Not looking good for HS2

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GeenDienst
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Not looking good for HS2

Post by GeenDienst » Tue Jan 21, 2020 11:42 am

Article by Christian Wolmar in today's Graun summarises the problems. He's not a fan.

HS2 is a calamity, but it would be politically toxic for Boris Johnson to scrap it

Quick rundown of his main arguments:

- Costs are "out of control", from £55 bn at 2015 prices to £106 bn at today's, and nobody much believes the second figure is high enough. This has "wrecked" HS2's business case. A mere £3 bn (20%) overspend at Crossrail (which is nearly finished) has already made the political sky fall in.

- Arguments about more capacity only surfaced when reductions in journey times turned out to be small*

- Plenty of capacity on trains to the lines it serves*

- Likely to exacerbate north south divide, not reduce it

- HS2 was originally "conceived as a sop to environmentalists" moaning about LHR's 3rd runway, and HS2 will do tremendous environmental damage

But, he notes, the new political bloc of angry northerners' Tory MPs will need feeding, especially when the wonderful Crossrail is working for those southern softies. His ideal solution would be to transform their terrible suburban rail networks, but this would take to long. So, his alternative to HS2 is a big expansion in buses.
The problem for Johnson is that improvements to those regional suburban rail systems will take time as well as money, and his best chance of winning some credit with those voters may well lie in rapid and extensive investment in buses. If that sounds rather unexciting, he should bear in mind that it may play better than promising a new railway that will not fully connect with the north until 2040.
*I'd thought this was more that modelling predicted much need for more capacity in future. And if he wants to go from Euston through Bham on the big shiny trains at the busy time,"last helicopter out of Saigon" might spring to mind.
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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Tue Jan 21, 2020 11:53 am

Wolmar's never been a fan, and he's spent much of the last decade making a fair amount of money out of slagging it off. There exists no alternative, however.

Reductions in journey times aren't small. Capacity increases aren't small. Alternatives don't do the job anywhere near as well.

It's also not a solution to the north-south divide. It can help, but only if there's a raft of other policies that go with it to take advantage of it.

Wolmar, who tried to run for London Mayor remember, doesn't give a sh.t about the north, and his suggestion of getting loads of buses in would be treated with the contempt it deserves. Buses are important, and needed, but to suggest that they're the sole solution would piss off a lot of people.
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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by lpm » Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:03 pm

How many centuries will a railway last? Brunel & Co built routes I travel on 180 years later and they look good for the rest of this century. Will they ever stop being used? There's a line near me that was built 160 years ago, got Beechinged but I still use in its current life as a cycle path.
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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by dyqik » Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:28 pm

lpm wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:03 pm
How many centuries will a railway last? Brunel & Co built routes I travel on 180 years later and they look good for the rest of this century. Will they ever stop being used? There's a line near me that was built 160 years ago, got Beechinged but I still use in its current life as a cycle path.
With maintenance, as long as Watling Street. I'd bet that none of actual rail, sleepers, track bed, and certainly not the signaling, on Brunel's lines are still the original ones.

What lasts with only maintenance is much of the civil engineering* and the right of way.

Cuttings, tunnels, bridges, etc.

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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by GeenDienst » Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:36 pm

That's kind of the "intention to treat" approach though, to borrow an analogy from somewhere else. You are seeing the consequences 160-whatevs years later of deciding to build a railway there. If the route is still of overall benefit, it's still a good thing, whatever it's made of, and whatever it's used for. You could argue the same about building a canal that is now a rail route.
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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:46 pm

lpm wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:03 pm
How many centuries will a railway last? Brunel & Co built routes I travel on 180 years later and they look good for the rest of this century. Will they ever stop being used? There's a line near me that was built 160 years ago, got Beechinged but I still use in its current life as a cycle path.
Stephenson's earliest railways are getting on for 200 years old now - Stockton to Darlo will have it in five years' time, Liverpool and Manchester in ten.

The business cases for these things in the Treasury Green Book tend to focus entirely on the first 60 years, and when doing net present value, the discounting means anything past then counts for very little anyway.

