Tag Archives: HS2

Choo Choo Ego

Before we get to the article ‘Can the cost of HS2 be justified?‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/feb/03/at-307m-per-mile-of-track-can-the-cost-of-hs2-be-justified), I need to take a step back, you see when I was young, stupid, eager and sceptic 6 years ago (I am still all that except young), I wrote on August 16th 2013 ‘Political ego and their costs‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2013/08/16/political-ego-and-their-costs/), there I wrote “As reported by the Guardian in July, there have been voices that the high speed North-South line, which will cost to the scope of 40 billion Euro is going in a not dissimilar direction. Even though the UK government is claiming a 20% nett return, the additional factors might have not been weighted enough. Consider that the current issues involving price hikes for train rides are growing between 4% and 9%, the group that can no longer afford these kinds of prices is growing fast. More important, these price hikes are now pushing people away from rail and towards buses for the sheer cost of it. This is an entirely opposing reaction to what the UK government needs it to be.

Those in favour of HS2 claim in the quote “This is a massively misleading oversimplification because it doesn’t take into account the significant financial returns that will be generated from an investment in high-speed rail.”

There was already a clear path of non-affordability and I am happy that people almost 7 years later give us ‘At £307m per mile of track, can the cost of HS2 be justified?‘, there is hardly an economy, there are spending sprees all over the place and the infrastructure needs serious fixing, yet some MP’s thought it was a good feeling (their ego) to give out 40 billion on a train ride that has more problems than fixes. 

The idea that the required budget has more than doubled requires a few more investigations of those trying to push this project. So even as we go with “Allan Cook ordered a “chairman’s stocktake” when he arrived at HS2 in December 2018 and last September came up with £72bn-£78bn in 2015 prices, or £81bn-£88bn in 2019 prices.

Nils Pratley informs us on the The official Oakervee report, which concludes that if problems are not fixed, the outstanding bill will increase with an additional £20,000,000,000. So there is that to look forward to. As such as we consider “Every escalation in costs has dented the economic case for HS2 – £106bn equates to an astonishing £307m per mile to build 345 miles of high-speed track.” I was of the mind that a clear case could not be made when it was still a mere £40 billion. Even as we are given “Government studies used to say the full Y-shaped line would generate benefits of £2.30-£2.50 for every pound spent.” It is not merely disputed, I wonder where the actual data on that model is. You see, if we take time into consideration between Leeds to Birmingham, how much time gain will the traveller see if we compare normal train versus high speed train and is that person willing to pay for that difference. In light of the Oakervee report where they give us “put the benefits at only £1.50 for every £1 spent. Lord Berkeley, the dissenting member of the Oakervee panel, reckons 60p is more like it“. The argument from Lord Berkeley is important. He gives us “running 18 trains per hour, as assumed in original projections of HS2’s revenues, is impossible. No other high-speed network in the world achieves that“, which amounts to one train every 3.5 minutes. In what reality do we have that many people travelling from one end to the other? Even when we accept that 14 trains is possible, the entire matter is set on trains that will never reach 50% filling (personal view). In all this we still need to consider that this is a train that merely stops at large cities, in all this I have some serious questions on the entire project and the stage of how many tickets will be sold, for as I see it at present, we are sold a bag of goods (optionally containing one High Speed Train) with a lot of problems that could have been seen in 2013, all this to feed the ego of politicians?

 

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Tubing it along

There is news, news that has been about a few weeks and I have kept an iLook on it. In one part it is as techofreak as it gets, so I should be on board the moment it launches, it is so versatile that it has no other option than to change lives on a global scale, yet there is the issue that it is so new that it is a little scary. That is the reality of all new technology; consider the first 10,000 Facebook accounts, the first 100,000 internet users. It all starts in a small geeky way and this will be no difference. It had more presence in the Saudi Arabia Vision 2030, so that is why I took another look. You see, the entire matter is not merely where it is, but it is how the technology is adapted, that is the first part in all this. To set this in the proper light, we need to take a step back. In the UK they have the HS2. So when we see the BBC (at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-16473296), we see “The initial plan is for a new railway line between London and the West Midlands carrying 400m-long (1,300ft) trains with as many as 1,100 seats per train. They would operate at speeds of up to 250mph – faster than any current operating speed in Europe – and would run as often as 14 times per hour in each direction“, so when we consider London – Birmingham we see ‘1 h 25 min’, as their fast option at present, which at 117 miles, makes the HS2 a 45 minute saving, so how many billions is that going to cost? Now consider that each one technical glitch will cut the 45 minutes. Now, I am all for progress, now when we go by two numbers we see “a projected cost of £56 billion, up from the initial cost of £32.7 billion in 2010“, we see that 8 years ago, they had it wrong by close to 100%, so we see a waste of £56 billion plain and simple. The UK could fix its schools for that amount of money and overall, there is absolutely no reason to go that distance, it is just too short. Now we get to the next stage of travel.

