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Posts Tagged ‘High Speed Two

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

HS2 challenge panels, part two

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In the 6 August 2011 blogpost, I observed that the public notes of HS2 challenge panels provided no clue as to who said what, and even the names of people attending were replaced by ‘XXXX’. Lo and behold, in the note of the strategic challenge panel held on 21 September 2011, there are some attributed comments, though overall transparency remains poor, as can be seen. The challenge panels were dominated by high speed rail proponents and lobbyists such as David Begg of Biz4HS2, and Jim Steer of Greengauge 21.

High Speed Two (HS2) Limited, registered in England.
Registration number 06791686. Registered office Eland House, Bressenden Place, London, SW1E 5DU
Note of HS2 Ltd Strategic Challenge Group 21.09.11

HS2 Ltd
Sir Brian Briscoe (BB), Chairman (Chair)
Alison Munro (AM), Chief Executive
Professor Andrew McNaughton (AMcN), Chief Engineer
Miranda Carter (MC), Head of Consultation and Communications
XXXX (Note taker)

Panel Members
Anthony Smith
Tony Travers
Jim Steer
Stephen Joseph OBE
David Higgins
David Leeder

BB welcomed the panel and thanked them for attending. He introduced the agenda:
1. Update on the Public Consultation
2. HS2 Ltd work towards Secretary of State announcement
3. Progress update – Manchester, Leeds and Heathrow
4. Next steps and organisational changes
5. Update on Passenger Focus work with Network Rail on released capacity

1. Update on the Public Consultation

MC presented an update on the completed consultation, including an overview of events held and an approximate figure of responses received. She noted that as well as the HS2 Ltd members of staff that appeared on the panel, a number of panel members had also provided evidence to the recent Transport Select Committee hearings for its inquiry into High Speed Rail. The report on the enquiry is expected at some point in November, but no date had been confirmed by the Committee.

MC explained the challenges that HS2 Ltd are working through in relation to the consultation responses. Producing a report on the responses that is readable and not extremely long whilst capturing the detail and the breadth of comments is quite challenging. Some responses are very difficult to code, as the arguments presented are not always clear statements and can be cryptic in places. However; the majority of responses reflect the verbal feedback received at the consultation events which is what would have been expected.

HS2 Ltd has sought advice from the Consultation Institute, asking it to peer review the process in place for analysing consultation responses, which it did. HS2 Ltd staff have also conducted validation of the coding of responses.
The panel asked whether any organisations did not respond to the consultation that HS2 Ltd would have expected to. MC responded that at this stage of (not yet completed) analysis, it appears that most organisations that were expected to respond, have.

2. HS2 Ltd work towards Secretary of State’s announcement

AM summarised the critical responses that relate mainly to HS2 Ltd’s work and the nature of the main points being made, as set out in the presentation. Relating to criticism that DfT and HS2 Ltd should have held a consultation on the strategy for High Speed Rail first followed later by a consultation on the route, and other criticisms around the legal process of the consultation; the panel commented that such criticisms are similar to those made of the roads consultations in the 1960’s and 1970’s. These appear to be standard objections about how Government consults and hence are not specific to HS2. AM confirmed that HS2 Ltd is seeking legal advice on how to respond to such objections around the legal process.

The panel were interested in more detail on the alternatives to the preferred route that were proposed, including if any alternatives had been suggested for the London section. AM summarised the main suggestions. She was not aware of any specific alternative routes that had been proposed in the London area; instead, suggestions focussed on additional tunnelled sections of the preferred route. There was a discussion of the ‘51m’ opposition group alternative proposition. The group’s alternative route includes a slower design speed which means that a larger number of sensitive sites could be avoided and hence it would have less impact.

In relation to consultation responses overall, the panel noted that there had also been positive responses, some stating that HS2 Ltd had not gone far enough with proposals. It enquired as to the overall mix of positive and negative responses. HS2 Ltd explained that it is not possible to classify some individual responses as either positive or negative because people have responded positively to some questions and negatively to others, within one response. Very approximately the split was approximately 25‐30% positive, the rest negative. It was noted that the response analysis firm has found the responses unusual compared to other consultations it has analysed; in that there is a much higher proportion of positive responses than normally seen. Submissions to the Transport Select Committee hearing from stakeholders are a good representation of the mix of positive and negative responses received.

In relation to routes proposed as alternatives, the panel acknowledged that these should be treated with caution from a sustainability perspective because a full Appraisal of Sustainability will not have been carried out as it has for the HS2 Ltd proposed route.

