HS2 to Liverpool will be 38 minutes slower than to Manchester

Liverpool Daily Post

PLANS for a high-speed rail link to the edge of Liverpool have been quietly dumped, apparently to save money – adding to the journey time to London.

The 250mph trains were expected to run at top-speed from the capital to just south of Manchester, before slowing to conventional speed for the final 30-odd miles into Lime Street.

But The Liverpool Post can reveal that the trains will now switch to standard speed around 50 miles further south, at a point just north of Birmingham.

The move would make journeys from Liverpool to London a full 38 minutes slower than Manchester to London.

Last night, the department for transport (Dft) – which kept the change under wraps – was accused of a “sneaky move” that would leave Liverpool passengers in the slow lane.

Furthermore, the economic consequences could be devastating, ministers were warned – because the new plans will hand a huge advantage to Manchester in the battle for investment and jobs.

High-speed trains (HS2) from the capital were expected to take just 16 minutes longer to reach Liverpool than Manchester, once the second stage of the £32bn project – from Birmingham to Manchester – is completed, in 2032.

That difference in journey times has now more than doubled to 38 minutes, a potentially clinching factor for any business deciding where to set up in the North West.

One academic, who has studied the impact of high-speed rail lines on different cities in France, warned last night that Liverpool would be “collateral damage” – as Manchester prospered.

Labour vowed to press ministers to think again, when an initial consultation on routes and stations north of Birmingham is held later this year.

A Dft spokesman said: “It’s correct that one option was for the connection to Liverpool from the high-speed line to be further north, closer to Manchester…

“However, it is now intended for that connection to be at Lichfield, north of Birmingham, which means the trains will run at conventional speed for longer to Liverpool than was the case before.”

The spokesman agreed the change was likely to save money, but added: “This is good news for passengers from Runcorn, Crewe and Stafford, which will now have trains switching to the high-speed line.”

A spokesman for HS2 Ltd – the company recommending the route – said: “No decision has been made on how HS2 could best serve Liverpool. We are looking at a range of options.”

Cornwall wants to charge 50p for free pensioners bus trips

Britain by bus

Council Seeks To Charge 50p Fare For Free Bus Trips

There seems to be good news in Cornwall where the county council there has agreed a budget of £2.4m over the next two years to protect vital rural bus services.

Ninety-five rural bus services in the county had been threatened because of a cut in government subsidy for socially-important bus services.

It’s not all good news, though.

Cornwall County Council admitted that despite the new funding, it couldn’t guarantee fares wouldn’t go up. It is also going to ask the government if it can trial a 50p charge to free pass holders to further prop up the threatened routes – which seems to be an admission that the £2.4m is probably not enough.

Its a controversial step. One local councillor said that charging the neediest in society for bus journeys was a worrying move. “The bus passes are for people who can’t, by and large, afford to pay,” he said. “How can they now afford to pay for buses which had been free?”

At the moment there are 126,000 free bus pass holders in Cornwall, plus thousands more visitors, who will all be affected if the Department of Transport allows the county to become a national pilot area for the 50p charge.

Councillors lay the blame for the threat to bus services squarely on the Government for shaving £2.3 million from the money the council needs to reimburse bus companies for concessionary bus journeys. At the moment the council reimburses almost three-quarters of the normal single adult fare on concessionary journeys – but this figure will tumble to just half in April.

Neither can the council guarantee that fares on ordinary commercial bus services, which are operated without subsidy, won’t go up too.

Mark Howarth, managing director of Western Greyhound, reckoned that the extra funding was good news for the public.

“We’ve been saying all along the importance of bus services to the people of Cornwall, and I think that has been recognised by virtually all the councillors that they voted for extra money,” he told local media.

“We will only put fares up if we have to. But with the reduction in fuel duty rebate, with the cost of fuel going up, tyres, insurance, all these things are escalating beyond belief. We will keep our fares as low as possible, but inevitably they will have to rise.”

Howarth also said that he didn’t believe the Government would support the council’s plans to make concessionary card holders pay a 50p charge for what is essentially a free journey.

He may very well be right. If so, Cornwall County Council could find itself in an even tighter financial spot before the year is out.

Boris – Hammersmith Flyover – only 15 Years Left, Could be replaced by Tunnel

The prospect of closing for good the Hammersmith Flyover has been raised on here


Hammersmith flyover? The solution could be to dig a tunnel, says Boris

The Hammersmith flyover could be replaced by a tunnel when it is finally pulled down, says Boris Johnson.

