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Posts Tagged ‘muddle

Bigger boondoggles to come

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Monthly interest payments on the Library of Birmingham cost £1 million every month, wrote the Birmingham Mail’s Graeme Brown.

[Library of Birmingham might be unworkable – but that’s no reason not to try, Birmingham Mail, 11 Feb 2016]

That is £33,000 every day or £1,370 every hour for interest alone. Permit me a tabloid moment: FOR INTEREST ALONE.

If the Library of Birmingham “costs more than £70,000 a day, with an average attendance of about 5,000”, the cost per visitor is around £14. But the build cost of the Library of Birmingham was “only” £188 million. There are much bigger boondoggles to come, and not just in Birmingham.

For example, Centro and Birmingham council want to build a circuitous Midland Metro line to Birmingham Airport, at a cost of around £500 million (or “2.65 LoBs”).

And the track and tunnel just to bring HS2 into Manchester Piccadilly would cost more than a billion pounds (i.e., more than five LoBs).

Birmingham council’s “scorched earth” policy of cancelling most newspapers and periodicals seems not to be helping library visitor numbers. When set against the LoB’s £1,370-per-hour interest charge, how cancelling the Guardian and / or Times at branch libraries is supposed to make a difference, has not been explained.

Written by beleben

February 19, 2016 at 4:38 pm

Posted in Birmingham, HS2, Manchester

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Marshall Muddle on old infrastructure

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Railnews coverage of an upgrade of 170 year old infrastructure - the Great Western Main Line

Railnews coverage of an upgrade of 170 year old infrastructure – the Great Western Main Line

Instead of “nonsensical talk about trying to upgrade the existing 175-year-old railway infrastructure”, would it not be better to follow Baroness Kramer’s advice (wrote Railnews’s editorial director Alan Marshall on the Go HS2 weblog).

[Susan Kramer quoted by Alan Marshall]

“Let us protect the Victorian spirit that built our railroads,” she said, “but let us look for an infrastructure that is not Victorian but modern and 21st-century so that we can build the economy of the future.”

London St Pancras, which was ‘upgraded’ for HS1 trains, is 145 years old, and parts of the Midland route from St Pancras to Derby, are older still. But the Midland is being electrified as part of a multi-billion pound upgrade — which Railnews is apparently in favour of. So what point Mr Marshall was making, or why Ms Kramer used the American term ‘railroad’, is not clear. For some reason, Mr Marshall also mentioned former chancellor Norman Lamont, who is apparently opposed to HS2.

Instead of listening to economists like Dr Richard Wellings of the Institute of Economic Affairs — “who forecast HS2 could cost £80 billion by including the price of building another Crossrail in London and a new line to Liverpool that is not even planned — perhaps we should note that HS2 Ltd has actually reduced the expected cost of building the first stage from London to Lichfield, and the branch line into Birmingham”, claimed Mr Marshall.

[Alan Marshall]

[…]At the close of the recent House of Lords debate Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said HS2 Ltd “now estimates that, without any contingency, it could bring in phase 1 at £15.6 billion.” However, she added, the Transport Secretary had decided to include “a little contingency” — 10 per cent — so the target budget for the first stage, extending over some 150 miles and including more than half the route in tunnels or deep cuttings, is now £17.16 billion. This could be reduced further after Sir David Higgins takes charge of the project next year and, as Lord Heseltine proposed, there is the opportunity to offset perhaps £5 billion of the cost of stage 1 by negotiating a 30-year concession with a private sector infrastructure manager, as has happened with HS1.

The claim that HS2 Ltd have costs under control is not particularly persuasive.

HS2 engineering design work over budget (building_co_uk, 8 Nov 2013)

HS2 engineering design work over budget (building_co_uk, 8 Nov 2013)

But the notion that HS2 could involve total expenditures of around £80 billion, is quite plausible. There is bound to be strong pressure for additional mitigation of various sorts, and add-on funding for developments attached to the HS2 project. For example, schemes such as the recently proposed Birmingham — Bickenhill — Coventry Midland Metro (£800 million at the very least) could have no other purpose than attempt to provide local access to the proposed HS2 ‘parkway’ station. And the costs of additional commuter trains for Milton Keynes (so-called-released-capacity) are not in the October 2013 ‘e-Conomic’ case. Of course, the value of “a 30-year concession” to a private sector infrastructure manager is entirely dependent on the levels of guaranteed track access fees over the concession period. A large proportion, possibly a majority, of those track access fees would be from government subsidies.

Written by beleben

November 29, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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HS2 goes megalomanic (part two)

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In HS2 goes megalomanic (25 March 2012), I mentioned the rail industry newspaper Railnews’ coverage of HS2 chief engineer Andrew McNaughton’s speech at Irail 2012.

