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Archive for the ‘Transport’ Category

The walrus of hyperbole

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By “taking the brakes off incremental rail infrastructure growth”, Northern Powerhouse Rail “will unleash massive potential for growth and commercial interaction across the region”, linking the North’s six major economic centres and its largest international airport “with the sort of fast and frequent services that will mean ‘turn up and go’ travel becomes a reality” (wrote Barry White, chief executive of Transport for the North).

[Barry White, CEO of Transport for the North explains what the country’s first sub-national transport body has planned for the North, Rail Professional, 23 March 2018]

What effect might it have? Consider this. At the moment, studies show there are only 10,000 people who can reach four or more northern cities by rail in under an hour. With Northern Powerhouse Rail in place, that number will rise to 1.3 million.

TfGM information response letter, page 1 (personal information removed)

TfGM information response letter, page 2

TfGM information response letter, page 3

TfGM information response, Annex A_NPR Accessibility, 1

TfGM information response, Annex A_NPR Accessibility, 2

So TfN do not know who these “10,000 people” are, or what cities they could reach within an hour, or why it is important for them to be able to make journeys to these unknown cities within an hour.


Written by beleben

May 4, 2018 at 9:57 am

Posted in Politics, Transport

More photo-opps than answers

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twitter, @andy4wm at Brierley Hill

On a whistle stop photo-opp tour of the Black Country with mayor Andy Street yesterday, transport secretary Chris Grayling visited “the future site of Willenhall Railway Station”, the Midland Metro depot at Wednesbury (to see an ‘upgraded’ battery bi-mode tramcar), and the planned terminus of the Metro extension at Brierley Hill.

twitter @BBCPeterPlisner, 'Transport sec Chris Grayling was in town to see the first upgraded [Metro] vehicle'

Another photo-opp at Moseley village, in nearby Birmingham, was in support of ‘reworked plans’ to reopen some stations on the Camp Hill line.

twitter, @TransportforWM, Transport secretary Chris Grayling MP meets @Andy4WM in a visit to the Midlands and confirms @transportgovuk will consider plans to reinstate passenger services on Birmingham's Camp Hill line

Previous local authority plans to restore stopping services on the Camp Hill line had envisaged the construction of a new viaduct at Bordesley, to enable trains to run into Moor Street station.

This “Bordesley chord” was promoted as an essential part of the Camp Hill ‘reactivation’, helping to de-congest New Street station.

The Bordesley chord, mentioned in a BBC Midlands Today report in March 2017, now appears to have been abandoned

But in February, West Midlands mayor Andy Street said that the difficult-to-construct Bordesley chord would not be needed if existing trains from Hereford ran via the Camp Hill line, stopping at the rebuilt stations, and then ran into, er, Birmingham New Street.

[Birmingham Mail, 28 Feb, updated 1 Mar 2018]

[Andy Street:] “But instead of turning round [at New Street] and taking up platform space for valuable extra minutes, the service would then go forward to somewhere like Shrewsbury”.

twitter, @andy4wm, reopening Walsall to Wolverhampton railway is a key priority

Beyond the photo-opps, how much of all this stands up, in terms of value for money?

twitter, @andy4wm, talking with Neil Elkes

Written by beleben

March 9, 2018 at 9:33 am

Posted in HS2, Politics, Transport

This year’s (broken) model

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In yesterday’s “update” to Parliament on the East Coast, West Coast and East Midlands rail franchises, transport secretary Chris Grayling claimed that “other countries are now adopting Britain’s model for running the railways”.

But what is the “model”?

Do his recent statements not signal that “the model” is being changed (again)?

Chris Grayling, update on the East Coast, West Coast, and East Midlands rail franchises, 5 Feb 2018

In 2012 the ‘Brown review‘ noted that “confidence in franchising and the rail sector have been severely damaged by the problems that came to light on the ICWC competition” but claimed, “There is no credible case for major structural change”.

A year earlier, the Commons Public Accounts Committee concluded that the Department for Transport “did not undertake sufficient due diligence on the bid by National Express for the East Coast franchise. Crucially, the Department did not test any of the bids against the impact of an economic downturn.”

