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Posts Tagged ‘efficiency

Local authorities may have to change some of their rubbish policies

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In January 2013 the Beleben blog attacked the councillor James McKay / Eric Pickles weekly bin collection stitch-up, noting that emissions from supernumerary refuse collections must be one of the largest transport contributors to bad air quality in Birmingham. And in February 2013, the Beleben blog observed that in terms of labour productivity, hebdomadary wheeled bin collection must be about as inefficient as it gets.

Now, it appears, ministers have suddenly realised that weekly collections of general refuse is ‘very expensive’. Why hasn’t the Daily Mail rung Doretta?

Daily Mail, 7 Sep 2015

Daily Mail, 7 Sep 2015

Written by beleben

September 10, 2015 at 9:06 pm

Posted in Birmingham

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You’ve gotta have a system

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Renfe, Memoria 1983As late as the 1980s, compared to most western European countries, Spain’s national railway network was antiquated, and provided a distinctly odd customer experience. I remember a Largo Recorrido journey from a few years ago, where the train, nearing Madrid, was shaking so violently that I thought it had come off the rails.

Since then, there has been massive investment in parts of the system, particularly the Cercanias and new build líneas de alta velocidad (LAV), along with sectorisation of train operations, and separation of infrastructure from production.

Spanish practice has been to build LAV as freight-capable, and unlike the legacy network, standard 1435mm track gauge is used (at one point, wholescale conversion of the 1668mm network to 1435mm was under consideration). Outside of the big cities, investment in the legacy system has remained modest.

Given the limits of its legacy road and rail infrastructure, the construction of some LAV track could be seen as being justified by its developmental and connectivity benefits.

However, as of 2012, the AVE network is said to be the second longest in the world after China, and there is evidence that much of the investment does not live up to the hype.

In his presentation ‘Energy consumption of High Speed trains‘ for the UIC High Speed Rail 6th world congress in Amsterdam (2008), Alberto García Álvarez of the Fundación de los Ferrocarriles Españoles claimed that Spain’s new build high speed rail (AVE) was more efficient that its legacy network, and a similar efficiency disparity was likely in other countries.

Alberto García Alvarez, Energy consumption of High Speed trains (2008)

Alberto García Alvarez, Energy consumption of High Speed trains (2008)

He described the AVE as a ‘system’, in which each part contributed to the efficiency.

García Álvarez, 2008 presentation -  'high speed rail is a system'

Sr García Álvarez was using the notion of efficiency within a narrow confine. For example, it would be challenging to describe the manufacture and storage of large amounts of surplus AVE rolling stock as ‘efficient’. As the AHT Gelditu website noted,

Renfe se ha gastado 1,400 millones de euros en trenes de alta velocidad innecesarios.

According to Sr García Álvarez

  • a Madrid to Lleida journey using the AVE line in a S-102 emu worked out 32.6% faster than a conventional Grandes Lineas journey, while using 15.7% less energy
  • on the wider AVE network, better energy efficiency came from
    • a more homogeneous speed profile
    • lower point to point distance
    • lower ancillary services consumption
    • lower mass per seat and “smoother trains”
    • a more efficient aerodynamic profile
    • bigger trains
    • better load factor, and
    • a more efficient electric system.

Sr García Álvarez argued that system efficiencies would more than offset the higher traction energy arising from increased velocity. However, since the raw data isn’t available, there is no way of assessing the relative efficiencies of particular aspects of the AVE system. The energy inefficiency from increasing speed does seem to have troubled the Spanish government. In a 2007 El Mundo report, transport minister Magdalena Álvarez seemed unconvinced of a case for ever-higher commercial speeds.

[Magdalena] Álvarez comentó que, aunque el AVE S-102 Talgo Bombardier puede alcanzar los 330 kilómetros por hora (km/h) y el modelo Siemens que sustituirá a los Talgo llega a los 350 km/h, la velocidad comercial de la alta velocidad en España será de 300 km/h como máximo. Con ello descartó así algunas previsiones iniciales que apuntaron a que en la línea Madrid – Barcelona se podrían alcanzar los 350 km/h.

Furthermore, Sr García Álvarez’s pitch does not take account of what might be ‘showstopper’ issues in other countries, such as the embedded carbon from AVE construction, or the very low utilisation of the new infrastructure.

Improved aerodynamic design and lower seat mass can be designed into 200 km/h trains too, so Sr García Álvarez’s conflation of speed and non-speed factors obfuscates the energy impact due to running at high speed. Similar obfuscation is practised by HS2 lobbyists in Great Britain.

Sr García Álvarez’s claims

Claim 1: “It is not true that [high speed rail] energy consumption increases with the square of the speed, and the needed power with the cube”

The energy involved in constructing and operating a high speed rail system is more than just the energy used to propel the trains. But as far as traction energy is concerned, it is more or less correct to say that consumption rises as the square of the speed.

