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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

A whole new level of miserable

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In January 2014 the Beleben blog gave its impressions of the Department for Transport-specified Class 700 rolling stock for Thameslink, based on pictures of the mock-up. These included observations about the design of the seats.


Four years on, the Class 700 trains are in widespread use, and the shortcomings of their design have reached the national media.

Daily Telegraph story about train seats, 18 Feb 2018

18 February 2018

On 20 February 2018, the Metro newspaper’s talk page was replete with comments about train seats. The situation was perhaps best summed up by ‘Tony’ from Haywards Heath, who wrote, “Commuting is never a joy but these trains take it to a whole new level of miserable.”

Perhaps anxious of Boris achieving a monopoly on buffoon quotes, on 28 February transport minister Jo Johnson MP opined that (uncomfortable) seats ‘normally become more comfortable over time, through use’.

Rail magazine, Jo Johnson MP: 'train seats normally become more comfortable over time, through use', 06 Mar 2018

As regular readers of the Beleben blog may be aware, these kind of user experience problems should have been addressed at a very early stage. It is fair to say that user experience, and aesthetic design, are not puntos fuertes of the GB public transport sector.

Written by beleben

March 8, 2018 at 10:01 am

Posted in Politics, Railways

Resistance or bust

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Last year, West Midlands mayor Andy Street said he had a plan to “bust” congestion — but he wouldn’t explain what it is. In August of 2017, Anne Shaw was appointed ‘director of network resilience’ at the West Midlands Combined Authority, but since then, nothing has been heard of any ideas she may have come up with. 

The Inrix Global Traffic Scorecard 2016 found that Birmingham was the ‘third most-congested [city?] in England’ and that, on average, motorists in the city spent nine per cent of their total journey time in traffic (the Birmingham Post reported on 18 October 2017).

That might indicate, perhaps, that the local authorities have failed in their efforts to relieve congestion and improve traffic movement.

Construction of the HS2 railway has the potential to worsen the situation, by creating ‘significant disruption on the regional motorway and road networks’, unless ‘carefully managed’, according to a Combined Authority news release dated 1 March 2018. It stated that a mayoral ‘Resilience Partnership’ has now been set up to ‘bust congestion’.

WMCA, 'congestion busting HS2 partnership' 01 Mar 2018

The Express and Star reported it was a “resistance partnership” that had been set up. That might be a more appropriate name, given Mr Street and WMCA’s ongoing ‘resistance’ to explaining how they are going to ‘bust congestion’.

Express and Star, 2018_03_06, 'Significant disruption warning over HS2 build'

Written by beleben

March 6, 2018 at 10:41 am

Posted in HS2

Chris goes hyperloopy

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Chris Grayling, hyperloop could run from Leeds to Leeds Bradford airport

'The Yorkshire post says', 05 Mar 2018

Written by beleben

March 5, 2018 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Bizarre, HS2, Marketing

All this and weekend trips to Glasgow too

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Rab C NesbittThe legacy of HS2 “won’t just be revitalised historic landmarks, new business headquarters and a surge in weekend trips from Birmingham to Glasgow”. The young apprentices at the National College for High Speed Rail in Birmingham will train 1,200 students every single year, using cutting-edge technology and world-class teaching to get the qualifications and experience they need to build our future railway, according to a Birmingham Mail article written by West Midlands mayor Andy Street and HS2 Minister Nusrat Ghani.

Birmingham Live, 'The young apprentices at the National College for High Speed Rail in Birmingham will train 1,200 students every single year, using cutting-edge technology and world-class teaching to get the qualifications and experience they need', 05 Mar 2018

But how could young apprentices ‘train 1,200 students’?

And what is the “cutting-edge” technology involved? Surely the majority of HS2 civil engineering work would be tasks such as operating HGVs, concrete mixers, and JCBs?

twitter @jonwalker121, 'Government wants to use HS2 to recruit women and ethnic minority engineers'

HS2 would cut the Birmingham - Glasgow journey time from 3h57 to 3h22, and cause a surge of weekend visits, according to Andy Street and Nusrat Ghani

Written by beleben

March 5, 2018 at 12:29 pm

Posted in HS2, Politics

Lock steps with Chris

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Chris Grayling silly walkerProgress on ‘the’ Transpennine rail route upgrade, whatever that is, and Crossrail 2 are to advance “in lockstep”, according to a news story dated 2 March 2018.

To reiterate, that’s “in lockstep”. And definitely not ‘in goosestep’.

Apparently transport secretary Chris Grayling has ‘£3 billion ring-fenced’ for the Transpennine rail route upgrade, and Crossrail 2 is costed at, er, ‘around £30 billion‘ in 2014 prices.

An Independent Affordability Review into Crossrail 2 has been commissioned jointly by the Department for Transport and Transport for London, presumably not to conclude that the project is unaffordable, and in its present form, a waste of public money., Grayling lockstep, 02 Mar 2018

Written by beleben

March 3, 2018 at 6:03 pm

Posted in HS2

Lendlease first option

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The Bree Louise after closure

David Higgins’ old company Lendlease has been given ‘first option’ to buy the entire 21.8 hectare Euston HS2 site, the Camden New Journal reported.

[HS2 and the great £4bn property bonanza, Tom Foot, CNJ, 1 March 2018]

[…] in terms of a contract agreed behind closed doors in April last year, and so far unannounced to the public – the company will be offered first chance to buy its finished project.

A HS2 spokesman said: “Land has not been sold to Lendlease yet and we will only sell if we are happy with the proposed development. They have first right to buy, but no guarantee that we will sell.”

[…] The firm beat King’s Cross developer Argent, Canary Wharf and US property giant MTR to win the Euston contract in what HS2 describes as an “anonymised” bidding process.

Written by beleben

March 2, 2018 at 9:18 am

Posted in HS2, London, Politics