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A light on disembarkations

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The rail utilisation strategies published by the Strategic Rail Authority contained information of a kind not replicated in later documents created by Network Rail. For instance, the 2005 West Midlands strategy included a breakdown of passenger arrivals at Birmingham New Street, by time of day.

Because of the existence of Silverlink, it was possible to see the relative (un)importance of both intercity and regional West Coast Main Line traffic at Birmingham New Street.

Strategic Rail Authority, 2005, alighting at Birmingham New Street by time band

Most of the passenger volume was, and is, non-WCML and / or short distance. No doubt total volume has increased since the mid-noughties, but the proportions are probably much the same.

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Written by beleben

August 9, 2018 at 9:43 am

Opportunity costs of HS2 include more road traffic casualties

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The Times has ‘backed John Armitt’s call for £43 billion for local transport made in the National Infrastructure Review to make the most of HS2’.

twitter, @sjeffrey, 'The Times has 'backed John Armitt's call for £43 billion for local transport made in the National Infrastructure Review to make the most of HS2'

But is ‘a boost for major cities totalling £43 billion’, the same thing as a ‘call for £43 billion for local transport’?

[National Infrastructure Commission]

The National Infrastructure Assessment’s spending plans include funding for projects including Crossrail 2 in London, and Northern Powerhouse Rail linking the major Northern cities, and recommends a boost in funding for major cities totalling £43 billion to 2040, with cities given stable five-year budgets, starting in 2021.

The ‘facts’ and arguments put forward in the Times leader bear little relation to reality. Spending money on bum schemes like the Rotherham tram train, and £872 million airport Midland Metro, makes no sense whatsoever.

Rotherham tram-train, Parkgate

The argument that spending billions of pounds on HS2, and links to it, would encourage a shift from road to ‘a safer form of transport’, is deluded. Building and operating HS2 is bound to result in increased road fatalities, compared to an alternative scenario in which more money was spent directly on making roads safer.

HS2 modal shift as estimated in October 2013

Road travel is generally far more dangerous than rail travel, but the benefit-cost of reducing casualties on the road network by direct improvement is vastly superior to spending the same money on further increasing rail safety, or facilitating a tiny number of motorists to switch to HS2.

Written by beleben

August 7, 2018 at 12:57 pm

Air ‘cleansed by diesel engines’

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WtfTom Stables, managing director of National Express West Midlands – “Birmingham’s leading bus company” – says “Buses are the solution to pollution”.

[National Express offering 24hrs free bus travel for every Birmingham passenger!, Neil Elkes, Birmingham Live, 20 Jun 2018]

The bus company has invested millions in cleaner engines, both buying new low emission vehicles and retro-fitting existing buses with devices to clean the exhaust fumes coming out.

It says the new exhaust systems make the air coming out of the tailpipe cleaner than the air that went in. Birmingham City Council has also invested in a new fleet of hydrogen fuelled buses which are cleaner and more efficient.

The air coming out of the bus tailpipe is cleaner than the air that went in?

Written by beleben

June 20, 2018 at 1:46 pm

Leaders in flapdoodle

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The “High Speed Rail Industry Leaders” group started out as part of Jim Steer’s “not for profit” Greengauge 21 lobbying operation, but now has a separate website and identity, with no visible claim that it is ‘not for profit’.

On 9 April, HSRILG, or Jim, organised a photo opportunity at Crewe station, to publicise their / his new report on the ‘benefits of HS2 phase 2a (Lichfield to Crewe) and the Crewe hub’.

Who were the 'industry leaders' who turned out for the Crewe photo opp? (Jim's at the back) [twitter @BBCRadioStoke]

The report, preposterously titled “Fast-tracking Prosperity in the North West and Midlands”, claimed that “The idea that part of the planned second phase of HS2 could be delivered six years earlier, to become Phase 2a, was first suggested by HS2 Ltd Chairman Sir David Higgins in March 2014.”

But the January 2014 report “The Case for Crewe’s Network Rail Station Relocation and Opportunities for HS2” – produced by Steer Davies Gleave – claimed that “early delivery of Crewe to Lichfield would increase overall benefits and deliver significant early benefits to the North West.”

Steer Davies Gleave, 'The Case for Crewe Station Relocation, 2014'

So why is David Higgins being credited with the idea of ‘Phase 2a’, when he didn’t come up with it? After all, there is no sign of him having exhibited any original thinking during his time as HS2 chairman or Network Rail chief executive.

It could be that Jim, HS2 Ltd, and Network Rail want to ‘forget’ the January 2014 SDG report, which disparaged the existing Crewe station, and ‘made the case’ for its replacement by a hub station on a new site to the south.

Having U-turned on retaining the existing station,

  • ‘the economic appraisal of the works needed at Crewe station to form the Hub show cost benefit ratios in the range 3.2:1 to 4.1:1’
  • and the ‘combination of Phase 2a and Crewe Hub is likely to have a benefit: cost ratio of over 2:1’,

according to HSRILG / Jim.

[HSRIL Phase 2a Benefits report, April 2018]

[…] The economic appraisal of the works needed at Crewe station to form the Hub show cost benefit ratios in the range 3.2:1 to 4.1:1 – a good economic case. While no economic appraisal of the combination of Phase 2a and Crewe Hub has been published, it is likely overall to have a good economic case (a benefit: cost ratio of over 2:1).

As usual, actual evidence for these claims is nowhere to be seen.

Table 2 of the government’s March 2018 Crewe hub consultation response “presents the indicative benefits of splitting and joining one train per hour at Crewe and including a service to Stoke-on-Trent and Macclesfield”, for which the ‘incremental benefit cost ratio with wider impacts from 2027’ is stated as 4.1.

