Archives for category: Transport

Reading Christian Wolmar’s article: ‘Rail’s dirty secret’, recalled last year’s  question on this site: ‘How many lungs and hearts will be damaged by air pollution before action is taken?’

There is concern about the levels of diesel-generated air-pollution on Grand Central (New Street) platforms experienced by travellers like Professor Rex Harris (Birmingham) whose work includes the promotion of a hydrogen fuelled transport system for rail and waterways.

Professor Thorne’s student monitoring air pollutants at Grand Central

Research conducted by Professor John Thorne (Birmingham) found almost seven times the annual average EU limit of particulate matter on one platform.

The TV programme Dispatches then visited New Street Station with its own monitors and found “high levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulates on one of the platforms… way above EU annual limits”. Network Rail told the programme it wanted the station to be a “safe and healthy environment” and that in the coming years it “will shift to less polluting electric trains”. Wolmar writes:

In the Rail Engineer, Malcolm Dobell wrote about a hydrogen fuel cell locomotive he saw four years ago; a team from Birmingham University had designed, constructed and entered a fuel cell powered one-fifth scale locomotive in the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Railway challenge.

He reported that Alstom’s new train, the Coradia iLint (above), which runs on hydrogen power rather than diesel, has had its first successful test run. It is the first low floor passenger train in the world to be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

The hydrogen used for the test runs is the by-product of an industrial process, which is reasonably reused as a waste product, but because Germany has invested heavily in wind turbine technology as part of its energy mix, it will also be able to use the energy generated by the wind turbines to make hydrogen when electricity demand is low.

As Dobell mentioned, the Birmingham Centre for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Research undertook a cross-disciplinary venture with a number of Birmingham Energy Institute academics and Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, to design and construct the UK’s first practical hydrogen-powered locomotive.  The Centre’s website adds that there will be a requirement for such autonomously powered trains to serve non-electrified lines.

Hydrogen-powered locomotives, cars and boats, emitting only steam and condensed water, Dobell comments, are better for the environment, more pleasant for passengers and less disruptive to communities.

Time for change.

 

 

 

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Congratulations to the Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB), one of the oldest Antwerp ship owners, which has built the first commercial ship that runs on hydrogen and produces zero pollution.

CMB currently sources its hydrogen from the chemicals industry but wants to get it through electrolysis powered by renewables in the future.

Bloomberg reports that the Hydroville passenger shuttle can operate on compressed hydrogen as well as regular fuel oil and has recently been certified to operate as a seagoing vessel by Lloyd’s Register. CMB will expand the technology to engines on cargo ships after initial testing.

“There’s a very strong commitment to decarbonize shipping from countries such as China, Japan, and a group of European nations,” said Tristan Smith, a lecturer at University College London’s energy institute and a former naval architect. “Hydrogen is one of the most cost-effective ways to do this. It’s proven, it works in the energy system and it’s easy to combust in ships.”

Cargo shipping is too energy intensive for electricity to be an option. “Even with the world’s biggest battery, we wouldn’t be able to sail a full day,” said Roy Campe, research and development manager at CMB. “Our trips usually take two or three weeks.”

The shipping industry, estimated to produce as much as 3% of the world’s emissions, was not included in the 2015 Paris climate agreement. But the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency, is to impose rules that limit the amount of sulphur emissions from ships from 2020. There are also talks about adding a carbon tax.

“We’ve had one in Birmingham since 2006!!!!”: Professor Rex Harris

The Ross Barlow is powered by a combination of a metal hydride solid-state hydrogen store, a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell, a lead acid battery stack and a NdFeB permanent magnet electric motor (project leader: Professor Rex Harris). The ongoing development of The Ross Barlow is one of the hydrogen and magnets research interests of The Hydrogen Materials Group at the University of Birmingham.

 

 

 

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A message from Councillor Mary Locke about city cycling has been forwarded by Peter Walker, Chairman of the Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum.

Would-be cyclists are being invited to apply for the latest free bike giveaway. In 2015 more than 3,500 people received an orange bike (above) and cycled over 300,000 miles which improved their mental health and wellbeing. This time the emphasis will be on encouraging families to cycle together.

