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Northern powerhouse rail and labour mobility

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[From Five facts about the Randstad and Rhine-Ruhr, with comparison to the Northern Powerhouse, Paul Swinney | Centre for Cities | 1 June 2016]

An argument often put forward about both the Randstad and Rhine-Ruhr is that their transport links allow people to live in one city but work in another, suggesting that there would be benefits for the North of England in strengthening transport links between cities. But the data suggests that people don’t use the transport links in this way.

The travel patterns across all three areas, appear to suggest that if a worker wants to live in a city, they will mostly choose to live in the city that they work within. Otherwise they will choose to live in the countryside surrounding the city they work in, rather than another city.

Centre for Cities, distribution of Greater Manchester High Skill Commuting

[Paul Swinney]

The speeds achieved by intercity rail connections between the cities of the Randstad and Rhine-Ruhr are not a great deal quicker than between cities in the Northern Powerhouse.


Written by beleben

September 21, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Posted in Leeds, Manchester, Railways

Island of lost goals

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On 10 September, the House of Commons transport committee questioned Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines about ‘key challenges’ and ‘priorities for his tenure’.

For one of those ‘challenges’ — capacity on Manchester’s Castlefield corridor and the Ordsall chord — ‘experts’ said the creation of additional through platforms (15 and 16) at Piccadilly station was ‘vital’, the Manchester Evening News reported in February 2017.

But the month before, Network Rail’s then chief executive Mark Carne stated that construction of this additional island platform might not go ahead, even if government approval were given.

[Charlotte Cox, Manchester Evening News, 8 Feb 2017]

Mark Carne, chief executive at Network Rail, said they were looking at the ‘cost-benefit ratio’ [of the Manchester Piccadilly and Oxford Road Capacity Scheme], raising fears of a delay or cancellation.

Experts have said the expansion is vital to cope with extra trains on the Ordsall Chord, the £85m track connecting Piccadilly, Victoria and Oxford Road currently under construction.

According to recent freedom of information responses, neither Network Rail nor Transport for Greater Manchester hold any information about the monetised costs and benefits of platforms 15 and 16.

Network Rail information response about Manchester Piccadilly platforms 15 and 16, September 2018, page 1

Network Rail information response about Manchester Piccadilly platforms 15 and 16, September 2018, page 2

Network Rail information response about Manchester Piccadilly platforms 15 and 16, September 2018, page 3

Mr Haines’ responses to questions at the transport committee session on 10 September suggested that consideration was being given to ‘traffic management‘ and using different rolling stock, instead of ‘delivery’ of platforms 15 and 16.
Manchester Piccadilly platform 14, July 2014 (c) David Dixon (Creative Commons)

Written by beleben

September 18, 2018 at 4:25 pm

Posted in Manchester, Railways

This level of ambition

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On 13 September, BBC News and its Look North tv show reported on the modernisation of the 69 km Transpennine North railway between Leeds, Dewsbury, Huddersfield, Stalybridge, and Manchester.

[TransPennine £2.9bn rail upgrade will cause ‘major disruption’, BBC News website, 13 Sep 2018]

Passengers on TransPennine trains will face five years of major disruption during a planned £2.9bn upgrade of the route, a leaked letter has revealed.

The letter from Network Rail to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said there would be line closures for 39 weeks a year from 2020 until 2024.
The letter from Rob McIntosh at Network Rail, says the route is “a Victorian construction that passes through the heart of the Pennines with its inherently challenging topography”.

The minister is warned that access to the many tunnels and bridges along the routes “will be limited and difficult”.

Mr McIntosh says: “This level of ambition cannot be delivered without significant disruption during the course of the works.”

Leaked letter about the scheme (via @joepike, twitter)

Leaked letter about the scheme (via @joepike, twitter)

But the ‘level of ambition’ for the TPN upgrade, is yet to be disclosed. Although the line ‘will be electrified’, according to reporter Spencer Stokes, that might just mean from Leeds to Huddersfield (27 km). In that case, all trains would have to be bi-mode or diesel, to move between Stalybridge and Huddersfield (29 km).

BBC Look North, Transpennine rail modernisation story, 13 Sep 2018

Surely, there would be little to no point in such ‘Cispennine electrification’.

BBC Look North, Transpennine rail modernisation story, 13 Sep 2018

Chris Grayling: 'We will be creating a mainly 4 track railway', Bradford Telegraph and Argus, 12 Sep 2018

[Telegraph & Argus, 12 Sep 2018]

The programme of work for the Transpennine route includes:

renewal of equipment that is contributing to poor performance;

introducing electrification between Leeds and Huddersfield and Stalybridge to Manchester Victoria;

reinstating four tracks between Huddersfield and Ravensthorpe, near Dewsbury;

introducing digital signalling between Cottingley (in south-west Leeds) and Stalybridge;

line speed improvements between Manchester and Stalybridge, Morley and Ulleskelf to York;

increasing capacity at Leeds and Calder Valley stations and enhancing Huddersfield and Stalybridge stations.

