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Fight for the cause

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On 21 February 2020, the government announced that its ‘integrated rail plan for the Midlands and the north’ would be ‘informed by an assessment from the National Infrastructure Commission’.

The Commission launched a ‘call for evidence’ from ‘stakeholders’, and on 28 May, as part of that process, Hilary Benn MP and ten other northern politicians wrote a joint letter to ‘grumpy grandpa’ NIC chairman John Armitt (reproduced below).

Letter from Hilary Benn MP and ten other northern politicians to John Armitt, 29 May 2020, page 1

Letter from Hilary Benn MP and ten other northern politicians to John Armitt, 29 May 2020, page 2

twitter, @Richard_rail, 'Claims from MPs in Leeds City Region regarding #HS2 and its BCR and how it's more beneficial than Manchester. What happened to the plans for a joined up North fighting for the same cause?'

'Fight,  fight, fight, fight, fight for this cause'

Needless to say, the ‘Benn letter’ is a farrago of nonsense from start to finish. For example, its claim that ‘the eastern leg of HS2 has a benefit cost ratio of 5.6 compared to 2.6 for the western leg’ comes from a July 2011 report created by Arup for the ‘High Speed Rail Eastern Network Partnership’ (i.e., a lobbying group).

www.parliament.uk, written question on HS2 sunk costs, House of Lords, 2020-04-22

Written by beleben

May 29, 2020 at 8:29 pm

Posted in HS2, Leeds, Manchester

Connecting Leeds HS2 through Manchester

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Extending the hugely expensive HS2 railway from Manchester to Leeds instead of building its eastern leg via Toton is being ‘considered’ as part of the government’s review of the scheme, The Sunday Times reported (October 13 2019).

No shqet sherlök, as they say in Albania.

twitter, @DavidCollinsST, 'This will be controversial in Leeds, Yorkshire and generally East of England; HS2 Leeds route could go via Manchester to save £10bn'

[HS2 Leeds route could go via Manchester to save £10bn, David Collins, Northern Correspondent, The Sunday Times | October 13 2019]

A plan for direct train links between Manchester and Leeds is being considered as part of the government’s review of the £88bn HS2 high-speed rail project.

Trains from London would run through Birmingham to Manchester and then to Leeds, creating a journey time between Manchester and Leeds of just 20 minutes. The average now is 1hr 11 min.

The plan is an alternative to the proposed HS2 route, which splits into east and west legs after Birmingham. The eastern line, which goes to Leeds via Toton, a new station between Nottingham and Derby, is at risk of being dropped, saving up to £10bn. […] {Rest of story is paywalled}

The headline says “to save £10bn”, yet the story beneath it says “up to £10bn“.

But who actually has a credible costing for the HS2 eastern leg via Toton, or for a new transpennine line to allow travel between Manchester and Leeds in “20 minutes”? The ‘Northern powerhouse rail’ aspiration was for Manchester to Leeds in thirty minutes, not twenty.

[The case for new lines, Network Rail, 2009]

Connecting Leeds through Manchester has a large incremental cost and does not provide a significant journey time benefit over the London-Leeds direct service on the East Coast Main Line[.]

Most likely, the idea of routeing London to Leeds trains via Manchester is part of a wider package of de-scoping, as a sort of last-ditch alternative to scrapping the entire HS2 project.

Cancellation of the eastern leg would reduce the size of the HS2 station(s) needed in London, and the number of trains circulating. At present, the Bickenhill to London stretch is supposed to accommodate 17 high speed trains per hour in each direction (which is not achieved anywhere in the world).

With fewer trains running on HS2 and East Coast passengers staying on the East Coast Main Line, the case for building the Old Oak to Euston section would diminish further.