[PAC, 2011]

In future the Department must make clear to [train] companies that failure to deliver on their obligations will have serious lasting consequences.

Propellerheads ft Shirley Bassey, 'History Repeating'

Written by beleben

February 6, 2018 at 11:18 am

Après-pose advice

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If Virgin Trains East Coast is having ‘revenue difficulties’ just three years into its franchise, what does that say about the ability to forecast rail passenger volumes and revenues much further into the future, for HS2?

According to journalist Tom Bower, when Richard Branson was planning to secure the renewal of the West Coast franchise, he advised then-transport minister Theresa Villiers to ignore the impossibility of accurately predicting future revenues over the length of a thirteen-year contract.

[Branson: Behind The Mask, Tom Bower, Faber & Faber, 2014, ISBN 978-0-571-29709-2]

The guaranteed profits and the opportunity to pose on engines for photographers roused Branson to plan his tactics for the renewal of the West Coast franchise in 2013, following the extension from 2012. To tilt the odds in Virgin’s favour, he visited Theresa Villiers, the new Tory transport minister. In the passengers’ interest, he told Villiers, the government should grant a long franchise in order to benefit from Virgin’s investment and experience. She should, he advised, ignore the impossibility of accurately predicting future revenues over the length of a thirteen-year contract, and also the certainty of disruption if construction started at Euston station for HS2, the high-speed train.

TV meets RB (Simpsonised)

RB advises

Written by beleben

January 23, 2018 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Politics, Transport

Drawing erroneous conclusions

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At the Commons Transport Committee on 22 January, secretary of state Chris Grayling stated that the reason that the Virgin Trains East Coast franchise had run into difficulties “is purely and simply about the revenue it has received to date”.

There was, in essence, a danger it would run out of money before 2020, and new arrangements might be needed sooner rather than later.

Chris Grayling, Parliamentlive tv, 22 Jan 2018

'Instead of reading nonsense written by MSM journalists who know nothing about rail, try reading real rail journalists, franchise ended early because of failings of DfT and Network Rail'

twitter, @holdmch, 'no matter what rail franchise bidders may perceive in nods / winks, the bid criteria and risks are absolutely explicit in invitations to tender'

VTEC, Someone is 'drawing erroneous conclusions'

twitter, @holdmch, 'the making of the mess'

The contract still intact

The grabbing hands
Grab all they can
All for themselves after all

[Songwriter: Martin Gore
Everything Counts © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC]

Written by beleben

January 22, 2018 at 10:11 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

Massive expenditure for very little return

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On 15 July 2015 the Beleben blog stated that “The HS2 stage two concept features dead-end stations in Manchester (new Piccadilly) and Leeds (New Lane), and attempts to adapt for ‘Northern connectivity’ are likely to involve significant additional expenditure for limited returns”.

Little surprise then, to find the proposals for Northern powerhouse rail in Transport for the North’s January 2018 strategic transport plan draft (which consider HS2 to be “a central part of the rail proposition for the North”) involve massive expenditure for very little return.

Northern powerhouse rail, Jan 2018 iteration, draft proposals for Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield

Consider, for example, the TfN proposal for a new-build line from HS2 into Liverpool.


Emerging analysis shows that a service from Liverpool to Manchester Piccadilly, via Warrington and Manchester Airport, could take around 28 minutes, compared to the current fastest service of 50 minutes between Manchester Piccadilly and Liverpool.

The fastest train service between Manchester and Liverpool is currently about 32 minutes, on the Chat Moss route. As the Beleben blog has pointed out, there is not going to be an economic case for spending ~£3 billion (~£4 billion, for captive 400-metre trains) on a new railway into Liverpool, to save 4 minutes on a journey to Manchester. It’s just lunacy.

Official map of proposed HS2 railway in the Manchester and Warrington area

twitter @MichaelDugher, 'Whilst we obsess in Britain about transport “plans” and expensive new lines, most people would just settle for some more trains, more carriages and a few longer platforms'

twitter @DaveHarrisonBBC, John Prescott bloody fraud

Written by beleben

January 16, 2018 at 12:58 pm