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Posts Tagged ‘absurd

‘Virtually every tunnel, viaduct, bridge and embankment’

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On 16 September, there was a House of Lords debate about the economics of HS2. In her ‘six minute’ contribution, Baroness Kramer claimed that “the alternatives [to HS2] offer only about one-third of the capacity that HS2 offers. Consider the impact of delivering those alternatives. They require virtually every tunnel, viaduct, bridge and embankment to be rebuilt, taking virtually every weekend, year in, year out, causing the most extraordinary disruption“.

Baroness Kramer: 'alternatives to HS2 require virtually every tunnel, viaduct, bridge and embankment to be rebuilt, taking virtually every weekend, year in, year out'

Baroness Kramer: ‘alternatives to HS2 require virtually every tunnel, viaduct, bridge and embankment to be rebuilt, taking virtually every weekend, year in, year out’

Her claims, of course, are utter nonsense. Capacity enhancement on the north to south rail corridors would not require lineside interventions along the entire line of route. So far, neither the Department for Transport nor Network Rail have been able to come up with an explanation for the so-called ’14 years of weekend closures to upgrade existing lines’.

Building HS2 would be far more disruptive than well-planned incremental enhancements. On the West Coast Main Line, long distance capacity could be increased by around 30%, without any lineside interventions at all. Larger capacity increases would require a handful of interventions (mainly, lengthening platforms).

On the Midland Main Line, capacity enhancement could be carried out simultaneously with the (currently paused) electrification. The net increase in disruption over electrification_alone, would be minimal.

In the longer term, it would make sense to fix the East Coast Main Line Welwyn / Digswell bottleneck, but a cost-effective way of increasing capacity in the short term would simply involve suspending weekday stops at Welwyn North station.

Written by beleben

September 17, 2015 at 11:12 am

Posted in HS2

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The spend at Wood End

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How prudently is public money used on the railway? Wood End station, between Birmingham and Stratford upon Avon on the North Warwick line, has seen a programme of ‘improvements’ carried out, including the removal of the old footbridge between the platforms.

Signs at the unmanned Wood End station,  North Warwick line, summer 2015

Signs at the unmanned Wood End station, North Warwick line, summer 2015

Platform 2, for trains to Birmingham, now has decking on part of its length to allow easier boarding, with a sign advising wheelchair users to wait at the decked-out location. The sign even has its own pole, presumably because its weight would be too much for the adjacent luminaire. 😂

Platform 2 at Wood End station,  North Warwick line, summer 2015

Platform 2 at Wood End station, North Warwick line

But how exactly would wheelchair users get down to the platform? There are 56 steps, and no ramp.

Steps at Wood End station,  North Warwick line, summer 2015

Why were the old steps and bridge removed at Wood End station?

Was Rupert Walker involved? And if not, why not?

Written by beleben

September 14, 2015 at 12:49 pm

Posted in Bizarre

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If in doubt, strike it out

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Extracts from Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council’s response to a freedom of information request about improving the Calder Valley rail line:

What do they know, Calderdale metropolitan borough council freedom of information response, extract from redacted Calder Valley line enhancement strategy

What do they know, extract from FOI response, redacted Calder Valley line enhancement strategy

Written by beleben

May 1, 2015 at 11:58 am

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Oui mais go slower

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According to Les Echos, the future ‘low cost’ TGV Ouigo high speed train service between ‘Paris’ and Aquitaine might be routed via the existing main line, rather over the high speed track (being built at a cost of several billion euro) and use Massy as its northern terminus.

As with the Paris – Lyon relation, there seems to be a need to make Ouigo inconvenient for business travel, to limit migration from regular TGV.

[La SNCF dessine les contours de sa future offre de TGV low cost Ouigo vers Bordeaux, Lionel STEINMANN, Les Echos, 14 Jan 2015]

[…] Seconde interrogation, la nature de la ligne empruntée pour relier Bordeaux. Aujourd’hui, les TGV circulent sur le réseau classique à partir de Tours, pour un temps de parcours, pour les liaisons directes, un peu supérieur à 3 heures. Mais cette ligne va être doublée à partir de 2017 par une ligne 100 % TGV, le groupe Vinci ayant remporté l’appel d’offres pour la construction et l’exploitation d’une nouvelle section TGV entre Tours et Bordeaux, qui mettra Bordeaux à 2 h 05 de Paris. En 2017, la SNCF aura donc le choix entre les deux itinéraires. Et selon plusieurs experts, elle pourrait choisir de faire circuler les TGV classiques sur la nouvelle ligne et les Ouigo sur la ligne actuelle. La SNCF récrimine en effet depuis plusieurs années sur le niveau des péages qu’elle devra acquitter à Vinci pour faire circuler ses trains. Ces péages seront déjà difficiles à supporter économiquement par les TGV classiques, assure un expert, ils sont tout bonnement inenvisageables pour les TGV low cost.

