Crossrail 2 Hits the Buffers?

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In a press release today, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) expressed concern that Crossrail2 was not mentioned in this week’s Queen’s Speech, although commitment to HS2 was retained.

Crossrail 2 is targeted at relieving congestion on commuter routes into and across London, but it will be some years before this project is completed.  Crossrail 1, or “The Elizabeth Line” is not due to open for services until 2018/19.

“We are, however, concerned that there was no mention of Crossrail 2 in the Speech. This scheme is vital not only to keep London moving and to support its further economic and social development, but also as a key element of the national transport infrastructure which serves the entire national economy. As Britain looks to plan for a post-Brexit future, investment in mobility is of even greater importance. Therefore, CILT calls on the Government to make a clear commitment to the future of the Crossrail 2 project.”

The line itself – if it is ever built – follows the route illustrated below:

Crossrail 2

The core line from Tottenham Hale and Seven Sisters through St Pancras, Euston, Victoria and down to Clapham Junction.  I suspect that the ‘branches’ will never get built, and now, maybe even doubts about this ‘core’ section.

Maybe the CILT aren’t far wrong as Daniel Parker-Klein, Head of Policy, CILT said:

“It is imperative that Government commits to support the development of Crossrail 2.  This scheme is essential for not only London’s future but for the whole of the UK.  There is little time for delay – a hybrid bill must be submitted by 2020.  Without it, the benefits of HS2 may not be realised, the movement of goods and people will be constrained and the UK’s economy will be less resilient to meet the demands of an uncertain future.”

What a good job we have a competent and wide ranging transport strategy in the UK as leave the EU.

-oOo-

 

 

 

8,000 km of Railway Closed

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In the UK today, we constantly hear about the massively expanding number of passengers – all supported by the statistical evidence.  Whilst it would be true to say that the route mileage – well kilometres – was most drastically cut between 1965 and 1975, with just under 6,000 km disappearing, another 2,000km plus has gone since then.

From a total network of 24,012km in 1965, by 2015 this was cut to 15,799km – a 34% reduction – inevitably driven by the Beeching Plan.

network-routes-open

Comparing these two 20-year periods, it is clear that little change in the network route mileage took place between 1985 and 2005, with the network reduced by only 942 miles. Also during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the last main line electrification on UK railways was completed – the East Coast Main Line.

At the same time, passenger stations have closed – yes I know there has been massive rebuilding for some – but the possibility of sending parcels and small goods by rail has almost disappeared. In the years between 1965 and 1985, 40% of all stations disappeared, and in the period between 1975 and 1985 67% of all freight stations ceased to exist.

british-rail-stations

At least, that’s what the ONS figures suggest.

Does this mean that more people are being crammed onto less distance, in shorter and less frequent services, with fewer stations, and fewer options?

The UK is still a major player in the rail technology arena, and electrification has, and is, a key part of the network’s success. In 1985, with 3,809 km of route electrified (23% of total route), the electrified routes grew by 1,500km by 2015 – it is now 34% of the total network. Within that 1,500km total, the completion of the ECML to Edinburgh in 1991 was a major highlight.

What about passenger and goods traffic?

Measured in terms of billions of tonne kilometres, goods travelled 25.2 billion tonne/km on British Rail in 1965. By 1985, this figure had fallen to 15.3 billion tonne/km – a reduction of 39% – whilst at the same time road freight had increased by 44%. Between 1965 and 1975, coastal shipping was still carrying a lot of freight, just slightly less than rail, but clearly the emphasis by successive governments over the decade and more to 1979 to give priority to road freight had taken its toll.

freight-tonne-km

In 2012 there were 2,533 passenger stations listed by the DfT, and by 2016 this had risen to 2,557 as recorded by Steer, Davies & Gleave for the ORR.  Details here: http://www.orr.gov.uk/statistics/published-stats/station-usage-estimates

On the face of it, this seems to suggest that 172 new stations have been added to the network since 1985.  But maybe all is not what it seems.  A report, published by Steer, Davies & Gleave for the ORR titled “Station Usage and Demand Forecasts for Newly Opened Railway Lines and Stations” in August 2010 makes for interesting reading.  It states that since 1999, some 40 new stations were opened, during the ‘privatised’ era, and which on my count leaves 132 opened before 1999.