So for a railway where trains ran uniformly at 400 km/h, energy consumption would be more than three times that of running at 200 km/h. No amount of lower “mass per seat, better aerodynamic profile” spin is going to alter that fact. In real world high speed lines, trains tend to run well below advertised ‘headline’ velocity for large parts of the journey, so the overall energy multiplier would be lower.

High speed rail, energy requirements of TGV-R and AGV11 (Systra)

Very high speed trains would have lower ancillary (train heating, lighting, etc) energy take, but ‘hotel’ power is not a particularly large part of consumption per-journey. And because ancillaries are generally left on in idle time between peak diagrams (etc), the actual AVE hotel energy saving may not be that large.

Claim 2: “Figures show that in general, HS trains have a similar energy consumption (many times lower) than conventional trains”

Trains running at higher speeds use more energy per kilometre. In Great Britain, HS2 Ltd has accepted that its trains would have higher energy consumption than Pendolinos on account of higher speeds.

New build AVE tracks in Spain are straighter than legacy routes, but in Britain the Bicester cut-off route to Birmingham is much the same length as the HS2 equivalent. Whether the Y network would be shorter than its classic analogue, remains to be seen. The Y network route is currently secret.

Claim 3: “HS (just because of the speed) can capture passengers from all means of transport, especially cars and planes”

In Great Britain, there is little doubt that high speed rail could capture passengers from cars and planes. For example, if high speed rail lines and bridges were built to the Scilly Isles, Shetland, and Larne in Northern Ireland, there would be be modal shift to rail from air, and new rail journeys. But modal shift is peripheral to the question of whether such investments could produce net economic benefit. In the case of HS2, the modal shift expected from air and car travel was estimated at just 3% and 8% respectively by HS2 Ltd.

Renfe, red 1983 [Beleben], showing capacity limitations

© Beleben 2012

Written by beleben

August 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Intercity, the local leg, and Rail Package 6

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Britain’s economic geography is not well suited to the Adonis/Steer pattern of high speed rail, currently being pursued by the coalition government. A better way forward would be to develop and extend the existing network, with more clockface timetabling, and high quality interchange.

Extending intercity rail in Manchester

In Greater Manchester, this approach could be used to provide fast direct rail connections to places outside of the conurbation centre. One might imagine a scenario where infrastructure works, such as the Ordsall curve and further Transpennine electrification, allowed intercity trains from London Euston to Manchester to continue to Bolton, Rochdale, and possibly other destinations.

Reducing the local leg components of journeys in this way enables ‘classic rail’ to compete against high speed rail on journey time. In the HS2 Y-network, access to the intercity leg of a journey would happen in a currently unknown location in Manchester. With the Rail Package 6 approach, there are more intercity access points, closer to the traveller’s point of origin (e.g., Bolton, Stockport, etc).

The same considerations apply in other areas. For example, in the Rail Package 6 approach, West Bromwich is directly connected to London by Chiltern intercity rail. In the model put forward by Centro, the local transport authority, the same journey would involve an excruciatingly slow Midland Metro tram from West Bromwich to Stephenson Street, followed by a walk to Curzon Street HS2 station, followed by a HS2 journey to Euston.

Written by beleben

November 25, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Signing the Camp Hill Accords

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Birmingham business leaders have been told that the city is on target to “deliver an £800 million revolution in city centre transport links”, reported the Birmingham Post. The council’s assistant director of transport strategy, David Bull

highlighted a range of longer term projects such as further Metro lines, the redevelopment of Paradise Circus and the reopening of the Camp Hill Accords are likely to further boost Birmingham’s profile as a connected business city.

I’m not aware of there ever having been any “Camp Hill Accords”. However, construction of a Birmingham Crossrail regional express system would require the construction of Camp Hill (Bordesley) chords, and a chord at Benson Road (Winson Green). But it’s unlikely that such a connected local rail system would ever materialise, so long as Centro continues to exist.

Written by beleben

November 11, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Anthony Gueterbock (Lord Berkeley) on HS2

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Network Rail 2004-2005 gauge clearance map, indicative only, HS1 not shownThe Rail Freight Group (RFG) is a company that was formed in 1991 to represent the views of “those involved with the rail freight industry that were not British Rail”, and its 100+ members include customers, logistics providers, suppliers, terminal operators, ports, and freight rail operators. Its aim is to “promote cost effective rail solutions for freight, and serve the interests of members by improving the political, legal and planning environment in which the rail freight industry operates”.

RFG’s Chairman, called ‘Tony Berkeley’ on its website, is the Labour peer Lord Berkeley, but one translation of his actual surname (Gueterbock) would be ‘goods do not move’. Which is fitting, given his somewhat oddball views about HS2 and rail freight, outlined in a September open letter to Philip Hammond (transport secretary at the time):

Rt. Hon Philip Hammond MP,
Secretary of State for Transport
Great Minster House
76 Marsham Street
28th September 2011

Dear Secretary of State,

Open Letter: rail freight needs HS2 as much as passengers!

