29 March 2010

High Speed Rail 2 - White Paper (2 - the London Termini)

The proposals put forward by the DfT for a high speed railine from London to Birmingham need to be looked at in detail. The entry/exit points to the two great conurbations leave at lot to be desired.

The DfT has decided that the London terminus for the high speed line to Birmingham is to be at Euston. The presen
t 14 platforms would be increased with another 10 in a major redevelopment.

This would direct all the high speed services from Birmingham, Manchester
and Leeds into Euston.

The positive side to this, apart from the rights and wrongs of Euston expansion, is that there is a proposal to build a "people-mover" from Euston to St.Pancras/Kings Cross. We would argue that this is necessary whatever
happens to Euston.
Even if the station stays the same size then a "people mover"
(by which we understand to be a continuous walkway or horizontal escalator as is already used in large airport terminal buildings)would be essential to reduce demand on the underground/LUL for that one stop connection. The connection between the LUL Circle and Hammersmith LInes would also be helped and improved by a moving walkway from Euston LUL station to Euston Square.

However, the need for such an increase in the size of Euston is very questionable which we will look at in a moment.

The intermediate stop in London before Euston is proposed at Old Oak Common. There are various reasons for this.
(a) this is the entrance to the Crossrail tunnel under Central London to Liverpool St. and Whitechapel.
(b)This way Heathrow Express(HE) and Heathrow Connect(HC) trains can interchange with HSR2 trains without passengers having to go into Central London.
(c) There are direct connections with the "North Pole Depot" which is destined for Crossrail and/or HSR2 trains. This depot was previously but no longer used by Eurostar trains.
(d)this "off-central" statio
n will satisfy the demand for connections to Heathrow and to the GWML.

In fact we dispute all these supositions
(a) why cannot we connect with Crossrail at Paddington itself without having an intermediate station? - meaning more lost time.
(b) Cannot HE and HC services connect with Heathrow from Paddington?
(c) If the "North Pole Depot" could be connected from Waterloo for the original Eurostar services, cannot it be connected to Paddington for the HSR2 services (and even in a better and shorter way).
(d) Paddington already satisfies the demand for conections to South Wales and the West without the need to con
struct an extra unnecessary time wasting expensive station in West London.

Let us look at certain facts as already presented to us by the DfT through the report from HSR2 Ltd..(High Speed Rail London to the West Midlands and Beyond HS2) Demand Model Analysis.
"Our model suggests a station at Heathrow would deliver the greatest demand for access to

Heathrow, with around 2,000 passengers per day using HS2 to access the airport for international flights. This means that even a station at Heathrow which is deliberately modelled to maximise the attractiveness for airport passengers would represent less than 2% of the traffic on HS2".

This, certainly, makes the case for a Heathrow Hub very tenuous to say the least. So what is the case for a NEW station in West London? basically it is non-existant. To use the present infrastructure is
feasible, cheaper and more realistic.

One problem to be raised is "Are there enough platforms at Paddington?"
Abstracting the present Great Western Local services from Paddington and passing them directly to Crossrail would free up platforms at Paddington. Add to that the Heathrow Connect (HC) services (due to double to 4 per hour) plus the Heathrow Express services (HE) at 4 per hour then you can have enough services for Crossrail without cluttering up Paddington with local services - more than enough reason to make Paddington the London terminus for HSR2.

Obviously, it has to be said that since the GWML is to be electrified then the surburban services to Henley-on-Thames, Marlow, Greenford would become feeder services for the main line stopping services as is the Windsor & Eton- Slough line at present.It is not feasible to electrify these branch lines for only 1 or 2 trains per hour. Thus a transfer on the main line to electric services would take place.

