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Insightful nonsense ratio

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Table 3 of HS2 Ltd’s January 2012 Economic Case for HS2: Value for Money Statement
Economic
Summary
statistic
Present
value of
benefits (£ bn)
Present
value of
costs (£ bn)
BCR
Atkins
Package 2
7.9 2.0 4.0
Atkins
Package 2A
7.0 2.6 2.7
51m 6.1 1.2 5.2
Atkins
Scenario B
~13.9 9.3 ~1.5

According to Insight Public Affairs’ Alex Burrows, local rail improvements would ‘help the HS2 benefit cost ratio, whereas an upgrade to West Coast would be lower BCR — similar cost, less benefit’.

However, even HS2 Ltd’s published figures showed that upgrade based concepts like 51m and Rail Package 2 had better ratios than vanity build (see table). Although described as an ‘optimised alternative’, the 51m concept devoted a lot of unnecessary resource to platform lengthening at almost every Inter City West Coast station. A more refined upgrade scheme would perform even better.

Written by beleben

April 5, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with ,

Is there intelligent life on planet Centro?

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The Guardian reported that panellists at a roundtable held at 221B Baker Street on 5 December 2012, “were broadly in agreement that intelligent transport technologies could play a key role in reducing congestion and encouraging more people to use public transport”. (Actually, I made up the bit about Baker Street.)

At the table

Gwyn Topham (Chair)
Transport correspondent, the Guardian

Alex Burrows
Head of strategy, Centro

Philippa Oldham
Head of transport and manufacturing, Institution of Mechanical Engineering

James Morris
MP, Halesowen and Rowley Regis

Iain Stewart
MP, Milton Keynes South

Lilian Greenwood
MP, Nottingham South

Lord Berkeley
Secretary, All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group

Prof Phil Blythe
Professor of intelligent transport systems, Newcastle University

Prof Richard Folkson
Visiting professor for design and innovation, University of Hertfordshire

Prof Mike McDonald
Emeritus professor of transportation engineering, University of Southampton

Dr Alan Whitehead
MP, Southampton Test

Prof Roger Vickerman
Professor of European economics, University of Kent

The Roundtable report was ‘commissioned by Seven Plus (?) and controlled by the Guardian. Discussion hosted to a brief (?) agreed with Centro and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Funded by Centro and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’.

Mike McDonald, professor of transportation engineering at the University of Southampton, urged local authorities to introduce pay-as-you-drive schemes using location communication technologies to create a revenue stream to help cut the cost of public transport.

Apart from income tax, there are already several massive revenue streams funding public transport — vehicle excise duty, hydrocarbon oils duty, and council tax. Is there a need, or justification, for any more? For many journeys, even in cities, public transport is neither greener, nor a cost-effective alternative, to private transport.

Alan Whitehead, MP for Southampton Test, agreed that politicians need to take “radical” steps so the car is no longer perceived as a cheap mode of transport.

Cars are not a cheap mode of transport, and they are not ‘perceived’ as a cheap mode of transport. Unless, that is, you’re someone like John Prescott, or Simon Burns.

“There’s a long-standing, deeply embedded myth in this country about the relative costs of motoring against the relative costs of public transport and that is a substantial factor in political decision-making.

In Birmingham, travelling one mile by National Express West Midlands bus currently costs £2 per person, and that’s only if there is no transfer involved. Through the Bus Service Operators Grant, NXWM effectively gets a massive subsidy, but despite that, its fares are still outrageously uncompetitive. So, there is no ‘myth’ involved about relative costs.

Other than giving Alex Burrows another awayday, I can’t see the point of Centro funding conferences like this. Centro has been faffing about with telematics and smart ticketing for years, and how much money has been spent is nobody’s business (because it’s secret).

The West Midlands bus real time information system is a disgrace, so it would be better if Centro concentrated on getting that working on all buses, and at all principal bus stops.