As the debate about HS2 hots up and more people who happen to live beside the proposed route express doubts about the value for money of the project, it is time to clarify why a new North – South rail line is needed.

For freight, the reasons are clear – more capacity is needed to move containers, particularly on the North-South axis. Here, container traffic has grown by 56% in the last 8 years, and customers, particularly in the retail sector, are pressing the rail freight industry to take more of their goods by rail, for reliability, price and low carbon reasons.

The West Coast Main Line corridor is vital because it links the major conurbations where people live – and consume – and on which freight needs to run. One cannot pick alternative routes. As the main trunk route, the WCML already carries 50 to 75 freight trains a day on its southern part.

Some of these will transfer to the Felixstowe – Peterborough – Nuneaton route if upgraded, but we forecast that, by 2030, with traffic from the London Gateway and other developments added, freight will need six paths an hour in each direction on the WCML just to keep up with demand.

And if freight does not go by rail, it will go by road, adding some 200 trucks an hour shared between the M40, the M1 and parallel ‘A’ roads, and adding 500,000 tonnes per year to our transport related output of CO2. I suggest that the same comments apply to passenger demand as well.

If the longer distance WCML passenger services were transferred to the high speed line, capacity on the former would be released for freight. The four track WCML from London to Crewe is easily able take six freight trains per hour in each direction, and also a reasonable number of regional passenger services to cater for the increased demand between Birmingham, Crewe and London.

Ministers must of course resist the temptation to offer non-stop tilting trains every five minutes from Milton Keynes to London as ‘compensation’ for the construction of the high speed line. Faster and more frequent passenger trains will be possible, but one of the related benefits, outlined in the SE Route Utilisation Study, is to build a connection between the WCML and Crossrail near Old Oak Common in West London so that the good burghers of Milton Keynes will be able to access central London without changing trains at Euston. That is the way to improve overall journey times and passenger comfort.

The French TGV line from Paris to Lyon is now signalled for a train every two minutes, and HS2 could do the same. Of course, it would take many years to reach such intense levels of traffic, but it opens up the possibility of through passenger trains from Aberystwyth, Holyhead, Blackpool, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, York and Newcastle (to name a few major destinations) all with trains using the HS2. Equally important is the need for a proper rail connection between HS1 and HS2 without using the very congested and small gauge North London Line. Such a link would enable through trains from northern cities to Paris and Brussels, as well as higher speed parcels and other freight trains.

Thus, on a project where even the first section is only due to open in 15 years time, one cannot expect HS2 to be prescriptive about train and passenger numbers now but, built properly to accommodate such frequent services, then its role in freeing up capacity on the existing line is assured.

So we urge you to stand firm against those who are seeking to prevent HS2 happening; the country needs it, and freight needs a significant part of the capacity freed up to meet the demands of its customers for a more carbon friendly form of transport, and keep all those lorries off the road!

Yours, Tony

Contrary to the impression given by Mr Gueterbock, there is no evidence that HS2 would transform rail freight capability. As can be seen from the diagram in Network Rail’s Freight Route Utilisation Strategy, there are potentially numerous ways of routeing freight to and from major conurbations, but rail cargo is held back by the majority of routes not being cleared for containers. Currently, there is no possibility of rail assuming a significantly larger role in goods transport at the national level. The connecting lines required for that purpose disappeared fifty years ago, along with most local freight handling facilities.

Forecasting future freight movements is just as difficult as forecasting future passenger demand. Who would have expected that, upon its completion, hardly any rail freight would be moved through the Channel tunnel? Who, in the year 2003, would have correctly estimated (at zero) the number of automobiles rail-transported from MG Rover Longbridge in 2006?

While Network Rail is upbeat about future demand for rail cargo, according to the Freight on Rail group, it would be seriously affected if the government permitted longer heavy goods vehicle semi-trailers. The Department of Transport freight model hasn’t proved adequate for planning purposes, and the DfT commissioned the Network Analysis of Freight Traffic to try to enable better intelligence on freight transport. If large-scale transfer of freight from road to rail is a policy objective, there needs to be co-ordinated investment enabling that switch to take place.

Written by beleben

November 10, 2011 at 8:39 pm

HS2 irresilience

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The University of Connecticut document ‘Network Vulnerability and High-Speed Rail‘ presented by Nicholas Lownes, noted that

* The vulnerability of a transportation network is strongly correlated with the ability of the network to withstand shocks and disruptions.
* High-volume edges with limited alternative paths represent obvious system vulnerabilities.

