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UK Political Cycle turns on rail...

by Metatone Mon Sep 29th, 2008 at 11:22:56 AM EST

Whilst the Tories are most famous for privatising the British Railways organisation, it's often forgotten that they spent 10 years before that championing the motor car and air travel and denigrating and running down the finances of rail.

To that extent, this announcement at their party conference is somewhat surprising, and indicates that some things do seem to have shifted:


Tories plan £20bn 180mph rail link instead of Heathrow third runway | Politics | The Guardian

A third runway at Heathrow airport would be scrapped by a Tory government that would instead build a £20bn TGV-style high speed rail link between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

In one of David Cameron's boldest moves on the environment, the party will today unveil plans to cut 66,000 flights a year from Heathrow by tempting passengers on to the first new rail line north of London in more than a century.

Theresa Villiers, the shadow transport secretary, told the Guardian last night: "This is a seriously green decision. A few years ago it would have been inconceivable for the leader of the Conservative party to say no to a third runway and putting the brakes on Heathrow expansion."

The announcement, on the second day of the party's conference in Birmingham, is designed to show that the party has not abandoned its "Vote Blue, Go Green" agenda in the face of the economic downturn. Gordon Brown has warned that some Tory green plans would jeopardise economic development, but Cameron hopes to blunt any Labour attack by outlining detailed plans to tempt airline passengers on to the railways.

Villiers will announce that a Tory government would spend £15.6bn between 2015 and 2027 (£1.3bn a year for 12 years) to build the new high speed rail link from London St Pancras to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. A further £4.4bn would be paid by the private sector.

...

Journey times on the 180mph line would be slashed: London to Birmingham would take 45 minutes instead of 80; London to Manchester 80 minutes instead of 125, London to Leeds 97 minutes instead of 125 and Manchester to Leeds 17 minutes instead of the current 55.

The Tories say the new rail link would cut flights from Heathrow by 66,430 a year - 44% of the capacity of the planned third runway. There are currently 36 flights a day between Heathrow and Manchester. The Tories hope to cut flights to Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels as passengers are encouraged to use the new high speed rail line which would link up with the Eurostar service at St Pancras.

Display:
And the rest of the report says that the world will end in flames if Heathrow doesn't get to expand.

Repeat after me: There will always be more flights. Oil prices will not rise.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Sep 29th, 2008 at 11:42:54 AM EST
So the Tories are now disowning demutualisation and the dismantling of the rail network?

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 29th, 2008 at 12:09:40 PM EST
Villiers will announce that a Tory government would spend £15.6bn between 2015 and 2027 (£1.3bn a year for 12 years) to build the new high speed rail link from London St Pancras to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. A further £4.4bn would be paid by the private sector.

So PPP rears its ugly head again. Lemme guess: by the time the tenders are written out, the project will cost £60bn, of which £55.6bn will be government money... while the operating profit will be 95% private.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Sep 29th, 2008 at 12:16:53 PM EST
Naturally...

But it's better than a similar PPP amount spent on building a new road motorway...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Sep 29th, 2008 at 12:32:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Might actually work if they team up with SNCF...
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Sep 29th, 2008 at 12:42:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...unless Sarko goes Thatcher on SNCF in the meantime...

(OK, fat chance, even with Sarko)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Sep 29th, 2008 at 02:46:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
this is nice...if true.

However, the most pressing need is for a high speed raillink to Newcastle and Sctoland where current rail links cannot be competitive with air links.

However, Leeds and Manchester are also worth doing because the current rail links have been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that they too barely compete with air, which is actually ridiculous.

But prices need to fall. It is cheaper for me to fly to the other end of europe than from london to glasgow, and for that the government needs to reinstitute subsidies that make it competitive with air and road. It isn't a level playing field financially.

But then again, if the tories want a list of worthwhile things to do, then I have a list as long as my arm. And a corresponding list of cuts to pay for it.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Sep 29th, 2008 at 01:26:29 PM EST
A new high-speed WCML 2.0 might take over traffic to Scotland, too, until an ECML 2.0 is built -- and total traffic would surely be much higher.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 29th, 2008 at 02:48:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A high speed ECML makes far more sense than the WCML since the terrain is easier and there is less population in the way. Unfortunately that also means that it misses the main areas of Manchester/Liverpool.

I still think wrecking the Great Central railway was the single worst decision Beeching made.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Sep 29th, 2008 at 04:38:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A high speed ECML makes far more sense than the WCML since the terrain is easier and there is less population in the way. Unfortunately that also means that it misses the main areas of Manchester/Liverpool.

IOW, it's not at all clear that it makes far more sense, but one has to weigh whether higher future income outbalances higher construction costs or not.

I say that in the end, BOTH should be built.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Sep 29th, 2008 at 05:07:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree, but regretfully know this is the UK and the chances of useful infrastructure investment are pretty low.

