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Rail policy updates

by DoDo Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 04:08:28 AM EST

Over the years I wrote a couple of more serious Train Blogging diaries introducing and analysing the (mostly) unfortunate choices of European policy-makers regarding railways in the past two decades. But these 'reforms' move on and there are further complications and new case studies. In this diary, I return to four subjects on the occasion of some updates:

  • the general drive to 'deregulate' and privatise the once state-monopolist railways;
  • the implications of the EU's preferred type of privatisation, open access;
  • the tussle over a key element of both open access and some other types of privatisation, the unbundling of infrastructure and train operations;
  • the upgrade old lines vs. build new lines debate.



The shock doctrine hits the rails ('reform' in Spain)

Railways have always been victims of austerity programmes. This usually takes the form of branchline closures, delayed construction, and 'saving' on maintenance. Spain's rail network had few branchlines to start with, but it was subject to a grand programme of practical total re-construction, along with the creation of Europe's most comprehensive high-speed network. Thus, in the current crisis, the main effect so far was the stretching of the construction timetable for on-going projects (which means lower annual but higher total costs) and attempts to involve private capital (the construction of the remainder of the line to Galicia was awarded in March as PPP contract).

While austerity is an insane policy in itself (reducing public expenses with the effect of reduced production and thus reduced public income), it is also used to push through 'reforms' which have little to do with the ostensible goal of reducing public deficits and debt. As Naomi Klein argued in The Shock Doctrine, neoliberal 'reformists' see a crisis as an opportunity to push through changes which would never have been approved democratically in normal conditions. You don't need to compose even formally logical arguments to explain how the changes would help solve the crisis: the point is that public opinion is in a shocked state where no serious questions are asked.

This shock doctrine is now being applied to Spain's rail sector, too. The conservative government didn't even wait for open calls from eventual bailout overlords, but, be it a result of a stupid ambition to prove themselves before lenders or the victory of a neolib faction within the Popular Party, they announced a radical deregulation of the railway sector in July. The reform plans include the transformation of Spanish Railways RENFE's operating units into independent companies and the facilitation of competition in every sub-sector. How this shall reduce deficits and debt, wasn't explained. The European record of cost reductions due to deregulation isn't exactly positive, I think serious claims to that extent were only made regarding Sweden.

Worse, Spain is a uniquely bad setting for the creation of competition on rails, largely due to the fact that most of the network is laid in Iberian broad gauge. In other European countries, new competitors on rail are usually small regional or industrial railways that expand beyond their original territory, or foreign companies partnering with the former to gain local experience and expertise. Spain's RENFE however is virtually the only operator of broad-gauge trains, especially in the passenger sectors (the only significant alternative would be Catalonia's FGC, which is to enter the freight market too). Furthermore, in the freight sector (which is already deregulated across the EU anyway), new competitors focus on international traffic, but this market is limited in Spain by the gauge change necessary.

Serious competition could eventually take off on the standard-gauge high-speed network, especially once it will be linked up with the French network (a work in progress for once delayed by factors other than austerity). That would be a reform 'success' in the one field where RENFE's services aren't operated at a loss or subsidized (the very excuse for the reform). And why 'reform' something that works, even under the adverse conditions of the crisis? For example, on the Madrid–Barcelona relation, where airlines gave a heavy competition in the first crisis year, RENFE's AVE high-speed trains now won a majority of the air/rail market for the first time in the first half of the year (hat tip to Migeru for the link in Spanish); possibly related to the improved travel time. (If you read my Puente AVE diary and recall an earlier achievement of a 50% market share, I should note that there was a major upwards correction of airline passenger numbers in the official stats.)

The most significant result of the reform may be privatisation without competition: there could be a sell-off of the companies RENFE is to be broken into, in particular the loss-making freight branch. This has some history across the EU (for example, Bulgaria launched the controversial privatisation process in June), also as shock doctrine application, and also a history of bad deals for the state, which often pours even more money into the loss-making business branch to make it appear attractive to investors.


Open access (complications in the Czech Republic)

In the push for the deregulation of the EU's rail sector, both the Commission and the Parliament prefers a model the EU pioneered: open access, in which rail infrastructure is to function just like highways, which any train operating company can access. The EU (for international services) and several EU members (for domestic services) introduced open access in long-distance rail passenger transport. While I think that the result of the open access reforms in general wasn't exactly what was intended/promised, my main concern regarding this sub-sector is that new competitors will focus on the busiest lines. With the profits of the incumbent slashed, even if total passenger numbers are increased on those few lines, this will negatively impact the viability of the wider service network.