The present proposals for Crossrail: envisage 24 trains per hour (max.) in each direction through the centre section from Paddington out to both Shenbury(12) and Abbey Wood(12) in the east.The train paths are more complicated towards the west. 4 trains per hour will be Heathrow Connect (HC) services to the airport, 4 will be stopping trains to Maidenhead and 2 more will only go as far as West Drayton. This means that 14 tph will only go as far as Paddington - rather a waste of resources.There is talk of Crossrail being extended to Reading. If this were so then the Great Western local services are logically the ones to be substituted. This would mean that the local services which, at present, run into Paddington would terminate on the main line. Thus the connecting pattern would be (a)Henley-on-Thames to Twyford (b)Marlow to Maidenhead (c) Windsor and Eton Central to Slough - as at present (d)Greenford to West Ealing. This would abstract 4 trains per hour from Paddington. If you add the HE services and HC services to run through the Crossrail tunnels then we calculate that 6 platforms can be freed at Paddington for other services. The need for more stopping trains to Slough, Maidenhead and Reading would have to be ascertained.

The use of these freed platforms can be for new services to South Wales, the West and South West, or they can be used for services to Birmingham. Therefore, if you have a direct connection at Paddington to (a) Crossrail (b) the GWML (c) Heathrow airport and (d) the West Midlands, what is the need for an expensive, time wasting extra station in the west of London?? and why run the trains into Euston when Paddington could suffice??

However, if an expanded Euston contemplates 10 extra platforms would those 6 Paddington ones be sufficient? It all depends if you want to run HS trains just to Birmingham or further north as well. In fact it has been shown that by using both Paddington and Euston there could be enough platforms.

The most important report in this aspect is the ATKINS report to the DfT High Speed 2 Strategic Alternatives Study.
This is basically a "do minimum" strategy taking advantage of the present infrastructure or with minimal investment. There are five packages, each building on the previous one. They range from "tweaking" the timetable enabling a "shoe in" of more services, to substantial investment for the e.g.avoidance of line conflicts or more four tracking etc.. Packages three and four are probably the most interesting since they result in substantial improvement without excessively large investment. The probable train service pattern is also illustrated. The two points which interest us most in this article are the fact that the London - Birmingham services leave from Paddington while the expansion to Euston is limited to three extra platforms within the present station footprint.

In this model the Overground DC services from Watford still run into Euston. However, if the services were diverted either (a)from South Hampstead via Chalk Farm to Camden Road which would permit the trains to continue to Stratford or join the ELL at Highbury & Islington to south of the Thames, or(b) eliminate them as Overground services and make them Bakerloo Underground services. Abstracting these services from Euston would free up 2 more platforms for more regional and/or long-distance services.

The ATKINS document does not assume that HSR" will be built but only uses present resources.
With HSR2 built through the Chilterns then the benefits would be far greater. The essential works would be to ensure the connection from Euston to the Chiltern line, through Old Oak but without a station there. The entry into the West Midlands is something else to look at which we will do in the next blog.

High Speed Rail 2 - White Paper (1)

Now that days have passed since the presentation of the White Paper by the Dept.for Transport for a high speed strategy we can look at it in a cooler fashion. Greengauge21, a strong pressure group, in favour of high speed rail, and Network Rail, who will probably end up being the owner of the tracks, both have given measured responses which are predictably very positive.

With the deluge of information and opinion since the presentation it has proved difficult to extract the wheat from the chaff. However, the proposal has good points and others which are not convincing. Generally speaking there are some interesting solutions to squaring the circle but a lot of questions are left up in the air. With the Dept.for Transport inundating the public with the White Paper, the HSR2 Ltd.´s recommendations, and the consultants´reports there is a tremendous amount of very detailed material to absorb.

In a few words let us say what the White Paper is not - it is not a high speed rail strategy. In that sense it is disappointing and the more it is looked at the more you can see there has been no strategic thinking but more of a political proposal to a growing demand. The Paper is a detailed plan to offer a high speed line from Central London to Central Birmingham. This is an achievement in itself and so welcome, but it is flawed. North of Birmingham we only have two lines drawn on a map - one to Manchester and the other to East Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds, both with no detail at all and with very vague promises to continue north to Scotland.

In fact it should be noted that it is rather contradictory to say that you cannot have intermediate stops on a high speed line as this would reduce its effectiveness (top speeds well below the capacity) while to Leeds(from Birmingham) two intermediate stops are being offered. This reads like a political sop to local interests.

