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The strange busniess of the Northern Power House

Spring 2016

Summary

The “Northern Powerhouse” consists of the North West, North East plus Yorkshire and Humberside.  It has a population of 15 million.  The population makes some 11bn passenger trips per year. Of those only 1.7 percent are by rail.  Those rail trips attract a subsidy of roughly £1.40 per journey.  In contrast the tax-take from the roads far exceeds expenditure.

Despite the trivial contribution made by rail the (astonishing) plan is to spend many times as much on the rail network as on the roads. 

This note sets out the detail and goes on to suggest that the better use of the rail network would be as a system of motor roads managed to avoid congestion.  The replacement express coaches would match, or better, the train for journey time at a fraction the cost.  At the same time countless lorries and other vehicles would divert from the unsuitable roads and city streets which they now clog. 

The cost of conversion would be roughly £5 billion, a fraction of the cost of the proposals for rail.  No other action in the transport sector could do more to galvanise the North.

The costs

Roads Investment Strategy for 2014/16 to 2020/21 dated March 2015 contains 160 pages but no costs!!! For heaven’s sake. Likewise, the ‘Road Investment Strategy Overview’, December 2014 has 42 pages, again with no costs.  Find the same failing in the Government’s paper with the title The Northern Powerhouse: One Agenda, One Economy, One North March 2015 – no cost and no time scale. 

The elaborately presented document Road Investment Strategy – Key Facts and Figures provides, for England as a whole and for the six years 2015/16 to 2020/21, capital expenditure of £15.7bn and routine maintenance of £1.8bn.  Of the capital roughly one third is major maintenance and renewals.  The same document provides £3.8bn for the North East and Yorkshire, and £1.8bn for the North West, a total of £4.8bn for major schemes, here presumed to include major maintenance and renewals. Adding for routine maintenance may provide £5.5bn, equivalent to £0.9bn per year for strategic roads in the North.

Transport Statistics Great Britain Table RDE0101 (TSGB0717) provides for the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humberside and for Local Roads £713 million of capital plus £513 million of revenue, a total of £1,226 million, see Appendix 2.  If the capital expenditure on Local Roads continues at £713 million per year then, for the six year period, total capital may amount to the Investment Plan’s £4.8bn for of strategic roads plus roughly £4.2bn for local roads, a total of £9bn.

In contrast the Government news story, ‘Revolutionary plans for northern transport’, 20th March 2015 provides eye watering expenditure for railways.  Options for New Routes have an emerging cost range of £40.5bn to 65bn with a mid value of £54bn.  “Upgrades and cut offs” have the cost range 12.5bn to £23bn, providing a mid value of £18bn, see Appendix 1.  On top of that there would be the cost of routine maintenance and subsidy to the Train Operating Companies. These values are vastly higher than for the £4.8bn for capital expenditure on the strategic road network or the £9bn for all roads in the region.

The product

The population of the North is 15m (NW = 7.1M, NE = 2.6bn, Y and H = 5.3bn).  Trips per head, excluding walk and cycle, amount to 726, reference National Travel Survey.  Hence passenger trips in the North total roughly 11bn. The Office of Rail and Road’s data tables 15.5, 15.6 and 15.12, provides 0.19bn passenger trips by rail, amounting a trivial 12 rail trips per head per year or to 1.7% of the all passenger trips, see Appendix 3.

The timetable for Leeds to Manchester suggest there are perhaps 78 trains in each direction on a week day or 156 in both directions combined.  If all have four 60-seat carriages, with an average load as high as 30% then the daily two-way flow amounts to roughly 11,000 passengers.  In comparison the M62 carries between 70,000 and 100,000 vehicles per day depending on the section.  At 1.5 passengers per vehicle we have 105,000 to 160,000 per day, 10 to 14 times that of the railway.

There are three Train Operating Companies, TOCs, in the North, Merseyside, Northern Rail, and First Trans Pennine.  Appendix 4 provides detailed statistics for each and for the three combined.  Two statistics stand out.  Firstly, taken together, subsidy in 2014/15 amounted to £242 million, or to 5 pence per passenger-km or £1.4 per journey.  Secondly, averaged over the network the two-way passenger flow amounted to 3,100 per day. At 25 passengers per coach the equivalent daily vehicle flow would amount to 124, a flow so trivial it is difficult to find any A-road or B-road in the country with less.

