Archive for the ‘West Yorkshire’ Category
Five days after the transport strategy for Leeds hit the buffers, “sorry” still appears the hardest word of all to say (wrote Tom Richmond).
[Tom Richmond: The Trolleybus scandal. Leeds humiliated by breakdown of transport leadership, Yorkshire Post, 17 May 2016]
Indeed this lack of contrition, after a Government planning inspector rejected the city’s ill-conceived £250m trolleybus plan, is precisely the type of dismissive behaviour which brings politics – and public life – into disrepute. Is no one going to accept responsibility?
Already £72m of taxpayers’ money has gone to waste on legal costs in a congested city no nearer to developing a light rail system than it was three decades ago. And some of the key figures are the same individuals driving transport policy for the wider region.
There’s Keith Wakefield, the longstanding leader of Leeds Council until he stepped down in May 2015. The Labour veteran now heads transport on the Combined Authority and says trolleybus was pursued “in line with government advice”.
There’s Tom Riordan who headed the profligate Yorkshire Forward regional development agency before becoming council chief executive in 2010.
There’s Trolleybus champion James Lewis who headed Metro, the area’s passenger transport body, before it was replaced by West Yorkshire Combined Authority. The Labour councillor is deputy leader of Leeds Council.
And then there’s Martin Farrington, the director of city development in Leeds since 2010 and project leader. Under cross-examination, he conceded that he was “not an expert” in “transport planning”.
It’s summed up by the closing legal submission of bus firm First West Yorkshire Limited: “Despite claiming that there was a need for a rapid transport system, Mr Farrington was not aware of the average speed of the proposed trolleybuses…
“When asked what proportion of passengers using the trolleybus would come from using the car, he candidly said that he was not in a position to answer and had ‘no idea’.”
In July 2012 Justine Greening, transport secretary in the coalition government, said that the Leeds NGT trolleybus scheme would make “public transport in Leeds more accessible and attractive than ever before”.
[Green light for Leeds trolleybus, Department for Transport and Justine Greening, July 2012]
[JG:] …and I know trolleybuses will be transformational for growth and jobs in West Yorkshire.
But on 12 May 2016, the Department for Transport (DfT) issued a statement saying the scheme was “not suitable for development“.
What a shame that so much money has been spent on this ‘transformational’ boondoggle.
The siting of Curzon Street and Bickenhill stations suggests that Birmingham Chamber of Commerce do not see a need for a high speed station to be be well integrated with the existing rail network.
But West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce seems to have a somewhat different view. It wants redevelopment of the existing Leeds City station to accommodate HS2 (instead of building a separate terminus at New Lane), and extensive modifications to the classic railway network in the locality.
[WNY Chamber position paper, July 2015]
[…] In late 2014, Chancellor Osborne announced plans for HS3 (now TransNorth rail) as a solution for east-west rail connectivity (Liverpool to Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle via Manchester and/or Leeds) – this brings with it additional implications for Leeds’ city centre station and presents further opportunities to rethink its location and approaches.
[…] As highlighted by Sir David Higgins (March 2014), any [West Yorkshire] high speed station must be fully integrated with the existing rail network to ensure the benefits of HS2 and TransNorth are spread throughout the sub-region.
WNY Chamber seems to have ‘borrowed’ proposals such as the Aire valley rail link from HSUK‘s Yorkshire Rail strategy, but judging by ‘Figure 6’ above, it seems to be less concerned about connectivities outside of Leeds itself.
Obviously, the development favoured by WNY Chamber would involve extensive disruption to the existing rail network. The claim that building HS2 would be ‘less disruptive than upgrading the existing railway’, does not have a factual basis.
The Department for Transport’s October 2013 Strategic Case for HS2 included a diagram showing ‘expert judgement’ of post-2019 capacity pressure on [some] North — South railways. (The Chiltern and GN/GE Joint lines were not included.)
As can be seen, the ‘expert judgement’ was that the Leeds to York, Leeds to Wakefield, and Sheffield to Chesterfield lines would face “High” capacity pressure, along with Leeds station.
For the West Midlands, SDG’s judgement was that the Birmingham — Coventry — Rugby and Birmingham — Wolverhampton lines would face High capacity pressure, along with New Street station.
How HS2 might improve capacity pressure ‘post-2019’ is hard to see, because no part of it would open before 2026, and Leeds would not be reached until 2032 or thereabouts. But even if the complete Y network were available, in the case of Leeds, HS2 captive track would only be used for southbound travel (to Meadowhall and beyond). The prospects for capacity relief on the York / Selby (Cross Gates) line would be minimal.