Written by beleben

January 10, 2013 at 11:49 am

Go HS2’s crowding spin

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Though a great deal of work is being undertaken in to improve the quality and quantity of passenger count data collected on Britain’s railways and the outputs derived from these data, it is ‘work in progress’. And whilst aggregate statistics are of ‘reasonable quality’, due to the nature of the data, statistics on individual services are not robust. So said the Department for Transport in its autumn 2011 England and Wales ‘top ten’ overcrowded train services data sheet, published on 19 December 2012.

Centro's Go HS2 campaign used unrobust 2011 single-service commuter train crowding figures as evidence for the need to build long histance high speed rail

The warnings about data quality were not heeded by Centro’s @GoHS2 campaign, which tweeted “3 of top 10 most overcrowded services are Euston-Birmingham, but #HS2 opponents still say there’s no capacity problem!”.

As previously discussed on the Beleben blog, there is a capacity problem on Euston commuter trains, but it is caused by a shortage of rolling stock, and inefficient production management. It is not caused by an intrinsic shortage of line capacity out of Euston.

Centro should be well aware of London Midland’s operations shortcomings, as hundreds of the company’s West Midland train services have been cancelled over the last few months. And on 14 December 2012, the Birmingham Mail reported that Birmingham Labour councillor Phil Davis had accused London Midland of management failure.

It might be worth looking at the wider issues raised by Department for Transport top ten data sheet.

[DfT data sheet on top ten overcrowding]

The Department for Transport (DfT) collects rail passenger counts from train operating companies to monitor train crowding levels. All franchises let by DfT require the train operator to address crowding and to plan their timetables in such a way as to ensure, as far as possible, that crowding is not unduly concentrated on any particular route or individual service. The table included in this paper shows the ten most overcrowded peak services in the autumn 2011 passenger counts data.

The ‘top ten’ services in autumn 2011 were between 52 and 80 per cent over their capacity limit.

Methodology
===========
These figures are taken from internal management information used for monitoring purposes. DfT is making this list public because of the demand for this kind of information. It should be noted that there are a number of data issues associated with passenger counts which must be considered when referring to the table below, and detailed notes follow the table.

The ‘top ten’ list is generated from arrivals into eleven major cities during the morning peak (07:00-09:59) and departures from these cities during the evening peak (16:00-18:59) on a ‘typical’ weekday, for franchised operators only. The passenger load figure is the count at the busiest point on the particular service. This can be an interchange point outside the city on the route concerned (e.g. Stratford or Ealing Broadway on approach to London) and does not always correspond to the terminal or city centre station.

In all cases, the autumn data were collected prior to the December 2011 timetable change. Some of these overcrowding figures are derived from one-off measurements of the passengers on a particular weekday and are not an average representation of overcrowding on the service over a period of time; so the figures represent a one-off snap-shot from autumn 2011 only and do not provide a guide to current overcrowding.

The ‘top ten’ list is determined based on ‘load factor’, which is the number of standard class passengers on a service expressed as a percentage of the maximum stated standard class passenger capacity for that service. For example, a train which has the same passenger load as the passenger capacity has a load factor of 100 per cent.

For shorter journeys, where the journey time between stations at the most crowded point is 20 minutes or less, the capacity figures given in the table take account of the number of standard seats plus a standing allowance, which is determined based on the type of rolling stock. For longer-distance services, where there is a gap longer than 20 minutes between stations, capacity is calculated as the number of standard seats only. A number of services included in the table have their capacity calculated as “seats plus standing” in line with the definition above.

This list is based on peak trains in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. These are the same cities that are included in the publication Rail passenger numbers and crowding on weekdays in major cities in England and Wales: 2011, which is based on the same data. It can be found at the following link:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rail-passenger-numbers-and-crowding-on-weekdays-in-major-cities-in-england-and-wales-2011

DfT Autumn 2011 top ten overcrowded trains

The ‘top ten’ services in autumn 2011
=====================================

1.
07:44 service from Henley on Thames to London Paddington (load factor 180 per cent, 179 passengers in excess of its capacity of 225)

Capacity is based on seats only. Service has first class.

