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The answer is dunno

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HS2 consultation event sign to the Firs and Bromford, 06 Jun 2013

Yesterday (6 June 2013), HS2 Ltd held a high speed rail draft environmental statement consultation event at the Firs and Bromford community centre in east Birmingham.

Oddly enough, more than two decades ago, the Firs and Bromford was the scene of one of a series of acrimonious meetings between the general public and the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (Centro). The transport authority of the day, headed by councillor Phil Bateman, was hell bent on smashing a light rail line through Birmingham’s eastern suburbs. The disruption and environmental damage would have been massive.

At one point, over 100 properties faced demolition. But in the battle of Bromford versus Bateman, the people emerged victorious. The chain was duly pulled on the Five Ways — Castle Vale light rail scheme and WMPTE switched its fixation to the then-disused trackbed between Birmingham Snow Hill and Wolverhampton, which became ‘Midland Metro Line One‘. (What a success that turned out to be.)

Firs and Bromford door notice

Anyway, back to the 21st century. On 8 December 2012, a member of the public, ‘Miffy64’ reported the proceedings of a HS2 Ltd meeting at Spitfire House, Castle Vale.

[…] I have to say that I was extremely disappointed with the HS2 representatives, the way in which they conducted the meeting and the dismissive way in which they dealt with some questions from concerned Castle Vale residents who braved the cold winter evening to attend the meeting, in order to find out what was happening.

The meeting, itself, was well attended by residents and it was good to see that level of support and attendance for the meeting. What I found less impressive though, was the statement made at the start of the meeting, by HS2 representative Donovan Bailey, stating that it wasn’t a public meeting and should only have been for the community organisation to attend and feed the information back down the rest of the Castle Vale residents. I am sorry, but I have to completely disagree with that drivel.

[…] I did note that there seemed to be a HS2 ‘spoiler’ who seemed to pipe up every time questions got too heated for the HS2 panel. I found this extremely disconcerting and unwanted distraction from HS2 answering our concerns (which was probably the point of having them there).

All in all I, for one, was not at all impressed with HS2 or their proposals, or the way in which they engaged with the residents (or lack, thereof). They seemed not to understand, or care, about our concerns. It felt as if they had already made up their minds about what was going to happen and were just there to regurgitate their plans.

Yesterday’s consultation event did not seem to be very busy, although the HS2 press officer in attendance said that homes within 1 kilometre of the line had all been leafleted. Whether that’s true or not, is impossible to know. As HS2 Ltd is now recommending a 2.8 km tunnel, the local environmental effects would be substantially reduced, so that may have had some impact on visitor numbers. It’s also possible that many residents think that the line is an expensive political gimmick that is likely to be cancelled / de-scoped at some point, so why bother attending a consultation. After all, the Bateman / WMPTE Castle Vale light rail was definitely going ahead, until one day, it definitely wasn’t going ahead.

The January 2012 HS2 alignment would have caused such extensive disruption in Bromford that it’s difficult to understand why Arup ever designed it that way. Unless it was done in the foreknowledge that they could claim another set of professional fees for redesigning it, from wet-behind-the-ears DfT dupes.

HS2 Ltd, big plan at the poorly attended Firs and Bromford environmental consultation

Another parallel between the WMPTE light rail and HS2 high speed rail events at the F & B was that the people who came along to explain the scheme, couldn’t really answer any questions. For 95% of the questions put to HS2 staff, the response was “don’t know”.

How big would be external bore of the Bromford tunnels be? Don’t know. How much do the Bromford tunnels cost? Don’t know. How many of the “400 Washwood Heath depot jobs” would be carriage cleaners? Dunno. Would there be a spoil heap at the western end of the tunnel, and if so, how large would it be? Don’t know. How many HS2 trainsets would come back to Washwood Heath at the end of the day, and what would be the noise impacts? Dunno. What would be the noise reduction from enclosing aerial sections of HS2 in a sealed box? Don’t know. (Etc.)

HS2 Firs and Bromford consultation interior, June 2013: very few members of the public attended. Virtually everyone in the picture is HS2 staff

The spoiler / oddball mentioned by Miffy64 above also appeared to be present at yesterday’s consultation event, and started to get agitated when HS2 Ltd staff couldn’t answer questions put to them. He seemed to be of the opinion that no-one should be asking any questions of HS2 Ltd. He started ranting and raving, and stormed off in a huff.

Welcome to the HS2 environmental consultation. And before you ask, the answer is dunno.

Written by beleben

June 7, 2013 at 7:31 am

Posted in High speed rail, HS2

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Making a Proffitt

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On 7 March, the Birmingham Mail printed a story about Winson Green prison needing more people to join its Independent Monitoring Board, which serves “to ensure proper standards of care and decency are maintained”.

Board members are unpaid but travel expenses are reimbursed and appropriate training is given.

Candidates must be prepared to spend three full days per month visiting the privately-owned prison and must live within a 20 mile radius of it.

For more information, call 345 2532 or e-mail

On 8 March, the Mail’s Jonathan Walker reported that the home secretary, Theresa May, has decided that a new elected police commissioner for the West Midlands will receive a salary of £100,000, even if they only work part time.

MP Steve McCabe (Lab Hall Green) said: “It’s ridiculous to pay them £100,000 in the first place, but the idea that they could get such a massive salary for working just a day or two a week is outrageous.”

He was speaking after Theresa May, the Home Secretary, set out the planned salary structure for Police and Crime Commissioners, who will be elected across the country on November 15.

They will replace the existing police authorities, and will oversee the work of forces while leaving operational control in the hands of chief constables.

An independent review by the Review Body on Senior Salaries, which oversees salaries for top public servants, recommended that commissioners for the largest forces, including West Midlands Police, Greater Manchester Police and West Yorkshire Police, should be paid £100,000 a year.

The commissioners of West Mercia and Staffordshire Police will each receive £75,000 while the commissioner of Warwickshire Police will be paid £65,000.

Ms May told MPs she had accepted the recommendations – but rejected the review board’s proposal that anyone doing the job on a part-time basis should have their salary cut.

Instead, she said they should be paid the full salary – even if they only worked part time – as long as they told voters what they were doing.

I don’t see what the point of a West Midlands police commissioner is, unless the post replaces that of the chief constable. £100,000 for a part-time non-job is absurd.

And I can’t see any particular rationale for having G4S making money from running Winson Green prison, yet relying on people to come in, unremunerated, to check on prisoner welfare.

What a disgraceful shambles.

Written by beleben

March 8, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Ed, David, and Thameslink

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David Miliband tweets about 300 jobsOn 17 June 2011, Labour MP David Miliband tweeted the “Great news of 300 jobs at Siemens in South Tyneside from new Thameslink contract”. The government had announced that Siemens of Germany was preferred bidder for the supply of new Thameslink rolling stock, rather than Bombardier’s Derby factory. Very little of the Siemens train would be built in Great Britain.

At its conference in September, his brother, Labour party leader Ed Miliband, took a rather different position.

But when I am Prime Minister, how we tax, what government buys, how we regulate, what we celebrate will be in the service of Britain’s producers.

And don’t let anyone tell you that this is the anti-business choice.

It’s the pro-business choice.

Pro-business on the side of the small businesses who can’t get a loan.

Pro-business on the side of high value manufacturing that can’t build its business because of the short-termist culture.

Pro-business on the side of the British company losing out to its competitors abroad when their government steps in and our government stands aside.

And that includes companies like Bombardier and BAe systems.

Being sold down the river by this Government.

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.