Tue Oct 16th, 2012 at 09:11:10 AM EST
With the rail policy and InnoTrans specials, it's been almost two months since my last regular rail news blogging, so this selection covers a period reaching back to August. I'll first report on the parallel development of freight locos in China and France, then continue below the fold on public transport on 'foreign' tracks in France (regional trains on TGV lines and Lyon tram-trains), high-speed competition in Italy, and high-speed lines in Sweden and China.
CNR Datong unveils 10 MW locomotive designed to cross China - Railway Gazette
Rolled out on August 27, HXD21001 has a maximum speed of 120 km/h. It is rated at 10 MW, an increase from CNR Datong's previous 6·4 MW design...
The manufacturer says the domestically produced traction and control systems represent the results of a decade of development work. Components are protected against rain, sand and dust to cope with the differing environments encountered on very long-haul routes across China, while the cabs have a newly designed ergonomic console and improved air conditioning to provide better working conditions for the crew.
Another example of parallel developments by the original manufacturer and the Chinese manufacturer which was the beneficiary of technology transfer (see earlier examples here). This new CNR type was developed from an earlier type that was part of French maker Alstom's PRIMA locomotive platform. Meanwhile, Alstom is in the process of getting approvals across Europe for the 6.4 MW, four-axle PRIMA II. As reported earlier, this type is to be the first to haul through trains across the Channel Tunnel non-stop (eliminating the need for a change of locomotives), because Alstom and customer Europorte (subsidiary of Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel) pursue approvals for all three networks traversed. The trials for the Channel Tunnel itself were held on 29–30 September.
:: :: PUBLIC TRANSPORT ON 'FOREIGN' TRACKS :: ::
Regional trains to use high speed lines - Railway Gazette
FRANCE: Pays de La Loire region is funding a 15·8m programme to modify eight SNCF TER electric multiple-units to operate regional services on the high speed line now under construction between Le Mans and Rennes. Modifications will raise the maximum speed of the EMUs to 200 km/h.
...Due for completion in autumn 2016, the LGV Bretagne - Pay de la Loire between Le Mans and Rennes includes a 3·6 km west-to-south chord near Sablé-sur-Sarthe that will enable TER regional services from Rennes and Laval to reach Angers and Nantes.
This makes some sense because a c. 35 km section of the high-speed line between Laval and the chord at Sablé-sur-Sarthe (grey on the map below adapted from Thorsten Büker's rail map site) provides for a cut-off between two conventional lines (blue on map).
This will be a first in France, but not in Europe: there are 200 km/h limited-stop regional trains on the Nuremberg–Ingolstadt(–Munich) high-speed line, which is another case of a cut-off at a gap in the conventional network. (This service will get new vehicles.)
For the trains running regional services on high-speed lines, the higher top speed is less important than being equipped with a different train control system and being made pressure-resistant for high-speed train meetings in tunnels.
Lyon tram-train service launched - Railway Gazette
FRANCE: SNCF began operating tram-train services from Lyon Saint-Paul to Sain-Bel on September 24, following an official opening ceremony two days before.
On weekdays there is now a service every 30 min, increasing to every 15 min between Lyon and L'Arbresle during the peaks. It is hoped that ridership will double from present levels to 13 200 passengers a day by the end of 2012.
It is the first of three routes from Lyon Saint-Paul serving the city's western suburbs that are to be converted to tram-train operation...
Infrastructure work has comprised doubling some sections of single line, lengthening passing loops, track renewals, electrification and resignalling. Platforms have been rebuilt to provide level boarding, while a 35m station modernisation programme has included the installation of a real-time passenger information system and improved facilities for cyclists. A new station has been built at Lentilly-Charpenay, and Dommartin-Lissieu relocated; both now provide park and ride facilities.
I'm conflicted about this. Tram-train is a great idea, but not when it is used as a cheap alternative in a conurbation big enough for a higher-capacity and faster heavy-rail solution. In this case, 13,200 passengers a day is not too high for light rail. However, I observe that the conflicting needs of tram-trains and freight trains might prevent the integration of further lines into Lyon's suburban network, meaning lines to the west of those converted now (purple resp. dashed purple/green on map below again adapted from Thorsten Büker's rail map site).
:: :: HIGH-SPEED COMPETITION IN ITALY :: ::
La Repubblica reported Italian State Railways' (FS) first half-year results on 25 September, which I am only going to paraphrase. Net profit doubled year-on-year to 182 million. FS emphasized that the passenger transport division increased profit by 40 million in spite of the appearance of a competitor on the high-speed market (NTV). We'll see if that holds in the rest of the year, now that NTV significantly expanded its services. A much stronger improvement however was the 133 million rise in the net profit for the infrastructure manager daughter company. They don't say but probably a good chunk of that is the track access charges of NTV. Meanwhile, the tussle between FS and NTV involved a bizarre spat over a fence between NTV's passenger lounge and track in Rome.
(For a summary of the FS vs. NTV competition, see The Dawn Of Open Access (2/2). I also reported FS's concerns over the negative side effects of competition and NTV's meagre initial results.)
:: :: HIGH-SPEED LINES IN SWEDEN :: ::
Swedish high speed lines to go ahead - Railway Gazette
SWEDEN: The government announced on August 29 that the 150 km Ostlänken high speed line is to be constructed as part of a SKr55bn railway investment package intended to create jobs and economic growth.
Given parliamentary approval the construction of the double-track line between Järna and Linköping could begin in 2017 for completion no later than 2028. The SKr30bn project would see journey times between Stockholm and Norrköping reduced by 20 min and Stockholm - Linköping by 30 min. Infrastructure manager Trafikverket is to start detailed planning for the railway imminently.
2017 to 2028? That's a pretty drawn-out plan, and makes sure that annual costs are low while total costs rise. Meanwhile, up in the north, where Sweden's first new mainline in decades was opened two years ago, some connected upgrades are progressing slowly:
Rebuilt Adalsbanan officially reopened - Railway Gazette
SWEDEN: Minister for Infrastructure Catharina Elmsäter-Svärd officially opened the upgraded Adalsbanan between Sundsvall and the southern end of the Botniabanan on September 14...
During the course of the SKr6·6bn project, infrastructure manager Trafikverket has upgraded 100 km and built 30 km of new railway since construction started in 2003. Scheduled for completion in 2010, the project has been delayed by funding issues and problems with the ETCS Level 2 signalling equipment.
...Although the upgraded railway has just reopened, Trafikverket is already studying proposals for a new alignment for the section between Sundsvall and Härnösand, because only low speeds are possible on the current sinuous route. While the new sections have been built for 200 km/h and the rest of the line has been upgraded for 150 km/h, the Sundsvall - Hänösand section is limited to a maximum of 100 km/h...
A map, from Trafikverket, showing the new cut-offs (blue) and the upgraded section still rich in curves (red). Originally, the whole of this section was to be bypassed inland by a southern extension of the Botniabanan.
:: :: HIGH-SPEED LINES IN CHINA :: ::
A few months ago, China's Ministry of Railways promised the finishing of two more high-speed lines this year. Half of the first, the 536 km between Zhengzhou and Wuhan, entered service on 28 September. Trains running at 300 km/h more than halved travel time from 4h 28m to 1h 56m. The commissioning of the remainder, about 600 km from Beijing to Zhengzhou, started, but opening was pushed to early 2013. However, after that, only the short Hong Kong section of the 2,247 km Beijing–Hong Kong line will remain to be finished.
The other long high-speed line promised for this year was the 921 km Harbin–Dalian line in the north-east, which could also be delayed to early 2013, as commissioning tests started on 8 October only.
:: :: :: :: ::
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