2000 free Raleigh bikes are being offered to families and residents in the most deprived communities as part of the next phase of the Big Birmingham Bikes scheme. Part of Birmingham City Council’s Birmingham Cycle Revolution, Big Birmingham Bikes aims to encourage people of all backgrounds to cycle regularly by offering free bikes to those unable to afford them.

To see the Autumn / Winter Programme click on this link. There is information on Ride Active sessions and Led Rides, free of charge.

Read all about how to apply for a free bike here.

Bike banks – a children’s bike loan scheme (for under 16s) available throughout the city, targeting the most deprived areas: information here.

Copies of the brochure will be available shortly at the council’s Wellbeing Centres.

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Birmingham Cycle Revolution is funded from various sources including City Council funds and successful bids to the Department for Transport and the Local Enterprise Partnerships.

 

 

 

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Following an apology for the company’s mistakes in London by Uber’s chief executive and promises to change if its licence is renewed, Raj Khalid writes to the Financial Times from Bandra, Mumbai, India.

His stance is that Uber has changed the market, providing more convenient and cheaper rides to people across the world, adding:

“In India passengers were held to ransom by the ubiquitous black-and-yellow cabs. Mumbai was the only city on the sub-continent where they ran on meters. In Delhi the meter was very neatly covered by a small towel so the passenger never saw the fare. Even today in Mumbai taking a pre-paid a cab from the airport involves a hefty booking fee and extras for luggage.

“The Uber takes all your luggage, provides a comfortable ride in an air-conditioned vehicle. In India where street names keep changing and there is no proper numbering of houses, the Uber uses GPS to take passengers perfectly to their destination”.

Khalid points out that when responding to protests, a minister welcomed any system that:

  • provided jobs to thousands of people,
  • helped them to earn a reasonable income
  • and reduced personal cars.

In London, which is choking under diesel smog, Khalid argues the case for banning private vehicles and allowing Uber to operate, adding: “Maybe the car parks would lose money but there would be fewer cars on the road”.

 

 

Birmingham (see 15 blogs) please note.

 

 

 

 

https://ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/2014-2017-birmingham-air-pollution-blogs/

 

Water taxis are already plying in several British cities, including London, Glasgow, Spalding, Lancaster, Leeds and Manchester.

In London, MBNA Thames Clippers is building a service for daily commuters, using Transport for London’s system which allows Londoners to hop on and off boats by swiping their Oyster and contactless cards. It carried 4 million passengers in 2016.

In Birmingham? As David Bailey tweeted whilst working in Venice:

https://twitter.com/dgbailey/status/855495899115638784/photo/1

MBNA are trying to reduce the environmental impact of their boats currently using diesel fuel. Change is on its way:

  • In Hamburg, HADAG has added a hybrid-powered ferry to its fleet crossing the Elbe river, using both diesel and electric power sources.
  • In Southampton, a company called REAPsystems has developed a hybrid system for water taxi boats, one able to switch easily between a fuel engine and electric motor. The company will take their hybrid water taxi boat to Venice next year, where a hotel operator will run it on a passenger route through the canals and out to the airport throughout the summer.
  • A member of the Commercial Boat Operators Association, Antoon Van Coillie, intends to convert his large continental barges to hydrogen fuel.
  • A team at Birmingham University (Project Leader Professor Rex Harris) has constructed a hydrogen-powered canal boat, tried and tested, which is undergoing further modifications.

Will the council and/or a Birmingham entrepreneur see the potential of waterway transport from the Soho Loop development?

Artist’s impression

Will Soho Loop’s new canal-side community be able to travel from their ‘variety of energy efficient homes’ to work or visit the city centre a mile away, by a cleaner quieter form of transport? 

 

 

 

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Connectivity, though identified as such in the Midlands Connect strategy report,  is not the greatest transport problem

The Midlands Connect Partnership and the Department for Transport have developed a transport strategy that identifies the major infrastructure projects needed to improve the connectivity of the region’s key locations and drive economic growth, but it omits any reference to waterway passenger and freight potential. 

Its ‘Final Strategy’ paper (left, March) has no canal or waterway references, 12 to congestion and only one to air pollution.

Sir John Peace, the current Chair of Standard Chartered plc and Burberry Group plc, has been appointed as Chair of the Midlands Engine and will continue to chair Midlands Connect. As his experience is in financial services and retailing, he needs to draw on the wealth of experience in organisations such as Freight for London, the Commercial Boat Operators Association (CBOA) and the Canals and River Trust (CRT). Though employment opportunities abound in the inland waterway transport sectors in India, Uganda, South Sudan and continental Europe, according to online advertisements, Midlands Connect appears to be unaware of the transport potential of waterways. 

Jonathan Guthrie, Financial Times Enterprise Editor, reported years ago that canals could regain their role as conduits for trade because of gridlock on the motorways according to a new study for West Midlands councils, the Highways Agency and British Waterways, which found “considerable potential for the reintroduction of freight on the canals”. What has changed?

He added that the findings will resonate with any driver who has ever watched narrowboats putter past on nearby canals while stuck on a motorway. A canal freight shuttle service between the Black Country and Birmingham could move 175,000 tonnes annually and save 61,750 urban lorry miles, the study found. All valid points today. 

The CRT report, Transport energy, planning for inland waterways freight, records evidence given to the House of Commons Environment, Transport and Rural Affairs Committee (ETRAC) 38 suggesting that there is significant traffic potential. One barge company claimed that, “without trying at all”, there was half a million tonnes of freight that could be transferred from road transport and that the Aire & Calder Navigation could quite easily take 2,000 lorries a day off local roads.

To create a more comprehensive strategy, Sir John Peace and the partnership could co-opt a number of people with the right expertise. One of many is Tim West of Robert Wynn and Sons Ltd. He was consulted about low bridges restricting the ability of the inland waterways to accommodate some cargo on certain stretches and replied that his firm has been able to carry large abnormal loads to locations such as Worcester, Leeds, Nottingham, Rotherham, York, Preston and Manchester. The Inland Navigator (above) sailed down the River Ouse carrying a transformer to Drax power station, avoiding a possible 15 mile tailback on the motorways.

London’s River Bus Express (above) run by Transport for London offers the public a regular service which is described in detail here – a model for other towns and cities. The city is also moving large amounts of water and construction materials by water.

The CRT report points out that it is Government policy to promote alternatives to road transport for both passenger and freight movements, partly to reduce congestion and partly to reduce the environmental impact of road transport.  

Inland waterways have the potential to assist in both these objectives.

 

 

 

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Will passengers continue to face the removal of seats – and toilets – to enable more to stand sardine-fashion in West Midlands trains? Abellio promises standing room for 50,000 extra people on shorter rail journeys.

The West Midlands rail franchise has been awarded to a joint venture between East Japan Railway Company, Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co and Abellio –  the Dutch state rail operator’s international arm – which has a 70.1% stake. The nine-year contract will begin services on December 1.

London Midland reports to the Department for Transport but trains running only in the West Midlands area will now be jointly managed by the Department for Transport and West Midlands Rail, a consortium of 16 local councils.

Undertakings made on Abellio’s website

  • Nearly £1bn invested in services on the network over the course of the franchise with £700m of this going into investment in new and refurbished trains. 400 new carriages will be rolled out by 2021.
  • 20,000 extra rush hour seats for people in Birmingham and 10,000 for people in London. On top of this, standing room for 50,000 extra people in Birmingham, in metro style carriages for shorter cross-city journeys;
  • £70m invested in new and existing depots to improve train reliability;
  • Over £60m invested in station improvements, delivering over 1,000 new car parking spaces and over 2,500 cycle parking spaces. This is alongside new and refurbished waiting rooms, more seats at stations, and feasibility studies into developing new stations in the West Midlands;
  • A greater choice of travel options for passengers thanks to the introduction of new Sunday services by 2021. This includes services from Birmingham to Shrewsbury and between Bedford and Bletchley;
  • Greater provision of passenger information, with audio visual displays on all trains by the end of 2019, as well as 800 new digital screens across the network;
  • Free WI-FI on all trains by the end of December 2019;
  • The creation of over 900 new apprenticeships over the course of the franchise, with existing staff benefitting from a £13m investment in staff training and development; and
  • An investment of £1.25m into community rail initiatives.

Abellio promises, on its website, that this investment will bring significant improvements to the network. By the end of the franchise, space will have been created for 85,000 more passengers to travel to London and Birmingham during rush hour, with hugely improved stations and the widespread introduction of smart ticketing.

 

 

 

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A reader alerts all to National Express West Midlands’ review of Birmingham’s bus network. Here we focus on proposals in one area:

Its website says that traffic is getting worse, making journeys slower. Some routes are now 10 minutes slower than they were three years ago. This means fewer passengers, which is bad for the economy and social inclusion. Some might switch to cars, making congestion and pollution worse.

INITIAL IDEAS FOR FURTHER CONSULTATION, WHICH RUNS UNTIL 21 AUGUST 2017, INCLUDE:

Route 27 may not operate and could be replaced in some areas by changes to other routes, some of which may be run by other operators. This is particularly disturbing in that if this proposal goes ahead, it will leave a significant part of Bournville without any public transport. There would be no link up with Bournville Railway station which is a common stop for commuters from parts of Bournville who daily use the 27 to get to and from the railway station.

Stirchley and Bournville residents working in Northfield or visiting the banks and shopping centre there would also feel the impact of the loss of the 27, the only direct service.

Bournville Conservative Party has set up a petition to be submitted to National Express West Midlands, Birmingham City Council and Transport for West Midlands: http://www.bournvilleconservatives.com/save-the-27-bus?t=1

One main route is proposed on the Pershore Road – the  76 being diverted to serve Cartland Road and Pineapple Road instead of Dogpool Lane.

Maypole and Shirley readers need to consider the impact of merging routes 2 & 3

There would be only one route 3 with all buses running via Stoney Ln in Sparkbrook, and Trittiford Rd, Priory Rd, School Rd, Ravenshill Rd and Priory Rd to the Slade Lane terminus.

Would the proposal to run route 49 via Highters Heath Ln, School Rd and Yardley Wood Rd between Maypole Ln and Solihull Lodge compensate?

All South Birmingham residents are invited to take part in a consultation: click this link to be taken to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/southbirminghambuses

 

 

 

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Proposals for Brummie Bonds were first put forward by former Greenpeace economist Colin Hines at the end of 2004 (Birmingham Post – Comment: 5.2.04), at the end of 2004 by then Conservative council leader Mike Whitby mentioned here, advocated in the Stirrer (2008) and frequently by John Clancy (right), before he became Labour council leader (most eloquently in 2011).

Clancy acts, 2017

Professor David Bailey (Aston Business School, Birmingham) welcomed the news that the City has found a new way to finance house-building – John Clancy’s first issue of Brummie Bonds (more detail here):

“The City Council is already building more new council houses than any other local authority in the country – with the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust building 30% of all new homes in the city last year. But that’s still not enough and using Brummie Bonds to raise £45m to help finance more house building is welcome news. Clancy has talked of Brummie Bonds opening up new funding streams to deliver a “step change” in building homes”.

The Council has stated that the interest rate it will pay on the Brummie Bonds is actually lower than that charged by the Public Works Loan Board (or PWLB – a government body that provides loans to local authorities mainly for capital projects).

Pensions and life assurance specialists Phoenix Life, which employs around 600 people in Wythall, has agreed to invest in a ‘Brummie Bond’ and there is the prospect of other investors coming in. The West Midlands Local Government Pension Fund and other union and business pension funds could take up future issues.

Hines goes further, seeing municipal bonds as a safe haven for ‘People’s Pensions’ – just as when, following the Housing Act of 1919, the London County Council and other local borough councils began to sell housing bonds to the public to raise money for public housing. schemes. He also advocates that, in due course, such bonds would also fund the retrofitting of houses and clean modes of transport.

As Professor Bailey ends: “Hats off to Birmingham City Council for pulling this off. A “confident act of local economic self-determination”? Yes”.

 

 

 

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MARGARET FAIRHEAD RBSA: Exhibition in Reception Foyer

Canal views – Farmer’s Bridge Flight, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal

Until Friday 7 July

Margaret’s remarkable exhibition of works featuring manipulated machine stitching incorporating a variety of fabrics, threads and techniques, is inspired by a walk along the Farmer’s Bridge Flight section of the canal towpath. This journey took Margaret through both old and new Birmingham, passing thirteen locks in all.

At ​the BIRMINGHAM & MIDLAND INSTITUTE ​9 Margaret Street, Birmingham. B3 3BS

 

 

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