The local media is starting to pick up East London’s train revolution, if this article from This is Local London entitled Lower fares for overground stops that include Southbury and Turkey Street is anything to go by. I’m pleased to say that I spotted this one earlier.
It will be interesting to see if traffic goes up at stations like Southbury and Turkey Street.
I think the Overground takeover will define one of the battlefields for the next London Mayor in 2016. Who can prove they can offer most lines might come under TfL control, will gain an advantage at the ballot box.
This morning there is an article in The Independent, which is entitled SNP fury as HS2 finds ‘no business case’ for taking fast train service to Scotland. Here’s the first paragraph.
The £50bn High Speed Two rail link will not be extended to Scotland, as the team behind the project has found there is “no business case” for the undertaking.
There may not be a conventional business case, as some of the reasons for developing a high speed railway up and down the country are emotional or for a country, where none of us will still be alive.
When HS2 is talked about in the media, freight is rarely mentioned outside of specialist magazines and web sites.
Although, HS2 will be built for the biggest freight trains, there are no plans for using it for this purpose at present. But, if the high speed line moves passengers away from the conventional East Coast, West Coast and Midland Main Lines, this will reduce the number of passenger trains and open up more paths for much needed freight trains to drive the economy.
The Electric Spine will take pressure off existing routes to the North and Scotland, but it does nothing to increase capacity north of Warrington and York, where both the East and West Coast Main Lines do not have the capacity of their southern ends. Some extra tracks and easier routes may be possible in places on these two Main Lines, but upgrading them will be difficult and politically sensitive.
I also mistrust all forecasts of passenger ridership on the railways. Two examples illustrate how bad they can be.
The estimate for traffic through the Channel Tunnel were very much on the high side and only now are the number of train passengers rising substantially.
Locally, to me, the London Overground was started with three coach trains, which as just five years later they are now converting them all to five cars was an estimate to go with some of the most spectacularly bad Treasury and Department of Transport predictions.
Add to this the usual mistakes, where they get the number of trains wrong and lumber places with unsuitable, inadequate or poorly designed trains, that are often unique one-offs, so we can’t just rustle up some more standard trains.
If you want to see an inadequate set of trains look at the Class 185 trains built for Trans Pennine services. Wikipedia has a whole section devoted to Overcrowding and Passenger Feedback. I have this feeling that some of the other trains ordered lately might be disasters, as the dead hand of the Treasury was too much on decision.
So I can understand, why the SNP are angry that HS2 will not be extended to Scotland. More capacity is needed between England and Scotland for both freight and passengers, and if that is new capacity, it is likely that it would work well and in a reliable way, using standard trains that are just not UK-only specials, bought from the Treasury’s petty cash.
I do think though that our designs for HS2 are rather dated and don’t take things that are happening or have happened into account.
Crossrail in London has shown that putting a large twin rail tunnel under a major city, is not the problem it once was. Crossrail have also been very innovative in creating stations with the minimum disturbance to existing infrastructure. As an example, the new Whitechapel station for Crossrail has also used a technique called uphill excavation, where you create escalator and lift shafts upwards from the tunnels, rather than traditionally from the surface, which is much more disruptive.
These techniques can revolutionise the construction of HS2.
Take cities like Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield, which have developed and are continually developing extensive local networks. So why are we in Birmingham still talking about creating an HS2 station at Curzon Street. Surely, we just dig a very deep pair of HS2 tunnels under the city and then uphill excavate into not only New Street, but Moor Street and Snow Hill as well. The tunnels would be only made as long as necessary, although the underground station could be very large. But it probably wouldn’t be much bigger than the double-ended Liverpool Street/Moorgate station being created for Crossrail.
The great advantage of this method of construction is that you can continue to develop your network of local trains, trams and other transport links, untroubled by the construction of the new station deep below. Anybody, who thinks this is not possible, should spend half-an-hour walking around Whitechapel station, where the Hammersmith and City, District and East London Lines are passing untroubled over the giant hole and through the building site for the new station.
I would have no idea as to the costs of this method of construction, but it surely must be more affordable, than creating a new station or modifying an old one, by traditional methods.
