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Posts Tagged ‘High speed rail

High speed rail versus high average speed rail (part two)

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In the British context, high peak speeds achieved on a rail journey are unlikely to have much effect on door-to-door journey times. Prior to its ‘takeover’ by Andrew Adonis, that was the eminently sensible position of the Department for Transport, as seen in the 2007 paper ‘Delivering a Sustainable Railway‘.

What matters, is the average speed achieved to journey’s end. The relative unimportance of peak speeds can also extend to some international journeys, such as Birmingham to Brussels — as shown by Sinclair Knight Merz’s report ‘Analytical Support for the Preparation of a Public Consultation on the [HS2] Route Between London and Birmingham’, dated 23 June 2010.

SKM, Birmingham to Brussels, components of rail journey time (minutes)

With regard to Figure 8, only 30 minutes of generalised time savings (32%) are attributed to a reduction in in-vehicle time (i.e. as a consequence of increase in rail speed) [light blue in the pie charts]. The majority of generalised time savings are attributable to the removal of interchange penalties [pink and light green in the pie charts].

Railway Gazette, capacity webinar panel, Nov 2011: Elaine Holt, Anthony Gueterbock, Chris Jackson, William Barter, Ted Stephens

The Railway Gazette webinar ‘Growth and the Capacity Challenge‘ (November 2 2011) included an incisive comment on point-to-point connectivity from Ted Stephens, Rail & Transit Solutions Executive at Bentley Systems.

It’s a connected network, that[‘s what] I want to use…I don’t want to run quickly from London to Birmingham… what I’m interested in doing, is [travelling] from where I live to my ultimate location, which is somewhere around Birmingham.


Written by beleben

June 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Kehoe surgery

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Birmingham Airport: 'I'd like to move it, move it' says Paul Kehoe (Business Birmingham video)A few weeks ago, transport secretary Justine Greening suggested moving ancient woods to make way for HS2. A tough one to beat on the bizarre-o-meter, but Birmingham Airport chief executive Paul Kehoe has risen to the challenge.

With no means having been found to move HS2 nearer to Birmingham Airport, Mr Kehoe now wants to move the airport nearer to HS2.

There seems to be two, not-insignificant, problems with relocating the airport’s terminal facilities.

  1. The cost, and who pays it.
  2. Finding the space needed in the desired location.

Birmingham Airport site, showing planned HS2 station

Written by beleben

June 8, 2012 at 8:32 am

Falling off the fence

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Falling off the fenceWhen Jim Steer’s lobbying company Greengauge 21 wanted to produce a report on capturing the benefits of HS2 on existing lines, it turned to Jonathan Tyler for advice. However, Mr Tyler was increasingly unconvinced by the case for HS2, and in June 2011’s ‘Why oh Y‘, he aired doubts about the very fundamentals of the project.

Another interesting read is Mr Tyler’s 2012 paper ‘HS2: Strategic wisdom or grand folly‘. Here’s some extracts.

First then, the context. The capacity justification for high-speed rail had been developing for some years (adroitly driven by Greengauge 21) when the project was seized upon by Theresa Villiers as a substitute for a third runway at Heathrow and by Andrew Adonis as a signal of green modernity. The Heathrow association never had a credible rationale, and ironically the spur to the airport is now justified as strengthening its hub status – the very factor reigniting the runway campaign. As for the Adonis crusade, one can both admire single-mindedness and distrust confident certainty that no other course of action is conceivable.

Disquiet about the political context was compounded when HS2 Ltd was set up to establish the business case for building a new railway. An arm’s-length unit might be the right vehicle for managing construction, but creating a dedicated company at the start precluded properly objective analysis. Moreover the company shows signs of being too excited about building a perfect and technologically-advanced railway to impartially evaluate options.

Another weakness is the preoccupation with protecting property interests. This meant secrecy in the surveying of the route (conducted at great expense), presentation of a fully-formed scheme that pre-empted effective debate about strategic issues and now a reluctance to reconsider routes and station locations. The error is being repeated with the alignment for the ‘Y’ extensions north of Birmingham.

Finally a governance matter has to be raised. Noticeably few doubts have been publicly expressed from within the railway industry. It is difficult to believe that no one shares the public dissent. Could it be that Train Operating Companies are acting in misguided solidarity or dare not cross the Department for Transport [DfT] for fear of being marked down in franchise bids, and that the big consultancies perceive future revenue streams and choose not to rock boats.

I have already suggested deficiencies, and here I address two further issues of substance, namely station location and timetabling. Government and HS2 documents are littered with references to the importance of connecting the high-speed line with the classic network, but the reality is quite different, with awkward links and extended interchange times.

Indeed HS2 is emerging as a railway set apart from the older system and thereby only benefiting areas immediately adjacent to its stations – and those customers easily able to access them by car (at an unmeasured carbon cost). It is telling that attention is being diverted from the Birmingham problem by a focus on regeneration of Eastside, while no one explains how the segregated eastern arm of the ‘Y’ will help the many travellers who now journey through Birmingham on the North East … Yorkshire … South West / South Coast axis. Similar arrogance on the part of HS2 surrounds the planning of routes and stations in London.

