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Centro HS2 public relations and lobbying

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According to a freedom of information response dated 26 March 2013, transport authority Centro has spent “£59,000” funding the Go HS2 campaign.

The Centro-led Go HS2 campaign was established in the first half of 2011, and in April of that year Marketing Birmingham advertised the position of Go HS2 Marketing Officer.

(Fixed-term 9 months)
36½ hours per week
£28,579 – £32,790 per annum

So far as can be established, Richard Lakin, the Go HS2 Marketing Officer is still in post. So it’s likely that the Go HS2 campaign has spent considerably more than £59,000 since 2011. Several blogposts for the Go HS2 weblog were authored by Alan Marshall of Railnews, but it is not clear whether they were commissioned or paid for.

At the time of writing, the amounts paid into Go HS2 by other members, such as Birmingham city council, Marketing Birmingham, and Birmingham Airport, are not known. Also unknown is the cost of Centro’s lobbying and PR expenditure outside of Go HS2. For example, Centro is listed as one of the sponsors of Greengauge 21’s “study” of the potential of the HS2 to HS1 connection.

Written by beleben

April 3, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Posted in Centro, England

Tagged with

By-products of HS2

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Doctorin' Centro House

Since privatisation, funding and output delivery (ugh) on Britain’s national rail network is organised for so-called five-year Control Periods. In September 2011, Network Rail published its Initial Industry Plan (IIP) for England and Wales, setting out “how the industry could build on recent improvements in cost efficiency and cut the cost of running the railway by £1.3 bn per annum by 2019″.

Under the IIP for Control Period 5, the years 2014 to 2019, the Midlands would receive investment of only £57 million out of a national budget of around £10 billion. According to, Centro bosses are to meet with transport secretary Justine Greening in an attempt to get better funding for rail projects in the West Midlands.

Chief executive Geoff Inskip told members of the Integrated Transport Authority considering its response to the IIP that he had written to MPs about the “paucity” of the plans.
The IIP has been drawn up by the Office of Rail Regulation, Network Rail, the Association of Train Operating Companies, the Rail Freight Operators Association, and the Rail Industry Association and represents the industry’s view of funding priorities.

Although not binding on the Government, it is influential when ministers decide funding.
The eight local rail schemes Centro wants to see completed or work begin on in CP5 are:

* Re-opening of the line between Walsall and Stourbridge
* The Camp Hill Chords scheme introducing services from Moor Street in Birmingham to Kings Norton and Water Orton
* Electrification of the Walsall to Rugeley line
* Reinstatement of a fourth platform at Snow Hill station and the Rowley Regis Turnback
* Increasing the speed on lines between Walsall and Rugeley, Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury, Coventry and Nuneaton
* Resignalling and remodelling the track in the Worcester area
* Improving capacity between Birmingham and Coventry
* Station enhancements at Walsall, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Solihull and Birmingham International.

The only regional schemes in the Midlands the IIP proposals say should go ahead are capacity enhancements at Water Orton and between Leamington and Coventry.

Centro recently commissioned a study from KPMG which looks set to demonstrate that such a programme of regional rail enhancements would increase economic productivity in the West Midlands by more than £400 million.

When he was transport secretary, Philip Hammond said, “I don’t operate in a world where people only support a piece of national infrastructure if there’s something in it for them.” Despite this warning, some West Midlands politicians have continued to lobby for HS2 in the belief that local transport improvements can be funded on the back of it. HS2 means lower funding for metropolitan transport, and the legacy rail system. Already, the ‘North West triangle’ electrification has been delayed, and South Wales Great Western modernisation scaled back.

Written by beleben

November 17, 2011 at 10:24 pm

Spinning it Large

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Desolation in 'prosperous' London

As can be seen in a video (screenframe above) produced for Hammersmith and Fulham council, London has its fair share of economically stagnant and deprived areas. But apparently, this London ‘prosperity’ can be shared by the Midlands and the North in fifteen years’ time. By having it Large, with HS2.

