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Posts Tagged ‘David Higgins

Carry on enjoying

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HS2's David HigginsBirmingham and the wider West Midlands region are “already enjoying the benefits of HS2“, and Stafford will have an “integrated high speed station” used by a community far wider than the county town, according to an article supposedly written by HS2 chairman David Higgins.

[‘HS2 will open up more than a high speed line’ says the boss heading multi-billion pound project, ‘David Higgins writes’, Express and Star, 31 Oct 2016]

Stafford’s integrated high speed station will be used by a community far wider than the county town, opening up services [to London] to hundreds of thousands of people and businesses to the north, west and south including Staffordshire and the Black Country.

It will also enable people to access faster and direct services to London – providing a much-needed boost to transport links [to London].

[…] Stafford Borough Council is commissioning a strategic vision and deliverable ‘route map’ and investment programme for Stafford station and surrounding areas, where the arrival of HS2 trains is expected to have the most transformative impact.

Surely, train services to London are already “opened up” – to anyone who can reach the existing Stafford railway station, and who can afford the fare. What is the difference between Stafford’s current station, and David Higgins’ “integrated high speed station”? So far as can be ascertained, they are one and the same thing.

[‘HS2 will open up more than a high speed line’ says the boss heading multi-billion pound project, ‘David Higgins writes’, Express and Star, 31 Oct 2016]

[…] Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region are already enjoying the benefits of HS2.

Through the largest devolution deal to date, the West Midlands Combined Authority has been given responsibility for an investment package worth more than £4bn to deliver the Midlands HS2 Growth Strategy with the potential to add £14bn to the economy and create and support 100,000 jobs.

So, carry on ‘enjoying’ four-hour waits in accident and emergency, carry on enjoying 3-foot potholes, carry on enjoying library closures, and carry on enjoying the results of the government’s spending choices on HS2, and the ‘Midlands Engine’.

Written by beleben

November 30, 2016 at 2:25 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Misinformation from the top

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In March 2016 the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee said HS2 Ltd’s culture of “defensive communication and misinformation” was “not acceptable”.

HS2 Ltd's claims about integrity and transparency

The chief executive of HS2 Ltd, Simon Kirby, seems to be a key enabler of the ‘culture of misinformation’. In an article published by The Rail Engineer on 29 April, Mr Kirby claimed that

  • a twin-track high speed railway like HS2 would provide more line capacity than a twin-track conventional one
  • HS2 would take 500,000 lorries a year off the roads, ‘with the freight capacity we create on the West Coast line because we’ve got high-speed trains on the high speed network’.

[Taking HS2 to completion, Nigel Wordsworth’s interview with HS2 Ltd chief executive Simon Kirby, The Rail Engineer, 29 April 2016]

[…] Despite its name, High Speed 2 isn’t just about high speed – it’s about capacity. Pulling long-distance passenger traffic off the West Coast main line and onto a new railway will leave more room on the ‘old’ lines for stopping trains, commuters and freight.

[…] Some people have questioned whether a high-speed railway is strictly necessary. If a conventional railway, with a speed of, say, 140mph, were to be built instead. Wouldn’t that do just as well?

“Most of the characteristics are the same for any type of new railway, the aesthetics of bridges and the substructure are the same,” Simon replied. “One of the challenges we all have as an industry is taking people into the world of three or four per cent passenger growth and imagining what the industry looks like in 10 or 20 years’ time. Half of the trains out of Euston by the end of this decade will be full, and that’s with standing provisions as well. So we’d need a four track railway from Euston to Birmingham, not a two track one, because the speeds are slower and the capacity is less.

When asked about line capacity of high speed and conventional railways in freedom of information requests, HS2 Ltd has been unable to provide any evidence to support Mr Kirby’s claim, or a similar one by the chairman, David Higgins.

Line capacity misinformation given by HS2 chairman David Higgins

According to a diagram produced by HS2 Ltd’s technical director Andrew McNaughton, long distance trains would not be removed from the West Coast Main Line when HS2 became operational.

Andrew McNaughton, 'HS2 released capacity' slide, 2015

In October 2013, Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that the government would “aim to ensure” that all towns or cities which currently have a direct service to London will retain broadly comparable or better services once HS2 is completed, and intended to launch “a study to recommend how this can be done”. How could it be done, without retaining long distance services on the existing line?

