06 April 2014

Is London as a transport hub holding us back? - The Solutions

The London Transport Hub is a reality with all its advantages and disadvantages. The problem is how far can it go on doing the same? Are there not physical limits to expansion especially when the conurbation is growing by thousands of persons per year?

I begin this second part by repeating the same questions as I finished the first.
Measures are being taken but are they enough? 
What is being done?
What can be done? 
Are there alternatives?


WHAT IS BEING DONE:
Quite frankly a lot is being done.



THAMESLINKThe first attempt in modern times to redistribute the traffic flows so that the terminal stations and the metropolitan transport system did not become clogged up was with the reopening of the cross Thames link from Kings Cross/ St.Pancras to Farringdon then Blackfriars to the three rail system south  of the Thames. This originally opened in January 1866 and continued in use until  the end of the 1960s, though not all the time for passenger traffic. From 1988 the tracks were relaid and opened to north-south passenger traffic yet again.

Subsequently, this permitted a renewed connection between north and south of theThames which became very successful. This led to the Thameslink 2000 project which meant connecting lines from the north to the south of the Thames so  as to provide greater connectivity. The star example is the service from Bedford to Brighton (passing Gatwick and Luton airports).

Such was the case that the whole north-south connection was looked at. Now the whole question of franchises both north and south of the Thames is being modified.  The greatest example of this is the proposal from the DfT to merge the present Thameslink services with the Southern(South Central) and Great Northern  franchises.The new combined franchise would start from September 2014.

As can be seen at the end (annex F) of that DfT document the proposed traffic pattern includes north- south Thames´ services as well as those which terminate at Victoria, London Bridge and Kings Cross and Moorgate.This is a reversal of the previous policy whereby Thameslink was a cross river operator and the said terminals were devoted to a specific operator. Will not the same problems as before arise again to make the desirability of reducing the number of operators at a station a necessity? 
http://www.thameslinkprogramme.co.uk/


CROSSRAIL:The next attempt to aleviate the flows of passengers into London was the Crossrail scheme. This envisaged a cross conurbation rail service from (now) Reading and Heathrow (in the West), to Shenfield and Abbey Wood (in the East). 
In gross terms this service would take the surburban Great Western rail services from Paddington together with the Heathrow Connect services and connect them to the surburban rail services of Great Eastern from Liverpool Street to Shenfield (Essex) while also providing an extension to Abbey Wood in Kent to connect to South Eastern services.

The net result of this line would be to provide greater access to Central London from the surburbs thus freeing up Underground places from the main line termini, while also freeing up platform space at these termini to facilitate more long distances inter-city rail services. The estimates are that this new Crossrail service will increase London´s transport capacity by 10% - a substantial figure.

Crossrail (and Thameslink) are planned to extract numbers from the central Underground areas but will provoke problems of their own. The latest study from Arup(20 January 2014) The passenger numbers expected to embark/disembark at the central stations of Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road and Farringdon have increased from the  estimate made in 2004 of 185 million per annum to a revised figure now for 2026 of 250 million per annum - a massive increase of 35%.
http://www.crossrail.co.uk/

 

TUBE IMPROVEMENT:
Another area where Transport for London (TfL) - the governing body for all London transport - decided major improvements could be made was to make up for the lack of investment in the capital´s transport system - particularly the Undergound (Tube) - over many decades.
The focus has been on three main areas:
--- Upgrade the antiquated signalling system:  this ensures greater reliabilty and thus fewer breakdowns - also it permits a shorter time limit between trains and thus increases the frequency per hour of the number of trains, therefore increasing capacity.
--- Increase in the length of trains (where possible) thus increasing capacity.
--- improve the configuration of the trains so that they can accelerate and decelerate more quickly, while also eliminating the barriers between carriages thus increasing the capacity (walk-through carriages).
Bettering the travel experience with improved facilities, especially for the less mobile,and safety are also part of the process.
These measures require time to be put in place but TfL is undertaking the process. The improvement will be substantial again but the question is how far can these measures solve the problems. 
http://www.tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/improvements-and-projects/tube-improvement?intcmp=11481

With the expected increase in population (at 200+ persons per day) in the capital and the South East in general there will be a limit to how much the present system can be improved (the law of diminishing returns). But where is the limit?


WHAT CAN BE DONE:

OTHER MEASURES TO BE TAKEN:

Greater Anglia: While the above mentioned improvements are going on TfL and National Rail are proposing additional solutions. 
Firstly, London´s Mayor, Boris Johnson wants to include all rail services within the London boundaries (basically inside the M25 circular motorway) into the remit of TfL. The benefits of this move are not clear - they seem to be more a case of empire building by Boris.