The Department for Transport put forward the idea of a Dore to Meadowhall ‘shuttle’ to improve local access to the South Yorkshire HS2 station, which would presumably take up (rather than free up) capacity on the Chesterfield to Sheffield line.
Another puzzle is that only one pair of rail tracks is shown between Wakefield and Leeds (two separate routes are currently available).
The West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive allowed the former Great Western route from Birmingham to Wolverhampton to be closed in 1972, effectively cutting capacity in half. Capacity shortage on the LMS Stour Valley route via Dudley Port is largely a consequence of that closure.
The prospects of HS2 providing classic capacity uplift west or east of Birmingham New Street look quite limited, and it is interesting that no straight comparisons of ‘before HS2’ and ‘after HS2’ service patterns have been published.
One left-field threat to capacity between Birmingham, Coventry and Rugby is the half-baked ‘Electric Spine‘ proposal to route freight trains via Leamington Spa and Nuneaton. Such trains would traverse two flat junctions at Coventry, blocking the main line for several minutes at a time. Unlike HS2, the Spine concept has some potential, but is largely unworkable in its present form.
The Leeds NGT trolleybus project is seriously flawed, and needs to be re-thought.
Unfortunately, the West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority is in denial. Its chairman, Councillor James Lewis, is to host a public meeting about NGT on Wednesday 5th June from 7.30pm to 9pm at the HEART Centre, Bennett Road, Headingley, Leeds LS6 3HN. It’s supposedly an ‘Opportunity to correct misinformation and explain the facts about the project’.
The important facts are:
1. NGT is seriously flawed
2. NGT needs to be re-thought
3. Spin doesn’t help.
HS2 Ltd’s ‘Leeds‘ information sheet, focuses on benefits to the city (a different approach to the Meadowhall sheet, which was titled “South Yorkshire”, rather than “Sheffield”).
The infosheet’s route map shows towns like Dewsbury, Bradford, and Halifax, but not their HS2 through journey times. Leeds New Lane is planned as a dead end, perhaps with some kind of travelator link to the existing City station. How long travellers’ regional-to-HS2 interchange would take, is unexplained.
Travel from (for example) Bradford to Coventry, or Huddersfield to Redditch, would be a less than straightforward business, as further disconnectivity issues would come into play at Bickenhill or Curzon Street HS2 stations.
Journey times from Leeds New Lane HS2 were given as: London, 82 minutes (currently 132); Birmingham 57 minutes (currently 118); Nottingham 46 (currently 106); and Sheffield 27 (currently 41).
The relatively short distance between London and West Yorkshire means that scope for journey time reductions is limited. As on London-to-Edinburgh, a London-to-Leeds time fairly similar to that of HS2 could be achieved on the existing East Coast line, with 225 km/h tilting carriages.
If fast classic trains approached Leeds City from the east, they could run on to Bradford, Huddersfield, or Halifax. The result would be a faster point-to-point journey than HS2, for a larger number of people. The majority of West Yorkshire’s population does not live in Leeds.
Where HS2 does have an edge, is for trips between Leeds and Toton, but the monetised economic benefits of such journeys are not very large. Part of the reason why today’s trains between Leeds, Nottingham, and Sheffield are ‘slow’, is the need to serve intermediate points (Wakefield etc), to achieve a reasonable loading.
On 6 February, Bradford East MP David Ward (Liberal Democrat) asked the government about economic benefits for Bradford from HS2, and received a boilerplate soundbite answer.
Mr Ward: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to ensure that Bradford and Leeds-Bradford airport receive the maximum potential economic benefit from Phase 2 of High Speed 2.
Mr Simon Burns: Phase Two of High Speed 2 will transform journey times, capacity and connectivity between major cities of the north, Midlands and London, enabling northern regions to fulfil their economic potential.
HS2 will also free up space on the existing rail network for additional commuter, regional and freight services, offering more opportunity for services to meet local needs. Latest estimates published in August 2012 suggest HS2 will deliver net benefits of £64 billion including over £15 billion in wider economic impacts. If local areas seize the opportunity offered by HS2 these benefits could be greater. HS2 Ltd will undertake further work to assess the sub-national, regional and local economic impacts of HS2.
The only West Yorkshire station in the HS2 Y network would be the terminus at Leeds New Lane. There is no provision for trains to continue to other parts of the county. A London to Bradford journey on HS2 would require a change of train — and change of station — in Leeds.
Most of the population of West Yorkshire does not live in Leeds. To avoid the permanent disutility of interchange penalties and inconvenience embedded in the Y network concept, the whole project needs to be looked at afresh.