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Posts Tagged ‘posturing

HS2 is about speed, not capacity (part two)

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

HS2 Ltd, 'Benefits to transport users' January 2012

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

Written by beleben

February 16, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Cause to pause

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

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

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

Examples of Koeln Frankfurt train journey details, from Deutsche Bahn

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

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

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

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

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

Written by beleben

December 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Correspondance gauche

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Birmingham, tunnel between Smallbrook Queeensway and Moor Street Queensway

Apologists for bad interchange: Alex Burrows and Martin DyerFor people arriving at Curzon Street in the rear of a captive HS2 train, the distance to a New Street connecting train would be over 1 kilometre. But following Monday’s Inside Out television ‘special’, HS2 spinnerati defended the comical Birmingham interchange arrangements on social media.

Martin Dyer, a pro-HS2 speaker at the March 2011 FOE/SWM debate, tweeted that it takes him 4 minutes to get from Moor Street to New Street.

Like lots of other people, I can walk between Snow Hill and New Street stations in around five minutes. According to Centro, however, their connectedness is so poor that a 700 yard Midland Metro tram link between them is a “regional economic priority“, and will create “thousands of jobs”. Trams would run every 6 minutes in the daytime, so the average wait would be 3 minutes, and the on-tram journey via Corporation Street is… 3 minutes. Did I mention that the ‘Snow Hill’ tram stop is going to be moved away from the station, to St Chad’s Circus? Great connectivity(?), great time saving(?), worth digging up Birmingham city centre for(?), diverting 35 bus routes at a cost of £14 million(?), and every penny of £129 million of public cash(?)

I’d have thought good interchange for long distance travellers would be more important than for Snow Hill (mainly commuters), for several reasons. Such as:

  • long distance travellers are more likely to be encumbered with luggage, and
  • are less likely to be familiar with navigating central Birmingham
  • (etc).

Not to mention that a lot of businessmen (HS2’s primary market) make Eric Pickles look like slimmer of the year. I’m not too sure they’d be able to get from Curzon Street to New Street in 4 minutes.

With Centro expending so much effort defending hamfisted, boneheaded infrastructure, it’s no wonder that the West Midlands public transport system is such a mess.

Written by beleben

December 7, 2011 at 12:20 pm

HS2 buddhas of suburbia

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HS2 buddhas of suburbia: Jerry Blackett and Digby JonesAccording to Jerry Blackett, of Birmingham chamber of commerce, HS2 is good because it would make London a suburb of Birmingham.

But according to businessman Digby Jones, HS2 is good, because (?) it would make Birmingham a suburb of London.

Written by beleben

November 8, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Back me up on this

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Network Rail 'back me up on this' (by Aspex Design, on Flickr, (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)Having had some difficulties finding evidence to back up the trains-per-hour claims for their high speed line, HS2 Ltd have written and commissioned their own. These have finally appeared on the publications section of the company website.

Bombardier Transportation capacity evaluation report – 26/10/2011

ARUP report on achieving high capacity at stations – 26/10/2011

Supporting statement for the headway document from Andrew Simmons – 26/10/2011

Supporting statement for the headway document from Prof. Rod Smith – 26/10/2011

Signalling headways and maximum operational capacity on High Speed Two London to West Midlands route – 26/10/2011

Summary report on the capacity and capability for the High Speed Network – 26/10/2011

SYSTRA Technical note: capacity and reliability (redacted) – 26/10/2011


No doubt similar documents were prepared around a decade ago, to prove the ‘feasibility’ of moving block signalling, 140 mph running, etc, on the West Coast Main Line (WCML). It’s all very well Roderick Smith (of the Imperial College Future Railway Research Centre) and Andrew Simmons (Future Train and Operational Control Systems Director, at Network Rail) backing up Andrew McNaughton (HS2 Chief Engineer, and visiting professor at Imperial College Future Railway Research Centre, and ex-Network Rail Chief Engineer) – but the fact is, none of them has ever run a railway operating 18 trains an hour at 400 km/h. Actually, no-one, anywhere in the world, has done so.