We urgently need full and open analysis of the benefits of an alternative network-wide strategy to enhance the classic railway with new sections that would add capacity or reduce journey-times and retain the connectivity advantages of existing nodal stations.

Written by beleben

June 5, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Marshall moonshine

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High speed rail travel at 400 km/h requires 3.2 times as much energy as 200 km/h (Systra for Greengauge21)

Like Siemens’ ICE3, the Alstom AGV is a ‘distributed traction’ high speed train (in which traction motors are dispersed beneath the carriages, instead of having power cars at each end of the trainset). The 200-metre long AGV11 variant was used by HS2 Ltd as its ‘Reference train’ in the development of its proposed Y network between London, Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester. And according to Railnews writer Alan Marshall

the AGV uses no more energy (nor generates any more carbon dioxide) per seat at 300km/h (186 mph) than a Virgin tilting Pendolino (based on an earlier Alstom design) running at only 200km/h (125 mph) on Britain’s West Coast Main Line.

Mr Marshall claimed that the ‘AGV’s ‘green credentials’ were disclosed in an analysis in an April 2009 ATOC (Association of Train Operating Companies) report by Richard Davies and Leigh Thompson.

ATOC undertook the analysis of carbon dioxide (CO2) impacts of High Speed Rail for Greengauge 21, the not-for-profit organisation established in 2006 to research and develop the concept of a High Speed Rail network.
The report also makes clear that rail’s ability to improve its carbon footprint by carrying more passengers with the same energy consumption is constrained by Britain’s restricted structure gauge and the inability of the infrastructure to permit operation of very long trains — whereas a new line will enable longer trains with duplex accommodation, so the energy demand per seat kilometre can be kept very low.

“A double-deck, double-unit TGV Duplex train, for example, offers 1,090 seats in twenty vehicles compared to the 439 seats that the nine-cars of a Pendolino can offer — a significant capacity advantage that would remain even after most of these have been extended to 11 cars,” said Davies and Thompson, who added: “The trains used are also typically longer, so that the aerodynamic drag of the front end of the train (which is a significant energy cost at high speed) is spread over perhaps 16 to 18 carriages rather than the UK norm of eight to 10 carriages.”

A new AGV operating at 300km/h will consume 0.033 kWh of electricity per seat kilometre, they say. The AGV’s construction and distributed power system along the train means the total mass per seat is just 0.78 tonnes. By comparison, a Virgin Pendolino on the WCML has a mass per seat of 1.055 tonnes — 35 per cent greater than an AGV — so at only 200km/h (125mph) its energy consumption is the same as the AGV going 50 per cent faster.

A Eurostar — a TGV scaled down to fit within the UK structure gauge — has a mass of 0.96 tonnes per seat and an energy consumption of 0.041 kWh per seat/km.

What useful conclusions can be drawn from the ATOC ‘research’? The answer seems to be: none whatsoever. Comparing the energy per seat of a 9-car Pendolino at 200 km/h and a HS2 Reference train (AGV) at 300 km/h is not informative. HS2 is planned as a 400 km/h railway, with trains running, from the very start, at 330 km/h or more. Hyping AGV ‘reduced train mass’ is not going to be particularly helpful at 300 km/h or above, because at those speeds, aerodynamic drag is the major factor in train energy consumption, and energy required rises steeply (approximately as the square of the speed). A less misleading energy per seat calculation would be: 11-car Pendolino at 200 km/h, versus AGV11 at 330 or 350 km/h.

Neither the cruise speed nor the maximum speed of trains on the Y network is planned as 300 km/h, and the energy per seat calculations favoured by ATOC obviously take no account of load factor. The primary statistic for comparison should be energy per passenger-kilometre, not energy per seat-kilometre.

Spreading the aerodynamic drag of the front end of the train “over perhaps 16 to 18 carriages rather than the UK norm of eight to 10 carriages” is never going to be of much use, if most of the carriages are empty. When the 18-car Eurostar service between London, Brussels, and Paris first started, the load factor was very low (reported as around 20%), so the seat-kilometre and passenger-kilometre energy measures would give completely different messages.

HS2 Ltd gave the overall load factor forecast for its new line as 58%, which is higher than the average for British long distance high speed services, but nowhere near high enough to compensate for the additional energy its trains would use. HS2 is planned to have ‘similar fares’ to the legacy network, which obviously poses a credibility problem for the ‘58% load factor’. If the HS2 fare structure is going to be similar to the legacy network, how could its load factor be significantly higher? Answers on a post card to: Andrew McNaughton’s There’s-No-Answer-To-That Waste Paper Basket, HS2 Ltd, Eland House, London, SW1.

