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High Speed Trains

by richardk Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 07:51:46 AM EST

We all know what high speed trains are. And most of us know the difference between real high speed and fake high speed. Let's skip that and get right to what they're for and why an advanced country needs them.


High speed trains are a replacement for airports. And by every measure that matters, they are a superior replacement for airports.

HST aren't tied to fossil fuels. They're more spacious, more convenient, more enjoyable, more reliable. They use up a small fraction of the land of an airport (from terminal to terminal) while moving several times more people. And to top it all off, they're cheaper than flying.

If a pair of cities is well-served by airplane routes and they're less than 700 km apart, it's past time to upgrade them to a high speed line. That's what they're for. So when a country like England decides to expand an airport and not build any high speed lines, you know they're ideologically against trains, but anyways.

In terms of the combined train+air market share, any train route under one hour in length will be completely dominated by trains. At 2 hours, market share will be 60-70%. At 3 hours, 40-50%.

[imagine a graph of the S-curve here]

For the purposes of improving the nation's economy, its environmental profile, and also help support the national train company thus enabling the construction of new lines, countries should forbid flights between pairs of cities connected in under 3 hours.


Display:
If a pair of cities is well-served by airplane routes and they're less than 700 km apart, it's past time to upgrade them to a high speed line.

Indeed. All good points, but you then use it for Brit-bashing:

So when a country like England decides to expand an airport and not build any high speed lines, you know they're ideologically against trains, but anyways.

The record of continental Europe on resisting airport expansions and air traffic expansion is not exactly unalloyed. Witness the debate over low cost airlines. Or the several held-up or delayed high-speed rail projects, including (since Chirac's reelection) in France.

Meanwhile, what you wrote about Britain (especially in the collective) is wrong. The one big anti-train PM was Thatcher. Neither predecessors nor successors were like her. On the other hand, her successors insisted on PPP schemes, which was tried big with the CTRL, which was started by the Major government and finished now. (Unfortunately the PPP model is spreading across Europe.)

That no more high-speed lines were built so far in Britain has two reasons. One is the capital effects of past policies. An upgrade of the West Coast Mainline (WCML) was deemed cheaper with little loss in benefits. (Austria four-tracks and upgrades its own Westbahn, Germany does the same to the right-shore Rhine Valley line to Basel, and Switzerland to its busiest sections West of Zürich with the same thinking.) But (not the least because of problems with implementing moving-block signalling) the WCML price tag tripled even while the project was scaled down. At the same time, the original rail track operator collapsed financially in the wake of post-Hatfield upgrades. So building long-distance rail doesn't start with a blank sheet, but a big minus.

The other reason is that building a new high-speed line across Central and Northern England is a much bigger challenge than building one across rural France or Spain. The population and existing infrastructure denisty is higher, while the settlement structure that has to be given rail access more complex. (The WCML is not really a single line but a whole network of parallel strands.) Similar challenges are the reason that Germany's high-speed network has so many gaps, or that the Japanese one (which at least can capitalise on a stretched country on which one trunk line suffices) is so expensive. Still, various plans of true high-speed lines are discussed in Britain. (I'd guess one along the ECML is most likely to be built first.)

As a final note, while high-speed rail is the answer to air travel, the development of shorter distances shouldn't be forgotten (as is often done in Europe). Infrastructure-wise, it's the Swiss railways that are in the best shape, and they have zero 300 km/h tracks. Their policy is not of a Great Leap Forward, but incremental change, which results in several smaller enhancements along the network.

combined train+air market share

Actually, on many routes, those percentages are even exceeded. There are four-plus-hour routes beating planes. The TGV to the Mediterranean  achieves shares in excess of two-thirds on three-hour relations.

countries should forbid flights between pairs of cities connected in under 3 hours.

Fully agreed. Though, if a country spends on building a rail line and traffic starts in open competition, it can force airways to cancel flights for lack of passengers. This happened again on the London-Brussels and to a lesser extent London-Paris routes after Britain built the CTRL.

