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Back to the further

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On 28 November 2011 the government announced that prime minister David Cameron had given approval for a number of infrastructure projects, including electrifying the Transpennine North (TPN) railway between Manchester and Leeds, starting in 2012., 'PM approves major infrastructure works', 2011-11-28

On 23 July 2020, transport secretary Grant Shapps announced

  • “most” of TPN “will be electrified”, and “our ambition is to go further”
  • “the establishment of a new Northern Transport Acceleration Council dedicated to accelerating vital infrastructure projects and better connecting communities across the North’s towns and cities”.


Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said:

This feels like a gear change from the government in the delivery of transport improvements in the North of England and I welcome the new drive that the Transport Secretary is bringing to this.

People here deserve a modern, reliable public transport system and it is my hope that the Northern Transport Acceleration Council will bring forward the day when that is a reality. It is crucial that the council listens to the voice of the North and is accountable to people here through their elected politicians and bodies such as Transport for the North.

The additional funding for the Transpennine route upgrade is a welcome sign of intent from the government. The North has long argued for the existing scheme to be upgraded to bring the full range of passenger and freight benefits and we are glad that the government has listened to this. But it is important to be clear that upgrading the existing railway between Manchester and Leeds does not diminish the need for a new line in Northern Powerhouse Rail nor does it solve the capacity issues in central Manchester which require a separate solution.

Borat, thumbs up

Written by beleben

July 23, 2020 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Politics, Railways

The low-down on HS2 value

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According to its April 2020 phase one Final Business Case [FBC], High Speed Two offers ‘value for the taxpayer under all but the most extreme scenarios’.

But what kind of ‘value for the taxpayer’?

Forecast benefit cost of the Y network, DfT HS2 phase two economic case, July 2017, Figure 7

In July 2017, the Department for Transport claimed that the full HS2 Y network had a ‘68% chance of having a benefit cost ratio (BCR) above 2’ and a ‘92% chance of a BCR above 1.5’.

[HS2 Phase Two Economic Case | July 2017][…]

Phases 2a and 2b demonstrate high value for money, contributing to a full network BCR of 2.3 with WEIs and 1.9 excluding WEIs.

The Department’s value for money framework (2015) stated that in ‘standard cases’, a BCR of between 1.0 and 1.5 would indicate ‘Low’ value for money (VfM), a BCR between 1.5 and 2.0 would indicate ‘Medium’ VfM, and a BCR between 2.0 and 4.0 would indicate ‘High’ VfM.

DfT VfM framework, 2015, category definitions

[DfT value for money framework]

“[…] However it may be more appropriate to report a hybrid category (e.g. ‘Medium-High’) in cases where it is likely and reasonable to believe, that a proposal may fall into another category, based on analysis using ‘switching values’.”

In the April 2020 FBC the updated benefit-cost ratio for phase one (and for phase one-plus-2b taken together) was 1.2, when wider economic impacts (WEIs) are included. For the larger Y network (phase-one-plus-phase-2a-and-2b), the figure was 1.49, including WEIs.

HS2 phase one full business case, 15 April 2020, Table 2.1

On closer examination, the gulf between the ‘July 2017’ and ‘April 2020’ BCRs turns out to be even wider. One of the changes made for the FBC was that “spend up to the end of 2019 has been treated as sunk and excluded […] except for purchase costs on land and property that could be recoverable were HS2 not to go ahead“., written question on HS2 sunk costs, House of Lords, 2020-04-22

On 6 May, the government stated that had the ‘newly-declared-sunk’ costs not been excluded in the FBC,

  • the BCR for phase one would have been 0.8 without WEIs, and 1.0 with WEIs [i.e., ‘Poor’ value for money]
  • the Y network BCR would have been 1.1 without WEIs, and 1.3 with WEIs [‘Low’ value for money].

From the start, the Beleben blog has taken the view that the economic case for HS2 has been fabricated and manipulated to serve the political purpose of keeping the project going. This has been borne out by events.

BBC News, 27 Aug 2019, 'Ministers know HS2 was over budget years ago'

Manipulation of the economic case is still happening, and if anything, the HS2 project is becoming less, rather than more, transparent.