Written by beleben

October 13, 2019 at 2:23 pm

Posted in HS2, Leeds, Manchester

‘Defaffinating’ northern rail

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Although it is not true to say that rail lines on the prime routes are already dominant in those transport corridors, concentration on expanding the existing large traffic flows, such as London – Birmingham, London – Manchester, London – Leeds, etc will not achieve a major modal shift – mainly because rail already has a significant slice of the market on those routes which, by themselves, do not constitute the majority of passenger travel in the UK (noted Professor Roger Kemp in his paper ‘Scope for reduction in transport CO2 emissions by modal shift’).

However, this idea of “expanding the existing large traffic flows” lies at the heart of the proposed HS2 railway. Another fundamental problem with HS2 is its inability to free up (or create) more capacity for local travel in conurbations like Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, and Nottingham.

Roger Kemp. 'Scope for reduction in transport CO2', Manchester - Leeds example

‘Northern powerhouse rail’ is supposed to reduce the rail journey time between Manchester and Leeds by spending billions of pounds on a new line, but as Professor Kemp noted, the existing weekday service is four ‘reasonably fast’ trains per hour.

The problem is generally not the in-vehicle time on the intercity portion of such trips, but the ‘faff’ and unreliability associated with real point-to-point travel, which doesn’t start and finish at big-city ‘hauptbahnhof’ stations.

Sadly, these facts are completely lost on many northern and London politicians, and public sector bodies like Transport for the North.

Written by beleben

August 26, 2019 at 9:12 am

HS2 station is a waste of space, says Andy Burnham

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Mancunian metro-mayor and HS2 supporter Andy Burnham has attacked HS2 Ltd’s plans for a ‘surface’ high speed station at Manchester Piccadilly, at an IPPR North event on the future of rail services. Apparently, he wants a ‘Stuttgart 21‘ type arrangement at Piccadilly, to free up space for real-estate development.

twitter, @dneuerer, '#Stuttgart21 wird für die #Bahn wohl zum Finanzdesaster'

[Manchester is so congested, so manic, the mayor reckons we need an underground tube system, Jennifer Williams, MEN, 19 JUL 2019]

Adding that in Manchester rail bosses only want to do so ‘because they can’, he added: “What right has the rail industry got to come here and take all the land away around our train station just because they can, because it’s cheaper?”
[…]
Instead, he said, HS2 – which will need to be tunnelled under parts of Manchester anyway – should be linked up with HS3, also known as Northern Powerhouse Rail, and into a wider underground network.

“That for me is now what Manchester needs,” he said, rather than a ‘cut price’ option, adding that he ‘struggles to come to any conclusion that it needs something other than underground’.

“To do all this on the surface won’t make sense, otherwise you turn most[*] of Manchester into a railway station” […]

[* The Guardian’s account of this speech says “half of central Manchester”.]

Andy Burnham: HS2 a 'poor deal for most of the region's taxpayers', MEN, 4 Feb 2014

Written by beleben

July 22, 2019 at 8:42 am

Posted in Manchester, Politics

Rinky-dink Victoria

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Bosses at Manchester Arena are claiming it could go bust if a rival venue is built, possibly near the City of Manchester Stadium in ‘Eastlands’, the BBC reported.

twitter, @BBCNWT, 'Bosses at Manchester Arena are claiming it could go bust - if a rival venue is built in the city. A consultation is underway looking at the future of the Eastland's area - near the Etihad Stadium. One suggestion is a new indoor arena with a capacity of 20,000.'

What is really baffling is why, in the 1990s, anyone thought it a good idea to carve up the railway lands at Victoria, build the Arena on them, reduce the station to a rinky-dink operation, and concentrate services at Piccadilly.

Demolishing the Arena would enable Victoria to be rebuilt on a bigger scale, enabling the development of an exemplary regional rail system of the type found in German cities like Munich.

Written by beleben

June 13, 2019 at 10:22 am

Posted in Manchester

A classic example of a politically-led project

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Transport for The North’s ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ is a classic example of a politically-led project in which rational considerations have been over-ridden, according to rail consultant Paul Salveson.