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

by DoDo on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 09:49:32 AM EST
CTRL seems to have worked, so it's probably one of the few functional examples of a PPP that hasn't been a total disaster.

But I think you underestimate ideological hostility to trains in the UK. Rail has been the UK's biggest and most horrific soap opera in recent years. There is no evidence of strategic planning, and plenty of evidence that the Treasury has been trying to treat it was a way of clawing cash back.

As Afew said in a different diary, it's all about political calculation. Air is being developed for political reasons - it's a sop to the peasants who can holiday somewhere sunny. Road is all about Personal FreedomTM.

Rail has neither of those advantages, and is seen as a huge cash sink - which of course of is, but mostly because of privatised inefficiencies and marketista nonsense.

While it's true the UK has practical problems with new lines that don't apply on the mainland, that didn't stop CTRL being a big success. So if the traffic is there - and it would be for a North/South route, and probably for a London/Cardiff route too - the right strategy can still make financial sense.

The point of all this being that actually getting people from A to B matters much less than the financial and political calculation that surround policy. And in the UK, policy is clearly hostile to rail, even if no one has come out and said as much in public.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 10:27:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not only the last few years, rail in the UK has been actively sabotaged for the past 50 years. It's quite sad.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 10:38:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
CTRL seems to have worked, so it's probably one of the few functional examples of a PPP that hasn't been a total disaster.

That's true, though note, that that was probably possible because the price tag grew into the sky in advance, so it was easier to not miss it.

Regarding policy chaos, political support for air and car-freedom, and viewing rail as a cash sink, I actually agree, but unfortunately Britain is not at all special in that. Since the middle nineties, in the EU, I would count only Spain as enthusiastic rail-builder, and even there, it's only long-distance and suburban, and roads and airports are built at an equally frenzied pace. Tax-free plane fuel and taxed rail travel is also an Europe-wide phenomenon, and this institutional 'market distortion' is a policy for half a century.

Also worth to mention: in some countries rail becomes a cash sink by design, due to corrupt connections between builders and politicians, which result in some pharaonic infrastructure with overcapacity, while branch lines that could draw passengers rot nearby. Top excamples are Italy and Greece.

But Britain indeed does stand out in privatised inefficiencies and marketista nonsense. Yet, unfortunately, not as an exception, but as a model to follow, a failed model to follow (I view it as thre best example that neoliberal dogmatism is as blind as that of the worst 'cxommunist' planned-economy statists). Only the state railways of France, Belgium, and in a different way (not government but unions & bosses) Austria and Italy seem to put up serious resistance to the idea, while Spain's Zapatero wants to limit it. But the marketista nonsense progressed far in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and it also became EU policy (open-access, separation of tracks and traffic, cutting back national railway privileges, regions rather than states 'ordering' rather than providing public transport).

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

by DoDo on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 02:28:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, for the record, I should mention that the marketistas can point to one success of their rail policies in Britain: sharply rising passenger numbers. (As I pointed out in another diary, passenger numbers are actually higher than in France, even without the Tube, which unlike its Paris counterpart also functions as suburban rail.)



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

by DoDo on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 02:58:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That doesn't as a success because there's no control group. UK Rail has had billions thrown at it since privatisation. The old management of BR could have completely transformed the entire network with that kind of money - new trains, high speed links and all.

In fact I'd argue that the rise in passenger numbers is disappointing given the money that's being spent. It has been driven partly by local efforts, like the London Congestion Charge.

And taken in context, it's a 30-40% rise paid for with a 500% subsidy increase.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 07:29:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep, those are among the reasons I think rail privatisation was a complete disaster.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 09:52:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, there's no evidence that this is thanks to the marketistas. A better economy means more travel and with Britain able to exploit the North Sea oil fields, its economy was booming indeed. This is all gone now.

Are you forgetting the RER?

