Sun Dec 9th, 2012 at 11:09:26 AM EST
Today, on 9 December, European railways switched to the 2013 timetable. The changes include the start of regular service on new lines, including:
- The 50 km Hanzelijn (Hanze Line) across Eastern Flevoland polder in The Netherlands was inaugurated on 6 December. The on-time, within-budget 1.128 billion project finished a new link that cuts 13 minutes from travel times to the north-east of the country, and is expected to be travelled by 32,000 passengers/day.
- The Katzenbergtunnel, a 9,385 m bi-tube tunnel on a 250 km/h bypass of a curved section along the Rhine in Germany was inaugurated on 4 December. This 610 million project is part of the quadruple-tracking of the Karlsruhe–Basel line, an extremely busy transit corridor.
- The new Vienna–St. Pölten line was inaugurated on 23 November, and went into service today along with the first two platforms of the new Vienna Main Station. Switching to the new line and with top speed raised to 230 km/h, the locomotive-pulled railjet trains cut 15 minutes from Vienna–St. Pölten travel times and shorten the entire Vienna–Salzburg trip by 23 minutes to 2h 22m. The total number of daily trains on the old and new lines rose from 325 to 450. Most of the new trains are regional passenger trains, including new limited-stop services with a top speed of 200 km/h (I described two similar services in RNB #17). Vienna's new main station now opened only for regional and commuter services (which were newly connected across the city), long-distance trains will follow only in 2015, so the second half of the tunnel at the Vienna end of the new line is now being used by freight trains only.
Below the fold, I bring further stories on delays caused by rolling stock certification difficulties, ERTMS in Norway, and a new high-speed line in Manchuria.
Rolling stock delays and certification
In recent times, both manufacturers and train operators suffered from problems related to the certification of rolling stock, which has become more strict and more complicated. Some recent stories:
- In the Netherlands, following test service from July, the AnsaldoBreda V250 trains finally take over the domestic/BENeLux-only Fyra services using the HSL Zuid high-speed line. That's five years behind schedule, after diverse quality, train control system and approval problems.
- Siemens is producing Velaro D high-speed trains for German Railways (DB), which are destined for cross-border services. Due to problems in the delivery of parts and the certification of the vehicles, the trains were already a year behind the delivery schedule and multiple years behind the plans for those international services. Still, DB wanted to use the first trains at least to bolster domestic services this winter. But there is now another delay due to problems with the train control system.
- Two years ago, Siemens decided to merge and re-brand its modular electric and diesel locomotive platforms under the name Vectron. What followed was an extensive and partly still on-going certification test campaign across several European countries. However, train operators didn't want to burn their finger with another potentially delayed product and waited until the granting of approval. Until last month, Siemens received just two small orders for altogether eight Vectrons, and the first was handed over on 6 November only after approval for Germany. Now, after certification for Poland, the first major order came for 23 Vectrons (in a DC-only version) for DB's Polish freight branch.
- Hamburg-Köln-eXpress (HKX), Germany's first competitive long-distance passenger open-access train operator, started service on 23 July, a delay of altogether two years. A lot of that delay was related to delays in the commissioning of its refurbished coaches – which in fact is still on-going: service started with a limited schedule and leased vehicles, and problems with those vehicles necessitated the use of lower-quality replacements and even service cancellations even last month.
ERTMS in Norway
The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) is, as its name indicates, an EU-initiated standard for a new system of signalling, train control and train-to-dispatcher communication. (I introduced its main element, the European Train Control System (ETCS) in 310 km/h with ETCS.) ERTMS is intended to eventually replace the multitude of existing national systems, but introduction is slow due to its great complexity and the high cost of replacing existing equipment.
However, ERTMS/ETCS is finally maturing as a technology, and it is becoming the best option where existing systems are past their useful age. Thus it was possible that on 26 November, Norway's government decided to install ERMTS on the entire network. Norway is the
fourthsixth country (after Switzerland, Denmark and the BeNeLux countries) to go for complete replacement.
High-speed line in Manchuria
When the commissioning of the new 921 km Harbin–Dalian Passenger Dedicated Line in China's north-east started only two months ago, I thought it won't open until next year, and made my summary of the situation in RNB #18 accordingly. Yet it was opened on 1 December, albeit with a twist: top speed is only 200 km/h for now (which is still sufficient to cut 4 hours from the travel time). The reason is interesting: this is the first high-speed line in a region with Arctic winter, thus, in addition to modifications to rolling stock and infrastructure, top speed is to be restricted in the winter months by schedule. So there is time for commissioning for 300(350) km/h until 1 April 2013.
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Check the Train Blogging index page for a (hopefully) complete list of ET diaries and stories related to railways and trains.