Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I don't understand how what you are saying is different from what I proposed, so I don't follow the sense of what kind of changes you are proposing:

It is clear what the minimum acceptable bid for provision of electrical infrastructure would be: maintenance of the existing heavy rail capacity, and provision of additional Rapid Rail capacity, in a way that allows for reliable, on-schedule deliveries of freight carried on the Rapid Rail system.

The minimum requirement is retention of existing capacity and provision of new Rapid Rail paths. Given the overlap between existing Amtrak routes and STRACNET, that would basically be all of current regional Amtrak routes either running in the new Rapid Rail network, or replaced by expanded Rapid Rail regional corridor like the Midwest Hub / Ohio Hub / Empire Corridor / Keystone Corridor / Southeast Corridor / Gulf South Corridor / T-Bone Corridor / Cascades Corridor (see maps in part 2).

And of course, the Rapid Rail system would offer opportunities for passenger rail services more similar to European regional trains, so that there would be substantially more opportunity to expand true HSR on the cheese-eating surrender-monkey model of building out HSR corridors in stages, with HSR routes spilling outside of the dedicated HSR corridors, albeit at regular Express speeds.

So rather than two seperate networks, it would be two and a half separate networks, with true HSR systems spilling into the Rapid Rail system.

The significant advantage of this approach is that we have such a substantial stockpile of grossly inefficient interstate freight traffic to mine in support of the system, establishing the Rapid Rail network in the existing rail rights of way adjacent to mainline heavy freight lines.

Indeed, electrifying heavy freight lines can give on the order of 15% increase in capacity, due to the reduction in capital expense of providing electric locomotives with improved accel/deaccel.

And few US rights of way are built out. Many were originally allocated four wide and never built four wide, and the wave of single-tracking has reduced track footprint within rights of way. However, the corridor rights is often such a tangled mix of perpetual leases, freehold tenure and transport easements that outside the cities, it is rarely worthwhile to work through the line abandonment process to shave off part of the rail right of way for disposal.

So we have already existing right of way to be put to use ... that is the only reason that the project could proceed through to full electrification of STRACNET in six to eight years, if pursued at maximum commercial urgency.

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 Sat Dec 13th, 2008 at 01:00:58 PM EST
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Ok, so I'm agreeing with you!  :-)

Although on the rights of way thing, here in the west the tracks were put in across virgin territory without hindrance from local property owners. Many were formally abandoned. But the desired traffic patterns have changed in the past 50 years and now some new routes are required. Particularly here in the front range of Colorado there is a need to relocate the freight traffic out of the population corridor, but the farmers out east don't like that idea one bit. Originally our trains provided transportation from Denver up to the Union Pacific in Cheyenne, supported the agricultural region north of Denver, and carried silver out of the mountains. What we need now is to move coal (well, depending on what you think about coal) from Wyoming to Texas, to move people from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins, and to move people around within the front range metropolitan areas.

So under your scheme we would have an eastwardly relocated freight system, a new dedicated high speed corridor parallel to the mountains, and a low speed system to support local passenger traffic.

by asdf on Sat Dec 13th, 2008 at 02:16:44 PM EST
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How a railroad proposes to accomplish the increase in capacity is up to the railroad ... but its important to recognize that what the Rapid Rail needs in terms of effective operation is not dedicated right of way, but dedicated use of track with appropriate capacity.

The segregation of rights of way is an artifact of Federal Railroad Administration regulation, so the alternatives facing a local area under the current regulatory structure are narrower than the alternatives facing a national program with the FRA tasked with implementing a new regulatory regime for the Rapid Rail network.

Set the arbitrary part of the current regulatory system to one side. If there is an electrified Front Range rail corridor that can support 100mph freight with reliable delivery ... which is a vital thing to have for Energy Independence, we cannot have the largest urban center in the Mountain West reliant on diesel motor freight ... then sharing that with passenger rail means that the biggest remaining tasks for the passenger rail system are sorting out the rail line into the urban core and the passenger stations along the way.

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 Sat Dec 13th, 2008 at 02:54:51 PM EST
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Regional freight (deliveries to grocery stores) could be done with a shared infrastructure. That's a significantly different sort of freight train from what we have now. Whether they could be made to go 100 mph in the front range corridor is another question--there are lots of steep hills.

Here's a picture of the two rights of way (one Union Pacific, ex-D&RGW; one BNSF, ex-Santa Fe) near Castle Rock. Full coal cars go south, empties go north.

by asdf on Sat Dec 13th, 2008 at 04:09:02 PM EST
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The Rapid Freight Rail could be anything in containers that currently goes long distance by truck.

Even where the speed cannot be 100mph in a section, Rapid Rail can be substantially faster than bulk freight.

The key thing is what's called "superelevation", which is how the track is banked going around the curve.

The correct banking to maintain even weight distribution between the two rails depends on the speed. So if slow bulk freight is using the track, those tracks have little or no superelevation, because the banking would put most of the weight on one track, and the maintenance costs and risk of derailment go up.

However, take advantage of the fact that there is room in either one of those corridors for two tracks, and one track can be dedicated to heavy rail, and the other to Rapid Rail. And the Rapid Rail can be superelevated to allow the Rapid Rail to negotiate those curves much faster than the coal trains can do.

Indeed, they can negotiate the curves fast enough that it would be uncomfortable to passengers, which is why passenger trains on Rapid Rail track in a conventional rail right of way will often be tilt-trains.

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 Sat Dec 13th, 2008 at 04:28:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]