Comment

The Rail network, illustrated below, is, in highway terms substantially disused.  Despite that the astonishing plan is to spend vastly more on the railways than on the roads

Our contention is that instead of spending tens of billions of pounds upgrading that immense but trivially used rail network the tracks should be replaced by asphalt. 

The replacement road system would be managed to avoid congestion.  Express coaches would replace the trains at a fraction of the cost.  Tens of thousands of lorries and other vehicles would divert from the unsuitable rural roads and city streets which they now clog. Speeds would generally match those of the trains.  Service frequency would be at least four times as high and fares perhaps four times lower than the trains’. Furthermore, much derelict railway land would become intensely valuable given good road access. 

The cost of conversion?  Set the unit cost at £120 per sq metre, consistent with typical railway conversion costs (see transport-watch Facts Sheet 12).  Multiply by an over-generous width of 10 metres and by the network length of some 4,100 km.  That provides roughly £5bn, a trivia compared with the tens of billions planned by the railway lobby.

Of course the replacement roads would not have the 3 metre verges provided on new rural roads, but everywhere the carriageway width would be the same as required for a two-way trunk road.  Additionally, the alignments would be vastly superior to those of most A-roads most of which have no effective verges. 

The network would be managed to avoid congestion so providing fast road transport across the region, penetrating to the hearts of the North’s great cities. No other plan could to more to galvanise the North, otherwise doomed to waste its transport budget.  After all consider what would happen if they paved the roads with railway lines.  At vast cost the place would be at a near standstill, as is this huge and costly railway network.

Appendices

Spread sheet for appendix 4a and 4b here

Appendix 1.  Emerging and aspirational railway estimates, Q1 2015 prices.

Option
NEW ROUTES
Cost range £(billions)
1
Leeds to Newcastle
8.5
14.0
2
Sheffield to Manchester
12.0
19.0
3
Manchester to Leeds
6.5
10.0
4
Liverpool to Manchester
8.0
13.0
5
Leeds to Hull
5.5
9.0
Totals
40.5
65
Mid value
52.75
UPGRADES AND CUT OFFS
6
Leeds to Newcastle
1.0
4.0
7
Sheffield to Manchester
3.0
5.0
8
Manchester to Leeds
4.5
7.0
9
Liverpool to Manchester
4,0
7.0
10
Sheffield to Hull
NA
NA
Totals
12.5
23.0
Mid value
17.75

Source is the Government (DfT) news story, “Revolutionary Plans for Northern Transport set out”, first published 15th March 2015 see: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/revolutionary-plans-for-northern-transport-set-out

Appendix 2. Expenditure on roads in the North. 

 
£(millions)
Motorways and Trunk Roads
 
Capital
236.2
Revenue
202.3
Total
438.5
Local Roads
 
Capital
713.0
Revenue
513.1
Total
1226.1
All roads
 
Capital
949.2
Revenue
715.3
Total
1664.5

Source: Transport Statistics Great Britain tables, TSGB 0717 for 2012/13

Appendix 3. Thousands of trips per year by rail in the North (a).

2013/14
To/from other
Within
To NE
To NW
 To Y H
North East
8,828
5,948
 
978
2,570
North West
32,301
89,440
978
 
7,858
Yorks and H
24,368
41,683
2,570
7,858
 
Totals
65,497
137,071
 
 
 