The first step he has achieved is to ensure that the responsibility for the Greater Anglia commuter services from Liverpool Street to Chingford, Enfield Town and Cheshunt  pass to TfL. They might well be branded Overground though these services are fed by overhead electric lines and not the third rail, as the other Overground services are. The stations will be upgraded to TfL standards. If the results achieved by Overground, with improved facilities and safety measures, can be used as a model then the usage of these services will increase substantially.

It should be mentioned here that that the original idea of the Overground scheme was to join
together all the bits and pieces of the British Rail system round Greater London which were not connected. This lead to the idea of connecting them as a circular rail system to connect the middle and outer surburbs on Greater London. It proved successful and so the Mayor, Boris Johnson, has been encouraged to expand it. The motivational idea was "Connectivity" (which this blogger supports wholeheartedly)as well as "capacity". Connecting the outer limits of the transport system means fewer numbers of passengers have to travel through the centre but use the outer connections - something to be encouraged. 




Crossrail 2:The second step is more in the long-term. Crossrail 2, used initially as a working title, is a proposal to run rail services from South West London out to the North East. It was
originally called the Chelsea-Hackney (Chelney) line as a new line of the Underground
It has lately been pushed by a grouping of businessmen and politicians called London First led by the ex-transport minister Lord Adonis. The London Mayor, Boris Johnson, has taken the idea on board fully.
 
There are two options being studied at the moment. (a) Metro option: this would be a LUL line from Wimbledon  through Kings Road Chelsea to Victoria then Euston/Kings Cross and on to Alexandra Palace (with other intermediate stops).  
(b) Regional option: this would run further south and further north, connecting some South West Trains´ services from Shepperton, Hampton Court and Chessington South(or even elsewhere) to the line at Wimbledon while at the northern end the lines to be connected could be the aforementioned Greater Anglia lines to Chingford, Enfield Town and Cheshunt (or others).
The real problem would be the two differing electric systems used (a) the third rail 750 DC used on the commuter network south of the Thames while north of the river (b) the overhead gantry system of 25Kv AC is used. This has already been solved with the Thameslink network both north and south so it is not insuperable - expensive it is, but workable.
The whole process is at an early stage so nothing definite has been decided yet.


LUL extensions:  There are some tweaks to the system which have already been approved. One involves the long waited for extension of the Metropolitan Line from Croxley to Watford Junction. Another is the approved Northern Line extension from Kennington to Nine Elms and Battersea.

In fact this blogger has already set out his ideas for improvements to the rail systems in London in his blog of 25 May 2013 titled "Getting the lines crossed in London - Crossrail 1 & 2 & other lines.
I repeat some of them here.
(a) - the separation of the Charing Cross and City branches of the Northern Line (LUL) into two separate lines, one going to Battersea and the other to Morden
(b) Extension of the Northern Line from Morden to Morden South(to connect with the National Rail line).
(c) - better use of the Waterloo and City Line (extensions to Clapham Junction and Stratford?? - with intermediate stops)
(d) - Hammersmith & City Line extension to Barnes (to connect to South West trains)
(e) - Metropolitan Lines extended throughout the day through central London from Baker St.
(f) - The extension of the Northern Line branch from Mill Hill East to Mill Hill Broadway, Edgware and Stanmore ( to connect to the other lines at those stations thus providing better connections across the suburbs).
All of these mean extensions of existing lines which are not particularly complicated.


However, the following ideas mean using part of the south Thames rail network to add to the extensions.
(g)- extension of the Bakerloo Line to other areas south of the Thames where there are large gaps in the commuter network. Onwards to Peckham Rye (with intermediate new stops)and Lewisham with one set continuing on the circular lines through Woolwich Arsenal, Slade Green and Eltham (and viceversa). The other part would go along the circular lines through Hither Green, Crayford, Bexleyheath and Eltham (and vice versa), to return through Lewisham to Peckam Rye etc.
(h) - The Piccadilly Line split at Holborn so that the Cockfosters branch can be extended to Aldwych, Temple and areas south of the Thames where the Undergound is under-represented. Down to the Elephant & Castle, and on to the Sutton, Wimbledon loop on one side while to Caterham and Tattenham Corner on the other.
(j)The Heathrow and Uxbridge Piccadilly branches would continue from Holborn out north-eastwards(serving areas of Hackney and the Chingford Line, and perhaps taking over parts of the Central Line at the end).
That way a sizeable part of the commuter network would be brought into the LUL system giving the Underground a greater visibility south of the Thames. A net result could be aleviating the pressure on the platforms at Victoria, Charing Cross, Blackfriars, London Bridge and Cannon St.



