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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

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

HS2 Birmingham stations ‘to open in 2026’

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The latest official visualisations for the proposed HS2 stations in Birmingham and Middle Bickenhill were launched at the Library of Birmingham on 9 October. According to HS2 Ltd, the two stations will open in 2026, ‘along with the rest of Phase One’.

The company says it is ‘seeking feedback’ from the public about the designs, but has public opinion ever played much of a role in the development of megaprojects in Britain?


A few years ago, when Network Rail ‘consulted’ before the £600 million revamp of New Street station, the faults in their design were pointed out to them. Of course, Network Rail took not a blind bit of notice, and lo and behold, the redeveloped station is a complete mess. It’s so bad, that Cross Country Trains advise people to avoid changing trains there, if they can.

XC Trains, avoid changing at Birmingham New Street

Anyway, the HS2 Curzon terminus, designed by WSP and Grimshaw Architects, would be ‘Britain’s first new intercity station since the nineteenth century’.

Apart from, Bristol Parkway, Birmingham International, East Midlands Parkway, and Ebbsfleet (?).

The old Curzon Street station closed in 1966 (HS2 Ltd tweeted on 17 September).

twitter, @HS2ltd, Curzon Street station closed in 1966

Actually, Curzon Street was retained by British Rail into the 1970s. At the time of writing, the Getty Images site has a picture of the interior, ‘dated’ 21 October 1967, a year after it “closed”.

Arup-designed Bickenhill HS2 station, visualisation of exterior, 9 Oct 2018

In its well-balanced report on the new stations, ITV Central News asked Mike Lyons of HS2 Ltd about the cost of Curzon Street. He declined to give any figure.

And Liam Byrne MP tweeted he would be ‘campaigning for the station to include the greatest science museum in Britain’ (?).

twitter, @LiamByrneMP, HS2 station designs look like a traditional railway shed

It’s important to remember that HS2 is a hugely expensive, environmentally damaging, and entirely unnecessary project. The existing West Coast and Chiltern railways can meet all foreseeable capacity requirements, including the Department for Transport’s “Higher Growth” scenario.

Written by beleben

October 10, 2018 at 9:30 am

Elmdon drivel is good to hear

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twitter, @_DSlade, HS2 would make Birmingham airport faster to reach from Euston than Heathrow

Does Wolverhampton councillor Roger Lawrence really believe that, from Euston, HS2 would make Birmingham airport quicker to reach than Heathrow?

The government’s plans for HS2 have never included a station at Birmingham airport. The nearest high speed station would be in Middle Bickenhill, 2 km away, so some form of onward transport would be necessary.

Since all HS2 trains out of Euston would stop at Old Oak, it would be way quicker to reach Heathrow. By getting off there, and switching to Crossrail.

With or without HS2, Birmingham airport is not going to be quicker to reach than Heathrow.

Written by beleben

September 25, 2018 at 12:31 pm

Posted in London, Politics, Railways

Jack versus history

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Jack Brereton MP, a member of the Commons transport select committee, has welcomed the ‘root and branch review‘ of rail announced by the government on 20 September.

[Jack Brereton: It isn’t too late to save the railway from the disaster of re-nationalisation, Conservative Home, published on  September 22, 2018]

Yesterday morning, the Government launched a review of the rail industry.

After a summer of timetabling chaos, the collapse of the East Coast franchise and rising ticket prices, a review of the current franchise model is welcome and will help focus on getting private sector dynamism in our railway back on track.

But to focus solely on improvements to franchising would be a missed opportunity to think radically about widening open access in place of franchising. There are difficult and challenging questions to be asked, and any review should be prepared to ask them.

The transport secretary Chris Grayling has indicated he wants to see train operation integrated more closely with the railway itself. How would ‘open access’, or on-track competition between operators, be compatible with Chris Grayling’s ‘vision’ of  ‘deep alliancing’, or whatever?

[JB:] A quarter of a century has elapsed since the Conservatives won the 1992 election with a mandate to privatise our railway. And it should be remembered here that it was commercial investment in rail travel that restored it as a viable and dynamic competitor to the car – with the private sector delivering massive increases in passenger miles that had seemed utterly impossible under British Rail.

This was a complete turnaround. Many officials had previously believed that rail had had its day and had no part in our future transport network – a view they held because of the abject failure of railway nationalisation.

Is the rate of growth of passenger journeys on the ‘privatised railway’ since the mid 1990s, much different to the growth on the ‘unprivatised railway’ (London Underground and Translink) over the same period?

[JB:] However, the private sector reforms introduced by the John Major government soon fell foul of the meddling governments of Blair and Brown, and we have yet to revive fully the dynamism that has been lost in the prescriptive nature of the current franchise model.

What was the ‘meddling’ of the Blair and Brown governments that the private sector reforms fell foul of? The establishment of the Strategic Rail Authority? The placing of Railtrack in Railway Administration when it ran out of money? Or something else?

According to press reports, a revival of the ‘New Labour’ SRA, in some form, is being viewed as an alternative to the ‘Jeremy Corbyn Labour’ policy of renationalisation.

[JB:] We travel further and more frequently for work than previous generations, journeys best suited to rail. Tourism, both for domestic and international visitors, is booming – again a great opportunity for rail. And our railway will play an increasingly important role in moving freight, including to and from our ports – a particularly important consideration for Global Britain.

Now is the time to be bold once again and restore competitive dynamism to the marketplace. It’s time for an overhaul. Reforms that will deliver the railway Britain deserves for generations to come. A system that will deliver for passengers, businesses, communities and taxpayers nationwide.

I welcome today’s launch, and I hope to see a root-and-branch review both of the way our railway works today, and how it should be reformed for a successful future as a dynamic, customer-focused, competitive industry.

Labour’s renationalisation proposals risk taking our railway backwards. Back to before the private sector, when we had one of the worst safety records in Europe, out-of-control running costs, and the detrimental Beeching cuts because politicians were mismanaging the system.

But did British Rail have one of the ‘worst safety records in Europe’, and ‘out-of-control running costs’? Were the Beeching cuts caused by politicians mismanaging the system?

[JB:] To go forward we need competition to unlock new technology, provide more customer-focused services, and reduce costs. The innovation required on rail to meet rapidly changing economic and social needs can only come from a properly functioning, competitive market, not the failed economics of nationalisation.

It’s time for honesty about the limitations of the current franchise model, and a full, independent look at promoting enterprise, competition and innovation in our railway and how it should be set up to deliver for everyone in Britain and for future generations to come. The country expects nothing less.

Sunday Telegraph, Jo Johnson MP favours competitive open access rail

Written by beleben

September 24, 2018 at 12:09 pm

Posted in Politics, Railways

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