Written by beleben

April 22, 2015 at 8:38 am

Posted in Bizarre

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He says with knowledge

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Business trends at sea mean the HS2 rail plan is essential, according to HS2 Chief Information Officer James Findlay.

[HS2 CIO James Findlay interview – Boats, trains and CIO reveals, Mark Chillingworth, CIO, 19 Mar 2015]

[…] Speaking at his Canary Wharf office, James Findlay told CIO UK that “95% of our trade is by sea, so transport is critical to our ability to compete.”

When a ship such as Globe unloads (it takes 24 hours), its load would form a single line measuring 72 miles, Birmingham to Manchester as it happens, and the next phase of HS2.

“The ports at London and Southampton are being dredged for the new mega ships, so the challenge is the ability to distribute the loads. The ability to interface are critical to our survival and that requires a lot of strategic thinking about the hub cities in the UK.” While politicians try and sell HS2 to the public with everything but the truth; Findlay deals in facts and he knows the facts. Not just because he’s a well aligned CIO, but because he has a heritage on the seas, having been IT and projects leader at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for close to a decade and before that a career in ports and defence. To this day, the coast plays a major part in his life, and he sees what’s happening on our waves and to our demands of our economy.

“Over the next 10 years we will be at peak capacity on the existing rail network,” he says returning to dry land. “HS2 provides a relief to primary freight traffic. We won’t build more roads,” he says with knowledge, as Findlay doubles up as Technology Leader for the Department for Transport. “Network Rail has been re-engineering some of the lines through a process of dropping the lines,” but as he explains, because the UK was the first adopter of rail networks, the nation is lumbered with a legacy of Victorian lines that can’t take the growing capacity of local, intercity and freight rail. A new rail infrastructure is required.

So what is the relief which would be provided by HS2 to primary freight traffic? Careful scrutiny of the evidence suggests the uplift in railfreight capacity would be, at best, minimal.

And there may not be any uplift at all. When the Department for Transport were asked about HS2 released capacity for railfreight, the answer was

[…] there is good reason to believe that 3 additional freight paths per off-peak hour on the WCML corridor would be compatible with the HS2 Phase Two service set out in the PFM assumptions report.

3 additional freight paths per off-peak hour on the WCML corridor would be compatible with the HS2 Phase Two service set out in the PFM assumptions report. And 3 additional freight paths per off-peak hour on the WCML corridor would be compatible with no HS2 service at all.

Because 3 is the hourly two-way number of freight paths currently allocated on the WCML, but not used.

Written by beleben

March 19, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Freight, High speed rail, HS2

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Gimme shelter

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Centro designer bus non-shelter in Priory Queensway, central Birmingham, 2012

In the last few weeks, as a result of Centro’s project to extend the Midland Metro tramway on-street a few hundred yards from Snow Hill to Stephenson Street, the entire bus network in Birmingham city centre has been turned upside down. Because Midland Metro and buses don’t really mix, all services using Corporation Street, Upper Bull Street and Stephenson Street have had to be re-routed, and in one way or another, the disruption has affected nearly every bus route that penetrates the Inner Ring Road.

Priory Queensway designer bus non-shelter

As part of their contribution to Birmingham council’s inappropriately titled ‘Vision for Movement‘, Centro took it upon themselves to tear out nearly all the bus shelters in the city centre, and replaced them (or some of them) with faddish ‘designer’ ones that offer virtually no protection against bad weather. In Birmingham it rains, at some point of the day, more than 150 days a year.

Birmingham city centre bus shelter replacement, 2012

This week, Centro’s contractors were smashing up the far superior and fairly new shelters at St Philip’s churchyard for scrap-n-landfill. It seems likely the designer tat installed in nearby streets will be installed in Colmore Row too.

Centro-mandated destruction of bus shelters in Colmore Row, Birmingham, Aug 2012

Written by beleben

August 15, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Volterra infirma 2

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Amusing to see David Begg’s Campaign for High Speed Rail website featuring a web banner stating “CREATE 1 MILLION JOBS, SUPPORT High-Speed Rail”, with ‘Volterra‘ written on it as well.

David Begg's Biz4HS2 web banner: 'CREATE 1 MILLION JOBS, SUPPORT High-Speed Rail'

Written by beleben

July 28, 2011 at 9:48 pm

The viable part of HS2

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The latest dollop of tripe from Greengauge21 concerns the “return” that “could” arise from the government selling HS2 around 2029 (which turns out to mean half the capital invested is deemed wiped out at privatisation). No-one can forecast what the proceeds of a sale of a HS2 lease would be, so it’s all rather silly.