Grand Total (a)
191,162

Source:  ORR tables 15.5, 15.6 and 15.12

  1. Sum of to/from and within minus (978 + 2,570 + 7,858)
  2. Calculation note: Population 15m made up from: NW = 7.1M, NE = 2.6bn, Y and H = 5.3bn. Trips per head per year excluding walk and cycle amount to 726, reference National Travel Survey.  Hence total passenger trips per year in the north amount to roughly = 10.89 billion.  The rail total, 191,162 thousand from the tabulation, amounts to 1.75% of the 10.89bn.
Appendix 4a. Train Operating Company data, Source ORR data tables (Outturn price)
MERSEY RAIL                           Year
2010-11
2011-12
2012-13
2013-14
2014-15
5-year
Number of Employees
1,200
1,220
1,267
1,242
1,251
6,180
Number of Stations operated
66
66
66
66
66
330
Passenger Journeys (millions)
41.7
43.5
41.7
42.7
44.3
214
Passenger kilometres (millions)
545.1
634.3
611.7
661.2
695.7
3,148
Route Kilometres operated
120.7
120.7
120.7
120.7
120.7
604
Timetabled Train Kilometres (millions)
6.1
6.4
6.4
6.4
6.4
32
Daily two-way passenger flow
12373
14398
13885
15008
15791
14291
Equiv express coaches at 25 pass/coach
495
576
555
600
632
572
Average passengers/train
89
99
96
103
109
99
Mean Journey length km
13.1
14.6
14.7
15.5
15.7
14.7
Subsidy £million (Outturn prices)
69.5
74.7
75.5
83.5
86.2
389
Subsidy per passenger-km Pence
12.7
11.8
12.3
12.6
12.4
12.4
Subsidy per passenger journey pence
167
172
181
196
195
182
NORTHEN RAIL                        Year
2010-11
2011-12
2012-13
2013-14
2014-15
5-year
Number of Employees
4,790
4,853
4,900
4,980
5,051
24,574
Number of Stations operated
462
464
463
463
463
2,315
Passenger Journeys (millions)
87
91
90
94
96.4
458
Passenger kilometres (millions)
2,026
2,133
2,122
2,210
2,276.50
10,768
Route Kilometres operated
2,746
2,746
2,717
2,734
2,734.30
13,677
Timetabled Train Kilometres (millions)
44
45
45
45
45.3
224
Daily two-way passenger flow
2021
2128
2140
2215
2281
2157
Equiv express coaches at 25 pass/coach
81
85
86
89
91
86
Average passengers/train
46
47
47
49
50
48
Mean Journey length km
23.3
23.4
23.6
23.5
23.6
23.5
Subsidy £million (Outturn prices)
68.4
96.7
151.7
172.1
112.7
602
Subsidy per passenger-km Pence
3.4
4.5
7.1
7.8
5.0
5.6
Subsidy per passenger journey pence
79
106
169
183
117
131
FIRST TRANS PENNINE         Year
2010-11
2011-12
2012-13
2013-14
2014-15
5-year
Number of Employees
1,019
1,030
1,126
1,175
1,240
5,590
Number of Stations operated
30
30
30
30
30
150
Passenger Journeys (millions)
23.8
24.8
24.9
26.1
28.6
128
Passenger kilometres (millions)
1,508
1,576
1,604
1,663
1,851
8,202
Route Kilometres operated
1,251
1,250
1,250
1,250
1,411
6,412
Timetabled Train Kilometres (millions)
17
17
17
17
20
88
Daily two-way passenger flow
3303
3454
3516
3645
3593
3504
Equiv express coaches at 25 pass/coach
132
138
141
146
144
140
Average passengers/train
89
93
94
98
92
93
Mean Journey length km
63.4
63.5
64.4
63.7
64.7
64.0
Subsidy £million (Outturn prices)
79.1
78.1
41.3
61.5
43.5
304
Subsidy per passenger-km Pence
5.2
5.0
2.6
3.7
2.4
3.7
Subsidy per passenger journey pence
332
315
166
236
152
237
TOTALS                                       Year
2010-11
2011-12
2012-13
2013-14
2014-15
5-year
Number of Employees
7,009
7,103
7,293
7,397
7,542
36,344
Number of Stations operated
558
560
559
559
559
2,795
Passenger Journeys (millions)
153
159
157
163
169
801
Passenger kilometres (millions)
4,079
4,343
4,338
4,534
4,823
22,117
Route Kilometres operated
4,118
4,117
4,088
4,105
4,266
20,693
Timetabled Train Kilometres (millions)
67
68
68
68
72
344
Daily two-way passenger flow
2714
2891
2907
3026
3097
2928
Equiv express coaches at 25 pass/coach
109
116
116
121
124
117
Average passengers/train
61
63
63
66
67
64
Mean Journey length km
26.7
27.3
27.7
27.9
28.5
27.6
Subsidy £million (Outturn prices)
217
250
269
317
242
1,295
Subsidy per passenger-km Pence
5.3
5.7
6.2
7.0
5.0
5.9
Subsidy per passenger journey pence
142
157
171
195
143
162

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, by request; Merseyrail has 180 carriages, Northern 770, and Trans Pennine 700, a total of 1,650.  Hence, all told, we have 4.5 staff per carriage not counting Network Rail’s labour.

