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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, 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

Tagged with , ,

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.


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