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A trip aboard HS2

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HS2 step at platform, diagram

On 20 April an OJEU tender notice was issued for the ‘£2.75 billion, 60-train’ HS2 phase one rolling stock procurement. HS2 Ltd’s Pre-Qualification Technical Summary states its intention to procure “a single fleet of rolling stock that will be capable of operating on the HS2Network and the Conventional Rail Network (CRN), referred to as the ‘Conventional Compatible’ or ‘CC’ fleet”.

A perusal of the PQTS seems to confirm the view that the rolling stock specifications are as muddled as the rest of the project, but HS2 Ltd do not intend to change them in any substantive way.

[HS2 Ltd]

This PQTS is a precursor to the full Train Technical Specification (TTS) which will be provided with the Invitation to Tender. The requirements of this PQTS will be incorporated into the TTS along with other more detailed performance and functional requirements. Note that the TTS will supersede and replace the PQTS. HS2 Ltd does not intend to change in any substantive way the requirements set out in this PQTS. However, HS2 Ltd reserves its right to do so and will identify any such changes in the TTS in due course.

Contrary to all the accessibility hype, the PQTS suggests that there is little to no intention to provide ‘step free access’ between all stations served by HS2 trains. Even on the handful of stations on the captive network (“HS2 Platforms”), ‘step free’ access would involve negotiating, er, steps.

[HS2 Ltd]
The maximum vertical step between the deployed Moveable Step and an HS2 Platform shall be +20/-0mm except under Exceptional PTI Conditions.
Rationale: The maximum single step negotiable, unaided, by 98% of wheelchair users is +20mm; higher steps are negotiable but with decreasing success rates.

[…] The maximum vertical step between the deployed Moveable Step and an HS2 Platform shall be +30/-10mm under all conditions including Exceptional PTI Conditions. The TMM and HS2 will agree the Exceptional PTI Conditions, which are expected to include rarely-experienced vehicle conditions such as deflated suspension or Exceptional Payload.

[…] The maximum horizontal gap between the deployed Moveable Step and an HS2 Platform shall be 30mm.

[…] When deployed, the Moveable Step shall have a minimum horizontal surface depth (perpendicular to the bodyside) of 240mm

[…] The maximum vertical distance between the Moveable Step and the floor of the vestibule shall be 30mm.

Wouldn’t vertical discontinuities of those sizes, on a pavement of the public highway, be considered as “trip hazards”?

Does the claim of HS2 'step free access' match the reality?

Does the claim of HS2 ‘step free access’ match the reality?

The technical standards which HS2 is being designed to are obsolescent and inappropriate. For example, the train crashworthiness is based on a low-speed ‘level crossing’ collision with a heavy goods vehicle (which would be much lighter than the train), yet there would be no level crossings on HS2.

Survivability in realistic crash scenarios at actual HS2 operating speeds, is not considered at all.

 

 

Written by beleben

April 23, 2017 at 5:50 pm

Behind the idea

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Momentum is gathering behind the idea of including Bradford on a high-speed line between Manchester and Leeds, according to the Bradford Telegraph and Argus, and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority has commissioned Arup to investigate the options.

[‘Plans to transform Bradford Forster Square station remain on track’, Claire Wilde, T&A, 6 Feb 2017]

The T&A has found out that the possible options being explored include:

* A through line for Bradford city centre for the first time in its history;

* Bringing the high-speed line underneath the existing city, using tunnels, cuttings, or both;

* A new underground high-speed platform built beneath Bradford Interchange;

* Possible pedestrian subways linking this to Bradford Forster Square station.

[…] The feasibility study will be fed back to working group Transport for the North (TfN) which has been given £60 million of Government funding to draw up proposals for a high-speed link between Leeds and Manchester, which is now called Northern Powerhouse Rail.

If the government cannot fund the electrification of the Selby to Hull railway, what are the chances of a new ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ line being built between Manchester and Leeds, via Bradford?

Bradford, OpenStreetMap

Before the construction of the Broadway development, there would have been the possibility of an affordable heavy rail link across Bradford city centre. However, the council and Integrated Transport Authority, failed to protect an alignment.