First Great Western has recently strengthened this service by adding an additional carriage, so that the number of standard class seats has increased to 340.

2.
07:32 service from Woking to London Waterloo (load factor 164 per cent, 471 passengers in excess of its capacity of 738)

Capacity is based on seats only. Service has first class and train is at maximum length.

3.
18:13 service from London Euston to Birmingham New Street (load factor 162 per cent, 431 passengers in excess of its capacity of 698)

Capacity is based on seats only. Service has first class and train is at maximum length.

From December 2012 London Midland will provide three Class 350/2 ‘high density’ units for this train to maximise the number of seats. In the long term, London Midland has 10 new 4 car trains on order that will allow them to operate additional trains on this route from 2014.

4.
16:48 service from London Euston to Birmingham New Street (load factor 160 per cent, 270 passengers in excess of its capacity of 452)
Capacity is based on seats only. Service has first class.

London Midland plans to increase the capacity on this service by lengthening it from 8 cars to 12 cars in December 2012. In the long term, London Midland has 10 new 4 car trains on order that will allow them to operate additional trains on this route from 2014.

5.
06:30 service from Banbury to London Paddington (load factor 158 per cent, 131 passengers in excess of its capacity of 225)
Capacity is based on seats only. Service has first class.

From September 2012, this service has started from Oxford not Banbury, leaving Oxford at 07:00. It is now operated by a different type of rolling stock which provides a higher standard class seating capacity.

6.
07:55 service from Stourbridge Junction to Stratford-upon-Avon (load factor 157 per cent, 203 passengers in excess of its capacity of 355)

Capacity includes seats and a standing allowance.

More recent counts suggest much lower loadings on this service.

7.
06:23 service from Manchester Airport to Middlesbrough (load factor 155 per cent, 91 passengers in excess of its capacity of 166)

Capacity is based on seats only. Service has first class.

In the long term, from the May 2014 timetable period it is planned to introduce a fifth train per hour between Manchester and Leeds.

8.
18:17 service from London Liverpool Street to Shenfield (load factor 154 per cent, 465 passengers in excess of its capacity of 864)

Capacity includes seats and a standing allowance. Train is at maximum length.

9.
07:14 service from Alton to London Waterloo (load factor 152 per cent, 385 passengers in excess of its capacity of 738)

Capacity is based on seats only. Service has first class and train is at maximum length.

10.
17:46 service from London Euston to Birmingham New Street (load factor 152 per cent, 383 passengers in excess of its capacity of 738)

Capacity is based on seats only. Service has first class and train is at maximum length.

In the long term, London Midland has 10 new 4 car trains on order that will allow additional trains to be operated on this route from 2014.

Passenger counts data issues
============================

* Though a great deal of work is being undertaken in to improve the quality and quantity of passenger count data collected and the outputs derived from these data, this is work in progress. Whilst we believe that aggregate statistics are of reasonable quality, due to the nature of the data, statistics on individual services are not robust.

* The overcrowding figures for the ‘top ten’ services are often derived from one-off measurements of the passengers on each train on a particular weekday. They may not be an average representation of overcrowding on the service over a period of time. Furthermore, some of the passenger load numbers are obtained by manual counting and so there is a significant risk of human error. Hence the figures should be treated with extreme caution.

* As the figures included in this release are a one-off snap-shot from autumn 2011 they do not provide a reliable, accurate guide to current overcrowding. For example, extra capacity has already been introduced on some routes.

* It should be noted that some of the services in the ‘top ten’ list are atypical, in as much as they are services/routes on which additional capacity cannot be provided without unrealistic changes to infrastructure.

* The data collected are intended to represent a ‘typical’ weekday (usually Tuesday to Thursday). Historically, the department has only monitored crowding levels for London and South East operators. In co-operation with train operators, the Department has been expanding its capacity to monitor crowding in key regional cities, and published new statistics this year showing weekday passenger numbers and crowding in a number of major cities in England and Wales.

