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On the topic of Turkey's (and Iran's) network modernisation, any chance of freight running from India through to Europe by rail being competitive with sea in the near future?  I have some recollection that (pakistan?) some countries were on a different gauge which made long distance freight uneconomical.  Perhaps you could diary something about this and the electrification of the transiberian railway?
by njh on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:04:41 AM EST
I don't think rail will ever be competitive with sea transport on such distances. It just costs a whole lot less to transport stuff on the water, even before you take into account the number of jurisdictions these trains would have to go through.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:18:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This surely assumes that oil remains cheaper than electricity?  (or perhaps we'll switch to nuclear ships, or sails?)
by njh on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 05:26:35 PM EST
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Sailing ships works perfectly well, particularly when combined with a solar-powered electric engine.

Time-critical cargoes can still go on oil-powered ships when rail is not an option, but most cargoes are not time-critical.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 06:30:48 PM EST
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I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with the concept of letting every merchie run around with a big pile of fissile material. That sounds like a really good way to make Stuff Go Boom at some point...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 06:32:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Instead of oil spill, nuclear waste spill.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 06:38:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And nuclear proliferation.

And meltdowns.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 09:26:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes.

Ans shipping doesn't really consume much oil anyway. Better to build nuclear power plants in the areas where oil is still used to generate power, like the Northeastern United States.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 11:02:02 PM EST
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A couple of factors to consider; the distance from most Chinese cities to Western Europe is shorter via rail by a significant amount. The value of the merchandise being transported has a significant impact on the value of "Time in Transit". Rail will never be competitive from China to Europe or v.v. for low value commodity items, but for chemicals, electronics, and similar, the saving of 10 days to two weeks is worthwhile.
by jfbeaulieu on Mon Dec 28th, 2009 at 07:01:30 PM EST
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OTOH (and depending a bit on the route map), the (perceived) political risk might be bigger.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 12:49:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a bit dated and not too detailed, but check Another Great Game. The Indian subcontinent indeed has broad gauge (the gauge change is in the Iranian city closest to Pakistan), but political barriers are a bigger obstacle. Shipping will always be cheaper, rail can win on delivering faster.

Nevertheless, the governments want to make it happer, and this year:

Railway Gazette: A long way to go

...following the announcement in June that the Bam - Zahedan line in southeast Iran had been completed, the first international freight train ran over this route in August.

On August 14, Pakistan's Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani marked the country's national day by flagging off an inaugural container train from Islamabad to Tehran and Istanbul via Zahedan. Expected to take 15 days, the train was operated under the auspices of the regional Economic Co-operation Organisation.

Originally established in 1985 by Pakistan, Iran and Turkey, ECO later expanded to encompass seven Central Asian states. It is actively promoting the operation of other long-distance container trains across the region, including Almaty - Bandar Abbas and Istanbul - Urumqi.

Although the initial train from Islamabad was a demonstration run, it carried 20 containers with 750 tonnes of freight. PR General Manager Saeed Akhtar is confident that there would be sufficient traffic for a regular service linking Lahore or Faisalabad to Istanbul.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:27:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the transiberian railway?

Only a few hundred km gap was left at the end of Soviet times, which was closed recently. However, for China traffic, the branchline across Mongolia would have to be electrified. Which might happen: Mongolia recently started a rail upgrade and expansion programme, including long new lines.

Given that rail can compete with shipping only on time, what matters now is line upgrades and managing signalling and dispatching thus that freight trains can pass fast. Russian Railways RZD is quite serious about its Trans-Siberian in seven days programme.

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

by DoDo on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:39:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An oil supertanker has, according to wikipedia, about 500,000 dead weight tons of displacement. A single coal train in the US carries about 10,000 tons. We have more than 10 trains a day passing through Colorado Springs, which means the equivalent (by weight) of supertanker load passes through the middle of our little downtown every week.

So from the shipping cost viewpoint perhaps ships are more efficient, but it doesn't take much rail infrastructure to ship lots of freight...

by asdf on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 11:23:23 AM EST
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Compare this picture to the one at the head of the diary entry to see the difference between what Europe and the US think of as "infrastructure."
by asdf on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 11:24:45 AM EST
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yeah, I used to live in Fort Collins and regularly went down to CS along those coal routes with the mile long trains of coal.  In FC there was a line between my house and work which had about 3 trains a day, with maybe 10 cars, mostly lumber and toxic chemicals.  It chugged along about as fast as I rode my bike, and invariably at the time I wanted to get to work :)
by njh on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 05:31:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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