Let us go back to basics and look at the population density map provided by the DfT. which gives us a easy picture to understand the problems.

All these plans can be seen in greater detail in the command paper (White Paper) published by the DfT 11th March 2010 dealing with HSR2. We publish them courtesy of the DfT.

Even though the communities smaller than 250,000 populace cannot be discerned easily on this map, one can see that the natural axis northwards are London-Leicester-Nottingham-Sheffield-Leeds, and London-Birmingham-North West England. So if the aim is to reduce present and predicted congestion on the WCML then the obvious solution is to follow these axis as we suggested in our blog FAST TRAX 3(18 Feb.´10) (points 1, 4 & 5)

The Chiltern High Speed route to Birmingham - which we call the CHSL - is the prefered route to the West Midlands. About that we have no objections but we do have strong objections to the termini and stoppings places en route. We also insist that our alternative of a high speed route to Manchester and Leeds by using the MML corridor is much better and very probably less expensive.

The White Paper itself is very dismissive of achievements already made which sounds like a self justifying argument for the high speed line.
"Further major upgrades to the existing network would be highly expensive, problematic and disruptive. The West Coast Route Modernisation project cost GBP8.9 billion and took almost a decade. It delivered fewer benefits than originally envisaged and caused serious disruption to travellers and to business at a significant economic and social price in addition to the cost of the project itself."
This is downright false when the line speed is limited to 125mph even though it is technically possible for speeds of up to 140mph(224kph) on certain stetches of the WCML which Virgin trains refuses to identify (we suspect it is along the newly four-tracked Trent Valley Line and shorter sections elsewhere). To quote the engineers "The route has brought numerous benefits to passengers with increased train services and reduced journey times".
At present with that speed limit the fastest time Euston-Glasgow is 4hrs.8mins. - a very respectable time. North West England is also much better served with most services non-stop from Warrington to Euston at 1hr.44mins. These are much improved times on the previous timetable.

We contend that with the points we laid down in FAST-TRAX - CONCLUSIONS (8th March points 1,2,3,4)the criterion are clear enough to satisfy the demand for high speed services in a satisfactory manner without digging up great swathes of the countryside. We have to emphasise that using the same corridor does not necessarily mean running tracks side by side. However, where it is possible to run tracks side by side or next to a motorway then the environmental impact is much less and thus should be made a major consideration.

On the route to Birmingham (CHSL) it has been designed for trains to run at 400kph (250mph) which is faster than any other line anywhere with the aim of being in a position of taking advantage of future improvements in technology. That is laudable but only really in a large country with great empty spaces - which is certainly not the case in Great Britain. A ninety degree turning circle, without slowing, means between 7.2 and 8 kms. to change direction. This is ludicrous - such that the line from London needs a new station called Birmingham Interchange some distance from Birmingham International Airport station to which it is meant to connect. This is ridiculous duplication and waste - the proposed station is not even on the west side of the M42. Approaching the West Midlands conurbation it is logical to reduce speed to stop at such a station so a lower line speed limit can be applied thus aiding the flexibility of the track layout to permit its entry into Birmingham International Airport station. The trains could then continue up to Lichfield as envisagedThe paper gives us to understand that trains into Birmingham and those onwards to places further north would all stop at the Interchange thus making this proposal realistic.

Of course what has been ignored is (a)the noise factor - the higher the speed the greater the noise, and (b) the power factor - the faster the speed the greater the need for electrical power. These points we looked at in our first blog FAST TRAX (13-2-10).

The points to be looked at in greater detail are concerning the two proposed termini at Euston and Birmingham Fazeley Street, and the intermediate station at Old Oak Common. These we will look at in the next blog.

Also what should not be ignored is the possible connection to HSR1. Here again the thinking is limited with the fixation of funnelling more and more traffic through London which would only lead to the creation of bottlenecks. We contend that our proposal for a southern high speed line alternative - Fast Trax 2 (24-2-10) running from Reading to Ashford through Heathrow and Gatwick is a much more beneficial solution offers more alternatives and satisfies the demand for long distance services from the airports. This would also override any demand for a Heathrow hub which, at present is only fraught with shallow thinking and awkward solutions.