Written by beleben

May 15, 2020 at 11:31 am

Andy Street’s ‘2040 metro and rail plan’

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Andy Street at Aldridge transport museum (picture from @Andy4WM twitter)

On 4 February, West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street launched his ‘2040 plan for metro and rail in the West Midlands’ at Aldridge Transport Museum, before an audience which appeared to largely consist of museum staff and volunteers (?).

twitter, @andy4wm, 'Today I unveiled my 20 year plan to transform our metro and rail networks into a world-class comprehensive tube-style system serving our entire region. This plan is already underway with: Major expansion of the Metro in Birmingham and the Black Country.'

The event, part of Mr Street’s campaign for re-election, was not mentioned on that evening’s 6.30 pm BBC tv Midlands Today, but was briefly featured about halfway through ITV’s 6 pm Central News.

Andy4WM's metro and rail plan map 2040

The ‘£15 billion plan’ which includes new Metro (tram) lines and rail stations, and driverless pods and ‘very light’ rail, would be funded from central government, property developers, and ‘borrowing against future income from ticket sales’.

twitter, @andy4wm, 'Thank you for the encouragement and support for my 20 year metro and rail plan. We've started work on this job together and the foundations are literally being laid around the region, with the diggers in the ground. There's a long way to go but we are underway!'

An obvious difficulty with the idea of ‘borrowing against future income from ticket sales’ is that most of the additional infrastructure proposed by Mr Street would carry few passengers, generate very little income, and have to be subsidised from public funds.

There must be also be some questions about the disruption which would follow from implementing Mr Street’s scheme. If the HS2 railway is approved, as news reports suggest, there would be extensive transport disruption in central and east Birmingham over the next decade. Building Mr Street’s tram lines would in effect deepen and spread this disruption, across the wider area, for the next twenty years.



Written by beleben

February 5, 2020 at 12:55 pm

Sit here and talk about HS2

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Eighty percent of Sheffielders aren’t interested in HS2, according to Sheffield council leader Julie Dore, who has warned the project ‘will fail to improve the majority of the north’.

'HS2: Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore warns that the £106billion rail project will fail to improve majority of the north'

[HS2: Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore warns that the £106billion rail project will fail to improve majority of the north, Molly Williams, Local Democracy Reporter, The Star, 27 Jan 2020]

She said: “I sit here and talk about HS2 but you know what, 80 percent of Sheffielders aren’t interested – they are interested in buses. We’ve not got enough of them, they don’t arrive on time, sometimes they’re missing, they’re not comfortable or clean, they’re slow, unaffordable and don’t go to the right places. People want authorities and the government to address their real life issues.

“Big announcements about HS2 and massive infrastructure, more roads and railways for the north but people want to know there is a good education for their children, decent job they can look forward too, an affordable cost of living, a decent home and care and support when they need it. That’s what matters to them and I think the opportunity of devolution will help address some of those issues.”

Why it has taken her to say something as obvious as this, is not immediately clear. HS2 cannot ‘regenerate’ the north, and the proposed HS2 termini (in Manchester and Leeds) are the places in the north which are the least in need of ‘regeneration’.

twitter, @SheffieldStar, 'Coun Dore said she was 'profoundly disappointed' with recent announcements about the HS2 rail link. Story by @1MollyWilliams'

Written by beleben

January 27, 2020 at 8:06 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics

Spinning in different ways

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On 12 November 2019 the Financial Times reported that a leaked ‘early draft’ of the Oakervee review of HS2 had recommended that the UK government should proceed with the full high speed network from London to Leeds and Manchester, despite the potential for further cost increases.

Financial Times story on a leaked version of the Oakervee HS2 report, 12 Nov 2019

But on 19 January 2020, the newspaper published content apparently leaked from a later ‘draft’ of the report, in which only ‘lukewarm’ support was offered for the scheme.

Financial Times story on a leaked version of the Oakervee HS2 report, 19 Jan 2020

[Financial Times, 19 Jan 2020][…]

The review led by Doug Oakervee, a former chairman of HS2, also recommends that work on phase 2b of the project from the West Midlands to Manchester and Leeds be paused for six months for a study into whether it could comprise a mix of conventional and high speed lines instead.