The first such effects can be seen in the Czech Republic. The first new competitor on the busiest lines (RegioJet) appeared last September, a second (Leo Express) is to start services in the near future. I reported that by January this year, the incumbent (CD) expressed concern over its ability to maintain other services, while RegioJet had the gall to suggest that CD should leave the busiest lines to them and Leo Express and the state should subsidize CD's other services.

Things then came to a head on another front: international services. Currently, there are several trains a day along the Hamburg–Berlin–Prague–Vienna resp. Hamburg–Berlin–Prague–Bratislava–Budapest corridors. German Railways DB, however, decided in May to partner with RegioJet in offering Hamburg–Berlin–Prague trains, putting the through services to Vienna and Budapest in limbo. This problem and the investment need of the domestic competition forced CD to bury their plan to purchase new trains for these services.

Now there have been two new twists in the story. On one hand, predictably, DB and RegioJet found that their plans can't be implemented as fast as desired, saving the through services until December 2014 at least. On the other hand, Austrian Federal Railways ÖBB entered the fray, allying with CD to provide Prague–Vienna–Graz services, thus CD partly re-instated its order for new trains. The rest of the trains could be saved if Slovakia's ŽSSK and Hungary's MÁV-START can be won as partners for the Prague–Bratislava–Budapest services, too.

If there won't be further twists, the relatively fortunate, but still not positive end effect of the open access mess will be that long-distance passengers will have to break their journey in Prague, and possibly pay more for the two tickets than for the single one today.


Complete unbundling (isn't coming)

A necessary basis for open access – as well as the second deregulation model applied in the EU, franchising of (typically passenger, most often local passenger) services – is unbundling: the separate management of infrastructure (tracks, overhead lines, stations, terminals) and train operation. The infrastructure manager sets up a virtual timetable, and sells timetable slots (called "train paths") to the train operators, based on pre-defined track access charges.

Unbundling brings a host of problems, many of them stemming from the disruption of coordination between the maintenance and development of infrastructure and trains, others from the creation of new bureaucracies and redundancies. However, the loudest and most visible controversies concern tussles over the level of track access charges and the process of awarding train paths. The part reported most often is new entrants accusing the infrastructure manager of favouring the incumbent train operator due to too close ties. Hence, they call for complete unbundling: they aren't content with the widespread practice of turning former state monopolists into holdings with independently managed infrastructure and train operator branches (as in Germany, Italy, Poland or Hungary), but want wholly independent companies (as exist in France, Britain, Spain or Sweden).

A fact ignored by complete unbundling enthusiasts is that the "new entrants vs. incumbent" view is only a shallow angle on a bigger picture: a bigger conflict over externalities. Since unbundling, the different players can be grouped into three main interest groups with conflicting interests: infrastructure managers, operators of subsidized passenger services, and operators of non-subsidized passenger or freight services. The real subject of track access charge battles is the shuffling of costs between these three sides, and costs shifted to any of the subsidized sides is a cross-subsidy towards the others.

At any rate, the idea of complete unbundling is opposed by several national governments but is favoured by the European Commission and a large part of Parliament (from parts of the EPP via Socialists and Liberals to the Greens). Earlier this year, the Commission brought charges against several states in this mindset. However, on on 6 September, European Court of Justice Advocate Generate Niilo Jääskinen delivered an opinion (usually followed by the judges) in which he agreed only on details in the Commission's criticism of different member states' implementation of the reforms, but disagreed with the notion that complete unbundling is required to ensure non-discriminatory access base on existing EU legislation.

Regarding the opposition of a number of national governments to complete unbundling, an interesting comment came from Germany's federal transport minister Peter Ramsauer (member of the Bavarian CSU):

Bundesverkehrsminister Peter Ramsauer hat seine Ablehnung einer Zerschlagung der Deutschen Bahn bekräftigt. Die Deutsche Bahn ,,entwickelt sich sehr positiv, das dürfen wir nicht durch ideologisch motivierte Experimente gefährden", sagte Ramsauer der imtakt, dem Magazin der Eisenbahn- und Verkehrsgewerkschaft.German federal transport minister Peter Ramsauer reinforced his rejection of the break-up of German Railways (DB). German Railways "is developing in a very positive way, we should not endanger this by ideologically motivated experiments ", Ramsauer told imtakt, the journal of the Railway and Transport Union (EVG).

My emphasis. It's nice to hear from one of the Serious People that this neoliberal reform is ideological. Then again, Ramsauer's stance (and that of the other national government officials rejecting complete unbundling) is most likely less motivated by a principled disagreement with the deregulation drive, and more by a desire for national champions that can compete on the EU level (contrary to the business press stereotype, that's not a French speciality).