The permanent way will last pretty much forever until built on (Liv-Mancs still runs across the original solution to getting across Chat Moss marshland, which was essentially to stick stuff into it until the railway stopped sinking), HS2 won't have lineside signalling either (possibly lineside train detection but I'd be surprised tbh), so managing ongoing obsolescence of software is the main issue there. HS2 will be mostly slab-track rather than ballasted, which is cheapish to install but expensive to renew. The rails will last around 20 years, the concrete slab around 40 if it's installed well. Tunnels are essentially imperishable with basic maintenance and other civils will last pretty well too.
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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by plodder » Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:52 pm

In 100 years time if we don't have swarms of hyper-utilised electric auto cars then we've failed. We almost have the technology for this now. (I support HS2 because it can bring some relatively quick and permanent solutions, but I'm not at all confident that railways will be as strategically important in 100 years time.

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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:56 pm

If the trend for flight-shaming continues then building HS2 is pretty essential to lowering passenger numbers in the air; continuing it to Scotland makes sense there. But there's a whole raft of other joined-up things that also need to happen as well which are a bit more irritating and not as interesting for governments (we should probably tax flights more, for instance).
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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by TopBadger » Tue Jan 21, 2020 1:05 pm

plodder wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:52 pm
In 100 years time if we don't have swarms of hyper-utilised flying electric auto cars then we've failed.
FTFY - Because the Jetsons / Bladerunner / etc show the future 100 years from now
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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by plodder » Tue Jan 21, 2020 1:24 pm

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:56 pm
If the trend for flight-shaming continues then building HS2 is pretty essential to lowering passenger numbers in the air; continuing it to Scotland makes sense there. But there's a whole raft of other joined-up things that also need to happen as well which are a bit more irritating and not as interesting for governments (we should probably tax flights more, for instance).
This is true, I'll revise my opinion accordingly. There will still be trains. But cars will also be much smarter and better utilised.

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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by dyqik » Tue Jan 21, 2020 1:39 pm

plodder wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:52 pm
In 100 years time if we don't have swarms of hyper-utilised electric auto cars then we've failed. We almost have the technology for this now. (I support HS2 because it can bring some relatively quick and permanent solutions, but I'm not at all confident that railways will be as strategically important in 100 years time.
They're much more efficient than hyperutilised electric auto cars for long distance travel, or where lots of people are going to the same place.

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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Tue Jan 21, 2020 1:49 pm

plodder wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 1:24 pm
El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:56 pm
If the trend for flight-shaming continues then building HS2 is pretty essential to lowering passenger numbers in the air; continuing it to Scotland makes sense there. But there's a whole raft of other joined-up things that also need to happen as well which are a bit more irritating and not as interesting for governments (we should probably tax flights more, for instance).
This is true, I'll revise my opinion accordingly. There will still be trains. But cars will also be much smarter and better utilised.
Hopefully, yes. But I think the solution there is that (perhaps) cars will serve the short- and medium-distance routes pretty well, and railways the longer distances, though that varies depending on need (commuter travel into London will never be solved by providing more cars, for instance).

I'm rather alarmed tbh that HS2 still seems to be being billed as some one-stop solution to all inequality, when of course it isn't. Apart from "another railway" and "let's move the Lords to York", there don't seem to be many other answers coming through, which is frustrating.
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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by plodder » Tue Jan 21, 2020 1:51 pm

I think that's reasonable. Sorry.

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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by AMS » Tue Jan 21, 2020 9:57 pm

dyqik wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 1:39 pm
plodder wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:52 pm
In 100 years time if we don't have swarms of hyper-utilised electric auto cars then we've failed. We almost have the technology for this now. (I support HS2 because it can bring some relatively quick and permanent solutions, but I'm not at all confident that railways will be as strategically important in 100 years time.
They're much more efficient than hyperutilised electric auto cars for long distance travel, or where lots of people are going to the same place.

Indeed, and remembering too that trains get round the whole battery range / life / lithium availability issues by being the only form of transport that we've worked out how to run at a practical scale directly off mains electricity.

The hyperutilised electric cars (HECs?) may be more of a solution to how to get people to the station.

