Archive for the ‘Liverpool’ Category
As well as renewal of the train fleet, the modernisation of Merseyrail includes track, station, and depot upgrades. Renewal of slab track in the unidirectional loop line under central Liverpool is programmed to take place between January and June 2017 in a three-phase process involving protracted closure of the loop and the use of rail-replacement buses.
[‘In 1977 the loop line opened – now it’s time to renew the track’. 3rd January – 18th June 2017, Merseyrail and Network Rail]
Why does the work need to be undertaken?
A total 1.2 km length of concrete track slab – the seven most challenging sections on the ‘loop’ – needs to be replaced for the first time since the loop was opened in the 1970s to ensure that the network remains reliable and safe. Meanwhile, other work is taking place to make the most of the closure. 1100 yards of traditional ballasted track is being replaced under the riverbed as well as other maintenance jobs being carried out, such as the repair of broken sleepers and work to realign track as well as renewal work to switches and crossings which the Merseyrail trains use to switch lines. Doing all this work in one go means that passengers are less likely to be inconvenienced in future. The new track slab is expected to last for up to 60 years.
The old loop slab track ‘needs replacement after 40 years’, but the new slab is expected to last ‘up to 60 years’. So how long was the old slab ‘expected to last’?
According to a September 2016 story from New Civil Engineer, a decision on whether to use slab track on HS2 phase one was ‘expected in November’ (2016).
[Slab track confirmed for High Speed 2, Mark Hansford, NCE, 23 September 2016]
Speaking at New Civil Engineer’s Future Tech Forum Mark Morris, High Speed 2’s director of asset management, railway operations said that the first London to Birmingham phase of the £32 bn rail line was set to be built using a concrete slabtrack system, with a ballasted track bed set to be favoured for phase 2 from Birmingham to Leeds and Manchester.
The choice of trackbed technology has been the subject of heated lobbying. Proponents of slabtrack system have argued that ballasted track systems are noisy in use, expensive to maintain and even pose safety risks with individual ballast particles liable to be dislodged by the turbulent air caused by the passing high speed trains.
Conversely advocates of ballast-based systems point to the much lower cost and flexibility in use afforded by such systems.
400-odd km of HS2 slab track would be much more intensively used than Merseyrail’s “1.2 km”. So how long would it last? When it needed replacing, how could HS2 continue to operate?
Digging out and replacing sections of high speed rail track slab is not really a ‘weekend job’, is it?
‘New research commissioned by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority shows that the high-speed rail links could deliver a £15bn boost to the economy, as well as 20,000 jobs, 10,000 homes and an extra 2.9 million visitors a year’ (reported RTM Magazine on 31 October).
[Liverpool leaders call for £15bn boost from HS2 and HS3 links, RTM, 2016-10-31]
Councillor Liam Robinson, chair of the Merseytravel committee, added that Merseytravel’s aim was to secure “a brand new, twin-track, rail line between Liverpool and Manchester” with direct connections to HS2, and a new station at Liverpool Lime Street capable of receiving HS2 trains.
Cllr Robinson said this would reduce the journey time between Liverpool and Manchester by 50% and between Liverpool and London by 25%.
But where is this “new research” to be found? At the time of writing, it does not feature on what passes for the Combined Authority’s website. And there is no sign of an e-mail address for freedom of information requests.
Current fast trains between Manchester and Liverpool complete the journey in around 32 minutes, and the cost of a new line to cut that “by 50%” would be enormous.
Councillor Robinson’s “aim” looks like a vanity project in the same vein as the proposed Manchester to Leeds ‘HS3’. If progressed, these absurd schemes could destroy the chances of creating a coherent rail system in the north.
Politics journalist Michael Crick never ceases to be amazed by Liverpool’s poor rail connectivity.
Regional connectivity is poor, because politicians prefer vanity megaprojects, like HS2 and ‘HS3’, to everyday transport.
In the 1970s, there was a plan for a big upgrade of Merseyside passenger rail, but most of it was never implemented.
It is more than just a Liverpool problem. In Manchester, the city council wants to lock in the shortcomings of the local rail system, by disposing of the Mayfield station site.
On 3 March, the publicly-funded HS2 Linking Liverpool PR campaign announced that ‘High Speed Rail proposals put forward by Liverpool City Region will deliver a £10 billion boost to the local economy’, according to a new report supposedly ‘released’ on that day.
But the report was not ‘released’ on that day. And Merseytravel are (surprise, surprise) refusing to release it, on the grounds that it is a “draft version rather than the finalised document”.
Enquiries for the Beleben blog have also established that Merseytravel handed Steer Davies Gleave £35,000 of public cash to work on the report, without having to face any competing bids.
[Merseytravel’s refusal to release the report, March 2016]
Merseytravel can confirm that Steer Davis [sic] Gleave were appointed by Delegated Decision due to their experience in the field, at a cost of £35,000 (excluding VAT).
While Merseytravel can also confirm that while a copy of the report is held (from which the figures referred to in the Liverpool Echo article are derived), this is a draft version rather than the finalised document. Consideration must therefore be given to Regulation 12(4)(d), ‘Material in the course of completion, unfinished documents and incomplete data’.
Given the potential impact of the on-going HS2 project and the Linking Liverpool campaign, due importance must be placed on the need to allow the organisation the room to arrive at the appropriate conclusions.
On this occasion, Merseytravel considers that the factors for withholding the requested information outweigh those in favour of disclosure. The draft report by Steer Davis Gleave is therefore withheld in accordance with Regulation 12(4)(d) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
Merseytravel can confirm that it intends to publish the finalised version of the report after it has been received from Steer Davis Gleave.