Clearly the ‘privatisation’ of the rail – at least the train operators – cannot be stated as responsible for these new stations, but there has been significant increase in demand for rail passenger services.

However, looking at some of the stations listed as ‘new’ depends on your definition.  For example, the station at Alloa was opened in 2008, but is in fact a replacement for the station closed in 1980.  The table lists those replaced, or reinstated as follows:

New Stations in ORR Report

There are some quite clearly new stations in the list such as Luton Airport, Rhoose (for Cardiff Airport), and Braintree Freeport, but the majority are just re-opened.

More recently the ORR claimed 14 new stations opened in 2015/16 with 7 of these being stations previously operating on the old Waverley Route between Carlisle and Edinburgh, and now on the “Borders Railway”.

ORR 2015-16 New station map

Image from ORR – “Estimates of Station Usage 2015-16”

Are We Getting Back to the Future?

It might be argued that despite the massive increases in passenger traffic, there has been much less in the way of freight transport increases, much less goods are carried by rail today than 40 years ago.  There is limited development of distribution points beyond the core trunk routes, and logistics companies still prefer to transport small – 40 tonne lorry loads – over journeys of more than 200 km in the UK. In no small way is this supported by the many thousands of courier loads of small parcels, for which there is now no alternative but low-powered trucks, or articulated lorries.

Back 40 years ago, and more, we were less concerned about the environmental footprint of our key transport networks, and we sold off innovative technologies that we have now been forced to buy back, simply to meet passenger demand.  Will the same be true of freight I wonder.

Are we there yet ?? Plenty of passenger traffic, new stations and even new lines, but little or no freight – the future for integrated transport looks decidedly bleak.

-oOo-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hitachi and IEP

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The UK opted to buy trains from Hitachi as replacement multiple-unit sets for the highly successful Inter-City 125 diesel trains built in BR workshops in the 1970s.  The intervening years have not been kind to the UK rail industry, with the closure and in some cases demolition of engineering design and manufacturing workshops.  It was inevitable that the new generation of 21st Century trains would be designed and built outside the UK.

That said, of course, the Class 900, ‘Pendolino’ trains for the West Coast Main Line were designed and built by Alstom, using the remains of the Washwood Heath works of Metro-Cammell in Birmingham, with Fiat providing the tilting technology.  (The technology was sold to the Italian company following the demise of British Rail, and BREL in the early 1990s, but again, to be fair, Italian railways had already been testing tilt technology.)  The same combination of Alstom and Metro-Cammell resulted in the TMST trains for Channel Tunnel services too, so the capacity and capability were in existence in the UK.

The involvement of Hitachi in the UK, seems to date from more than a decade after the disastrous early years of ‘privatisation’, but includes other, highly successful regional and high-speed commuter trains, such as the Class 395 (‘Javelin’) series.

Within the whole IEP programme, there is some involvement by British companies, but equally some multi-nationals with British based sites.  Still some way to go before the UK can build its own again – perhaps an industrial or engineering strategy might help.

GWR Intercity Express Train edited

Hitachi Class 800 on the GWR main line – this is one of the 36, 5-car dual-fuel sets for use on the non-electrified as well as the electrified sections of the route.                                                              [Photo: GWR – Creative Commons Attribution]

The latest generation of Hitachi designed trains – known as Class 800 and Class 801 – will see 110 of 122 fixed length train sets built at the recently completed plant at Newton Aycliffe, in County Durham.  The first 12 trains were shipped shipped to the UK from  Hitachi’s Kasado Works in Japan, whilst another example of dual-fuel trains – the Class 802 is being built at the Italian works in Pistoia, which Hitachi bought from Ansaldo Breda in November 2015.  The reason the construction is being carried out there, is said to be because the new UK site is at full capacity.  The diesel engines fitted to these trains are being provided by MTU, and originally rated at 560kW, whilst the latest design for the GWR has engines rated at 700kW – is that a case of the “Devon Banks” demanding more power again, just as it did in the days of steam?

Of these 122 sets, 57 are destined for the newly electrified Great Western Railway main line, which has now been energised as far as Didcot.

This was an intriguing phrase used in the original press release when the order was placed back in 2009:

The design provides pre-defined interior flexibility that will allow Train Operating Companies to customise trains to meet their customers’ requirements.

