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How high is the output?

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'Groundbreaking factory train for GW electrification'

A factory on rails, the first of its kind to be used on Britain’s railways, will slash years off the time it will take to electrify the Great Western main line, claimed Network Rail (25 July 2013).

[Groundbreaking factory train slashes years off electrification programme, Network Rail]

With 235 route miles to electrify from Maidenhead in the East to Swansea in the West and many thousands of trains to keep running while the work is done, we’re working with German manufacturer Windhoff to build the High Output Plant system (HOPS) train to do the job.

The 23-vehicle train, in effect several trains in one, will work its way west, building the railway electrical infrastructure as it goes.[…]

The High Output Plant system

The HOPS will leave the purpose-built depot in Swindon and split up, to head to different parts of the line at its 60mph top speed. It carries enough supplies and equipment to avoid the need to bring anything to the trackside on lorries. Staff can be picked up at stations en-route.

Operating six nights a week, the £40m HOPS will do its work after dark, with adjacent lines open for business at speed aiming to sink up to 30 piles per shift. This equates to the usual length of one stretch of conductor wire – between 1,200 and 1,500m. And there are 17,000 piles to be sunk before Swansea.

Electrifying the Great Western using the HOPS will be a much more efficient process than methods used in this country in the past, with work able to be carried out while trains are still running. The factory train will allow us to work overnight, when the railway is less busy. Without it, we’d have to work at weekends, with disruptive line closures.

We hope to have electric trains running to Swansea by 2018.

The different elements to the HOPS train are:

A piling rig (with two multi purpose vehicles with Movax vibro piling heads, to vibrate the steel piles into the soil, two pile carrying wagons, and a Fambo hydraulic percussion hammer multi purpose vehicles for tougher ground)
An excavation and concrete batching unit with an Hitachi excavator plus a Kniele concrete unit to mix concrete from onboard aggregate, cement and water tanks

A structures unit which erects the masts, portal booms and twin track cantilevers
An ancillary conductor to install the earthing wires, return wires and small parts such as registration arms and other equipment

The contact and catenary unit to string up the remaining wires under tension. Another unit installs other things such as contenary wires under low bridges, and records information such as height and stagger

Each of the above elements includes two multi purpose vehicles with full driving cabs, powered by MTU power packs, which can be driven at 60mph off-site. On site driving cabs means the train can be driven very slowly when installing contact wire.

How “high” is the output of the High Output Plant train?

RTM

RTM, Dec 2014

There appears to be no information — but the Midland Main Line is apparently scheduled to be wired by road-railers and cherry pickers (and not with a factory train). It seems likely that BR’s flat-roofed electrification train (video below) would be much more ‘high output’ than anything run by Network Rail.

Written by beleben

March 2, 2015 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Industry

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Pouring concrete, is pouring concrete

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1.3 hectares at Ashted Lock on Birmingham Science Park is to be cleared for the PR-driven ‘HS2 College’, “with business leaders promising a skills boost delivering hundreds of thousands of jobs”.

[‘Giant Birmingham site for HS2 College development’, Graeme Brown, the Birmingham Post, Oct 13, 2014]

[…] Andrew Cleaves, board director of Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) responsible for transport said he expected construction work to begin before next summer.

Consultations have begun with companies currently on the land, which is largely vacant, to clear it in time for work to take place.
[…]
Mr Cleaves said the college would be central to a wealth of vocations outside the rail sector.

He said: “These are not just railway-specific skills, they are things useful to a huge range of industries. Probably half of all people trained there will end up doing other jobs – signalling skills are similar to telecoms, rail construction skills are similar to civil engineering.”

Written by beleben

October 13, 2014 at 11:04 am

Posted in Birmingham, High speed rail, HS2

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HS2 and railfreight hype

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Proponents of HS2 have intimated that transfer of passenger traffic from the legacy track would release capacity for more freight.

But the details of what that cargo would be and why it should suddenly switch to rail is unclear, wrote Newcastle University research associate Phil Mortimer, in December 2013’s Rail Professional.

Written by beleben

January 10, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Richard pratfall

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Richard Threlfall: KPMG analysis shows ANNUAL economic benefit to UK from an HSR network of up to £29bn

According to the KPMG report released last week, HS2 could boost the UK economy by £15bn a year, the BBC reported, while The Guardian used the headline “HS2 rail project will provide £15bn boost, transport minister claims”. (And a few days before, KPMG’s Richard Threlfall had even tweeted that their analysis “shows ANNUAL economic benefit to UK from an HSR network of up to £29bn“.)