The flyover is causing traffic misery every day as engineers battle to fully reopen the bridge in time for the Olympics. The Mayor has now raised the possibility that it could eventually be replaced by a tunnel.

The 50-year-old flyover, which carries the A4 over the centre of Hammersmith, was shut on December 23 when steel cables that hold the 900 metre-long concrete structure together were found to have corroded.

Investigations over Christmas revealed some cables had snapped, raising concerns about the four-lane structure’s ability to carry traffic volumes of about 90,000 vehicles a day.

It is now open to one lane of traffic in each direction. Repair work will focus on strengthening six of the 16 spans of the structure to ensure that they can carry full traffic loading by the Olympics.

After the Games, engineers will strengthen the remaining 10 spans of the flyover.

The Mayor has said he believes the repairs will extend the life of the bridge by up to 15 years.

Nick Botterill, deputy leader of Hammersmith & Fulham council, said: “Local people need to be at the heart of the debate about the long-term replacement for Hammersmith flyover and now is the time to start thinking about what could replace this ugly and outdated structure.

“The world has moved on and it would be unthinkable to put up an elevated monster like the flyover in this day and age. Many people, including architects, are starting to think about a tunnel.”

A spokesman for the Mayor said: “The priority is to get the Hammersmith flyover fully operational as soon as possible. That work will keep the fly-over open for 10 to 15 years during which time it would be prudent to consider what a replacement might be.

“The Mayor believes every option should be considered including the possibility of a tunnel which would also provide the great benefit of freeing up around 900 metres of land.”

How not to make a decision on Boris Island


David Cameron is to announce a formal consultation on plans for a new airport in the Thames Estuary within weeks, The Telegraph can disclose.

The Prime Minister is expected to offer his provisional support for a scheme originally proposed by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.

The Government had planned to announce preliminary backing for the scheme on Jan 3, with feasibility studies beginning in the Spring. The announcement was expected to be linked to plans for a second high-speed rail line as part of the Government’s long-term vision for Britain’s transport infrastructure.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, blocked the announcement amid concerns that it was being rushed out and had not been thought through.

No 10 sources said a decision on aviation strategy was now due to be announced in March and that “discussions are ongoing”.

The Daily Telegraph understands that Mr Cameron will be supportive of the proposed airport but will make a final decision on the basis of the consultation process. Mr Clegg is said to have an “open mind” over the proposal but is keen to consider the views of environmental campaigners and residents. The Liberal Democrat position is currently to oppose airport expansion.

There is a right way and a wrong way to make decisions on airports and Cameron’s approach would have been destroyed in the courts.  The 2008 Act, The EU SEA directive and the Greenpeace caselaw all set out a proper process for making such decisions:

  1. Set out the need for the development and options in a draft aviation NPS;
  2. Carry out an SEA/AA and consultation;
  3. Choose an option and put the NPS to parliament, including deciding if there are overiding reasons of public importance for any damage done to Natura Habitat sites;
  4. Minister makes final decision.

Of course a minister can be minded to change a policy but they cant show predetermination.

Announcing support for ‘Boris Island’ before the need had been established, before that site had been shown to be practical or even if there were not much better sites (which they are) would have been a recipe for successful JR.  Yet again Cameron has shown that he is is own worst enemy when it comes to major policy decisions when he ignores the advice of DCLG and DT civil servents.  The rules arnt that complicated, as here they can be written on the back of an envelope.

Edgecote Hall Escapes with revised #HS2 route

Undoubtedly the greatest heritage impact of the consulted HS2 route was on Edgcote Hall.

A grade I listed building in Northants, together with a registered parks and  (possibly) a battlefield.  The route would have cut through the park just east of the ornamental lake, a short distance from the house.

Justine Greening has announced today that route has been revised to loop around this cluster of sites.

A longer green tunnel past Chipping Warden and Aston Le Walls, and to curve the route to avoid a cluster of important heritage sites around Edgcote

Cars give way to pedestrians in new Dublin City Centre Plan

Irish Times

DUBLIN CITY centre will be predominantly for pedestrians, cyclists and those using public transport, with through-traffic discouraged, according to a new strategy developed by city planners.

Titled Your City, Your Space , the draft strategy notes that more than 500,000 people access the city centre daily – 235,000 workers, 45,000 students, 120,000 shoppers or other visitors and 116,000 inner city residents.