Given the UK’s apparent inability to predict either the increase in passenger numbers, or the capacity of either long distance, or suburban routes, how does this help I wonder.  Can additional coaches (passenger cars) be added to fixed formation sets to increase train capacity, and how will that impact station and route characteristics?

Another oddity in the order for Hitachi – which included maintenance and support – was that the duration of the contract was stated as 27.5 years.  What’s the 1/2 a year for?  Why not 27, or 28?  Well the answer to that is of course pretty straightforward, financial advisors have recommended including a clause to enable train operators to pay the rolling stock owners, Agility Trains a fee, based on the trains’ availability.  Easy – the trains’ is measured on a daily basis, and the fee paid to Agility Trains is focussed on each train that is available each day.  Too simple – of course, on top of that, the DfT is guaranteeing their use for 27½-years.  That must have been some spreadsheet!

On the GWR, the Class 800s, both those built at Newton Aycliffe, and those from Pistoia in Italy will be serviced and marinated at Hitachi’s new Stoke Gifford site, near Britstol.

Train at Stoke Gifford (2) copy

Intercity Express Train at Stoke Gifford depot [Photo: GWR – Creative Commons Attribution]

So what do the original Class 800 and 801 formations look like:-

   

No. of Trains

Formation

Cars

Great Western Electric

21

9 cars

189

Diesel & electric

36

5 cars

180

Total

57

 

369

The trains intended for use on the Great Western are planned to come into service later in 2017, whilst those for the East Coast Main Line arrive from 2018, but with the option to buy a further 30 electric only trains.

Ironically perhaps, in a response to an FOI request in 2011, this is what the DfT said:

“1) The first IEP trains will enter revenue earning service in 2016.”

   

No. of Trains

Formation

Cars

East Coast Electric

12

5 cars

60

Diesel & electric

10

5 cars

50

Diesel & electric

13

9 cars

117

Total

35

 

227

Electric (optional)

30

9 cars

270

Back in 2013, when Hitachi opened their new manufacturing facility, the then Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin made this statement:

“The Intercity Express Programme is part of the government’s commitment to investing in our nation’s infrastructure. Once they are on the network they will slash journey times, boost capacity to many of our cities in the south west and up the east coast to Scotland.

Building these new trains is supporting jobs and manufacturing across the UK. Like our plans for a national high speed rail network, these new faster trains will help stimulate economic growth by improving connections between our major cities.”

Having said all of that, these trains seem to be meeting all the design and technical criteria well – though the operational criteria is not yet available.

Given the original reason for the whole IEP programme, perhaps the HST, or InterCity 125 fleet could be freed up and recycled for use on other main lines across the country.  Paired with the Mark III coaching stock, and now running broadly similar MTU diesel engines, they would make far more comfortable cross-country trains than the cramped ‘Voyager’ units.

-oOo-

£15 billion Crossrail – Value for Money?

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Having spent this eye watering sum of money how do we know we have value for money?

Do we count the number of fare paying passengers, and the revenue they provide over and above the cost of providing services?

Do we count the impact on the UK’s GDP?  If so, how do we measure that – the number of new jobs created, the increased productivity in London and the South East, or do we divide that added value by the number of employees, new startup businesses, etc., etc.??

Alternatively, do we measure the increased numbers of permanent jobs and the GDP of London and the South East against the lack of business growth in other regions, or a variation in the level of business failures, growth patterns in markets.

What are the practical benefits to people and businesses in Leeds, Cardiff, Manchester, Aberdeen or Kendal?

Today – this is what Crossrail’s banner on their website says:

“From improving journey times across London, to easing congestion and offering better connections, the Elizabeth line will provide easier, quicker and more direct travel opportunities across the capital.”

How will we know if this has been money well spent?

-oOo-

Train Performance – No Data Available

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Trying to find data on train performance on the punctuality of train services in this country is a nightmare!  If the figures exist they are not easily found, and some of the reports simply focus on the dumbest measures imaginable – was your journey a happy one?  Were the services you expected provided, etc., etc.

What about how many express trains arrived within 5 minutes of their booked time.

What % of trains were cancelled this year – by area, by line, by region.

