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European HSR expansion in 2007

by DoDo Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 03:30:26 AM EST

Gauge-changing semi-high-speed train 130 003 at Madrid Chamartín, start of a new line in service since 23 December. (In the background: a class 252 "Eurosprinter" loco.) Photo by Mariano Alvaro from Flickr.com

2007 saw the opening of several high-speed lines in Europe, and it could have seen even more save for delays. This is my overdue intro and review of them.



Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) 2

When then British PM Margaret Thatcher reluctantly agreed to the construction of the Channel Tunnel ("Chunnel", Eurotunnel) in 1986, her condition was that not a single penny of public funds should be spent on it. One result was chaotic organisation, including a messy financial structure with hundreds of private banks. Another was that while France managed to finish its Paris–Chunnel high-speed line mostly on time and budget, and Belgium its part from Brussels with some delays, no one volunteered to build anything from the Chunnel to London.

Thus, high-speed trains had not only to slog along on old lines at low speed, but

  • instead of standard TGV trains, ones with new chassis had to be designed and purchased, so that they fit into narrower British loading gauges (=cross sections);
  • the trains had to be fitted with extra third-rail electric equipment as used in South East England;
  • ditto for train control and safety equipment;
  • once running, getting struck in South London's and South East England's busy traffic meant lots of delays.

An Eurostar crosses the Medway Viaduct on the not yet opened first leg of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, during the 30 July 2003 record run that achieved the British rail speed record of 334.7 km/h. Photo from Erik's Rail News

So, a decade after Thatcher's decision, her successor John Major's government decided to get construction on track in the form of a public–private partnership (PPP): private companies shall build and run the line, with heavy financial involvement of the state at the construction stage.

On the surface, the result seems to validate the concept: construction finished largely on time and budget. The only significant construction accident was when a tunnel boring machine (TBM) hit a buried 19th-century well that was missing from the maps, resulting in a hole on the surface. The only major over-budget work was a station construction that was not in full control of the project (it's only in part for the high-speed line).

However, on one hand, even though the builders included an American company infamous from Iraq, Bechtel, quality technology was ensured by the inclusion of Systra, one of the companies building the TGV lines in France. In fact, the entire line has been built according to French high-speed line standards.

On the other hand, the agreed contract price (altogether £5.2 billion) and deadlines were soooo generous that abiding by them is less surprising.

Map of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (based on map in downloads at official site)

CTRL 1 was opened in autumn 2003. It was the easier part: only one major bridge, one station (Ashford International), and one major tunnel (the North Downs Tunnel, across the water divide to the Thames valley, which became the UK's longest at a mere 3.2 km). The 74 km section carried trains to the edge of Greater London, cutting some 20 minutes from scheduled times (and even more from actual travel times, as delays were reduced). The result: double-digit percentage growth in passenger numbers, and that for two years! This would seem less impressive considering that absolute numbers only climbed back to the c. 8 million/year pre-dotcom-crash record, but it was achieved on a smaller market with low-budget airlines as competitors.

CTRL 2 continued by diving under the Thames, surfacing onto a viaduct, then some level track, followed by 19 km of tunnels under outer London, right until the track complex before King's Cross and St. Pancras stations. The 39 km line terminates in the latter, which received a major overhaul. In the middle of the London tunnels, there is an one-kilometre open trench, harbouring Stratford International station, which is just next to the site of the 2012 Olympics.

I should note that CTRL 1+2 has been renamed, into the entirely uninspired/ing High Speed 1, but now that I linked to it I'm going to stick to the old name. Since CTRL 2 opened on 14 November, cutting a further 20 minutes from travel time (also because of shorter route, to another station) further growth was impressive: in its first one-and-half months, +11% on the same period last year (contributing to 2007's overall annual record of 8.26 million).

In the renewed London terminal St Pancras International, Eurostar train 3005 stands ready for the 08:05 departure to Brussels Midi, 28 December 2007. Photo by kpmarek from Flickr.com

I close this section with a new train. From 2009, 29 class 395 "Javelin" trainsets will run semi-high-speed services branching off from the CTRL to South East England cities. The class is from Hitachi's A-train platform. (This break into the EU market is a great success for Japanese rail technology.)

The first Hitachi Class 395 high speed domestic train sits outside the new depot at Ashford as the 10.43 London Waterloo to Brussels Eurostar races over the viaduct at 160 mph (257.5 km/h) on the left, 9 November 2007. Photo by Brian Stephenson from RailPictures.Net


Spain

The boldest high-speed expansion plans in Europe are Spain's. High-speed rail meant modernity for both the centre-left PSOE and the right-wing PP parties. But the recent history is that while the Aznar government pushed too many projects with too tight deadlines and not enough oversight, the Zapatero government seems stressed even with just trying to manage to completion of projects begun during Aznar's time.

Three lines were about to open just before Christmas last year.

True high-speed lines in Spain (own drawing).
Black: in 250+km/h service previously
Red: in 300 km/h service since last year, dark red: soon
Blue: lines currently in construction for 300 km/h or higher
Not shown: lines in planning stage, 200+km/h conventional line upgrades

One was the long overdue final section of the Madrid–Barcelona high-speed line, delayed due to long disputes with Barcelona about the layout, and a rather messy contracting process. Then earlier last year, when seeing that construction companies aren't on track to meet their deadlines, the transport minister decided to push the companies to work full-throttle. Of course, the result was irresponsible and shoddy work, which led to accidents, further delays, and a collapse of Barcelona's commuter traffic (see kcurie's account: 1, 2, 3). Opening is now planned for 28 February.