AM set out the work programme for London to West Midlands team leading up to the announcement in December. This includes a re‐run of the Economic Case which will include a more detailed assessment for the Y network. A report on the route selection and alternatives in light of the consultation will be produced; if the Secretary of State were to decide that a significantly different alternative route should be preferred, the currently proposed timetable would not work.

HS2 Ltd is looking into a number of issues raised at consultation and reconsidering aspects of the proposed route. Based on issues raised at the consultation and further work on these areas, it is likely that it will present options for alterations to the proposed route to the Secretary of State ahead of the December 2011 announcement. The panel asked whether it has been clarified whether any re‐consultation would be required as a result of this and whether this has been scheduled in. HS2 Ltd explained that each individual change would be checked with lawyers. There is no current plan to re‐consult; however it would do so if required. The aim would be to run this alongside the existing work programme.

The panel raised the question of the overall financing of a project of this size, and how fare revenue, revenue from the sale and rent of commercial space at station developments and investment private developers might balance the cost of financing. HS2 Ltd clarified that these are all questions that DfT would be responsible for dealing with in the future. HS2 Ltd continues to look at ways of reducing costs, currently through the ongoing Infrastructure UK work.

The panel asked how HS2 Ltd communicates proposed changes to the classic network to Network Rail. AMcN explained that several workshops have been held to date and all involved believe that there is a solution that can be worked with. The panel enquired about the Government’s handling of any implications on the classic network as a result of HS2, including whether anything would be made public at the time of the December announcement. All agreed that it would be necessary for DfT to include information on proposals for the classic rail network in its next command paper so that this can be factored into Network Rail’s planning for Control Periods 4 and 5.

3. Progress update – Manchester, Leeds and Heathrow

AMcN provided an update of HS2 Ltd’s work on the Manchester and Leeds legs of the Y network and a connection to Heathrow. He explained the options developed to date, the choices that HS2 Ltd will need to make prior to reporting to the Secretary of State in March 2012 and the choices that the report will present to him.


4. Next steps and organisational changes

AM explained the plans for HS2 Ltd’s structure if the Secretary of State gives the go‐ahead in December 2011. This includes the appointment of a Development Partner to develop the London to West Midlands route and the set of statutory processes HS2 Ltd would need to work through ahead of a Hybrid Bill for Phase 1.

5. Update on Passenger Focus work with Network Rail on released capacity

Anthony Smith, Chief Executive of Passenger Focus gave a brief update on the work that his organisation is doing in conjunction with Network Rail. It is engaging with passengers on future capacity issues to feed into work on how the WCML will best be utilised in the future. The work is progressing well and Anthony offered to provide a fuller briefing on further progress to HS2 Ltd ahead of the Secretary of State’s announcement in December. HS2 Ltd accepted the offer. Panel members hoped that this work would help engage with those passengers who might currently believe they would lose out from HS2 due to reduced services at their stations.

6. Closing points

It was agreed that the next meeting would be held in December ahead of the Secretary of State’s announcement. The meeting following that would be in February ahead of the final report on the Y network in March.

At the time of writing, the HS2 Ltd website has no notes for the ‘December 2011’ or ‘February 2012’ meetings mentioned in item 6.

Equally unclear is how many meetings of the London West Midlands consultation peer review group have taken place. Notes for meetings of two dates are listed on the website, but the note of the meeting of 2 March 2011 states “next meeting: 1 May”. Anyway, the March 2011 meeting was attended by Alison Munro, Miranda Carter, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, and XXXX. Its notes show that HS2’s Ltd mission was to propagandise high speed rail, not ‘evaluate’ it.

XXXX– Agreed that it would be a good idea to branch out to councillors and make them take a standpoint on HS2. Under our current government, councillors appear to be a lot more powerful and having them in favour of HS2 should definitely be in our agenda.

[…] XXXX – Large Businesses would be perfect ambassadors to promote HS2. If key organisations could commit to giving a public statement to the media in favour of high speed rail then it would be very beneficial.

One of the most patronising comments came from (of course) Mr or Ms XXXX:

XXXX – Empowering a spokesperson for the individual action groups. Inviting them to attend a meeting/seminar every three months to discuss their particular views and listen to the other action groups’ views. It would be a means to relax their firmly-set objections on high speed rail. It would also help to build and maintain a relationship with the action groups and provide a chance for the action groups to negotiate.