At present, the intercity West Coast Main Line service has around 30 million journeys a year (including trips to and from North Wales, Stoke-on-Trent, Milton Keynes, etc, which could not really transfer to HS2). If one supposed that in the future, 100 million trips were made on the Y network annually, KPMG’s figures would mean that each round-trip HS2 journey would ‘boost the economy’ by £300 (‘£15 billion’) or £580 (’29 billion’).

Most high speed rail travel would be for leisure purposes (says HS2 Ltd). So how likely is a £300 boost from every return journey? It’s as believable as the claim about taking half a million lorries off the motorways every day.

Written by beleben

September 15, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Rattling Mr Oakervee

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Peter Mandelson’s HS2 “epiphany” generated a fair amount of press coverage.

[Joe Murphy, Matthew Beard, in The Evening Standard (3 July 2013)]

David Cameron’s troubled £42 billion High Speed 2 rail scheme was under growing doubt today after a bombshell admission by ex-Business Secretary Lord Mandelson that the original go-ahead was driven by politics and flawed figures.

In an extraordinary public U-turn, he confessed the costings were “almost entirely speculative” when Gordon Brown’s Cabinet backed the idea.

Ministers wanted a “bold commitment to modernisation” after the financial crash, he said, and ignored the potential risks of what now looked like “an expensive mistake”.

The Evening Standard has also learned that senior transport decision-makers in London fear the flagship scheme is fatally flawed.

[Isabel Hardman, The Spectator (3 July 2013)]

Peter Mandelson’s surprise rejection of high-speed rail in this morning’s FT is another sign that the wheels are coming off this project. But while the project’s critics on the backbenches – particularly those on the Tory side such as Cheryl Gillan and Michael Fabricant who are campaigning vociferously against the plan – will be thrilled, the continuing cross-party consensus means you won’t hear Cameron being probed on this at Prime Minister’s Questions, for instance, or Maria Eagle castigating Patrick McLoughlin at the next departmental question time in the Commons.

But Mandelson’s concerns about the project are about its spiralling cost, not the impact on one MP’s constituency (or their majority, for that matter). And they underline that ministers’ desire to win the global race can often, in their zeal to show they are running that race, mean they fail to work out whether the projects they’re using aren’t the right ones.

[Rupert Neate and Gwyn Topham, The Guardian (3 July 2013)]

Lord Adonis, the architect of High Speed 2 for the last Labour government, has launched an impassioned defence of the £50bn rail link from London to the north of England after his former Cabinet colleague Lord Mandelson attacked the plan as an “expensive mistake”.
[…]
“The status quo isn’t an option – unless we are going to close Britain for business,” he said. “There’s no free lunch. If you don’t do HS2, you have to spend more on legacy upgrades [to existing lines]. It is not £30 – 40bn on this or nothing. There’s no cheap option.”

A row over the cost of HS2 was rekindled last week when transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin told MPs that the total funding had increased by £10bn to £42.2bn, with the cost rising to £50bn including rolling stock.

Adonis said the case against upgrades was proved by the £10bn upgrade of the west coast mainline, which “only delivered a fraction of the benefits of HS2”.

“It’s nonsense to [put that amount of money] into 200-year-old Victorian railways with huge underlying problems,” he told the Guardian on Wednesday.
[…]
He said analysis of the costs and benefits of the line from London to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds had been “robust and thorough”. “The analysis shows building the new line was cheaper – plus we’d be benefiting from improved connectivity, reliability, speed and avoid – bar Euston – most of the disruption of a conventional line upgrade.”

However, he had earlier complained that when he was planning the line the transport department had no experts in high speed rail. “It only happens to be one of the most important and significant developments in international transport… How many experts were there on international high speed rail? None at all,” he said in a speech at the rightwing think tank Policy Exchange on Wednesday.
[…]

And HS2 Ltd was rattled into publishing a response from its chairman (Douglas Oakervee), which for some reason, did not mention him by name.

3 July 2013
[Chairman of HS2 Ltd]

High Speed Two is a national project in a national cause. It will strengthen our country and support our economy – but like all big infrastructure projects it is also controversial, will take time and cost money. Like the construction of our motorway network, or the Channel Tunnel, or the London Olympics, there will always be people ready to challenge the economic case and to ask whether the demand is really there. It is a familiar story: a choice between meeting ambition or giving into anxiety. I’ve no doubt that it is ambition which will serve our country best.