Welcome to Hyperloop!

Now as we see this in the Saudi Arabian setting it changes, you see when we look (at https://www.tahawultech.com/news/virgin-hyperloop-one-unveils-vision-2030-pod/) we see ‘Traveling from Riyadh to Jeddah would take 76 minutes (currently over 10 hours) utilising the land bridge for both passenger and freight movement, positioning KSA as the gateway to 3 continents‘ as well as ‘Traveling from Riyadh to Abu Dhabi would take 48 minutes (currently over 8.5 hours)‘, so here we see a clear forward momentum. Not merely 45 minutes gain, but gains that take away 90% of the travel time, now we are talking improvements! I never quite understood the HS movement, not in the UK (where there is some benefit) and even less in the Netherlands where the improvements are as shallow as it gets, all this ‘good for the economy‘ whilst I think it greased the careers of certain people, and in the end nothing for the citizens, and the less stated on the Dutch government joke called Fyra at a mere €11 billion loss, it is not a lot if you say the amount fast!

So even as we are burning ourselves all over Europe on high speed trains Hyperloop technology is different, you go by tube (as literally as it gets) and within that tube you have the option to truly accelerate, the nice setting that this will reflect on cargo and passengers alike, so it is also versatile. So when we read “The hyperloop-enabled transportation sector in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will stimulate economic growth and diversification of Saudi industries, according to Virgin Hyperloop One. It will also nurture the manufacturing and innovation sectors, and spur job growth in support of the country’s Vision 2030 plan increasing the GDP 1-2 percent across the Kingdom“, we are not seeing the whole picture. You see it is almost a lot bigger than that. The currently planned £380 billion mega city Neom would be an optional first as well, so Riyadh would be linked to Neom, which now is set to connect Egypt and Jordan, it also opens the doors almost directly to Sharm-El-Sheik as well as the Israeli city of Eilat, all golden opportunities which allows Saudi Arabia to grow the economy in Riyadh on a much larger foundation than ever before. In all this Cargo and passengers are set to near exponential growth, especially in the short term. So we have near direct connections between Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the centre of all this. It will not take long for these nations to grow all kinds of alliances and commerce will flourish like nothing we have seen before and Virgin, with its Hyperloop One is in the centre of this growth. Even as Europe is trying to get something similar rolling, we see that France is alas out of cash for such an endeavour (at present) ‘Hyperloop gives cash-strapped French cities hope‘ (at https://www.thenational.ae/business/economy/hyperloop-gives-cash-strapped-french-cities-hope-1.726967), it is a stretch, but it makes a lot of sense for France to get involved in all this, in their setting Hyperloop makes sense, especially regarding cargo (cheese and wine settings anyone). So when I see “TransPod’s technology is based on magnetic propulsion and electrified tracks, moving pods through a vacuum tunnel designed to reduce friction. As with most Hyperloop projects, the bulk of the estimated costs are for deploying infrastructure. Co-founder Sebastien Gendron estimates his company needs €20 million (Dh88.1m) in financing to complete the Limoges project at the current stage, and says he’ll raise half of that from private investors“, in all this, I am surprised that no one there called Ubisoft (more specifically Christian Guillemot, Claude Guillemot, Gérard Guillemot, Michel Guillemot or Yves Guillemot), they have the cash and more important, to be the founders of something this futuristic that will be moving through France with the Ubisoft symbol would be worth its weight of a train in gold I’d imagine.