Upgrades vs. new lines (conflict in Bamberg)

Transport mega-projects have a tendency to provoke environmentalist and/or NIMBY protests, be late, and go way over budget. What are the alternatives? There is a view popular both among those who support protests and those who'd like to reduce government spending that upgrading existing infrastructure is cheaper. However, at least for the rail sector, I disagree with the idea:

  • Existing rail lines run through built-up areas. Dealing with existing infrastructure can be expensive, and there will be much more NIMBY issues due to noise emissions.
  • Upgrades aren't immune to delays, which are the main cost-boosting factor for mega-projects: designs have to be reviewed and adapted for new regulations, land acquisition costs may rise, workers and interests have to be paid for longer, and there is inflation.

A case study is the Nuremberg–Erfurt high-speed line, which is a prime example of delays and cost overruns in Germany: the expected 2017 opening of the first section is 17 years behind the original schedule, while the budget grew from €3.68 billion (1991) to €5.28 billion (end of 2011, with €2.2 billion spent). Critics point at the 41 km of tunnels and 12 km of bridges on the high-speed crossing of the Thuringian Forest mountains (a result of setting a low 12.5‰ maximum grade to allow freight trains too). However, this analysis ignores that the new line is only one of two sections of the entire project. The new line costs only c. €2.9 billion for 107 km of 300 km/h tracks, the rest is for the quadruple-tracking of 83 km of conventional line, mostly for 230 km/h, and most of which is yet to be tendered. The cost per kilometre is actually slightly higher for the upgraded section than for the superstructure-loaded new section!

A cost booster for the upgrading project is that stricter noise regulations require more extensive noise barriers. These barriers may limit NIMBY protests due to noise, but pose a new problem with their visual impact: they can cut towns and cities in half like new Berlin Walls. And just that is cause for the newest conflict in connection with the Nuremberg–Erfurt high-speed line: the city of Bamberg is concerned that the high noise barriers will even cause the loss of UNESCO World Heritage status, and there are calls for a bypass instead. Whatever solution is found, I suspect the end result will be more expensive than had they planned for a parallel new line instead of quadruple-tracking (say along the parallel A73 highway) outright.

:: :: :: :: ::

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

Display:
I must submit this diary was a difficult birth (worked on it for almost a month): rail policy is just depressing...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Sep 16th, 2012 at 05:02:31 PM EST
Two additional stories from Spain: El Gobierno estudia dividir Adif en dos empresas, una para el AVE
La reestructuración del ente público dependiente del Ministerio de Fomento tendrá que estar lista antes de fin de año, dado que su objetivo es cumplir con las nuevas normas de contabilidad europeas que entran en vigor el próximo mes de enero y evitar que parte de la deuda de Adif pase a contar para el cálculo del déficit público.

En la actualidad, este ente público cuenta con un pasivo de 14.600 millones de euros, en su mayor parte asociado a la promoción y construcción de líneas AVE.

Así, la nueva sociedad de vías AVE asumirá gran parte de la actual deuda de Adif. Como esta filial obtiene del mercado, y no de dotaciones públicas, más del 50% de sus ingresos, evitará que este pasivo compute para el déficit del Estado.

(Europe Press)

The Government is considering to split Adif [Administrator of Railway Infrastructures] into two companies, one for the AVE

The restructuring of the public institution dependent on the ministry of public works must be ready by the end of the year, given that its goal is to comply with the new European accounting rules coming into force next January and to avoid that part of Adif's debt computes for public deficit.

Currently, this public institution has liabilities of €14.6bn, mostly associated to the promotion and construction of AVE lines.

Thus, the new AVE track firm will take on most of the current debt of Adif. As this subsidiary funds itself on the markets and not from public contributions, this will avoid that these liabilities compute for the State deficit.



I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 16th, 2012 at 05:21:54 PM EST
This follow-up is in English: Anti-trust regulator questions privatization plan for state railway (El Pais, 16 September 2012)

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 16th, 2012 at 05:24:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The regulator piles on the nonexistent calculations and the undemocratic process:

"The idea behind the reform, in certain crucial aspects for the future performance of the market, is clearly indeterminate," the CNE said in its report. "Nor does it explain how other draft regulatory elements for introducing competition and liberalization would be effective."

...Because of the significance of these changes, the watchdog criticizes the government for choosing to undertake them by decree instead of allowing Congress to study the proposed overhaul.

"In what has become increasingly recurring practice, a legislative reform has again been submitted in an expeditious and partial manner on an industry whose regulation requires a thorough review so that a truly possible enhancement for effective competition can take place," the CNE's report states.

However, what they want is not less but more 'reform'...

The report puts in doubt how private operators will be able to compete with the advantages Renfe will still have. "It will continue to be entitled to exploit the network's capacity, which it has used effectively, at the time that such opening up of the market takes place," the anti-trust authority highlighted. In other words, Renfe will not have to make room for its rivals.