The ECML does make sense, in terms of attacking the air traffic to Newcastle and Scotland, which is perhaps a more pressing problem.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Sep 29th, 2008 at 05:13:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How big is the air traffic to Newcastle, as compared to the combined air traffic to Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow? (Because as I indicated, a WCML with even a partial high-speed line would be a sigfnificantly faster access to both Edinburgh and Glasgow than the current ECML, thus doing the job of improving the Edinburgh link just like an ECML upgrade.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 29th, 2008 at 05:17:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've googled a bit, but so far I've found it hard to find figures. I'll keep looking.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Sep 29th, 2008 at 05:31:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From UK Airport Statistics: 2008 - 07 | Data | Economic Regulation
UK Airport Statistics: 2008 - 07

Internal UK air passenger numbers.

Newcastle,           135,067

vs

Manchester           262,803
Liverpool             73,432
Glasgow              382,748

How

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Sep 29th, 2008 at 05:41:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 01:04:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But what really counts is how much of that goes to London. If, say, a lot of Manchester passengers are on budget airlines from Ireland or Spain or the US, Newcastle might still be more important.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 10:36:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ceebs:
Internal UK air passenger numbers.

As I read the above statement, the figures are for passengers travelling inside the UK only.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 10:59:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, very sloppy writing on my part... (I did in fact check the source data in the link in the middle of writing that comment, thus saw it's domestic numbers, but forgot to correct my example). Still, not all domestic flights are London-bound, so there might be a difference.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 11:06:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed.

I haven't been able to find a source, but I do recall reading that the Manchester - London traffic is as high as the Newcastle - London traffic.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 11:11:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Only people who I can find with those figures want $778 for the report.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 11:19:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For a picture of what we are talking about, here is a sketch map of the WCML and the ECML:

What this map doesn't emphasize is that Edinburgh can be approached along a line branching off the WCML shortly before Glasgow, too - along a barely longer route.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Sep 29th, 2008 at 05:24:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but the line to Edinbrough can be extended to Glasgow even more cheaply.

The ECML is the best solution for a route to Scotland given the constraints on a WCML.

They could resurrect much of the trackbed of the Great central which would take them to Sheffield and build a Hull - Liverpool HSR for connectivity and then use the Settle and Carlisle towards glasgow. It's do-able as an alternative to the WCML, which is really difficult.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 04:46:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the line to Edinbrough can be extended to Glasgow even more cheaply.

I doubt that. Not only is it longer, but runs through a more inhabited area, even an upgrade would be more expensive. However:

constraints on a WCML

If I am not mistaken, the constraints on the WCML are on the stretch which would be replaced by HSR -- while further North towards Scotland, less so, with line capacity as well as use of capacity similar.

At any rate, just because of capacity constraints, which should saurface again if air traffic is to be drawn away, must both lines be built, eventually. That is, I do not see the tow as alternatives in the long term, only on the short term, and even then only for Scotland. On the short term, while the WCML 2.0 would be more expensive, it could be built in shorter stretches that make sense in themselves.

trackbed of the Great central

That would be great. But do you have any source on how many curves with radiuses below 5 km are along that trackbed?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 10:30:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wasn't this idea already put forward though?  I remember it being discussed on ET not all that long ago because ditto with these plans, Wales doesn't appear to exist!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 06:06:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
to be honest, S Wales has a perfectly good rail link to London, it's just not used properly. It's also not far enough to justify a dedicated HSR.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 09:40:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A GWHSR gets discussed occasionally. It's not completely outside the bounds of sanity. Bristol is at least as significant as Leeds. Cardiff is rather more least significant than Bristol. There's even an economy of sorts south of Exeter which would benefit from better rail links.

The 'under three hours' argument which is usually used for rail makes no sense if you're including places like Manchester and Birmingham, because they're already closer than that - unless you count the destination as Paris, which is where it gets interesting.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 09:59:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "under three hours" argument is usually worded in a silly way. It is about the maximum distance between two cities where a high-speed line is viable. That is, if a high-speed connection is under three hours (which can mean a maximum 600-750 km), then rail will beat air to the punch.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 10:18:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
? 200 km is more than enough! On the other hand population numbers along the route aren't that high -- unless lines could be built as efficiently as in Spain.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 10:12:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ideally the UK needs a whole set of new train lines and 2 major lines involving Wales:

London - Bristol - Cardiff

Hull - Leeds - Manchester - Liverpool - Wrexham

(Exact routes open to interpretation.)

The North-South Wales route is problematic. It's needed in a lot of ways, but picking a route that makes sense is hard.

But, in terms of population served, either ECML or WCML far outstrips the East-West routes that naturally should serve Wales, so they are always likely to get electoral priority.

Which is partly why Wales needs more independence. If it had the appropriate power/fund raising, then the Welsh Assembly could do a lot to make a serious Wrexham - Chester - Manchester route happen.

And maybe even draw in European funds to upgrade the Cardiff - Bristol - London - Paris route.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 11:09:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't forget Holyhead!!!

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 11:11:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ack...

Hull - Leeds - Manchester - (Liverpool) - Chester - (Wrexham) - Holyhead - [Dublin]

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 11:15:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Connecting with a link from Manchester to London without much waiting around at the station...

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 11:23:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the track was built then there would be trains that run Holyhead to London at times as well I'm sure. There are trains now from Hull to London, which is a similar branch line situation.