To sum up the White Paper should turn Green and just lead to more discussion with more interesting and less entrenched positions to be considered. This is a major infrastructure project and cannot be permitted to be pushed through to satisfy the whims and ambitions of politicians (whatever colour) and engineers.

20 March 2010

Runways in South East England

Since his election as Mayor of London Boris Johnson has been pushing the attempt to build a new massive airport in the Thames estuary. Together with the idea of closing Heathrow it was intended as a vote catcher. However, the reactions of airlines, passengers and airport workers alike have been extremely negative.

As can be seen by the drawing(courtesy of the Evening Standard) the runway layout meant that the take off/landing patterns were configured to be SE-NW which meant the flights paths took planes away from the capital to the detriment of the residents and workers of Essex and North Kent - not to mention the interference this implied (with possible closure) of Southend, London City and Stansted airports.

It conveniently forgot to mention that the runway layouts at London City, Heathrow and Gatwick are all East-West while at Luton and Stansted are NE-SW. Well Mayor Boris has recanted (Evn.Standard) and dropped the idea from his agenda.

The principal objections dealt with weather conditions(winds and fog etc.) while wildlife and their habitats were also a negative factor (disturbance of wildlife habitats and the danger of bird strikes for the aircraft - no small worry). Couple those factors with the fact that no airline wished to fly there, no passengers wanted to have to travel so far out to catch planes and nobody wanted to have to work there. All combined to conspire for the downfall of the plans.

Of course, when the public enquiries were held for Maplin Sands and Stansted Mayor Boris was still in his cot so will not remember the enquiries. Any repetition of those enquiries would be wasteful, time consuming and expensive especially when the old reports can be found in the archives of the Dept.for Transport, dusted off and presented again. We insist, though, that all the previously mentioned factors are still ve
ry much valid arguments against the Maplin madness.

tansted is a different case.


Stansted was originally looked at as a substitute third London airport for all the others and was rejected. We d
o not remember the principal reasons for rejection but it should be remembered that the original idea was for a four runway airport. Some are possibly still valid. We seem to remember that the objections were several including too much destruction of the green belt and too much dependence on an inadequate infrastructure - roads and railways etc.It should be pointed out, however, that Stansted has indeed been expanded greatly and very probably much more than was anticipated - very much by stealth. It would be interesting to look at the relevant report and compare the traffic predictions for 2008-10 with the actual figures.

Our thesis is based upon the fact that the South East region has an enviable infrastructure in airports and which should, therefore, be developed upon. Much is talked about Paris CDG, Amsterdam Schipol and Frankfurt Main airports. However, which city or region in the world can boast four major airports and one commuter one? Answer - none. New York comes close but that is all.

LONDON CITY AIRPORT (the commuter airport)

To ignore, or worse to rubbish, all this accumulated capital and human investment would be criminally wrong and shockingly wasteful. What is it that makes politicians or business leaders want to construct macro macho white elephants? Why do people want to funnel everything into bottlenecks which would encounter at some future date the need to expand without having the means to? Without mentioning other airlines, do not Easyjet and Ryanair already fly from three London airports serving both the capital and the region in which the airport is situated?

For these considerations we are in favour of freeing up the process so that the airports can decide whether they need a second runway or not. Even though the new owners of Gatwick have put on hold the question of a second runway after 2019, they should not be bound by any legal agreements imposed on them except for the normal and usual one of a public enquiry. Therefore, we would be in favour of permitting Stansted, Gatwick and Luton to expand to two parallel runways. The necessary land for a second runway with anciliary facilities should be reserved permanently. Thus a real airports strategy can be provided for the South East and London.