...The commission, however, does see the breakup of Renfe into four companies as a positive move, but points out that it must go beyond what has been stated on paper. Each company must be effectively independent of each another, not "merely formally and legally" but also at the "accounting and operating levels."

So principled opposition remains in the hands of the unions:

Rail workers unions last month began a series of strikes that they plan on carrying out through September. Union officials believe that opening up the sector will mean poorer service, higher passenger fees and increased risks of accidents.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 03:41:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me quote this part again:

Each company must be effectively independent of each another, not "merely formally and legally" but also at the "accounting and operating levels."

Connecting to another theme of the diary, the calls for complete unbundling also overlook that formal separation won't necessarily end complaints about the special treatment of the incumbent train operator. A case in point is France, where RFF even subcontracts infrastructure works to SNCF; then again, there have been disputes over track access charges between RFF and SNCF, too.

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

by DoDo on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 03:52:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Regarding the splitting of ADIF: this at least makes sense in the framework of austerity. Then again, the resulting public deficit reduction is just an accounting trick, made possible by the idiotic rules on public finances. Worse, overall, it has to cost more: with two companies, certain company branches and certain leadership positions have to be doubled.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 02:15:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But what is the problem in Bamberg ?? The railway is at least a kilometre away from the touristy town centre. All that's near the station is modern buildings and a decaying engine shed.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 08:23:39 AM EST
Apparently the noise barriers would block the sight on the cathedral mountain, be visible from the old city and spoil photos overlooking the old city. On the UNESCO site, there is a map (warning: 16MB!) which shows protected areas near the station, too, even including the station building. This article (in German) includes another map of the protected areas and the section to be walled in 7 m high, a still image from a 3D computer model, and a photo of a bridge with the model of the noise wall built upon it by protesters.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 02:40:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
7 M high !!!!!

That's just daft.

and I still think the railway is too far from anything tourists actually look at. But if the germans wanna be stupid about it, that's their affair

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 03:50:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
7 m is just hiogher than the catenary, apparently shielding from pantograph noise.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 03:51:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
why don't they just make  500 mile long tunnel of concrete if they're gonna be really stupid about it ?

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 03:53:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Apparently it's not about the pantograph noise. The more distance between rail and wall, the higher it must be to stop the noise. Repairs and maintenance works need room though. Here is an article about tests of a removable wall that sits close to the rail and needs only a height of 70cm. http://www1.wdr.de/themen/panorama/laermschutz110.html
by Katrin on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 05:10:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The more distance between rail and wall, the higher it must be to stop the noise.

Because of Fresnel diffraction. See also Fresnel zone.

At a given distance from the wall, the noise intensity decays exponentially with the distance down from the height of the barrier. So each metre of additional wall height helps. A lot.




I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 23rd, 2012 at 04:06:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The more distance between rail and wall, the higher it must be to stop the noise.

Good point, more relevant than my pantograph noise wild guess (see upthread).

a removable wall that sits close to the rail and needs only a height of 70cm.

Advance notice: last week, I was at the InnoTrans in Berlin (the world's biggest rail trade fair, held every two years), on which I shall report in a diary (hopefully by this weekend). There, I saw what looked like a further development of the system shown in the article you link: there is that noise-absorbing part (which is 55 cm high above the top of the rail and doubles as walkway for track workers) and there are parabolic noise-reflecting acrylic glass railings on the outer side.

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

by DoDo on Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 01:51:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The VCD has an article explaining the conflict:

VCD Bamberg: "Die Stadt, die Bahn und der Lärm" | Bahnsinn-Bamberg VCD Bamberg% u201CDie city, the railway and the noise% u201D | Railway sense Bamberg
Schnell stellte sich heraus, dass nicht der ICE der (Lärm-)Gegner ist. Im Gegenteil: Nur des Neubaus für den ICE wegen wird es großzügigen Lärmschutz geben. Und zwar Schutz gegen Lärm, den wir bisher schon immer haben: gegen den Lärm der Güterzüge (die viel lauter sind als der ICE).It quickly became clear that not the ICE is (noise-) enemy. In the contrary, only because of the construction for the ICE there will be ample protection against noise. Namely protection against existing noise: the noise of freight trains (which are much louder than the ICE).
Warum wird der Lärmschutz nicht heute schon, ohne Bezug auf den ICE, verbessert? Weil: Für die bis jetzt befahrenen Strecken ist der gesetzlich zugestandene Lärmschutz deutlich schwächer; die Güterzüge können rumpeln, so viel sie wollen (,,Bestandsschutz"). Für Neubaustrecken ist heute ein deutlich stärkerer Lärmschutz verbürgt. Der Umbau durch Bamberg ist so weitreichend, dass er unter die Anforderungen für Neubau fällt.Why is the noise protection not already improved, without reference to the ICE? Because: For the existing routes the legally conceded noise protection is much weaker, the rumbling freight trains can make noise as much as they want (% u201EBestandsschutz% u201D). For new lines now a much stronger noise protection is guaranteed. The conversion of Bamberg is so broad that it falls within the requirements for new construction.
Der Lärm ist zuviel und soll weniger werden - aber wie? Das Eisenbahnbundesamt erkennt bisher als Standard nur die Lärmschutzwand an. Deswegen ist auch für Bamberg sofort ,,die Mauer" angesetzt worden. So eine ,,Mauer" gibt es übrigens in Bamberg bereits (am Berliner Ring); man kann jedenfalls nicht so tun, als stünde ein vollkommen neues Gespenst vor der Tür. Aber schließlich geht es nicht darum, ob wir eine Mauer bekommen oder nicht, sondern darum, den Lärm weg zu bekommen. Es gibt glücklicherweise auch andere Mittel gegen den Schienenlärm, vor allem Mittel, die schon die Entstehung des Lärms einschränken. Sie werden bereits in Pilotprojekten erprobt - und Bamberg könnte sich zu einem Pilotprojekt machen lassen.The noise is too much and should be less% u2013 but how? The Federal Railway Authority recognizes far as standard of only the noise barrier. Therefore, for Bamberg immediately u201Edie% wall% u201D has been scheduled. such a wall incidentally exists in Bamberg already (Berliner Ring), you can not pretend that a wholly new specter stood before the door. But ultimately it's not about whether we get a wall or not, but to get away from the noise. Fortunately, there are also other means to reduce rail noise, especially agents that already restrict the origin of the noise. They are already being tested in pilot projects u2013% and Bamberg could become a pilot project.

This makes sense: they want to force the DB to develop modern techniques against the noise. DB is legally required to reduce the noise, the standard measure (the 7m wall) is ridiculous,  that's the lever for the VCD (which is an organisation supporting railway and bike, not some NIMBY group). They want to force DB and authorities to be innovative.

by Katrin on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 04:53:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, that sounds a more reasonable argument...except that the railway has been there over a hundred years and all the housing around it is new. That area was all farms and manufacturing, in fact the whole east side of the railway used to be shielded by a colossal brewery maltings.

so, why should people who moved into the area when the railway was already there get to complain about it being noisy ?

I am reminded of a shocking example from the UK. A preserved steam railway built a workshop a long way out of town because of the noise of their working. then some bright spark built a new housing development nearby and forced the railway to move their workshop "because of the noise". I still can't work out how that is right.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 05:34:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The people have moved to the noisy area because it is cheap there. They have no legal means to force the railway to reduce the noise, because the line is older than noise protection legislation. The only exception: the DB wants to build something new. As they are doing now.

What would you do, if you were living there? I find it easy: there are modern methods of noise reduction, so DB can bloody well use them.

by Katrin on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 05:47:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In other words, a cross-subsidy from DB to owners of real estate in that area. I can see why DB would go with the cheap-and-ugly solution.

The reasonable distribution of those costs, given the fact that the city built around the rail rather than the other way around, would be for the city to spring for noise shielding. Or at least a non-trivial fraction of the cost.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Sep 18th, 2012 at 03:48:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The city isn't built around the railway. It's built around the river/canal and the railway is a kilometre to the east of the river.

The problem comes that the west bank of the river rises rather steeply and so the noise of the railway is rather more apparent from the medieval castle 1.5 km away than from the housing 2 or 3 streets from the trains.

but this is the 21st century. We know what trains sound like. They're there for a minute or two and then they're gone. I stayed at a hotel 100 metres from the railway and had my windows open all night. I heard the trains if I happened to be awake, but my sleep wasn't disturbed by them.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Sep 18th, 2012 at 03:58:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Neither of you has answered the question what you would do if you lived there. An appeal to see the common good doesn't convince me: DB is about to be privatised, so why should the people living next to the line treat them as serving the public interest?

Less noise will not immediately be a subsidy to real estate owners: Flats in areas like that are usually rented, not owned by the inhabitants. And you can't raise the rent for a slight decrease of noise.  

Noise from railways may be music for enthusiasts, but people have a right not to be enthusiasts.

To make this shorter: beware of sounding like the advocates of nukes of thirty years ago. If there is a broad movement against something we advocate, we are just making a mistake.

by Katrin on Tue Sep 18th, 2012 at 07:03:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What kind of mistake?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Sep 18th, 2012 at 07:17:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The assumption that a plan was an advantage for everybody, and rejection could only be unreasonable.  

