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Northern powerhouse rail and labour mobility

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[From Five facts about the Randstad and Rhine-Ruhr, with comparison to the Northern Powerhouse, Paul Swinney | Centre for Cities | 1 June 2016]

An argument often put forward about both the Randstad and Rhine-Ruhr is that their transport links allow people to live in one city but work in another, suggesting that there would be benefits for the North of England in strengthening transport links between cities. But the data suggests that people don’t use the transport links in this way.

The travel patterns across all three areas, appear to suggest that if a worker wants to live in a city, they will mostly choose to live in the city that they work within. Otherwise they will choose to live in the countryside surrounding the city they work in, rather than another city.

Centre for Cities, distribution of Greater Manchester High Skill Commuting

[Paul Swinney]

The speeds achieved by intercity rail connections between the cities of the Randstad and Rhine-Ruhr are not a great deal quicker than between cities in the Northern Powerhouse.

Written by beleben

September 21, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Posted in Leeds, Manchester, Railways

This level of ambition

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On 13 September, BBC News and its Look North tv show reported on the modernisation of the 69 km Transpennine North railway between Leeds, Dewsbury, Huddersfield, Stalybridge, and Manchester.

[TransPennine £2.9bn rail upgrade will cause ‘major disruption’, BBC News website, 13 Sep 2018]

Passengers on TransPennine trains will face five years of major disruption during a planned £2.9bn upgrade of the route, a leaked letter has revealed.

The letter from Network Rail to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said there would be line closures for 39 weeks a year from 2020 until 2024.
[…]
The letter from Rob McIntosh at Network Rail, says the route is “a Victorian construction that passes through the heart of the Pennines with its inherently challenging topography”.

The minister is warned that access to the many tunnels and bridges along the routes “will be limited and difficult”.

Mr McIntosh says: “This level of ambition cannot be delivered without significant disruption during the course of the works.”

Leaked letter about the scheme (via @joepike, twitter)

Leaked letter about the scheme (via @joepike, twitter)

But the ‘level of ambition’ for the TPN upgrade, is yet to be disclosed. Although the line ‘will be electrified’, according to reporter Spencer Stokes, that might just mean from Leeds to Huddersfield (27 km). In that case, all trains would have to be bi-mode or diesel, to move between Stalybridge and Huddersfield (29 km).

BBC Look North, Transpennine rail modernisation story, 13 Sep 2018

Surely, there would be little to no point in such ‘Cispennine electrification’.

BBC Look North, Transpennine rail modernisation story, 13 Sep 2018

Chris Grayling: 'We will be creating a mainly 4 track railway', Bradford Telegraph and Argus, 12 Sep 2018

[Telegraph & Argus, 12 Sep 2018]

The programme of work for the Transpennine route includes:

renewal of equipment that is contributing to poor performance;

introducing electrification between Leeds and Huddersfield and Stalybridge to Manchester Victoria;

reinstating four tracks between Huddersfield and Ravensthorpe, near Dewsbury;

introducing digital signalling between Cottingley (in south-west Leeds) and Stalybridge;

line speed improvements between Manchester and Stalybridge, Morley and Ulleskelf to York;

increasing capacity at Leeds and Calder Valley stations and enhancing Huddersfield and Stalybridge stations.

Whatever the level of ambition, upgrading the TPN route would be far less disruptive than building a new line from scratch across the Pennines (‘Northern powerhouse rail’). For NPR, everything would have to be brought to and from site by road, meaning tens of thousands of HGV movements.

So why not scrap the ‘plan’ for NPR, and use some of that money for a proper upgrade of the Calder Valley and Transpennine North lines, including full electrification?

BBC Look North, Transpennine rail modernisation story, 13 Sep 2018, reporter Spencer Stokes at Huddersfield station

If a 35 minute journey time between Manchester and Leeds is achievable from a capability uplift on the existing line, why would anyone, apart from deluded wonks and nutjobs, support NPR?

Written by beleben

September 14, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Leeds, Manchester, Railways

Living in Leeds City

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Having previously failed to acknowledge a FoI request for information about figures in their ‘Northern powerhouse rail booklet’, Transport for the North have belatedly provided a response.