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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by AMS » Tue Jan 21, 2020 9:59 pm

(I'm counting trams as a subtype of train there, which I think is reasonable. )

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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by AMS » Tue Jan 21, 2020 10:24 pm

lpm wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:03 pm
How many centuries will a railway last? Brunel & Co built routes I travel on 180 years later and they look good for the rest of this century. Will they ever stop being used? There's a line near me that was built 160 years ago, got Beechinged but I still use in its current life as a cycle path.
Off topic slightly, but in places Brunel built deliberately temporary wooden viaducts in order to get lines up and running, with the intention of replacing them later. Especially in Cornwall, where the East to West route had to cross a long stretch of south-flowing river valleys that drain off Bodmin Moor. They're far from his best known work, but there was some nifty engineering in them that allowed individual beams to be swapped out as needed without having to close the bridge.

This one is near where I lived as a kid. Edited to fix image url...
Image

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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Wed Jan 22, 2020 8:21 am

The reductions in journey times aren't small, by the way, but they're also not the point. Hey ho.
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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by Pucksoppet » Wed Jan 22, 2020 9:05 am

AMS wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 10:24 pm
Off topic slightly, but in places Brunel built deliberately temporary wooden viaducts in order to get lines up and running, with the intention of replacing them later. Especially in Cornwall, where the East to West route had to cross a long stretch of south-flowing river valleys that drain off Bodmin Moor. They're far from his best known work, but there was some nifty engineering in them that allowed individual beams to be swapped out as needed without having to close the bridge.

This one is near where I lived as a kid. Edited to fix image url...
Image
Do you have a link to further details about that engineering?

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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by Nero » Wed Jan 22, 2020 10:39 am

Pucksoppet wrote:
Wed Jan 22, 2020 9:05 am
Do you have a link to further details about that engineering?
http://www.engineering-timelines.com/wh ... cts_01.asp

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornwall_Railway_viaducts

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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by GeenDienst » Wed Jan 22, 2020 11:49 am

Now Shapps has shunted* a decision off to February, while he looks for other options "to increase capacity".

It's f.cked.

Wonder what they'll do with all the building works they've been doing around Euston over the last ever?

*DYSWIDT?
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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by TopBadger » Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:05 pm

I expect what's been done to date will get mothballed.

FWIW I'd have thought there might be more economic and political benefit to doing HS2 after HS3 (northern powerhouse rail - NPR). And linking north to south via HS2 at the end, so to speak.

But then I know nothing of this, really.
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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:21 pm

GeenDienst wrote:
Wed Jan 22, 2020 11:49 am
Now Shapps has shunted* a decision off to February, while he looks for other options "to increase capacity".
The alternatives were looked at six years ago.

And what's this on page 79? Oh yes. The data.
HS2 capacity comparison.png
HS2 capacity comparison.png (271.33 KiB) Viewed 316 times
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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:32 pm

TopBadger wrote:
Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:05 pm
I expect what's been done to date will get mothballed.

FWIW I'd have thought there might be more economic and political benefit to doing HS2 after HS3 (northern powerhouse rail - NPR). And linking north to south via HS2 at the end, so to speak.

But then I know nothing of this, really.
Noop. The capacity need is starkest in the south, not the north. There's no benefit to doing one after the other, and a shitload of benefit from doing the two together, and absolutely no reason not to.
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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by GeenDienst » Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:41 pm

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:21 pm
The alternatives were looked at six years ago.
Exactly. All Mr Green is gathering is excuses to ditch it.

And benefits in the south? he's got a lot of hungry northern mouths to feed - right now, not in 2040 or whatever.
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Re: Not looking good for HS2

Post by TopBadger » Wed Jan 22, 2020 2:37 pm

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Wed Jan 22, 2020 12:32 pm

Noop. The capacity need is starkest in the south, not the north. There's no benefit to doing one after the other, and a shitload of benefit from doing the two together, and absolutely no reason not to.
No reason other than money... seems the Brexit dividend we're about to get doesn't apply in this case.

If it's a case of 'go big or go home' then it seems they don't want to go big.
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