That's why I said if the Welsh Assembly had the power/resources they could psychologically push the development of the whole network forward, simply by committing to Holyhead-Wrexham-Manchester...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 11:35:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, really we need a tunnel under the Irish Sea.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 05:56:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman seems to be happy with the ferry as long as there's HSR from Holyhead to London.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 06:15:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I referred this discussion to a friend of mine who knows about these things - here's his tuppence worth:

One thing that might be added to this thing about the line between Cardiff and London is that it goes under the Severn.  This restricts electrification of the line, which means rail upgrades on existing lines will stop at Bristol.  Add to that the tunnel is regularly closed for weekend maintenance (check out when it was built...), and you have a pretty poor service from South Wales to London that at times takes the rather long route around the Severn.  Other things that screw up the line between Swansea (which is what we should really be talking about) and London:

    * Historic underdevelopment of the railways in South Wales that mean there are stretches of single track.  This creates problems when freight and passenger trains share the routes, and freight gets scheduled ahead of faster passenger trains.
    * The UK government fiddling with stations along the route outside of London, which in turn delays and slows the trains coming from South Wales. Without proper regard to us here.

What about north/south links in Wales?  Well, although it is a big thing for those that make the journey from north to south, there aren't many people actually making the entire journey.  What we do know, looking at travel patterns and demand, is that the majority of people make shorter north-south trips between key sites and settlements.  Where there are people making the entire trip you can either take the long and tedious trip through England (where the majority of the Marches line lays), and which is affected by signaling, rail traffic and infrastructure issues in England, or by road.  Those taking the road option will never be able to do the near 200 mile journey faster than about 4 hours (which is fast if you think of the route).

The National Transport Plan is due out in the new year depending on how the political wheels turn within the assembly.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Oct 1st, 2008 at 01:55:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One thing that might be added to this thing about the line between Cardiff and London is that it goes under the Severn.  This restricts electrification of the line, which means rail upgrades on existing lines will stop at Bristol.

Solution: a bridge for the HSR line.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 1st, 2008 at 03:06:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that would come very close to my house.

(the big problem in Wales is a lack of any real North/South Transportation links, into and out of the country in an East West direction are relatively well served, but North South is a nightmare)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 11:34:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll make a note in case I become Minister of Transport:

"Any rail line in the area to go through ceebs front room."

The North-South line in Wales will have to be built by the Welsh Assembly because it's truly an infrastructure project. There's no obvious "one best route."

Which route would you pick out?

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 11:37:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
New house to London, 10 miles more by road than from old house, roughly two hours less by train, (not counting the extra half hour of road journey to get to the station).

Probably the easiest to construct at anything like high speed would have to come Hollyhead-Bangor-Wrexham-Oswestry-Newtown-Welshpool-Llandovery-Swansea (Or Cardiff) The west coast really isnt practical without a great deal of tunnelling

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 11:45:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My two cents.

IMO full high-speed doesn't make much economic sense along a North-South route across Wales, even under Spanish conditions.

On the other hand, if the East-West high-speed routes would be built, as well as all high-speed lines in England (full WCML network, and Birmingham-Bristol); then going through Birmingham and Crewe, North and South Wales would be within two hours (I estimate Cardiff-Bangor at 420 km).

But within Wales, conventional North-South lines would make sense -- along which Cardiff-Bangor could be covered in 2.5-3 hours. (On the West Coast, the right-of-way of a number of existing and disused lines could be used.) It doesn't even have to be full double-track; if well-chosen sections of say 5-10 km every 50 km are double-tracked, that could make schedules flexible and delay-resistant enough.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Oct 1st, 2008 at 08:12:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For comparison with as-is, I just checked National Rail -- the quickest Cardiff-Bangor trip is 4:21, via Wrexham and Chester.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 1st, 2008 at 08:19:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think this is a more significant change in tone/symbology than Metatone's post indicates. The anti-rail/pro-car agenda goes back to Beeching at least - who's eponymous report was put together in the late 50s and implemented it the early 60s. Now the Tories were certainly more rabid about strangling the railways, but all governments have applied the financial tourniquet with various degrees of viciousness throughout the post-war period.

I am extremely sceptical of the seriousness of the tory announcement, but the fact that they have made it is very interesting. I suspect that a number of things have come together to shift the Overton window on this subject in the UK and the tory move is a recognition of this.

Regards
Luke

-- #include witty_sig.h

by silburnl on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 07:46:28 AM EST
True, but I guess my reaction is coloured by my prejudices... as TBG puts it in a thread on the economy:

ThatBritGuy:

You have no idea how strange it is to watch the (alleged) Labour party flailing around and trying to protect investors while the (alleged) Tory party says it's good to eat the rich.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 08:41:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They seem to be in the 'And everyone gets a free pony!' stage of the electoral cycle. So it would be wise to be circumspect about promises.

Even so - the promise of significant non-road/air infrastructure investment is bizarre enough coming from either UK party, so it's noteworthy from that point of view.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Sep 30th, 2008 at 10:02:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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