--

Regarding upgrading, upgrades always come in for unexpected costs and new lines much less so. Though tunnels are another matter. Signaling is the one thing I'd expect to not get cost overruns, assuming it's been tested so I don't quite understand that.

Switzerland is of course a special case for many reasons. Including that as a transit country, they must prioritize freight.

The disinvestment in SNCF and the appeal of seperating infrastructure from operation is easy to understand given SNCF's SNAFU mode of operation. Especially if the intent is to stop SNCF from hiding its operating losses in infrastructure payments.

Even open competition is easy to understand if it results in separate passenger and freight businesses with more investment into modern freight terminals.

Do we know what Sweden's infrastructure investment rate has been per capita? France's hasn't been too good since the 90s. And Netherlands is just finishing that hugely expensive line.

Also, despite open access being EU policy, I heard an EU directive on it hadn't progressed past first reading because it would violate constitutional protections in France on free administration of communes. I can't quite recall what made it into French law due to the EU.

by richardk (richard kulisz gmail) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 07:51:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
better economy means more travel

No, it's better to look for the marketista-disproving explanation in what ThatBritGuy said. The rise in passenger numbers was generated by private railways that lowered fares and raised capacity (including a rather significant wave of new vehicle purchases) while spending nothing on the infrastructure, e.g. all the difficult stuff was externalised from their viewpoint, and this (alongside infrastructure policies that aggravated it) led directly to the Railtrack financial disaster.

Are you forgetting the RER?

No, it is accounted for in SNCF's statistics.

Signaling is the one thing I'd expect to not get cost overruns, assuming it's been tested

That's the point: it wasn't tested. They thought wireless moving-block signalling (which will become ERTMS Level 3) can be implemented easily. But even today, it is still far away. What's more, the wireless fixed-block ERTMS Level 2 system, despite tests, caused cost overruns in multiple countries due to failure to achieve reasonably trouble-free operation (two Swiss lines, the Madrid-Barcelona high-speed line, Italian high-speed lines).

Switzerland may be a freight transit country, but it is also the country with the highest per capita train travel, so your point actually points in the opposite direction: the Swiss railway infrastructure achieved great reliability for dense passenger traffic despite a heavy freight traffic load.

Separation of infrastructure and operations is 'easy to understand' for simpleton marketista politicians, but the basic fact is, railways are not easy to understand, they are among the most complex systems operated in the economy. Railways aren't like roads, each of the planning, maintenance, and network coordination of fixed infrastucture and rolling stock is closely interwinded. I refer you back to the British example. Also, new freight terminals has nothing to do with separating passenger and freight business.

Per capita rail infrastructure investment figures touted around are difficult to interpret: on one hand, they depend on what works are counted as investment and what 'only' as maintenance, on the other hand, they often reflect a few megaprojects. Plus, it's one thing to build new lines and another to make up for decades of lack of proper maintenance. But, off-hand I give a figure of currently just above €100 per capita for Sweden, after a strong upward tendency (Botniabanan, Malmö and now Stockholm city tunnels boosted it), somewhat higher for Britain and Italy, and significantly lower for France and Germany after downward trends. (Though note, I'm not sure about the level of non-RFF rail infrastructure investments, expecially by regions.)

Regarding EU open access policy, part of it is already in force, there were the initial laws on institutional separation (executed in France by the creation of RFF in 1997), then the first (2001) and second (2004) railway packages that liberalised international traffic. The third package, with the thorny question of open-access in passenger service and domestic services, is now in second reading, and back when the Council formed its common position, France & allies only blocked the domestic liberalisation part (though that's the most important). Just a few days ago, while most of the Third Package (including international passenger service liberalisation from 2010) passed the EP vote, the joint Commission-relevant EP Committee proposal on internal liberalisation failed (narrowly, due to absent MEPs...) to get qualified majority.

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

by DoDo on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 12:17:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it is accounted for in SNCF's statistics.

Huh, I was referring to your comment about Paris not having an equivalent suburban rail.