XXXX off.

Written by beleben

March 5, 2012 at 2:39 pm

The Y network parc

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From its inception, the cost estimates for the HS2 high speed rail project have been murky, and the updated figures, announced by the government in January 2012, raise a lot of questions. Channel 4 News Fact Check attempted to probe why the numbers don’t add up, and Full Fact noted that the headline “£32.7 billion” figure for the Y network does not include items such as rolling stock.

Rolling stock issues are also pertinent to some of HS2’s under- and over-capacity problems. Inside the HS2 Ltd silo, the penny may have finally dropped in respect of the lower capacity of 200-metre trains. (Or perhaps they just read this blog.) Anyway, the January 2012 official documents included fifteen 260-metre classic compatible trainsets in the proposed fleet.

Type Quantity
Captive (GC loading gauge) 200-metre 105
Classic-compatible, 200-metre 68
Classic-compatible, 260-metre 15

In essence, leaving aside joke stations such as ‘Sheffield Outskirts’ (or whatever it would be called), one hundred and five captive trainsets would only serve four cities — London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds. To support French factories, SNCF used to buy excess numbers of TGV trains, which languished in sidings all day. But Britain doesn’t really have a train-building industry as such, so it’s not clear what the idea behind “105 captive trains” is.

Equally baffling is the revised classic-compatible fleet, which would be dominated by sixty-eight 200-metre trains having a lower capacity than Pendolinos. The HS2 project does not seem to involve providing 400-metre long platforms on the legacy network. So, apart from conserving paths on the HS2 trunk between London and Bickenhill, there doesn’t seem to be a rationale for coupled (2 x 200-metre) classic-compatible trains.

Written by beleben

March 3, 2012 at 9:11 pm

HS2 is about speed, not capacity (part two)

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Table 10 from the January 2012 HS2 updated Economic Case shows that time savings (to business users) are assessed as being far more valuable than crowding relief (to all users). In other words, the economic argument — if such a thing could be said to exist — is about speed, not capacity.

HS2 Ltd, 'Benefits to transport users' January 2012

HS2 Ltd forecast, Jan 2012 update: 'three per cent shift from air travel'The update also shows a revised forecast for modal shift from air travel, down to just 3% of HS2 ridership. The pie chart previously used by HS2 Ltd gave a 6% figure for shift from air.

Written by beleben

February 16, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Journey times from Birmingham with HS2

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Y does it have to be such a messWith the construction of the second stage Y network, ‘HS2 halves journey times between West Midlands and Leeds/Manchester’. Or at least that was the headline of today’s Go-HS2 blogpost. Which also stated that,

The West Midlands is keen to work with the East Midlands, North and Scotland, as well as enjoying faster links with London and Europe.
Shortly after the announcement of the Yes decision the Transport Secretary confirmed HS2 will connect with HS1 and also revealed improved journey times.

‘Birmingham’ and ‘the West Midlands’ are not synonymous, and most people in the West Midlands county live in boroughs which would not be served by HS2. So it’s disingenuous to claim that HS2 would halve ‘journey times between the West Midlands and Leeds/Manchester’.

According to HS2 Ltd, around 40% of West Midlands high speed rail travel is expected to involve the Middle Bickenhill parkway station in rural Solihull — which would be heavily dependent on road access. The road network around Bickenhill, and Birmingham Airport, can be subject to heavy congestion in peak hours, and HS2 Ltd has never given details of expected journey times to the parkway from district centres, such as Walsall or Coventry.

The East Midlands is another area affected by parkway palaver. Although the location of the ‘East Midlands’ high speed station has not been disclosed, it’s unlikely to be close enough to the centre of Nottingham or Derby to make journeys any quicker. And since business travellers are said by Passenger Focus to prefer no-change (through) services, HS2 is not going to be especially appealing, or quick, for travel to towns supposedly served by the South Yorkshire parkway (e.g. Sheffield, Rotherham, and Barnsley).

It would certainly be possible to build a connection between HS2 and HS1. Far more difficult is the operation of a viable train service on it from Leeds, Manchester, and Birmingham, to continental Europe. The current Y proposal provides for no domestic use of the connection, and no international services on HS2.

Written by beleben

February 7, 2012 at 5:43 pm

In with the spin crowd

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As previously mentioned, it’s worth considering the emotive language of HS2 lobbyists against the real numbers. The franchise and London station data from the Office for Rail Regulation National Rail Trends Yearbook 2010/2011 showed that, compared with Euston services,

  • crowding is a bigger issue for the Great Western (Paddington) franchise,
  • Liverpool Street handles a much larger volume of morning peak trains. Etc.

