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Rabbit hutch science

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twitter, @Andrew_Adonis, 'How Singapore deals with housing shortage - the state builds & builds .... it’s not rocket science'


Written by beleben

December 4, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Planning, Politics

Plummeting from infinity

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In October 2009, Network Rail described the benefit-cost ratio for electrification of the Midland Main Line as “effectively infinite“.

On 16 July 2012, the coalition announced £4.2 billion for new rail schemes, including electrification of the Midland Main Line from Bedford to Sheffield, Nottingham and Corby.

In July 2015, the then-rail-minister Claire Perry MP said that ‘initial work’ considering the overall MML upgrade, “including electrification and other works indicates that for options which retain or improve fast intercity rolling stock, on all MML services the benefit cost ratio (BCR) would be in a range between 4.7 and 7.2 dependent on train length and train type.”

On 13 September 2016, the Beleben blog stated, “It is difficult to see how Midland electrification, in its present form, could ever be value for money. It might make sense if it were designed to cater for railfreight, and future passenger journeys from the West Riding and D2N2 to London. The government’s current intention is for such journeys to be transferred to the eastern leg of HS2.

In a Commons debate on 7 November 2016, Nigel Mills MP (Amber Valley) spoke of the “strong” benefit cost ratio for Midland electrification. Nicky Morgan MP (Loughborough) said, “The point I will come on to in a moment is that [the Midland electrification and HS2] schemes go together”. She invited rail minister Paul Maynard “to address the benefit-cost ratio”.

But in his waffle-prone contribution to the debate, Mr Maynard kept schtum about benefit-cost.

On 19 July 2017, transport secretary Chris Grayling cancelled the North-of-Kettering [NoK] element of the programme. In October 2017, he gave ‘new’ figures stating NoK had a net present value of -£129 million and a BCR of 0.77.

Midland Main Line appraisal, Oct 2017, Chris Grayling’s figures
Option Capacity
programme &
north of
programme &
to Corby
NPV (£m, 2010 PV) 209 -129 337
BCR 1.21 0.77 1.78

Those bewildered by these ‘bad numbers’ included shadow transport secretary Lilian Greenwood.

Plummeting MML electrification VfM 'raises more questions than it answers' - @liliangreenwood

The Beleben blog can reveal that the cryptic clue to the ‘mystery of the plunging BCR’ lies in the seemingly-innocuous statement, “All three scenarios take account of the assumed impact of HS2 Phase 2 on the Midland Main Line upgrade programme.

Chris Grayling, updated MML electrification VfM takes account of HS2

According to a ‘sensitive’ document created for the Department for Transport in 2016, “the introduction of HS2 Phase 2 would have a material impact on the value-for-money of the Midland Mainline Upgrade Programme, reducing the BCR from 9.4 to 1.2” (i.e., low value for money).

Updated appraisal of the MML upgrade for the Department for Transport in 2016

In other words, contrary to the claims of Nicky Morgan, and the hopes of Lilian Greenwood, the Midland electrification and HS2 certainly do not “go together”.

As the Beleben blog stated in September 2016, the case for Midland electrification is completely undermined by HS2. Actually, HS2’s deleterious effects could be expected to impact other enhancement projects, such those backed by the ‘Consortium of East Coast Main Line Authorities‘ for the East Coast Main Line.

If HS2 were built, the government could not allow competition for long distance passengers with classic rail (which would have lower costs). The political embarrassment from such passengers choosing to keep using the existing railway would be immense.

So, what lies behind HS2 phase 2? On the evidence available, it is not a transport project, but a London real-estate project, ‘needed’ to justify the land grab (for over-platform development) at Euston. The ‘imperative’ of the Camden land-grab would also explain the government’s determination to avoid having Old Oak Common as its HS2 terminus.

De-scoped Midland Main Line electrification is a consequence of the government's obsession with its £60+ billion HS2 vanity project (picture: Network Rail)

Written by beleben

November 13, 2017 at 2:59 pm

Posted in Planning, Railways

Nobody expects the Grayling inquisition

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Chris Grayling (author: Chris-McAndrew)

Nobody was ever planning to electrify the railway to Scarborough, secretary of state Chris Grayling told the Commons transport select committee on 16 October, as he extolled the virtues of ‘hybrid’ and hydrogen powered trains.