From David Begg’s Biz4HS2 website comes this press release:

The moment the naysayers were proven wrong

November 8, 2011

Responding to the Transport Select Committee’s report on high-speed rail, Dan Large, spokesman for the Campaign for High Speed Rail said:

“This is a victory for jobs in the North and the Midlands, and the moment the naysayers were proven wrong. They have told us for months that HS2 would never stand up to scrutiny, but the Transport Select Committee has decided otherwise.

“The Select Committee, like us, believe that there is a “good case” for proceeding with HS2, and point out the “substantial benefits” to users of existing lines in terms of the number of seats it would free up for commuters, as well as adding much needed overall capacity to our creaking rail network.

“They also agree with us that HS2 will bring economic benefits to the regions, and that those benefits may be even greater than predicted.”


Written by beleben

November 8, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Unsustainability advisor

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The storyBirmingham business leaders are hopeful that the city’s airport will be one of the major winners when a new draft policy on aviation policy is published next March, according to Midlands Business News.

Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group (BCCG), together with its independent transport policy body, the West Midlands Business Transport Group, have demanded that Birmingham Airport is made a priority when the policy is announced.

The Chamber is pushing the airport’s case as it meets all the criteria demanded by the aviation policy, which is meant to provide the framework for a sustainable strategy which will last the UK for decades to come.

Ross Gurdin, policy advisor at BCCG, said that since Heathrow had been refused permission to build a third runway, Birmingham Airport had emerged as a strong contender to fill any gap in demand.

I’m not sure what the airport’s “case” is, or what the “criteria demanded by the aviation policy” are. But I do know that in January 2009, the Department for Transport

set a target to reduce emissions from UK aviation below 2005 levels by 2050. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) provided advice on the prospects for achieving that target in December 2009, and we are now taking forward a programme of work to develop costed policy options for delivering the 2050 target and will set out our plans in due course.

I don’t see how tripling flights from Birmingham Airport fits with that target, or indeed any sensible transport policy. As a rule, airports should serve their hinterlands. Birmingham Airport should be oriented towards serving travel to and from the West Midlands, not places 200 kilometres or more away. So I wouldn’t trust Mr Gurdin’s ‘advice’.

Written by beleben

October 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Y not be realistic

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HS2 to East Midlands connection, proposed by Greengauge 21

Pro high speed rail lobbyists Greengauge 21 have published their Consultation Supplementary Response to the HS2 proposals, which concludes that

In Greengauge 21’s view, the HS2 scheme has not yet been optimised, and as a consequence, the scheme’s benefits are underestimated and the project costs could be reduced.

We have identified some refinements to the HS2 scheme and one small but critical addition that we believe would increase its value significantly – and potentially reduce its cost and local impact.

The key points we believe should be considered by the Secretary of State are:

in terms of infrastructure –

1. The addition of a short connection to permit the operation of services from HS2 onwards to the Midland Main Line as well as to the West Coast Main Line.

2. An extension of Crossrail to join the West Coast Main Line, rather than an extension of Crossrail to Old Oak Common. A station on Crossrail at Old Oak can be provided to serve the regeneration area.

3. Old Oak Common interchange assessed as an option rather than part of the central case for HS2.

4. The adoption of a lower cost and higher capacity connection to HS1 using the slow lines of the West Coast Main Line that will be freed up by the change at (2).

5. Development of the designs of the two Birmingham stations, and modification of Stratford International platforms, such that part-domestic/part-international trains can be securely managed.

in terms of service planning assumptions –

1. The addition of an hourly Edinburgh service via HS2.

2. The addition of HS2 services from Euston to Derby/Sheffield (two trains/hour) with one extended to Leeds and the other to York/Newcastle.

3. The addition of services from the Midlands and the North to Stratford and Europe, operating as securely combined regular hourly (or twice hourly) interval international/domestic trains.