Further information about passenger counts can be found in the Rail passenger numbers and crowding statistics: notes and definitions, which can be found at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rail-passenger-numbers-and-crowding-on-weekdays-in-major-cities-in-england-and-wales-2011

It should be fairly obvious that measurement of crowding and load factor needs to be based on something better than one-off point estimates of passenger numbers. And there needs to be an accounting of items such as capacity usage in first class, the duration of instances of standing, and a standardisation of the persons-per-unit-area for standees.

Written by beleben

December 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Centro’s attack on West Midlands connectivity

with 2 comments

According to supporters of HS2, a daily demand of 1,100 passengers is enough to justify building a £3 billion high speed rail spur into Heathrow Airport

MVA for HS2 Ltd, Heathrow passengers 2037

but a high speed railway by-passing Coventry and the Black Country — and only serving Birmingham by means of a dead-end branch line stopping short of Birmingham city centre — is just fine.

Centro's Go-HS2 campaign on Twitter: Curzon Street HS2 is fine

HS2 Ltd’s April 2012 Demand and Appraisal Report stated that

Building HS2 into Birmingham Curzon Street would see Curzon Street used by 65,000 HS2 passengers per day in 2037. Around 25 – 30% of these passengers would use classic rail services into New Street or Moor Street in order to access HS2 services.

So in the HS2 numptysphere, it’d not be worth building a railway into central Birmingham to provide a proper connection for 16,250 to 19,500 people a day in Birmingham, but it is worth spending £3 billion building HS2 into Heathrow, to provide a better connection for all of 1,100 people a day. Oh, and anyone from the Black Country or Coventry who wants to get the HS2, should come in on a tram (average speed ~30 km/h).

Written by beleben

December 4, 2012 at 3:01 pm

A ‘technically incorrect’ update

with 2 comments

In my previous blogpost, I noted that Centro’s Alex Burrows had claimed that HS2 phases 1 and 2

have a CR of 2.5 before you factor in much wider real economy benefits

but that did not match the claimed benefit-cost ratio in HS2 Ltd’s January 2012 Economic Case update.

Extract from Alex Burrows' blogpost, "have the anti HS2 groups finally hit the buffers?", 23 Aug 2012

Mr Burrows subsequently updated his blogpost, with a link to HS2’s Ltd August 2012 Updated Economic Case.[Note 1]

Alex's little BCR helpa (Aug 2012)

Which turned out to be helpful, but also rather disappointing. Anyway, as can be seen from Table 1 of the August 2012 update (below), HS2 Ltd’s assessment of the Y network benefit-cost ratio is now 1.9 before wider economic impacts, and 2.5 after they are included. I won’t bother to discuss stage one (LWM), because its numbers are lower still.

HS2 Ltd, another update to the Y network benefit cost ratio, Aug 2012

So in the August 2012 update, the Y network BCR is not 2.5 before “much wider real economy benefits” are included. Quod erat demonstrandum, as they say.

On a more serious note, HS2 Ltd’s BCR updating process remains silent on details such as

* the number and type of trains that would run on the West Coast Main Line following startup of HS2;

* the amount of operating subsidy required for HS2,

* the amount of operating subsidy required for the West Coast Main Line following loss of varying amounts of intercity patronage to HS2;

* demand analysis of the effects of alternative premium fare structures on HS2 (nearly all high speed lines in the world, including HS1, implement a premium fare structure);

* sensitivity of traffic volume to possible continued intercity operations on the WCML;

* economic quantification of disruption arising from construction (e.g. on the borough of Camden, people travelling from Euston, etc)

* credibility of construction cost estimates (e.g. for rebuilding Euston station).

And of course, the August update provides no insight as to how the Y network legs would be routed, or where the northern stations would be.

