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Archive for the ‘Public transport’ Category

Journey of the Danned

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The ‘West of England Combined Authority’ (WECA) is asking its residents to participate in a competition to originate a transport logo to be used across buses, trains, e-scooters and other public transport – giving their design to WECA for free, and waiving all moral rights. The winning entry “will be finalised by professional designers”, who presumably won’t be working for free. 

West of England Combined Authority area

The rules are simple. The logo should feature the words “West of England Sustainable Transport”, it should work in colour or black and white, and you must live or work in the West of England Metro Mayor region to take part.

The competition runs from Wednesday 5 January to Friday 12 February. The aim is for the logo to start appearing on the West of England region’s public transport in 2022.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “It’s a new year, and we’re looking for a new logo for West of England Sustainable Transport. I’m determined to transform our region’s transport system making it easier for people to get from A to B and to help us reach our stretching net zero targets.

As we begin this journey I want people right across the West of England to be at the heart of our ambitious plans. There is so much talent across our amazing region and so much innovation, history and culture to be inspired by. I’m excited to see what I know will be some brilliant local designs.”

‘New transport logo for the West of England – local residents asked to create stand-out design’ | WECA | 5 January 2022
'New transport logo for the West of England – local residents asked to create stand-out design' | WECA | Jan 2022
West of England Combined Authority | 'Inspire our region's new transport logo!' | Jan 2022

On their website WECA have a section called ‘Hints and tips for designing your new logo’. This perhaps might have been better titled as ‘Hints and tips for designing our new logo’, because any designs submitted become the intellectual property of WECA.

One might also wonder why the authority is even called ‘West of England Combined Authority’, when it actually only covers Greater Bristol. To start with, why don’t they ditch the stupid name, and then maybe think about running a less daft competition?

Written by beleben

January 14, 2022 at 4:37 pm

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

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

Milking the Moseley

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twitter @TransportforWM, Chris Grayling photo-opp in Moseley, 26 Sep 2018

On 26 September, transport secretary Chris Grayling paid another visit to Moseley, Birmingham, for more ‘Camp Hill railway’ photo-opps with local bigwigs. The pretext was the ‘unveiling of the designs’ for stations at Moseley, Kings Heath, and Hazelwell (but not Balsall Heath).

According to the TfWM press release, the detailed planning for the stations is yet to take place and the ‘initial’ service will be just two trains per hour in each direction. But in “the longer term, more frequent services may be possible as part of the Midlands Rail Hub project which will build the Camp Hill Chords to link the line to Moor Street Station and allow more trains into Birmingham City Centre”.

TfWM news, designs unveiled for three new rail stations in Birmingham, 26 Sep 2018

Without frequent trains, the decongestion and air quality benefits of Camp Hill local services would be negligible. But as previously mentioned on the Beleben blog, building the chords into Moor Street, in the complicated form supported by TfWM, is a highly unlikely proposition, for several different reasons.

Building a separate Highgate to Moor Street chord would be more technically plausible, but at present, even the chances of that happening are slim.

Written by beleben

September 27, 2018 at 10:03 am

What do you think of our attractive, reliable and efficient tram system?

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South Yorkshire Supertram - Why try harder (Fatboy Slim album cover)

[Sheffield City Region and SYPTE Mass Transit Questionnaire, 24 Sep 2018]

For over 20 years, Supertram has been connecting high numbers of people to jobs, education, shopping and leisure in Sheffield and beyond. Making over 12 million passenger journeys a year, it plays an important role in the wider public transport network within the Region and is recognised as an attractive, reliable and efficient mode of travel.

The tram system reduces congestion, helps improve air quality, and potentially could play an important part in future plans to better connect residents and businesses to our urban centres and major housing, retail, leisure and employment sites within the Sheffield City Region.

Sheffield Supertram consultation, Sheffield city region and SYPTE, 2018

[Sheffield’s Supertram could be axed and replaced by bus network, says survey, The Star, 25 Sep 2018]

Sheffield’s beloved Supertram network could be axed if transport chiefs fail to convince the government to stump up £230 million to renew the system.

South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive revealed the tram system could be closed because the current trams are ‘coming to the end of their working life’ after more than 20 years’ operation and there is not currently any money set aside to rebuild parts of the network or buy new vehicles.

SYPTE is now hoping to raise £230 million from the Department for Transport to allow the tram system to keep running for another 30 years – but warned if the money doesn’t come, the trams could become a thing of the past.

The transport group has now launched a consultation asking members of the public for their opinions on the future of the trams which will help inform their ‘business case’ to take to Whitehall.

“If we are unsuccessful in securing future funding for a mass transit solution the Supertram network may have to be closed and decommissioned, the cost of which would have to be covered by the region. Closure would also prevent any future network extensions.”

Written by beleben

September 26, 2018 at 9:00 am

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.

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


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.

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