On April 26, North Warwickshire MP Dan Byles thanked Prof McNaughton for ‘clarifying’ what he had said at Irail.

North Warwickshire MP Welcomes Clarification From HS2 Chief Engineer Following Rail Lecture

The Member of Parliament for North Warwickshire & Bedworth Dan Byles, who is a leading campaigner against High Speed 2 (HS2), has this week welcomed clarification from Professor Andrew McNaughton over press reports following a recent lecture by the Professor.

Local people were alarmed several weeks ago following reported comments by the Chief Engineer of HS2 Ltd Professor Andrew McNaughton at a Rail Industry lecture in Derby. After the lecture, the Professor was reported in the press to have predicted that HS2 might one day run up to 30 trains an hour, that the Birmingham Interchange Station could have additional ‘acceleration lines’ of up to 14 km long, and that a new city of up to 100,000 houses could be built on greenbelt land in the Meridan [sic] Gap.

After reading reports of the lecture local MP Dan Byles was very concerned, and immediately wrote to Professor McNaughton to ask him whether the reports were accurate, and in what capacity the professor was speaking. He has welcomed the professor’s response, who emphasised that he had been speaking in an academic and personal capacity, and not on behalf of HS2 Ltd or the government.

In his reply to the MP, Professor McNaughton addressed the three concerns Mr Byles raised. On the potential for up to 30 trains per hours, the professor wrote:

“During the lecture I discussed the potential of technology in the coming decades. I concluded that, as technology develops, it may be possible to achieve a higher number of trains per hour on a high speed line, where it is designed from first principles to achieve this. I mentioned in theory this could be up to 30 trains per hour (at a maximum capacity), which would translate to a commercial service of around 22 trains per hour. These are theoretical figures for high speed rail lines and not what is proposed for HS2 specifically, which is as per the consultation documents, eventually up to 18 trains per hour.”

In response to Dan Byles’ question about reports of 14 km long ‘acceleration lines’ at Birmingham Interchange Station, Professor McNaughton confirmed that this was an inaccurate report:

“No such figure exists and as such, it was not discussed. I did show a diagram plan of a small station with acceleration/deceleration lanes up to 3 km long, which is consistent with the HS2 consulted proposals.”

Finally, many people were concerned at reports that a potential new city of 100,000 houses could be constructed in the Meridan [sic] Gap. Professor McNaughton confirmed that this too was a mis-report, and that he had merely suggested that the area around a high speed rail station would be an attractive one for economic investment in general:

“In discussing new high speed stations, I spoke of how they could add to the economic attractiveness of an area. I mentioned that any new development would be enhanced by that of new high speed rail stations. At no point did I mention any new development in the Meriden Gap. I did speculate, based on experience from around the world, about the future development attractiveness of he area around the NEC bounded by the Airport and HS2, and at the centre of the motoring network.”

Are acceleration lanes ‘up to 3 km long’ adequate for velocity matching at HS2 speeds, or not? It’s fairly common for the non-specialist press to get mixed up about railway details, but the Irail report was from a trade newspaper. So far as I am aware, Railnews has not issued a correction to it.

While it’s true that Railnews’ coverage of HS2 has lacked balance and authoritativeness, it’s also true that the difference between chief engineer McNaughton’s personal opinions and the ‘vision’ of HS2 Ltd is hard to discern. For most practical purposes, there appears to be no difference.

Written by beleben

August 10, 2012 at 11:42 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

Tagged with ,

The ups and downs of HS2 capacity

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Milton Keynes to London fast trains, scheduled for morning of 14 June 2012

In 28 May‘s Engineer magazine story, chief engineer Andrew McNaughton stated that HS2 doubles the capacity for inter-city travel, and allows fast trains to intermediate places that currently have a poor stopping service.

McNaughton added: ‘If you stand on Milton Keynes platform during morning peak, you’ll see lots of Pendolino trains but they don’t stop; they’re all full of people going to Manchester. In 2025, when HS2 opens, they’re gone. Trains will stop at Milton Keynes every 10 minutes.’

Pendolinos going *towards* London, and not stopping at Milton Keynes, might be full in the morning peak, but that’s unlikely to be the case in the other direction. And currently, on a weekday morning, in the period 07:00 to 08:00, there are five fast London trains that commuters can board at Milton Keynes Central. So, one every 12 minutes on average, not particularly different from Prof McNaughton’s 2025 aspiration/prediction.

HS2 certainly would create ‘additional capacity’, but it would be capacity mainly confined to its own track. In other words, the *relief* for existing lines is generally quite small. The HS2 documentation includes a cost saving of £2.3 billion from running fewer trains on the legacy network (mainly the West Coast Main Line), but HS2 Ltd will not specify what trains are suppressed to achieve this saving. HS2 would not end the mixed traffic nature of the WCML, and increasing the number of 100 km/h and 120 km/h freight trains is bound to affect passenger services.