Written by beleben

May 9, 2016 at 10:50 am

Advertised in error

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HS2 Ltd has denied that David Higgins has resigned, after the Cabinet Office announced that it was seeking a new chairman in an official newsletter.

Cabinet Office public appointments newsletter, extract, 2016-04-28


[HS2 chairman’s £475k-a-year post advertised ‘in error’ by Government, Andrew Gilligan, Daily Telegraph, 30 April 2016]

[…] The bulletin states that the job is “expected to be advertised within the next few months”.

But a spokesman for HS2 claimed the entry was an “error”, saying: “Sir David Higgins remains as chairman of HS2 Ltd.”

However, the spokesman refused to say how long he would remain or to make any further comment.
His contract was extended only in January this year after he was initially appointed for a two-year term beginning in January 2014.

In November 2013 the government announced that David Higgins would be taking up the chairmanship of HS2 Ltd, ‘to drive down the cost of the high speed rail project’. announcement: David Higgins to drive down the cost of HS2

In February 2011, David Higgins took over the position of chief executive of the failing infrastructure manager, Network Rail. In July 2015, he told the BBC there was ‘no sign of a crisis’ at Network Rail when he ran it.

BBC News: David Higgins said there was no sign of a crisis at emerging when he ran Network Rail

Having claimed that HS2 had been damaged by not ‘clearly‘ setting out the rationale, in November 2014 Mr Higgins told the House of Commons transport select committee that “a railway line where trains travel at 220 miles an hour as opposed to 120 miles an hour clearly has nearly twice the capacity because you can have twice as many trains on it”.

David Higgins claimed that 'a railway line where trains travel at 220 miles an hour as opposed to 120 miles an hour clearly has nearly twice the capacity because you can have twice as many trains on it'

“Once we started to talk about capacity, then people started to get it.” Or perhaps, more accurately, ‘once the chairman of HS2 started to talk about capacity, it became clear that he hadn’t the foggiest idea what he was talking about’.

At the time of writing, the ‘twice the capacity’ claim is the subject of an unresolved, and long-overdue, freedom of information enquiry to HS2 Ltd.

Written by beleben

May 1, 2016 at 1:40 pm

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Two for the price of Three

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HS2 Leeds-station Options 2 and 3, November 2015

HS2 Leeds station siting, Options 2 and 3, November 2015. The previous ‘Option 3’ proposal has been ditched in favour of ‘Option 2’

Today (30 November 2015) the government released command paper 9157 outlining its plans to accelerate delivery of a section of HS2 Phase 2 between Fradley and Crewe. That section, to be known as Phase 2a, is now scheduled to open in 2027, six years earlier than previously planned. The government has also published updated analysis on the business case for HS2, and an “interim report” on the siting of the Leeds high speed rail station. However, the exact routeing of Phase 2 itself has still not been finalised.

In ‘The Yorkshire Hub: An interim report on the redevelopment of Leeds station’ HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins presented three options for the siting of the Leeds high speed station.

[ on the Leeds HS2 station siting]

[…] After continued engagement with Leeds City Council, local authorities across West Yorkshire, the Leeds City Region LEP, the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, and Network Rail, a clear consensus around a single preferred option has emerged.

This interim report is being submitted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Transport to consider, as a recommendation from HS2 Ltd. A full route decision on Phase Two of HS2 is expected later in 2016.

[…] The original New Lane [Leeds station site] proposals fulfilled HS2’s brief, but did not sufficiently take into account the changing nature of the wider factors, either in terms of existing and future services or the Council’s plans for the city centre. The danger was that the proposed station would have been too detached from the existing station and too isolated from the city centre. The sum would have been lesser than the parts. The hub effect would have been diminished.

Following representations from and detailed engagement with the Council, the Chamber of Commerce and representatives from the wider region on a range of potential approaches, HS2 selected three options from a longer list to prompt further discussion and analysis.
Option 1: Approaching from the east, with HS2 platforms parallel to existing platforms [at City station]
Option 2: Approaching from the south, with HS2 platforms reaching directly into existing Leeds station, creating a common concourse between services
Option 3: Approaching from the south, with HS2 platforms creating a new station south of the river, requiring passengers to transfer by foot to the existing Leeds station
David Higgins, Chairman, HS2 Ltd

The process of engagement we have gone through, in partnership with the region, to decide the best option for the Yorkshire Hub has been a model of its kind.