That is not the same thing as saying “The economic appraisal of the works needed at Crewe station to form the Hub show cost benefit ratios in the range 3.2:1 to 4.1:1”.

The costs of the ‘works needed at Crewe station to form the Hub’ would depend on what the ‘hub’ is. Those costs seem to be mostly outside the HS2 budget, and the Department for Transport has refused to release any information.

[HSRIL Phase 2a Benefits report, April 2018]

The redevelopment needed at Crewe station is complex. The availability of alternative routes and tracks through the station area will help minimise disruption to existing services while the works are carried out. Network Rail can point to having overcome similar challenges in its rebuild of Reading station completed in 2017.

In 2008 Network Rail announced a ‘£400 million’ regeneration of Reading station, but on completion in 2014 the cost had increased to £897 million. Implementing the full monty Crewe HS2 hub, including a connection to the Davenport Green high speed line, would be a bigger project than Reading, but its costs are invisible in terms of the “£55.7 billion” PR claims.

Written by beleben

April 10, 2018 at 1:08 pm

The difference in affordability

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In March 2017, the Secretary of State for Transport and the Chancellor of the Exchequer agreed “a package of cancellations and deferrals” from Network Rail’s enhancements portfolio, including the North of Kettering [NoK] and Oxenholme to Windermere electrification projects, the National Audit Office reported on 29 March.

According to the report, ‘Investigation into the Department for Transport’s decision to cancel three rail electrification projects’, Cardiff to Swansea electrification was in effect personally cancelled by the Prime Minister Theresa May.

The cancellations, done for ‘affordability’ reasons, were publicly announced in July 2017, some weeks after the general election. The cost of these projects was chicken feed compared to HS2, but very different affordability considerations seem to apply to that scheme.

'Three cancelled rail electrification schemes', NAO, March 2018

[NAO]

[8]
It is too early to tell the extent to which the Department will be able to deliver the benefits of electrification without electrifying the three routes. The Department still expects to deliver the majority of promised passenger benefits through planned infrastructure works and replacing existing trains. It will still introduce new electric trains to operate services between London and Corby on the Midland Main Line.

It will now use bi-mode trains to operate services on the Great Western Main Line and long-distance services on the Midland Main Line. Although bi-mode trains allow greater flexibility by being able to run on electrified and non-electrified lines, there are some disadvantages, such as increased track damage and higher energy costs, which the Department will need to take into account. For Oxenholme to Windermere the Department had interim plans to use bi-mode trains and proposes to replace existing trains with new diesel trains. It has also asked the operator to explore the use of alternative fuel trains on the route.

The Department has not yet fully costed the environmental and future financial implications of its decision on Midland Main Line and Oxenholme to Windermere. It is uncertain about how much the new trains will cost, but in October 2017 the Secretary of State told the Transport Select Committee that completing electrification would “be more expensive” than buying other trains.

[9]
In the case of Midland Main Line, bi-mode trains with the required speed and acceleration did not exist when the Secretary of State made his decision. When the Secretary of State made his announcement in July 2017, he specified that the next operator for the East Midlands franchise would deliver new bi-mode trains
from 2022. The Department expects journey times with bi-mode trains to be only one minute slower between London and Sheffield than they would have been with fully electric trains.

However, when the Secretary of State decided to cancel the project in March 2017, the Department had advised him that bi-mode rolling stock of the required speed and acceleration to meet the timetable of the route did not currently exist. The Department told us that, although it did not include it in its written advice, it expected that manufacturers would be able to develop a bi-mode train that would deliver service improvements on Midland Main Line.

NAO report, benefit cost assessments for the three cancelled rail electrification schemes

NAO gave the headline saving from NoK cancellation as around £900 million, but the underlying situation is more complicated. Last year, electrification of the track into Sheffield Midland from north Derbyshire, for HS2, was costed at around £250 million.

Written by beleben

March 30, 2018 at 2:49 pm

Sometime in April

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The delay to the opening of Kenilworth’s new rail station is down to Warwickshire County Council not sending paperwork to the rail regulator, the Kenilworth Weekly News claimed on 20 March.

Kenilworth station car park (©) BBC 2018

On the BBC Midlands Today evening news, council managing director Monica Fogarty claimed that ‘we are learning that even when you get the spec right in the first instance, there will still be adaptions and changes… that mean it’s delayed’ (?).

Council managing director Monica Fogarty

Reporter Peter Plisner stated that the station is now expected to open sometime in April (with one train per hour in each direction).

Kenilworth station exterior, (©) BBC 2018

Apparently, the station cost £13.6 million, yet has only one platform.

Kenilworth station trainside, BBC Midlands Today, 2018-03-20

Presumably the architecture was supposed to recall that of the old Kenilworth station closed in the 1960s.

Kenilworth old station,  exterior (copyright unknown)

But unlike the old station, the new one has all the distinctiveness and proportion of an out-of-town hypermarket.

Local resident Fraser Pithie said the delay to opening had turned a 'wonderful facility into a subject of ridicule for the town'

Was there actually a need to construct a station building, with a ticket office?

Even with its front canopy removed, Kenilworth's 1883 railway station looked vastly better than its '2017' replacement

Even with its front canopy removed, Kenilworth’s 1883 station looked vastly better than its ‘2017’ replacement

The arch shape platformside does not even match the shape entranceside

The arch shape platform-side does not even match the arch shape on the entrance side

Written by beleben

March 21, 2018 at 12:03 pm

Treasury analysis of English regional transport expenditure

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According to the Department for Transport, in 2015 – 2016, total public sector expenditure per capita on transport was higher in north-west England than in south-east England.

DfT, total public sector expenditure per capita, English regions, 2015-2016

Written by beleben

January 17, 2018 at 1:27 pm