In the Dept.for Transport´s paper of November 2007
"UK Air Passenger Demand and CO2 Forecasts" it states "National demand, unconstrained by airport capacities, is forecast to rise from 228mppa in 2005 to 495mppa in 2030". Even while not looking at the details should this not be warning enough that demand for air travel is forecast to double. The South East will not be at the margin of this demand despite many attempts to divert traffic to regional airports.
The airports should have a greater say in their own futures.Having different owners means thay can compete to attract traffic. The market should then play a greater role in maintaining airport usuage prices low. Each region in the SE would have on offer a greater range of destinations specialising in freight, passenger leisure or passenger business segments as it sees fit.

If we see Luton, Gatwick and Stansted increasing their runways to two each then that brings us to the need for a third runway at Heathrow, in which we are in favour.
The present situation has arisen because there is no clear strategy for airports in the SE. If there were then planning on other related infrastructure could go ahead with clear objectives - which is not the present case.
The three large British airlines are British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and BMI. The first two have bases at both Heathrow and Gatwick. In fact at one time BA made a serious attempt to make Gatwick a second hub to no avail. The reasons are various. The most important are that there is greater desirability for the connections provided through Heathrow while this was not possible at Gatwick due to the lack of foresight by prohibiting the construction of a second runway there. Neither could the fully loaded jumbos take off from the runway nor were the slots available to provide more services from the single runway. Truely this was a short sighted victory for the "nimbys" which lands us in the present situation. Now that Heathrow has been "opened up" the US airlines have debunked from Gatwick to Heathrow. A most unsatisfactory situation for Britain´s second airport.

At present two Heathrow runways are at 99% capacity while so many airlines want to, or have a right to fly there(through gov.to gov agreements) thus the demand for a third runway is obvious and urgent.
The present tendency is to use the slots for intercontinental flights to the detriment of short haul flights. This is a chicken/egg situation. You cannot provide the long haul flights if there are not the short haul feeder flights whether they be from the British Isles or elsewhere in Europe. So to provide the service for London originating/destination passengers and transit passengers a third runway should be built as soon as possible.
Maybe there should be some sort of legal restriction on the use of the third runway to ensure that the users really do provide a service from the outer reaches of Great Britain and Ireland, the Channel Isles and the Isle of Man. These should take preference over other short haul flights as there are no other solutions in these cases. It should also be noted that the much vaunted link to mainland Europe, while necessary, is very tenuous as has been proved twice in recent months - the fire which closed the tunnel and the trains which had problems with snow this winter.
The conditions already laid down about restrictions on the use of the third runway are correct. Both noise and toxic pollutants from aircraft have to be looked at very seriously. The suffering residents and workers of the overfly areas should not be put under greater onerous conditions.
These restrictions(about noise and toxic pollutants) are then valid but should be also valid for all airports in or near built up areas. Would it not then be environmentally logical as well as politically expedient to state that these restrictions are the first step to applying them to all UK airports starting with the ones nearest to or in built up areas? – ie. Heathrow and London City. The time lapse to extend the restrictions over the whole country might be extensive but at least it would be a stated intention which could well be applied throughout Europe. Europe at present bans certain aircraft from certain countries for safety reasons. Would it be unreasonable to ban types of aircraft for environmental reasons?
In the long term the question of further expansion at Heathrow would be a non-starter. Therefore, expanding one of the other airports with the same role in mind would have to be analysed. That, however, is a further question to be looked at on a different occasion.

08 March 2010

Fast Trax - Conclusion

Before any WHITE PAPER appears from Whitehall about the route of High Speed 2, we would like to present our preliminary conclusions.

Any new route has to be looked at as part of a strategy for the country´s rail services. Even if, initially, we are talking about a route from London to Birmingham, then we know it will be extended further north - but where and why?

We know that the the railway fathers did not build the best routes in the best manner for the 21st century.However, that does not mean that they did not build good routes in a competitive environment. We should construct on top of that inheritance.

The rumours suggest that the Chiltern route from London to Birmingham is the prefered route to lay down a ultra fast line rail line presently know as HS2. These days we have to take into account the environmental factors before deciding on a definitive right of way. We suggest that this can be done using the "old" Chiltern rail route corridor taking into account the M40 motorway corridor which will thus produce a lower environmental impact.