For some reason, high speed rail lobbyists don’t seem to be calling for new westbound and eastbound lines to take priory over modernising the Great Western or Great Eastern. And no-one is saying that upgrading GW or GE is “patch and mend” of “outdated Victorian infrastructure”. That phraseology, from the Adonis/Steer school of obfuscation, seems to be mostly directed at the West Coast Line.

Passengers in excess of capacity, by franchise, 2008-2010

Hype is no substitute for rationality. West Coast Main Line capacity issues are no less manageable than those of other routes.

'Peak arrivals and departures, London stations, typical weekday, Autumn 2010', ORR

Written by beleben

January 23, 2012 at 12:37 pm

A more dispersed investment

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Here’s an extract from an interesting viewpoint on HS2, by Simon Watkins, from the Landscape Institute website.

There are capacity issues on the railway and on the road system. These are widespread, affecting major towns and cities throughout the country, and are not, as a rule, contingent solely upon the relationship of each settlement to London, but do affect the economic performance and quality of life of each area. What might a more dispersed investment of £32bn look like, and how might a wider range of local issues be addressed?

It is argued that high-speed rail is a feature of the continental economy – the UK needs it in order to compete. But the distances across the continent are much greater, so that high-speed connections between disparate regions are actually a useful component of the continental transport network. The potential reductions to journey times in the UK are far less significant. To propose such a grandiose scheme on the basis of competition, despite facing quite different circumstances and constraints to our ‘competitors’ looks like either idealism or spectacular political vanity.

Written by beleben

January 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm

More HS2 tunnelling is ‘unaffordable’ – and ‘cheaper’

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This afternoon Britain’s transport secretary, Justine Greening, told Parliament that the government intended to go ahead with the HS2 railway between Birmingham and London, but with a further round of ‘mitigation’ measures (improvements to the compensation arrangements, more sections in tunnel, etc).

[…] People living along the line of route highlighted particular concerns and provided constructive and thoughtful comments about the London to West Midlands route proposed at consultation. Following careful study by my engineers I can announce a package of alterations to further reduce the route’s impacts. The changes mean that more than half the route will now be mitigated by tunnel or cutting and there will also be a reduction in the impacts on people and communities, ancient woodlands and important heritage sites.

The changes include:

* A longer, continuous tunnel from Little Missenden to the M25 through the Chilterns;

* A new 2.75 mile (4.4 km) bored tunnel along the Northolt Corridor to entirely avoid major works to the Chilterns Line and impacts on local communities in the Ruislip area;

* A longer green tunnel past Chipping Warden and Aston Le Walls, and to curve the route to avoid a cluster of important heritage sites around Edgcote; and,

* A longer green tunnel to significantly reduce impacts around Wendover, and an extension to the green tunnel at South Heath.

* The revised route offers considerable improvements to communities, with the number of dwellings at risk of land take almost halving and the number experiencing increased noise levels reducing by a third. Despite these improvements to limit the negative impacts of the line, HS2 will inevitably affect some homeowners, communities and businesses. To help those affected, we will bring in a package of measures, which are over and above what affected homeowners are already entitled to under law. These include:

* A streamlined purchase scheme to simplify the statutory blight process for property owners;

* A sale and rent back scheme to give homeowners within the safeguarded area more flexibility;

* A streamlined small claims scheme for construction damage which will allow individuals and businesses who are entitled to compensation under existing law to claim it more quickly and simply;

* A package of measures to reinforce confidence in properties above tunnels. Homeowners will be offered before and after surveys, a thorough assessment of the impact of similar tunnels, an explanation of the measures that will be taken to prevent perceptible vibration impacts, financial compensation for the compulsory purchase of subsoil, and a legally binding promise that HS2 will be permanently responsible for resolving any related settlement or subsidence issues; and,

* A refreshed hardship-based property purchase scheme.

Finally, we will work constructively with local authorities along the line of route to minimise the negative consequences of HS2 and maximise the benefits.

Ms Greening then answered some questions from MPs, telling Steve Baker that tunnelling the entire section under the Chilterns had been rejected because it would have cost over £1.2 billion extra, and was “unaffordable”. A little later, she told Jonathan Edwards that the additional Chiltern tunnelling that had been included would ‘save between £250 million and £300 million‘ over what had been previously planned.