An AVE/RENFE series 120 variable-gauge train (CAF-Alstom, sometimes named "BRAVA" after its bogie type) on the renewed broad-gauge line into Barcelona, 17 December 2007. To the left, the then end of the standard-gauge high-speed track-laying. Photo by Sanlucar-Playa from SkyscraperCity

On 22 December 2007, the Madrid–Segovia–Valladolid line opened [pdf, Spanish!]. 179.5 km built from €4.205 billion, this line will serve as trunk line for Spain's entire North, to be fed by at least five future lines. Beyond several "shorter" tunnels (up to 9.5 km), it runs through the 28,418.66 m long Guadarrama Tunnel (crossing the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain chain north of Madrid), which is currently the fourth-longest tunnel in the world.

The line is currently served by two types of trains. One is the Talgo 350 type (AVE/RENFE series 102), whose top speed (despite the type name) would be 330 km/h, but is now limited to 'only' 300 km/h, due to ongoing lack of fitness for service of the ERTMS Level 2 train control system. The duckbill nose shape (hence the Spanish nickname: Pato) is meant to better deal with side winds and reduce aerodynamic noise. The trains cut travel time by between one and one and a half hours.

An AVE/RENFE series 102 near Tres Cantos, during final test runs on the Madrid-Valladolid line, 11 December 2007. Photo by Luis Miguel R.S. from Flickr.com

The other train type on the line, which got a similar "duckbill-nosed" styling (hence Spanish nickname: Patito), is the series version of Talgo's variable-gauge train (AVE/RENFE series 130). (The (diesel) prototype, when testing this line, was covered in a comment thread on ET.) The S-130 has a top speed of only 250 km/h, but after simply driving through a special transitional track at 15 km/h, it can continue to destinations on broad-gauge conventional lines. (It's rival, the S-120, does the same, but Talgo deserves credit for being first.)

An AVE/RENFE series 130 runs through the gauge-changing facility in Roda de Bará (current end of the Madrid-Barcelona line). Video by peettheengineer

On 23 December 2007, the Córdoba–Málaga high-speed line was fully opened [pdf, in Spanish!].

Short TV reportage on the opening, with some aerial shots. Video from YouTube

This is a branch off Spain's first high-speed line (Madrid–Sevilla). It first climbs on a plateau, then crosses the 7297 m Abdalajís Tunnel, and descends across several tunnels and bridges along a valley to the Mediterranean coast. It was put in service until Antequera (first two-thirds on the plateau) one year ago, but didn't see full high-speed service until now. Altogether 168.8 km was built from €2.539 billion.

Again cutting more than one and a half hour, the line is served by AVE/RENFE series S-102 and S-103 "Velaro-E" trains (see one of both behind Zapatero in the video). The latter is Siemens's up-powered version of the German railways' flagship ICE-3. But again, though the S-103 could do 350 km/h, the present train control system limits it to 300 km/h.

The inaugural run with an AVE/RENFE series 103 "Velaro-E" just left the 837 m viaduct of Jévar, near Ávila/Andalusia, 22 December 2007. Photo by Fuen446 from trensim.com

Until 7 January, 416 of the 438 train runs on the two new lines were on-time (in the last few days, 100%) – note that AVE/RENFE pays back 50% of your ticket when 15 minutes late, and all when 30 minutes late. The Valladolid line saw 18,378 passengers in 130 trains, the Málaga line 58,510 passengers in 308 trains – that's seat utilisations around 50%, low for high-speed rail, but expect improvement as passengers discover the new offer.


Elsewhere

Two more lines that were diaried earlier, so here only in brief:

  1. The first two-thirds of the LGV Est Européenne in France went into service on 10 June 2007. We covered the VIP opening trains, the new record run on it, praised competent state management, and I wrote a trip report one way as well as the other way.

    In the first three months, SNCF's overall traffic on all relations using the new line was 2.9 million passengers (a growth of 65%!), and 7 million by the end of 2007. the plan was an annual 11.5 million by 2010, now it looks like that will be surpassed in the first year. The (over-budget) €5.515 billion seems to have been worth it.

  2. The 34,576.6 m long (world's third longest) Lötschberg Base Tunnel (and its short connections to existing lines) in Switzerland, commissioned for 250 km/h, was officially opened on 15 June 2007, I covered it. But while regular freight trains used it soon, for passenger shuttle trains, one had to wait until 15 September, and full-scale through service started on 9 December last year.

Honorary mention should go to two line doublings in Italy: the now four-tracked (Milan–)Pioltello–Treviglio and Padova–Mestre(–Venice) sections, which went into service on 2 July resp. 1 March 2007. Only about a third of the former is suitable for 250 km/h, but the higher-speed tracks of both will form part of a future Milan–Trieste line.