That's the point: it wasn't tested. They thought wireless moving-block signalling (which will become ERTMS Level 3) can be implemented easily.

I expected it hadn't been tested though I still can't quite believe the sheer arrogance of trying to implement ERTMS level 3. Several years later, Spain attempt to implement ERTMS level 2 has led to a 200 km/h limit on the line.

the Swiss railway infrastructure achieved great reliability for dense passenger traffic despite a heavy freight traffic load.

Yes, I know. Though it wasn't my intent to argue this either way. Merely that right now, the Swiss must focus their priorities on freight instead of HST if they don't want to get inundated by 40 tonne trucks. And I didn't want to argue the past because there are too many confusing factors. As you know, Switzerland's geography doesn't make an expansive highway system feasible.

Separation of infrastructure and operations is 'easy to understand' for simpleton marketista politicians,

Well, I'm not a simpleton or a marketista, though I can't figure out which would be more insulting. And I'm also used to figuring out highly complex non-linear systems. If I've missed some of the connections between operations and infrastructure, perhaps you can point them out to me. So far, I see the big problem as scheduling. It's why I don't believe in 'open access'.

Also, new freight terminals has nothing to do with separating passenger and freight business.

Doesn't it? Infrastructure funding in France is a political decision. Splitting up the businesses would expose them both to the politicians. There would no longer be just "railways" but "passenger rail" and "rail freight".

Additionally, if the rail freight business were autonomous, it might have more scope for innovation. With less power but more freedom, it might decide to restart the express freight business which La Poste abandoned.

Thank you for the summary about the current situation.

by richardk (richard kulisz gmail) on Thu Jan 25th, 2007 at 01:14:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Huh, I was referring to your comment about Paris not having an equivalent suburban rail.

Ahh, nevermind that. I understand what you mean.

by richardk (richard kulisz gmail) on Thu Jan 25th, 2007 at 01:15:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But actually, the RER is partly RATP (including the main bits of the busiest lines, A & B) and partly SNCF, so I'm not sure if it's properly accounted for in the SNCF figures.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 25th, 2007 at 04:00:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You have a point. But I'm not sure how many of the 450 million or so yearly passengers RATP has on its sections was also counted by SNCF on its part of lines A and B.

At any rate, the Paris urban rail system (Métro+RER+trams+commuters) is superior to London's at present, what's more, London looked at Paris for inspiration. The Crossrail proposal, which got a boost after London got the Olympics though won't be ready for it, and the less ambitious (but ready by the Olympics) East London Line project are modelled on the RER.

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

by DoDo on Sat Jan 27th, 2007 at 06:38:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the Swiss must focus their priorities on freight instead of HST

Well, building HST would be a way to make way for freight. At any rate, the Swiss do such planning in the integrated way. E.g., say the proposals for enhancements in the Basel area include a bypass route for freight to have more capacity for new TGV-Est, DB Rhine valley route related high-speed traffic, plus extensions for the local rapid trains.

Switzerland's geography doesn't make an expansive highway system feasible.

Still a referendum was needed to stop their expansion, and voting down both proposals in another referendum to prevent the lifting of that prohibition.

So far, I see the big problem as scheduling.

(1) Infrastructure Branch builds a new line with 1.5 kV DC and both ERTMS Lev 2 and old signalling system, Operator Branch runs some local and some international trains with dirrerent locos; (2) Infrastructure Branch builds a new line with ERTMS Lev 2 and 50 Hz / 25 kV, Operator purchases two-system locos with both signalling systems for all trains. In this case, which version is cheaper (a) for Infrastructure Branch, (b) for Operator, (c) for the entire railway?

Similar examples could be made about each of the issues I (and you) brought up downthread in connection with the question of international compatibility, e.g. infrastructure investment planning influences vehicle and operation planning and vice versa, also in cost.

A lower maintenance threshold for rail vehicles will result in higher track wear, and vice versa. This is (unfortunately) visible most strongly in my region, but also appears more to the West. Compare French and German high-speed tracks and operation, in particular rail polishing train operation and night freight trains. Or, again, pre-Hatfield British policy.