As for Network Rail, it isn’t what one might call a ‘centre of excellence’ in efficiency or train scheduling. It would be interesting to know what role (if any) Prof McNaughton played in the WCML modernisation. Railtrack and Network Rail’s inability to manage that project led to external consultants (Bechtel) having to be brought in.

It’s certainly true that improved signalling technology permits more trains to run, but that applies to conventional railways just as much as to new-build-high-speed ones. There’s no reason why the West Coast and Chiltern Lines shouldn’t receive higher capability signalling (such work is a key element of Crossrail, and the Great Western Main Line modernisation). With efficient operations on the WCML and load balancing using the Chiltern route, the capacity case for HS2 is demolished.

I’ll leave the last words on this blogpost to Jonathan Tyler, and Greengauge 21.

The maximum number of trains/hour on any high-speed railway is 14 (into Tokyo in the morning peak on the original Tokaido Line). I note the categoric statement of Pierre Messulam from SNCF [Q84] that the maximum feasible capacity of a high-speed railway is 16 trains/hour. No one has persuasively demonstrated that that can be exceeded, which makes HS2 Ltd’s assumption of 18 seem exceptionally optimistic.

At 320km/h the evidence and advice is that 15tph [trains per hour] is a maximum throughput for a new HSR [high speed rail] line. There are ambitions here and elsewhere to allow higher speeds and to retain the same braking capabilities and distances, but they have not yet been achieved.

Written by beleben

November 3, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Where Eagle’s dare?

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Maria Eagle 'HS2E' social media reaction, 31 Oct 2011In yesterday’s announcement ‘amending’ Labour party aviation and high speed rail policy, Maria Eagle said

“Labour’s cross-party support for the high speed rail line that we proposed in Government is clear”

I’m not sure how proposing a completely different HS2 route (from the one that Labour proposed in Government) is going to bring about ‘cross-party support’. As the Coventry Telegraph reported, the move “fractures the previous cross-party agreement for the £17 billion London-to-Birmingham line”.

According to Ms Eagle, “connecting via Heathrow and using existing transport corridors means that we’re going to get to Birmingham in a more sensible way…It seems mad not to take your high-speed train though your hub airport at the earliest opportunity – that’s the lesson of high speed in Europe”.

Given the level of opposition in constituencies along the current HS2 route (‘HS2WM’), the new ‘HS2 Eagle’ (‘HS2E’) alternative could have some interesting electoral consequences. And ‘airport oriented’ policies could also unlock funding from the aviation industry for the party machine. The BBC reported Theresa Villiers’ reaction:

Transport minister Theresa Villiers, Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet, accused Labour of being “opportunistic” by making an announcement that she believed would do “nothing to contribute to the detailed, informed and extensive process that the government is undertaking on HS2”.

“Labour have had nine months to say something constructive on HS2 but instead have waited till the consultation has ended to oppose the government’s preferred route – which they originally came up with,” she added.

Maria Eagle 'HS2E' social media reaction, 31 Oct 2011I can’t see how the Conservatives can complain about Labour ‘playing politics’ with high speed rail. In Britain, that’s what high speed rail is for. HS2 is not a transport project.

As I pointed out yesterday, Labour and Conservatives have swapped clothes on HS2, and today Bow ‘Groupie’ Tony Lodge is effectively imploring the Conservatives to reverse Mawhinney.

Maria Eagle 'HS2E' social media reaction, 31 Oct 2011As for Labour, they have some work to do explaining their new “clear” policy, judging by some of the reaction on social media.

If the newspaper map of HS2E is correct, then there would be no spur into Heathrow. The high speed line would run in tunnel, **via Heathrow**, with a station ‘at the airport’ itself (not outside the perimeter). But what ‘at the airport‘ means, is anyone’s guess.