I had to google this particular protest and the more I read the more I like it. This movement is putting a finger on insufficient and outdated methods of noise protection. Well done.

by Katrin on Tue Sep 18th, 2012 at 07:40:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
people bought houses there because it was cheap (presumably, among other reasons because it was noisy because of the trains. so they should pay for the noise reduction given that they will benefit from the noise protection very directly (in higher house prices and/or rents).

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Sep 22nd, 2012 at 01:52:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I doubt that many houses there are inhabitated by their owners. It's the tenants whose wellbeing will be increased from less noise. The reduction in noise isn't a legal reason to increase the rent though, so house-owners wouldn't have an interest in paying for noise-reduction.

Noise (and the costs of reducing it) is the responsibility of the emitter. Even if it hits the most environment-friendly sort of transport, the principle still is right. Noise damages the health of those who are exposed to it, because they can't afford to live elsewhere. This is not their responsibility, but that of the emitter, and that of the planning authorities.

Besides, the population can't force an emitter to develop new technologies. They can only force the emitters to carry the cost of not developing more efficient noise reduction.

by Katrin on Sat Sep 22nd, 2012 at 03:27:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, polluter pays should apply to high speed rail and wind power just like it should apply to nuclear power.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Sep 23rd, 2012 at 03:54:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But in this case the polluter is freight traffic running on legacy plant, and the payer is passenger traffic running on new plant.

That's not "polluter pays." That's a cross-subsidy from non-polluting new plant to polluting legacy plant.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Sep 23rd, 2012 at 03:58:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Where the funds will actually come from is a different matter. The planned construction gives activists an angle of attack to force DB to do something against the noise. This is a completely normal procedure.  
by Katrin on Sun Sep 23rd, 2012 at 04:50:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It also gambles an unrelated new construction on DB's willingness to cough up the money to upgrade its legacy plant (something I still think the muni or state should spring for, since it's legacy plant).

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Sep 23rd, 2012 at 04:58:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps the state will do so. Would you demand shifting the cost to the public if it wasn't a railway project?
by Katrin on Sun Sep 23rd, 2012 at 05:08:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That would depend on the details. The question of when legacy plant must be upgraded, and at whose expense, is not amenable to quick rules of thumb. Demanding that legacy plant is upgraded based purely on the fact that newer technology exists is clearly unreasonable. Demanding that legacy plant be totally exempt from requirements to adopt modern technology is likewise unreasonable.

And yes, my decision would explicitly depend on whether I favor capacity expansion or retrenchment of that particular sector. In a sector where capacity expansion is desirable, it is more important to make certain that new plant is built to modern standards than dealing with legacy plant. Partly because technology will improve before the expansion is finished, meaning that upgrading before expansion will either leave you with a system which is not of uniform standard or require you to upgrade both before and after expansion.

We should not build new highways until funds have been secured for upgrading noise protection from existing highways. Pollution control measures should be used as an inroad to shut down coal burners ahead of schedule. But these are sectors where existing plant is adequate or excessive, not sectors which should be the focus of expansion.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Sep 23rd, 2012 at 05:42:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
At this point, I must ask: what do you mean by "legacy plant"? In the Bamberg example, the existing two tracks will be replaced by four new tracks for higher speeds (also necessitating the partial or complete tearing down of some buildings on the northeast side of the tracks).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 02:21:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, there is a cross-subsidy-ish aspect, though lessened by the fact that (contrary to the implication of the article Katrin quoted) passenger traffic at higher speeds would be a similar polluter (see my longer comment downthread). But whether it is truly a cross-subsidy depends on the sharing of costs via track access charges.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 02:17:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Right. More pertinent, though: it should apply to car traffic, too. And you can't claim that the VCD isn't demanding that very thing.
by Katrin on Sun Sep 23rd, 2012 at 04:53:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hm. Up to here this whole sub-thread strikes me as a phantom debate: the Bamberg conflict is not over whether or not to build a noise protection, but the appearance of that noise protection and possible alternatives (be it a low noise protection wall or a bypass line outside the city).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 02:11:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
tbh, when I was moving around germany, I noticed a lot of work putting up sound deflectors along urban motorways and railways and felt it was a good measure. By making sure that track noise is reduced, a significant part of noise nuisance is removed.

I agree with that.

My entry into this debate was the demand that 7 metre barriers be used in Bamberg: Which is an obviously more significant and expensive structure than the fences I saw elsewhere. This seemed to my eyes an absurd visually intrusive over-protection and, if the excuse of protecting the medieval part of Bamberg is being used, very poorly justified.

You cannot eliminate noise in the urban environment and, just as with a flat overlooking a busy road, a flat right next to a railway may well have to accept a certain raised level of noise. I agree with the 2 metre walls being used elsewhere. It may, as you point out, spoil the view for enthusiasts, but it seems a reasonable thing to do. However, 7 metres is simply absurd.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Sep 18th, 2012 at 07:55:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How many dB of extra noise suppression do you get by building that high?