[Response from TfN, September 2018]

I apologise for the delay in responding. Having regard to the duty to provide advice and assistance, I enclose a summary in respect of the Northern Powerhouse Rail (“NPR”) Booklet which in Figure 1 shows the present fastest time between Leeds and Newcastle as 87 minutes and the Transport for the North “(TFN”) fastest aspirational time as 60 minutes. The NPR Booklet on the TfN website has now been amended to provide the correct interpretation.
[…] I refer to your request for information held by TfN about the data and calculations underlying the diagram on page 4 of the booklet. Apart from the information supplied in the above summary, I consider that the information you have requested is exempt under Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in that the information is held by TFN with a view to its publication at some future date, the information was already held with a view to such publication at the time when your request for information was made, and it is reasonable in all the circumstances that the information should be withheld from disclosure.

The statement that “The NPR Booklet on the TfN website has now been amended to provide the correct interpretation” was more than a little baffling, because page four of the ‘FINAL‘ version, online at the time of writing, refers to the ‘number of people within reach of 4 or more city regions’. (In case TfN remove this document, it is reproduced below.)

Northern powerhouse rail booklet, ‘FINAL’ version

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'FINAL' version, page 1

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'FINAL' version, page 2

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'FINAL' version, page 3

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'FINAL' version, page 4

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'FINAL' version, page 5

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'FINAL' version, page 6

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'FINAL' version, page 7

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'FINAL' version, page 8


 
 
The Beleben blog has found out (not from TfN) that there are (at least) two versions of the booklet online at the time of writing. The ‘edit‘ version has a page four with different text, and was presumably created following the FoI request.

Northern powerhouse rail booklet, ‘edit’ version, page four

TfN Northern Powerhouse Rail booklet, 'edit' version, page 4

How much more sense does the ‘edit’ version make?

[Revise in light of Analysis document provided by TfN] On page six, it says one of the benefits of NPR is ‘three million’ more people brought within 90 minutes of Manchester airport. But according to page four, it is ‘seven million’, not three.

On page four, it is stated that NPR would bring 200,000 more people within 60 minutes of Newcastle upon Tyne. How?

Newcastle’s only NPR connection with the rest of the network would be to Leeds, ’60 minutes’ away (by NPR). As the within-60-minutes-reach measurement is calculated from people’s place of residence, that would, at best, mean that ‘200,000 people’ were living in Leeds railway station.


‘Analysis supporting the Northern powerhouse rail booklet on the TfN website’ (supplied by TfN)

Analysis supporting the Northern powerhouse rail booklet on the TfN website, August 2018, page 1

Analysis supporting the Northern powerhouse rail booklet on the TfN website, August 2018, page 2

Analysis supporting the Northern powerhouse rail booklet on the TfN website, NPR Accessibility, August 2018, page 3

Written by beleben

September 13, 2018 at 8:37 am

What is the thinking behind Northern powerhouse rail?

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According to Transport for the North’s Northern powerhouse rail factsheet

[TfN (undated)]

Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) is a major strategic rail programme, designed to
transform the northern economy and meet the needs of people and business. It will transform connectivity between the key economic centres of the North. The programme promises radical changes in service patterns, and target journey times. By delivering NPR more than 40% of businesses identified as having the North’s prime capabilities would be within 90 minutes rail travel of four or more of the North’s largest economic centres, compared with only 12% today.

Currently fewer than 10,000 people in the North can access four or more of the North’s largest economic centres within an hour. This would rise to 1.3 million once NPR is delivered. NPR would transform the job market, giving businesses access to skilled workers in larger labour markets and offer individuals the opportunity for flexible career development and progression, all within the North.

Transport for the North, Northern powerhouse rail factsheet, undated

However, TfN’s January 2018 draft Strategic Transport Plan stated that “the North is home to 16 million people”.

It is entirely unclear why it would be worth spending billions of pounds, just so that 8 per cent of the population of “the North” could “access four or more of the North’s largest economic centres within an hour”.

John Armitt, of the National Infrastructure Commission, described TfN’s strategic plan as a ‘major step forward’.

John Armitt described the TfN strategic plan as a major step forward

Which says quite a lot about John Armitt.

Written by beleben

January 18, 2018 at 12:57 pm

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)

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