So back to Saudi Arabia, the one part I do disagree with is ‘in support of the country’s Vision 2030 plan increasing the GDP 1-2 percent across the Kingdom‘, you see, once the line is in place, it will spur the economy in more ways, beyond tourism and beyond cargo, for close to double that prediction. A system that far ahead will also spur infrastructures growth as the rest of the world will be lagging behind, especially where engineering is concerned. They all claim they have ‘the technology‘ yet at present there is a lot more reliability that under these settings it will only be running in the KSA in a more serious setting in the foreseeable future and that is where the advantage grows, in addition, when the travel times are shifted to those degrees, emergency surgeries, medical disasters when Hyperloop technologies transfers and adjusts in more than one perk, we will see both the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centres in Riyadh and Jeddah grow abilities to attain options because they are now less than 2 hours apart. That transfers to all manner of services, when they are no longer separated by time to that degree, it will drive a lot more than the ones we see at present. and let’s not forget, this is merely the first degree of Hyperloop, as the engineers figure out a lot more than is currently possible, the growth will blossom further, and as we see forward momentum on this scale, we understand that there are risks, you when the gain is not 45 minutes, but 90% travel time is reduced the picture shifts a lot further on a larger scale. Even as we were introduced to ‘tube’ transport in Logan’s Run in 1976, we never imagined that it would be an actual solution, not until now do we see that there are places where it is more than a solution, it is the drive to move forward on nearly every field.

So even as I accept that we are not there yet and there are all kinds of issues down the line, movement is now a given, and even a some used the London underground map and added some Hyperloop fun to it, the setting is not that impossible on some part of those tracks. It is a part where all technology can move forward, we merely have to adapt parts of it. Consider that change as new venues of technology open will up, and there is serious cash to be made for all the players in this field, you merely have to find the niche where your solution fits.

That is where Vision 2030 is now becoming a driving force, not merely because there is $500 billion to be found, but because those who do get their working solution in place, for those there is a lot more to be made over time, Saudi Arabia is merely the pilot, it is the global setting where profit becomes a very serious opportunity, it will drive the now nearly born new Nouveau Riche generation to a very new level with amounts the previous generation never ever dreamed of.

When you sit down and consider the map, we do not merely see Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, we see that Saudi Arabia has the opportunity become the axial for those three continents, an option we never would considered as realistic when Vision 2030 launched 10 years ago, now that picture is shifting and with the growing technologies as Saudi Arabia is embracing these new opportunities we see a shifting picture, even as oil might be funding this, the reliance on it is fading a lot faster than we thought possible, not merely through Hyperloop, but through the changes all the technologies enable one another with and that also gives new directions, because it is no longer about volatility  (as Saudi Arabia was accused of by others in a previous blog), it is about stability and the enabled stability that these solutions bring.

For in the end making money will always win over waging war, that has been proven for the longest of times.

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Bridge or swim?

Last Saturday, one of the weirder pieces of news hit me. It was all about a garden bridge. Now, I have had my garden salads in my time, as well as crossing some ridges to get me to the garden salad in the first place. Yet what is this about the Garden Bridge? The article (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/apr/29/joanna-lumley-attacks-sadiq-khans-scrapping-of-thames-garden-bridge), is giving us the goods with “Actor who devised proposal describes London mayor’s decision to pull financial backing for project as devastating”, which is a genuine feeling I reckon. What some might not get is “In a study of the project commissioned by city hall, the Labour MP Margaret Hodge found the bridge was likely to cost more than £200m, and that £37.4m of public funds had already been spent without any building work taking place” as well as “Osborne committed £60m of public funding to the scheme when he was in office. The Department for Transport has already given £30m and Transport for London contributed £30m, £20m of which structured as a loan”. I personally think that bridges are cool, so I would be on board of this. In my view the two issues here are:

  • Where did the £37.4m of public funds go towards?
  • Sadiq Khans carefully spoken words regarding the HS2.

The second part needs some explaining. Yes, we know that Sadiq Khan has had a few issues on the Highs Speed line in the past as well a now, yet finding ways to cut costs in a non maximum effect, whilst that invoice will surpass £56 billion is a stretch on both sides of the equation. Oh, and before we all get comfortable, I feel certain that after the elections certain issues will dissolve and the HS2 will quietly be implemented. All that to save half an hour to Manchester. In that regard, if the Garden Bridge is actually scrapped altogether, the issues on spending and certain issues that MP Margaret Hodge stated will need open investigations in the open light for everyone to scrutinise.

