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Consigned to history

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A Virgin West Coast trainVirgin Trains has “consigned Friday afternoon peak restrictions from London Euston to history, enabling thousands of people to start the weekend earlier, for less”, the company announced on November 1.

The existence of the peak restrictions played a huge part in the so-called ‘capacity case for high speed rail’, so by abolishing the restrictions, one of the last remnants of the HS2 capacity case has also been consigned to history.

[Virgin Trains]

Restrictions will be removed permanently from 2 November 2018, following a 13 week trial that has also helped dramatically reduce congestion on key evening services.

During the trial, the popular 19:00 London Euston to Manchester service saw the average maximum number of passengers fall by 61%. Normally this would be the first service available for passengers with off-peak tickets. Similar benefits were seen on the West Midlands route where the average maximum number of passengers on the 19:03 London Euston to Birmingham New Street fell by 75%.

'Virgin Trains scraps Friday afternoon peak restrictions', 01 Nov 2018

In the complete absence of any better ‘story’, the government’s West Coast Demand and Capacity Pressures (DaCP) report had to focus on the remote possibility of future crowding in the evening, created and driven by peak restrictions. DaCP was a ‘supplement’ to HS2’s October 2013 Strategic Case, but did not appear until November 2015, which might indicate the difficulty in coming up with a case for spending tens of billions of pounds on something that is not needed.

DaCP doom-mongered what ‘might’ happen, if Euston’s intercity service in the year 2033 / 2034 was like the service in 2014 – i.e., with peak restrictions until 7pm, and with just 9 trains leaving between 7pm and 8pm. Plainly an absurd and artificial scenario, concocted just for HS2 propaganda purposes.

DfT, West Coast DaCP report, Nov 2015 extract, ICWC evening crowding

With a sensible ticketing policy, available paths taken up, and the right rolling stock, all forecast demand, and more, could be accommodated using the existing infrastructure, without building a single yard of HS2.

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Written by beleben

November 1, 2018 at 8:13 pm

Rebrand and relief

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Much of HS2 phase 2b could support intra-northern journeys like Sheffield to York. Politicians could just rebrand it as Northern Powerhouse Rail and still get capacity relief at key hubs, which is the main priority, according to rail editor Nick Kingsley.

@twitter, njak_100, 'Much of #HS2 Phase 2b can support intra-northern journeys like Sheffield to York. Politicians could just rebrand it as Northern Powerhouse Rail and still get capacity relief at key hubs, which is main priority.'

But how could there be ‘capacity relief at key hubs’? In phase 2b of HS2, high speed trains from London would run into the existing stations at Sheffield and York.

HS2 phase two route map (2018)

For HS2 trains to run between the existing stations at Sheffield and York, they would have to use the existing two-track line through Meadowhall. Furthermore, to re-join the HS2 line, they would need a new junction, which is not included in the £55.7 billion HS2 budget.

The approach tracks to Sheffield Midland from the north

Written by beleben

October 30, 2018 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Politics, Railways

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

It is becoming increasingly difficult to argue in favour of HS2

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Several senior Labour MPs have told the Observer that the huge sum of money earmarked for the HS2 railway would be better spent on other schemes, the newspaper reported.

'Northern-mp MPs tell Labour: Change your mind on HS2', Eleni Courea, 27 Oct 2018

[Northern MPs tell Labour: change your mind on HS2, Eleni Courea, The Observer, 27 Oct 2018][…]

Lisa Nandy, the Labour MP for Wigan, said: “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to argue in favour of HS2 in my constituency.”
[…]
Karl Turner, the shadow transport minister responsible for shipping, aviation and road safety, speaking in his capacity as MP for Hull East, said[…] “investing in existing rail networks in the region offers a better deal”.
[…]
Ian Mearns, MP for Gateshead, said: “Twenty years ago, there was a train that travelled from Newcastle to London [along the east coast mainline] in 160 minutes. With HS2 we will be spending another £53bn 40 years later, and by going on that route people could gain just 20 minutes.” Mearns said that this showed HS2 was “little more than a vanity project”.
[…]
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said in 2014 that HS2 represented a “poor deal for most of the region’s taxpayers”.

Jo Platt, MP for Leigh, said that HS2 would run through her constituency “without offering any connectivity”, while Emma Hardy, MP for Hull West, said that Crossrail for the North would “make a huge difference, while being far less disruptive than HS2”.

Meanwhile Sir Kevin Barron, the MP for Rother Valley, who has supported the project thus far, said that he was being forced to rethink because of plans to build the eastern leg of HS2 along the M18 motorway.

It is the most senseless thing I’ve ever seen,” Barron said.

