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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.

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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

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? 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.

Also 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

Ambition to meltdown

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May 21 saw “one of the most ambitious attempts to recast the UK’s national rail timetable for several decades”, go into meltdown.

twitter_northernassist_status_1002103771890176000

The May 20 timetable was intended to exploit “the planned completion of major infrastructure enhancements, including the Thameslink Programme in southeast England and electrification in the northwest”.

jms-northern-gtr-network-rail-cen

[‘Too much, too quickly’, Railway Gazette, 4 June 2018]

The root cause of the [Northern franchise] disruption has been a shortage of suitably trained drivers able to deliver the new timetable over revised infrastructure. So acute is the shortage that Northern has reportedly been routinely terminating trains part way through their journey as existing drivers reach the limit of their route knowledge. […]

Railway Gazette understands that the principal cause of the driver shortage is a late request from Network Rail, in its System Operator role, for Northern to withdraw its May 20 timetable and resubmit it with changes. Behind this change request was the late completion of electrification and resignalling of the Preston – Blackpool route, and continuing delay to the electrification work between Manchester and Preston via Bolton.
[…]
Northern’s service delivery efforts have been further hampered by the refusal of drivers’ union ASLEF to enter into a new Rest Day Working agreement, which would resolve many of the immediate staffing issues and allow Northern to move ahead more quickly with training programmes.
[…]
When the Ordsall Chord opened in December last year, it was heralded as a ‘missing link’ in rail connectivity between Manchester’s two principal stations, Piccadilly and Victoria. Yet in practice, opening of the short south-to-east curve has only served to expose the fragility of the rest of the double-track corridor through Manchester Piccadilly and south towards the city’s airport, which is among the most intensively used sections of the national network.

Apparently, train operators and Network Rail must shoulder responsibility, but not the transport secretary Chris Grayling.

[Chris Grayling says rail industry ‘has failed passengers’, BBC, 30 May 2018]

[…] Chris Grayling wrote to MPs over the “wholly unsatisfactory” service on Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern.

GTR said it expected disruption to ease “over the coming month” and Northern said it has commissioned a report to “ensure lessons are learned”.

Mr Grayling said: “The way timetabling is done has to change.”

The transport secretary also criticised Network Rail, saying it “cannot cope” with the workload, and its performance was “simply unacceptable”.

He added: “We were aware there might be some disruption in the early stages of any new timetable change but the scale of the problem has far outstripped any expectation.”

He said he was now in “regular contact” with Network Rail and rail companies to deal with the issues quickly. […]

Northern rail, temporary timetable announcement

No train by ArrivaThe Northern meltdown has exposed the communication and operational dysfunctionality of the current industry structure, and the inadequacy of the ‘franchising process’. In essence, Northern got to run trains in the northwest not by demonstrating excellence, but through a secretive process, in which it impressed a few civil servants.

Written by beleben

June 4, 2018 at 11:58 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