But the real silliness action isn’t in the finances of the sale of a HS2 lease, but in the HS2 economic case:

1. In its most extensive form, HS2 is envisaged as a dedicated high speed line linking Scotland, the North of England, and the Midlands to London. Because of the short distances between urban centres, it’s only on journeys between London and Scotland that high speed rail could provide significant time savings, but the demand on that sector isn’t very large, compared with flows in south central England. Between Manchester, Birmingham, and London, rail travel demand is much stronger, but there the time savings provided by HS2 would be minimal, as discussed in earlier blogposts.

2. If the second stage of HS2 (the Y-network to Leeds and Manchester, and link to Heathrow Airport) were not built, the project’s cost benefit numbers would be likely to be much improved. But the HS2 to HS1 link’s 4,850 daily passengers amount to a laughable/pitiful 3 full trainloads in each direction. So cancelling that, along with the hugely expensive Euston rebuild and tunnel to Old Oak Common, has a massively positive effect on cost-benefit numbers.

3. Because the Chiltern line is largely empty, and could accommodate 16-carriage trains between Birmingham and London, there’s no capacity-based justification to build the HS2 trunk from London to the West Midlands. So HS2 money could be reassigned to electrification of the Chiltern and Midland Main Lines, re-opening the Varsity Line (and linking in Bletchley to Marylebone), Uckfield to Lewes reopening, and metropolitan transport improvements, such as Birmingham Crossrail.

4. This leaves the viable part of HS2, which amounts to just one thing: Old Oak Common interchange. This could become the southern terminus for intercity trains routed by the (currently half-empty) Chiltern line, to Birmingham and beyond.

Astroturfing HS2, part 2

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High speed rail seems to be proving a difficult sell for Westbourne Communications, who got the public relations gig for David Begg’s Campaign for High Speed Rail a few weeks ago.

The best angle that Westbourne could come up with? Seemingly, high speed rail as a form of class warfare.

A stereotypical image of the British upper class ‘toff’ from a bygone era has been used to shore up support for the proposed high-speed rail link from London to the Midlands and the north of England.

The campaign group Yes to High Speed Rail has resurrected the class divide with two posters that carry the headline: ‘Their lawns or our jobs?’

One uses an image of a Reginald Perrin-style businessman doffing his bowler hat, the other has an image of a country mansion.

The posters will go on display in Manchester today on the side of a bus and suggest that only southern ‘toffs’ worried about the state of their gardens oppose the new link.

But HS2 Ltd’s Economic Case is built around high speed rail’s supposed benefits to very-well-off business users, not the public at large. So there could be some difficulties in store.

The posters in Manchester seem to be part of a pseudo-local campaign including rallies in various localities which would “benefit from HS2”. But the London PR company orchestrating these don’t seem to know very much about the Midlands and North. No-one at Westbourne seems to have realised that the rallying point given on its Birmingham map doesn’t match the written description. They relied on Google Maps, but at the time of writing, that gives Birmingham town hall as being located at the convention centre. (Oddly enough, V Building appears on the map as well.)

Campaign for High Speed Rail astroturf rally in Birmingham, June 2011

Fifty four thousand a day

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Extract from Centro leaflet SEP1016
At the Birmingham council house debate on HS2, organisations including Sustainability West Midlands, Stop HS2, and Centro, had their stands set up in the banqueting hall. At the Centro stand, I picked up a couple of leaflets, both called ‘High Speed Rail’, but with different text and reference numbers (SEP1016 and FEB1110).

Centro’s leaflet SEP1016 stated that “54,000 people a day would travel to the capital from two new stations – one by Moor Street station taking 50 minutes, and the other near Birmingham International Airport providing passengers with a 38 minute rail link.”

Birmingham’s population is about 1 million (including children and retired persons). So in effect, Centro are proposing that the equivalent of 1 in 20 of the entire population of Birmingham would be quotidian users of HS2, engaged in a 350+ km round trip commute.

Centro’s HS2 website retained the ridiculous 54,000 figure, but added further surrealism by claiming that the direction of commute would be towards Birmingham.

HS2 Ltd’s proposed ‘captive’ trains from Birmingham to London services would be 1,100 capacity, so 54,000 people represents about 49 completely-occupied trainloads. With three trains per hour, eighteen hours a day, the capacity would be 59,400. In which case, Centro’s “54,000” figure means HS2 trains would be, on average, over 90% full. This is a far higher load factor than is achieved on a high speed rail line anywhere in Europe. And of course, far higher than any railway with a tidal commuter flow. For example, the Brighton to London flow is temporally highly imbalanced, with obvious consequences for load factor.

It’s also worth comparing this load factor, with what Centro manages to achieve with its 20 km Midland Metro Line One, for Birmingham and Wolverhampton local commuters. Its load factor is about 20% (5 million passengers, about a third of what Centro stated it would carry).