OVERGROUND: One service which is crying out for modification is the Overground line from Watford Junction to Euston. The subtraction of this line from Euston would free up  platforms for other badly needed services. The solution is simple. From South Hampstead the line can divert to Camden Road along a preexisting track and then continue to Highbury & Islington. Here it would connect to the Overground service to run to New Cross. At present the line finishes there on its easterly branch. However, the service can be extended to Lewisham and Hayes, and to Lewisham, Grove Park and Bromley North. These would result in being two extensions from New Cross, possibly saving platform space at the Cannon St. and/or Charing Cross termini.


AIRPORT EXPRESS SERVICES:The  Heathrow Express service could combine with the Stansted Express service to run on Crossrail tracks through Central London to link the two airports as a joint Heathrow-Stansted Express (thus freeing up platforms at Paddington and Liverpool St.). They would run to Stratford and then on to Stansted. There would be no need for a large number of passengers to change at Paddington and Liverpool St. thus freeing up LUL seats. Both services run at a frequency of 4 trains per hour.

REGIONAL SERVICES:  I also repeat the idea of combining the regional services from Milton Keynes (London Midland) and the Chiltern Line(from Aylesbury and High Wycombe) to those of C2C to Southend.The services running into Fenchurch St. along the Tilbury Line operated by C2C are a prime candidate. They are suburban and regional commuter lines with no connection to any other line or terminus (except for the occasional train running into Liverpool St.). The terminus occupies a prime site of real estate in the City of London. The station site could be sold while keeping the right to have access to the line at a station underground in the same place.

A tunnel would be excavated from Fenchurch St. to run under Central London with stops at Cannon St., Blackfriars, Aldwich(reopened), Tottenham Court Rd., New Cavendish St. (Portland Place)(a new station), Marylebone/Baker St. (connected to both). The tunnel would continue northwards with one branch passing through Maida Vale to emerge at Queens Park and joining the WCML to travel through Willesden Junction incorporating most or all of the London Midland services to Milton Keynes. Thus platforms would be freed up at Euston.

The second section of the tunnel would go directly northwards from Marlebone/Baker St. passing under South Hampstead and continuing to emerge at West Hampstead. The services would continue along the Chiltern Line through Wembley Park and Wembley Stadium on to Aylesbury and Aylesbury Vale Parkway via Amersham and High Wycombe respectively. These surburban and near regional lines would thus be diverted on to another Crossrail Line through London freeing up platform space at Marylebone station. 

The work needed to be done on these lines would be the electrification of these surburban Chiltern sections. That however, could be part of a general electrification of the Chiltern Line to Birmingham and Oxford which surely will be done in the mid-term. Both the C2C and the London Midland services use overhead power lines at 25Kv AC so the systems are compatible.

Cutting the cost of HS2:

Lords Bradshaw and Berkeley have been active in the House of Lords with different proposals to reduce the cost of the new High speed line HS2 and improve the connectivity of the regional WCML services into and through London.
"Peers and HS2 officials to discuss alternative ‘Euston Cross’ plan" (22-4-13 Rail Technology Magazine)
They have also proposed, quite sensibly in my opinion, dropping the HS1 - HS2 connection along the North London line.
"Peers put forward suggestions on London end of HS2" (7-3-14 Rail Technology Magazine)
This blogger welcomes the decision of the government to scrap the HS1 - HS2 connection.
"Government to scrap HS2 link with HS1" (25-3-14 Rail Technology Magazine)
The reasons given, though valid, are a bit vague - ".....its impact on freight, passengers and the community in Camden”.

The three articles are detailed so I will not go into them here. However, the main reason not mentioned for the cancellation of the HS1 - HS2 link is that  it is logistically a nightmare and thus is not viable. Great Britain is outside the Schengen agreement so it maintains its Border controls on all incomers to the country whether thay be from the European Union or elsewhere. this means that if HS trains were run from the provinces to mainland Europe then the passengers would (a) have to disembark at some point to pass Border controls thus eliminating the advantage of through HS services or (b) pass Border controls at the embarkation stations and be isolated from travellers not going to mainland Europe. This is precisely the problem facing Eurostar services being extended from Brussels to Amsterdam and Cologne(with intermediate stops). It is simpler, cheaper and much less of a headache to start all HS European(Eurostar or other) trains at St.Pancras. Yes, but not all.