The extra tunnels for HS2E would cost billions, but even if they were ‘free’, the whole-line benefit-cost ratio would fall to 1.31 (with a 5 minutes longer journey) or 1.07 (with a 10 minutes longer journey), on HS2 Ltd figures (for what they’re worth). It’s worth remembering that even with HS2’s oddball value of time assumptions, the (much cheaper) Heathrow spur in the current official scheme has a negative net economic benefit.

Joe Rukin, of Stop HS2, has said that there is no economic case for HS2. Actually, that sentence also works if the first five words are replaced with ‘Pete Waterman’. I suppose Maria Eagle’s position is a bit like Pete Waterman’s: ‘never mind the figures, just build it’. But Labour’s HS2E is no more socially useful than the Conservatives’ Adonis/Steer HS2WM. The vast majority of people travelling to London from the North are not headed to Heathrow Airport. And ‘getting people from the North faster to Heathrow Airport’ should be near the bottom of any sensible list of transport priorities. Setting more carbon targets for aviation is all well and good, but aviation is just 2 per cent of domestic transport emissions. And HS2 – whether through the Chilterns, or under Heathrow – is not ‘carbon-reducing‘ infrastructure.

More Heathrow dementia

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Today’s London Evening Standard features more Heathrow ballyhoo, this time from Mark Bostock, of Arup.

One of the architects of the Channel Tunnel link today called on the Government to abandon current plans for a high-speed railway line.

Mark Bostock, the former project manager of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link – now known as High Speed 1 – has criticised plans for the 250mph line because it does not include a connection to Heathrow Airport.

Mr Bostock wants to use tunnels under London to link the capital to Birmingham via a major transport hub at Heathrow. He said: “The plan is to integrate Heathrow into the developing high-speed rail network. It’s giving people from Wales and the South-West, as well as the North, access to Heathrow.”

Written by beleben

October 31, 2011 at 9:32 pm

The Eagle has crash landed

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I was surprised to read that the Labour party has only just abandoned its policy favouring a third runway at London Heathrow Airport. Anyway, the announcement was posted on the party’s website today:

Time to forge a cross-party consensus on aviation and high speed rail for the long term – Maria Eagle

31 October 2011

Maria Eagle MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, in a speech to the Airport Operators Association, will today:

  • Urge the Government to establish a cross-party commission to set a long term policy for aviation as part of a strategy for jobs and growth;

  • Argue that the Government’s call for airports to be ‘better not bigger’ is a slogan, not a policy, and a blanket ban on growth and new capacity in the South East make no sense;
  • Accept that the third runway at Heathrow is now off the agenda because of the local environmental impact and urge the industry to move on and look at other solutions to the need for new capacity;
  • Call for the Committee on Climate Change to advise on a tougher CO2 emissions target for the aviation industry;
  • While pledging to do nothing to put at risk or delay the vital high speed rail line between London, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, back the inclusion of Heathrow on the route which would also enable the greater use of existing transport corridors.

Maria Eagle MP, setting out Labour’s offer to the Government, said:

“A successful, thriving aviation sector is crucial for our economic competitiveness. The Government’s failure to set out a strategy for aviation, and the lack of any plan to do so until late in this parliament, is now putting jobs and growth at risk. I am therefore offering to put aside political differences and work on a cross-party basis to establish a credible aviation strategy for the long term. As part of that, Labour will accept the Government’s decision to cancel the third runway at Heathrow, but Ministers must accept that their opposition to any other aviation growth in the South East makes no sense. If they agree to our proposal for an independent cross-party commission on aviation, it should be able to look at all options while prioritising making the best use of existing runways and airports.

“I am also today calling on the Committee on Climate Change to advise the Government and industry on a tougher emissions target for aviation. It’s time to bring the industry closer to the wider goal in the Climate Change Act to cut emissions by at least 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels, and reflect this in future Carbon Budgets. Labour is clear that any growth in aviation must be sustainable and meet the challenge of climate change.