There would no longer be just "railways" but "passenger rail" and "rail freight".

This can bear strange fruits like the abandonment of the idea of universal locomotive just when it was made possible by technology (and reality in Austria [and France and Switzerland until recently]), or the separation of maintenance shops which results in longer routes to repair; e.g. cost increases where capacities are doubled and operational problems where they can't.

With less power but more freedom, it might decide to restart the express freight business which La Poste abandoned

The problem is that at present, railfreight is the most losing branch for railways. That is, on its own, it is least able to bring up capital, while integrated, it is at least possible (even if in reality rarely prioritized) to branch off money from profitable high-speed (or subsidized local passenger...) services. On your example, I tink a cross-railway offer involving utilisation of the high-speed lines with new or rebuilt-from-express-passenger-cars and series 36000 locos would

Regarding the issue of what is needed infrastructure-wise to separate passenger and freight, or at least to give freight a stronger background, I can think of two things.

The first is a strategy to separate freight and express passenger lines along the same corridors, be it by adding extra tracks, building high-speed lines and/or freight bypasses, or using close-by parallel lines intelligently; paired with fitting the lines intended for freight with tracks for high axleloads. This part is actual EU policy.

The other part is not EU policy, and pursued by only a few governments (and even them lacklustre): to maintain a network with a high number of access points, to subsidize local wagon or sub-wagon-load freight and industry access tracks. To count on customers opting for re-loading from local trucks proved a folly too often.

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

by DoDo on Sat Jan 27th, 2007 at 07:25:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As case study of how things can be bungled up elsewhere, I write down some criticisms of France's TGV.

The number one criticism should be not one of the TGV itself, but government priorities. I blamed the Chirac government, but the bulk of the prior decade wasn't ideal either. The first leg of the TGV Est will be opened on 10 June -- but that's a decade late compared to riginal planning, and the second leg across the Vosges toward Strasbourg receded into misty future. The line towards Bordeaux and Toulouse is to be built only in stages and only after 2010, the total delay will be more like two decades. A line South towards the Massif Central, either as true high-sapeed or an upgrade for tilt trains, is now even off the table -- while the beautiful but high-way-carrying Millau bridge completed an expensive highway. A lot of highwqays have been built in central France, including in the Loire valley, where a cross line (to reduce the centralised nature of the network) wasn't even proposed.

The number two criticism is tunnels. TGV lines were built on the cheap by sparing tunnels almost completely. Only the TGV Atlantique connection into Paris and the TGV Mediterranée entry into Marseille have significant tunnels. This policy has two negative consequences.

On one hand, projects that really drag are those where tunnels are unavoidable, and they drag more than in other countries. Witness the ever-stretching Lyons-Turin project. Witness the TGV Rhin-Rhône: on the easiest, firsat to be built Northeast branch (towards Mulhouse) of its three branches, a single laughable less than two km long tunnel was treated as significant challenge, while the Northwest branch (across Dijon towards Paris) will not be built in 15 years due to the need of a relatively short cross-city tunnel under Dijon.

The other negative consequence is indicated by the above example of Dijon: to cut costs, TGV line planners had the idea to bypass cities and build stations out in the green, rather than build cross-city tunnels (as now built in Florence and Bologna on the Italian network, or in Barcelona in Spain) or parallel bypass and city access lines (as say at Zaragoza and Lerida in Spain). So there goes the no-travel-to-the-airport-time advantage of high-speed rail, high-speed rail is connected to car culture, and that not with that much success (these out in the nothing stations are often lightly frequented).