Another idea floated was by the pressure group Greengauge 21  called 
(c) Greengauge 21 2014
"HS1 HS2 connection:A way forward"(1-4-14)
It is an interesting but flawed document to read. It contains, for example, a detailed explanation of why direct HS2 services to Mainland Europe are so difficult to organise.
However, it reflects the ideas of its promoters when it should abandon some concepts about which Greengauge 21 itself has come to some clear conclusions. For example, it accepts the necessity of abandoning the HS1-HS2 connection through Camden then goes on to say that that is the way to connect services northwest to those southeast of the capital.
There is a shorter version of the same in "Rail Technology Magazine" (2-4-14) 
"Alternative HS1-HS2 link proposed"



  
OTHER, PERHAPS, MORE IMPORTANT IDEAS OUTSIDE LONDON:

What has to be looked at seriously, which has not been done as yet, are the possibilities of diverting traffic away from the centre of London completely. By this I do not mean local(London) or regional traffic which has already been mentioned.

SUGGESTION: Having said that there could be a solution. This would mean bypassing London with new different services.

Ideas have been floated about rail connections from (a)Reading to Heathrow and from (b) Heathrow to Gatwick
Connection (a) has now been approved."Heathrow rail link plan unveiled by Network Rail" (4-2-14 BBC News)
Connection (b) was mooted under the title "Heathwick" - to connect the terminals at both airports with a fast rail link so that they could work as one. This was plainly "pie in the sky" as it was proposed and has died its death.
However, this blogger did propose a combination of both. 
Reading - Heathrow Rail Connection (6-10-11) 
Heathrow - Gatwick Rail Link (11-10-11)

It takes no big mental effort to see that a connection from Gatwick airport to Ashford and into the Channel Tunnel is the next step. that would mean Reading, Heathrow and Gatwick would be interconnected and able to offer ongoing services - some to Continental Europe and others as regional services to northeast Kent. 
At Reading passengers would arrive from the Midlands, the west, South Wales and the South West, for airport and regional services without going through London.
At the airports passengers would not only be able to reach regional destinations without going through Central London, but also those ongoing to near European destinations such as Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne could take pressure off the shorter European flights and perhaps reduce demand on them. Thus expansion at the airports would be controlled to a certain extent.   
To achieve this Eurostar and other international services could start at Reading.
Here dedicated platforms and Border controls could be provided  on trains that run through Heathrow (T5, Central & T4), on to Gatwick airport, then to Ashford and through the Channel Tunnel to Paris and Brussels, all on dedicated international trains. This is an idea I have floated before.


Both the international services and the regional services would eliminate the need to travel into Central London to reach the TWO major airports.This is a "win, win" situation: (a) alternatives to ongoing flights to Europe from the two airports at distances where rail is very competitive with air travel, and (b) greater connectivity (thus capacity) between the two major airports in the country to enable more rapid interconnection,  while(c)better connectivity for travellers, tourists, commuters and others who will not need to travel through Central London thus aleviating the TfL system.

This blogger has expounded these ideas before such as:
Long-haul rail terminals under Heathrow and Gatwick.(4-5-12)

It takes no great effort of the imagination to see the possibility of regional services over this line, which I call SHSL (Southern High Speed Line), from further afield. These places could be Birmingham and Oxford, Bath and Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea, and elsewhere. The possibilities opened up are numerable.



FREIGHT:
This has always been the poor relation of rail services because it does not transport people - commuters, businessmen/women, tourists, sports fans or whoever - only goods.

It has to be accepted that London is not a seaport any longer. The port facilities are further down towards the end of the Thames Estuary and even elsewhere. Whether the rail (or road) transport is going to Tilbury, Felixstowe, Dover or Southampton the principle should be accepted that none of these imports/exports should go through London unless they are destined to/from London itself. That is of vital importance to take rail traffic off London´s lines and lorries off its roads - and especially the M25.


Line initiatives for freight, such as the Southampton-Basingstoke-Reading line, and the Felixstowe-Nuneaton line are to be welcomed. but they are not enough. serious thought should go into the idea of taking lorries off the roads so that they avoid London and other cities and towns as much as possible.  

This blogger´s ideas on avoiding central London were expounded in more detail through the two following links. 
"Fast Trax 2 - The case for a southern high speed alternative (SHSL)" (24-2-10)
"Who wants the Irish....?"(15-5-12)

Those who have read the last link will realise that it refers to the transport of freight(more than passengers) between continental Europe and the Republic of Ireland through England and Wales. However, both go on to explain how the idea could be extended to regional pick up points for freight traffic near Bristol and near Birmingham. All of these would have the double benefit of diverting traffic from London, and taking lorries off the roads further from the Channel tunnel so that fewer fumes are emitted into our air.









What will it take to achieve all this? 
It needs the vision to see the future benetfits, the political will to put ideas into action and the economic commitment to fund a rolling programme to fulfill it. Money should be spent on beneficial projects to the greater good for the greater number. It does not necessarily have to make an economic case, a social one might well be sufficient. However, such action will always be better than grand vainglorious projects which become self seeking in the end in a prison of political commitment and face saving. 