Notwithstanding the recession, it states that projections for 2020 suggest figures could increase to 350,000 workers, 70,000 students and 180,000 residents. This would “put pressure on the public realm”, requiring reallocation of road space.

“While economic needs require private car and service vehicle access . . . the predominant movement pattern in the city centre will be on foot – which means it is vital that the public realm is easily accessible, pleasant and safe.”

Dublin City Council says it recognises that a “collaborative approach” is needed to “develop a standard of public realm befitting our capital city”. The draft strategy sets out detailed actions to achieve this, in collaboration with other agencies.

City manager John Tierney says the purpose of the strategy is not to propose expensive master plans or signature redevelopments for the coming years but is about working to create better ways to carry out the work that goes on each day in the city.

Key players carrying out works in public spaces are identified as the city council, transport agencies, utility companies, State agencies and private developers.

However, there is “no overarching control mechanism other than a permit system”, the draft states.

“Establishing an effective code of practice for doing work and reinstating afterwards would be beneficial . . . it would also reduce waste and costs,” it adds. A need for consistency in materials used is also noted.

“There has been a proliferation of street furniture, signage and other forms of street clutter in recent years [which has] negatively affected the accessibility of spaces and their visual quality,” it states. Removing such clutter, where possible, would improve the public realm.

Among the proposals listed in the strategy are a pilot project to tackle an unidentified “high-profile dereliction blackspot in the city centre”, develop designs to upgrade Grafton Street, College Green and a “project” to improve the Liffey quays.

“This strategy proposes an ambitious schedule of actions [that] will require innovative solutions. It is a first step in promoting a world-class public realm for Dublin, and delivering its objectives with energy and enthusiasm will be a significant achievement for the city.”

The draft concedes that funding for public realm improvements, or even maintenance, “is an issue in the current economic environment, and new methods of funding need to be found” – by encouraging the private sector to manage public areas.

We want one of these in Croydon – Gourmet Tram

Visit Brussels

As its name suggests, ’Tram Experience’ aims to offer a gastronomic and touristic experience that is unmatched anywhere in the world. Guests will be able to enjoy several classic dishes of Belgian gastronomy, all modified for the occasion by top chefs. At the same time, they will be travelling along some of the Region’s most attractive roads, seated inside a vehicle with a white, sleek and modern decor.

€75 per person all-inclusive, but still necessary to book well in advance. The tram rolls into action on Valentine’s Day.

Tear down the Hammersmith Flyover

The closure of the Hammersmith Flyover due to the discovery of structural failures should lead to a bolder long term approach – tear it down.

After all in 1989 earthquake damage led to the closure of the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francico, it now reconnects the city with its waterfront.

Madrid has buried a six km stretch of motorway to reinstate a river.

There are examples all over the world, from Milwaukee to Seoul, with a freeway now planned for redevelopment as parks and houses in the Bronx New York.

Even where roads are not replaced there is rarely congestion for the simple reason that heavy amounts of traffic should not be in the centre of cities anyway and traffic on such roads must inevitably reach normal urban roads leading to time savings to be insignificant.

The only urban motorways or equivalent built in London were the first phases of the inner London Motorwau Box, soon abandoned, leading to roads which go nowhere except from one jam to another.  Why did the Hammersmith Flyover get past, well it did help that the main contractor was the family firm of the then transport minister Ernest Marples.

Now a TfL whistleblower is claiming that the safety problems are far worse than reported.

100s of homes were demolished to create the flyover, it separates Hammersmith from the Thames and a ghastly giant roundabout separates King Street from Hammersmith Station.

My plan would be to return the flyover to grade with traffic looping north of St Pauls church, but in both directions, and closing Queen Caroline Street to Traffic, There then could be created three new public spaces, one north of the Apollo, one between Kings Street and the Station, and one south of St Pauls Church.  Two 1 Ha or so development sites would be created west of St Pauls Church.  Butterwick would become two way so all traffic looped south of the Broadway.  I would also end the King Street Gyratory system making King Street two way but with pedestrian priority/shared surface.

Brompton Road I would reduce to two lanes with much wider pavements creating a grand pedestrian boulevard from Knightsbridge, Via Harrods to the Museums.  Cromwelll Road and Talgarth Road would be managed to be much more pedestrian Friendly, like Kensington High Street.

At the moment the only traffic function the Great West Road fulfills is to get out of Mayfair quickly to the airport – this should not be a priority – there is a train which is quicker.