4. The speed up of all HS2 services from the removal of the stops at Old Oak Common.

5. The transfer of Birmingham Interchange stops to selected through journeys further north, saving further on London – Birmingham journey times and on rolling stock requirements. Taken together with the change at (4), this would allow London – Birmingham city centre – city centre times of just 40 minutes, and this in turn permits better rolling stock utilisation.

6. The refinement of stopping patterns over the northern section of the West Coast Main Line to increase revenue potential.

Diverting some West Coast Main Line outer suburban services into Crossrail isn’t a new idea, but it’s certainly worth considering on its own merits. However, it doesn’t provide much help for HS2’s intrinsic shortcomings, because with or without a WCML-to-Crossrail link, HS2 (i) funnels all express rail traffic from the Midlands and North down one track, and (ii) requires Euston station to be completely rebuilt.

Item (i) creates reliability, maintenance, and resilience issues, and item (ii) creates years of disruption, passenger dispersal puzzles, and (probably) some very bad architecture. Under the Greengauge 21 plan, item (i) would happen earlier, with a Y-network effectively in the phase one scheme (using classic compatible trains to reach the East Midlands and beyond). This would involve building a connection from the HS2 trunk to the Lichfield to Derby line near Alrewas, electrification of the line from Lichfield HS2 junction to Derby, and electrification of the Midland Main Line itself from Bedford northwards.

In the Atkins rail interventions, Midland Main Line electrification is treated as part of an ‘alternative’ to HS2. In other words, the cost of upgrading the Midland Main Line, with electrification and so forth, is a cost avoided by building HS2. Greengauge 21 has claimed that HS2 is ‘better value than rail upgrades’, but inspection of its proposals reveals that they depend on such upgrades taking place.

According to Greengauge 21, the HS2-to-Derby connection involves an additional £100 million expenditure. The much larger Midland Main Line upgrade costs are not included. As previously mentioned, in the HS2 analysis, the rationale is that new build high speed avoids the need for such upgrades. Intercity services on the MML are pivotal to the case for its electrification beyond Bedford, so Greengauge 21’s proposal isn’t very helpful to it.

In any event, £100 million is not an accurate estimate of the cost of Greengauge 21’s ‘Derby stage one Y’ concept. Building the junction to the Derby line, electrifying the track from there to Derby, and building additional classic compatible trains to run to Derby and beyond, is not going to come in at £100 million.

Written by beleben

August 15, 2011 at 5:33 pm

HS2 and Heathrow, part 3

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Greengauge 21‘s February 2010 report The Heathrow Opportunity stated that “There is clear evidence that what is needed is for high-speed rail services to operate directly to (Heathrow) airport“. It contained a diagram showing Heathrow lying north of the Great Western Main Line, with a station at the airport itself, linked to HS2 by both north-facing and London-facing connections, as well as south-facing connections to the Brighton and Portsmouth lines.
Greengauge 21's diagram of its Heathrow high speed rail concept

But on any one day, the number of people travelling to airports is very small, as a proportion of all transport movements. So building high speed rail into them, or stopping high speed trains to serve them, is unlikely to make environmental or economic sense. Even stopping conventional speed trains to serve them doesn’t necessarily make sense, according to the Association of Train Operating Companies‘ Response to the Department for Transport HS2 consultation:

ATOC notes that the proposed Crossrail Interchange station at Old Oak Common would provide links into the Central London business district, the City and to Heathrow. However, it believes the longer-term business case for all HS2 and most Great Western trains to call at this station needs to be examined carefully with consideration given to the impact on journey times and any benefit associated with the interchange opportunities created. The proposed strategy would undermine the journey time benefits of HS2 and lead to an increase in journey times on the Great Western from London to Reading, Bristol, South Wales and the South West if stops on all Great Western trains were introduced. In the future, following development of a Heathrow spur, some of the advantages of Old Oak Common as an HS2 interchange station for high speed services would naturally disappear and an overall balance therefore needs to be struck between interchange benefits, journey time disbenefits and the timing of any eventual direct link to Heathrow.