Labour’s cross-party support for the high speed rail line that we proposed in Government is clear. It is the only credible way to tackle capacity issues on the existing main lines. However, following the cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow, it is vital that we take the opportunity that this new line offers to provide greater connectivity to our major hub airport. If the Government was to take the line via Heathrow it would remove the need to build an expensive spur later while opening up the prospect of private sector funding, potentially saving the taxpayer billions. It could lead to a new route that makes better use of existing transport corridors and avoids an area of outstanding natural beauty where residents were wrongly insulted as ‘NIMBYs’ by Tory Ministers. If this were to happen it would also open up the opportunity to connect to the Great Western mainline, bringing the benefits of the high speed line to the South West.

“The Government has so far shown that it is out of touch with the calls from business for a credible aviation policy. I urge the new Transport Secretary to accept our offer to work across the political divide on a long term strategy for both aviation and high speed rail as part of the plan for jobs and growth that the country needs.”

At the same Airport Operators Association conference, Gatwick Airport (and former HS2 Ltd) chairman David Rowlands said that the aviation industry is stuck in a “dialogue of the deaf” with the environmental lobby, and is failing to set out a roadmap for tackling climate change:

Sir David Rowlands said the sector invested too much effort in relaying facts – such as its contribution to global warming – rather than setting out how it will make meaningful contributions to carbon dioxide reduction. Criticising the industry’s obsession with flaunting its green credentials via announcements about biofuel flights, Rowlands warned that airlines and airports are failing to engage with environmental groups.

“What it does not mean is lone voices shouting ‘hey – look at us we have just flown one of our aircraft on chip fat!’ That is not a dialogue. Unless what you want is a dialogue of the deaf. Just look at the reaction from environmental commentators to what has been happening recently with biofuels.”

Rowlands, former permanent secretary at the Department for Transport, has emerged alongside International Airlines Group’s Willie Walsh as the industry’s most vocal critic of government aviation policy. This year he dismissed as “total nonsense” the government’s argument that a high-speed rail link can mitigate the ban on a third runway at Heathrow.

Ms Eagle’s statement more or less completes the HS2 policy swap between the Labour and Conservative parties. Last year, the Conservatives adopted Labour’s Y-network, and now Labour has abandoned Adonis/Steer in favour of something indistinguishable from the Bow Group airport-centric ‘not-so-high-speed’ rail.

Westbourne Communications’ Dan Large responded to Labour’s new new high-speed route, on behalf of David Begg’s Campaign for High Speed Rail:

October 31, 2011

Today Maria Eagle, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, will announce Labour’s support for a new route for the proposed high-speed line.

Prior to the official announcement, an article was written in yesterday’s Sunday Times that you can read online here [subscription required].

In response to these developments, Dan Large, a spokesman for the Campaign for High Speed Rail, said:

“We are pleased that Labour are maintaining their support for a new high-speed line.

“However, this newly proposed route raises some fundamental questions.

“What is the additional cost of tunneling out of central London and under the Chilterns? By how much time with this lengthen the construction process? What will the combined cost of this be to the business case, which will presumably be weakened?

“The new route is not as straight as the old route, which will have an impact on the line speed. How much will this reduce the speed of the line? What impact will this have for return on investment in expensive rolling stock? How many services an hour will be lost as a result of the curvature of the new route?

“The new route still cuts across a lot of countryside – it does not simply follow the M40. What impact will this new route have on this newly threatened countryside? Which historic buildings will be affected? Which areas of natural beauty wil be cut across? How many properties will be affected? Local opposition will still be faced – what assessment has been made of this?

“Heathrow connected to HS2 on the existing route, and the proposed Heathrow hub makes an assumption about the future of British aviation policy. Is Labour sure that a South East-focussed hub model is the future of British air transport? What impact will this have on regional airports, most notably Birmingham? Does this model fit the future of aviation manufacture, with aircraft such as the new Boeing Dreamliner eschewing the hub model? What impact would this change in approach to Heathrow’s connectivity have on the Heathrow Express and Crossrail?