Quite rightly, local and civic leaders made clear their view of the limitations they saw in our original proposals, in particular its failure to connect local, regional and HS2 services and to connect into the existing city centre, and the plans for its expansion.

Given the physical constraints of the existing station, and the rising level of demand for services, coming up with a solution that meets all those needs has not been easy. But thanks to the efforts of the Council, the city region and the Chamber of Commerce, as well as HS2 and Network Rail experts, we have reached a consensus.

In short, because of both the heavy and growing demand and the constricted site – particularly at the station entrance – Option One was seen as not sufficiently flexible to cope with both HS2 and the anticipated increased traffic the Northern Powerhouse will deliver in the longer term. Whilst this more compact solution was superficially attractive, it does not stand the test of time, as the medium to long-term impact would be a limit on the ability to further extend or enhance the station to handle increased pressure on local services. The result would be detrimental to the transport needs and the wider economic aspirations of the city and the region, as would the disruption of construction in the midst of a working station.

Option Three, on the other hand, while feasible, was seen to suffer from drawbacks at the other end of the spectrum as there was too great a distance between HS2 and local services with passengers being exposed to a longer walk, often in bad weather and the lost opportunity to create a common concourse for the first time. It was not seen as an improvement on the original HS2 New Lane proposal.

Option Two, however, was seen to offer:

* easy access from HS2 to local services, and vice versa, on a par with that experienced at any other global transport hub;

* a common concourse creating the space for seamless passenger movement, and for retail and service facilities;

* easy access to the city centre, the South Bank and the waterfront helping to make the combined station an integral part of the developing city, rather than an adjunct;

* much easier car and bus access linking up to the urban and motorway hub, allowing the station to become an integrated transport hub for Yorkshire and the wider region;

* the capacity to allow local services to grow as HS3 and the Northern Powerhouse develops;

* the ability to allow through trains for local services and Northern Powerhouse rail services to improve links to York, Newcastle and Hull in the East, as well as Manchester and Liverpool in the West, and Sheffield and the Midlands to the South.

* the opportunity to create a landmark architectural statement, fitting with the role of Leeds station as a piece of national infrastructure, that Leeds, the city region, Yorkshire and the nation can be proud of.

In essence, the new Option 2 is a reworking of the previous Option 3 terminus proposal, with the dead-end platforms moved a few yards to the north. Presumably, the cost of Option 2 must be considerably higher, otherwise it would have been adopted at the outset.

But how real is the ‘consensus’ around Option 2? In July 2015, West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce stated that “A station which is able to accommodate HS2 and/or TransNorth rail services running through and onto the East Coast Mainline towards Northeast England and Scotland is essential“. In other words, the Chamber thought that a through high-speed station was a necessity.

West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce's proposal for a Leeds HS2 through station

West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce’s proposal for a Leeds HS2 through station, July 2015

Of Option 3 (New Lane), David Higgins said ‘the lack of a shared common concourse with local services would make moving between them and HS2 more difficult and make the HS2 station more isolated from the city centre’.

Birmingham New Street and Curzon Street: connectivity badly compromised by design

Birmingham New Street and Curzon Street: connectivity badly compromised by design

But of course, that is exactly the situation proposed for Birmingham, where the HS2 Curzon station site is remote from New Street, the main station for regional trains.

Written by beleben

November 30, 2015 at 9:07 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Executive chairman of HS2 rail project doesn’t understand speed and capacity

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13 Jan 2015, Economic Affairs Committee - HS2 economics, Q251 (extract)

Written by beleben

July 24, 2015 at 9:48 am

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An unjust division

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SDG's map of rail journeys to London, produced in 2011

HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins believes the problems Network Rail has had with electrification are “utterly different” from what HS2 has to face, the Guardian reported.

[HS2 chief hits out at ‘unjust’ division of rail assets between north and south, Gwyn Topham, The Guardian, 16 July 2015]

“What we’re essentially building is a new highway. You know exactly what’s [there] and you’ve got 24-hour access. Upgrading these existing assets is nightmarishly difficult.

Mr Higgins also claimed that cascading rolling stock to Northern England was unfair.