This is not to dismiss questions being put by people like Lord Mandelson, who yesterday wrote in this paper about his new doubts about HS2. They are important questions. He is right to ask them.

Do we need HS2 to serve the transport needs of the future? Is the economic case really there? To each of these my answer is yes. I say that not just with the backing of the government but also the opposition which yesterday restated its welcome support.

The reason we need HS2 – indeed the reason the Cabinet of which Lord Mandelson was such a significant part gave its approval – is straightforward. Not speed. Not vanity. But capacity. The demand for travel in Britain and around the world is soaring. Rail traffic has doubled in recent years and our roads are filling up. This will, all forecasts suggest, continue. A growing population and a growing economy make that fact inescapable.

So what do we do about it? One answer is nothing. That won’t just mean congestion. It will mean the withering of links between cities in Britain. Critics of HS2 are right to point out the cost but they are reluctant to set out their alternatives. A country sliced between north and south is in no one’s interest. But already, the west coast mainline, one of the busiest intercity rail lines in the world and Britain’s main rail freight artery, is clogged up.

It would be possible, of course, to put more money into the existing west coast line. Parts of it date from the 1830s; all of it was built to the standards of two centuries ago; rebuilding it is expensive, as the billions poured into the limited upgrade of the 1990s show. Even keeping its ageing structures up to current standards and current operating speeds is a daily battle. Network Rail are right to think a new line, running to modern standards, is a far better answer. It examined strategic alternatives to HS2 such as upgrading other lines and clearly concluded that none of the alternatives could meet the stated objectives of HS2. This issue was raised by the 51M group and examined as part of the judicial review which the Department won earlier this year.

But even people who accept that we need HS2 for capacity may ask about the cost. That’s understandable. At a time when budgets are tight, the latest figures for HS2 raised eyebrows. I could point out that some of this was down to contingency which will affect any transport scheme big or small on road or rail. But the better argument is that it will be money well spent.

Over the next few months we will be publishing further detailed work that will include fresh analysis of the wider economic benefits to the regions of the UK, a fully revised Economic Case that will address the latest research on the value of travel time and will include sensitivity analysis on the demand for HS2. I am committed to making sure that all of that work is complete by mid October 2013 so that MPs and others have adequate time to consider the benefits prior to the introduction of the Hybrid Bill.

I have accepted a target of £17.16bn from the Secretary of State for the delivery of Phase 1 of the railway and the Paving Bill now before parliament provides for expenditure to be scrutinised by Parliament. Our demand forecasts are prudent. We have been open about cost forecasts, which have been subject to detailed scrutiny by HMT as part of setting a budget for HS2 at a level that risk models predict will provide 95% certainty that the budget will not be exceeded.

We know we can get HS2 right – just as we did with HS1 in Kent. Few people, even in Kent where opposition to HS1 was understandably and initially strong, now wish that line had never been built. Now engineers are at work on Crossrail, which will serve London so well. That is money well spent on a scheme essential to the capital’s economic future. What is right for London is right for Britain with HS2.

According to the government announcement (made on 26 March 2012) on his appointment as HS2 Chairman

Mr Oakervee has had a long and distinguished career, with significant experience of working on major infrastructure projects. Between 2005 and 2009 he was Executive Chairman of Crossrail Ltd during the project’s Hybrid Bill phase. He has also been a Project Director at Chek Lap Kok International Airport in Hong Kong, with responsibility for planning, design procurement and construction.

As Chair of HS2 Ltd, Mr Oakervee’s primary responsibilities will be:

* formulating the Board’s strategy

* ensuring that the Board, in reaching decisions across its full remit including the route design and environmental assessment, takes proper account of guidance provided by the Department for Transport or the Secretary of State for Transport

* encouraging high standards of regularity and propriety

* promoting HS2 to the general public

Written by beleben

July 4, 2013 at 8:23 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Desiroble spin

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Siemens has released an infographic showing which components of its ‘Desiro City’ trainfleet, for the Thameslink franchise, are to be sourced from UK suppliers.

siemens-desiro-thameslink-uk-sourced-components

Given the amount of controversy Thameslink’s fleet renewal has caused, one might have thought Siemens would pull a rabbit from a hat, and announce the appointment of Bombardier Derby as its sub-contractor to assemble the carriages.

