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High-speed to Barcelona

by DoDo Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 11:50:52 AM EST

Europe's longest single high-speed line was finished at last: with the final 87 km ready, AVE trains connect Barcelona and Madrid from today (20 February 2008).

An AVE S-103 on a final trial run on the new section at Castellbisbal, west of Barcelona, 17 February 2008.
The S-103 entered regular service only 22 June last year, but does all the long-distance services covering the full line since 26 November. The 350 km/h rating of the S-103, of the Siemens type Velaro-E, is currently the highest in the world – as is its 403.7 km/h speed record (set during tests on 16 July 2006) for unmodified series trains.
Photo by Natan Rubio Gallardo from Railwaymania

This diary is also a supplement to European HSR expansion in 2007, so I also cover the presentation of the TGV's successor at the end.


The Madrid-Barcelona line (thick blue line; dashed for the section opened today). Enhanced cut-out from Trainspotting Bükkes's Rail map of the Iberian Peninsula

When the Spanish government considered building the 621 km line, it judged that a travel time at or under 2½ hours is necessary to compete with air traffic. This led to a very ambitious goal of running trains at 350 km/h. However, the story of the construction of this line is a compendium of all the faults one should avoid in high-speed rail construction, even if none of them were fatal for the project.

  • First, there was the now notorious ETCS Level 2.

ERTMS/ETCS Level 2 is a new all-European train control and signalling system based on wireless technology. In the nineties, the Aznar government decided to equip the line with this system alone, even though at the time, it existed only on paper.

But ETCS Level 2 trials have been plagued with problems for a decade, normal wireless communication was just not reliable enough for permanent use in everyday rail traffic. The latest versions achieved stable performance on some lines (in Switzerland and Italy) only recently.

Several new European high-speed lines have been the victims of the ETCS Level 2 problem, but Madrid–Barcelona has been the first. After authorities finally saw that it won't work any time soon, they had to retrofit the not-yet-opened line with standard signalling. Mere 200 km/h conventional trains took up service on the first section, the 442 km until Lleida (and 39 km of connections to Zaragoza and Lleida) one year late, on 11 October 2003.

AVE/RENFE 252 028 (of Siemens's Eurosprinter family) with a gauge-changing Talgo VII set on the Barrancos de Fuentelices Bridge near Alhama de Aragón (near Calatayud, south-west of Zaragoza), 18 May 2005. Photo by F.JOLLY from RailPictures.Net

  • Second, there was geology.

The Aznar government rushed planning and construction tenders, in the course of which certain problem zones were overlooked. Near Zaragoza, the line was built on a plain with dolomitic rock underneath, which is prone to implosions of cavities, and also smaller ground motions. When the problem surfaced in the form of track shifts, a speed restriction had to be instated, and geology had to be investigated in earnest.

The line descends from the mountains towards the Mediterranean on the hilly sides of a valley. This route was chosen despite geologists' warning that the valley side is unstable and moves. The Lilla, Can Magre and Puig Cabrer tunnels (altogether 3.8 km) suffered cracks and subsidence, and had to be stabilised with expensive methods.

An AVE S-103 from Lleida to Madrid on the bridge- and tunnel-rich section along the Jalón river (south-west of Zaragoza), Alhama de Aragón (near Calatayud), 18 May 2005. The duckbill-nosed Talgo 350 trains (rated for 330 km/h) began service earlier that year (on 26 February). Photo by F.JOLLY from RailPictures.Net

  • Third, there was the dispute with Barcelona.

There was a seemingly never-ending dispute between the Spanish government, Catalonia, and the city of Barcelona about the route. One major point of contention was whether the line shall pass by the airport (it does in the end), another was about where the continuation of the line towards France should be tunnelled under Barcelona (there are fears that the Sagrada Familia could be affected).

The dispute, and the resulting very messy tendering process (re-started a number of times) caused most of the four year delay in reaching the city. In fact, when the above-mentioned tunnels were repaired and only the city access remained, they first built a station in the fields near Tarragona for the true-high-speed trains, and a facility for the S-120 gauge-changing trains (see previous high-speed rail diary). Thus a slower (max 200, later 250 km/h) direct service to Barcelona started in May 2006.

Station in the green: An S-102 as inaugural VIP train arrives in station Camp de Tarragona, 18 December 2006. From the next day, it was terminal station for non-gaguge-changing high-speed trains in regular service. Photo by Jaume Sellart/Efe from 20minutos.es

  • Fourth, there was rushed construction.

Digging on the surface in a city is bound to meet upon unexpected challenges, and tight construction schedules as prescribed by the Aznar government can cause organisational chaos. And indeed, earlier last year, Zapatero's transport minister saw that the construction companies aren't on track to meet their deadlines.

But then Zapatero's minister outdid Aznar's: she decided to push the companies to work full-throttle around the hour. Of course, the result was irresponsible and shoddy work, which led to accidents and further delays. This culminated in the collapse of Barcelona's commuter traffic, after a tunnel implosion damaged a neighbouring commuter line (see kcurie's account: 1, 2, 3).

The final tally for the now opened line is €7,083 million. For the entire line until the border (including the in-construction Barcelona–Figueres–Perpignan/France line), the sum grew from the 1997 estimate of €6.6 to €10.8 billion (though that also involves currency effects). However, the specific cost of €13.5 million/km is still well below that of other new high-speed lines (those mentioned in the previous diary range from €15 to €61 million/km).

Map of the winding Lleida–Barcelona section. The blue sub-sections, including the problem tunnels on the north–south part, were finished earlier, but in interim service only until a point north-east of Tarragona. The red/yellow parts through the airport were built last. Taken from ADIF brochure [pdf!]


But now the nightmare is over. Also, in the meantime, line speed was increased step-by-step:

  • 250 km/h from May 2006,
  • 280 km/h from 16 October 2006,
  • 300 km/h from 7 May 2007.

Despite still not going full-speed (nor any time soon), the fastest schedule with the S-103 trains is 2h38m (check full schedule in via_libre article, one of my sources for the diary, hat tip to Migeru & his contacts).

As a final critical note, I think the Spanish Railways repeats a bad policy the operators of almost every over-budget high-speed line failed with: hoping passengers will tolerate heftier ticket prices. Madrid–Barcelona costs up to €120.40 (though promo tickets on the web cost a third of that).

At any rate, RENFE expects 6.1 million passengers in the first year, growing to 7.8 million in 2011.

:: :: :: :: ::


AGV

Maker Alstom presented a first 7-car prototype of the fourth-generation TGV, re-named the Automotrice à Grande Vitesse (AGV, c. "high-speed self-propelled carriage") on 5 February (also see mention in the Salon).

This Reuters photo from rfi managed to NOT capture a certain politician who loves the limelight

The AGV is intended for regular service up to 360 km/h, and it is the most advanced high-speed train around.

  • The train's electric motors are of a new type (the permanent-magnet synchronous motor) that is even lighter while tolerating even higher power than the current state-of-the-art (asynchronous motors). This has been tried only in test trains before: the testbeds for the AGV itself, including the world rail speed record holder, and the Fastech 360 prototype in Japan.

  • This is the first high-speed train with driven Jacobs bogies. (A normal bogie is a steel frame with two (or more) axles that can rotate relative to the carbody. A Jacobs bogie however is between two neighbouring carbodies, the end of each resting on separate rotating joints.) This has been tried before only in lower-speed vehicles and again the AGV's testbeds.

I note that company PR still makes much of a supposed relative "stability" of Jacobs bogies, though the 'harmonica effect' in the accident they want to remind of was caused by hitting an obstacle, and the TGV also uses (another kind of) dampers against (another kind of) carbody swings. However, there is a real benefit in reduced weight per train length (12 bogies suffice for an 11-car, 189.9 m AGV, while the 8-car, 200.32 m ICE-3 has 16), wider carbody, more even track loading, and reduced wear.

With two other major innovations, the AGV caught up with rivals:

  • Distributed power: instead of traction by two locomotives at the two ends, every second bogie along the train is powered. This allows higher accelerations and greater passenger capacity at the same train length. (The catching-up is with all Japanese Shinkansens, their Taiwanese and Chinese derivatives, the German ICE-3, and it's derivative for Spain, the S-103/Velaro-E.)

  • To reduce noise emissions and the danger from side winds, the aerodynamics design moved away from aesthetics. For the nose, that meant that both the front and sides are concave, reminding of a duckbill. (In that, the AGV follows the newer Shinkansens and the S-102, S-130 Talgos from Spain.)

Photo from Alstom press release, where you find eight more photos

To underline Alstom's technological lead: the AGV could have been ready years ago, and the delay wasn't for technology: in the first half of this decade, French state railways SNCF had doubts about the extra benefits in top speed and efficiency being worth the extra price, and wasn't forthcoming with orders; this at the same time Alstom had financial troubles and wasn't able to build a demonstrator on its own. Another sign of being ahead is German state railways DB's inclusion of Alstom in its latest high-speed tender, with a purchase reportedly considered seriously.

:: :: :: :: ::

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

Display:
Oh, and I am very envious of kcurie, who today took the third train from Barcelona to Zaragoza!

...and I semi-continue the whose-train-is-bigger competition with redstar ;-)

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

by DoDo on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 11:50:05 AM EST
Great diary, DoDo. It all looks so shiny and exciting!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 12:31:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... Oil diary roll.

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 Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 09:58:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Europe's longest single high-speed line

What is a single high-speed line? Single as opposed to what? Or do you mean Europe's single longest high.speed line?

the Aznar government decided to equip the line with this system only, it was only a plan

Misplaced comma?

The Lilla, Can Magre and Puig Cabrer tunnels (altogether 3.8 km) suffered cracks and susistence

Subsidence?

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 12:35:12 PM EST
Single as opposed to what?

A succession of connected lines (say LGV Est - LGV Interconnexion - LGV Sudest - LGV Rhône-Alpes - LGV Mediterranée, that'd be much longer). I was indeed struggling with putting that across, do you have a better suggestion?

Misplaced comma?

No, the point is that there was no redundancy, no fall-back system, they bet on a not even existing system to function flawlessly. Maybe that should be written differently? (I changed 'was only a plan' to 'existed only on paper' in the meantime, though.)

Subsidence

I spotted that myself in the meantime, also indented/intended...

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

by DoDo on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 06:13:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the Aznar government decided to equip the line with this system only, it was only a plan

the Aznar government decided to equip the line with this system, except it was only a plan

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 Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 09:59:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You just did what I told Mig I didn't mean: you moved "only" ito the second part of the sentence, whereas its intended meaning in the first part was: there was no redundancy, no fall-back system.

However, I now replaced the first "only" with "alone", hope it makes more sense that way.

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

by DoDo on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 02:18:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Aha ... you meant that as well as the above.

the Aznar government decided to equip the line with this system alone, except it was just a plan

That is, you meant:

the Aznar government decided to equip the line with this system only, only it was only a plan

... only, only one only would be the only way to go in that situation, unless you bail out entirely.


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 Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 02:40:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's three only-s -- but the middle is not necessary if you re-add the first third of the sentence ("When in the nineties, ") :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 09:25:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, but leading with the qualifier for the tail of the sentence, and the sense of "when" not clear until you get to the tail ...

In the nineties, the Aznar government decided to equip the line with this system alone, except it existed only on paper.


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 Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 10:59:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What about "though at that time" in place of "except"?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 11:28:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Better ... better still, "though, at the time"

Yeah, that works well.

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 Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 03:05:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh. I wondered about the "moving" bit. So I googled quickly around, but didn't find much. I did find this, from 2002 in this pdf:


The Formación Roja is the lower unit and includes clays, siltstones, argillites, and shales. These are strongly cemented by mainly gypsum and also calcium carbonate, which occur both in the rock material and as infill of the discontinuities. The gypsum cementation gives the Red Formation claystones a high strength and gives the rock a massive appearance.

The upper "Lake roof formation" consists of interstratified layers of limestone and marl, but can be divided into two units: one of dominantly limestone and another of dominantly marls. The units are generally jointed and occasionally faulted. The thickness of the layers is generally on the order of decimetres. Thicker layers occur; most are less than 1.5 - 2 meters thick. In this formation a few erodable clayey layers occur.

I'm not (yet) a star in engineering geology, but in structural geology, the bit about gypsum should've set off alarms. Gypsum is the earth's ideal lubricator. A third of Greece slides on a 10 centimeter band of gypsum, exposed at the surface. It doesn't take much pressure to change gypsum's viscosity, and slide you go.

If you'd know some more links/literature on the geological aspect, I can have a look...

by Nomad on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 01:07:49 PM EST
There is a background story about that problem, but I don´t remember the link:  The line was supposedly traced to go through some lands purchased (shortly before) by Aznar´s now-son-in-law (Alejandro Agag of Formula One deals) and where some of the sink holes occurred.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 03:36:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure what you refer to now: the sink hole region near Zaragoza, the sliding valley side near Tarragona, ro both?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 05:58:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Darn, I thought I could find it in the PP parody web page, (los genoveses) but no luck.  IIRC it was in Aragon region, so it must be the Zaragoza part and it was about sinking.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 01:15:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think I read at least a dozen articles on this (or "read": many were in Spanish), including your pdf, but I think there was one other detailed source that mentioned that the problem was known and the government was warned about it (probably by the authors).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 06:02:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Shhhh.. I am at work.. outside my unviersity.. using the broadband.. to say this...

I was there... and it was bascially full of journalists and the major and some personalities.. and almost no passenger... despite what you can read in some newspapers, regarding people, the first day has been a failure... problaby due to the history..

Other than that. ..close to Barcelona the railways are still not double checked.. so the velocity is around 60-80 km/h for mroe than 10 minutes.. and stays belows 200 km/h for 10 minutes more..

then.. rails have been completley tested.. and a nice 300 km/h is reached smoothly...(comapred with 200 km/h Aznar left the Zaragoza-Madrid section)

All in all. 1:50 minutes for a travel which should not take  more than 1:30h with stops and 1:10 without stops (mine was with stops).

So...nice to see somany journalists, nice to see it working.. and well, accepting tht people are really not engaged yet after so many disasters..

By the way, the green party informed that some people missed the fast train becuase again, there have been 30 minutes delays int he local train network.

Though.. 300 km/h is fun to see.. really fun!!

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 Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 01:15:28 PM EST
kcurie, I looked for you on the news, since TVE and Cuatro were on the train.  Why didn´t you wave?

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 03:16:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They were the ones early in the morning... I was on the ocmercial newspapers, agencies train (the one ithout hurry at 12:00)... they need the images early to prepare the news casts.. while newspapers can take more time.. and take images..

this is why ElPais was around and other people from newspapers...but not TV cameras... well yeah at the station , but they were interviewing the major...

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 Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 05:05:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was there... and it was bascially full of journalists and the major and some personalities.. and almost no passenger... despite what you can read in some newspapers, regarding people, the first day has been a failure... problaby due to the history..

Do you mean that there were lots of empty seats?

Because, if the journos took all the tickets, of course there were no 'real' passengers.

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

by DoDo on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 09:28:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
More than half empty seats.

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 Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 12:13:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Madrid - Barcelona is considered the busiest air-link in the world with over 900 weekly flights.

I wonder how much traffic the new train will catch.
Some airlines are offering now 30€-tickets.

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)

by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 02:48:56 PM EST
Airlines even advertise €10 tickets, but they must offer one seat a month because nobody seems to get one.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 03:09:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If I ever was able to move to Europe, then I'd probably just ride trains all day. Does anyone know of a job where I can just be a passenger? I'm very good at sitting, looking out the window, and dreaming.
by Magnifico on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 02:57:48 PM EST
http://www.renfe.es/empresa/empleo/index.html

Sorry, Magnifico, no job openings at the moment, but you can send your resume.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 03:03:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You could become a hobo.  They don't get paid, but they do have an annual convention.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 03:07:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
for another great course in railways that I´d never run into otherwise.  It would be nice if infrastructure projects learned from previous mistakes elsewhere, but I can´t think of any.

What would you consider a ´fair´, or an average European ticket price for this trip?  And also, what would be the benefit of subsidized ticket prices overall, in the long run?  

The ticket pricing is strange because some are €101 and some are €120 depending on the time.
https:/w1.renfe.es/vol

Via Libre is not clear on the prices, but the €101-120 tickets are one-way only and there is always a 20% discount on a round trip, so it goes down to €80.  There are actually no promo-rates, but you get up to 40%-60% discount for 7-15-day advance purchase, which makes it more reasonable for a regular person and more than fair for the usual business commuter.  They are also maintaining the 22:00 all-nighter for €38, but I hope I don´t need to take that one, with the 6 bunkbeds in a closet, again.


Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 04:35:52 PM EST
For this trip, from a back-of-the-envelope calculation, I think the average could be as low as €60, but €80 in place of the €100 one-way ticket would already look nicer. (BTW, for comparison, could you find the pre-May-2006 price for a Madrid-Barcelona trip? I believe to remember you took one such trip yourself.)

The way I read it, €120 is for direct (and thus faster) M-B trains, so it depends on time, but I'm not sure what you meant by time.

Via libre mentions the 20% discount. It also calls the 60% discount for web purchase "tarifa promocional", does that not mean promotional pricing? (BTW, on the TGV Est, there was a similar promo price -- for first-class, making first-class cheaper than second-class for the lucky.)

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

by DoDo on Wed Feb 20th, 2008 at 06:37:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]

A few years ago I got a first-class couchette (around 70 Euros) from Verona to Paris, because the discounted tickets were sold out, and the regular second-class price was 100 Euro. I wonder how widespread this phenomenon is?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 12:57:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually the SNCF is careful that discounted places for the first class are a bit cheaper than full price second class seats, so as to make sure the first class gets filled up a bit.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 05:22:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looked at more detail, since my link above doesn´t want to turn blue:
2:38 min. trip = €119.50 one way, or €95.60 round trip.
3:24 min. trip = €101.30  OW

so it must make stops and there are many choices for both, M-F.  All, but one, trips on weekends seem to be the longer ones.  It´s a price to make you think twice, but definitely worth avoiding the airport hassles and anxiety, to me.  I hope they don´t start putting the same insecurity controls in train stations, although they already have the databases anyway; at least if you buy on the net/with plastic.

My trip in 2003? was maybe €48? for 9:30 hours in a bunk and it is now €50.50 for the same, while a seat is €38.10.

The 40-60% discounts are new Renfe policy for all long-distance trains, not just ave, with advance purchase and penalized ticket exchanges.  The 20% on round trips has been the policy for several years.

Almost OT:
Ave = bird (family)
Averia = malfunction

When the Ave got to Seville for the 92 Expo, it was already commonly called ´averia´ and it should have been food for thought, but "No! we don´t believe in (pre)destiny... It will fly.", I heard as I was forced to take a flight back to Madrid that October.  (;  Maybe an ostrich (avestruz) would have been a better omen/logo.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 02:56:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for an excellent summary. It is a disgrace that we do not hear about these things in the traditonal U.S. news media.

Do you have or know where to find a bill of materials for these high-speed rail lines, as in how much steel and concrete is required per km of route, for bridges, for tunnels, steel for stations, etc. And, steel, aluminum, etc for the train sets?

by NBBooks on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 11:30:35 AM EST
For the lines, figures can be very different for different lines, but check my Railways, energy, CO2 - Part 2 diary.

The materials needed in a train also differ from model to model. But steel used to be most of it weight-wise, and 1 ton per passenger seat is a rule-of-thumb figure for a European train. (Now significantly lower for the AGV -- while the wider Japanese Shinkansens were always lower.)

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

by DoDo on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 11:45:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Talk to me about gauge changing! The last mixed gauge track here in Colorado (standard 4' 8.5" gauge combined with narrow 3' gauge) was pulled up a long time ago (except in some small rural yards). Is there not a standard gauge in Europe???

by asdf on Thu Feb 21st, 2008 at 10:01:16 PM EST
Beautiful photo!

Is there not a standard gauge in Europe???

In most of it, there is standard gauge (1435 mm). However, the former USSR has modern Russian broad gauge (1520 mm), formerly Tsarist-Russia-held Finland the original Russian broad gauge (1524 mm), rail-isolated Ireland has a broad gauge also used in some other former British colonies including Australia and NZ (1600 mm), many mountain railways (and some trams) have metre gauge, and Spain and Portugal has Iberian gauge (1668 mm).

Spain has an ambitious plan to re-gauge its entire network to standard gauge, the first steps of which are to build all high-speed lines with normal gauge, and all line upgrades with special sleepers prepared for quick re-gauging.

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

by DoDo on Fri Feb 22nd, 2008 at 05:00:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
http://parovoz.com/spravka/gauges-en.php has an interesting table of international train gauges that I have not run across before...
by asdf on Fri Feb 22nd, 2008 at 10:08:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spain's talgo trains have automatic gauge-changing. I took a train from Barcelona to Narbonne last year and at Perpignan the train slows down to a snail's pace and you hear these creaking noises as --- I presume --- a slowly-narrowing track pushes the wheels closer together.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Feb 23rd, 2008 at 05:53:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't believe that I read, posted and forgot to recommend this diary.  Sorry, DoDo!

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sat Feb 23rd, 2008 at 05:47:50 AM EST
Thanks for an excellent article in a fascinating blog.

As someone affected by the construction problems into Barcelona, I am disappointed to see that the fruit of all the pain ordinary commuters have suffered, not to mention the cost of the new line, is so lacking in ambition: a high speed service of just one train per hour, plus stopping services, with a 2-hour gap in the afternoon.

With hundreds of flights a week between the two cities to compete with, you'd have thought Renfe might want to use its new line a bit more intensively?

'One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.' (Jane Austen). *David J*

by dmj1962 on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 06:27:26 AM EST
You don't want to run empty trains. It's normal to run up services in frequency step-by-step.

However, while 971 flights vs. c. 120 trains would look indeed very assymmetric, all of those trains have a seat capacity close to a B-747.

Compare passenger numbers instead: all those planes carried 4 million, RENFE can expect c. 2.5 million Madrid-Barcelona travellers in the first year (at 50% seat utilisation) -- compared to c. 1.2 million in 2007. RENFE could take on the entire present air traffic with only a couple of train pairs added.

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

by DoDo on Mon Mar 17th, 2008 at 11:41:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry - have just seen the blog about 'Where is it?' Did anyone identify the second picture in Spain (the upper one being correctly identified as south of El Escorial)?

David J

'One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.' (Jane Austen). *David J*

by dmj1962 on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 06:54:29 AM EST
kcurie gave a rough guess, but no one gave a FlashEarth or Google Maps link to the precise site. It's still open :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Mar 17th, 2008 at 11:42:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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