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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

The emerging vision of the daft

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The folly of planning Northern rail links around HS2 is exposed in Transport for the North’s 98-page “Strategic Transport Plan” draft for public consultation, which is being launched today (16 January 2018).

The draft, which is supposed to cover both road and rail, is very short on detail, numbers, and evidence. (Unless statements like “the North is home to 16 million people and 7.2 million jobs”, count as ‘evidence’.)

'Vision' for Northern powerhouse rail (in 2016)

Many of the target journey times and frequencies of the original ‘vision’ (above) seem to have been ‘forgotten’ in the January 2018 iteration of ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’. But, as before, NPR is a dreadful project, which would do almost nothing for everyday transport in the north.

[TfN, Strategic Transport Plan Draft for public consultation, 16 Jan 2018]

The emerging vision for the Northern Powerhouse Rail network includes:

• A new line between Liverpool and the HS2 Manchester Spur via Warrington

• Capacity at Piccadilly for around eight through services per hour

• A new Trans Pennine rail line that connects Manchester and Leeds via Bradford

• Significant upgrades along the corridor of the existing Hope Valley line between Sheffield and Manchester via Stockport

• Leeds to Sheffield delivered through HS2 Phase 2B and upgrading the route from Sheffield

• Leeds to Newcastle via HS2 junction and upgrades to the East Coast Mainline

• Significant upgrades to existing line from Leeds to Hull (via Selby) and Sheffield to Hull (via Doncaster) Alternative concepts will continue to be assessed between Liverpool – Manchester, Manchester – Sheffield, and Manchester – Leeds as part of developing a Strategic Outline Business Case for the programme.

TfN are also exploring plans for shorter term improvements along the Hope Valley corridor between Sheffield and Manchester as a joint priority for both TfN and the Sheffield City Region, and whether transformational journey times could be realised along the existing rail corridor.

If the evidence demonstrates that significant upgrades to the Hope Valley corridor do not look promising in terms of moving towards the transformational outputs, TfN will consider the case for and further assessment of a new line between Manchester and Sheffield. The business case for the elements of this vision require the evidence base to be worked up and completed, and therefore decisions as to the right proposals to implement will depend on further work to establish costs and benefits of these options.

TfN wants to ensure that Northern Powerhouse Rail is fully integrated into the planning of HS2 Phase 2B, to ensure both maximum value for money and that Northern Powerhouse Rail can be developed without delay.

To enable the possibility for Northern Powerhouse Rail services to make use of HS2 infrastructure, it is necessary to incorporate passive provision in the HS2 Phase 2B Hybrid Bill, with funding announced by the Chancellor in October 2017 intended to future proof HS2 for delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail connectivity.

A series of touchpoints between Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 Phase 2B have been identified across the Eastern (Sheffield to Leeds) and Western (Liverpool to Manchester) corridors, as well as at Manchester Piccadilly.

TfN 'emerging vision for Northern powerhouse rail network', 16 Jan 2018 (Contains Ordnance Survey data
© Crown copyright and database right 2017)

Northern powerhouse transport let down, ITV, August 2017

Written by beleben

January 16, 2018 at 11:16 am