In the event, the coalition government has been very supportive of Siemens, and has backed its “2,000 jobs” spin. So the vehicle shells, bogies, and virtually all main sub-systems, are to be sourced from the Germanosphere, with assembly probably at Uerdingen. But the British economy will be proudly rebalanced by the manufacture of the driver’s safety footswitch.

Written by beleben

June 27, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Politics, Public transport

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NGT needs rethinking

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The Leeds NGT trolleybus project is seriously flawed, and needs to be re-thought.

Unfortunately, the West Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority is in denial. Its chairman, Councillor James Lewis, is to host a public meeting about NGT on Wednesday 5th June from 7.30pm to 9pm at the HEART Centre, Bennett Road, Headingley, Leeds LS6 3HN. It’s supposedly an ‘Opportunity to correct misinformation and explain the facts about the project’.

The important facts are:

1. NGT is seriously flawed
2. NGT needs to be re-thought
3. Spin doesn’t help.

Written by beleben

June 3, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Tayloring the spin message

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'Have I Got News For You' opening sequence, BBC Television

Can HS2 be polished? On 25 April 2012 PR week reported that Hampshire’s own Jill Pearcy had been appointed Head of Communications at HS2 Ltd.

Jill Pearcy has joined the HS2 project after working for it on a freelance basis. Before this, she spent two years as head of media relations for the National Air Traffic Control Service. She took up the £60,000-a-year post on Tuesday.
[…]
Pearcy is responsible for ‘ensuring clarity of message across a range of media channels’, an overhaul of the HS2 website, and overseeing speeches and presentations for board members.

On 28 June 2012 the government announced that HS2 Ltd had appointed Tony Blair’s former spin doctor and Olympic ‘deliverance commissioner’ Godric Smith to a non-executive director position.

Godric Smith said:

High speed rail has an important part to play in helping modernise our national infrastructure, renew our railways and promote growth. I look forward to making a contribution to the development of HS2 over the next three years.

But HS2 Ltd board minutes from 19 December 2012 revealed that Mr Smith had resigned as a director ‘with effect from 19 December 2012’.

Evidently all is not well in the HS2 spin bunker.

[PR week, 17 April 2013]

The controversial proposed high-speed rail link from London to the north of England, HS2, has hired Andy Taylor as head of public affairs.

Taylor will join on 7 May from the Association of Train Operating Companies, where he has been head of public affairs since 2009.

He will report to Clinton Leeks, director of external and parliamentary relations at HS2, which is a Government-backed company.

Taylor will be responsible for building relationships with national and local elected representatives as HS2 negotiates two key stages.
[…]
Taylor’s £70,000-a-year role includes running a social media campaign to combat opponents’ lobbying efforts.

Written by beleben

April 18, 2013 at 11:45 am

Posted in HS2

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Unnecessary confusion from Greengauge 21

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Yesterday’s launch of the second phase of HS2 attracted the ‘usual set of anti high-speed rail campaigners and sceptics’ back to the airwaves, according to Greengauge 21. ‘Some of their comments need to be put right.’

Connecting to HS1

Let’s start with Sir Simon Jenkins who expressed his view on BBC Radio 4 at midday that HS2 fails to deliver a connection to the European high-speed rail network (it only ‘goes to Euston’). Nobody was on hand to counter this error: the first phase of HS2 is of course to be built with a connection to HS1, i.e. the channel tunnel.

This isn’t a small point, since Simon – who also opposes other large-scale infrastructure projects such as Crossrail – acknowledged that his views on HS2 might be different if there were to be included connectivity with Europe and Heathrow (which is now ‘on hold’ pending the Davies Commission).

A lesson here for DfT: the continuing absence of a coherent service plan for international services on HS2 risks losing some intellectual support (as well as real value) from the project.

The January 2013 Y network service pattern shows no trains running from HS2 to HS1. There’s no obvious way of solving the lack of path capacity on HS2, and the likely very low demand for such services. Reallocating paths from Euston to HS1 would have seriously negative effects for economic benefits, operating costs, revenue, and load factor. The same is true of paths reallocated from Euston to the Heathrow spur (now ‘on hold’).

Loadings on current rail services

Next up, there was Chris Stokes who at 5pm (BBC R4 again) trotted out the familiar argument that the West Coast wasn’t really full, because the evidence is that evening peak trains from Euston have an average load factor of only 52%. He acknowledged helpfully that of course the ‘19h00’ train – the first after the peak period ticket ban – was full. Well, we’d all agree that the current fares system is crazy and should be changed.