A station in Manchester could probably be created in a similar manner with a giant double-ended station linking into Manchester Piccadilly station at the Southern end and Manchester Victoria station at the Northern. This is a Google Earth image of Manchester city centre between the two main stations.
Victoria is at the top and Piccadilly is at the bottom. The distance between the two stations is probably a couple of hundred metres more than between Moorgate and Liverpool Street, so designing a station deep beneath the city centre should be possible with a bit of help from long escalators and perhaps a travalator. If nothing else, it would be a wonderful way to transfer between the two stations in the rain. It could also have entrances in places like Piccadilly Gardens
Leeds could be a number of platforms for the high-speed lines under the current station.
In my view we should plan HS2 and HS3 together and construct them together, as needs determine and budgets allow.
HS2 would start in London, possibly in an underground station which would be under one of the three stations on the Euston Road; Kings Cross, St. Pancras and Euston. It would probably be under Euston, but wherever it was it would be closely integrated into the Crossrail 2 station, which would be under Euston Road at right angles to the other lines and will serve the three current and the new HS2 stations.
I wouldn’t totally rebuild Euston station for HS2, as the station is so complicated and second-rate in its relationship with the Underground, that creating a decent connection between the current station would be so difficult to do without gumming up London’s transport system for umpteen years, that it would be better to build Crossrail 2 first and connect it to the three current stations, then tunnel HS2 accurately into the knitting. The current Euston station would be kept fully operational throughout the construction of HS2 and only when that line is complete, would Euston station be given the sort of upgrade that has been so successfully done at Kings Cross, Waterloo and Paddington.
HS2 would go North to a station at Old Oak Common, probably mostly in tunnel and it would then pass stations at Birmingham Interchange (Airport), Birmingham, Crewe, Manchester Interchange (Airport), Manchester and Leeds. I would put the stations in tunnels underneath the current transport hubs.
A branch off the main HS2, north of Birmingham, would go under Nottingham, Sheffield, finally rejoining the main HS2 at Leeds.
And why not balance the network, by having a branch off HS2 south of Birmingham going towards Bristol and Cardiff.
If the alignments were developed correctly, then loops under cities like Stoke might be possible.
HS3 could actually be integrated into HS2. Perhaps it would start under Liverpool Lime Street and then pass under Manchester Interchange, Manchester and Leeds.
From Leeds the HS2 and HS3 would split again, with one branch going North to Newcastle via York and the other going to Hull via Sheffield and Doncaster.
Obviously, this is only a back-of-an-envelop design and properly thought through it could be much better.
But I do feel that HS2 and HS3 will both benefit if they share a route between Manchester Interchange and Leeds, via perhaps Manchester and Huddersfield.
One of the aims of this design is to create a high-speed railway network, with as little demolition and disruption to the workings of our cities as possible.
What happens in Scotland is tricky, as in my view a lot of improvements are mainly Scottish solutions. For instance, as I said, the Waverley Route needs to be rebuilt to a high standard with electrification, Glasgow Crossrail needs to be created and Edinburgh to Glasgow needs to be fully electrified.
But when Newcastle gets a high speed connection to the south, the final piece in the jigsaw of high-speed lines would be to extend HS2 to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Hopefully, by the time that happens, we’ll have learned how to do it in a quick, affordable and non-disruptive way.
The one thing we mustn’t do is build HS2 as it is currently designed, as we can do much better than is proposed.
This story on the BBC about a badly-handled death on the railway between Slough and Reading is tragic. These are the first few lines of the story.
A rail company has apologised after a staff member told passengers the train was delayed because someone “couldn’t be bothered to live any more”.
Passengers aboard a train to Plymouth were delayed after a fatality on the line.
But the staff on First Great Western could have handled it better.
On the other hand I sympathise very much with staff and passengers on this stretch of line out of Paddington, as this death was not a once in a decade happening.
Just after a previous incident, I was travelling back on an almost empty train to London from Oxford and I said something like “You must get a bit fed up with all these incidents.” to the conductor. He replied something like “More than just a bit!”
