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Posts Tagged ‘Alan Marshall

‘Victorian infrastructure limitations preclude trains longer than 250 metres’

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In March 2011, the editorial director of Railnews, Alan Marshall, wrote to his local newspaper complaining about what he saw as the inaccuracies of the ‘Stop HS2’ campaign. In the interests of accuracy, he wanted to “draw attention to some factors”.

'A response to Joe Rukin's letter' by Alan Marshall, Kenilworth Weekly News, 24 March 2011

‘A response to Joe Rukin’s letter’ by Alan Marshall, Kenilworth Weekly News, 24 March 2011

Mr Marshall went on to “draw attention to” the “factor” that the Stop HS2 campaign’s “preferred alternative, known as Rail Package 2 (RP2), just does not stack up in providing sufficient extra capacity on the southern section of the West Coast Main Line… Victorian infrastructure limitations of the West Coast Main Line preclude trains longer than 250 metres”.

But did the Stop HS2 campaign actually have a “preferred alternative”? And do ‘Victorian infrastructure limitations on the West Coast Main Line preclude trains longer than 250 metres’?

Alstom Transport: Each 11-car Pendolino train on the West Coast Main Line is 265 metres long

Alstom Transport: ‘Each 11-car Pendolino train on the West Coast Main Line is 265 metres long’

Coventry station from above (Google maps)

Alan Marshall: “The Victorian infrastructure limitations of the WCML preclude trains longer than 250 metres — notably at Coventry”

Contrary to the claim made by Mr Marshall, trains longer than 250 metres operate every day on the West Coast Main Line. A need to extend WCML intercity platforms is unlikely to arise in the next 15 years, but if it did, it would certainly be possible at Coventry (and many other locations). In terms of scale, disruption, and cost, the civils of platform extension — and junction grade separation — are nothing like those involved in building 560 km of HS2.

Unfortunately, certain sections of the railway press — such as Rail Magazine and Railnews — cannot be relied upon to provide accurate information about HS2.

[Engineer sets out plan for more trains on HS2, Railnews, 16 Mar 2012]

[…][HS2 Ltd’s Prof Andrew McNaughton] said HS2’s control system would be based on ERTMS Level 2 train control, and would be designed to allow headways of two minutes, giving a theoretical capacity of 30 trains an hour. At the moment, a maximum of 18 is envisaged.

Headways would be maintained by trains stopping intermediately, such as at Birmingham Interchange, and then departing on ‘acceleration lines’ up to 14km long, so they were running at high speed before being slotted back in behind a fast train that had just overtaken them.

Railnews story, 'Engineer sets out plan for more trains on HS2', Railnews, 16 March 2012

Railnews story, ‘Engineer sets out plan for more trains on HS2’, Railnews, 16 March 2012


Written by beleben

October 15, 2015 at 10:53 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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‘Burdened’ with a grant

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[“‘Northern Powerhouse’ needs new franchise“, Alan Marshall, Railnews, page 18, Dec 2014]

[…] Recent figures released by the Department for Transport show that, while Northern carries just four per cent of all the passenger/kilometres [sic] on the whole national network, it is burdened with 12 per cent of the grant paid by Government to Network Rail, so on paper Northern has the highest subsidy of any operator.

Written by beleben

December 19, 2014 at 10:08 am

Posted in Politics, Railways

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The marshall of irrational resilience

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HS2 'a-fictionado' Alan Marshall

There has been a growing irrational debate in South West England attempting to link future resilience of railway infrastructure in Devon and Cornwall with the HS2 project (wrote Alan Marshall on the Railnews blog).


There is […] no relationship between what might be done now to repair and improve the railway’s resilience in Devon and Cornwall and construction over the next 20 years of a new high speed rail system serving substantial populations in the Midlands and North of England.

‘No relationship’? Of course there’s a relationship. Governments, societies, and individuals have to choose how their resources are allocated, and those resources are finite.

Inevitably, spending £50 billion on vanity infrastructure from London to three cities, already well-served by rail, is bound to mean less resilient and capable flood defences, local transport, and poorer connectivity in regions like the South West.

Mr Marshall went to repeat his nonsense about ‘Blackpool and Shrewsbury remaining permanently without direct train services [to London] because of insufficient capacity on the West Coast Main Line’.

What is stopping such services from running, is Network Rail inefficiency and the lack of suitable trains. Many more places on the West Coast Main Line could have direct trains, if HS2 were abandoned and the money reallocated to extending electrification to Shrewsbury, Wrexham, Barrow-in-Furness, etc.

Written by beleben

February 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Posted in HS2

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Engineering the spin

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IT is truly astonishing the lengths that some HS2 opponents will go to find fault with the project — including, it now seems, criticising plans to train many more engineers . . . engineers whom we will need, anyway, in the future.

On 13 January – as Network Rail’s outgoing chief executive David Higgins began moving into his new role as chairman of HS2 Ltd – it was announced that Britain’s first Further Education College for over 20 year is to be established to train the next generation of world-class engineers to “benefit HS2 and other future infrastructure projects across the country.”