03 April 2014

Is London as a transport hub holding us back? --- The Problem

The question can be put another way. Is London a bottleneck?

Whether it be road, rail or air transport the United Kingdom´s capital city has its limits to absorb the influx of all the transport demands made on it.
 
The period of rapid growth in transport infrastructure in Great Britain was in the nineteenth century with the construction of the railways. All of the different companies wanted to have a terminus in or near the centre of the capital. That leaves us with a legacy without comparison. Paddington, Marylebone, Euston, St.Pancras, Kings Cross, Moorgate, Liverpool Street, Fenchurch Street, London Bridge, Cannon Street, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Charing Cross and Victoria - 14 mainline rail termini, without mentioning those that have disappeared such as Broad Street.

Some were even a terminus for more than one rail company such as Victoria(the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway, with the London Chatham & Dover Railway),and London Bridge (the London & Greenwich Railway, shortly followed by the London & Croydon Railway, The London & Brighton Railway and the South Eastern Railway - the Croydon and Brighton companies merged in 1846 to form the London Brighton & South Coast Railway).

This is a legacy unrepeated anywhere in the world. In Paris there are far fewer termini while other capital cities have through stations and not termini. Historically this is very interesting but for passenger flows to final destinations it makes movements very awkward. People still had to walk, ride(in Hanson cabs) or bus it to their destinations or between termini.

Thus one of the enabling factors was created to stimulate the need for an inner city transport system which became the Underground(LUL). The very first line was to connect Paddington in the west to the City of London past the northern termini, where possible.
The beginnings of what was to become the London Underground system - in December 1870, just 7 years after the opening of the first line from Paddington to Farringdon Street.                                (c) Transport for London
This was later completed by connecting the southern termini on the north bank of the Thames, and eventually rounded to make the Circle Line. From that the Metropolitan and District lines developed and the whole Underground system blossomed to what we now have today. But it has its limits.

 "In the ...  financial year, ended on 31 March 2012, London Underground trains ran 72.4 million kilometres, the highest ever, and carried 1,171 million passengers, a new record."
This figure is obtained without considering the numbers travelling on London Overground services, calculated at over 200.000 daily, nor those passengers on the Dockland Light Railway(DLR) services, calculated at nearly 200.000 passengers daily which means that the yearly total is about 1,315 million passengers or almost 3.65 million per day.

We can add the figures for London Buses. The 8500 vehicles transported over 2,200million passengers in the period 2010-11. However, we are concentrating on rail services of one sort or another.

Of course, these numbers are extremely high, but then the capital does have massive employment and does attract enormous numbers from outside the metropolitan area. Many have contacts with the government and civil service at Whitehall. Others make use of the financial institutions of the City and Isle of Dogs. Yet others have their work or have to visit the central offices of giant corporations situated in the capital.

London is a tourist attraction in itself. Both foreigners and Britons come to the "Big Smoke" to take advantage of the historic sights, art and culture in general, sports and other entertainment activities, and the shopping facilities for those on a spree. 

The obvious should be said, also, that not everybody goes to the same place/station, and many are moving from one side of the conurbation to another.

However, what most concerns us is when London is a necessary transit point. We wish to travel from Peterborough to Reading, or from Brighton to Colchester. It is then essential to travel through the conurbation even though we do not want to stop to visit there on some occasions. Many long distance passengers are forced to traverse the city when arriving from Mainland Europe - by train on Eurostar. Others fly into any one of the six airports (Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Stansted, Southend and City)  to continue their journeys to other parts of Great Britain, by train, coach, or car. In short London is a travel "Hub" - in from outside to elsewhere outside, and vice versa.

The question then arises, is it necessary for all travel connections to pass through London?  

 
The busiest LUL stations are Victoria and Waterloo with 82.96 million and 88.16 million passengers travelling through them in 2012. Liverpool Street (at 64.23 million) and London Bridge (at 67.16 million) are not far behind. Kings Cross/St.Pancras handled 80.97 million passengers but most of these were long distance passengers while the aforementioned were mostly commuters. On average 40% of passengers through the rail termini travel on by LUL services while 10% go by bus.

