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Best return is sixty quid

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In November 2018, the Beleben blog revealed that 99.5 per cent of the £12,000 raised from the sale of Midland Metro T69 trams went not to public funds, but to RBS bank. These trams were taken out of use after just 15 years’ service, or thereabouts, and somehow ended up as the property of RBS bank.

Following the intervention of the Information Commissioner’s Office, further information has emerged about the costs of the decommissioning of the T69s.

WMCA, costs following T69 tram decommissioning, 10 Apr 2019

In summary then (from what they have said),

  • West Midlands Combined Authority spent ~£130,000 moving and storing the decommissioned trams,
  • shelled out £4.7 million in lease payments on this scrap,
  • and ultimately received, er, £60 from RBS, when WMCA sold the trams for them at e-auction.

[Councillor Roger Lawrence, WMCA]

“After many years of service it’s sad the T69 trams are headed for the breakers yard, but in the absence of any buyers for them as a going concern this represents the best return for the council tax payer.”


Written by beleben

April 17, 2019 at 11:20 am

How much latent capacity

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Virgin Trains, the operator of intercity trains from London to major cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Preston and Glasgow, recorded 39.5 million journeys over the last year (2018/2019), compared to 14 million in 1997, when it took over the West Coast route. Based on the last six years of growth, passenger journeys would reach 55 million in 2026, ‘when HS2 is due to open’, if growth were unconstrained.

This announcement came as a new report by Campaign for Better Transport [CBT], Transformation of the West Coast Mainline, found that upgrades to the service, including the Virgin High Frequency timetable, had led to 7 million fewer car journeys a year between London and Manchester (etc).

'Virgin Trains on course for 50m passengers ahead of HS2 after breaking new records'

The increase from 14 million to a possible 50+ million annual ‘intercity’ passengers is an indicator of how much latent capacity there was — and is — on the West Coast tracks. HS2 is not mentioned in the main text of the CBT report, and available information suggests that it is not required to meet foreseeable future demand, even in the Department for Transport’s so-called Higher Growth scenario.

As an aside, there must be a question mark over the CBT claim that the enhanced West Coast service has led to ‘7 million fewer car journeys a year between London and Manchester’.

How was that number arrived at? Are there even 7 million rail journeys a year — in total — between those two cities?

Written by beleben

April 5, 2019 at 10:13 am

Posted in Politics, Railways

People’s rail versus vanity rail

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The government’s planned HS2 high-speed railway would make the UK even more divided and should be cancelled in favour of boosting services in the less well-off parts of the country, the New Economics Foundation said, in a report published on 20 March.

'HS2 would widen UK north-south divide and should be axed, says report', The Guardian, 19 Mar 2019

The report, which was commissioned by Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, was also covered by The Times.

The Times, 'HS2 will deepen regional divide as north loses out'

And the Daily Express.

Daily Express, New Economics Foundation HS2 story, March 2019

The analysis looks strong on the big-picture issues, but there is the odd blooper / WTF (for example, on page 14, it says “the capacity of Pendolino Class 390 trains is around 390”).

Following a shambolic 18 months on the railways, with disastrous timetable
changes, the wrong kind of weather, and the cancellation of planned
electrification schemes, the government has launched a ‘root and branch’ review.
However, the review is missing some key roots and branches, two of them being HS2 and the latest package of maintenance and upgrades agreed with Network Rail. These have been deemed out of scope but should be included.

There are two fundamental problems with the railways in the UK that, in the interests of ensuring immediate and long-term value for public money, need
addressing before the much-needed major investment is committed. The first is the absence of an overarching rail or transport strategy, which leaves HS2 looking like the solution to a problem that has not yet been defined. It is what many in the rail industry call an engineering-led project rather than something that enjoys strong strategic or economic justification. The second fundamental problem is the chaotic ownership and management structures that will almost certainly lead to the squandering of investment capital.

Written by beleben

March 20, 2019 at 11:41 am

Posted in HS2, Politics, Railways

The next train from platform minus one

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Greater Birmingham chambers, 'Moor Street station designs for HS2 link revealed', 18 Mar 2019

Grimshaw / GHA Moor Street station redevelopment visualisation, 18 Mar 2019

Birmingham Moor Street station vision, initial concepts, Mar 2019

Birmingham Moor Street station, visualisation of Grimshaw / Glenn Howells Architects redevelopment proposal, 18 Mar 2019

Birmingham Moor Street station, visualisation of redevelopment proposal, Grimshaw / Glenn Howells Architects, 18 Mar 2019

twitter @weinsteinlinder, Moor Street station transformation

Written by beleben

March 19, 2019 at 10:22 am

Posted in Birmingham, Centro, HS2, Politics

Absurdity writ large

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‘Northern powerhouse rail’ would mean “a greater number of people living within sensible distances of their jobs, fuelling productivity and economic growth”, according to the Confederation of British Industry twitter feed.

twitter, @CBItweets, 'Northern powerhouse rail will mean a greater number of people living within sensible distances of their jobs'

Eh? Wasn’t Northern powerhouse rail intended to allow ‘people living in Bradford to commute to work in Manchester’ (etc)?

Meaning the ‘idea’ behind NPR is more like the antithesis of having a greater number of people living within “sensible distances of their jobs”.

twitter, @CBItweets, '#NorthernPowerhouseRail will mean shorter journey times and a greater number of people living within sensible distances of their jobs, fuelling #productivity and economic #growth. But it's NOT possible without HS2!'

Obviously, the whole NPR concept is unworkable fantasy, and has nothing to do with local transport in the north. 

Why is the CBI putting out this drivel, and why is it reminiscent of the misinformation put out a few years ago by the Westbourne ‘Campaign for High Speed Rail’?

@dplarge, head of infrastructure, @CBItweets

Written by beleben

March 17, 2019 at 9:47 am

Brierley Hill tram boondoggle to cost even more

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Express and Star, 'New West Midland Metro line back on track - but costs are up £100m', By Pete Madeley, 04 Mar 2019

Work on the Wednesbury – Brierley Hill Extension of the [West] Midland[s] Metro tramway is due to start this year, after the West Midlands Combined Authority put forward a new funding package to pay for the biggest project it has ever taken on, the Express and Star reported.

[Pete Madeley, Express and Star, 4 Mar 2019]

The line will now cost £449m – up £106m – with the shortfall paid for by profits from the Metro, which the WMCA has run since last year. It is set to open in 2023.

It will see 16 new trams operate on a 6.8-mile route, passing through Merry Hill, Dudley town centre, Tipton, and Dudley Port railway station along its 17 stops.

With transport secretary Chris Grayling and mayor Andy Street being big fans of the scheme, isn’t there a need for actual ‘profit forecasts’, or an updated economic appraisal?

West Midlands Metro tram visualisation, Dudley Zoo

Written by beleben

March 4, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Midlands ‘needs to have an idea’

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The Midlands Connect January 2019 newsletter claimed that their ‘open letter’ to party leaders had ‘turned the tide for Phase Two of HS2’.

Midlands Connect newsletter, Jan 2019, 'The Midlands Marches on Westminster'

‘Turned the tide’, which way? According to BBC reporter Chris Doidge (18 February 2019), “Staffordshire County Council leader Philip Atkins says the region needs to start thinking about what it’ll request if phase 2b of HS2 is cancelled. He said the Midlands needs to have an idea so the money doesn’t just go back to London”.

twitter, @BBCChrisD, 'Political leaders in the Midlands are expressing growing concerns over #HS2. Some feel the latter sections are now more likely to be scrapped than go-ahead.'

Written by beleben

February 18, 2019 at 5:57 pm