Bauer national rail conference, 1 Nov 2016, website

Opening the conference, at a hotel in Manchester, Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne reportedly claimed that “Britain runs on rails”.

Twitter, @anderberg66:  'Britain runs on rails' says Mark Carne when opening the 2016 Bauer 'national rail conference'

But to what extent does Britain – and the north of England – really ‘run on rail’?

Rail journeys in England, 2014 statistics (gov.uk)

Government data suggests that Great Britain, as a whole, could not realistically be said to run on rail. And in the north of England, due to a number of factors, use of rail is below the national average. In cities like Sheffield and Hull, local rail’s market share is close to zero, and there is no likelihood of that changing.

In other parts of the north, such as West Yorkshire, there would be the possibility of significantly increasing the use of local rail, but there are many obstacles. One of the issues is that trains just do not run anything like often enough, to be of much use.

Sadly, solutions to such problems are very unlikely to emerge from today’s conference in Manchester. Its focus seems to be on vanity projects, such as ‘HS3’.

Written by beleben

November 1, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Coherent and ambitious numbskullery

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In July 2016, Leeds Chamber of Commerce released their report on ‘Maximising the Potential of the Yorkshire Hub and South Bank Leeds’.

[Gerald Jennings,
President, Leeds Chamber of Commerce]

HS2 is now only part, albeit a major one, of the Yorkshire Hub story and to maximise the impact for jobs and growth we need to look at these projects as a set of integrated transport schemes that will help to achieve our long held aspirations for better connectivity. It is also vital to plan now, in advance of construction starting on HS2 and HS3, to ensure the city is ‘HS ready’ with connecting infrastructure considered, development opportunities showcased and delivery mechanisms explored.

HS2 Ltd ignored the exhortation – in the Chamber’s 2015 report – that the HS2 station in Leeds should be comprised of through platforms. In its July 2016 report, the Chamber proposed that there should be both the dead-end terminus recommended by David Higgins, and a link into the classic lines approching City station from the west. This ‘NPR Southeastern approach’ would allow HS2 services to stop at Leeds City, and then continue to the north east.

Leeds Chamber, proposed 'Yorkshire hub' (2016)

HS2 Ltd’s revised eastern leg planning is currently based on separate trains serving Leeds, Sheffield, and North East England. Routeing London to Newcastle-upon-Tyne HS2 trains via Leeds City and the ‘NPR southeastern approach’, would not make much sense. Who would the clientele be?

The NPR southeastern approach would also not allow a through Sheffield – Wakefield – Leeds – Bradford ‘Northern Powerhouse’ service, for example. Wakefield would not be served at all, and trains would have to reverse at Leeds station.

For a large fee, perhaps Arup could ‘help’, by proposing a Manchester-style 180-degree underground loop, like they put forward to the National Infrastructure Commission.

Arup fruitcake underground loop proposal for HS2 / HS3 under Manchester

Written by beleben

September 12, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Posted in HS2, Leeds

Red light for NGT boondoggle

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In July 2012 Justine Greening, transport secretary in the coalition government, said that the Leeds NGT trolleybus scheme would make “public transport in Leeds more accessible and attractive than ever before”.

[Green light for Leeds trolleybus, Department for Transport and Justine Greening, July 2012]

[JG:] …and I know trolleybuses will be transformational for growth and jobs in West Yorkshire.

But on 12 May 2016, the Department for Transport (DfT) issued a statement saying the scheme was “not suitable for development“.

Beleben blog, 3 June 2013, 'NGT needs rethinking'

What a shame that so much money has been spent on this ‘transformational’ boondoggle.

Leeds council, NGT statement, 12 May 2016

NGT Trolleybus, Twitter


gov.uk, Leeds NGT decision (extract)

Beleben blog, NGT lemon

Written by beleben

May 12, 2016 at 11:12 am