                                                            National Rail                                 LUL
                                                             (2013)                                          (2012)
  • Cannon Street                              20.223million                               4.09million
  • Charing Cross                               38.114m.                                     18.52m.
  • Euston                                          36.521m.                                     37.53m.
  • Fenchurch Street                         16.937m.                                      22.54m.(Tower Hill)
  • Kings Cross                                  27.840m.                                      80.97m.(incl.St.Pan.)
  • Liverpool Street                           58.449m.                                      64.23m.
  • London Bridge                             53.351m.                                      67.16m.
  • Marylebone                                  13.417m.                                      12.11m. 
  •                                                                                       (not incl. Baker St. 27.74m.)
  • Moorgate                                        7.617m.                                       20.59m
  •                                                                              (not incl. Bank & Monum. 47.75m.)      
  • Paddington                                   33.709m.                                       46.33m.
  • St. Pancras                                   23.046m.                                   (Kings Cross)
  • Victoria                                         76.163m.                                       82.96m..
  • Waterloo                                       94.127m.                                       88.16m.
  • Blackfriars                                     12.808m.                                        no data
The following question is how many of these passengers pass from one mode of transport to the other. Is it a simple arithmetic sum or are they all the same passengers? Well neither one nor the other.

The average figures for onward travel from National Rail to Underground are 40%, while 36%  continue their journey on foot, and 9%  interchange with other rail services. These figures, however, differ greatly between the terminals with the extremes as follows.

Cannon Street has 80% of rail passengers continuing on foot while at Paddington, at the other extreme, only 12% continued their journey on foot. As could be expected the use of the Underground at these stations was at opposite extremes as well with 62% of passengers using it at Paddington, while only 9% of passengers at Cannon Street used it for their onward journey.


http://orr.gov.uk/statistics/published-stats/station-usage-estimates
http://orr.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/10786/station_usage_estimates_1213.pdf

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/about-tfl/publications/1482.aspx
http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/corporate/central_london_rail_termini_report.pdf



(this illustration was kindly provided by "beleben" - "Manner, form and timing" (4-3-2014)
The relevant article and the interesting comments are available here.)

This illustration from H2 shows the capacity problems(with red lines) into London from Milton Keynes, along the WCML(West Coast Mainline), from St.Albans along the MML(Midland Mainline), and from Welwyn Garden City along the ECML(East Coast Mainline). These are major arteries (corridors) into/from the London termini. But yet again what is ignored is the fourth (artery) - The Chiltern Line. This is ignored even though the proposed (High Speed 2) HS2 runs along the same corridor. Obviously taking this line into account could change the whole conception of fast services to the Midlands. It is marginalised. Why is another question but not looked into here.

Take note, in the WCML, of the "red lines" from Rugby to Birmingham, from Birmingham to Wolverhampton,  from Stockport to Manchester, in the approaches into Liverpool and from Carstairs to Glasgow Central. The same "red lines", on the ECML  occur on the approaches to Grantham, on the way from Leeds to York, and most importantly from Darlington to Newcastle and Edinburgh.

All, this means that the problems are not all local to London as the politicians would have us believe. The line capacity problems from Rugby to Euston exist along the WCML, but they are only part of the problem. However, they are not the only ones which they would have us believe to justify HS2.

It should also be noticed that the solution to these "bottleneck" problems can be quite simple. Some can be solved by fourtracking the rail system - as at Welwyn Garden City - while others can be resolved without massive capital investment such as the extension of the Bakerloo Line services from Harrow & Wealdstone to Watford Junction, and the diversion of the Overground services, on the same line, from Euston to the south of the Thames.  

AIRPORTS:
The London airports, Heathrow(72.4m), Gatwick(35.4m), Stansted(17.9m), Luton(9.7m), City(3.4m) and Southend(0.97m), (in descending order of passenger numbers) have their importance. However,to put things into perspective, it should be pointed out that even being the largest airport in Europe, Heathrow, had a throughput of about 72 million passengers in 2013 - that is fewer than those passengers travelling through Victoria station alone. The next largest, Gatwick, was nearly on a par with Euston station. 

From these airports the passengers travelled elsewhere, (a) on other flights (b) on buses and coaches to other parts of Britain (c) by car (mostly to other parts of Britain) and some (d) on train or bus into or through London. Many of these are already counted in the figures mentioned at some of the mainline stations (not all - e.g. Heathrow Express passengers are not counted). Therefore, it would be safe to conclude that the figures do not need to be treated separately.

The problems at airports are others. There are a lack of slots for landings and take-offs, a lack of parking space for aircraft on the ground, some terminals cannot keep up with the growing numbers of passengers, and last but not least many parties believe, this blogger included, that there is a lack of runways in, at least, two airports. However, these problems are dealt with elsewhere. 

WARNING BELLS:
The above figures of use of the National Rail and Underground (not forgetting Overground and DLR) show the systems are widely used with some incredible numbers. They do not mention the extensive use of other stations such as Clapham Junction(23.6m.), Stratford(25.6m) and East Croydon(21m), to mention only three. However, while the improvements are going on the system is creaking at the seams already.