The design of HS2 makes it highly vulnerable to disruption. It would be connected to the legacy rail system, but its preferred European-interoperable GC gauge rolling stock would not generally be able to interoperate on British track. The outcome would be that HS2 is exposed to the perturbations from classic rail, but is not able to use those connections to effectively re-route traffic in response to disruption on its own line, or on some other portion of the legacy network.

Big trains, more comfort?

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Loading gauges compared (from Network Rail freight RUS, 2007)No-one appears to have devised any set of metrics to assess comfort levels of public transport journeys, although it’s reasonable to assume that personal space is one of several important factors.

Most European railways are built to more generous dimensions than those in Great Britain, and in theory the use of Continental loading gauge should mean more comfort. In the HS2 documentation, the specified loading gauge for new build track is known as ‘GC’, effectively a standard for western European high speed rail. The more generous dimensions of GC should allow HS2 to provide levels of passenger comfort not yet seen on Britain’s railways.

At least, that’s the theory. In fact, around three quarters of the stage one HS2 trains would have to be built to a smaller British loading gauge, not GC gauge, in order to provide through services onto existing lines. With a larger Y network, the loading gauge issues are still there, but pushed a bit further to the north. Unless existing lines beyond Manchester and Leeds were rebuilt, classic compatible trains would still be needed in large numbers.

GC gauge does permit double deck passenger trains, but these have a lower comfort level than single deck designs (including British single deck trains). Nevertheless, in western Europe, high maintenance costs have led both SNCF and Deutsche Bahn to make increasing use of double deck carriages, with the former standardising on double-deck for high speed services. SNCF has expressed little interest in the single deck Alstom AGV, which is used in HS2 Ltd’s traction energy modelling. In any event, the 200 metre AGV only seats 458 persons in standard configuration. The dense pack version seats 510, which is still below HS2 Ltd’s aspiration of 550.


Even with services operated with Continental gauge captive stock, it’s unlikely that HS2 would provide increased comfort for passengers. The high costs associated with high speed rail are likely to dictate the use of double deck and/or dense pack trains. With conventional speed trains, it’s possible to provide increased personal space for each passenger, at lower cost.

Written by beleben

September 12, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Interfacing HS2 trains

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David Begg was one of the prime movers behind the Edinburgh Trams scheme, which has turned into a nightmare “bordering on the unmanageable“. But building a few miles of tramway is a much smaller and simpler project than building hundreds of kilometres of high speed rail track. If HS2 goes wrong, it will go wrong in capital letters. And I’m sure that if does go ahead, it will go wrong.

Contrary to the impression given by lobbyists, HS2 is a much more complex project than the West Coast Main Line modernisation (declared ‘complete’ years late, in 2008). Take one component of HS2, its trains, for example. There would be two types. For through running on the legacy network, there would be ‘classic compatible’ trains, built to ‘British loading gauge‘. There would also be captive rolling stock built to ‘GC’ (a Continental) loading gauge, only suited to running on new build and other lines that have been specially enlarged.

That’s the theory, anyway. In practice, loading gauge is something of a dog’s breakfast, and the classic compatible trains are unlikely to be able to operate on the legacy network without lineside engineering work. (For the abortive Regional Eurostar project, clearance works were completed on parts of the East Coast Main Line, allowing some surplus TGV373000 trains to be pressed into domestic service from Leeds to London.)

Because the CCTs would be non-tilting, they would be slower than existing Pendolino trains on the curved West Coast legacy track. To claw back some of lower speeds on curves, CCTs could use their higher installed power on the straights. This is a carbon-intensive measure, which would require upgrades to the power supply.

Another little known issue is the alteration of platforms on the West Coast Main Line (high speed and conventional trains have different floor heights). If HS2 goes ahead, this is likely to turn into quite a big deal. Stratford “International”, on the new build HS1, is going to have its platforms altered (temporarily) at a cost of £1 million, so that Hitachi Javelin (domestic HS1) trains can use the station.

Written by beleben

September 8, 2011 at 12:08 am

Ministry of silly walks

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Ministry of silly walks, Walk 1: Birmingham New Street station to Curzon Street HS2

Illustration includes picture of Curzon Street by Steve Cadman, (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Rather than being an exemplar of 21st century connectivity, HS2 looks like something developed at the Ministry of Silly Walks, with silly walks themselves built into the proposition. The first urban silly walk proposed by HS2 planners is in central Birmingham, between the proposed HS2 terminal and New Street station.

For aficionados of semi-rural silliness, HS2 planners propose the walks for people changing between Birmingham International and Bickenhill HS2 stations, which would also include a ride on a people mover.

At HS2 Old Oak Common, Philip Hammond had doubts about the viability of a silly walk, but eventually came around to the idea.

For the second stage of HS2, silly walks are only at the rough outline, but in prospect for sites including Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, and Sheffield, as part of the city-to-HS2 parkway concept.

Written by beleben

July 31, 2011 at 4:50 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.