Whatever the level of ambition, upgrading the TPN route would be far less disruptive than building a new line from scratch across the Pennines (‘Northern powerhouse rail’). For NPR, everything would have to be brought to and from site by road, meaning tens of thousands of HGV movements.

So why not scrap the ‘plan’ for NPR, and use some of that money for a proper upgrade of the Calder Valley and Transpennine North lines, including full electrification?

BBC Look North, Transpennine rail modernisation story, 13 Sep 2018, reporter Spencer Stokes at Huddersfield station

If a 35 minute journey time between Manchester and Leeds is achievable from a capability uplift on the existing line, why would anyone, apart from deluded wonks and nutjobs, support NPR?

Written by beleben

September 14, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Leeds, Manchester, Railways

East Coast vindication massage

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The House of Commons transport committee report into the demise of Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC), published today, seems to vindicate what trade journalists were saying, according to Nick Kingsley, managing editor of the Railway Gazette.

twitter, @njak_100, 'Transport Committee report into the demise of Virgin Trains East Coast seems to vindicate what trade journalists were saying and contradict most of the rambling on Twitter. I'm shocked!'

Apple thinking face emojiBut what were ‘trade journalists’ saying at the time it became known that VTEC was failing, and does it accord with the findings in the transport committee report? There must be some libraries which have back copies of ‘Rail’, ‘Railway Magazine’, ‘Modern Railways’, etc. For instance, didn’t Nigel Harris, of ‘Rail’ magazine, claim that VTEC’s failure was, in essence, down to Network Rail’s failure to deliver ‘promised upgrades’?

Beleben blog, 17 May 2018, Vtec got their figures wrong

twitter, @rail (Nigel Harris), drawing erroneous conclusions

[Transport Select Committee, Sep 2018]

35. Sir Richard Branson’s comments in January 2018 left the initial impression that the delay to assumed infrastructure enhancements contributed to the early termination of this franchise. We conclude that Network Rail do not bear any responsibility for the early termination of this franchise. To date, Network Rail have provided all the infrastructure upgrades that it had formally committed to when this franchise was let. A series of other upgrades were assumed to occur by the DfT and VTEC to deliver an enhanced timetable from 2019 onward; though there was no formal funding commitment to these upgrades when the franchise was let.

twitter, @rail, critics start with hatred of Branson

Transport Select Committee, VTEC failure primarily down to VTEC, 12 Sep 2018

So, for accurate research, analysis, and comment on VTEC, HS2, and other debacles, support the Beleben blog. You know it makes sense.

Written by beleben

September 12, 2018 at 11:34 am

Posted in Politics, Railways

Hue and croy

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There are almost as many rail passengers passing through East Croydon as on all the inter-city journeys to the north of London put together, according to Angie Doll, of Network Rail, and this section of railway also has more train movements than anywhere else in Britain, making it a major factor in delays and disruption to services.

But Network Rail is looking to upgrade the existing infrastructure to provide extra capacity, through its ‘Croydon Area Remodelling Scheme’, rather than create a new railway. According to the company’s John Halsall, “Redeveloping [i.e. upgrading] the railway through Croydon is the only practical way to further improve the reliability of services on the Brighton Main Line”.

Network Rail, East Croydon busier than-wcml

Conversely, north of the Thames, as a result of the HS2 project, capacity can be expected to decrease on the West Coast Main Line, with the number of Euston classic platforms falling from 18 to 13, and a less homogeneous service on the fast lines.

How HS2 would reduce the number of classic platforms at Euston

Written by beleben

September 10, 2018 at 1:08 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics, Railways

Neutering the rail nationalisation argument

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Ministers are ‘considering’ a wide-ranging and major review of Britain’s railways to ‘rebuild confidence in the privatised network’, The Times reported on 5 September. The review was ‘likely to look at resurrecting the Strategic Rail Authority’ in an ‘attempt to neuter the nationalisation argument’.

The Times, 5 Sep 2018, rail review under consideration

The creation of a Strategic Rail Authority was a Blairite idea, which the New Labour government itself killed off after just five years. In its short life, the SRA displayed its shortcomings over and over again. In 2002, £58 million of public cash was handed over by the SRA to the train operator Connex South Eastern, before a report (the Authority had commissioned) concluded that the company had ‘an inadequate grasp of basic financial modelling and cashflow management’.

The Independent, 'Watchdog blasts SRA over £2bn train disaster'

ASLEF accused the SRA of idiocy of unimaginable proportions

With the case for SRA 2.0 ‘proven’, surely the only question remaining is, who should be chief executive? Robert Nisbet, perhaps? Or Richard Brown?

Written by beleben

September 6, 2018 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Railways

The people within reach

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The whole of page four of Transport for the North’s Northern powerhouse rail booklet is given over to a diagram of how it would supposedly change the ‘number of people within reach of four or more city regions’.

But it is not clear how these figures were arrived at, and they do not appear to make sense.

Northern powerhouse rail booklet, people within reach of 4 or more city regions

Does Transport for the North have an explanation of the diagram?

Judging by their complete lack of response, it would appear that they don’t.

Written by beleben

September 5, 2018 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Planning, Politics, Railways