Now, we all agree that costs will be seen in one light or another and when the costs are set at 10%-25% differences, there are a few details to look at. Yet, as I see it, the difference between £60-£200 is far too wide to be something simple. I wonder who else this impacts, and in addition I would equally like to know what makes for the difference. I like in part the response that our little New Avenging ‘Purdey’ Lumley is giving us. Her link to 38p to al the people in the UK comes to nearly £200M and as such the initial £60 might seem nice, but that is less than half way. Still, should the bridge not be placed? In a need for more options to cross the bridge, more reasons to not take the car and rely on a healthy walk is good for London and it is even better for tourism. What is equally striking is that former coffer key holder George Osborne was willing to go where the UK labour party is not. Even as from my early point of view, a bridge could be regarded as a drain on empty coffers, so not spending too unwisely is a great idea. In this I should be on the Labour side for a change. Even as Sadiq Khan is the person linked to a set of experts trying to save 60 street markets, in that I wonder how much these experts cost and why street markets are under scrutiny in the first place. In all this it is the bridge that suffers the consequence.

Yet in all honesty it is the response from Khan that requires consideration as well. “It is concerning that a huge amount of effort and expenditure has been expended on other aspects of the project when there is a real possibility that agreement will not be reached before the expiry of planning permission, or at all.

That reads like some people have been selling the ham without slicing the pig and now there is an issue. As I see it, there is an issue on more than one level, which directly gets us to the point of where the wasted £37.4 million went. Which is a valid pressing argument in public spending. And anyone who comes with the response that it is a ‘complex question’ should be stricken from any public spending consideration for life. You see, when I initially saw the article, my mind went straight back to he Guy Ritchie movie RocknRolla. As I personally see it one of Guy’s weirder views on London, yet entertaining and with an awesome cast. I am not implying that this is all linked to corruption, I am merely asking if the bridge process had not been set up to fail from the beginning and the funds offerings were not just there to appease a political climate at the initial time from going into the wrong direction. Is that such a weird question?

The elderly population might have been sussed to sleep as Jimi Mistry had his time on Coronation Street, yet the real world is neither that nor is it East-enders. London is a weird amalgamate of Citizens, Residents, Immigrants and Tourists. These CRITters make up for the life force of London and Bridges are part of this, in addition, with each bridge new areas of London are raised in value, awareness and investment opportunity. The question becomes, who benefits from those parts, perhaps the wrong players? All questions that are not asked, not shown and not considered. Merely the £60M question, what more does it need to build a bridge?

I wonder what happens when Joanna Lumley starts comparing this openly next to the billions the HS2 is swallowing, how long until a few construction players ‘suddenly’ find a way to get both made a reality? At that point, should we get cautious and ask a whole lot of questions, or should we quietly celebrate the victory of a Garden Bridge becoming reality?

I am not sure on what path would be the better one to take, yet in all this I feel that a first nail has been driven into the coffin showing that Sadiq Khan has a few agenda points that should raise questions and awareness on what he actually wants for London, actually I wonder what the view of Ken ‘red’ Livingstone is on that bridge. No matter if he is if favour or against. His point of view and especially ‘the why’ seems to be a question that I want to see from other former Mayors. Perhaps it is I who saw the issues wrong and he would side with Sadiq Khan on very valid reasons. I just like to keep an open mind, yet in all this, if I had to consider either the bridge at the max of £200M or a dubious HS2 at £58B, I know what I would choose and it would not be that expensive choo-choo solution.

 

 

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Political ego and their costs

I recently wrote a little about the Dutch Fyra train, a high speed billion Euro train that is still not functioning. There have been several pointing fingers, yet why is this such a complicated project?

You see, a project is basically a simple thing. It has a goal, it has requirements, it has noted milestones and if the project manager is a clear communicator, then that person has the easiest and best paid job of them all. That is the theory!