[…DH:] “I look at [railway] expenditure per head, the pass-me-down process – the offcuts from rolling stock always end up in the north. Two hours from Birmingham to Leeds on a chugger, old crappy trains on poor railway lines. We would not accept that from London to Swindon, and we don’t: we insist on a huge amount of money going into commuter services.”

HS2 will attempt to address this divide, with a first leg that runs from London to Birmingham, then a second phase linking to Manchester and Leeds. […]

Three decades of major infrastructure projects lie ahead: “HS2, Crossrail 2, HS3, the substantial investment in ground support and transport for a third runway at Heathrow, the highways programme, the National Grid, nuclear power stations.” It sounds a tall order, but Higgins insisted: “It’s going to happen. It’s not a question of will we, won’t we.”

What about the money? “These are assets – not a cost to the nation.”

Mr Higgins’ claims are largely bunkum. Cascading of rolling stock (a well-established practice) may take place for a variety of reasons. It is not unknown for old trains to be moved to new locations in the south of England. However, railways in the South East tend to carry more passengers, so in many cases it makes sense to assign a higher priority to rolling stock renewal there.

The age disparity in rolling stock between northern and southern England tends to affect regional, rather than long-distance, travel. Currently, between London and Swindon, and Birmingham and Leeds, many of the fast trains are 1970s / 1980s (diesel) HSTs.

New-build high speed rail tends to be a competitor for resources against the existing railway. In France, over-investment in the TGV has been a major factor in the decline of the classic system. In Britain, the Electric Spine, Midland, South Wales Valleys and Transpennine North electrification schemes have all been “paused” to protect HS2.

Written by beleben

July 17, 2015 at 9:00 am

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Building HS2 ‘without compromise’

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David Higgins in shellsuit (montage)In an interview with the Architects’ Journal (paywall), High Speed 2 Ltd executive chairman and former Network Rail kamikaze David Higgins spoke about the challenges of bringing HS2 to Euston and building ‘without compromise’. As is now expected from Mr Higgins, there was a large baloney coefficient.

[David Higgins: ‘HS2 can’t be another compromise’, Tim Clark, 13 July, 2015]

[AJ:] With regards to disruption, there are reports that [Euston HS2] will take to 2046. How are you going to deal with that?

[DH:] It’s not going to take until 2046, but there is going to be a trade off at some point between disruption and time.

[DH:] I remember French engineers visiting Crossrail at Farringdon, and they said: ‘Why are you so patiently looking to maintain the whole station and keep this open?

‘What we would do is build a new station over there, shut this, knock it down and relocate. We wouldn’t go through this tedious aggressive incremental process.’

The closest French equivalent of Farringdon would doubtless have been the rebuild of Chatelet, as part of the cross-Paris railway built to join lines 16 and 17 (now RER A). ‘The French’ kept the station where it was, and went through a tedious aggressive incremental process of digging big holes in the ground. Just like Crossrail.

Written by beleben

July 15, 2015 at 10:47 pm

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HS2 costs on the move

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David Higgins shell suitAfter he was appointed chairman of HS2 Ltd, David Higgins spoke of building the ‘shells’ of the Manchester Piccadilly and Leeds New Lane high speed stations in advance, to inspire confidence that the scheme would go ahead. But on 1 June 2015, The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that it “understands the original proposal for a separate HS2 station in Leeds around the current site of Asda House, known as New Lane, is now considered all but dead”.

[Yorkshire Post]

[…] HS2 executive chairman Sir David Higgins is due to produce a report later this year looking at the options for the future of Leeds station to ensure HS2 services are properly intergrated [sic] with local lines and emerging plans for east-west high speed rail, known as HS3. […]

The focus has now shifted to how the existing station can be expanded or a second station can be constructed in a way that it can be easily connected to the current terminal.

A key benefit of redeveloping Leeds City station for HS2 is the possibility of “burying” the high speed rail terminal costs in non-HS2 (Network Rail and local authority) budgets.

On 19 June 2015 WSP Group announced its Parsons Brinckerhoff unit had been “appointed by Network Rail to deliver engineering consultancy and infrastructure planning services at Old Oak Common, for the key interchange station between the Great Western Main Line / Crossrail and HS2″. That would suggest that the cost of Old Oak interchange is being charged to Network Rail, rather than to the HS2 budget.

Given that HS2 is unlikely to be buildable for £50 billion, it would be no surprise to find the cost of HS2 stations at Crewe, Euston, Old Oak, Manchester, and Leeds all ending up moved off-balance-sheet, as part of the ‘cost control’ subterfuge.