What was not said was that these numbers were all about the intercity services run by Virgin Trains. West Coast also supports London Midlands trains, and these carry the majority of peak period passengers and their services are 94% full today, on average across the peak.

Chris also questioned the idea that services on the West Coast would improve for intermediate locations once HS2 opened, suggesting that in the project appraisal it has been assumed that there will be £5bn savings from ‘classic line services’.

But savings in cost do not necessarily mean service cut-backs. Local passenger services don’t have the same costs per train mile as express intercity trains and additional freight services are expected to make use of some part of the capacity released too – and their costs are ignored in the project appraisal.

Then there’s the argument Chris added that in other countries that have introduced HSR the existing rail service has been withdrawn. In general, he’s right, but here in Britain we don’t have that opportunity or intention. Across Europe, there aren’t established and growing longer distance commuting markets, nor major growth areas such as Milton Keynes/South Midlands. In the British case, we need the spare capacity on the West Coast that HS2 creates to support growth in these ‘intermediate’ places.

The specification of services on the classic lines for when HS2 is opened has been under study by Network Rail and the results of their work is awaited. What is clear is that there will be as much debate about this service specification as the HS2 alignment.

HS2 would serve a very limited segment of the intercity and interregional travel market. The Y network would only link four cities directly, with service to other places relying on existing trackage (either through classic compatible trains, or change of train). Cuts to classic rail services are embedded in the HS2 economic documents, so if there are to be no cuts, the HS2 economic case needs to be updated, with the savings from not running them removed.

Regional economic benefits

Professor John Tomaney got a lot of coverage, appearing on R4’s Today programme and then on BBC’s TV news as well. His message was that he’d studied a lot of HSR systems around the world and they didn’t stimulate regional city development, but tended to strengthen the capital city instead.

It would have been better if he had concentrated on the real message which is that the evidence is not very clear either way. Taking a case like the development of the French regional city of Lyon, M Messalun’s evidence to the Transport Select Committee in 2011 revealed positive growth stimulus effects over time in both Paris and Lyon as a result of the transformed connectivity that TGV brought, with no clear ‘winner’. Against recent (and long-standing) trends of lower GVA growth at a regional level in the UK, achieving some kind of parity with London’s economic performance would have to be considered a success.

But each national HSR network has to be considered on its merits. As Greengauge 21 has shown in its evidence to the Independent Transport Commission’s inquiry into the spatial consequences of HS2, there are some basic effects that will benefit both ‘the north’ and the capital: faster journey times helping business productivity in both London and Manchester, for example. But some factors don’t operate in both directions and our work has identified two of these that are unique benefits from HS2 to ‘the north’ – they don’t apply to London.

These two unique ‘northern benefits’ are:

Connectivity to international gateways (the Channel Tunnel and Heathrow in particular; London has this connectivity advantage already)

Connectivity between the key regional cities.

Ever since the Eddington Transport Report of 2006 and the emergence of interest in agglomeration economics both of these factors are recognised as being of significance.

But the problem is that ultimately these factors will change where businesses choose to locate, and where individuals live and work, but we haven’t worked out how to take those effects into account. The only analysis that considers how the distribution of activity across Britain might change as a result of HS2 remains the work carried out by KPMG for Greengauge 21 in 2010. In the published HS2 project appraisal which follows standard DfT guidelines, land use, local population and employment levels are all assumed to be unmoved by the transformational accessibility that HS2 brings.

Of course, putting values on these effects is extremely difficult. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be considered.

If the evidence is “not very clear either way on whether HSR systems stimulate regional city development”, perhaps Greengauge 21 might like to state that in their reports (instead of presenting such benefits as clear and verified).

Evidence for agglomeration benefits from high speed rail is scant. Graham and Melo‘s ‘Evidence on the Assessment of Wider Economic Impacts of High-Speed Rail for Great Britain‘ concluded that

even under a very optimistic scenario for the improvement in long-distance travel times and the market share of classic and high-speed rail trips, the potential order of magnitude of the agglomeration benefits is small.

Written by beleben

January 29, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Cracking on and cracking up

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In October 2012, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced he would be “cracking on” with HS2. But the long-delayed announcement of the route for the Y network legs to Manchester and Leeds has now been postponed again — to 2013.

The case for building Adonis Steer HS2 is “cracking up”, faster than slab track pounded by TGVs.

Crackin' up (Nick Lowe)

When a transport project does not provide connectivity and environmental benefits, what should be done?

Rip it up and start again (Orange Juice)

Written by beleben

December 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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