What’s wrong with the idea of opening a college to ‘develop engineering skills’? The pitch, i.e. that one further education college could make much difference to the supply of infrastructure “engineers” at the national level. Even the Association of Teachers and Lecturers didn’t sound particularly enthused about HS2 College:

ATL comment on plans for a dedicated HS2 further education college
14 January 2014

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said:

“The need for a new further education college for such a high profile and significant public project shows the crucial role FE colleges can play in building skills and linking vocational education and training with economic planning and development.

“However, it is worrying that existing colleges allegedly don’t have the capacity or expertise to train sufficient numbers of young adults and adults with the skills needed. The Government should be helping FE colleges to provide engineering and requisite skills. The need for an HS2 college may show there should be a review of how vocational education and training fits into wider industrial policy and skills development. The government seems to think that inventing new schools and colleges is the answer to everything.

“It is important that staff in any new college – as well as in all existing ones – are fully qualified to teach or working towards recognised teaching qualifications.”

Furthermore, the government’s misuse of the term “engineer” to mean “technician” or “operative”, is to be deplored. The term “engineer” should be reserved and protected (as it is in countries like Germany), and there should be much more funding for university-level research and innovation in manufacturing systems, product design, operational research, and intelligent transport systems.

Comment on the HS2 College spin, from the Birtle Trust

Written by beleben

January 16, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Posted in HS2

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Facts incorrectly reported – by Railnews

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According to Alan Marshall’s Railnews blogpost (4 Dec 2013), ‘PUBLIC OPINION NEEDS FACTS TO BE CORRECTLY REPORTED‘ on the HS2 rail project.

[Alan Marshall]

[…] One estimate is that with HS2 around 60 Very High Speed Trains will be required – but if a similar frequency and capacity could be provided on the conventional infrastructure around 90 High Speed Trains, such as today’s Pendolinos, would be necessary.

As can be seen from HS2 Ltd’s October 2013 documents, their stated requirement is for 180 trainsets.

HS2 Ltd on rolling stock fleet and costs, Oct 2013

HS2 Ltd on rolling stock fleet and costs, Oct 2013

Mr Marshall’s blogpost is full of inaccurate statements and shaky reasoning. Pontificating in capital letters is no substitute for research and analysis.

Written by beleben

December 5, 2013 at 11:15 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Marshall Muddle on old infrastructure

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Railnews coverage of an upgrade of 170 year old infrastructure - the Great Western Main Line

Railnews coverage of an upgrade of 170 year old infrastructure – the Great Western Main Line

Instead of “nonsensical talk about trying to upgrade the existing 175-year-old railway infrastructure”, would it not be better to follow Baroness Kramer’s advice (wrote Railnews’s editorial director Alan Marshall on the Go HS2 weblog).

[Susan Kramer quoted by Alan Marshall]

“Let us protect the Victorian spirit that built our railroads,” she said, “but let us look for an infrastructure that is not Victorian but modern and 21st-century so that we can build the economy of the future.”

London St Pancras, which was ‘upgraded’ for HS1 trains, is 145 years old, and parts of the Midland route from St Pancras to Derby, are older still. But the Midland is being electrified as part of a multi-billion pound upgrade — which Railnews is apparently in favour of. So what point Mr Marshall was making, or why Ms Kramer used the American term ‘railroad’, is not clear. For some reason, Mr Marshall also mentioned former chancellor Norman Lamont, who is apparently opposed to HS2.

Instead of listening to economists like Dr Richard Wellings of the Institute of Economic Affairs — “who forecast HS2 could cost £80 billion by including the price of building another Crossrail in London and a new line to Liverpool that is not even planned — perhaps we should note that HS2 Ltd has actually reduced the expected cost of building the first stage from London to Lichfield, and the branch line into Birmingham”, claimed Mr Marshall.

[Alan Marshall]

[…]At the close of the recent House of Lords debate Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said HS2 Ltd “now estimates that, without any contingency, it could bring in phase 1 at £15.6 billion.” However, she added, the Transport Secretary had decided to include “a little contingency” — 10 per cent — so the target budget for the first stage, extending over some 150 miles and including more than half the route in tunnels or deep cuttings, is now £17.16 billion. This could be reduced further after Sir David Higgins takes charge of the project next year and, as Lord Heseltine proposed, there is the opportunity to offset perhaps £5 billion of the cost of stage 1 by negotiating a 30-year concession with a private sector infrastructure manager, as has happened with HS1.

The claim that HS2 Ltd have costs under control is not particularly persuasive.

HS2 engineering design work over budget (building_co_uk, 8 Nov 2013)

HS2 engineering design work over budget (building_co_uk, 8 Nov 2013)

But the notion that HS2 could involve total expenditures of around £80 billion, is quite plausible. There is bound to be strong pressure for additional mitigation of various sorts, and add-on funding for developments attached to the HS2 project. For example, schemes such as the recently proposed Birmingham — Bickenhill — Coventry Midland Metro (£800 million at the very least) could have no other purpose than attempt to provide local access to the proposed HS2 ‘parkway’ station. And the costs of additional commuter trains for Milton Keynes (so-called-released-capacity) are not in the October 2013 ‘e-Conomic’ case. Of course, the value of “a 30-year concession” to a private sector infrastructure manager is entirely dependent on the levels of guaranteed track access fees over the concession period. A large proportion, possibly a majority, of those track access fees would be from government subsidies.