On the West Coast corridor, the HS2 Y network new-build track only serves three cities — London, Birmingham, and Manchester — so the capacity effects for everywhere else are difficult to gauge. If it is the government’s intention to maintain classic service levels on West Coast, the £2.3 billion savings from not running them should be struck from the economic analysis of HS2, and the numbers recalculated.

In stage one (‘LWM’), HS2 would reduce path capacity on the West Coast Main Line north of Lichfield, and it’s likely that seating capacity would fall too. Part of the HS2 dogma is the use of 200-metre long trainsets, which would be shorter than existing Pendolinos. On the new-build track only, two 200-metre trains could run coupled together, but it’s not clear how passengers could be found to fill such a huge train. On today’s London to Manchester run, travellers can be picked up or set down at places like Stoke-on-Trent. However, the 400-metre long Y network train would only have Manchester and Bickenhill passengers.

The HS2 concept also entails downgrading of the North East to South West cross-country railway between Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham, and Bristol. HS2 Ltd’s intention is for Bristolian passengers to travel north via the Great Western, changing onto HS2 at Old Oak Common. However, it’s known that train operators are not keen on stopping fast trains on the London approach (see Stratford International, for example) and it’s likely that selective stopping of Paddington services at Old Oak Common would reduce Great Western capacity.

HS2 reduces West Coast Main Line capacity at its busiest point. Under HS2 Ltd’s plan for Euston, the number of West Coast platforms would be cut, and that would be bound to have an impact on capacity. As with the effects of the HS2 to HS1 link, the reduction in Euston terminal capacity is not documented.

Written by beleben

June 15, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Falling off the fence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by beleben

June 5, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Déjà connecté

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Who Says There is no Alternative?’ is a document prepared by John Stewart, then-‘chair’ of the Campaign for Better Transport, in 2008, for the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) trade union. It argued that proposals to expand Heathrow Airport with a third runway would be unnecessary if there were serious government-led investment in (high speed) rail as part of a coordinated transport system.

High-speed rail would create tens of thousands of jobs across the country, including new jobs at Heathrow. It would be a win-win solution: an environmentally friendlier option than airport expansion which at the same time boosted the economy, protected employment levels at Heathrow and created jobs across the country.

When the government’s HS2 scheme was published in 2010, the Campaign for Better Transport took a noncommittal position. Perhaps they cottoned onto the fact that the HS2–Heathrow connection was targeted at drawing in travellers from the North, and would make a third runway more (not less) likely. However, the RMT recently dusted off ‘Who Says’, and presented it to the All Party Parliamentary Group for High Speed Rail. The paper claimed that the journey time tipping point (for passengers switching from air to rail) had recently changed from three hours to between four and four-and-a-half hours for business travel,

The French railway, SNCF, has found that on journeys of less than four-and-a-half hours, where their trains compete with airlines, their share of the market is over 50%. This is backed up by other European rail companies, which are capturing more than 60% of the business market from airlines on four hour journeys.”

and many of the most-flown destinations served from Heathrow were short-haul and potentially substitutable by high speed rail.

Replacing Short-Haul Flights at Heathrow
Well over a third of all flights using Heathrow are short-haul. A study carried out by the campaign group HACAN showed that of a total of 473,000 flights which used the airport in 2006, 100,000 served 12 destinations where there was already a viable rail alternative and a further 100,000 flights went to places where an improved rail service could provide an alternative. If a lot of these flights were replaced by rail, that would free up the space at Heathrow to bring in more long-distance flights without any need to expand the airport.

The figures in the HACAN report make for startling reading

Paris 50/60 flights a day to and from Heathrow
Amsterdam** 50
Edinburgh 40
Manchester 36
Brussels 30
Glasgow 28
Newcastle 12
Leeds/Bradford 10
Rotterdam** 6
Durham/Tees Valley 6

* the figures are those of a fairly typical day but will vary throughout the year

** Amsterdam and Rotterdam have been included because the high-speed line from Brussels to Amsterdam is imminent

Both Edinburgh and Glasgow are reachable by train from London in four and a half hours, and according to the CBT paper, travel duration by air has higher variability. So following the reasoning used by Mr Stewart, 350 km/h high speed rail is not required between London and Scotland’s central belt; classic rail is fast enough.

The survival of ‘residual’ flights between London and places like Manchester and Tees Valley suggests that business travel isn’t purely dimensioned by time. It’s known that businesspeople’s travel is a component of Ryanair’s business, even though its services tend to make use of lesser connected and more remote airports.

Written by beleben

May 31, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Getting so much lower all the time

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

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

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

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

Written by beleben

April 12, 2012 at 6:09 pm