Another honorary mention should go to Turkey: although not in the European part, two long lines are in construction for 250 km/h. First to open is the 226 km Ankara–Eskişehir section of the line to Istanbul. The Italian State Railways' ETR 500 Y2 high-speed test train was used for commissioning. During a test run on 12 September 2007, it set a new rail speed record for Turkey: 303 km/h.

However, Hızlı Tren revenue service starting this year will first be shouldered by Spanish exports, 10 trainsets equivalent to the AVE/RENFE S-120, and later by South Korean ROTEM's HSR-350x.

ETR 500 Y2 during an early low-speed trial near Beylikköprü on 26 April 2007, posted on YouTube by skyzes


What's next?

First a string of delayed projects:

  • Barcelona city access (28 February 2008?);
  • Antwerp–Rotterdam–Amsterdam (HSL 4/HSL Zuid) in Belgium and the Netherlands, delays with rolling stock delivery (October 2008?);
  • Liège to (near) Aachen (HSL/LGV 3) in Belgium, again rolling stock equipment delivery delays (December 2008?);
  • Naples city access in Italy, was held up by archaeological works (June 2008?);
  • (most of) Bologna–Milan, delays with city accesses (15 December 2008?);
  • Florence–Bologna (a line almost exclusively in tunnels), delays with city access sections and tunnel fitting (October 2009?).

For all but the first, the on-going problems with ERTMS Level 2 contributes to the delay, too.

One more this year: in northern Sweden, the Örnsköldsvik–Husum section of the Botniabanan will open in October 2008. This will be a single-track mixed-traffic mainline, but in theory for 250 km/h.

In Italy, finishing the great question-mark-shaped line from Torino to Naples, the Novara–Milan section may open in December 2009 (if it is not delayed).

Then there are a whole load of in-construction lines in Spain, which I drew into the map above:

  • Barcelona–Figueres–Perpignan/France (ready maybe in 2010);
  • Vitoria–Bilbao/San Sebastián/Irún ("Y Vasca"='Basque Y');
  • Pajares (first-built section of line to Gijón, with a 24,667 m tunnel);
  • Ourense–Santiago de Compostela (the final section of a future line to Galicia; construction of the other end, where it branches off the Valladolid line, will begin soon);
  • a whole tree of lines from Madrid to the south-east (Valencia, Albacete, Alicante, Murcia);
  • Mérida–Badajoz (a first section of the Madrid–Lisbon line) near the Portugal border;
  • Sevilla–Antequera–Granada ("Transversal Andaluz"), crosses the just opened Málaga branch (2013/2010).

In addition, there are 200+km/h conventional line upgrades (with preparation for re-gauging): from Zaragoza south to Teruel, Vigo–A Coruña (along the western shore) and Monforte–Lugo (near the eastern border) in Galicia, the northern third of the Valencia–Tarragona(–Barcelona) Mediterranean line, Alcázar de San Juan–Linares–Jaén (south of Madrid); and Sevilla–Cádiz, which shall be further upgraded to a high-speed line (hence also on the map).

Of the curently more or less in-construction lines in France, the one with a fixed schedule is the eastern leg (Branche Est) of the LGV Rhin–Rhône, to be opened in December 2011 (earlier mentions on ET: 1, 2).

Above: Boring of the Chavanne Tunnel starts. Just 1970 m, but the only significant tunnel along Branche Est of the LGV Rhin–Rhône.

Below: Viaduc de la Linotte - Ormenans, the bridge deck starts progress from one side.

Photos made on 17 July 2007 from the official construction photo album

Update [2008-1-20 17:28:40 by DoDo]: Forgot: in Germany, the sole project to mention is the 9,385 m Katzenbergtunnel, and the adjoining sections of a line doubling north of Basel, in the south-eastern corner of Germany. The two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) holed through on 20 September resp. 1 October, but 250 km/h traffic will only roll through from 2011.

:: :: :: :: ::

Check the Train Blogging index page for a (hopefully) complete list of ET diaries and stories related to railways and trains.

Display:
Enjoy -- I spent entirely too much time travling for pictures & data on Spanish, Italian, Turkish sites without speaking the languages...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 08:45:39 AM EST
I see in the end I forgot just the sole German project warranting a mention, now added at the end.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 05:30:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a bit annoying to see that France, the High Speed pioneer in France, hasn't built more high-speed lines. Big infrastructure projects are not hip right now, compared to Spain... compare the city rail construction between Madrid and Paris, too.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 08:55:57 AM EST
See this page for all of RFF's projects (the French network operator)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 11:22:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  • One major line entered service, on 5 January: Taiwan's THSR (Taipei-Kaohsiung, all along the Eastern shore). It is served by a modified, 300 km/h version of the Series 700 Shinkansen from Japan (700T).

  • In Japan itself, JR Central and JR West put the N700 in service: an improved Series 700 that can both tilt and travel at 300 km/h.

  • Also in Japan, the tests with JR East's two Fastech 360 prototypes weren't as positive as hoped. These trains were built for 405 km/h, and research with them was meant to result in trains doing 360 km/h in revenue service. The problem wasn't speed: 398 km/h was achieved. Rather, the very strict limits on noise emissions, overhead wire wear, and braking distances weren't met as planned. Thus, JR East's future E5 units will only do 320 km/h (same as the TGV POS and ICE-3 units on the LGV Est Européenne).