It is getting to the point, where something drastic needs to be done to stop people getting on the line. I think we really won’t see any improvement until all of the stations between Paddington and Reading become part of Crossrail and there is barrier access and more staff about on the platforms, if they follow a typical Transport for London policy.
I took these pictures of a five-car Class 378 trains on the North London Line today.
Although five-car trains seemed to be slow to appear, Bombardier seem to have got the cut and shut process working pretty fast now.
On the 31st May 2015, Transport for London take over the lines out of Liverpool Street to Enfield Town, Cheshunt, Chingford and Shenfield and two days ago they published this press release on their web site, which is entitled Passengers set to benefit as key commuter rail services transfer to TfL.
So what does that mean?
1. The services currently operate with National Rail pay as you go fares, which are generally higher than TfL fares. When services transfer, over 80 per cent of current rail journeys will reduce in price and TfL concessions will apply – giving customers substantial savings. The remaining 20 per cent of fares will remain unchanged.
2. All TfL concessions and discounts that currently apply to London Underground, the Docklands Light Railway, and London Overground will apply on the rail services transferring to TfL. I think that means I can travel free to Brentwood and Shenfield using my Freedom Pass.
3. There are a few other technical things that seem beneficial, like Brentwood being moved into Zone 9.
4. I suspect too, that the level of customer service will be better under TfL than Abellio Greater Anglia.
I can’t see any average passengers complaining about this package. Except perhaps those who commute on lines like c2c into London, where there are no fare reductions.
So it’s probably a big thank you to Transport for London.
I like peer-to-peer lending and have quite a large sum invested. But after reading this article in the Financial Times, I’m pretty certain that if I lived in the United States, I wouldn’t touch peer-to-peer lending with a bargepole.
The reason is that in the United States, institutional investors get first pick of the borrowers and are developing software, so that the retail investors gets what’s left.
In the UK, the Peer-To-Peer Finance Association has moved to ban this practice and make all investors equal.
The day they give preference to institutions, my money will be withdrawn gradually as it becomes available.
I think we all have to remember that one of the causes of the Financial Crash of a few years ago was greedy bankers, who felt they were a class above the vast majority of people, who have made their money by sheer dint of hard work.
Whatever you do, read the article in the FT. It’s a cracker!
And also look at the Peer-To-Peer Finance Association web site!
You may wonder why I’m writing a piece about two towns in the United Kingdom, which are hundreds of miles apart.
Both towns have not been in the best of health lately, although employment has risen in Burnley between 2009 and 2013 by 7.1%, as against 0.6% across the North-West and 2.0% nationally, according to this article.
They are also towns with similar geographic and transport problems being in the hills with not the best transport links.
But last Sunday, both towns got improved rail links to their nearest big city.
Ebbw Vale Town station opened and trains now run direct to Cardiff every hour.
At Burnley, five hundred metres of new single track called the Todmorden Curve has enabled trains to run direct to Manchester Victoria every hour.
I have been monitoring news stories about both new pieces of infrastructure and these reports from local media are noteworthy and generally positive.
The only article with a negative tone is this piece entitled Rossendale Scribbler: Forget the bus station, we should look to rail to improve our transport links, which has a touch of jealousy that the Todmorden Curve doesn’t help his travels.
It will be interesting to go back to Burnley and Ebbw Vale in a few months to see if the early green shoots of optimism have grown or withered.
I have a Google Alert set for Tesla Powerwall and usually it just picks up pretty boring stuff, but this article from ecomento.com is better than most. It does state this.
The Tesla Powerwall won’t really make economic sense for most US customers until the price drops – considerably. The people who buy one now will help fund the research and development that needs to take place to drive battery prices down in the future.
So as with a lot of new technology, with my engineer’s hard hat on, I think it will be best to wait until the cost of solar panels, Powerwall-like devices and all the other electronics and control systems needed, have been proven to be reliable and have dropped in price.
My house here has a flat roof, which would be ideal for solar panels, so I’m watching the technology and will buy them, when the payback is less than five years.
Why five years? It’s the length of our fixed term parliament, so hopefully the financial conditions won’t be mucked up too much by a change of governmen.