At busy times some LUL stations have limited access and are closed to incoming passengers. This is the case at Victoria, many times, where access is restricted to avoid dangerous overcrowding on the platforms. But Victoria is not the only case as it occurrs at other stations. This will get worse over time. Even now during  (e.g.)August, a month with a lower number of workers entering Central London, but with a higher number of tourists, the tube trains become heavily overcrowded at all times of the day in Central London. How far can this go on?

Measures are being taken but are they enough? 

What is being done? 
What can be done?
Are there alternatives?
In the next blog we will look at some measures being taken and others which could be taken.

25 March 2014

Etihad and its plans - European Airline Consolidation


 The most active player in the European airline market is the Persian Gulf carrier Etihad. This airline started taking small equity shares in different airlines  and has been increasing its shares little by little so that now it can be considered an important European player in its own right. It is at a disadvantage in that as a non-european company it is limited to 49.9% of the share capital of any European airline but that will not stop it from becoming a major influence.



 Reported in Airwise/Reuters 22 March 2014.
"Air Berlin To Delist, Etihad To Lift Stake - Report"

This article states that Etihad will raise its stake in Air Berlin to 49.9% (the maximum allowed while remaining a German company).

However, it also mentions that " Etihad is also in the final phase of due diligence to take an equity stake in Alitalia.....of up to 40 percent".
It goes on to assert that " Etihad was looking into ways to combine Air Berlin and Alitalia".
As a result Air Berlin would (have to?) leave the oneworld alliance.

To which the following is given greater weight.
"Air Berlin ‘in talks’ with Air France over codeshare deal"
5 Mar 2014 (Buying Business Travel).

Furthermore, it has been reported ("Etihad to divide Air Berlin in two?" Business Traveller, 20 March 2014) that Etihad wants to divide Air Berlin  "into two separate divisions."

"One division would handle the tourism business, which includes flights within Europe, while the other would concentrate solely on feeder routes to Etihad's hub at Abu Dhabi.
It is unclear whether or not the "tourism business" would cover Air Berlin's transatlantic flights."
This could well be a condition of Etihad for investing more captital in Air Berlin.




This fits in with the formation of Etihad Regional (from the Swiss airline Darwin last November)as a feeder airline to its parent´s European destinations, the equity stake in Air Serbia and the codeshares, just announced, with Air Baltic.
"Etihad and Air Baltic expand codeshare"
(Business Traveller, 21 March 2014)









Add to this that Etihad has upped its stake to 4.11% in Aer Lingus, then you can see how the Persian Gulf airline is extending itself across Europe. When Ryanair is forced to sell its 30% stake in Aer Lingus who will be the purchaser, Etihad
 "Ryanair's Aer Lingus Stake Appeal Dismissed"
(Airwise/Reuters, 7 March 2014)
The Irish government still wants to sell its 25% shareholding in Aer Lingus.  Etihad cannot buy both stakes as they would breach the limit of 49.9% shareholding. However, Ryanair could maintain 5%, as the British government has suggested, and/or the Irish government might wish to retain a smaller shareholding one way or another.



The strategic view of Etihad is admirable - more than other groups - but what does it want to do eventually? Will it just maintain its Equity Alliance with some codeshares, or will it join Skyteam? That is to be seen.

There is a battle going on in Skyteam to gain influence. Air France/KLM are major players but have their hands full trying to sort out their own businesses with the formation of HOP and the definition of Transavia. Outside Europe a lot is happening (e.g. Brazil) but that does not take away the importance of what is happening in the old continent. 
It should be pointed out that Delta has just invested in Virgin Atlantic (it has taken the 49% shareholding previously held by Singapore Airlines`[Star Alliance]). They have coordinated schedules to the USA from London Heathrow and are becoming a serious threat to BA. The domestic feed to these flights is run by Little Red (which is contracted from Aer Lingus) so you can see how all these things begin to mesh. Add to that Aer Lingus´ own Irish services into Heathrow and the picture becomes clearer.


Since this blog is directed towards transport issues in the UK (and the rest of the British Isles) you might still be asking how this affects us. In fact, a lot! - as a passenger (benefiting from a greater number of alternatives), as an airport owner (loss of business meaning downgrading the interest in connections) and as the government (loss of taxes).  Etihad itself only flies into Dublin, London and Manchester (not taking into account the rest of Europe). However, with its Equity Alliance and Skyteam partners there are another 18 destinations connected to Etihad flights(especially Amsterdam) and other Skyteam members from the British Isles. That in itself is a lot of feed.  Of course, we do not refer to other connections within Europe. The connections into London, Manchester and Dublin make onward transatlantic traffic possible with Virgin Atlantic, Delta and Aer Lingus, especially for those Asian passengers e.g. from India, who seek to cross the pond. Virgin Atlantic seems to be more and more subservient to the interests of Delta and thus could well join Skyteam.