Written by beleben

June 19, 2015 at 11:12 am

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In defence of folly

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David HigginsOn 15 May 2015 Financial Times columnist Jeremy Paxman described the HS2 project as “a grotesque waste of taxpayers’ money” (paywall). HS2 Ltd’s chairman David Higgins defended the project in a response published on the website.

[15 May 2015]

Dear Sir

Jeremy Paxman, in his familiar style, dismisses HS2 as a folly. Perhaps he would like to consider a few facts. Rail travel in this country has doubled in the past twenty years and is forecast to keep growing at five percent minimum per year. The result is a rail network that is so full that incremental improvements, whilst very welcome, will not deliver the step change in capacity that is needed. He might also want to consider why productivity in countries such as France, Germany and the Netherlands, which have invested in high speed rail, is higher than in this country. HS2 will help relieve the housing, commercial property and transport pressure on London whilst improving connectivity, and therefore productivity, in the Midlands and the North. That is why HSBC is moving its UK headquarters to Birmingham by 2018 and why, elected, local authority leaders across the Midlands and the North, as well as an overwhelming majority of MPs support the scheme. Passengers who queue on a daily basis at Paddington and London Bridge, or those who have to stand on the West Coast Mainline are paying the price of dithering and delay by previous generations. Imagine what it will be like in twenty years’ time if we fail once again to seize the chance for change.

Yours faithfully

Sir David Higgins
Chair, HS2 Ltd

While it is more or less true to say that GB passenger journeys have doubled to 1,500 million since 1994, high speed rail has not been a facilitator of that uplift. HS1 carried only 12 million domestic and 9.9 million international passengers in 2012. So national rail growth arose — and was accommodated on — existing lines, with no increase in passengers in “excess of capacity”.

Passengers in excess of capacity on GB rail did not increase with total ridership

Whether or not long distance rail travel to Manchester, Sheffield, and Leeds “is forecast to keep growing at five percent minimum”, is not a reason to spend £50+ billion on high speed rail. The volume of such traffic is very small, and would remain small, even with five percent year-on-year growth.

Diagrams of GB passenger rail volumes from a Financial Times article, Feb 2015

According to the McNulty report, annual rail journeys could increase by another ~100% in the period to 2030. But the HS2 project is not relevant to accommodating such growth.

Graph of passenger rail journeys in Great Britain, showing contribution of West Coast long distance traffic

Written by beleben

June 2, 2015 at 9:49 am

HS2 and GB productivity

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Martin Weale speech, chart 5

According to HS2 Ltd chairman David Higgins, the company’s proposed high speed rail line is needed to fix Britain’s productivity gap.

[Higgins: Why HS2 is the right option for Britain, New Civil Engineer, 1 June, 2015 (paywall)]

The rationale behind Britain’s biggest infrastructure project – High Speed 2 – has been frequently challenged by NCE’s readers. Here HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins puts his case for the mega-project.

The Prime Minister has said it. The chancellor has said it. The Governor of the Bank of England has said it. This country not only has a productivity problem but a productivity problem that is at least partly due to the unbalanced nature of our economy which has led to real pressure on housing, commercial property and transport in London, side by side with under-development further North.

That paradox is the result of our collective failure to think strategically about our infrastructure needs as a country, and then implement the plans we need to address those needs. Time and again, whether it has been Crossrail or Thameslink, we have known what needs to be done – and then dithered. The result has been not just an infrastructure which has failed to keep up with the country’s fundamental needs, but also has added real cost as a direct result of our indecision. Our collective failure to follow through on what we know needs to be done has cost this country dear in all senses. Talk has been anything but cheap.

As can be seen from the diagram above, Britain has been underperforming in terms of productivity for decades (well before any European country had high speed rail). If David Higgins thinks spending £50+ billion on HS2 would transform GB productiveness, perhaps he should produce some evidence-based quantification.

He has also not produced any evidence to support his claim that upgrading existing railways would “provide poor value for money” and “cause consistent and significant disruption lasting for many years”. All the available evidence suggests that upgrades would be less disruptive and provide vastly better value for money (for example, the 51m scheme had a benefit/cost in excess of 5).

Written by beleben

June 1, 2015 at 11:11 am

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