The claim that

rail’s ability to improve its carbon footprint by carrying more passengers with the same energy consumption is constrained by Britain’s restricted structure gauge and the inability of the infrastructure to permit operation of very long trains — whereas a new line will enable longer trains with duplex accommodation, so the energy demand per seat kilometre can be kept very low

is drivel. On a per-metre length basis, an AGV has no more accommodation than a British loading gauge train (such as a Pendolino). The AGV is currently not available in a double deck version, so its larger cross-section makes its less aerodynamically efficient than a modern standard train built to British loading gauge.

HS2 would certainly not permit generalised operation of longer passenger trains in Britain. Indeed, the standard (off-peak) train length in the HS2 scheme is 200 metres, which is shorter than existing trains like the Pendolino. Operation of 400-metre long HS2 trains would only ever be possible on the new build track — which would only serve London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester directly.

Written by beleben

May 14, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Getting so much lower all the time

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Lower?During the consultation phase, I asked Mark Weiner of HS2 Ltd if I could do some sensitivity analysis using their model. The request was refused. In previous posts, I have outlined some of the bizarre, irrational and dishonest assumptions used in the computation of the HS2 Economic Case. On April 11, the Guardian reported that the official forecast of HS2 benefits had been further downgraded.

The latest figures issued by the HS2 high-speed rail scheme have revised down the economic benefits for the fourth time – suggesting the scheme will barely, if ever, break even. Originally the scheme was forecast to bring £2.40 of benefit for every pound invested. The revised benefit-cost ratio (BCR) is 1.2 : 1.
A government paper in March 2010 projected the economic benefits at 2.4 : 1 for the London – Birmingham route [‘LWM’]. This was adjusted downwards by February 2011 at the beginning of the consultation, and again this January when transport secretary Justine Greening gave the green light to HS2, which is planned to be operational in 2026 and completed by 2033.

The full route [‘Y network’], going north to Leeds and Manchester, now has an estimated BCR of between 1.5 : 1 and 1.9 : 1.

Centro’s Midland Metro consultants, the Centre for Economic and Business Research, estimated the true benefit cost ratio of HS2 at around 0.5, which is similar to the number used by AGAHST.

Written by beleben

April 12, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Present values and HS2

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In his guest blogpost published today on the Go HS2 website, consultant William Barter concluded that the Channel 4 Fact Check “got it wrong” on HS2 costs. The Fact Check article commenced with Justine Greening’s quote from 10 January 2012:

“The capital cost at 2011 prices of building the complete Y network is £32.7 billion. At present values, it will generate benefits of up to £47 billion and fare revenues of up to £34 billion over a 60-year period.”

Trains account for over 20% of the cost of the Y network, so it’s unclear why Ms Greening omitted to give a figure that includes them. In the January 2012 ‘Updated appraisal of transport user benefits and wider economic benefits‘ rolling stock is listed separately at just over £8 billion. But they are just as much a network cost as land, stations, signalling, and suchlike.

Like future patronage and fare levels, the lifespan of HS2 rolling stock is unknowable — but the planned intensive utilisation suggests that replacement would be needed more than once, over the 60-year appraisal period. The HS2 cost calculation does not seem to consider the cost of rolling stock replacement post-opening.

Because there is no breakdown of Y network construction and procurement expenditure by year, corroboration of present values is not possible. For stage one (London – West Midlands), rolling stock expenditure would probably need to be in step with civil engineering expenditure (raising the present value of costs).

Written by beleben

April 3, 2012 at 11:41 am

HS1 performance, part one

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According to Lucy James, of the Campaign for High Speed Rail,

HS1, the only current high speed line in Britain, was delivered on time and on budget.

For such a sentence just sixteen words long, there’s a remarkable amount of dissemblance packed in.

  • “the only current high speed line in Britain”

    HS1 is not “the only current high speed line” in Britain. Under the definitions used by the International Union of Railways, the East Coast, West Coast and Great Western Main Lines certainly qualify as high speed lines (and a good case could be made for the Midland Main Line). But although it looks like a high speed line, HS1’s credentials turn out to be less than convincing.

  • “on time and on budget”

    The LGV line from Paris to Frethun, on the French coast of the English Channel, was built at the same time as the Channel Tunnel. This allowed trains to use new-build track from Paris to Folkestone from start of service in 1994. But from Folkestone to London, trains had to use the existing ‘Southern Railway’ tracks.

    The British government of the 1980s had refused to fund construction of dedicated new build track, and passed legislation to make such funding unlawful. The manoeuvring required to dismantle the policy took so long that the first part of HS1 did not open until 2003, and it did not reach London until 2007.

    Even if the decade-long delay caused by wrangling and face-saving is ignored, it would still be incorrect to state that HS1 was “on time and on budget”. The National Audit Office documents on ‘The completion and sale of High Speed 1‘, published on 28 March 2012, stated that

    The line was delivered within the overall funding and timescale available for the project. However, this was at a higher cost and later than its targets. Construction of the line cost £6,163 million, 18 per cent higher than the target costs.

Written by beleben

March 28, 2012 at 11:47 am