Monday, 01 September 2014
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On the rails, in the wind and out of the lab

In terms of rail, what do Spain, France and Germany have in common? The answer is that they have 5,465km of high-speed rail network between them, with a further 2,127km under construction.

By comparison, the UK has 113km of high-speed rail capability operating between London to Kent and the Channel Tunnel but that is set to change with the construction of High-Speed 2 (HS2) between London and Birmingham and further spurs north to Leeds and Manchester, the details of which were announced today.

David Cameron argues that HS2 will secure economic prosperity across Britain, rebalance the economy and support tens of thousands of jobs, whilst others state it will improve journey times between major cities, plus increase passenger and freight capacity.

The latter is most pronounced on the West Coast Main Line (WCML) with David Higgins, chief executive of Network Rail arguing that the UK’s ‘busiest and most economically important line’ will be full in a little over a decade.

In a statement he said, ‘This is a rare chance to stop playing catch-up on capacity. If we get ahead of the game we can create huge opportunities for growth and connectivity.

‘HS2 could be that rarest of things – a genuine game-changer for the railway. It can transform long distance travel, improve daily commutes on existing lines and create space on the network for passengers and freight to transfer from congested roads to an expanded railway.’

Furthermore, the Department for Transport believes HS2 will deliver £2 of benefit for every £1 spent on it before the wider economic benefits are calculated.

Andy Street, chair of the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership believes HS2 presents an opportunity to create a new industry in Greater Birmingham, using the area’s strength as an advanced manufacturing centre to attract the jobs associated with the project to the region.

Preferred routes from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds, totalling 211 miles, include the proposed locations of five new stations:

  • Manchester, located in the city centre alongside the existing station at Piccadilly
  • Manchester Airport, a new interchange station alongside the M56, between Warburton Green and Davenport Green
  • East Midlands, at Toton between Nottingham and Derby, and one mile off the M1
  • Sheffield, at Meadowhall, connected to the city centre station by a 5-minute rail link
  • Leeds, at New Lane, in the South Bank area of the city centre, connected to the current main station by a walkway

The HS2 Phase Two Command Paper can be found here.

In May 2012 Andrew McNaughton, technical director, HS2 Ltd spoke to The Engineer’s Stuart Nathan, arguing that the line will become a vital part of Britain’s infrastructure. Click here to read the article.

Energy infrastructure is high on the agenda in Scotland, which this week hosts the Offshore Wind and Supply Chain Conference.

Scottish Renewables has released figures ahead of the event that claim investment levels in offshore wind have reached £165m.

Of this figure, £65m was invested in 2012 and the total is said to represent all contracts awarded by developers with Scottish companies in advance of any consents being awarded to their projects.

According to Lindsay Leask, senior policy manager for Offshore Renewables at Scottish Renewables, most of the current investment has been made in research, including environmental surveys, technical engineering surveys and project demonstration.

‘However, this flow of private finance is also generating huge opportunities for the supply chain, and once consents for projects are granted this will both motivate new entrants and strengthen those existing companies who are already reaping the benefit of diversifying into this emerging sector,’ Leask said.

Scotland’s renewables represent 5.4GW in installed capacity with a further 4GW in the planning system.

Offshore Wind and Supply Chain Conference is a free event taking place in Aberdeen on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

The event’s organisers say delegates will be able to learn about the ‘key issues crucial to the industry’s success, including cost reduction, electricity market reform, international market opportunities for the supply chain and innovation.’

Britain might be forging ahead with key infrastructure schemes but the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) today cautions that long-term plans are required to maintain the nation’s global reputation for innovation.

The warning comes as the Big Innovation Centre publishes ‘Catapult to Success: Be Ambitious, Bold and Enterprising’, a report that aims to establish what the UK’s Catapult centres should look like by reviewing examples from Europe.

Overseen by the Technology Strategy Board, Catapults can be defined simply as a network of seven technology and innovation centres designed to help businesses thrive with the help of independent experts. 

Prof Andy Hopper CBE, president of the IET says the Catapult centres are set to receive over £1bn in investment in the coming years but warns that their success will depend on attracting exceptional talent and being able to ‘develop a symbiotic relationship between academic research and those working in the field.’

‘Whilst this initiative is to be lauded, I urge the government to ensure this is part of a consistent long term approach to ensure we boost innovation and get the UK back on its feet,’ said Prof Hopper.

Finally, while Ferrari, McLaren and Sahara Force India prepare to unveil their new F1 cars this week the motorsport engineers of tomorrow are already readying themselves to take part in the world’s largest student motorsport event

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has announced the preliminary line-up for Formula Student 2013 with teams from Australia, Nigeria, Ukraine, Pakistan and Turkey making up the 149 selected for this year’s competition, including 54 from the UK, 11 from India and the first ever entry from Oman.

Formula Student 2012 winners Chalmers University of Technology from Sweden, and Oxford Brookes University, who designed and built 2012’s seventh placed car, are returning to compete in July.

Formula Student, which takes place in Silverstone on 4-7 July, requires student engineers to design and build a single seat racing car in one year. The cars are then judged on their speed, acceleration, handling and endurance in a series of time-trial races. Teams themselves are tested on their design, costing and business presentation skills.


Readers' comments (22)

  • I find it difficult to believe that the west coast line will really be full in just over a decade. The trains will still be miles apart at a time when the road industry is proposing streams of cars only a few metres apart. We just need to learn how to use the existing rails better. Unlike roads, it is a closed, guided system, so should be easy to control. It might need more infrastructure at stations etc. but could be done within current knowledge. We could also then export the technology in the same way that we started the first railway revolution.

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  • There is one missing station, there should be a new park and ride station on the line where it crosses the M25. This will relieve London's roads and rail system of travellers having no need to enter the Capital.

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  • I can't help but think this is great expense to the general public to help a few people, whereas this amount of money spent on the road network would generally profit the nation as a whole.

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  • There is more than one missing station. what about a sensible line that will connect engineering based cities? a line that runs from the solent up the whole of the country and a branch to the west of England and South Wales would be good - even to Cornwall where jobs are required

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  • Why does everything have to go through London? Most people just use the place to change trains. It will benefit overpaid bankers going home to their country houses and a lot of non-engineering service people. It won't even help with tourist travel to those areas. Is this all about what benefits "suits not boots"?

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  • Over 8million people live in London, and most of them aren't bankers or overpaid.

  • Sorry Jeremy, but one of the most worthwhile things about this investment will be reducing the number of cars in the country. We do not want to expand the road network to allow even more cars, lorries, buses, pollution-----!

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  • When there is a time of unemployment and pressure on existing services. let spend some money on new idea's. From these projects, new jobs will be created, people will use this system, new company's may rise.
    let replace all our old rail system with super fast trains and expand the commuter networks to all cities.

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  • We should be producing the next generation of Monorail systems to replace existing track systems. This would mean not having to build on new areas of countryside. We could build a system on top of the existing railway without interrupting existing trains etc.

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  • We need to 'go through London' so that the huge population in the south-east can get to airports in the midlands, etc. That way we won't need another airport, or additional runways, in the south-east! Rather, we can 'export' additional airport jobs to the Midlands.

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  • A fraction of this money spent on using existing lines more efficiently would free up the majority of the funding to clear some of the worst road traffic hotspots and then spend the rest on renewable energy sources.
    I am astounded that anyone could seriously think HS2 will remove cars from the road. If it does, it will only be because of the increased taxes we'll be paying to subsidise the tickets making car ownership unaffordable. HS2 is an uneconomic joke, worthy of the Labour Party.

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