On 3 March, the publicly-funded HS2 Linking Liverpool PR campaign announced that ‘High Speed Rail proposals put forward by Liverpool City Region will deliver a £10 billion boost to the local economy’, according to a new report ‘released’ on that day.
At the time of writing, the ‘new report’ was not available on the ‘Linking Liverpool’ website. However, a Steer Davies Gleave report dated July 2014, was available.
The July 2014 report stated that building a high speed line into Liverpool could reduce the ‘best’ time to London by 24 minutes, to 72 minutes, and result in a Gross Value Added uplift of £459 million (see ‘Increase in GVA’ in Table 1 above). The Linking Liverpool campaign attempted to portray the uplift as £8,342 million, and now they are saying £10,000 million.
Linking Liverpool are continuing to claim there are tens of thousands of people who can’t be bothered to visit the city now, but who would visit if the (London) journey time was all of 24 minutes shorter. Altogether, these ‘easily distracted’ visitors would make three quarters of a million trips to Liverpool.
So, the usual crazy nonsense. In the view of the Beleben blog, the capital cost of extending HS2 into Liverpool Lime Street would be around £4,000 million. If the Liverpool HS2 spur was also used to run ‘HS3’ trains to Manchester, there would be further costs on top.
Apparently, Respublica’s Ticket to Ride report was commissioned by Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson. Does that mean that its costs were met from public funds?
We’re happy to dig tunnels in London, but not to properly connect our northern cities, by Joe Anderson, Labour Uncut, 25 Feb 2016]
On Tuesday, while her Majesty the Queen was officially naming the new Crossrail line, I was in Parliament, speaking at the launch of a major new report making the case for Liverpool’s key rail infrastructure.
A report I commissioned by the think tank ResPublica, Ticket to Ride: How high speed rail for Liverpool can realise the Northern Powerhouse, makes the case for extending the proposed HS2 line into Liverpool City Centre. Most people I speak to are amazed to learn that it isn’t already scheduled to.
But it isn’t (it stops at Crewe). Ministers, worried about the allegation of profligacy surrounding HS2 have tried to rein-in project costs, meaning that sensible, evidence-based proposals to extend the line to Liverpool, or to run it into the centre of Sheffield, have been ruled out by the timorous souls at HS2 Limited.
The contrast with Crossrail is instructive. Here we have a tale of two projects. On the one hand, the £14 billion invested in Crossrail has attracted few hostile headlines in our London-based national newspapers. (The same people, no doubt, who will make use of the line?)
Yet the case for HS2 – the single most important infrastructure project in the country – and a vital new economic artery for our Northern conurbations – has to be fought and refought with irritating frequency from ill-informed naysayers.
So much so, that we are left making what I believe is a compelling and vital case even at the eleventh hour, just months before work on the line is due to commence.
But as the report makes clear, that there are massive benefits from doing so, not just for Liverpool, but for the wider Northern economy and the UK as a whole. Let me give you just one example.
The Superport proposals we have developed in Merseyside will lead to a renaissance of the Liverpool dockside, with a predicted trebling of freight in future years, as we become the only port on the west coast of Britain which can accommodate the vast new container ships that can now negotiate the widened Panama Canal.
This opens up new markets for Northern exporters, including major companies such as Jaguar Land Rover in Liverpool and Nissan in Sunderland, but the potential is there for it to become an asset for the whole country.
But we only realise this potential fully if we have a high-speed rail connection from Liverpool.
Does the Respublica report actually contain “sensible, evidence-based proposals”? Where is the evidence that building high speed tracks into Lime Street could be done for £3 billion? How would it be possible to run trains between Liverpool and Manchester, via Manchester airport, in 20 minutes? And why would it be necessary to spend billions of pounds to run more railfreight from Seaforth?
There would appear to be numerous ways of accommodating additional Liverpool railfreight, without frittering away billions of pounds.
Liverpool mayor, Joe Anderson, and the ‘chair’ of the transport select committee, Louise Ellman, have endorsed Ticket to Ride, a report for Phillip Blond’s thinktank Respublica, which puts the case for a “£3 billion” new high-speed rail link to Liverpool.
[Liverpool offers £2bn to be included in HS2 network, Gwyn Topham, The Guardian, 23 Feb 2016]
The plan would see a dedicated high-speed line linking Liverpool to the HS2 route north of Crewe, connecting to Manchester and its airport. The link would form the western point of a HS3 route of fast east-west links across the cities of the north.
The report puts the cost of extending HS2 to Liverpool at £3bn and says the city could cover two thirds of that sum through increased revenue in business rates and employment that the line would stimulate over several decades.
(£3 billion = about fifteen Library_of_Birminghams.)
According to page 19 of the report, there are 1.05 million journeys ‘directly’ between Liverpool and Manchester each year. So, if the “£3 billion” costs of the Liverpool link were apportioned equally between HS2 and TransNorth ‘HS3’ travellers, with an interest rate of 1%, the cost per Manchester journey would be (£1.5 billion * 0.01) / 1.05 million = £14.28, before operating costs (and assuming the new line carried 100% of the current rail journeys).
The report also claims that “depending on the exact route followed by the new infrastructure”, it should be possible to achieve a journey time to Manchester Airport of around 15 minutes, and to Manchester city centre of around 20 minutes. But those figures look unachievable with Respublica’s favoured route (above).
So, just as might be expected, the Blond / Anderson / Volterra ‘Ticket to Ride’ proposal is 100% wack.