Go figure. Apparently in concert with the announcement, the Department for Transport released a number of documents, including Network Rail’s so-called ‘Review of strategic alternatives‘ (mentioned earlier), Updated appraisal of transport user benefits and wider economic benefits, The Government’s Decisions, and yet another set of revised route maps.

Ms Greening was keen to stress the economic development benefits of high speed rail. So with a multi-billion euro investment in its AVE network, one might expect Spain’s regions to be reaping enormous benefits. However, things don’t seem to have worked out that way. A year ago, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that

Spain’s bet on high-speed rail is “the other face of the property bubble” which fuelled economic growth in Spain for over a decade before it burst, said Ramon Lopez de Lucio, a professor at the Architecture School of Madrid.

“That a country like Spain has more kilometres of AVE than any other nation aside from China makes no sense,” he said, arguing that the Spanish government was over investing in infrastructure.

Spain invested an amount equal to 1.79 per cent of its gross domestic product in infrastructure in 2009, three times the amount invested by Germany, Europe’s largest economy.

“We have built highways with very limited traffic and in the case of the Madrid-Valencia AVE, we added 100 kilometres so it would go through Cuenca and Albacete, to serve 100 passengers per day,” said Lopez de Lucio.

The money would have been better employed in making improvements to the suburban train service or the rail freight network or in education and research, he said.
“The cumulative investment in AVE in 2010 approaches 45 billion euros,” said economist Germa Bel of the University of Barcelona.

When this “impressive” amount of investment is taken into account, “the total passenger traffic is very weak”, she said.

Written by beleben

January 10, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Cause to pause

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Another Begg facepalm momentAccording to GoHS2 (Centro), the Frankfurt – Cologne high speed line

is one of the most commercially successful in the world. Critics say high speed rail needs long distances, but Frankfurt-Cologne is an almost identical mileage to Birmingham-London.

GoHS2 tends to get its ‘facts’ from David Begg, which isn’t ideal from an accuracy standpoint, but I don’t suppose veracity matters much to them. Anyway, the journey between Frankfurt and Cologne’s main stations using the Neubaustrecke (NBS, i.e. the high speed line) is 173.6 km, and according to Deutsche Bahn Reiseauskunft, typical transit times are 77 or 78 minutes. A second class walk-up journey using the high speed line generally costs 67 euro, compared with 48 euro on the legacy route via Mainz.

Examples of Koeln Frankfurt train journey details, from Deutsche Bahn

What conclusions can be reached? Firstly, there is a premium for travel using the Frankfurt to Cologne NBS – around 39%, on the random journeys examined. The on-train time saving (over the Rhine bank legacy route) is 62 minutes, giving a substitutional value of hourly time of about (67 – 48) = 19 euro. Since MSN Money currently quotes GBP 1 = EUR 1.1792, one might postulate that anyone whose after-tax hourly income was below £16 sterling might have cause to pause before buying a ticket.

Secondly, at 82 to 84 minutes, the Virgin West Coast intercity train between Birmingham New Street and London (181.8 km) achieves *much the same* speed and journey time as a Frankfurt – Cologne high speed InterCity Express (173.6 km). However, Virgin’s generalised journey time is actually better, because of the frequency of service (every 20 minutes).

Thirdly, there’s no evidence to support GoHS2’s statement that the Frankfurt – Cologne NBS is “commercially successful”. What is known, is that load factors on German Intercity Express lines in general aren’t particularly high. And on the Frankfurt – Cologne high speed line,

  • path utilisation and frequency of service is low (see schedule above)
  • centre-to-centre intercity journeys often require a change of train (at Frankfurt Flughafen)
  • because of its gradients, unused paths cannot be reallocated to freight services.

The lesson from the Frankfurt – Cologne NBS is: ‘Railway infrastructure is expensive. So it’s important to get the details right’.

Written by beleben

December 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm

The £32 billion question

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During their HS2 enquiries, no member of the House of Commons transport committee asked the $64,000 £32,000,000,000 question. But it was asked by Christian Wolmar, back in January 2010:

As an aside, the Chiltern raises a question that is rather uncomfortable for supporters of high speed rail which is: If the need for a high speed line to Birmingham is about capacity rather than reducing journey times, would it not be better to, say, electrify the Chiltern line and enable it to run longer trains, thereby releasing capacity for other services on the West Coast?

Written by beleben

December 10, 2011 at 3:51 pm