Andrew Jones MP (author: Chris McAndrew), Wikimedia

[At the transport select committee]

[Chris Grayling:] In East Anglia, all the cross-country routes will be operated by hybrid trains shortly. They offer a huge amount of flexibility. To take one example, on the trans-Pennine route hybrid trains are essential to continuing the service from Scarborough to Manchester airport. As you start to electrify the route, you have the flexibility to run electric trains over the parts that are electrified and, in this particular case, diesel on the parts that are not. Nobody was ever planning to electrify to Scarborough. It gives you flexibility that you do not otherwise have. Today, we are in the world of diesel-electric; it will soon be battery-electric, and it will be hydrogen-electric. It gives much greater flexibility to use trains in different ways around the network.

In its report (March 2015) to the then-secretary of state Patrick McLoughlin, the ‘North of England Electrification Task Force’ (chaired by Andrew Jones MP)

  • listed the Scarborough line as a ‘Tier 2 priority’,
  • stated that bi-mode / hybrid trains were “widely viewed as an unnecessarily complex and costly solution which may not be appropriate for many of the services we have been considering.”

Northern Sparks report (2015), diagram 6.3

'Northern Sparks report', 2015

Written by beleben

October 27, 2017 at 8:46 am

Posted in Planning, Politics, Railways

Lost in the scrum

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HS2 arrives at Euston

HS2 executives have warned that journey time savings from the “£55.7 billion” high speed railway would be “lost in the scrum of passengers, queues and poor onward connections” at Euston station, unless the “£30 billion” Crossrail 2 is built.

[HS2 warns it will not ‘work properly’ without Crossrail 2, Gill Plimmer and Jim Pickard, Financial Times, 25 Sep 2017 (paywall)]

Euston is already severely overcrowded and currently handles more than double its supposed 20m passenger-a-year capacity. With HS2, more than 10 high-speed trains an hour, each carrying up to 1,000 passengers, could cause a huge crunch.

“We are dependent on Crossrail 2 for the train line to work properly at Euston,” said one senior person at HS2.

[…] modelling by TfL shows that — without Crossrail 2 — more than 17 Underground stations would “buckle” under crowding pressures from HS2.

A case of ‘One vanity project demands another’, perhaps. The entire economic case for Crossrail 2 remains under a cloak of secrecy.

Greater London Authority refusal to provide Crossrail 2 business case info, July 2017

If HS2 cannot “work properly” without Crossrail 2, why didn’t HS2 Ltd include statements to that effect, in its economic case?

Written by beleben

September 25, 2017 at 11:10 am

Posted in HS2, Planning, Politics

High speed rail and cost efficiency

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The world’s longest high-speed rail journey is the 2,760 kilometre Beijing – Kunming service. Only China has high speed trains which run at 350 km/h, China Daily reported.

[High-speed rail trips get easier as network expands,, 11 Sep 2017]

Service on several Chinese lines have reached that speed, including Beijing – Tianjin, Beijing – Shanghai and Shanghai – Ningbo.

However, journeys of 2,700 km are probably not optimal for high speed rail, in terms of competing against air travel.

In a paper published in the Journal of Transport Geography in 2014, Jianhong Wu, Chris Nash and Dong Wang questioned the ‘appropriateness’ of China’s high speed rail network. They argued that new-build conventional rail would, in general, be more suitable for China’s economy.

How 'appropriate' is China's high speed rail?

Increasing rail speed from 250 to 350 km/h in China has reportedly led to ‘a near doubling of capital costs per route-km’.

Increasing rail speed in China from 250 to 350 km/h appeared to lead to a near doubling of capital costs per route-km

‘Design operating speeds seem to be a key driver of capital costs’. In Britain, the HS2 project is being designed to allow trains to run at 400 km/h at a later date. One of the made-up claims for HS2 is that ‘building for very high speed is only ~10% more expensive than building for conventional speed’ (< 250 km/h).

Written by beleben

September 11, 2017 at 9:55 am

Cheque out the fruitcake

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Manchester’s metro mayor, Andy Burnham has said he does not believe the government could afford both Crossrail 2 and ‘Crossrail for the North’, The Guardian reported.

[Philip Hammond pressed on rail plans during northern visit, Helen Pidd, The Guardian, 4 Sep 2017]

“We’ve got the cost of HS2, which is a big outlay, we’ve got the cost of Brexit, the divorce bill as it’s called – that’s another big outlay. Are we really saying there’s two £30bn-plus cheques lying around for both Crossrail 2 and Crossrail for the North? Well, we have doubts about that. So we are saying, in that scenario, if he’s going to have to choose, he should choose the north of England and we think parliament would back us up if it came to a choice.”