Paul Salveson, HS2, should it survive?, 16 Jan 2019

Written by beleben

January 21, 2019 at 12:37 pm

Posted in HS2, Leeds, Manchester, Politics

The ascent of man

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Following Eleni Courea’s Observer story about Northern MPs telling Labour leaders to change their mind on HS2, the shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald and the Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham both made statements repeating the party line (i.e., ‘We back HS2’, ‘We back Crossrail for the North / Northern powerhouse rail’, ‘It’s not a case of either or’).

twitter, @OliverCooper, 'Depressing to see Labour double down on HS2'

Labour politicians nowadays use the term ‘Crossrail for the North‘ instead of ‘Northern powerhouse rail’, because the term ‘Northern powerhouse’ is seen as being associated with George Osborne.

twitter, @MayorofGM, 'The North needs HS2 and NPR'

However, Mr Burnham’s words were “The North needs HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail“. His statement also served as an inadvertent reminder of how much transport thinking and expenditure in the North is dominated by the wants of Manchester airport, over the needs of everywhere else.

Even the city of Manchester itself is in thrall to ‘MAN’, as is plain to see from the design of the Ordsall chord, and the use of vast quantities of public cash to build a poorly designed tram line out to the airport.

Andy Burnham statement on HS2 and NPR, Oct 2018 width=

Written by beleben

October 29, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Dites oui aux gâchis, says Henri

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You need to build HS2 to be able to complete ‘Northern powerhouse rail’, confirmed Henri Murison, who ‘spends his life working on infrastructure policy’ for George Osborne.

twitter_henrimurison_status_1046351443609997312

The unevidenced and unconvincing claim behind NPR is that economic underperformance in Northern England can be reversed by making rail travel from Manchester to Liverpool and Leeds 10 minutes faster.

Apparently, this would be done by building a new line from Liverpool to the HS2 Manchester spur with a station somewhere in Warrington, and a new line from Manchester to Leeds, via Bradford.

The total cost of HS2-plus-NPR would be over £100 billion, with the Liverpool link costing ~£4 billion (or more).

How NPR could be faster than the existing Chat Moss line, is yet to be explained. Because of the low demand for Liverpool to Manchester end-to-end travel, all NPR trains would likely need to stop at ‘Warrington’, and Davenport Green (the ‘Manchester Airport’ station).

Written by beleben

September 30, 2018 at 12:00 pm

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

Island of lost goals

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On 10 September, the House of Commons transport committee questioned Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines about ‘key challenges’ and ‘priorities for his tenure’.

For one of those ‘challenges’ — capacity on Manchester’s Castlefield corridor and the Ordsall chord — ‘experts’ said the creation of additional through platforms (15 and 16) at Piccadilly station was ‘vital’, the Manchester Evening News reported in February 2017.

But the month before, Network Rail’s then chief executive Mark Carne stated that construction of this additional island platform might not go ahead, even if government approval were given.

[Charlotte Cox, Manchester Evening News, 8 Feb 2017]

Mark Carne, chief executive at Network Rail, said they were looking at the ‘cost-benefit ratio’ [of the Manchester Piccadilly and Oxford Road Capacity Scheme], raising fears of a delay or cancellation.

Experts have said the expansion is vital to cope with extra trains on the Ordsall Chord, the £85m track connecting Piccadilly, Victoria and Oxford Road currently under construction.

According to recent freedom of information responses, neither Network Rail nor Transport for Greater Manchester hold any information about the monetised costs and benefits of platforms 15 and 16.

Network Rail information response about Manchester Piccadilly platforms 15 and 16, September 2018, page 1

Network Rail information response about Manchester Piccadilly platforms 15 and 16, September 2018, page 2

Network Rail information response about Manchester Piccadilly platforms 15 and 16, September 2018, page 3

Mr Haines’ responses to questions at the transport committee session on 10 September suggested that consideration was being given to ‘traffic management‘ and using different rolling stock, instead of ‘delivery’ of platforms 15 and 16.
Manchester Piccadilly platform 14, July 2014 (c) David Dixon (Creative Commons)

Written by beleben

September 18, 2018 at 4:25 pm

Posted in Manchester, Railways