The reality is less clear. It becomes an increasing mess, when those in charge make oral promises and not follow them up, or even better, in some commercial corporations where sales executives make so many changes on the fly to wear the project manager down, so when things are asked, those sales executives respond with “where is it written down?” and the problem of it all remains in the clear. This latter example happens in several situations where the Sales department and not the project manager is in charge.

With Fyra there is a third tier, namely the politicians. The NOS reported last night that this group had been putting pressure on the Fyra project. Even though the testers reported massive amounts of events, flaws and even clear malfunctions and design flaws, they seem to have been ignored. These issues add up to a system that should not have been implemented. The political pressure that required ‘high speed train revenues’, in the light of spending was getting louder and louder. So over the heads of those people in charge stating that there are issues, the Fyra was implemented against the technical proven flaws.

I discussed the fyra in a previous blog called ‘Multi billion train ride’ on June 5th.

Now they have a situation where a train was accepted in this light of events and in that same light must be paid for. The Dutch rail roads do not want to pay and AnselmoBreda is telling them to pay. Even though it was never completely a fault by AnselmoBreda, there are more and more clear indicators that political interfering by approving something that was not ready seems to have been a clear interfering factor. So apart from the 7 billion in rails, they are looking at an additional half a billion for 19 additional trains that do not do what they are supposed to do. Basically, they would end up being regarded as VERY expensive non hi-speed trains. Then there are the annual interest and maintenance costs on 7 billion of rails, the list grows on and on. Consider these costs whilst the government needs to push 6 billion in cut-backs. Are you having fun yet?

So basically, a multi-billion Euro push, by politicians, who were guided by ego and a misguided sense of profit, the second factor was never a reality to begin with. If we consider this and see that under current conditions the Hi-Speed trains are not an option, then an additional 7 billion has been wasted. I personally wonder how many people will become non-accountable and in addition will be reason for a massive bill to the tax payer. Considering these events, the upcoming parliamentary committee might take a lot longer than many bargained for, which additional costs to boot.

So why are incompetent politicians getting in the way of sound business?

This claim is in this instance not about the present group, it was the previous groups interfering with this process, yet overall when we read some of the current statements on capping banking incomes, and then when it is decided that the new head of Robeco must get 30 million a year, nothing can apparently be done. Ah, the joy of claim versus reality!

There are several indicators that the UK’s version the HS2 is on similar tracks. As reported by the Guardian in July, there have been voices that the high speed North-South line, which will cost to the scope of 40 billion Euro is going in a not dissimilar direction. Even though the UK government is claiming a 20% nett return, the additional factors might have not been weighted enough. Consider that the current issues involving price hikes for train rides are growing between 4% and 9%, the group that can no longer afford these kinds of prices is growing fast. More important, these price hikes are now pushing people away from rail and towards buses for the sheer cost of it. This is an entirely opposing reaction to what the UK government needs it to be.

Those in favour of HS2 claim in the quote “This is a massively misleading oversimplification because it doesn’t take into account the significant financial returns that will be generated from an investment in high-speed rail.

Even though it is given that unlike the Netherlands, the distances in the UK make for a much more viable need, we should not negate that this is about connecting London to Birmingham. I agree that it is too simple to state that this line is for all those Ashton Villa fans in London, yet the same flaw is shown, when we consider the actual issue. If the distance is 119 miles, then a normal train at 125Mph does it in just under an hour, then why add 40 billion to install a train doing 155 Mph? Getting there 10-15 minutes faster does not warrant such expenses, more important, considering the economic charges, the group willing to pay such an extra amount to get so little extra time would be dwindling a lot faster than some might think, which beckons the question “What significant financial returns?” it is not until the train goes beyond 200Mph that this all becomes a more interesting issue, which means a 20-25 minute saving on that part alone. Here I agree that some (not all) will consider it. The question becomes how much extra will people have to pay until the 50 billion returns is begotten? In my mind that requires a commuting population a lot higher then it seems to have, or the tickets will become extremely pricey to say the least. In my mind, the wisdom is in the middle, it takes a massive amount of traveller, all paying top pound a day. Considering that the economy is nowhere near that strong in the UK until past 2016, the costs involved might be way too high. This all in the end gives weight to the statement made by the Institute of Economic Affairs calling it a “political vanity project“.

So which cheques are underwritten by a political ego and can people afford the consequences of such amounts?

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