The alternative of Star Alliance is more difficult. Lufthansa already has its hands full trying to adjust its accounts to profit with the members of its own group (Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian and Brussels Airlines). The other  European members of Star Alliance are also having a difficult time with TAP, LOT and SAS (together with the others)  looking to adjust their accounts so that they can be profitable. Adria, Aegean and Croatia Airlines are of less importance.


Oneworld in Europe means IAG (British Airways, Iberia and Vueling) with Finnair as a bit player. This means that the alliance is on the fringes of Europe and heavily disadvantaged as a result. IAG has to consolidate its position in Europe, where it is weak (and will be more so with the loss of Air Berlin), to face the challenges of Star and Skyteam. What will it do?

As this blogger has suggested previously there are two countries where oneworld and/or IAG might gain a foothold. One is Poland which is ever more important if Air Berlin leaves oneworld. The Polish government wants to turn around its loss making carrier - LOT - and sell it, thus making it a possibility for purchase. Poland is the sixth most populous member of the European Union at about 39 million which is a little smaller than Spain. The potential for development is tremendous.

The other alternative is Italy at 60 million which makes it the fifth most populous country in the European Union. Here the most important airline which could be available is Meridiana, but it is also loss making. IAG might already have disregarded this possibility as it has its Vueling subsidiary establishing a substantial base in Rome.

Apart from this IAG has a franchisee in SunAir of Denmark which flies under BA´s livery.It is not particularly proactive and is achieving only modest growth so does not serve BA very extensively. The other airline in which IAG has an interest is Flybe and its joint operation with Finnair, FlybeNordic. IAG´s shareholding is a modest 15%. However, if IAG decided to be more agressive then Flybe could be a useful vehicle for Scandanavia, the Baltic countries, the British Isles and even NorthWest Europe. As an afterthought, BA does also have an airline called Open Skies (merged into L´Avion) operating from Paris Orly to New York´s JFK and Newark - not much to show for an airline launched in June 2008.

An outside possibility for IAG is for it to take an interest in the "low cost" Norwegian. Finnair formerly had a shareholding in this airline. However, it is becoming more and more agressive with the setting up of bases outside Scandanavia, in the UK and Spain. The business model is similar to IAG´s  Vueling and both are complementary. Norwegian not only runs long-distance leisure routes within Europe but is also starting long-haul routes to Bangkok and the USA. These mirror Vueling´s long distance routes to Banjul, Dakar(in West Africa) and soon to be started Damman (Saudi Arabia).


However, the biggest airline on the block is CityJet. This wholly owned subsidiary of Air France/KLM is considered not to fit into the reconfigured group. It is based in Dublin but with a Belgian subsidiary (VLM) at Antwerp, though it operates only under the CityJet name and livery. Its biggest asset is the high number(on a par with BA CityFlyer) of slots at the constrained London City Airport. AF/KLM will maintain some codeshare flights with the airline but the idea is to sell it.   

The likely buyer who has already made a firm offer is Hans Rudolf Wöhrl through his company Intro Aviation. He wants to merge it with his (very small)  airline InterSky to create a regional force in central Europe. 
"Woehrl To Create Regional Carrier With CityJet" (Airwise/Reuters, 5 January 2014) 
It should be pointed out that Herr Wöhrl ´s company was the vehicle to buy Deutsche BA (later Dba) and LTU which were turned round and sold to Air Berlin.

This blogger comes to the conclusion that the idea of Intro Aviation is to eventually sell the merged business just as the previous ones were sold on. The question then is who is willing to buy and who benefits from such a purchase? The agreements with AirFrance, apparently, will remain in place but CityJet will use its own flight numbers. Thus the feed into Skyteam will stay. However, Air France is selling the business so who will buy it? Everything points to Etihad Regional with whom it fits like a glove and extends Etihad Regional´s reach dramatically.

It looks like Europe will end up with a Star Alliance which is particularly strong in Central Europe and Scandanavia. Oneworld will be condemned to the fringes unless it surprisingly changes its policies. The winners in Europe will be Etihad´s Equity Alliance together with Skyteam - Air France, KLM, Air Europa (Spain and Latin America), TAROM (Rumania), CSA (Czech Rep.) 

Movement on consolidation is well under way. How is it going to progress?. Time will tell.


NB: To this is added the news today that Etihad takes a 49.9% share of Air Serbia.
"Etihad's 49% stake in Air Serbia approved". (Business Traveller, 25 March 2014)