  • South Korea, however, was undaunted by the Spanish/European and Japanese failures to significantly raise top speed (well, to wit, there's still the French AGV): the government approved $100 million for the HEMU-400x project, for a 400 km/h prototype that shall result in a regular-service 350 km/h successor to the not-even-in-service HSR-350x. The prototype shall start testing in 2013.

  • China wants to finish at least one line until the Olympics, but that may be too rushed even for that country. Meanwhile, China Railways put in service more than five hundred trains of four imported/technology-transfer semi-high-speed types (CRH-1 to -5, with -4 reserved for a domestic production). The trains now run 'only ' at 200 km/h, to be (or already?) raised to 250 km/h. CRH-2 (based on JR East's series E2-1000) was publicized to the media without any mention of its Japanese origin...


* Morocco moved ahead with serious plans to build a high-speed network with French TGV technology.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 10:24:03 AM EST
It seems the Sun never shines for South Korean railfans -- the best I found:

(This is the HSR-350x prototype)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 10:33:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One major line entered service, on 5 January: Taiwan's THSR

Check ridership and revenue data in the Wikipedia article (most of it entered by yours truly...). But while 15.55 million passengers in a first year would be a dream for any European line, East Asia has different standards: daily ridership, though growing rapidly, is still about a third of the first, half of the later projections.

The construction of the line & trains ate up NT$489 billion (at current exchange rates €10.35 billion), with outstanding liability now totalling NT$377 (€8 billion), against a first year revenue of NT$14 billion (€0.3 billion), though this year they can safely expect the latter to double. Airlines already operate parallel flights at a loss, even with reduced fares. So, behind expectations, but it still will turn profitable.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 02:57:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brilliant...

teh overall data... brilliant.

teh description of spain network brilliant....

Notice that in Spain there is no TGV following teh coast from barcelona to valencia.. there a 200 km/h train will be all...

the delays in PSpain will be hueg... I doubt the AVe will eb ready in border by 2010 as the officials say.

well.. ina ny case... great . great.

Europe is getting ready for fast travel without planes and one day without cars if encessary.

the problem in Spain is that there are no conventional lines for transport of goods.. adn no right-wing nor left-wing is doing anything to solve it.

A pleassure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 10:32:55 AM EST
Notice that in Spain there is no TGV following teh coast from barcelona to valencia.. there a 200 km/h train will be all...

At the level of plans, that should improve: a full high-speed line from Valencia to Castellón shall be part of the Levante network, and the two major bypasses further North (Benicassim-Oropresa, and the AFAIK still not in service Vandellos 1+2+the entry to Tarragona) could be up-rated for 250 or 300 km/h after re-gauging. But with delays, delays, maybe in 2020...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 10:40:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah upgrades hsould took it to 250 km/h int he slowest part.. but as you say.. theya re still far away..

Ina n case a network of 200km/h trains in network is highly probable int he next 15 years... enough to dispalce the car if necessary.

Plans for lines for long and heavy "mercaderias"... never heard of that.. only today after 10 years they opened a train line to bring the cars foromt he Seat factory in barceloan to the docks int he port.. (less than 50 km).. until now hundreds of truckes delievered the cars to the ports... so if this basic line took so mcuh being so profitable adn necessary.. imagient he rest.

It is really ashaming.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 01:21:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, let me test your track knowledge as a trainrider! Where in Barcelona was that photo of an S-120 shot? (local.google.com link?) ;-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 02:24:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course it was in the Southern side of the city. the landscape it is pretty clear the same...

I would say that it is not Barceloan city, it is already outside.. probably Bellvitge... though a full AVE can not take that far...maybe it is an S!"0 for Altaria travels, it can certainly be El Prat del Llobregat getting close to Bellvitge.

That would be my bet :)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 03:09:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Close, but not quite! Hint: the photo was actually made at the border of Barcelona.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 03:19:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So it was Bellvitge-Hospitalet-Barcelona corner... great... a lit bit closer to barcelona than expected :)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 03:27:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's the middle of this map.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 04:16:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Precisely.. what I called the corner exactly...it is the only place where Hospitalet, Bellvitge and barcelona meet.... Plaza Europa is the biggest square close to it which is urbanized... it is very close to the exit of barcelona (Gran Via South) closest to my house inside Barcelona.. but the shouthern part is strictly speaking Barcelona..the Zona france...

Well.. I just got the point exactly...it was this or either a little to the south when it is clsoer to El Parat del Llobreagat.. it little bit to the south in your map.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 04:39:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The media is reporting that our "high-speed" (200 km/h) trains are travelling slower now than 10 years ago, due to increased congestion.

We really need some true HSR. We could use some of the money from privatising some of the state owned companies for getting HSR, instead of reducing the national debt.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 01:54:38 PM EST
Any bets on a hi-speeed trans-siberian in our lifetimes ?

Any news on the possibility of freight on hi-speed networks ? woulnd't that have serious track implications ?

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 02:44:32 PM EST
Do you mean high-speed or low-speed freight?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 02:58:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought it was long-distance fast freight to be carried on hi-speed lines overnight

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 03:17:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, so the second.

That idea was championed by the German Railways, and the first two lines were built accordingly. But the experience was negative, and entirely predictably so...

  • Most freight cars are brake shoe braked, and are built robust and simple anyway, so wheel blocking and thus wheeltread flattenings happen, which 'beat up' the rail -- roughing up its surface for high-speed trains.

  • There is only a short gap between the last and first high-speed services, not to mention the occasional depot run, so in practice high-speed trains and railfreight has to be allowed to run in parallel, in opposite directions. Now what happens if an open or light freight car is passed, at 400 km/h relative speed, especially in a tunnel? Either the cargo loaded could move or the car itself could derail (it happened).

  • What if a freight train is late, or worse, there is some technical problem (say a wheel/axle that ran hot) in the morning? Delays for the high-speed train.

  • Nothing bad happened in practice, but there is also the safety concern if say a gasoline-loaded tank car derails and burns in one of the long tunnels.

Now all of the above doesn't hold the bosses of many other railways back from believing mixed traffic makes a high-speed line more economically viable. (Holding back is the wrong word: they probably never heard of the precedent.) Now maybe for speeds until 250 km/h, that may be (barely) tolerable. But 350 km/h lines?...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 04:42:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... existing freight rolling stock. True HSR freight will require dedicated stock ... say, with mini-containers accepting Euro-pallets that lock into a HSFR car, and also into a frame to form a standard intermodal container. And also, substantially higher aviation fuel prices to be in a position to start stealing the lower margins of the air freight market.

Which suggests that the main game at the moment should be 110kph double / 160 kph single container Express freight. Its perfectly fine if that infrastructure is shared with regular Express passenger stopping services.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 05:41:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that is the second thing people may think of when they ask about freight on high-speed lines.

Further issues to consider:

  1. High-speed lines have an axle load of 17 tons (for the non-technical: that means that if a railcar has four axles, that is eight wheels with four on each side, then the entire car -- car + cargo - can't be heavier than 17x4=68 tons). Now freight transport is more economical if we go for higher axle-loads. Today in Europe, 20-22.5 tons is the norm, and there are pilot lines for 25 tons, while US railways even do 35 tons.

  2. Higher-speed transport is also higher energy use and thus higher transport costs.

  3. Even if for some types of time-sensitive cargo where the extra transport cost vs. trucks or low-speed rail may make it worth, and air cargo would be the rival, there is the issue of an as yet not wide network: you can't offer many destinations, the customer won't count on you.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 05:55:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(1) This is why regular intermodal containers are not a likely HSFR technology as such ... however, given greater flexibility to design the HSFR freight car to accomodate something that could fit into an intermodel container than air transport, something that can be rolled out of the HSFR and locked into an intermodal container (or visa versa) would give substantial logistical advantages over air freight

(2) And this, of course, is why the main target at the current point in time is getting Express freight out of trucks and onto Express freight rail, since the gain from HSFR is only if it shoots freight planes out of the sky.

(3) Goes back to (1) ... it has to integrate into the existing intermodal container system, and from my experience in working in the warehouse, a small enclosed mini-container is going to be the only serious option if the process is going to be largely automated.

But no hurry sorting out the details ... Express freight 110kph, 25 ton axle load / 160kph 21 ton axle load, that's the target currently in the frame, and that's just not at a speed that it can be seamlessly inserted into the HSR network.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 06:29:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why not using Eurostar-shuttle like trains, that allows for trucks to be loaded on trains at (relatively) high speed?

Trucks do not have a 35 ton/axle cargo! They have 35 tons cargo, and 5-6 axles...

In logistics, you could perhaps imagine a HSR line between two important nodes (like Paris/Lyon/Marseille in France), taking trucks on a no booking, shuttle basis so as to lower the community costs of road repairing - which is actually a government indirect subvention, at least in Europe-. Thus, road and train transport would compete on a same cost basis... which is conform to economic doxa.

by Xavier in Paris on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 06:05:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Trucks do not have a 35 ton/axle cargo! They have 35 tons cargo, and 5-6 axles...

The axle loading is for the rail car ... and, yes, if there is a Freight Express rail clearway, with those axle loading

Designing a High Speed Freight Rail set that takes whole trucks is, for one thing, hauling weight around unnecessarily, magnifying the extra energy cost of HSFR over Express Freight Rail, and, for another thing, the job of trucks should be to haul a container the last mile to from the railhead to the final street address or warehouse ... the extension of the HSFR should be the load racking into a standard container to go to that closest railhead.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 09:42:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do not get the point of using HSR for fret, except express fret that is going to be light enough to use normal HSR trains (La Poste has its own TGV).

Isn't it a bit counter productive to increase the energy use of cargo for transporting it at higher speed ? The speed problem, for cargo trains, at least in France, is lousy logistics, and there are much more gains to be made by improving those.

I might see that a private developer might want to increase the potential use of an High Speed Line, but that is a problem with having private developers doing rail infrastructure.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 06:17:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... the lighter freight that can use ordinary HSR locomotives are a more appealing if they can be shipped out of the warehouse in sealed containers, like the standardized containers used for distinct models of aircraft for air freight, except that with HSFR there is an opportunity to develop it in a way that can smoothly and efficiently flow from standard inter-modal shipping containers to HSFR and back, to allow dependence on trucks to be minimize and even, in some cases with the right technology, eliminated altogether.

For example, Aerobus has a container by container freight transport option:



I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 12:42:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Any bets on a hi-speeed trans-siberian in our lifetimes ?

My sobering projection, also taking potential future delays into account:

  1. just in Europe, we won't see national networks worth their name before 2020,
  2. the four main national networks (French, Spanish, Italian, German), which may become seven by then (Turkish, Russian, Scandinavian) may not integrate into a real pan-European network (with full-quality link-ups) before 2035...
  3. 400 km/h all the way to Beijing: maybe in 2050? But it's insane to project so long, who knows how railways, transport technology, economy, politics and society will look in half a century...


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 03:06:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here I disagre!!!!

At long last!!!

The four main networks will be all integrated by 2020.

i think it is really teh day most travel in europe wil be done my train... the key country is Italy.

portugal, netherlands, Spain, Frange, GB will eb ready for sure (maybe the ondon Scotland link will eb missing but other than that).

So if Italy finishes on time... 2020 is the date.. no need to wait until 2035....

Unless you include Sacandaniva and some easter coutnries.. then .. yes 2035 to get them onboard... maybe 2025 if they do a viable 200km/h network ...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 03:26:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have no doubt that high-speed trains will run all across the borders. But I have grave doubts that they will do so at 300 km/h or even 250 km/h.

  • There might be a SPain/France link at Irún by 2020, but I doubt it: we can be happy if Bordeaux-Dax is kicked off in the early 2010s, and finished at the end of that decade. As for Perpignan-Montpellier, not even plans.

  • The French/BeNeLux and German networks would have three link-up points. But there are no German plans for a Düren-Aachen gap (would be short), Saarbrücken-Mannheim is only upgraded for 200 km/h and only in part (and full high-speed would require big tunnels), and the two railways are content with dozens of kilometres of 200 km/h or lower speed connections of their high-speed lines into Strasbourg, and not even thinking of a bypass.

  • Italy-Germany would require a full transsect of the Alps. On the Bologna-Verona-Innsbruck-Munich axis, nothing high-speed is planned, only the Brenner Base Tunnel, which won't turn a reality before 2020 itself. There could be a connection across Switzerland earlier, but the Swiss won't complete just the full Gotthard Axis (Zurich-Italian border) until the 2020s, and think onventional lines suffice for their purposes on the Basel-Zurich route. Now 250 km/h lines all the way from Basel to the Lötschberg Base Tunnel have a greater probability until 2020, but no plans for an Italian continuation including a second Simplon.

  • France-Italy: in effect, that's the Lyon-Turin line with the Mount d'Ambin Base Tunnel. With the delays thanks to Chirac et al, the base tunnel may open only in 2023, and even then, it is likely that the connecting lines won't be all high-speed (current italian plans are to leave passenger trains on the old line and build a line doubling in tunnels for freight).

Overall, note that for a high-speed line, ten years from start of planning to opening is often even optimistic.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 05:29:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
HSR just isn't a viable proposition for trips over 1000 kilometres. Unless fuel for air travel becomes 20 times more expensive, I don't think we are ever going to see a HSR connection to China. We should be too happy if we ever get one to Moscow.

We need to spend more money on Trans-European Networks.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 04:10:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Transport Minister Calls for Train Travel Improvements

On Thursday, VR reported a record number of passengers last year. Nearly 67 million train trips were recorded, up by more than three percent. By far the largest volume was on commuter trains. Passenger rail travel to Russia went up by close to a fifth.


You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 04:21:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, no.

Building an isolated line connecting destinations 1000 kilometre away is what's not viable, the airplane would win on market share. But, on one hand, in a network of connections between cities a few hundred kilometres away, routes thousands of kilometres could become possible. On the other hand, just as today there are passengers riding an express 10 hours or longer (not to mention the weeks on the Transsib), running high-speed trains over such longer routes would make extra trips possible. (Ii's a synergy: linking up two train services at one node will keep all the passengers on the two lines, and add ones who would have viewed changing trains at the node too much of a hassle or lost time.)

But this is the far far far future (if it comes at all), and for the question at hand, I only considered the existence of an Eurasia-spanning network,, not through services.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 04:27:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In my experience, what you describe here
in a network of connections between cities a few hundred kilometres away, routes thousands of kilometres could become possible

is not always done right. The international aspect of international train routes can be seriously degraded by too many domestic stops. All too logical: no city wants to be left out. But I guess I could have a 45 minute shorter trip to Amsterdam on the IC-International (now just over 6 hours) if Germany and the Netherlands just scrapped a few stations where only 10 people get on and off. Especially stops which are only a few kilometres in between.

On the other hand, I have to admit that it doesn't make much of a difference to me because I'm going to take that train anyway. So you have a point there.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 08:56:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
a few stations where only 10 people get on and off

What is your estimate, how many people take the Berlin-Amsterdam ICs all the way? My guess would be that they are outnumbered by the sum of domestic passengers, and don't add up to a full train-load (to sustain extra trains with less stops), even considering the extra attractivity of somewhat shorter trip times.

For you, this shucks, of course. But 5½ hours vs. 6¼ hours, that's less significant than say 2¾ hours vs. 4 hours, would there be high-speed lines all the way.

In short, with less stops and greater distances more rational for high-speed, international relations would be in the 'normal' range, and passengers with your kind of problem would be say Berlin-Moscow or Berlin-Madrid travellers.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 09:19:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All the way? Maybe 5%. Depends upon the time. One train on the line goes on to Szczecin, but I'd guess there is on average 0.5 passenger per train taking that all the way.

Now to take out some small city/town stops (from Amsterdam)

Hilversum - Amersfoort (14 minutes)
Apeldoorn - Deventer (11 minutes)
Almelo - Hengelo (11 minutes)
Stendal - Rathenow (15 minutes)
Berlin Spandau - Berlin Hbf (10 minutes)

Take out Hilversum, Apeldoorn, Almelo, Rathenow and Berlin Spandau, and you not only have a better international train, but also a better domestic intercity, IMO. Note that the intercity runs only every two hours on a track that also has a normal service. The few people in these minor cities and on connecting lines that may take the car rather than taking on 15 minutes of extra travel time should be compensated by people who do take the train rather than the car or airplane.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 10:08:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would like a Berlin - Moscow HSR train, but I can only see it work if it goes through Belarus. Unless something changes politically in Belarus, I don't see it happening.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 10:19:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Lukashenko will be dead before high-speed construction from Moscow resp. Berlin/Warshaw could progress so far, i.e. I think the political timescale os shorter here...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 10:58:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Note, for reference, this thread.

The Dutch, unfortunately, have scrapped the idea of a HSL Noord for now. I think it's rather stupid that we don't build an Amsterdam - Groningen - Bremen - Hamburg - Kiel - Copenhagen line as a priority project of the Trans European Networks.

With the existing HSL Zuid, we will have connected Europe's three largest ports (Antwerp - Rotterdam - Hamburg) within I would guess a 700-800 kilometre trip from Antwerp to Hamburg (as a quick reference Rotterdam is geographically 78 km from Antwerp and 414 km from Hamburg). There should be plenty business travel. Surely there must be an economic case.

To repeat myself, we need more money for TEN (and less for the CAP).

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 07:47:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How long would it take to go Copenhagen-Amsterdam with HSR?

I'm wondering because the Swedish HSR is supposed to end in Copenhagen...

Being able to take the train to Amsterdam from Stockholm  (in what, 6 hours?) would be GREAT.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 07:57:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can only guess at this (unless DoDo can find distances for the existing track). A Copenhagen - Amsterdam service would have stops in Odense (~ 150 km), pass by Kolding and Flensburg (maybe stops on a slower service), Kiel (at ~ 330 km) and Hamburg (~ 430 km). From Hamburg it should be another 460 - 500 km to Amsterdam, with stops in Bremen, Oldenburg, Groningen, (Assen, on a slower service), Zwolle, (Lelystad, on a slower service), Almere, and Amsterdam Zuid. So that is 790 - 830 kilometres and 9 stops from Copenhagen

Now the Amsterdam - Paris line is about 550 km in length, I think, and will have 6 stops from Amsterdam Zuid with a travel time of 2:57. I'd guess you should take 1.5 times that travel time, so you would have a 4:30 hour trip, with Amsterdam - Hamburg at 2:30 hours. If we build a dedicated HSR. I'd guess Stockholm - Copenhagen will be 2 hours?

With the existing plan, there should be a 200 km/h connection between Amsterdam and Hamburg over Amersfoort, Hengelo, Osnabrück, Bremen somewhere maybe in 2015. That should be about a ~ 4 hour trip (currently the fastest connection is 5:15 hours).

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 09:11:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If bold, let's be really bold: envision the high-speed connection along the Vogelfluglinie (via Lübeck), with the long-planned Fehmarn crossing. That would be around 330 km until Hamburg. Hamburg-Bremen is currently 115.6 km, Bremen-Groningen would be around 170 km, HSL Noord again around 170 km.

As for times, if I am optimistic, with stopping times: Copenhagen-Hamburg 1h20m, on to Bremen 40m, on to Groningen 50m, on to Amsterdam 50m, 3h40m total. If I am less optimistic about just how through the true high-speed lines would become (e.g. longer upgraded/four-tracked sections along the way, near cities and in a Fehmarn tunnel): 2h, 50m, 1h10m, 1h, together 5h. (Note: Paris-Amsterdam on upgraded conventional line from Brussels to Antwerp, and again Schipol-Amsterdam C).

Stockholm-Copenhagen would be roughly 550 km, so your two hours for a true high-speed service sound realistic. (Currently: more than five hours...)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 10:15:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fehmarn belt bridge is going to be built, that's decided. The Swedish HSR program will not be built before 2020, if business is as usual, but with PO coming, it won't be and I am hoping for earlier construction.

There have been some very postive signs during the last year or two.

I should probably do a diary on it, as the project has the fitting name Europakorridoren, the European Corridor.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 10:29:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fehmarn belt bridge is going to be built, that's decided.

That's not how it works.

With such big projects, the decision that really matters is the start of the main construction tenders.

When the 'decision' is a joint government or even EU-level declaration, that can be drawn out indefinitely, with repeated joint declarations that now we really mean business. Or worse, the decisionmakers might be only willing to pay for preliminary studies, and sell those as the start of the project, but then solicit ever more studies (an example: Brenner Base Tunnel). Even when the decision is tendering the detailed plans, that may be followed up by several plan modifications, or disputes over the price tag that may delay the construction tender (example: Malmö city tunnel), even indefinitely.

I should probably do a diary on it

You should!

(And with the political boundaries clearly drawn, I'd be curious at contrarian comments from other ETers versed in Swedish politics ;-) )

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 10:44:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The HSL Zuid is delayed due to issues with the new Dutch security system and issues with ERTMS. There is also an issue with the rolling stock for the sub-HSR service, which the NS/KLM Hispeed alliance wanted to solve through renting trains for a 160 km/h service from Britain.

The HSR service with the Thalys could already be running, but isn't due to problems with ERTMS.

For the slower (250 km/h) service the Hispeed alliance will run the AnsaldoBreda V250, which has been designed by Pininfarina. Here's a pic. Don't know if it's any good.

The English Wiki states that there are delivery problems with Bombardier, but I don't know where that comes from.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 04:27:56 PM EST
the AnsaldoBreda V250, which has been designed by Pininfarina. Here's a pic. Don't know if it's any good.

What might be a bad omen is the Danish IC4. With a little delay, the first was delivered in 2003. Then it was a disaster story, production delays, technical problems, wrong specifications, the trains aren't fully commissioned to this day. They were/are made by Ansaldo-Breda...

The Wiki article is garbled, but I won't fix it today, just briefly: the Bombardier part of the story was the idea to run locomotive-pulled trains as an interim solution, using leased Bombardier TRAXX locos. But the problem wasn't delivery, it was getting permissions for the new TRAXX type to run on both the new line and conventional Belgian and Dutch lines, which would have required too much time.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 05:09:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Superb diary.

I love trains and train travel but never would have imagined myself thinking of them as anything other than big machines that take you somewhere :-)

My perception is forever changed.

by Loefing on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 09:20:21 PM EST
Thanks so much for this diary. Here in California we're gearing up for the critical year in our HSR plan. In the late 1990s the state legislature directed the creation of a high speed rail plan. In 2002 that plan was delivered, the first stage of which involves a line from downtown SF to downtown LA. It was to go before voters in 2004, but Arnold Schwarzenegger postponed the vote until 2006, and again until 2008. This time it's going to happen, but with a state budget crisis and low public awareness of peak oil it's not at all clear that voters will go for it.

So I've appointed myself the task of trying to change that. I spent much of the last couple days working on a high speed rail advocacy site. Once it's ready to go I'll post a link here for you all; I hope you'll give me feedback and thoughts for improvement.

One thing I would LOVE is for folks here to submit "testimonials" that I can post on the site about HSR. Something that explains why you have found HSR lines you've used to be so valuable, and/or why it would be compelling for you if CA built such a line. Also, if any of you have useful information, such as stats showing the fiscal viability of HSR, favorable comparisons with air travel (especially in terms of ridership), or hard numbers about greenhouse gas reduction, that would be great too.

E-mail's below.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Sat Jan 19th, 2008 at 10:44:21 PM EST
You should get in touch with BruceMcF. I will also collect some material and email you.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 06:20:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I decided to dump material I collected into one or more diaries on ET, posted from tomorrow. Stay tuned.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 08:59:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks - and the list of links you added at the end of this diary was very useful. I've been reading ET only since about the beginning of 2007, so the links from earlier years are particularly helpful.

And the world will live as one
by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 12:22:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... action until February 6th or so.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 05:45:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why, mate? Work, family, study, politics?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 05:56:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... Feb. 5 if the big day ... after that there will be a chance to catch breath before the primary here in Ohio.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Jan 21st, 2008 at 06:18:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I've been using the Lyon-Paris TGV on an average of around 30 times a year for 20 years and the Lyon-Brussels and Paris-Brussels lines on a monthly basis for 6 years, so I could write a "testimonial". Are you interested?

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 11:50:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Absolutely. That would be fantastic. CA has a lot of people who make frequent trips between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and so they'd be very interested in your experience. Many such commuters can't imagine any other way to make that trip than flying, although as I try to point out, once you factor in travel time to the airport, security, waiting for the plane, etc, HSR is very comparable if not quicker in terms of travel time.

And the world will live as one
by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 11:54:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Two Eurostars sitting in Gare du Nord after the run from St Pancras.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 03:46:34 AM EST
The one on the left is Colman's, the one on the right is Sam's.  ;-)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 05:19:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I always enjoy your diaries, DoDo and this is another excellent one!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 04:36:49 AM EST
Wonderful detail. Thank you. Am sending the link to a number of train fans, on several continents.

And while Europe builds high-speed trains and looks to the future, the U.S. of A. is building more . . . SUVs! And politicians are still squabbling about whether to put any kinds of funds into anything other than expensive roads that are invariably outdated/overcrowded by the time they're built. <big sigh>

by Mnemosyne on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 09:38:36 AM EST
Ah, again, those efficient Englishmen and women...

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Sun Jan 20th, 2008 at 10:44:06 AM EST


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