“It is essential that these practicalities are thought through, and that their impact upon the finances, business case and timescale of the project are properly assessed.

“We look forward to hearing a lot more detail about Maria Eagle’s proposal in due course.”

Written by beleben

October 31, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Confused of Elmdon

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Birmingham Airport and the Centro-led GoHS2 campaign have dismissed claims by opponents that the HS2 high-speed rail link between Birmingham and London would cause existing services to be cut by two-thirds, according to the Birmingham Mail.

John Morris, Birmingham Airport’s head of government and industry affairs, said: “How can opponents claim services are being cut when HS2 will triple intercity capacity to London from the West Midlands?

“There will still be London services from New Street, but also many more new services from the brand new stations being built. Claiming there’s a reduction in services is absolutely ridiculous”

The HS2 scheme does assume net reductions in services on existing (‘classic’ lines), as can be seen in the extract from the Economic Case:

HS2 Ltd, reduced services on existing lines, cost saving

The standard Birmingham – London service pattern on HS2 would be three trains an hour (which is the same as the current West Coast Main Line Pendolino). HS2 Ltd claims that its trains, formed from two 200-metre ‘captive’ units, would seat 1,100 passengers (compared to 589 on an 11-car Pendolino).

So the ‘trebled capacity’ claim presumably arises as follows:

1. The imminent ‘committed schemes’ capacity on the West Coast route, Birmingham to London, using three 11-car Pendolinos per direction in a standard hour, is 1,767 seats.

2. With HS2 in use, the Birmingham to London service would comprise three HS2 captive trains each hour (3,300 seats). Adding in the Pendolino service (1,767 on the West Coast Main Line) gives a total of 5,067 seats.

5,067 divided by 1,767 gives 2.86, which is nearly treble.

So what’s wrong?

  1. HS2 Ltd Economic Case explicitly includes cost savings from net service reductions on ‘classic’ services. If Pendolino services aren’t reduced in some way, someone needs to explain how there’d be a £2,300,000,000 cost saving.
  2. Centro says transferring fast trains to HS2 frees up capacity for other services. But if fast Pendolino services continue as part of the supposed ‘trebling’ of capacity, that means there are no resources freed up ‘for other services’.

The ‘trebled capacity’ spiel also excludes any consideration of London Midland’s semi-fast trains to London on the WCML, and Chiltern Railways services from Birmingham Snow Hill to Marylebone. Furthermore, it seems doubtful that 400-metre HS2 trains would be able to seat 1,100 passengers (900 or so is a more plausible figure).

Written by beleben

October 7, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Geoff Inskip’s capacity guff

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Under Centro‘s vision for HS2, the capacity “freed up” on the West Midlands rail network by high speed rail amounts to nothing more than one hourly Pendolino path on the Birmingham – Coventry – Rugby axis. So the provision of rail links between Black Country locations has nothing to do with HS2 or capacity shortages, and everything to do with poor economics. Here’s some examples.

Walsall to Cannock rail service

In July 2010 Centro cut support for the Walsall to Cannock rail service (leading to a cut in frequency), saying the £7.18 per-passenger subsidy was poor value for money.

Wolverhampton to Walsall rail service

The Department for Transport refused to provide additional funding to allow the 10.8 km Wolverhampton to Walsall passenger service to continue. Around 60,000 journeys were made annually, and the required subsidy was £700,000. This meant that each traveller’s round trip required public funding of around £20.

High costs

Apart from low demand, another major restraint on West Midlands local rail development is its high operating costs. There is no use of driver only operation, and most stations are staffed, most of the time, even though personnel are often unable to watch over the platforms from their office. Stations are actually more likely to be unstaffed in the evenings, when the purported ‘value’ of having staff present is maximised.

Written by beleben

August 30, 2011 at 8:51 pm