26 Sep 2014

Even more modest Västlänk alternative

Base from Google maps 
Here is an even less ambitious and expensive way of achieving most of the benefits of Västlänken, the principal aim of which is to improve access to the west side of the city centre. A circular route in both directions, it incorporates some existing tram route, part of a section currently under construction, and about 3km of new route, all on the surface. The most expensive piece of civil engineering would involve replacing or supplementing the bridge over the canal at Skeppbron. With just two additional stops, one outside the Opera House and the other where it crosses Avenyn, close to Heden, it would give a fast route from Järntorget and Haga to the Central Station.

Test the demand first
One of the advantages of this proposal is that the travel demand could be tested at minimal cost, and satisfied without having to wait until 2028, by the simple expedient of running a bus service on the route, initially at rush hours only. In fact, one has to ask why this has never been done? Where is the demand?

21 Sep 2014

Västlänken without tunnels

Base from Google maps
The vote against the Göteborg congestion charge was probably motivated as much by opposition to Västlänken as to the congestion charge itself. This is a hugely expensive project to dig a tunnel in a loop around the city centre, in the some of the most difficult geological conditions imaginable - waterlogged clay alternating with granite. It will take about twelve years to build, result in claims for damage to buildings, involve the destruction of large numbers of mature trees in the city centre and cause immense disruption during the construction period, with huge excavations and massive volumes of spoil to be carted away. It is estimated that it will take sixty years to recover the energy that will be expended in the construction.

There is no justification for it on transport grounds. There are five lines converging on the city, from(locally, clockwise) Uddevalla, Älvängen, Alingsås, Borås and Kungsbacka, four of these being the local sections of the main lines to Strömstad, Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen. There is no obvious choice as to which two lines to connect and, indeed, little demand for cross-city traffic at all, so the only benefit might be to reduce reversals at Göteborg Central. Passengers travelling beyond walking distance from the station change to a tram at Drottningtorget on the south side of the station. This is probably close to capacity. However, there is also a tram stop at Nordstan on the west side of the central station and that carries only one tram route (6), thus it has spare capacity.

The main claim for the route is that it will improve communications to the west side of the city centre. The above diagram shows how this could be achieved at a fraction of the cost and within a fraction of the time by the development of an additional tram route. This would commence with a new tram terminus outside the little-used Liseberg station, with trams timed to connect with the trains. The route would then run to Korsvägen, and turn left along Södra Vägen, taking the Chalmers Tunnel to Chalmers university campus and Salgrenska Hospital, from where it would run to Järntorget. It would then continue along the waterfront, past the opera house and turn left to stop outside the Central station at Nordstan. The route would then run to Polhemplatsen, and then follow the route to the south of Trädgårdsföreningen and back to Järntorget, where it would return to Liseberg by the same route. A second route would follow the loop in an anticlockwise direction ie along Parkgatan, passing Heden. Existing tram route 6 might be diverted along this route to avoid Brunnsparken, and the new direct route might also be used by another line, possibly the 11, which would then stop at Polhemplatsen.

This new construction of tram lines would largely alleviate the current poor access between the Haga area and the Central station.

25 Jul 2014

24 Jun 2014

HS3 - the high speed madness gets worse

Reports are that Chancellor George Osborne is pushing a proposal for a high speed line, "HS3", between Manchester and Leeds. This is conclusive proof that the man is clueless. This is a typical politician's response.

There is no advantage in running faster than 100 mph between destinations less than 50 miles apart. There are no further useful time savings to be made. Frequent trains and good local connections are needed. That means a programme of platform-lengthening, junction improvements, and possibly, new routes, but high speed does not come into this. Loading-gauge enhancements to take double-deck trains would be nice to have but the trouble is that the routes on which they could operate would be badly restricted.

Equally important in this context is the need to improve local connections through the development of bus and light rail services, as well as park-and-ride facilities.

24 May 2014

Govia gets Thameslink franchise

Govia's award of the Thameslink franchise and the introduction of a new fleet of rolling stock will not solve the problems that have affected this service since it was introduced in 1988.

Thameslink reinstated a service which had last run in 1916. British Rail had been reluctant to re-open the route, arguing that there was no demand. When, in 1986, Chris Green took over what was then the London and South East Sector and re-christened it Network South East, he pursued the re-opening of the route. The trains were packed from day one, showing that it satisfied a long-standing suppressed demand.

