11 times Heatherwick Studio declined to comment

Oh good, it's that bloody bridge again. Image: Heatherwick Studio.

The time it was rumoured to be at work on Google's new headquarters in California.

 

“I can confirm Heatherwick Studio and BIG are working on a joint design project for Google in Mountain View, California. We can't give any further comment at this point," Heatherwick Studio's Tom Coupe told Dezeen.

 

And the time it was set to repeat the trick in London.

 

Heatherwick Studios declined to comment when contacted by City A.M.

 

The time in 2008 when people started worrying about the spiky sculpture it wanted to send to Shanghai, sparking panic about safety and possibly also Anglo-Sino relations.

 

Consultants on the Shanghai project are understood to be worried following the design problems that surrounded Heatherwick's B of the Bang sculpture, according to Building magazine. A week before the 184ft steel work – commissioned to mark the Commonwealth Games – was unveiled in 2005, the tip of one of its many giant spikes fell off.

Lai Pak Hung, managing director at Davis Langdon & Seah, which is working on the Shanghai scheme, reportedly said: "We can't say we don't have any worries. Given it's the Expo, it's not just about safety – it's political. It could affect the UK's relationship with the Chinese government."

Heatherwick's studio declined to comment yesterday.

 

The time when Thomas Heatherwick offended four other architecture practices by publicly slating their plans for the redevelopment of the Royal Mail Mount Pleasant sorting office.

 

Heatherwick declined to comment.

 

The time when opponents of the Garden Bridge launched their “folly for London” competition, to highlight their contention that it was a total waste of public money.

 

The competition budget is £60 million - the amount of public money earmarked for the bridge by by TfL and the Treasury.

The satirical competition has been designed to poke fun at the real Garden Bridge and was timed to co-incide with a fundraising event for the Garden Bridge at Harrods.

Heatherwick Studios declined to comment.

 

The time it looked like then London mayor Boris Johnson may have broken public procurement rules, by taking Heatherwick to meetings with sponsors before inviting any other practice to apply for the job.

 

LBC's Political Editor Theo Usherwood reports: "When you want to fix your roof, you don't just ring up one builder and say how much. You ring up three or four builders to get a quote, compare the prices and make sure you get the best value for money.

"Boris Johnson should be doing the same at City Hall with the Garden Bridge - which is relying on millions of pounds of tax-payers' money.

Heatherwick Studios told LBC they do not comment on private business meetings. 

 

The time it emerged that Heatherwick met Boris or one of his deputies at least five times before the formal launch of the competitive procurement process for the Garden Bridge.

TfL has also been contacted for comment. Heatherwick Studio declined to comment.

(Heatherwick won the bid, by the way.)

 

The time the London Assembly said that all this was a bit rum, really.

A committee of elected London Assembly members criticised the mayor over the tender process for the 60,000-pound design contract for the new bridge, a pedestrian river crossing which would create a new green space in the middle of the city.

The committee said Johnson met five times with the winning designer before the procurement process began. One meeting was during a taxpayer-funded trip to San Francisco to seek funding for the 175-million pound project.

"The mayor's actions undermined the integrity of the process in terms of the contact he had. No other bidders had that contact with him," Len Duvall, chair of the committee that produced the report, told Reuters.

The contract was won by Thomas Heatherwick, who previously designed an "Olympic Cauldron" for the London 2012 games and a new model of double-decker bus for the capital. A spokeswoman for Heatherwick's studio declined to comment.

 

The time it looked suspiciously like Boris Johnson had wanted Heatherwick to win all along.

From the Architects’ Journal:

Transport for London was instructed that its chairman, mayor Boris Johnson, wanted the organisation to support Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge proposal eight weeks before it held the bridge design contest the designer went on to win, it has emerged.

A December 2012 TfL briefing note released following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request made by the AJ makes clear the mayor’s support for their scheme in its opening paragraph. This and accompanying material released under the FOI response has sparked renewed calls for the National Audit Office to investigate.

Thomas Heatherwick declined to comment.

 

The time Boris’ successor as mayor threw a spanner in the works.

The AJ again:

London’s new mayor has effectively suspended work on the Garden Bridge because of concerns that an enabling project at Temple Tube station will lead to more public money being spent on the £175 million project.

Heatherwick Studio declined to comment.

 

This time.

At time of writing, Heatherwick Studio has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.


 

 
 
 
 

To build its emerging “megaregions”, the USA should turn to trains

Under construction: high speed rail in California. Image: Getty.

An extract from “Designing the Megaregion: Meeting Urban Challenges at a New Scale”, out now from Island Press.

A regional transportation system does not become balanced until all its parts are operating effectively. Highways, arterial streets, and local streets are essential, and every megaregion has them, although there is often a big backlog of needed repairs, especially for bridges. Airports for long-distance travel are also recognized as essential, and there are major airports in all the evolving megaregions. Both highways and airports are overloaded at peak periods in the megaregions because of gaps in the rest of the transportation system. Predictions for 2040, when the megaregions will be far more developed than they are today, show that there will be much worse traffic congestion and more airport delays.

What is needed to create a better balance? Passenger rail service that is fast enough to be competitive with driving and with some short airplane trips, commuter rail to major employment centers to take some travelers off highways, and improved local transit systems, especially those that make use of exclusive transit rights-of-way, again to reduce the number of cars on highways and arterial roads. Bicycle paths, sidewalks, and pedestrian paths are also important for reducing car trips in neighborhoods and business centers.

Implementing “fast enough” passenger rail

Long-distance Amtrak trains and commuter rail on conventional, unelectrified tracks are powered by diesel locomotives that can attain a maximum permitted speed of 79 miles per hour, which works out to average operating speeds of 30 to 50 miles per hour. At these speeds, trains are not competitive with driving or even short airline flights.

Trains that can attain 110 miles per hour and can operate at average speeds of 70 miles per hour are fast enough to help balance transportation in megaregions. A trip that takes two to three hours by rail can be competitive with a one-hour flight because of the need to allow an hour and a half or more to get to the boarding area through security, plus the time needed to pick up checked baggage. A two-to-three-hour train trip can be competitive with driving when the distance between destinations is more than two hundred miles – particularly for business travelers who want to sit and work on the train. Of course, the trains also have to be frequent enough, and the traveler’s destination needs to be easily reachable from a train station.

An important factor in reaching higher railway speeds is the recent federal law requiring all trains to have a positive train control safety system, where automated devices manage train separation to avoid collisions, as well as to prevent excessive speeds and deal with track repairs and other temporary situations. What are called high-speed trains in the United States, averaging 70 miles per hour, need gate controls at grade crossings, upgraded tracks, and trains with tilt technology – as on the Acela trains – to permit faster speeds around curves. The Virgin Trains in Florida have diesel-electric locomotives with an electrical generator on board that drives the train but is powered by a diesel engine. 

The faster the train needs to operate, the larger, and heavier, these diesel-electric locomotives have to be, setting an effective speed limit on this technology. The faster speeds possible on the portion of Amtrak’s Acela service north of New Haven, Connecticut, came after the entire line was electrified, as engines that get their power from lines along the track can be smaller and much lighter, and thus go faster. Catenary or third-rail electric trains, like Amtrak’s Acela, can attain speeds of 150 miles per hour, but only a few portions of the tracks now permit this, and average operating speeds are much lower.

Possible alternatives to fast enough trains

True electric high-speed rail can attain maximum operating speeds of 150 to 220 miles per hour, with average operating speeds from 120 to 200 miles per hour. These trains need their own grade-separated track structure, which means new alignments, which are expensive to build. In some places the property-acquisition problem may make a new alignment impossible, unless tunnels are used. True high speeds may be attained by the proposed Texas Central train from Dallas to Houston, and on some portions of the California High-Speed Rail line, should it ever be completed. All of the California line is to be electrified, but some sections will be conventional tracks so that average operating speeds will be lower.


Maglev technology is sometimes mentioned as the ultimate solution to attaining high-speed rail travel. A maglev train travels just above a guideway using magnetic levitation and is propelled by electromagnetic energy. There is an operating maglev train connecting the center of Shanghai to its Pudong International Airport. It can reach a top speed of 267 miles per hour, although its average speed is much lower, as the distance is short and most of the trip is spent getting up to speed or decelerating. The Chinese government has not, so far, used this technology in any other application while building a national system of long-distance, high-speed electric trains. However, there has been a recent announcement of a proposed Chinese maglev train that can attain speeds of 375 miles per hour.

The Hyperloop is a proposed technology that would, in theory, permit passenger trains to travel through large tubes from which all air has been evacuated, and would be even faster than today’s highest-speed trains. Elon Musk has formed a company to develop this virtually frictionless mode of travel, which would have speeds to make it competitive with medium- and even long-distance airplane travel. However, the Hyperloop technology is not yet ready to be applied to real travel situations, and the infrastructure to support it, whether an elevated system or a tunnel, will have all the problems of building conventional high-speed rail on separate guideways, and will also be even more expensive, as a tube has to be constructed as well as the train.

Megaregions need fast enough trains now

Even if new technology someday creates long-distance passenger trains with travel times competitive with airplanes, passenger traffic will still benefit from upgrading rail service to fast-enough trains for many of the trips within a megaregion, now and in the future. States already have the responsibility of financing passenger trains in megaregion rail corridors. Section 209 of the federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 requires states to pay 85 percent of operating costs for all Amtrak routes of less than 750 miles (the legislation exempts the Northeast Corridor) as well as capital maintenance costs of the Amtrak equipment they use, plus support costs for such programs as safety and marketing. 

California’s Caltrans and Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois, Maine’s Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin all have agreements with Amtrak to operate their state corridor services. Amtrak has agreements with the freight railroads that own the tracks, and by law, its operations have priority over freight trains.

At present it appears that upgrading these corridor services to fast-enough trains will also be primarily the responsibility of the states, although they may be able to receive federal grants and loans. The track improvements being financed by the State of Michigan are an example of the way a state can take control over rail service. These tracks will eventually be part of 110-mile-per-hour service between Chicago and Detroit, with commitments from not just Michigan but also Illinois and Indiana. Fast-enough service between Chicago and Detroit could become a major organizer in an evolving megaregion, with stops at key cities along the way, including Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and Ann Arbor. 

Cooperation among states for faster train service requires formal agreements, in this case, the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact. The participants are Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. There is also an advocacy organization to support the objectives of the compact, the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission.

States could, in future, reach operating agreements with a private company such as Virgin Trains USA, but the private company would have to negotiate its own agreement with the freight railroads, and also negotiate its own dispatching priorities. Virgin Trains says in its prospectus that it can finance track improvements itself. If the Virgin Trains service in Florida proves to be profitable, it could lead to other private investments in fast-enough trains.

Jonathan Barnett is an emeritus Professor of Practice in City and Regional Planning, and former director of the Urban Design Program, at the University of Pennsylvania. 

This is an extract from “Designing the Megaregion: Meeting Urban Challenges at a New Scale”, published now by Island Press. You can find out more here.