Terminating the HS2 scheme would not just benefit the north. The cancellation dividend would allow a wide range of infrastructure improvements across the country, such as electrification of the Great Western main line from Newbury to Plymouth, an RER-type system for Birmingham, and step-free access for a vastly increased number of stations nationwide.

The reality of rail in the 'Northern powerhouse': Kirkby station by Raymond Knapman

Some reviews of Transpennine rail from Tripadvisor, viewed Oct 2018

According to a September 2018 poll by ComRes, three in five British adults think that HS2 is poor value for money, and 85% think the money should be spent on improving the capacity of existing railways instead of building it.

Written by beleben

October 27, 2018 at 7:05 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics

Parkway is the right way, says John Armitt

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Infrastructure is for the public, not engineers. But “the public” don’t know what’s best for them, as evidenced by their rejection of an ‘Ashford parkway’ high speed station, their dislike of HS2, and their support for rail renationalisation (apparently).

[Sir John Armitt: “Infrastructure is not for engineers. It’s by engineers, for the public”, Sebastian Whale, The House magazine, 18th October 2018]

“Infrastructure is not for engineers. It’s by engineers, for the public,” he explains. The public pays for the projects, he adds, but generally speaking “they’re not treated as seriously as a stakeholder or the rest of the industry”. This failure to earn public buy-in on projects must be addressed, he argues, which in turn would make politicians’ lives easier.

twitter, @railindustry |  Sir John Armitt, Chairman, NatInfraCom: 'If high-speed rail does not go north of Birmingham, then I would argue there's not much point.'

[JA:] “It shouldn’t be the government ministers, it should be the profession, it should be the industry. Engineers should accept this is very much part of their role, to get out there and not hide behind their computer,” he says.
[…]
Armitt also suggests there should be a change in approach when it comes to city centre regeneration. Citing the example of the redeveloped Birmingham New Street Station, he asks whether the money would have been better placed being put into a new station on the edge of the city.

He experienced this first hand with High Speed 1, when local people called for a train station in central Ashford through which the Eurostar would pass, as opposed to one on the outskirts. “Fine, that’s what they got. But it added several hundred million pounds to the cost of the project,” he says.

Mr Armitt was engaged by the Labour party to conduct an ‘infrastructure review‘, but disagrees with its flagship policy of rail renationalisation (which is supported, it seems, by a majority of Conservative voters).

[The House magazine]

The Labour party has been clear of its intentions to nationalise rail, water and parts of the energy sector. Armitt, who is speaking more in a personal capacity, is sceptical about taking these industries back into public ownership.

The first challenge, he says, is finding the money to “pay a fair price”. Despite changing ownership, the “people running those businesses are essentially going to be the same”, he says. “Again, I think the issue here is we’re more than happy to trust Marks and Spencer and Safeway and Tesco with the provision of the thing most fundamental to us, which is food. Why can’t we create an environment in which we’re equally trusting of private sector companies to provide us with those key utilities?” he asks.

Written by beleben

October 23, 2018 at 8:51 am

HS2 is not about Leeds rail capacity

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Members of Leeds city council’s executive committee have claimed the main reason for HS2 is to increase capacity on the rail network, the Yorkshire Post reported.

[HS2 ‘about capacity, not speed’ say Leeds council chiefs, Richard Beecham, Yorkshire Post, 17 October 2018]

The council’s portfolio holder for regeneration, transport and planning, Richard Lewis, said: “In 2011, (then-transport secretary) Philip Hammond talked about the network and how it would create better links. “I feel frustrated that the debate has since become a narrow one about high speed technology. It’s about rail capacity and that is what is important for this city.”

The idea that HS2 is about ‘Leeds rail capacity’, ‘West Yorkshire rail capacity’, or ‘solving rail gridlock’, is nonsensical. Rail capacity across northern England is restricted by short trains, substandard signalling, and poor track layouts. Building HS2 would address none of these issues.

West Yorkshire Railplan 7, Figure 10

Network Rail, Northern RUS, May 2011, year 2024 train formation assumptions, Leeds routes

Written by beleben

October 22, 2018 at 9:49 am

Posted in Leeds, Politics, Railways

£24 billion is not enough

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Transport for the North ‘today released its latest research into the boost Northern powerhouse rail could give local economies’, the Liverpool Echo reported.

Tim Wood with Chris Grayling MP

[Liverpool Echo, 17 Oct 2018]

[Tim Wood, programme director at Transport for the North,] said the National Infrastructure Commission had positively assessed the plans.

He said: £24bn is their estimate [of the cost of Northern powerhouse rail]. We know it will cost a little bit more than that.

Liverpool Echo, Liverpool NPR could take decades, 16 Jan 2018

'New rail line means better job prospects - if you are willing to commute for up to three hours a day', Ian Johnson, Newcastle Chronicle, 17 Oct 2018

Written by beleben

October 17, 2018 at 2:54 pm