However, it has always been a problematic route.The difficulties are inherent in running a long distance service through the middle of London. It is consequently vulnerable to disruptions on both of the main lines over which it runs ie a points failure at Haywards Heath will cause delays in the Bedford area a couple of hours later.

A further difficulty is that the rolling stock has to be designed to inner suburban standards with relatively few seats and plenty of space for standing and circulation. This means that passengers can spend an hour in an uncomfortable seat and may have to stand most of the way. On top of this are the crowds of passengers travelling to and from Gatwick with their luggage. Standing is a shiny new train is no more comfortable than standing in an old one, and in fact the new trains will be little different fundamentally than those they will replace.

The Thameslink (and Crossrail) concepts in the present form are flawed. These routes should be cut back to operate roughly within the area enclosed by the M25. Destinations further from London should be served by dedicated services operating from the London terminals.

14 Apr 2014

Biggest fare dodger in history

"Train bosses have come under fire for not prosecuting a wealthy hedge fund manager who was described as the “biggest fare dodger in railway history”, evading more than £42,000 in train tickets. The City executive is believed to have dodged the fare for the 82-minute commute between the Sussex village of Stonegate and central London for five years.

He exploited a flaw that allowed him to go through barriers at Cannon Street station in London by “tapping out” with an Oyster travelcard. After finally being caught by a ticket inspector, the executive was able to pay £42,550 in dodged fares and £450 in legal costs within three days of being asked to pay up as part of an out-of-court settlement." Daily Telegraph article

One has to admire the guy's ingenuity. One also has to question the competence of the people who set up the system, for not spotting the flaw. Perhaps they should employ him as a consultant to check the security of their systems in future.

7 Apr 2014

Crossrail - one railway for the price of two

Expectations of an imminent start on a new north-south rail line across London have been damped, with the former chief executive of Network Rail warning that no work on “Crossrail 2” will happen in the next decade. (FT article)

The route, on a south-west to north-east axis from Chelsea to Hackney, was first proposed as a tube line in 1901 and has popped up regularly ever since. Now Crossrail was also originally intended to relieve the congested Central Line and the northern part of the Circle Line. This could have been satisfied by building another tube line on roughly the present alignment from Paddington to Stratford. In an easterly direction, it might have continued to, perhaps, Woolwich, and at the westerly end, it might have run to Hammersmith, and possibly, eventually, Heathrow.

The London tube uses small 3.5 metre diameter tunnels and electrification by conductor rail. Crossrail, by contrast, is a full-sized railway with overhead electrification, requiring 6 metre tunnels. Thus, almost four times as much material has to be excavated, and costs cannot be less then double the cost of a tube line.

Thus, for the price of Crossrail 1, Londoners could have had both Crossrail 1 and Crossrail 2 for their money. Thus is the money wasted on over-specified infrastructure. How did this happen?

HS2 threatens wildlife habitats, MPs warn.

The Government should examine the option of the maximum speed being reduced from 225 mph to 185 mph to cut carbon emissions, says the House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee. The report calls for full environmental surveys along the length of the route and ringfencing of cash to preserve habitats. Guardian article.

31 Jan 2014

HS2 benefits 'made up', economists tell MPs

Government calculations used to justify the £50 billion HS2 scheme were “essentially made up” a former member of Whitehall’s high speed rail advisory panel has told MPs.

Henry Overman, professor of economic geography at the London School of Economics said he had quit the panel after he felt its role had changed from providing independent advice to promoting the project.

Article in Daily Telegraph.

30 Jan 2014

Transport Secretary blocks HS2 report

The transport secretary has blocked the release of a sensitive report believed to undermine the case for the proposed high-speed rail network. Patrick McLoughlin took the unusual step of vetoing the publication of a November 2011 review by the Major Projects Authority, despite the information commissioner saying it should be released after Freedom of Information requests. Read more here.

2 Jan 2014

Government to pay to convert 1st class vehicles to standard

Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, is preparing to pay millions of pounds to turn first-class vehicles to standard-class on First Great Western trains operating into and out of London’s Paddington station.

The simple answer to this is to have a reasonable standard seating density in a single type of vehicle and change the class designation as required. A mark 3 coach will accommodate 76 passengers and their luggage comfortably, which was the arrangement before their most recent refurbishment. The virtual image above illustrates an interior with a mixture of facing bays and airline seating. This gives the same number of seats in a slightly shorter vehicle than the mark three, which could therefore be slightly wider, built almost to the full width of the loading gauge.