Note 1. The August BCR update “incorporated the economic forecasts published by the Office for Budgetary [sic] Responsibility in March 2012”. According to the Guardian (8 August 2012) the Bank of England “cut its growth forecast for 2012 from the 1.25% pencilled in three months ago and believes the bounce-back next year will be weaker than previously anticipated”.

Written by beleben

August 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Centro, High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with

Technically incorrect

with one comment

HS2 phases 1 and 2 have a benefit cost ratio of 2.5 without including wider economic impacts, and “can compete with and beat the new Virgin flights between Manchester and Heathrow”, according to Centro’s head of ‘strategy’ Alex Burrows.

the intransigent mantra – no business case (technically incorrect, phases 1 and 2 have a CR of 2.5 before you factor in much wider real economy benefits), no environmental case (well, HS2 can compete with and beat the new Virgin flights between Manchester and Heathrow for starters…), no money to pay for it (the equivalent annual budget for building HS2 is currently being spent on building crossrail) – has never really been developed further as it exposes the premises they have based it on to be ultimately flawed. There is plenty of information available if you check out the go-hs2 website and various others as to why hs2 is so desperately needed for rail capacity for intercity, local/regional and freight services that the opposition case cannot answer whatsoever.

But phases 1 and 2 do not have a benefit cost ratio of 2.5, even according to HS2 Ltd’s January 2012 Economic Case update.

2. Conclusions on value for money
[2.1] The headline findings from our value for money scrutiny of HS2 are that phase 1 (London to West Midlands) lies towards the lower end of the medium value for money category.

2.2 Until important choices regarding the route and station locations for phase 2 (West Midlands to Leeds and Manchester) are made it is not possible to provide a definitive value for money assessment for the full Y network. Further details of the second phase of the scheme, including a recommended route, will be provided by HS2 Ltd in March 2012.

[2.3] For London to West Midlands HS2 Ltd estimate the benefit cost ratio (BCR) to be 1.4. This takes into account those impacts where there is a firm evidence base to support their conversion into monetary units. The Department then takes into account additional impacts that can be monetised, but where the evidence base is less certain i.e. wider economic impacts and landscape.

[2.4] Including the additional effects of wider economic impacts (+£4.1 bn) and landscape (-£1.0 bn) produces an adjusted BCR of 1.6. Including the impact of recent updates to the Office of Budget Responsibility’s economic outlook is expected to reduce the BCR by around 0.1. Including this impact moves the adjusted BCR to the boundary between medium and low value for money.

[2.5] We judge that while some of the non-monetised impacts would place downward pressure on value for money e.g. heritage and biodiversity, others would contribute to improving value for money e.g. improvements to accessibility and to station facilities at Euston. However, we cannot say whether taken together the net impact would be sufficient to move the scheme into the low value for money category, although there is a risk that this could be the case.

[2.6] For the proposed extensions to Leeds and Manchester, key route choices are yet to be made. As such HS2 Ltd currently estimates the BCR to be 1.6 to 1.9. The upper end of this range represents an assessment based on city-centre station locations with good links to other transport hubs. The low end of this range represents a conservative estimate as it assumes all stations are outside city centres and offer poor connectivity to the existing rail network.

[2.7] Given that a route for the Y network beyond the West Midlands has not yet been proposed or decided, it is not possible to evaluate a number of impacts of the scheme e.g. townscape, heritage, biodiversity, noise etc. Adding HS2 Ltd estimates of Wider Economic Impacts for the Y network produces a BCR range of 1.8 to 2.5, although this omits a wide range of effects that will be captured in the value for money assessment.

And HS2 cannot “compete with and beat” the new Virgin flights between Manchester and Heathrow, because HS2 doesn’t exist. The first stage would not open until 2026. In the meantime, the centre-to-centre journey time by train is already quicker than by air. So the existence of flights from Manchester to London is evidence of commercial viability being determined by other factors, such as the fares charged.