Bradford's Forster Square and Exchange stations (1947)

In 1947 Bradford’s Forster Square and Exchange stations were closer together than they are now

Written by beleben

February 7, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Way we won’t

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HS2 provides a “real opportunity to take Northern Powerhouse Rail forward” in that “we” will be able to “use some parts” of that network [HS2] to help us improve connections across the north, according to Transport for the North chief David Brown.

[‘Vital transport links closer to being a reality’, RTM, Jan 2017]

The new and improved northern rail network cradling and interfacing with a fast HS2 rail link is exactly what is needed to provide the capacity and connectivity the north needs to grow and develop its full potential. Working in cohesion, the services will together deliver our vision of city to city links, both east-west and north-south, effectively mobilising one of the most powerful workforces in the UK.

“Exactly what is needed”?

There is no way that rail, or road, development could ‘mobilise’ disparate workforces in cities like Liverpool and Newcastle upon Tyne, into a single so-called ‘Northern powerhouse’. They are simply too far apart.

And there is no way that HS2 – a ‘transport for London’ project – could play a significant role in northern connectivity.

HS2 does not link northern cities, and attempting to re-use sections of phase 2 to perform that function (e.g. between Manchester and Liverpool) is likely to waste enormous sums of public cash.

Building a very high speed railway to London is not a way of improving rail in the north.

Written by beleben

January 19, 2017 at 11:04 am

Posted in HS2, Transport

The semi-detached HS2 chairman

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HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins is to become chairman of Gatwick airport next month, leaving the high-speed rail project “with an increasingly occupied figurehead and no permanent chief executive”.

[HS2 chairman takes job at Gatwick, Gwyn Topham, The Guardian,`15 December 2016]

Higgins, who also spends time working in Australia as a director of the Commonwealth Bank, will take over from Sir Roy McNulty on 1 January at the Sussex airport.

He is paid £240,000 for three days a week at HS2 and is understood to be remaining in post as chair for up to a year, until a replacement is found and as the search for a new chief executive continues.
[…]
HS2 said the extra work would not affect or conflict with Higgins’s current role at HS2.

When he spoke to the House of Commons transport select committee on 12 December 2016, Mr Higgins made no mention of his new Gatwick job. He also omitted to explain that his remarks to the committee, on 17 November 2014, about the relationship between railway speed and capacity, were misleading and inaccurate.

David Higgins told the transport select committee on 17 November 2014 that 'a 220-mph railway can have twice as many trains on it'

In 2013, HS2 Ltd finally admitted that its new line would increase carbon emissions. But on Monday, Mr Higgins told the committee that HS2 was carbon-beneficial (although he had no figures to back that up).

[Transport Select Committee, 12 Dec 2016]

[Chair:] Will High Speed 2 result in a reduction of carbon in the environment?

[Sir David Higgins:] It should, because it is a very carbon-efficient way of moving people. The railway can move 18,000 people an hour so it is very carbon efficient in terms of delivery. I remember seeing the stats. If you compare trains with buses — obviously it depends on the occupancy of the trains themselves — they are much more efficient.

[Chair:] What is the latest estimate for carbon reduction?

[Sir David Higgins:] I do not know that. I do not want to tell you a figure off the top of my head. I will get my experts behind me to write to you about that.

[Chair:] We would like to have that information, please.

In 2013 HS2 Ltd finally admitted that its new line would increase carbon emissions

An internal HS2 Ltd document on aspirations for ‘level boarding’ from platform to train stated “there are no obvious grounds” for a European ‘Technical Standards for Interoperability’ derogation. But when asked on 12 December if HS2 were seeking a derogation, Mr Higgins replied, ‘Yes’.

[Transport Select Committee, 12 Dec 2016]

[Graham Stringer MP:] There was a report in The Sunday Times yesterday that European regulations mean that the platform heights on HS2 will make it difficult for disabled people. Is that story true?

[Sir David Higgins:] I saw the article. The answer is that we are going to build platform heights between 1.1 and 1.2 metres, which will allow full access for disabled people. We have to get regulation exemptions from the current ones, and we are having that whole discussion with the European Commission. It does not make any sense whatsoever to build platforms at a low height when we want speed of access and proper disabled access to the station. I am really clear where the Government are on this. We want to discuss it with Europe and the Commission very carefully, but we do not want to build a platform height that does not deliver proper access. We will never get the turn-round times if we do that either.

[Graham Stringer MP:] Getting the platforms at the right height effectively depends on getting a derogation from the regulations?

[Sir David Higgins:] Correct.

Internal HS2 Ltd document about level boarding stating there are no obvious grounds for a 'TSI derogation'

Internal HS2 Ltd document about level boarding stating there are no obvious grounds for a TSI derogation

Written by beleben

December 16, 2016 at 10:54 am

Posted in HS2, Industry, Transport

Northern rail threatened by vanity projects

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‘New research commissioned by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority shows that the high-speed rail links could deliver a £15bn boost to the economy, as well as 20,000 jobs, 10,000 homes and an extra 2.9 million visitors a year’ (reported RTM Magazine on 31 October).

[Liverpool leaders call for £15bn boost from HS2 and HS3 links, RTM, 2016-10-31]

Councillor Liam Robinson, chair of the Merseytravel committee, added that Merseytravel’s aim was to secure “a brand new, twin-track, rail line between Liverpool and Manchester” with direct connections to HS2, and a new station at Liverpool Lime Street capable of receiving HS2 trains.

Cllr Robinson said this would reduce the journey time between Liverpool and Manchester by 50% and between Liverpool and London by 25%.

But where is this “new research” to be found? At the time of writing, it does not feature on what passes for the Combined Authority’s website. And there is no sign of an e-mail address for freedom of information requests.

Current fast trains between Manchester and Liverpool complete the journey in around 32 minutes, and the cost of a new line to cut that “by 50%” would be enormous.

HS2 Linking Liverpool website homepage, viewed 04 Nov 2016 

Councillor Robinson’s “aim” looks like a vanity project in the same vein as the proposed Manchester to Leeds ‘HS3’. If progressed, these absurd schemes could destroy the chances of creating a coherent rail system in the north.

Earlier this year, 'Linking Liverpool' claimed a '£10 billion benefit' from building high speed rail track into Liverpool - now, it seems, the claimed benefit is '£15 billion'

Home page of Liverpool City Region website, viewed 04 Nov 2016

Written by beleben

November 4, 2016 at 10:18 am

Rutnam weak end retrovision

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Philip RutnamPhilip Rutnam, head of chumpery at the Department for Transport, has revealed that ‘cancellation costs to the public sector of up to £15m combined with “sunk costs of around £13.5m committed by DfT and £22m by Tfl” mean that more than £50m will be lost’ if London’s Joanna Lumley memorial bridge fails to go ahead, the Observer reported last weekend (15 October).

Apparently, Mr Rutnam is now claiming ‘he has long had serious concerns about the bridge’s viability’.

“After examining the business case for the project in summer 2014, my judgment was that the transport benefits of the project were limited and came with a relatively high level of risk to value for money.”

Does that mean Mr Rutnam is going to try to wriggle out of responsibility for the ailing high speed rail project, by suddenly claiming he has ‘long held serious concerns about the viability of HS2’?

Written by beleben

October 20, 2016 at 4:09 pm

Posted in HS2, Transport

Pioneering connections to HS2

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'Pioneering and unique'?Coventry councillors are exploring the return of street trams with “pioneering modern technology”, according to the Coventry Observer.

[EXCLUSIVE: Plan to return trams to Coventry streets to link to HS2, Les Reid, Coventry Observer, Oct 12, 2016, minor typo edits]

A unique rapid transit ‘light rail’ system is being considered to connect Coventry station with Warwick University and beyond.

It would connect Coventry city centre with the new HS2 high speed rail Birmingham interchange station near the NEC and Birmingham Airport planned for 2026.
[…]
The idea has been explored for months by Coventry City Council’s cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, councillor Jim O’Boyle, and his deputy cabinet member, councillor David Welsh, who is also on the new transport delivery committee of the West Midlands Combined Authority.
[…]
Coun Welsh said modern technological advances allowed for relatively inexpensive and non-obstructive rails to be laid along roads.

He added it could be more cost-effective than tram systems elsewhere in the West Midlands, and better than having proposed sprint buses to connect the city with HS2.

Coun O’Boyle said: “It could cost millions rather than tens of millions.
[…]
“We want something that is unique and a 21st century solution rather than 20th century. We have Warwick Manufacturing Group on our doorstep so why not use them?

Written by beleben

October 13, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Posted in Politics, Transport