This is an example of what we used to see:

BR Punctuality 1979-81

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, these figures were published by the various transport consultative committees – the ORR website, ATOC and Network Rail do not make the data readily available.

If we take the 3 columns for the Eastern Region – this now includes 2 or 3 train operating companies, and the punctuality ‘targets’ are not the same as they were – with limited emphasis on quantitative measures such as 90%+ of trains arriving less than 5 minutes late – as measured in 1980 and 1981.

This chart from the ORR/Transport Focus refers ONLY to the ‘Greater Anglia’ train operating company:

Train punctuality 2012-14

They didn’t even reach the performance level set 30 years earlier – and they operate newer trains and technology.

Does this represent a failure of privatisation – of course it does.  One PRIVATE train operator in that region – between 2012 and 2014 received £198.4 million in subsidy to support the network infrastructure and enable trains to be run.

I did a search on the ONS website, with the following criteria: “train punctuality data”, it went on to list CPI (Consumer Price Index) related data, and some stats about NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) – how is that relevant to the enquiry I posted?  I got the impression the data being gathered, or the algorithm used to capture and execute the search criteria are manipulated to deliver the most irrelevant data!

And then you discover they have moved them to the “National Archives” website – so you run the same query, and you get this response:

“Sorry, the page you were looking for can’t be found.”

Surprise!

-oOo-

Cranes from Carlisle No More

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The city of Carlisle was once home to the world’s most well known crane maker – Cowans Sheldon, with their works built on the former leper hospital of St Nicholas, they began building cranes, and turntables – most notably for railways at home and all over the world. Those skills, knowledge and experience passed into history in 1987 – some 30 years ago.

In 1986, just a year before the St Nicholas works closed with the loss of 400 jobs, the company had been awarded a £4 million contract to design and build a 140tonne capacity railway breakdown crane for the Indian Government Railways.

Indian Crane

Indian Railways – World’s Heaviest Breakdown Crane in 1986

In 1969, the company was bought by a North East engineering firm – Clarke Chapman, who, in turn, merged with John Boyd Ltd., and the Carlisle works was renamed as Cowans-Boyd, but still turning out cranes for home and export. In 1977 Clarke Chapman merged with another Newcastle company – Reyroll-Parsons to form NEI (Northern Engineering Industries). The Cowans Sheldon, or Cowans Boyd works remained part of NEI until its closure in 1987.

Eight years earlier in 1979, the company had received not only £1/2 million order from Tanzania, but had designed and was building three types of rail mounted cranes as part of British Rail’s programme to replace and refurbish its crane fleet that were, in some cases, more than 40 years old.

BR Heavy Duty Crane

BR Heavy Lift Breakdown Crane – 1979

 

On top of this, in 1982 in a joint venture with Portec Inc. of the USA the Cowans Sheldon Unit of NEI Cranes Ltd was designing and building new standard cranes for US railroads, with the possibility of orders from Amtrak.

USA Crane 1982Just a few short years later, it seems nobody wanted to buy cranes for railway use from the UK any more, with neither home or export orders.

So what happened to the St Nicholas site – well, it was turned into one of those shopping parks now known as “St Nicholas Gate”, and houses Asda, Halford, B&M Bargains, Iceland, amongst others.

How times have changed!

Further reading:

Acknowledgements:

All illustrations are by courtesy of ‘Railpower’ published by the Railway Industry Association

-oOo-

UK Exports to China by Rail

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Today we were treated by BBC Breakfast to the sight of a Class 66 locomotive, built in the USA, sporting the logo of the UK freight operator Deutsche Bahn hauling wagons, possibly built in Belgium or France about to set off on a rail journey to China.

BBC Breakfast Clip 10/4/2017

The presenter, at Thurrock described the products made in the UK that are being exported on the train to China as including pharmaceuticals, soft drinks, ‘baby products’, food, and other typically British products.

According to the interviews, the train will allow UK exporters – perhaps especially those in advanced manufacturing – to ship those key parts to China, more quickly by land.

The UK has a balance of trade deficit with China – we export around £16 billion, but import close to £40 billion.

The overall irony – however laudable this exercise is – seems to rest on the fact that the UK has little home grown rail engineering, manufacturing, research or related  business activity compared with its European neighbours.