North of Leamington Spa the line can connect to the present WCML lines into Birmingham and/or further north. The problem of an overcrowded station in Birmingham has to solved , and not just for the High Speed line. The best solution we have seen is the idea of a Grand Central station which would re-use the site of the old Curzon Street station.

The entrance into London can be done along the present tracks (improved) from the Chiltern Line into Paddington. Directing the line into Euston or a new terminus at Acton solves nothing. The Paddington terminus is a viable proposition (a) since Chiltern Trains already run into that station (b) since the surburban lines into Paddington will be directed on to Crossrail when that project is completed thus freeing up platforms (c) the necessary connection already exists into Heathrow from Paddington without any added costs of a special "hub" on the GWML.

A lot has been written about the connection from HS2 to HS1 and thus services into the Channel Tunnel and onwards to other cities in near mainline Europe. We reject the idea of funnelling more traffic through London when broader more beneficial solutions can be applied. For that reason we suggest the SOUTHERN HIGH SPEED LINE (SHSL) from Reading to Ashford through Heathrow and Gatwick. This provides the possibility of any needed connections from both Heathrow and Gatwick to mainline Europe as well as the essential link between the two airports. It can also improve tremendously the regional services in south and south-east England.

Any long distance services southwestwards, westwards or northwards can be run or connected through the major important hub of Reading either directly or through an interline change. Extended thinking brings us to the conclusion that other beneficial services can be provided for the benefit of the air over our heads and the possibilities to lessen the traffic on our roads (such as we illustrated by taking the Irish traffic off the roads on to rail from Fishguard).

We support the electrification of all principal radial routes from London. This means that the GWML electrification can be and should be extended to Fishguard and to Plymouth taking advantage of the original Brunel routes to upgrade to High Speed status. The MML offers the possibility of offering alternatives to Manchester and Leeds through some new construction. Thus on the radial routes the traffic can be more widely spread freeing up capacity on the ECML and WCML.

However, not all traffic is radial from London. The East - West and South West - North East routes, not least the Transpennine routes and the Bristol-Birmingham-Newcastle route, are also of vital importance and should not be forgotten. We mentioned the Birmingham - Oxford - Reading - Southampton route which can be infilled easily after the GWML electrification, at least to Birmingham from Oxford.

To be brief we can simplify the principles to be applied for the strategy of high speed lines.
1-All the lines should be electrified - thus faster acceleration, lighter vehicles, less noise, more efficient use of energy resources.

2-All principal radial routes from London to be considered high speed lines with the corresponding upgrades to be programmed.

3-Where new construction is necessary for track alignment, use should be made of the same corridors as the classic lines, or even motorways, so as to lessen the environmental impact.

4-The rail corridors will thus become four-tracked in their whole length, or even, six-tracked in parts.

5-Serious consideration should be ensured to include the possibility of high speed travel for the greater number including more large towns and cities than has been suggested to date.
6-Freight traffic has to be given its share of the line capacity to ensure a significent transfer of freight traffic from road to rail.
Its possibilities are not just a sop to the green lobby.
7-Realistic goals should be laid down rejecting building for building´s sake to satisfy the whims of some politicians and the professional egos of some engineers. The area to be considered is not all of Great Britain just the part from Central Scotland down to the Severn/Thames line.
This means the great sweeping curves to ensure the maintenance of high speeds are not possible in all of GB just in a few limited parts. We should not be imprisoned by our own objectives - high speed does not mean the same in every country or urban area. The higher the speed the better but it is not an end in itself.

In a lighter mode but still quite serious. Take into consideration the naming of the lines. The present nomenclatures can be maintained e.g. ECML, GWML, MML etc.
or the number system can be used as it is for the trunk roads and motorways. In this case would it not be better for the lines to use the same numbers as the roads in their corresponding corridors? Following the suggestions we have already made this would mean.
HS1 London-York- Edinburgh
HS2 London-Ebbsfleet- Chunnel
HS3 London-Southampton
HS4 London-Cardiff-Fishguard
HS5 London-Birmingham-Chester-North Wales
HS6 London-Derby-Manchester
and so on.

Let us now see what the White Paper has to offer.