According to the 2007 Booz report there was no emissions case for building a high speed railway between Manchester and London, because of embedded carbon. But even if embedded carbon from building a new line were zero, the traction carbon from Y network trains operating at 330+ km/h is unsustainable. Even if only half-trains (200 metres long) were operated, how could a satisfactory passenger volume could be achieved for services that connected no towns other than Manchester and London, every 20 minutes? And some form of classic fast service would have to operate as well, unless places like Stoke-on-Trent were reduced to having just stopping trains.

The diversion of funding into HS2 is particularly harmful for rail development in the north of England. For example, in Network Rail’s Control Period 5 (2014 – 2019) there is no funding for electrification to Hull, Blackburn, Lincoln, Rochdale, Halifax, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Rotherham, Harrogate, and Barnsley.

In southern England, there is no money allocated for rebuilding the Varsity Line between Cambridge and Bedford, electrification of Gospel Oak to Barking, or reinstatement of Uckfield — Lewes.

For Wales, there is no funding for electrification to Holyhead or Wrexham, and no trackwork programmed to improve linkages to Manchester and Liverpool.

In the Midlands, there is no money to re-open and develop the South Staffordshire Line, modernise the West Midlands suburban rail network (Birmingham Crossrail), or create an East Midlands regional tram-train (‘Big NET’).

Because of growing congestion on London’s Underground, there is a need to develop new high capacity transport. However, the HS2 elephant means there is no money available to develop tramway services in west London, along the Chelsea – Hackney axis, or between Camden and Peckham.

Written by beleben

August 23, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Posted in Centro, High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with

What a node of rubbish

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Because the average length of HS2 trips is likely to be under 300 km, bad connectivity on the local legs (at each end of the high speed part of the journey) would have devastating effects on overall time ‘savings’. But bad connectivity is built into the HS2 concept. At the Infrarail 2012 railway infrastructure event at the National Exhibition Centre, Centro head of ‘strategy’ Alex Burrows gave a speech about the proposed Bickenhill HS2 station.

Mr Burrows claimed

My focus is on how we can turn this node into a strategic transport node predominantly accessed by public transport.

But conspicuous by its absence was any explanation as to how this could be done. Instead, there was just waffle about needing to have “a clear vision for access and connectivity which means passengers have options, by train or by tram or by bus, along with reliability, high frequency, comfort and world class information”.

Mr Burrows answered “criticism in some quarters about the distance between Interchange station and the Airport” by giving the “examples of North Greenwich and of Chatelet Les Halles in central Paris”.

Um, Chatelet and North Greenwich are located in built up areas. With effectively 360-degree public transport access. And of course, at those localities, there’s no need to travel 2 km by ‘people mover’ just to change lines.

So there are no parallels to the gare aux betteraves Bickenhill HS2 situation.

Mr Burrows is deluded if he thinks that there is a way of implementing high quality public transport links between Bickenhill HS2 and localities such the Black Country, Sutton Coldfield, and south Birmingham.

Written by beleben

May 4, 2012 at 12:32 pm

More nonsense from Go HS2

with 3 comments

Service reductions on existing lines, to the value of £2.3 billion, are built into the HS2 Ltd Economic Case and the proposed Birmingham parkway station site (at Middle Bickenhill) is in the middle of nowhere. Yet the shameless Go-HS2 campaign says it would be “much nearer” for many of Coventry’s citizens:

The scaremongering at Coventry is a good example of ignoring the real issue. Coventry will be around 8 miles (city centre) from HS2 at Interchange, but much nearer for many of its citizens. It will still have London services, plus better local/regional rail.

This claim has no factual basis, as can be seen from the map showing how the Coventry urban area is positioned relative to Middle Bickenhill:

Bickenhill HS2 parkway is not 'closer for many Coventry citizens' - all of the Coventry urban area is closer to Coventry station

The road connections are poor, and there would be no way of organising viable bus services from Coventry suburbs to a Bickenhill parkway station. Viable bus services in Coventry are ones that serve its city centre – where the existing railway station is.

Written by beleben

January 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm