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Posts Tagged ‘Geoff Inskip

Very serious Geoff

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In December 2012 the Birmingham Mail reported that walkways between the major rail stations in Birmingham would be upgraded in time for the opening of the revamped New Street ‘Gateway’ in 2015. Transport authority Centro are also looking to how to provide suitable public transport to the site of the proposed HS2 station at Curzon Street.

[‘Cable cars set to link Birmingham city centre transport hubs’, by Neil Elkes, 6 Dec 2012]

[…] Centro chief executive Geoff Inskip said: “Our goal is to ensure New Street, Moor Street and the high speed rail, HS2, terminal serve as ‘one station’ for passengers and we are already working with architects Glenn Howells on improving the pedestrian route between the two sites.

“But in the longer term we know passengers will want a high quality connection similar to the way major airports link their various terminals together, often with innovative forms of transport.

“We are therefore looking at all types of ideas and one option we are considering very seriously is a cable car link similar to the one built across the Thames in London.

‘‘This would operate on a continuous loop so would provide a true ‘turn up and go’ system linking New Street Station, the Bull Ring and the Moor Street/HS2 terminal.

“We think it is a potentially exciting proposal worth exploring and the consultants who worked on the Emirates cable car in London have agreed to come and give us a presentation on the idea.

Evening Standard, 12 Nov 2013: 'Boris Johnson's cable car used by just four regular commuters'

Written by beleben

November 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Centro

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Geoff Inskip’s Crossrail nonsense

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Geoff Inskip told an audience at a Labour Party conference event that “HS2 is as vital to the West Midlands economy as Crossrail is to London”.

[Go HS2 weblog]

Mr Inskip, chief executive of West Midlands regional transport authority Centro, said only HS2 could provide the step-change needed to provide jobs and growth, while meeting growing demand for rail and delivering international connectivity.

“HS2 is so important to us it’s like our Crossrail. We need a transport system as good as that in London and only HS2 provides the capacity we need for intercity travel, local and regional rail services and freight,” he said.

[…] Mr Inskip was speaking at ‘HS2 in the West Midlands – an opportunity for growth on a scale of national importance’ alongside Shadow Rail Minister Lilian Greenwood MP at Labour’s Brighton conference (Sept 22).

Mr Inskip said the number of rail journeys made in the West Midlands had soared by 14 per cent in the last year.

[…] The event was chaired by Cllr John McNicholas, Centro Chairman, with speakers including Cllr Roger Lawrence, Chair West Midlands Joint Committee, John Morris, Public Affairs Director Birmingham Airport, and Andrew Cleaves of Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP.

How important is a faster rail journey to London for the average West Midlands resident?

Forecast rail journeys to London (data from HS2 Ltd)
Urban Area Per person
Year 2008
Per person
2043 without HS2
Per person 2043
with HS2
Per person round-trip
journey interval,
2043 with HS2 (years)
Round trip time saving
per person per year (minutes)
Greater Manchester 0.28 0.67 0.82 1.21 98.4 (60*2*0.82)
West Midlands 0.38 0.86 1.17 0.85 77.2 (33*2*1.17)

So on average, in 2008, a West Midlander journeyed by rail to London 0.38 times per year. In other words, once every two and a half years.

Written by beleben

September 24, 2013 at 5:05 pm

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Redefining ‘extremely busy’

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Birmingham — Manchester is “an extremely busy route”, claimed Centro’s Geoff Inskip, in an opinion piece trying to flog the HS2 capacity horse.

We are equally excited about our links with the North. Birmingham-Manchester is an extremely busy route. HS2 not only boosts capacity here, it also cuts journeys from 1h 30m to 41m. Similarly Birmingham-Leeds is slashed from around two hours to 57m.

But the real step-change for our region is the positive effect HS2 delivers right across our increasingly busy transport network.

The capacity released on our existing lines offers a great opportunity to increase services throughout our region, in Walsall, Coventry and Wolverhampton for example.

As far as rail capacity into and out of the West Midlands Urban Area is concerned, HS2 is virtually irrelevant. How exactly would building HS2 provide extra rail capacity to Stratford on Avon, Telford, Walsall, or Stourbridge?

Centro want to keep at least two of the three fast hourly services currently running between New Street and Euston, so the HS2 released capacity benefit is, pretty much, just one fast path between Birmingham, the airport, and Coventry.

And the plan seems to be to re-use that path for cross-country trains (diverted from the Solihull route to serve Birmingham Airport). So, there would be no extra paths for more stopping services to Marston Green, etc.


There were just 1,300 ‘two way’ weekday journeys between Manchester and Birmingham in 2010 – 2011. The HS2 2043 forecast is for just 2,100. (MVA for HS2 Ltd)

Figures from MVA show that the market for rail between Birmingham and Manchester (and Birmingham and Leeds) is not very large. And even using optimistic growth forecasts, likely to stay that way. There is no way to justify expenditure of £30 to £50 billion on HS2 on such low demand.

The small size of the Birmingham — Manchester and Birmingham — Leeds markets largely explains the modest average speeds of provincial intercity trains. To get reasonable load factors, and revenue, they need to serve intermediate stops such as Wolverhampton, Stafford, Burton-on-Trent, Chesterfield, etc.


There were just 400 ‘two way’ weekday journeys between Leeds and Birmingham in 2010 – 2011. The HS2 2043 forecast is for just 700. (MVA for HS2 Ltd)

Written by beleben

September 17, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Posted in Centro, HS2

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Vacuous Centro capacity spin

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At present there are 3 fast intercity trains per hour from Coventry to London. Centro’s 20 March 2013 press release reconfirmed that under its proposals, Coventry would retain a 2-trains-per-hour London service, post-HS2. So the grand total of West Midlands capacity “freed up” by the Spinkansen is one path per hour, on one line (the Coventry line). All the rest of Centro’s ‘research to understand capacity released’, is empty spin.

Mr Inskip said Centro had carried out research to understand how capacity released on existing lines by HS2 could best be used to maximise the benefits to the West Midlands region.

He said Coventry would benefit from improved rail services once HS2 is built with new local services to Kenilworth and Leamington Spa, improved cross-regional links to the Black Country, Staffordshire and Shropshire and a half-hourly fast Intercity service to the growing business and employment centre of Milton Keynes – which recorded the second highest rise in journeys (26 per cent).

Under Centro proposals Coventry would retain a half-hourly fast Intercity service to London.

“We’re also pressing for direct services to mainland Europe which will mean passengers in Coventry and Birmingham could be in Paris and Brussels in less than three hours,” Mr Inskip said.

Obviously, the chances of passengers in Birmingham being in Paris in three hours are minimal.


  • the infrastructure is unlikely to support a 3-hour journey time,
  • there are no free paths in the January 2013 service pattern,
  • and Eurostar is apparently increasing ‘check-in’ time to 45 minutes.

And most of all, because not enough people want to travel between Birmingham and Paris by rail.

Written by beleben

March 20, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Birmingham, High speed rail, HS2

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Centro Coventry connectivity crackpottery

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The proposed HS2 Bickenhill station site is a long way from Coventry

In yesterday’s blogpost, I mentioned Centro’s bizarre proposals for mitigating West Midlands HS2 disconnectivity. The Coventry Telegraph’s Martin Bagot has also covered the story.

COVENTRY could get a tram service to link directly to the new HS2 station near the NEC.

Centro will consider plans for a metro service from the city to the Birmingham station on the high speed rail network.

A tram is one option to allow the city to benefit from the £32 billion rail project which has faced fierce opposition from action groups in Warwickshire.

Any tram would run eight miles along the existing West Coast Main Line transport corridor, before diverting off to the HS2 station.

The West Midlands regional transport body said options considered by its HS2 Local Connectivity Group include:

* A tram service from the city.

* A direct rail service from Coventry with a spur to the HS2 station.

* A shuttle service of “sprint buses” direct to the HS2 station.

[…] Centro chief executive Geoff Inskip said: “Our challenge is to get the best from HS2 for people throughout the West Midlands.

This means ensuring local and regional services connect seamlessly with the high-speed rail network so that everyone benefits.

We know that using this capacity for more passenger and freight trains – and working hard to deliver schemes such as a direct link to Coventry from HS2 – will bring 22,000 jobs and increase economic activity by £1.5 billion per year.”

The only West Midlands rail capacity “freed up” by HS2 would be on the Birmingham — Coventry route (because Centro says it expects the existing Birmingham — Coventry — London rail services to be reduced from three to two an hour).

In Centro’s connectivity vision, what would that freed capacity be used for?

Um, apparently, to run a tram-train — or heavy rail shuttle — from Coventry station to Bickenhill HS2. This is so weird, you couldn’t make it up. What’s the construction cost of the Spur? What kind of service frequency could operate from Coventry to a Bickenhill HS2 Spur station?

For the HS2 Spur frequency to be any good, the Coventry — Birmingham line would likely end up with *less capacity* than it has now. Who at Centro is responsible for these crackpot ideas?

Written by beleben

November 28, 2012 at 3:50 pm

McNulty and McNumpty

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In a press release dated 29 June 2012 UK Tram and Centro chief Geoff Inskip stated that there are three possible routes for tram trains in the West Midlands county:

* Wednesbury — Stourbridge,

* Walsall — Wolverhampton, and

* Walsall — Wednesbury.

Public transport chief Geoff Inskip has urged the government to invest millions of pounds into tram-trains.

He called on the Department for Transport to set aside £100 million a year from the savings identified in the McNulty Report into improving efficiency in Britain’s rail industry to develop tram-train networks across the country.

Tram-train is a light-rail public transport system where trams are able to run on an urban network and on mainline railways shared with conventional trains.

Mr Inskip is chief executive of Centro, the integrated transport authority for the West Midlands.

He is also chairman of UK Tram, the forum representing Britain’s tram industry and recently outlined the case for tram-trains to the All-Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group.

He said: “Tram-train is a brilliant concept ripe for development – it combines the tram’s flexibility and accessibility with a train’s greater speed, and bridges the distance between main railway stations and a city centre.

“It is why I say the Government should set aside £100m per annum from those savings they will be making from McNulty and ring fence that money for tram-train.

“In this way we can get on with delivering the Department for Transport’s agenda of delivering a better value for money railway and a greener more sustainable economy.”

Work has begun on a national tram-train pilot scheme between Sheffield and Rotherham which is due to begin operating in 2015.

Mr Inskip said it was essential that transport authorities developed similar projects elsewhere around the country.

“In the Centro region alone we have three possible applications – Wednesbury — Stourbridge, Walsall — Wolverhampton and Walsall — Wednesbury,” he said.

“By starting work now in other parts of the country the successful outcomes of the national trial can be immediately captured without prolonged interruptions for lengthy project development stages.”

Mr Inskip said tram-trains were efficient because operating costs were generally cheaper than those of conventional heavy rail services.

They offered opportunities for better connectivity because they were able to utilise spare rail capacity on existing corridors and former rail routes, and also reduced pressure on the local rail network.

“Tram-train is a fundamentally proven concept and early introduction is required – the benefits are too great for the opportunity to realise them to be missed,” Mr Inskip said.

“It is integral to creating the necessary capacity needed for the future development of both light and heavy rail in our cities, bridging the gap between local, urban rail services and light rail systems and optimising heavy and light rail systems’ assets.

“It will also deliver real benefits to passengers – increased frequencies, faster journey times and improved city centre penetration.”

It’s no surprise to find that the press release was not accompanied by any details or numbers to support the three proposed tram-train services. McNulty has suggested making savings by de-staffing stations and reducing the number of trains running. But Centro has opposed de-staffing of stations, and wants to increase the number of trains running.

So the Centro and McNulty positions are not compatible with one another. At present, and in the foreseeable future, there is no value for money or economic case for running rail or tram services between Walsall and Wolverhampton.

Walsall and Wolverhampton

The rail service between these towns (11 km apart) ended a few years ago because only 60,000 journeys were made in a year, and the subsidy needed was £700,000. In other words, every return trip required a subsidy of £22. (These services were not even paying the full cost of the infrastructure, since the route is used by freight and diverted passenger trains.) The return bus fare is about £4, which is dear enough.

South Staffordshire Line

I’m not sure what the idea would be behind running tram-trains between Walsall and Wednesbury, and Wednesbury and Stourbridge. Restoring the South Staffordshire line makes sense as part of a national railfreight strategy, but there is no financial or transport case for tram-train on it.

Written by beleben

June 29, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Freight expectations

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Centro inaction in the early 1990s led to the South Staffordshire Line — which once connected Stourbridge, Brierley Hill, Wednesbury, Walsall, and Lichfield — falling into ruin. The cost of restoring the Bescot to Stourbridge section is apparently £100 million. Today (25 June 2012), the Birmingham Post reported on the latest (non-)development in the history of the line.

The West Midlands should take advantage of the UK’s booming rail freight market by re-opening the Walsall to Stourbridge railway line, according to the regional transport authority.

Geoff Inskip, chief executive of Centro, has called for the relaunch of the Black Country line after the latest figures revealed that the volume of UK rail freight has grown 10 per cent in 2011/12 – generating £6 billion of economic benefits per year.

The Walsall – Stourbridge freight line would form a key link in a strategic UK freight network and provide a realistic alternative to the M5 – M6 / M42 corridors, helping to reduce congestion on core roads through the region.

Centro is also working on plans to use stretches of the line for so-called Tram-Trains – specially designed passenger vehicles capable of running on both heavy and light rail tracks. This could link Stourbridge with Wednesbury with the option of Tram-Trains connecting with the existing Metro line.

A strategic railfreight network could certainly make use of the South Staffordshire railway, but Mr Inskip’s proposals do not make sense.

Centro have never detailed how their tram-train would work. Which is not at all surprising, because, like Centro’s freight strategy, it’s nonsense. To justify spending £100 million, the Walsall — Stourbridge line would need to be capable of handling substantial amounts of freight, but that could not happen with the tram-train (which would cost £300 million extra). The prospect of a collision between a 1,000 ton freight train and one of Centro’s trams is just one of the reasons why it is a non-starter.

If freight trains were restricted to night time, only a few could run — which kills the case for spending the £100 million. If goods trains were not restricted to nocturnal operation, the tram-train would need to be engineered accordingly, raising expensive, and non-trivial, problems. Centro originally intended that the trams replacing its Ansaldo T69 fleet would be capable of running on the South Staffordshire railway, but that idea appears to have been quietly abandoned. It’s very unfortunate that modernisation of Black Country public transport is being held up by unworkable madcap schemes.

Written by beleben

June 25, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Unexpected candour

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Back in 2008, Centro’s chief executive Geoff Inskip wrote to the Birmingham Post, explaining that plans to extend the Midland Metro tramway remained a top transport priority.

The business case for the Phase One extensions through the Black Country and from Snow Hill to Five Ways is very strong, confirmed by an independent study by the CEBR which shows that the significant and lasting economic benefits that the new lines will bring to the region undoubtedly stack up.

This includes the creation of up to 5,300 jobs and a boost to the West Midlands economy of £178 million a year — as well as providing a major tool in managing congestion.

In fact, the “independent” CEBR (Centre for Economic and Business Research) study mentioned by Mr Inskip was commissioned by Centro itself — but it didn’t explain how building a few kilometres of tram line would create thousands of permanent jobs across the West Midlands.

The existing 20.2 km Midland Metro, between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, only carries 5 million passengers annually (a third of what Centro had forecast) and there has been no growth in usage since its opening in 1999. By 2011, cost increases and the recession had cut Midland Metro expansion down to a few hundred yards in Birmingham city centre.

When bus re-routeing is included, the curtailed Stephenson Street tram extension is costed at £143 million, and Centro’s priorities have shifted to ‘Birmingham Sprint’ bus rapid transit, and long distance high speed rail. It turns out that CEBR has an opinion on HS2, and it’s unexpectedly candid — and ‘off-message’.

You can imagine that a programme that involves spending £36 billion will find a large number of vested interests supporting it. And indeed supporters of high speed rail have been vociferous in their support for the proposed HS2 high speed rail link. But looking at the economics issues dispassionately, the sums don’t add up. CEBR has checked the demand forecasts, the economic case and the financial sums carefully.
Our analysis is that the benefit cost ratio is only 0.5 rather than the official and implausible 2.0. The financial deficit which will require a government subsidy is likely to be £18 billion rather than the official claim of £14 billion. This seems a major waste of money when spending is being cut and taxes raised.
If the project goes ahead it will be a triumph for spin and vested Interests over economic good sense.

Written by beleben

February 24, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Geoff Inskip’s capacity guff

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Under Centro‘s vision for HS2, the capacity “freed up” on the West Midlands rail network by high speed rail amounts to nothing more than one hourly Pendolino path on the Birmingham – Coventry – Rugby axis. So the provision of rail links between Black Country locations has nothing to do with HS2 or capacity shortages, and everything to do with poor economics. Here’s some examples.

Walsall to Cannock rail service

In July 2010 Centro cut support for the Walsall to Cannock rail service (leading to a cut in frequency), saying the £7.18 per-passenger subsidy was poor value for money.

Wolverhampton to Walsall rail service

The Department for Transport refused to provide additional funding to allow the 10.8 km Wolverhampton to Walsall passenger service to continue. Around 60,000 journeys were made annually, and the required subsidy was £700,000. This meant that each traveller’s round trip required public funding of around £20.

High costs

Apart from low demand, another major restraint on West Midlands local rail development is its high operating costs. There is no use of driver only operation, and most stations are staffed, most of the time, even though personnel are often unable to watch over the platforms from their office. Stations are actually more likely to be unstaffed in the evenings, when the purported ‘value’ of having staff present is maximised.

Written by beleben

August 30, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Geoff Inskip and HS2 “released capacity”

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According to Centro‘s chief executive, Geoff Inskip, the West Midlands can’t afford to be without HS2.

Critics of HS2 have poured scorn on the time saving between London and Birmingham, but they’re missing the point. While time savings are very important for business, the key benefit for the West Midlands is the huge increase in capacity HS2 would provide.

Demand for rail continues to soar. The number of passengers in the West Midlands is forecast to grow by 32% by 2019. And the West Coast Main line will be full by 2024. Even the most ardent opponent of HS2 cannot contest the fact that our trains are becoming increasingly overcrowded.

If we don’t do something about this we won’t meet demand. This would seriously hamper our ability to do business as a region. How would people get to work? How would companies reach the best talent? How would we attract employers to the West Midlands?

The reality

West Midlands time savings

If time savings are “very important for business”, Midland business people should be pretty disappointed by what HS2 has to offer. According to HS2 Ltd, 80 percent of travel using its central Birmingham (Curzon Street) station would be for journeys starting or ending within the city of Birmingham:

HS2 Ltd: 'central Birmingham station's traffic origin-destination forecast to be 80% within the city'

So HS2 Ltd are forecasting that rail travel to or from the four Black Country boroughs would not be based on usage of a high speed service.

From central Birmingham, HS2 stage one serves just one destination: London. The only other HS2 station in the West Midlands county, ‘Birmingham Interchange’, would be a remote parkway (not even within Birmingham’s city limits, and time consuming to reach).

Transforming the West Midlands

Centro produced brochures purportedly showing ‘How HS2 will transform the West Midlands’ for Birmingham and Solihull and the Black Country. There was also supposed to be a Coventry guide, but Centro seem to have had problems in thinking up any benefits.

The brochures state that Centro has developed a detailed timetable showing exactly how local rail services could be improved by using the capacity freed up by HS2, and by introducing a series of matching infrastructure improvements.

Birmingham and Solihull ‘capacity benefits’

Centro described these as follows:

Key benefits for Birmingham and Solihull include:

• Increased local services between Birmingham, Birmingham International and Coventry including doubling the frequency of services serving key regeneration areas such as the Eastern Growth Corridor (Lea Hall and Stechford) and Bordesley Park (Adderley Park)

• An increase from 3 to 7 trains per hour between Birmingham International and Wolverhampton.

• An increase from 4 to 6 trains per hour between Birmingham and Walsall including improved services at key regeneration areas such as Perry Barr and 4 new services per hour from Birmingham International to Walsall

• Improved services to Milton Keynes, Shrewsbury and Telford

Black Country ‘capacity benefits’

Centro described these as follows:
Centro Black Country claims of extra services with HS2

High Speed Rail is not just about reducing journey times between the West Midlands and London. By transferring the majority of West Coast Main Line inter-city services to the High Speed Rail Network, considerable capacity is released from the existing West Coast Main Line which can be used for new local, regional or national services.

Centro has developed a detailed timetable showing exactly how local rail services could be improved by using the capacity freed up by HS2, and by introducing a series of matching infrastructure improvements. As part of these improvements Centro would be looking to reinstate services between Walsall and Wolverhampton calling at new stations at Darlaston and Willenhall.

The timetable also includes;

• Significant improvements to services at Walsall and Sandwell and Dudley stations

• The ability to deliver new Cross City style local services between Wolverhampton and Birmingham with potentially 4 trains per hour available;

To deliver this future service scenario requires the following infrastructure:

• New High Speed 2 Line to allow Pendolino services to be reduced to half-hourly

• The electrification and upgrading of the Walsall to Rugeley and Wolverhampton to Shrewsbury lines

• Various planned resignalling projects to deliver improved network capacity and capability

The Black Country Benefits from the HS2 Network
The Black Country will receive direct transport benefits from the availability of High Speed Rail services from the proposed Birmingham city centre station and the Interchange station next to the NEC/Airport which will have a direct people-mover link from Birmingham International Station.

Under this full network vision, passengers from the Black Country would be able to change onto High Speed trains at Birmingham Interchange and access:

• Leeds in just over an hour

• Manchester in under an hour

• Glasgow/Edinburgh in just over three hours

• Paris in under three hours

Heathrow Airport in around 40 minutes

• The Stratford, East London and Docklands area in around 45 minutes

This excellent connectivity via both of the proposed HS2 stations puts the Black Country close to the future national hub of the UK High Speed Rail Network and will transform the area’s connections to large parts of the

As the text above shows, the Black Country will become a much more accessible destination if these regional rail enhancements are delivered in conjunction with HS2.

The reality

The only route on which capacity is actually freed up by HS2 is Birmingham – Coventry – Rugby. Centro assumes that the Pendolino service to London using that line is (a) cut from three trains per hour to two, and (b) turned into a ‘semi-fast’, calling at some intermediate stations. By this re-cast, Milton Keynes would get no-change connection with Wolverhampton, at the expense of the Wolverhampton to London timing being slower.

On other lines across the West Midlands, HS2 does not facilitate improved local services. The improved frequencies, and aspirations for new services such as Walsall to Wolverhampton, rely on unfunded regional rail enhancements. But transport secretary Philip Hammond isn’t minded to fund such improvements on the back of high speed rail.

Written by beleben

August 24, 2011 at 8:59 am