“On balance”, it says that ministers should proceed with the 250mph railway, which would stretch from London’s Euston station to Birmingham in its first phase and then to Leeds and Manchester by 2040, seven years later than the original target. But although the final draft of the review recommends that the project should proceed, this is subject to “a number of qualifications,” it says.

“Further work” is needed to assess the scheme’s impacts on regional growth and it is “hard” to say what economic benefits will result from building it. HS2 would need to be accompanied by investment in local transport and “transport investment alone will not ‘rebalance’ the UK economy,” it adds.

On BBC Radio 4’s World At One (20 January 2020), Oakervee panel member Professor Tony Travers described the report as being in ‘final draft’ form. However, on the same channel’s ‘PM’ show a few hours later, another Oakervee panel member, Andrew Sentance, said he was surprised to hear it described as a ‘draft report’.

twitter, @omrgriffiths on comments made by Andrew Sentance on Radio 4 'PM'

Mr Sentance then popped up on the 7pm Channel 4 News to claim “various people in government” were ‘spinning in different ways’.

Written by beleben

January 21, 2020 at 11:44 am

Posted in HS2, Politics

Mythter know-it-all

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HS2 offers ‘the same capacity as a ten-lane motorway in normal use’ and could deliver ‘more efficient use of three of the UK’s main railway lines’, Jim Steer’s High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Group claimed on 11 November, in a tweet promoting an ‘independent review of the carbon case for HS2′.

twitter, @RailLeaders, '#HS2 will have the same capacity as a ten-lane motorway in normal use and will also deliver more efficient use of three of the UK’s main railway lines. Read more in our latest report written by @safemyth: #GoHS2GoGreen #HS2AllTheWay'

[HSRILG, 11 Nov 2019]

HS2 will have the same capacity as a ten-lane motorway in normal use and will also deliver more efficient use of three of the UK’s main railway lines. Read more in our latest report written by @safemyth […]

“Read more in our latest report.”

So this supposedly ‘independent’ HS2 carbon review (‘HS2 – towards a zero carbon future’) by Raiph (a.k.a. Ralph) Smyth, is actually a report written for the High Speed Rail leaders lobbying group.

twitter, @njak_100, 'Excellent sustainability report on #HS2 out today. This table highlights DfT's conservative modal shift targets vs OECD figure for *actual* modal shift achieved by completed European HSR schemes. Full report at' (11 Nov 2019)

As such, the misleading and inaccurate statements packing out Mr Smyth’s report should come as no surprise. Consider, for example, his ‘Figure 9’, the ‘Comparison of high-speed rail modal shift’, which is intended to ‘suggest’ that HS2’s forecasts of transfers from car and aviation are way too low.

The fact is, the vast majority of HS2 travel would be conducted within a radius of ~300 km of London, and for journeys within this zone, aviation’s share of journeys is already effectively nil. So with HS2, there is no possibility of anything like an overall 30% shift from air to high speed rail. Obviously, HS2 is mainly about (i) shift from classic rail, and (ii) new journeys.

No evidence is offered by Mr Smyth for the claim that HS2 would provide ‘the same capacity as a ten-lane motorway in normal use’ or ‘deliver more efficient use of three of the UK’s main railway lines’. He has not explained what the terms “in normal use” and “more efficient use” are supposed to mean. The Department for Transport has confirmed that the modelled post-HS2 use of the West Coast Main Line South involves fewer (not more) trains operating. This is an inevitable consequence of the HS2 idea of turning the WCML fast lines into a mixed-traffic railway.

DfT confirmation of fewer (not more) trains on WCML South in the modelled HS2 scenarios

Mr Smyth’s report presents HS2 as ‘essential for meeting a legally binding target of net zero carbon emissions’ by 2050. Needless to say, it would not be possible for HS2 to be carbon neutral by 2050, and it is not clear why ‘zero carbon electricity’ would be available to HS2 but not to alternative modes, such as other railways, road coaches, and private automobiles.