Written by beleben

November 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Wrong on every count

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Great Central intercity in the RP6 concept

On 27 October the Daily Telegraph reported Kelvin Hopkins, the Labour MP for Luton North, had joined ‘leading supermarket groups, and hauliers to draw up plans to reopen the old Great Central Main Line instead of committing to HS2’.

He has handed his plans to individuals including [Ed] Balls and is said to have received a positive response.
Mr Hopkins said reopening the central railway would cost an estimated £6 billion and would avoid many environmental concerns associated with HS2.

“We have a very precise route, we have been working on it for a very long time and we are carefully trying to get political support,” he said.

Unlike the RP6 Great Central Reactivation concept, almost no information about Mr Hopkins’ scheme is available. But according to Railnews’ Alan Marshall, the idea of using the former Great Central Railway as an alternative to HS2 makes absolutely no sense.

He is wrong on every count.

[Alan Marshall] For a start [GC reactivation] would involve the same sort of ‘nimby’ objections as HS2. A few years ago, the line was proposed for reopening as part of a new freight route, which it seems to me is what MP Kelvin Hopkins really seems to want it used for now. But there were massive objections from people living near the line in places such as Rugby, Leicester and Nottingham.

Any proposal for building (or re-building) infrastructure, is likely to involve disruption to people and the environment.

For example, building another runway at, say, Stansted, would affect thousands of people. But building another runway at Heathrow would affect millions of people.

As with Stansted-versus-Heathrow, the difference between HS2 and Great Central Reactivation lies in the number of people affected, and the scale of the environmental impacts. In the case of the Great Central, the earthworks and tunneling are already there, and the operating impacts would be far lower too. So compared with HS2, the human and environmental impacts of GC Reactivation are negligible.

The Great Central route had one advantage over the rest of Britain’s railways – it was built to a larger structure gauge than other routes, hence its possible attraction now to supermarkets and hauliers wanting to shift more goods from road to rail.

Otherwise, the GC route has considerable disadvantages for passenger services. For example, the GC station in Nottingham is now the Victoria shopping centre, and another part of the route has been incorporated into the city’s tram system.

To what extent the structure gauge of the GC is an advantage, is not really clear. If I recall correctly, the old Central Railway proposal was for a *single track* freight line.

While it might somehow be made to serve Nottingham and could pass through Sheffield, it goes nowhere near the West Midlands, which is the UK’s primary manufacturing centre with rapidly growing exports and economic growth.

In the RP6 concept, the reactivated Great Central trunk would be connected into the Midland Main Line near Wigston. There is no difficulty for trains reaching Nottingham or Sheffield.

Why would the Great Central need to go ‘near the West Midlands’? Moving some North West trains onto it would release capacity on other lines.

And the GC route is a tortuous way of getting to Manchester, the city that vies with Birmingham to the claim of being England’s second city. Nor does it provide a direct link to Liverpool.

In the RP6 proposition, the route is a certainly not ‘a tortuous way’ of getting to Manchester. GC trains from London would transfer to the West Coast route to Manchester by a connection near Rugby.

[…] But even if all these obstacles were of no consequence, there is one overriding reason why the Great Central could not function as an alternative to HS2. What would happen to high speed trains from the north when they reached Aylesbury?

Would they have to form an orderly queue behind Chiltern and Metropolitan Line trains calling at local stations to either Marylebone or Baker Street? Following a Chiltern train from Aylesbury taking 57 minutes to reach Marylebone would hardly amount to a high speed service.

In reality there is no spare capacity on the remaining GC line into London. Either Chiltern and Metropolitan services would have to be decimated, or a new high speed line built alongside the existing tracks, including many of those same places that have already lodged great objections to HS2 – Stoke Mandeville, Wendover, Great Missenden, Amersham, Chalfont & Latimer.

In the RP6 concept, the trains wouldn’t even “reach Aylesbury”; they would run via Ashendon, to Old Oak Common.

[…] And where would the London terminus be located? I don’t think there is any room at either Marylebone or Baker Street for up to another 16 trains, 400-metres long and carrying up to 1,100 people in and out London every hour.

Where would the London terminus be located? Old Oak Common. Some trains could run to Paddington.

Unlike the suggestion that the Great Central line could function as its alternative, HS2′s plans have been carefully thought through to provide the greatest overall uplift in north-south rail network capacity, benefiting most of Britain’s significant city regions, with the minimum of interference to the existing railway and the environment.

HS2 was drawn up on the back of an envelope by Andrew Adonis. There’s nothing “carefully thought through” about it. HS2’s costs and environmental damage are massive. As are the risks, and the opportunity costs.

Great Central interregio in the RP6 concept

Written by beleben

October 31, 2013 at 1:40 pm