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Visit mum in Leeds

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The various ‘modelled train service specifications’ produced for HS2 have always been good for a laugh. In the latest version, the exposure of HS2 to unreliability from the legacy railway is increased further.

As can be seen from the extract below, Birmingham to Leeds HS2 services would use legacy track for some or all of the Yorkshire part of the journey, and stop en route at Sheffield Midland station. For some reason, those services are shown as being ‘Captive HS2 trains’.

HS2 eastern leg 'Modelled train service specification (M18 loop)', November 2016

HS2 eastern leg ‘Modelled train service specification (M18 loop)’, November 2016

By the look of the ‘service specification’, someone high up in Birmingham Airport needs to visit his mum in Leeds. But there are no bigwig family ties with Newcastle upon Tyne, or York, it seems.

Written by beleben

November 18, 2016 at 11:44 am

The hardest word of all

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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’.”

Jon Peters (SDG) on the Leeds NGT project

Yorkshire Post: 'Why HS2 is key to better public transport in Leeds' (?)

Written by beleben

May 17, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Red light for NGT boondoggle

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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“.

Beleben blog, 3 June 2013, 'NGT needs rethinking'

What a shame that so much money has been spent on this ‘transformational’ boondoggle.

Leeds council, NGT statement, 12 May 2016

NGT Trolleybus, Twitter, Leeds NGT decision (extract)

Beleben blog, NGT lemon

Written by beleben

May 12, 2016 at 11:12 am

HS2 and West Yorkshire, part five

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Part four

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 position paper, potential West Yorkshire metro network, July 2015

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.

WNY Chamber's HS2 / Transnorth rail proposals included a new railway across the Aire valley,  July 2015

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.

Leeds City station was redeveloped between 1998 and 2002 (at a cost of around £400 million in 2015 prices), and in February 2014, work began on a '£20 million' new southern entrance. WNY Chamber has proposed another extensive redevelopment of Leeds City station to accommodate HS2

Written by beleben

July 30, 2015 at 10:46 am

Posted in HS2, Leeds, West Yorkshire

HS2 and classic capacity, part six

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Part five | Part four | Part three | Part two | Part one

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.)

Post-2019 'capacity pressure' in Yorkshire (SDG for Department for Transport)

Post-2019 ‘capacity pressure’ in Yorkshire (SDG for Department for Transport)

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.

Post-2019 'capacity pressure' in the West Midlands

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.

Written by beleben

February 24, 2014 at 11:27 am

Posted in Centro, HS2, West Yorkshire

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NGT needs rethinking

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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.

Written by beleben

June 3, 2013 at 12:09 pm

HS2 and West Yorkshire, part four

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HS2 Ltd, Leeds infosheet header

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”).

HS2 Ltd, Leeds infosheet, local route map

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.

Written by beleben

February 12, 2013 at 12:22 pm

HS2 and West Yorkshire, part three

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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.

Written by beleben

February 7, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Bradford, High speed rail, HS2, Leeds, West Yorkshire

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HS2 and West Yorkshire, part two

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Part one

James Lewis of West Yorkshire ITA, on BBC Look North

In January 2012, West Yorkshire Metro chairman James Lewis said

[‘Welcome for high speed rail link’, Huddersfield Daily Examiner, Jan 11 2012]

“HS2 will free up capacity on already-busy, existing local rail lines, but it will only be effective if those routes are improved to spread the benefits of the high-speed link across West Yorkshire and the Leeds City Region.

In January 2013, councillor Lewis told BBC Look North, “By taking trains off the existing rail network, we are able to run more local trains as well”.

One might wonder what West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (‘Metro’) knows about

(Q1). The current capacity utilisation on each railway in West Yorkshire
(Q2). How each line’s current capacity utilisation compares with its maximum capacity
(Q3). How the HS2 Y network to Leeds would change items (Q1) and (Q2)
(Q4). What, in engineering and expenditure terms, is meant by “improved routes to spread the benefits of the high speed link across West Yorkshire and the Leeds City Region”‘.

Well, what they know turns out to be: almost nothing.

[WYPTE, December 2012]

A1, A2 and A3. Metro does not hold the information […] requested. Metro’s statement, that [were highlighted in relation to high speed rail], was made in general terms to highlight the very probable capacity benefits that will be released on the classic rail network as a result of HS2. […]

A4. Metro does not hold the information […] requested. However, in broad terms and as set out in Metro’s latest Railplan 7, Metro is seeking to speed up journey times from across West Yorkshire and increase train frequency, as well as provide adequate capacity. […]

Although Metro has not been able to provide the detailed information [required] Metro considers that the above provides the context in which the statement was made.

Written by beleben

February 6, 2013 at 4:25 pm

West Yorkshire own goal

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In recent years, West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority has not been very happy with local bus operators, and as a result, it is now seeking to establish a Quality Contract Scheme. In a 2009 video, WYITA deputy chairman Chris Greaves said that First Group (which provides the majority of bus services in the county) had “overcharged and under-delivered”.

Which begs the question: why did the transport authority privatise its bus operation in the first place? Britain’s Transport Act 1985 — which introduced deregulation of provincial mainland bus services — also required passenger transport executives (PTEs) to move their bus operations into newly formed “arm’s length” separate companies. But the Act did not require passenger transport authorities to privatise those companies.

In West Yorkshire, the Transport Executive’s bus operation, re-organised for deregulation in 1986 as ‘Yorkshire Rider’, was sold to its management and employees in October 1988. In 1994, Rider was taken over by Badgerline Holdings, the core of the present-day First Group conglomerate.

Had West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Authority decided to retain ownership of Rider, it could have mandated a ‘moderate’ dividend policy — meaning low fares. With a low fare policy in place, there would have been little incentive for external operators to enter the West Yorkshire bus market and disrupt the pre-1986 network. And in 2012, West Yorkshire would not be faced with the enormous dog’s breakfast that is the Quality Contract scheme.

Written by beleben

September 18, 2012 at 9:32 am