Similar sentiments were also expressed in October 2010’s High Speed Lines: ATOC’s view:

“ATOC is not convinced that a Crossrail Interchange station at Old Oak Common and for all HS trains to call, is the right solution to serve Heathrow as it will undermine the journey time benefits of HS2.”

Written by beleben

August 1, 2011 at 9:44 pm

The viable part of HS2

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The latest dollop of tripe from Greengauge21 concerns the “return” that “could” arise from the government selling HS2 around 2029 (which turns out to mean half the capital invested is deemed wiped out at privatisation). No-one can forecast what the proceeds of a sale of a HS2 lease would be, so it’s all rather silly.

But the real silliness action isn’t in the finances of the sale of a HS2 lease, but in the HS2 economic case:

1. In its most extensive form, HS2 is envisaged as a dedicated high speed line linking Scotland, the North of England, and the Midlands to London. Because of the short distances between urban centres, it’s only on journeys between London and Scotland that high speed rail could provide significant time savings, but the demand on that sector isn’t very large, compared with flows in south central England. Between Manchester, Birmingham, and London, rail travel demand is much stronger, but there the time savings provided by HS2 would be minimal, as discussed in earlier blogposts.

2. If the second stage of HS2 (the Y-network to Leeds and Manchester, and link to Heathrow Airport) were not built, the project’s cost benefit numbers would be likely to be much improved. But the HS2 to HS1 link’s 4,850 daily passengers amount to a laughable/pitiful 3 full trainloads in each direction. So cancelling that, along with the hugely expensive Euston rebuild and tunnel to Old Oak Common, has a massively positive effect on cost-benefit numbers.

3. Because the Chiltern line is largely empty, and could accommodate 16-carriage trains between Birmingham and London, there’s no capacity-based justification to build the HS2 trunk from London to the West Midlands. So HS2 money could be reassigned to electrification of the Chiltern and Midland Main Lines, re-opening the Varsity Line (and linking in Bletchley to Marylebone), Uckfield to Lewes reopening, and metropolitan transport improvements, such as Birmingham Crossrail.

4. This leaves the viable part of HS2, which amounts to just one thing: Old Oak Common interchange. This could become the southern terminus for intercity trains routed by the (currently half-empty) Chiltern line, to Birmingham and beyond.

Yes men and economic girlie-men

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PR lady, Al Murray (actually, probably not Al Murray), and Alex Burrows from Centro / Go HS2Campaign for High Speed Rail rally at Victoria Square, Birmingham, 21 June 2011
Today, David Begg’s Campaign (Bus) for High Speed Rail (also known as Biz4HS2) rolled into Birmingham’s Victoria Square, crewed by yes-men (and women) kitted out in white T-shirts. They proceeded to hand out badges, leaflets, and balloons to passers-by, and there was a photocall for local media. The bus was painted blue and had a big picture of a Siemens Velaro on it, overlaid with the words “Yes To Jobs”. I suppose the logical slogan, “Yes To Jobs in Krefeld-Uerdingen” wouldn’t have gone down too well.

Whether the main body of yes-men were locals in favour of HS2, employees of Westbourne (the PR company), or something else, wasn’t clear, but there were a few recognisable faces. The group photocall gave prominence to Deborah Smith, of Hands Up for High Speed 2, and John Morris, spokesman for Birmingham Airport. With the airport operating at less than half capacity, its management are keen to see more planes from anywhere, and more travellers from London and the South East. The HS2 parkway station at Bickenhill is a key part of increasing the number of flights.

Facilitating increased air travel is a pivotal element in the HS2 project at national level. Biz4HS2 director David Begg is also a non-executive director of BAA, which operates London’s Heathrow Airport. Mr Begg has just written an article for the Spectator claiming, inter alia, that (1) increasing the supply of rail services would drive down prices, and (2) that HS2 is a counterbalance to years to London-centric transport investment:


“the idea that high-speed travel is somehow for rich business people is unfounded by the experience of overseas operators, and by simple laws of economics. After all, a massive increase in rail capacity must surely lead to falling ticket prices.”

