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Acton and inaction

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The ‘Great North Rail Project’ has brought Acton Grange junction ‘up to modern standards’ to ‘improve reliability on a route used by 260 trains each day’ (apparently).

twitter, @TheGNRP, 'We’ve brought #ActonGrange junction up to modern standards to improve reliability across this vital junction on the West Coast main line - used by 260 trains  each day

“Modern standards”?

From the photos in the GNRP tweet, it would appear that the overhead lines are just as vulnerable to failure propagation after the junction ‘has been brought up to modern standards’, as they were before.

If HS2 were cancelled, resources could be switched to fixing things like this, thereby making the whole railway much more reliable.

Written by beleben

August 5, 2019 at 9:52 am

Posted in Planning, Railways

‘There should be no embarrassment’

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On 16 May, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee published its report ‘Rethinking High Speed 2‘, which considered the business case for the railway, and followed up on its 2015 report ‘The Economics of High Speed 2’.

[House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, 16 May 2019]

As we concluded in our 2015 report Economics of High Speed 2, “there should be
no embarrassment in being prepared to revise the project: the objectives and
cost are too important.”

HS2 needs rethinking says Lords Economic Affairs Committee, 16 May 2019

[BBC News, 19 May 2019]

HS2 will not offer value for money and risks “short changing” the North of England, a group of peers has warned.

A report from the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee also said it was “far from convinced” the new high-speed railway will be built within the £55.7bn budget.

It said the project should not go ahead without a new assessment of its costs and benefits.

The government said it “fundamentally disagreed” with the report.

twitter, Nottingham MP @LilianGreenwood, HS2 would be transformative for our connectivity

4% of 'HS2 full network' transport user benefits would accrue to the East Midlands

Written by beleben

May 16, 2019 at 8:14 am

Posted in HS2, Planning, Politics

Maria lobby you big time

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Speaking at the ‘Bisnow Birmingham State of Offices event’, Midlands Connect honcho Maria Machancoses claimed that ‘the North and Midlands’ needed to work together “big time” to prevent the HS2 project from ‘sliding’.

She is co-hosting an event at Westminster in January to bring together Northern and Midlands MPs and regional transport leaders, ‘as doubts about the budgetary and technical aspects of the £56B rail project grow’.

'Midlands seeks friends in the north to save HS2', Bisnow

What happens at such private lobbying events? What ‘information’ is exchanged?

To judge the level of knowledge of some of the “regional transport leaders” who might be attending, one need only read articles written by them.

According to Ms Machancoses, “One of the most immediate impacts of HS2 will be the freeing up of capacity on the existing West Coast Main Line, releasing space for ten extra freight paths, taking the equivalent of 800 lorries a day off the road, as well as a multitude of extra passenger services”.

But, “if mismanaged”,

[MM:] “more direct, high speed services on the HS2 line could mean a loss of fast, frequent services to the likes of Coventry, Rugby, Tamworth and Lichfield. No station should suffer worse connectivity post-HS2 than it does now.”

In reality,

  • the classic capacity released by HS2 is minimal,
  • it is not possible to release any capacity without some stations, such as Coventry, getting worse connectivity post-HS2 than they have now.

The idea that HS2 would allow a ‘multitude of extra passenger services’ is delusional. On the Birmingham – Coventry – Rugby corridor, the number of local stopping trains would stay much the same as it is now. Between Euston and Milton Keynes, the indications are that the quantum of train paths would fall, not rise.

Maria Machancoses, 'Don't mismanage released capacity'

twitter, @mayor_anderson, 'Why we need the Government to listen to us about investment in rail connections across the North. '

And in an article for Citymetric published yesterday, Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson demonstrated his confusion about ‘HS3’ and the Transpennine North railway.

[Joe Anderson: Why I resigned from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership | Citymetric | December 12, 2018]
I resigned from the board of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership this week. I just didn’t see the point of continuing when it is now crystal clear the government isn’t committed to delivering the step-change in rail investment in the North that we so desperately need. Without it, the Northern Powerhouse will remain a pipedream.

Local government leaders like me have been left standing at the altar for the past three years. The research is done. The case has been made. Time and again we’ve been told to be patient – the money is coming.

Well, we’ve waited long enough.
There are no shortcuts. Ministers clearly believe there are. The second piece of disappointing news is that officials at the Department for Transport have already confirmed to the freight industry that any HS3 line will not be electrified, the Yorkshire Post reports.

Written by beleben

December 13, 2018 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Planning, Politics

HS2 chaos is one broken cable away

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Hundreds of delegates struggled to get home from the Labour party conference in Liverpool as trains to London were disrupted for a period on 26 September.

A ‘broken signal cable’ at Wembley meant no trains could operate between Watford and London Euston, with the knock-on effects emanating up to the Midlands and the North West.

Of course, signal cables are not the only items of railway equipment that can get broken or damaged. Trains can fail, rails can crack, and overhead power lines can be put out of action by balloons, trampolines, birds, malfunctioning pantographs, etc.

The amount of disruption which then ensues depends on various factors, such as where the fault happens, how well-prepared the operator is, and how much traffic depends on the route being open. Even on lightly trafficked routes, the disruption can be massive, if the operator is not well-prepared. In 2014, more than 1,200 Eurostar passengers were stranded for hours overnight near Lille on trains following an overhead cable problem, and were only able to complete their journey when diesel locos turned up to tow the stricken trains to their destinations.

A single broken cable on HS2 could throw rail services to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield into chaos (map: wikipedia)

If you were designing a railway network for resilience, you probably wouldn’t want to use the same line to link a country’s capital to its second, third and fourth largest metropolitan areas, and load it with 18 trains an hour, running at 360 km/h. But the government’s proposed HS2 railway would (supposedly) do just that.

Channelling all premier intercity traffic to and from the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire onto a single pair of tracks between Water Orton and London would bring chaos one broken cable, or cracked rail, away.

In the event of such HS2 disruption, say 25 km out of London, the legacy West Coast Main Line would be of very limited help. The government’s intention is reconfigure the WMCL for more commuter services, and reduce the capacity at Euston from 18 to 13 platforms. The idea that the WCML could be instantly switched back into a full-service intercity railway when HS2 is disrupted, is a fantasy.

Implementing HS2 means reducing West Coast Main Line intercity capacity, and reducing classic platforms at Euston from 18 to 13

Written by beleben

September 28, 2018 at 11:04 am

Posted in HS2, London, Planning, Politics

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

The people within reach

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The whole of page four of Transport for the North’s Northern powerhouse rail booklet is given over to a diagram of how it would supposedly change the ‘number of people within reach of four or more city regions’.

But it is not clear how these figures were arrived at, and they do not appear to make sense.

Northern powerhouse rail booklet, people within reach of 4 or more city regions

Does Transport for the North have an explanation of the diagram?

Judging by their complete lack of response, it would appear that they don’t.

Written by beleben

September 5, 2018 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Planning, Politics, Railways

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