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My reply is: no, no, and no :-) In detail:

  1. No, there is no line speed standardisation move. There are projected line speeds of 180, 200, 250, 300, 330, and 350 km/h even within the last few years.

  2. I have focused on rolling stock only in the diary. There is an increased boldness in projected line speeds for some lines, but the main motivation is to get competitive travel times with air on ever longer lines.

  3. You say matched set, I say to the contrary, the wise move is to project line speeds above the top speed of existing trains. A slower line speed may incur less construction costs, but lines will be there for much longer, and technology will advance in the meantime. (Examples of lines with a 350 km/h line speed but slower trains: LGV Mediterranée and LGV Est Euroéenne, Taiwan's THSR.) Adapting existing lines for higher speeds later can be much more expensive. (Though, it also happens that advances in train technology allow the raising of line speeds with little or no upgrade work.)

  4. It's not expensive to run the fastest trains slower on slower track, or even to create a (cheaper) down-rated version for networks with only slower lines. The latter has already been widely practised in the electric locomotive market, and now also on the high-speed market (NTV's AGVs and the Velaro D are both down-rated relative to the prototype resp. the Velaro E).

  5. There are speed limits set by the overhead wire - pantograph interface, and the relationship of the unsprung mass [which includes motors, brake discs, and the wheels themselves] and track fatigue. However, they aren't currently or in the foreseeable future the constraining factors, e.g. the factors setting the lowest speed limits: those are noise, brake distances, train signalling, power use economics, and ride comfort (loosely in that order).

  6. The improvements in noise emissions, brake distances, track wear, ride comfort, and specific power consumption aren't single percent, they can be double-digit (when compared with older trains at the same speeds). It is true though, that due to the stronger-than-linear increase of many of these factors with speed, the speed gain (e.g. to the higher speed where new trains emit the same noise and expose tracks to the same dynamic forces than older trains at their lower top speed) is less -- and, especially over shorter distances, the travel time gain even less.

  7. At present, Alstom's (and Siemens's) problem is lack of support for more ambitious incremental advances. (The TGV POS and the RGV 2N do 320 instead of 300 km/h.) In fact, one could also say that the TGV would not have been as big a leap, had European investment in trains not held back incremental increases to realise their full potential. (Regular 180 km/h would have been pioneered in Germany save for WWII; Italy, West Germany and France each had the means to target 220 in the sixties but only the last two went for only 200, West Germany's series 403 was suited for 240 but lines for that were only on the wishlists -- the TGV started at 260 km/h).


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jan 18th, 2009 at 11:05:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I note my next diary (on Austria's railjet, which I travelled on a week ago) will touch on point 3, too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jan 18th, 2009 at 11:16:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On 7, I should also mention that the big jump in Japan was from 130 to 200 km/h with the start of the Shinkansen, and since then, there was incremental increase to 300 km/h (270 km/h on the oldest line).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jan 18th, 2009 at 11:52:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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