I would have thought anything thinner than a couple of m of concrete would be partly porous to sound anyway. It won't do much to eliminate LF vibration and rumble.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Sep 18th, 2012 at 08:08:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Umm you don't, but you cover the second floor and above of high rise buildings.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Sep 18th, 2012 at 08:39:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to the VCD the 7m wall isn't what the movement demands. It is DB's answer and meant to discourage demands of modern noise protection.
by Katrin on Tue Sep 18th, 2012 at 08:58:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thinking about the configuration of the Bamberg noise wall, I just thought of another, simpler way to reduce the necessary wall height: a third wall in the middle. In DB's plans, there are noise protection walls only on the edges of the four-track cross section, so one wall has to contain noise up to 15 m away.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 02:33:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Their actions are perfectly reasonable given the rules of the game.

But those rules are silly: The alignment of a passenger capacity increase should not be influenced by pre-existing noise from freight which, unless the upgrade is expected to increase freight volumes as well. Now, noise shielding would be a perfectly worthwhile project to spend money on. And I happen to think that the German government should be spending a lot more money than it currently is. But tying it to the choice of through line upgrade vs. new bypass creates a perverse set of incentives. And diverting funds allotted to maintenance or capacity upgrades to cover that sort of legacy costs is unacceptable.

Tl,dr: Noise shielding from existing traffic should be decided (and funded) independently of decisions about new traffic.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Sep 18th, 2012 at 08:31:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
so, why should people who moved into the area when the railway was already there get to complain about it being noisy ?

Because the line is being upgraded for 200 km/h, which means a lot more noise. (And noise walls aren't built in reaction to complaints, but according to EU-level and national-level regulations that set noise limits.)

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

by DoDo on Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 11:26:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the noise of freight trains (which are much louder than the ICE)

Hm. At the same speed, true. But a passenger train at 200 km/h is much noisier than at 100 km/h.

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

by DoDo on Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 11:30:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In more detail:

You can check limits for vehicles in the relevant Technical Specification of Interoperability (TSI). They correspond to noise at the top speed of the vehicle.

  • For conventional vehicles up to 190 km/h maximum speed, see the CR NOI TSI. Limits are set for a measurement point 7.5 m from the centre of track and 1.2 m above rail. While limits for different types of freight wagons range between 82-87 dB (point 4.2.1.1.), for locos it's 85 dB and for multiple units 81-82 dB (point 4.2.2.4.).
  • For high-speed trains, see the HS RST TSI. The reference point is much further from the track (25 m) and higher (3.5 m), and the limit value depends on speed (meaning, trains can be louder when going faster, thus say a 300 km/h train won't necessarily be quieter at 200 km/h than a train built for that lower speed). The limit for 200 km/h is 88 dB.

Actual measurements I'm aware of put 200 km/h passenger trains and 100 km/h freight trains into pretty much the same noise range when measured at the same distance (though pass-by time and the noise spectrum is different).

Comparing freight trains and high-speed trains for the purpose of noise protection is problematic because we are speaking about different noise types, with different noise reduction potentials. For rail vehicles, the dominant noise type is speed-dependent:

  • at low speeds, it's motor noise and running gear-related noise (including vibrations of structural parts caused by the jolts and bumps);
  • somewhere below 50 km/h, rolling noise (including bearing noise) takes over, this is the dominant factor for full-speed freight trains;
  • somewhere around 200 km/h, aerodynamic noise becomes dominant;
  • somewhere above 300 km/h, within aerodynamic noise, the pantograph will be the single biggest factor (so yes, you were right upthread, at 200 km/h theability to contain rolling noise with the increasing distance of the noise wall from the track probably counts more than the pantograph).

Now, as the technology and science stands, there is a significant medium-term potential for the reduction of freight wagon running gear and rolling noise than for the reduction of multiple unit aerodynamic noise. In contrast to passenger vehicles, freight wagon running gear is built robust and simple. The key components to change for noise reduction are the metallic tread brakes (noisy when braking but also making the wheel surfaces rough and thus increasing rolling noise) and the simple suspension (resulting in a rough ride over track unevenness).

There is now serious effort to find replacements for standard freight wagon running gear (composite tread brakes, new bogies with disc brakes and rubber springs). A wagon replacement/retrofit may happen over the same timescale as the fitting of all non-upgraded conventional lines with noise walls and screens, and may make more sense.