Appendix 4b. Train Operating Company data, Source ORR data tables (2014 prices)

MERSEY RAIL
2010-11
2011-12
2012-13
2013-14
2014-15
5-year
Number of Employees
1,200
1,220
1,267
1,242
1,251
6,180
Number of Stations operated
66
66
66
66
66
330
Passenger Journeys (millions)
41.7
43.5
41.7
42.7
44.3
214
Passenger kilometres (millions)
545.1
634.3
611.7
661.2
695.7
3,148
Route Kilometres operated
120.7
120.7
120.7
120.7
120.7
604
Timetabled Train Kilometres (millions)
6.1
6.4
6.4
6.4
6.4
32
Daily two-way passenger flow
12373
14398
13885
15008
15791
14291
Equiv express coaches at 25 pass/coach
495
576
555
600
632
572
Average passengers/train
89
99
96
103
109
99
Mean Journey length km
13.1
14.6
14.7
15.5
15.7
14.7
Subsidy £million  (2014 prices)
74.9
78.8
78.4
85.0
86.2
403
Subsidy per passenger-km Pence
13.7
12.4
12.8
12.9
12.4
12.8
Subsidy per passenger journey pence
180
181
188
199
195
189
NORTHEN RAIL
2010-11
2011-12
2012-13
2013-14
2014-15
5-year
Number of Employees
4,790
4,853
4,900
4,980
5,051
24,574
Number of Stations operated
462
464
463
463
463
2,315
Passenger Journeys (millions)
87
91
90
94
96.4
458
Passenger kilometres (millions)
2,026
2,133
2,122
2,210
2,276.50
10,768
Route Kilometres operated
2,746
2,746
2,717
2,734
2,734.30
13,677
Timetabled Train Kilometres (millions)
44
45
45
45
45.3
224
Daily two-way passenger flow
2021
2128
2140
2215
2281
2157
Equiv express coaches at 25 pass/coach
81
85
86
89
91
86
Average passengers/train
46
47
47
49
50
48
Mean Journey length km
23.3
23.4
23.6
23.5
23.6
23.5
Subsidy £million  (2014 prices)
73.7
102.1
157.6
175.3
112.7
621
Subsidy per passenger-km Pence
3.6
4.8
7.4
7.9
5.0
5.8
Subsidy per passenger journey pence
85
112
175
186
117
136
First Trans Pennine
2010-11
2011-12
2012-13
2013-14
2014-15
5-year
Number of Employees
1,019
1,030
1,126
1,175
1,240
5,590
Number of Stations operated
30
30
30
30
30
150
Passenger Journeys (millions)
23.8
24.8
24.9
26.1
28.6
128
Passenger kilometres (millions)
1,508
1,576
1,604
1,663
1,851
8,202
Route Kilometres operated
1,251
1,250
1,250
1,250
1,411
6,412
Timetabled Train Kilometres (millions)
17
17
17
17
20
88
Daily two-way passenger flow
3303
3454
3516
3645
3593
3504
Equiv express coaches at 25 pass/coach
132
138
141
146
144
140
Average passengers/train
89
93
94
98
92
93
Mean Journey length km
63.4
63.5
64.4
63.7
64.7
64.0
Subsidy £million  (2014 prices)
85.2
82.4
42.9
62.6
43.5
317
Subsidy per passenger-km Pence
5.7
5.2
2.7
3.8
2.4
3.9
Subsidy per passenger journey pence
358
332
172
240
152
247
TOTALS
2010-11
2011-12
2012-13
2013-14
2014-15
5-year
Number of Employees
7,009
7,103
7,293
7,397
7,542
36,344
Number of Stations operated
558
560
559
559
559
2,795
Passenger Journeys (millions)
153
159
157
163
169
801
Passenger kilometres (millions)
4,079
4,343
4,338
4,534
4,823
22,117
Route Kilometres operated
4,118
4,117
4,088
4,105
4,266
20,693
Timetabled Train Kilometres (millions)
67
68
68
68
72
344
Daily two-way passenger flow
2714
2891
2907
3026
3097
2928
Equiv express coaches at 25 pass/coach
109
116
116
121
124
117
Average passengers/train
61
63
63
66
67
64
Mean Journey length km
26.7
27.3
27.7
27.9
28.5
27.6
Subsidy £million  (2014 prices)
234
263
279
323
242
1,341
Subsidy per passenger-km Pence
5.7
6.1
6.4
7.1
5.0
6.1
Subsidy per passenger journey pence
153
165
178
198
143
168

 



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