Even if the embedded carbon from constructing HS2 were considered as zero, the scheme would still not make any sense from an environmental standpoint, because the cost per-avoided-tonne of carbon would be gargantuan.


Written by beleben

November 12, 2019 at 12:32 pm

No opportunity to influence

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twitter, @tonyberkeley1, 2 Nov 2019, 'My role as dep chair of the Oakervee Report on HS2 finished yesterday.   Report not finished and no opportunity to influence conclusions.  We are told that, when completed by Doug O and the DfT secretariat, it will be locked into the DfT vaults for the new S of S to publish.'

Written by beleben

November 2, 2019 at 2:22 pm

How is HS2 a ‘pro climate project’?

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HS2 is ‘the most pro climate project this country currently has’ according to the former chief of the Strategic Rail Authority, Richard Bowker. He suggested that opponents of the scheme consult Greengauge 21’s article ‘HSR and Carbon Emissions‘ (28 September, 2010).

twitter, @SRichardBowker, 'I did not say HS2 Ltd had explained their proposition correctly. Their PR has been woeful for years as regularly highlighted by @rail  and others. They should have explained one of the biggest benefits is freeing up capacity on the current rail network to facilitate modal shift.'

Mr Bowker appears to be unaware that (a) HS2 is expected to increase rather than reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and (b) in many cases, ‘information’ provided by Greengauge 21 turns out to lack accuracy and credibility. For example, according to the Greengauge article referenced by Mr Bowker, the carbon emissions from the construction of a HS2 line between London and West Midlands would be in the region of 1.2 million tonnes.

According to Greengauge 21 (28 Sep 2010), the carbon emissions from the construction of a HS2 line between London and West Midlands would be in the region of 1.2 million tonnes

[GG21, HSR and Carbon Emissions (28 September, 2010)]

There will also be carbon emissions from the construction of any HSR line, estimated at around 1.2 million tonnes of carbon for a London – West Midlands route.

But according to HS2 Ltd, the construction carbon footprint (CO2e) is estimated to range between 5.755 million and 6.125 million tonnes.

HS2 Ltd estimate of phase one carbon construction footprint (23 Feb 2017)

[HS2, HIGH SPEED TWO PHASE ONE INFORMATION PAPER E10: CARBON (Version 1.7, Last updated 23rd February 2017)]

[6.3] Nevertheless, the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the construction of the Proposed Scheme are significant, as might be expected from a national level infrastructure scheme. The construction carbon footprint is estimated to range between 5,755,000 tCO2e and 6,125,000 tCO2e[…]

Written by beleben

October 17, 2019 at 11:51 am

Posted in HS2, Politics

The difficultee with Oakervee orthographee

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By the end of the week “we are due to find out the results of the independent Overkee [sic] Review into HS2”, according to a ludicrous article by Mark Casci, of The Yorkshire Post.

'This is our last chance to dispel the myths of the HS2 naysayers - Mark Casci', Yorkshire Post,14 Oct 2019

But is that true? Has it been announced that the Oakervee review “results” are going to be made public this week?

twitter, @MarkCasci, 'This week's column - our last chance to blow the HS2 myths out of the water.'

twitter, @BRCWCo, 'I take it the misspelling of Oakavee was a typo? The rest was well put, not that the stopHS2 muppets will agree, not until it's finished and they can't miss the benefits that is.'

Written by beleben

October 15, 2019 at 10:07 am

Posted in HS2, Politics

Miffing in action

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The HS2 review was the top story on the 6 pm Central ITV News (11 October 2019), for the second evening in a row.

Gareth Owen reports from London on the HS2 review for ITV Central News, 11 Oct 2019

Reporter Gareth Owen attempted to ‘catch up’ with members of the review panel, leaving its last scheduled meeting.

Tony Travers and Stephen Glaister in Westminster for the HS2 review, ITV Central News, 11 Oct 2019

While none of them would give a quote about the meeting, Andy Street, the West Midlands metro mayor, appeared to be in a state of some discontent.

West Midlands mayor Andy Street in London for the HS2 review, ITV Central News, 11 Oct 2019

Written by beleben

October 11, 2019 at 7:54 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics