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DB wants ICE running from Cologne to London via the Chunnel

by Magnifico Fri May 28th, 2010 at 02:28:53 PM EST

Spiegel has posted an interview with Rüdiger Grube, the CEO of Deutsche Bahn, 'I Never Thought the Job Would Be Easy'. Here are some points from the interview that I found interesting.

  • DB's goal is to run the trains 90% on time.

  • €1 million is being spent to overhaul the coffee machines on ICE trains.

  • DB needs up to "up to 300 new trains for long-distance rail travel", an order they estimate to be worth €5 billion.

  • DB is trying to buy Arriva, the British transport operator, for €2.7 billion.

  • DB is investing €41 billion on German rail over the next 5 years.

  • DB is €15 billion in debt.

Also, Grube thinks French and British operators are blocking the DB from running ICE trains to London via the Channel Tunnel.


SPIEGEL: Is it possible to concieve -- from an industrial policy perspective --that the head of state-owned Deutsche Bahn would spend billions on trains made in France or Japan?

Grube: Why not? Of course it would be really sensible if every stakeholder managed to achieve a truly European rail system -- with the same standards, the same requirements for entry, the same competitive conditions. According to our research, there are around 1.2 million people in greater Cologne who would like to travel to London by train at some stage. But we cannot get our ICE trains into the Eurotunnel because the operators in France and England block that stretch of rail with the TGV trains. The ICEs are permitted to travel through every Alpine tunnel -- but, funnily enough, they're not allowed through the Eurotunnel.

SPIEGEL: But Paris can't keep you away from there ...

Grube: The conditions for entry to the tunnel are so absurd that only the French trains fulfill them. They say, for example, that the train must be 400 meters long.

SPIEGEL: Why don't you just couple two ICEs together?

Grube: But then there's another rule: The passengers have to be able to walk the full length of the train. So it wouldn't work. It's absurd! Of course new laws are always being thought up to liberalize Europe, but they're never implemented. France doesn't even have a competition authority where we could take our complaints. It's plainly discrimination. That is no way to grow.

In December 2009, the Eurotunnel group granted approval to DB for ICE trains to go through the Channel Tunnel.

Lastly, Grube seems not to be a proponent of further DB privatization.

SPIEGEL: Political leaders have accused you, as they accused your predecessor, of doing too little for Deutsche Bahn itself. What do you say to the Free Democrats, for instance, who still want to separate the rail network from rail infrastructure management?

Grube: I'm a firm believer in competition. But an integrated Deutsche Bahn simply makes sense. If we were to privatize the German rail network like they did in Britain, I would not continue as head of Deutsche Bahn.

Postscript: the article also noted Deutsche Bahn celebrated the 175th birthday of railways in Germany on May 11, 2010.

In 175 years, Germany went from the Stephenson-built Adler (here in replica) traveling at 33.7 km/hr over the 6.04 km-long Königlich privilegirte Ludwigs-Eisenbahn-Gesellschaft.

To trains like the Siemens-built ICE 3 traveling up to 300 km/hr over the electrified parts of DB's 33,721 km system throughout Germany and across Europe.

Not bad for 175 years.

Display:

Grube: The conditions for entry to the tunnel are so absurd that only the French trains fulfill them. They say, for example, that the train must be 400 meters long.

SPIEGEL: Why don't you just couple two ICEs together?

Grube: But then there's another rule: The passengers have to be able to walk the full length of the train. So it wouldn't work. It's absurd!

Mr. Grube is new to the rail business, so I err on the safe side and assume no one told him that that safety rule has to do with the spacing of cross-passages at every 375 m... Sigh.

In fact the same rule rules out common TGVs completely, as they are around 200 m long and cannot be significantly lengthened; but DB could opt to recombine ICE3 cars in a longer formation, if it doesn't go another way then with two new middle cars, and get that approved. There are 16-car CHR3s for China.

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

by DoDo on Fri May 28th, 2010 at 03:44:18 PM EST
However, apart from the above technical nitpick, it is very much true of course that the incumbents would like to keep DB away, and tried everything in the past 2-3 years =(well before Grube replaced Mehdorn): those ICEs would not just transport the new passengers from Cologne. In prior times of cooperation in place of cutthroat competition, agreements could be made; see ICE-TGV parallel running on the LGV Est.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 28th, 2010 at 03:48:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another meta-comment: instead of foreign expansion, Grube should follow up on his promise (which was never worth much coming from a non-specialist parachuter) to first right the ills of the "core business".

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 28th, 2010 at 03:49:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You don't understand modern business management.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 28th, 2010 at 04:21:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What was it Robert Reich called it? "Paper entrepreneurship?"

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 28th, 2010 at 04:53:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is keeping DB out of the Chunnel primarily an anti-competitive thing or are there capacity constraints?  If there is spare capacity one would have thought it would be in the Operators interests to allow additional carriers in both to optimise capacity utilisation and to reduce their dependency on a few carriers.  Who owns/controls the Chunnel now, and in who's interest is it run?

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat May 29th, 2010 at 07:07:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is not just about the Chunnel itself.

  1. The Chunnel, and the Shuttle services through it, are run by Eurotunnel. As indicated above, constraints DB faces from them are neither anti-competitive nor capacity-related, but safety-related, even if that's beyond Mr. Grube's expertise.
  2. High-speed trains between London and Bruxelles, resp. Paris, are run by an independent company, Eurostar. Eurostar is a joint venture of the French and Belgian state railways and the successors of onetime British Rail, hence, Eurostar's interest is SNCF's.
  3. To reach the Chunnel, DB's trains will have to use France's LGV Nord, that is where SNCF resp. infrastructure authority RFF can play nasty.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat May 29th, 2010 at 11:00:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So ultimately (legitimate but not insuperable safety considerations aside) this is an SNCF DB competitive issue, or is it not as simple as that?

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun May 30th, 2010 at 06:39:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is ultimately multiple issues which shouldn't all be washed together :-) The biggest match is SNCF vs. DB indeed, and Grube thinks every obstacle DB faces is an SNCF machination. But there is also an interoperability issue, part of which is that safety rule; and Belgium's SNCB has its stake in the competition thing alongside SNCF, too. (ICEs were long hindered from running to Brussels at full speed, too.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 30th, 2010 at 02:38:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does the EU make any effort to mandate interoperable standards for all future development to ensure that interoperability issues are reduced in the future?  After all, we are supposed to be in a single market...

Does DB use similar leverage to limit access by SNCF access to - e.g. Moscow?  After all, access to the UK isn't the only game in town.

Do you have any comment on the claim that the Chunnel has brought few if any economic benefits to the regions on both sides of the Chunnel or the economy of the UK?

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun May 30th, 2010 at 03:33:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the state of the railways that far east is more effective at limiting access to Moscow than anything DB could do (it takes 6 hours for the 500km from Berlin to Warsaw, let alone Moscow). With the abolition of the night service, there isn't even any decent train connection from Munich to Prague any more....
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun May 30th, 2010 at 03:42:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it takes 6 hours for the 500km from Berlin to Warsaw

Nitpick: just short of 570 km, and at least day trains are 20 minutes faster. Another 10 minutes will be cut in December, when PKP's new EU44 "Husarz" locomotives (Siemens ES64U4 = Taurus 3) will start to pull them on the whole stretch. Still, a high-speed line would make 2-2½ hours possible.

there isn't even any decent train connection from Munich to Prague any more

Are the ALEX trains that now run the (539 km) relation in six hours crap? (It's difficult to go faster though, with no electrification from Nuremberg.)

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

by DoDo on Mon May 31st, 2010 at 03:44:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's difficult to go faster though, with no electrification from Nuremberg

Correct, but at least with the night train that didn't matter as much.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon May 31st, 2010 at 03:46:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does the EU make any effort to mandate interoperable standards

Yes of course. That's a central element of its rail policy since 1996. It is also extremely difficult and costy to implement.

Does DB use similar leverage to limit access by SNCF

SNCF had no ambitions until recently to run competitive services across Germany, so it's difficult to tell. There is (theoretically) open competition on long-distance services in the EU since 1 January 2010, and SNCF announced plans to run trains from Strasbourg to Frankfurt and then branching to Hamburg and Berlin from the end of this year. However, realising that the approval of locomotives and coaches would take longer, they calculated that buying the timetable slots for 4 years but using it for only 2½ years won't bring profit, and dropped the plans.

Note that, on the basis of cooperation, there are TGVs running in Germany: SNCF's own run from Strasbourg to Karlsruhe, Stuttgart and Munich (and, when ICEs have problems, also on the other route via Saarbrücken to Frankfurt); and those of international consortium Thalys (in which both SNCF and DB have a stake) run from Brussels to Cologne.

the claim that the Chunnel has brought few if any economic benefits to the regions on both sides of the Chunnel

Other than that it's dated? It's true though that the failure to establish a cross-Channel regional service (proposed in recent years) limits any regional effect.

or the economy of the UK?

The Chunnel has been a financial disaster, no question about it. Only the recent debt restructuring brought it into the black. But I blame the messy private financing and the delay in the British connecting line, both crimes of Maggie Thatcher.

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

by DoDo on Mon May 31st, 2010 at 03:06:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Many thanks for your comprehensive reply.  As you can see I'm still learning the ABCs of the train industry.  It's never been particularly important or seen as strategic in Ireland and my experience of it elsewhere is limited.  

To the outsider it also appears as a very expensive and inflexible infrastructure with a lot of externalities which need to be factored in - although I have no idea of how roads compare in terms of costs per passenger and tonnes of goods carried.  

I am concerned at the carbon intensity of all of our current modes of public and cargo mass transport and would be interested in discovering how roads, rail, ships and air compare in this regard.  Most of the growth, in recent years, seems to have been in air transport (or is this an Irish phenomenon?) and I am concerned at the reasons for this and on how sustainable this will be in the long term and what the best alternatives are.

Frank's Home Page and Diary Index

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon May 31st, 2010 at 05:15:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Rail transport is less energy intensive than road transport. By between half and a full order of magnitude, depending on whether it is electrified or not, and depending on the capacity utilisation. I suspect, but don't know, that it is about as bad in terms of bisecting habitats.

But the real advantage to electric rail is that it permits of a comparatively straightforward conversion from fossil fuels to other forms of electrical generation.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon May 31st, 2010 at 06:11:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I suspect, but don't know, that it is about as bad in terms of bisecting habitats.

By the nature of traffic, i.e. longer pauses between trains, a normal rail line in the temperate climate zone is less bisecting habitats. High-speed lines with fences along the tracks are another thing, though the longer tunnel stretches than on highways mean reduced impact.

Interestingly, a problem reported from Sweden is that trains hit a lot of elks who insist to squat on the tracks, presumably because there are less mosquitoes in the sunshine.

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

by DoDo on Mon May 31st, 2010 at 10:31:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And they do have some problems on high-speed lines in Germany. I remember once an announcement that we would be delayed (somewhere in NRW) because of a "Leichenam" on the track. We, of course, assumed that the police would have to investigate, etc., and we would be stuck for hours. Then came an announcement that it was merely a "Wildschweinleiche" and we all breathed a sigh of relied.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon May 31st, 2010 at 10:35:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
NRW? Cologne-Frankfurt line? Or was it an ICE on a conventional line?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 31st, 2010 at 03:43:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it (the corpse) was around Dortmund, but the train I was on was somewhere to the west. This was a while ago, and may even have predated the faster Cologne-Frankfurt line.

On the same line, somewhere between Bonn and Cologne I think, we once stopped for a while, and then proceeded slowly because of children playing by the tracks. The announcement?

Wir bitten um Ihr Verständnis, und hoffen dass wir keine erwischen.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon May 31st, 2010 at 04:53:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ugh...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 31st, 2010 at 04:56:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a general problems with elks (for americans, please note that this is European elk, or what you call moose) and traffic in Sweden.

I would say that the problem is less for rail then cars though, or at least much less human casualties are reported from rail accidents. I guess the engine manages such a collision without much trouble. In the case of cars, the car often hits the elk at the legs, tipping the body so it crashes through the windshield, killing both elk and humans (male elks can weigh up to 700 kg). There has been different attempts to solve this by steering the moose to safer passages. Synthesized wolf urine was used in one large scale experiment, I do not think it worked out though.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon May 31st, 2010 at 11:13:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that safety rule has to do with the spacing of cross-passages at every 375 m...

With the sidenote that the issue of the spacing of cross-passages (for bi-tube tunnels) resp. escape hatches (for two-track single-tube tunnels) is a nasty little secret of new long tunnels, with DB under Grube's predecessors as one of the worst offenders. Saving cros-passages is saving costs, after all... Now EU rules force a spacing around every 300-350 m, which still means that passengers would have to walk hundreds of metres in an orderly fashion along the side of the stopped 2x200 m long train to the cross-passage while smoke fills the tunnel, but better than 500 m (the in-construction bitube Katzenbergtunnel), or even up to 1000 m distances (Cologne-Frankfurt line monotube tunnels).

Of the longest new tunnels, Spain's 28.4 km Guadarrama Tunnel is the best in this respect (cross-passages every 250 m).

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

by DoDo on Fri May 28th, 2010 at 04:45:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, among the longest ones... The 8.2 km Perthus Tunnel on the Catalan/French border has cross-passages every 200 m.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri May 28th, 2010 at 04:55:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DB is trying to buy Arriva, the British transport operator, for €2.7 billion.

Oh, please do.

(Arriva runs a lot of trains and buses in Denmark - on those occasions when they actually run...)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 28th, 2010 at 04:01:42 PM EST
Then you'll get to hear DB personal trying to speak Danish. Good luck: the takeover by DB of the EC trains to Italy has resulted in the most atrocious Italian I've ever heard....
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Fri May 28th, 2010 at 04:07:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Trains in Denmark have automated announcement systems - the driver can speak Klingon for all the passengers will normally care.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 28th, 2010 at 04:10:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dn't Arriva?
by njh on Fri May 28th, 2010 at 07:44:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Initially they didn't. They got better on the whole actually sticking to a time table thing, but we still have to put up with the fact that they treat their drivers like shit - which means that the drivers will, at regular intervals, flat out refuse to pilot the buses, on account of it being unsafe to do so with the rest periods allotted to them.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri May 28th, 2010 at 07:47:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, but what we really want to know is whether the Adler is allowed in the chunnel.
by njh on Fri May 28th, 2010 at 07:39:07 PM EST


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