Applying classic supply and demand curves to high speed rail isn’t likely to be particularly illuminating, and there’s not much evidence to suggest that fares offered are well matched to supply. The domestic HS1 service illustrates the complex determinants of fare levels (and should serve as a reminder that quantity of services offered would likely be zero, in the absence of government subsidy). Outside of peak hours, domestic HS1 runs largely empty. On Mr Begg’s argument, one might expect *very* low cost off-peak seats to be on sale, reflecting the low marginal costs, but this does not happen.


London has benefited from tens of billions of pounds of infrastructure investment over recent decades. It has made the capital into a great city. But it is time to share our infrastructure investment more fairly. We need to plan infrastructure that binds our country together not pulls it apart.”

With its hopelessly broken connections in Birmingham, and out-of-town stations planned for the East Midlands and other locations, HS2 is not the infrastructure that best serves the needs of cities in the Midlands and the North. The per capita usage of HS2 at the national level would be less than one journey, every three years. The priority for provincial towns should be first rate locally oriented infrastructure of the type found in continental cities (e.g. Munich, Berlin, Lyon) – improving journeys that people of all social classes make regularly. So local politicians championing London-centric infrastructure like HS2, in place of metropolitan transport investment, is the actions of economic girlie-men.

Written by beleben

June 21, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Astroturfing HS2, part 2

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High speed rail seems to be proving a difficult sell for Westbourne Communications, who got the public relations gig for David Begg’s Campaign for High Speed Rail a few weeks ago.

The best angle that Westbourne could come up with? Seemingly, high speed rail as a form of class warfare.

A stereotypical image of the British upper class ‘toff’ from a bygone era has been used to shore up support for the proposed high-speed rail link from London to the Midlands and the north of England.

The campaign group Yes to High Speed Rail has resurrected the class divide with two posters that carry the headline: ‘Their lawns or our jobs?’

One uses an image of a Reginald Perrin-style businessman doffing his bowler hat, the other has an image of a country mansion.

The posters will go on display in Manchester today on the side of a bus and suggest that only southern ‘toffs’ worried about the state of their gardens oppose the new link.

But HS2 Ltd’s Economic Case is built around high speed rail’s supposed benefits to very-well-off business users, not the public at large. So there could be some difficulties in store.

The posters in Manchester seem to be part of a pseudo-local campaign including rallies in various localities which would “benefit from HS2”. But the London PR company orchestrating these don’t seem to know very much about the Midlands and North. No-one at Westbourne seems to have realised that the rallying point given on its Birmingham map doesn’t match the written description. They relied on Google Maps, but at the time of writing, that gives Birmingham town hall as being located at the convention centre. (Oddly enough, V Building appears on the map as well.)

Campaign for High Speed Rail astroturf rally in Birmingham, June 2011

Football crazy HS2

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What this means

The spin machines for HS2 has already produced some wacko press releases. The following one, dated April 16, 2011, comes from David Begg’s Campaign for High Speed Rail (note that the point numbering in the original version was broken).

Football semi-final this weekend illustrates the capacity limitations of the current rail network and the opportunities of high-speed rail
April 16, 2011

Today, Manchester United are playing Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final at London’s Wembley stadium. The stadium has a capacity of 90,000 – an estimated 60,000 of these will be filled by fans travelling down from Manchester, the hometown of both football clubs (1).

Transport and industry figures show that the West Coast Main Line (the line that runs between Manchester and London) will not be able to cope with the demand to travel today (2):

There are currently 3 trains per hour between Manchester and London, with each train having the capacity to seat 439 passengers. This means that the WCML can carry 1,317 passengers per hour from Manchester and London (3). During the key period in which supporters will be hoping to travel tomorrow morning, only around 6,585 passengers will be able to be transported (4).