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

by DoDo on Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 01:38:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Two more quibbles:

For the existing routes the legally conceded noise protection is much weaker, the rumbling freight trains can make noise as much as they want

It's true that there is no legal requirement for noise protection of already noise-polluted places (largely along Helen's logic). However, there is a government programme to fund noise protection measures in such places anyway, basically using the same limits as qualification criteria. The issue here is that the noise protection of all exposed areas along non-upgraded lines would either take a long long time or a lot of money.

they want to force the DB to develop modern techniques against the noise

More like forcing them to apply what they are developing or testing. The problem with DB's planning depaetment is that (1) by default, they don't want to change their plans, (2) if they do get to changing plans, they cannot do it without a significant planning cost increase...

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

by DoDo on Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 02:03:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
especially if you look at all the modern development around the port area

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 03:51:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If I understand correctly, the UK plan is to
a) continue to phase out subsidies. (Unless you plan well ahead, train is about twice as expensive as cost of petrol.)
b) continue ahead with the HS2 link.

The overall plan sounds like Newtons first law of motion: "eh, what can you do."

-----
sapere aude

by Number 6 on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 12:39:09 PM EST
You forget the deep streak of malice which runs through all UK Government railway policy

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 12:44:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You forget the deep streak of malice which runs through all UK Government railway policy

FTFY.

(Sounds cynical. But prove to me I'm wrong.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Sep 18th, 2012 at 08:09:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me get back to you when there's a Green/LibDem majority.


-----
sapere aude
by Number 6 on Wed Sep 19th, 2012 at 08:17:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Galicia was awarded in March as PPP contract.

Everywhere and always PPP means Public Money into Private Pockets. It should be relabeled as PMPP.

As the Dutch said while fighting the Spanish: "It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 02:54:21 PM EST
"A low 12.5 °/°° maximum grade to allow freight trains" is probably 1.25%, right?
by asdf on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 03:55:16 PM EST
Or 12,5 ‰

For HTML:

Per mil - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A per mil, per mille, or per mill (rarely spelled permil or permille) (Latin, literally meaning 'for (every) thousand') is a tenth of a percent or one part per thousand. It is written with U+2030  °/°° per mille sign (HTML: ‰ ‰), which looks like a percent sign (%) with an extra zero at the end. It can be seen as a stylized form of the three zeros in the denominator although it originates from an alteration of the percent sign.


A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Sep 18th, 2012 at 08:43:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly. This is the preferred measure of grade on European railways. 12.5‰ corresponds to a 1:80.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 02:45:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How about that. Learn something new every day, I guess...  :-)

I suppose you have some weird way of measuring curves, too. Namely, not the "degrees of deflection for a 100 foot station distance."  :-)

by asdf on Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 03:35:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh. We do, in fact, prefer to use the curve radius (in metres) :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 25th, 2012 at 01:46:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, Ramsauer was not rejecting the unbundling (unraveling) of Deutsche Bahn out of skepticism of privatization/liberalization. There is the separation of railway operations and railway infrastructure. Then there is the separation of this 'global player in the mobility business' from the railway business. Church and state.

For some reason, since the nineties, DB has been running around the world while acquiring all kinds of logistics companies in 130 countries. Why? Ego? This NDR documentary suggests that this strategy of 'world domination and expansion' is not only economically questionable but also damaging to what should be the core business of DB: railways.

Bling bling is always good. And the notion that DB should toss some of those worlwide subsidiaries and concentrate on providing good railway service is an "ideologically motivated experiment".

by epochepoque on Mon Sep 17th, 2012 at 08:05:50 PM EST
EU transport chief calls for common rail standards | The Guardian | 18/09/12
A single European rail network with genuinely open competition and common standards is urgently needed to let trains relieve congested roads, according to EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas. He has vowed to push ahead with reforms requiring national rail networks to open up, which could lead to direct trains from Britain to destinations across the continent.

At the opening of Innotrans, one of Europe's largest transport conventions, in Berlin, Kallas said €20bn (£16bn) of a €50bn European infrastructure fund could be made available for national transport projects to make the networks interoperable, helping stimulate growth. He proposed a single central rail agency to certify all new rolling stock built to a single standard across the continent.


Would "projects to make the networks interoperable" mean replacing all national signalling systems with ERTMS?

Further down (if I quoted it I'd be quoting half the article), German transport minister Peter Ramsauer says (a) it will be very expensive and (b) the Commission should be even more ambitious and think about intercontinental interoperability "with China drawing up plans for a high-speed connection from Europe across Russia to Xinjiang".

by Gag Halfrunt on Fri Sep 21st, 2012 at 07:20:47 AM EST
WTF, does he believe China would share the costs of ETCS introduction in Europe?...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Sep 24th, 2012 at 02:50:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or is he talking about adopting Chinese loading gauge?
by Gag Halfrunt on Thu Sep 27th, 2012 at 05:04:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now THAT would be very expensive...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 27th, 2012 at 02:03:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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