Burnham said [chancellor Philip] Hammond had failed to provide clarity on what would happen to the Conservatives’ manifesto promise to electrify the key trans-Pennine route between Manchester and Leeds. Over the summer Grayling backtracked and said not all of the line would be electrified because new trains could switch between electric and diesel modes.

“The government is asking the people of the north to accept second best,” Burnham said.

So, if there were just one ‘£30 billion cheque lying around’, should it be used to fund

(a) ‘Crossrail for the North’,
(b) London Crossrail 2, or
(c) something else?

Suppose ‘Crossrail for the North’ took the form of a new-build railway between Liverpool and Hull. What then, would be the point of electrification of the existing Transpennine North railway between Manchester and Leeds?

Even without CftN, the rationale for electrification of Transpennine North is questionable. The likelihood is that nearly all the trains using TPN would still rely on [being fitted with] diesel engines to reach their destination. So perhaps Mr Burnham should stop talking about CftN, and start talking about electrification of Northallerton – Middlesbrough (etc).

As for London Crossrail 2, in its present form, it seems to be a project driven by housebuilding companies, to ‘support the development of up to 200,000 new homes’ in places like the Upper Lea Valley.


So, one might describe Crossrail 2 as a project to house the equivalent of a few months’ population increase, at a cost of £30 billion. (Not including the cost of the houses themselves, or the utilities and other infrastructure they would need.)

What an accurate headline might say

Written by beleben

September 6, 2017 at 9:27 am

Summit must be done, part two

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Andy Burnham, 'Chester to Manchester rail journeys take longer than in 1962'

At last week’s transport ‘summit’, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham highlighted that a train journey between Chester and Manchester is now slower than in the 1960s, the Chester Chronicle reported.

[‘Manchester to Chester train journey slower than in 1962’, says Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, David Holmes, Chester Chronicle, 27 August 2017]

Speaking to political and business officials, Mr Burnham said: “It takes four minutes longer to travel by train from Manchester to Chester than it did in 1962.

“I think that pretty much makes for why we are here today.

[…] ITV Granada reporter Daniel Hewitt recently tested out public transport links between Manchester and Thornton Science Park near Ellesmere Port which received millions of pounds worth of investment as part of the Northern Powerhouse vision.

He found a 35-mile journey that would take 50 minutes by road can take almost two and a half hours by train.

An accompanying article on the ITV website stated: “There’s anger from businesses about how plans for the Northern Powerhouse are stalling at the starting gate. When it comes to public transport for example you can get from Manchester to London in two hours eight minutes.”

Andy Burnham, 'how much have your journey times changed'

[Reality Check: Does the North get a raw deal on rail?, BBC, 27 Aug 2017]

[Transport for Greater Manchester]’s analysis of historical train timetables show that in 1962 the fastest service from Chester to Manchester took 56 minutes, stopping at one station in between.

Today it takes 60 minutes but makes seven station stops.

By contrast, according to TfGM, the fastest journey from Manchester to London in 1962 was 220 minutes.

It is now 124 minutes, a reduction of nearly 44%.

On 28 August, the Guardian reported that trains connecting Britain’s major towns and cities are up to four times slower outside the south-east, ‘according to research’.

[British trains ‘up to four times slower outside the south-east’, PA, 28 Aug 2017]

Press Association analysis of the quickest possible trains on 19 routes found that services from London travel at average speeds of 65 – 93 mph, compared with 20 – 60 mph elsewhere.

The slowest route featured in the study was Liverpool Central to Chester, which takes 41 minutes to make the 14-mile journey (as the crow flies) at 20 mph.
Many of the slowest routes featured in the analysis, which featured trains operating on Fridays, are served only by trains with multiple stops.

Steve Rotheram, the mayor of the Liverpool city region, claimed the figures highlighted the “investment deficit that is seriously undermining growth potential in the north”.

He said: “You simply cannot deliver a ‘northern powerhouse’ as long as the regions that delivered the industrial revolution are reliant on transport infrastructure that is operating on a 19th-century timetable.”

Luke Raikes, a senior research fellow at thinktank IPPR North, said slow journey times were “down to decades of underinvestment as the government has just responded to congestion problems in London”.

Written by beleben

August 30, 2017 at 10:31 am