Under a new high-speed rail line, the capacity increases are significant:

With a dedicated line for high-speed travel from Manchester, there will be network capacity for up to 3 trains an hour to London (4 at peak time), each carrying up to 1,100 passengers (5). In addition, there will also be trains running from Manchester on the existing WCML – modest estimates suggest there would be capacity for 2 trains per hour on this line carrying 595 passengers (6). In total, estimates therefore suggest an increased capacity of 4,490 passengers per hour (off peak) and 5,590 (peak) from Manchester to London. During the morning period in which supporters will travel today, nearly 22,450 passengers would be accommodated if we had a high-speed service. If this was a peak time service, there would be around 27,950 seats. This is over three to four times more than the current numbers.

Although some charter trains would still be required, a high-speed line would substantially relieve road and air travel to the football match by providing passengers with a much higher number of seats on the rail network. A high-speed line would also ensure that, despite a surge in long-distance passengers, far fewer local commuters would be affected because the majority of passengers would be travelling on the dedicated high-speed line.

A spokesperson for the Campaign for High Speed Rail, said:
“The crowding at 5pm in Euston station is reminiscent of scenes in Bombay. Passenger demand on the line has doubled in the last six years, and it is clear that serious investment is needed in order to meet these figures.

“A track upgrade is simply not enough. What this country needs is a dedicated high-speed line to relieve pressures on commuter lines and accommodate the rapidly-increasing demand for rail travel. Passengers deserve to be able to travel quicker, with increased reliability and in more comfort.”


Notes to editors
(1) The 60,000 figure was estimated by Sir Alex Ferguson, Manager of Manchester United. See

(2) Tomorrow’s game is only one example of a time when the demand on the WCML is heavily over its capacity. It is also heavily over-subscribed during peak times and Bank Holidays. Over the past six years, passenger demand on the line has doubled and has now reached 28 million per year

(3) These trains run at 15, 35 and 55 minutes past the hour on weekdays and weekends. We have estimated that the key period tomorrow morning will be trains leaving Manchester between 08:00 and 13:00 in order that supporters get into London in time for 17:15 kick off.

(4) This is once the whole ‘Y’ network has been completed, and hence high-speed tracks run all the way up to Manchester. There would also be an additional train at peak time, carrying an extra 1,100 passengers. See Department for Transport, Economic Case for HS2: the Y network and London – West Midlands, p.61,

(5) These figures are based on a proposed rescheduled timetable, once a dedicated high-speed line has relieved capacity on the existing network. For example, see Greengauge 21, HS2: Capturing the Benefits of HS2 on Existing Lines, February 2011,

(7) Virgin have already made an announcement about travel arrangements for this weekend, and has promised the use of charter trains to help relieve the pressure. The press release is available here:

(8) The Campaign for High Speed Rail represents employers from across the country who believe Britain needs a modern, high-speed rail network to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Our case is backed by business people from across the country. Some of these business people employ large numbers of people, some employ just a handful. We are united by a belief that high-speed rail will significantly help Britain’s economy, creating jobs and boosting parts of the country that need it, particularly in the Midlands and the North. We also believe that it will make ordinary passengers’ lives easier by freeing up capacity on existing lines, bringing better services to more people.

(9) You can learn more about the campaign on our website:

(10) For more information please call Lucy or Anna on 07758 019 351 or

What this means

  • If you hold a major football event in London,
  • and the two teams taking part are from Manchester,
  • the numbers travelling are not easily accommodated by rail.


  • after spending £17 billion (HS2 phase one to Birmingham), or £33 billion (HS2 Y-shaped network),
  • the problem is still there.

But dimensioning rail capacity around infrequent or one-off events is not rational. Transport projects need to be designed with regard to common sense. Over-dimensioning capacity provision is the economics of the madhouse.

Unlike a reactivation of the line through the Peak District, the £17 billion HS2 phase one would not provide any noticeable rail capacity uplift between Manchester and London. So chartered coaches, and cars, would be just as important as they are today.