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

by DoDo on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 02:53:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why the delays and the avoidance of tunnels?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 03:39:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The delays: other priorities, picking rail projects first when plucking budget holes. The tunnels: as I implied, originally cost-cutting, now lack of experience with modern rail tunnel projects (they should hire Spanish or Swiss project managers).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 06:07:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought the green stations were only built for political reasons. When the TGV planners got tired of small cities bickering for the station and decided to screw them all. That's what happened with Haute-Picardie and with the plans for the LGV Bretagne.
by richardk (richard kulisz gmail) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 08:22:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another example of foot-dragging by Chirac's governments is the once-firmly-planned high-speed link between Bordeaux and the Mediterranean (Narbonne) via Toulouse, that has been left dangling in spite of repeated demands from the Midi-Pyrénées region.

The present government backs a plan for a second international airport for Toulouse on the grounds that the first will not be able to handle air traffic in the future. Toulouse is on the "TGV" map richardk provided, in the blue 5-6 hour zone. That is, the train you get on in Toulouse is a true TGV, but runs as a regular express train for more than half the trip to Paris via Bordeaux. That takes 5h 20mn. So the Toulouse-Paris (700 km/440 miles) air shuttle is hugely used. Circular argument by which the authorities justify the need for a new airport...

A full TGV link would put Toulouse at 3h 30mn from Paris and would probably cut air shuttle traffic by half.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 02:13:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Little correction: a full and direct TGV link (via Angoulême) could put it even at 2h30m, if high-speed connection is via Bordeaux (as currently planned for 2019...) then 3h, but opening of new sections between Tours and Bordeaux would already suffice for 3h30m.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 09:44:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can you give me a reference for that? It's the first time I've heard it, the 3h 30 figure is always given...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 12:36:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
RFF itself gives "a bit more than 3h" after Bordeaux-Toulouse is built. I don't remember where I read 2h30m for a direct route to Toulouse, but the figure can be supported by simple calculation. (The distance would be somewhat less than to Marseille, and line speeds higher throughout. A 280 km/h travel speed is quite possible, even is we remain conservative and expect only 320 km/h top speed with accelerations as today: TGVs achieve 260 km/h average on a much shorter distance between two stations of the TGV Mediterranée.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 01:34:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Forgive me for being ignorant; I'm American. What's a fake high speed train? The kind we have here, I suppose.

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns
by Alexander on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 03:00:09 PM EST
Yep, those "high speed" trains going slower than 300 km/h.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 03:27:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In a bit more detail than Starvid: conventional fast trains going on upgraded but conventional lines (shared with freight and local passenger), and reaching the top speed only on short sections. In the US, the Acela on the East Coast already fits that bill, but much slower trains further west (100 mph or slower) are also dubbed 'high-speed'. But the X-2[000] service in Starvid's home country Sweden is also such a thing.

On the other hand, what speed shall count high-speed, is not that straightforward. The first true high-speed system, the Japanese Shinkansen, started with 200 km/h. Even today, many Shinkansens only do 240 km/h, close to the Acela's top speed. The French TGV started at 260 km/h. The German ICE started with 250 km/h, though 280 km/h was permitted for late trains.

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

by DoDo on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 04:14:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...and Italy started with 250 km/h (and for the most part is still there), so did Spain but soon they raised it to 300 km/h with the same trains.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 04:16:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But the X-2[000] service in Starvid's home country Sweden is also such a thing.

Yes, and it's a disgrace. Not that it's a bad train, not at all, but not having a real high speed train running on dedicated tracks makes me feel like I'm living in a third world country.

There is a mostly dormant project called the European Corridor that would take care of that, but it's unlikely to happen this side of 2025.

It's supposed to cost about 8-10 billion euros. Half of that being Swedish money, and the other half being German and Danish.

The EU is ready to pay quite a big part of the Denmark-Germany bridge over Fehmarn Belt.

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

by Starvid on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 07:29:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is somewhat understandable: for a country of 8 million, bringing up the capital is difficult, and no multimillion cities will support high traffic volumes (IIRC presently total air/rail traffic volumes along each line are only 2-3 million).

But, can you tell me what the new government you helped to elect thinks about the East Link and the upgrade to 250 km/h North of Malmö?

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

by DoDo on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 09:28:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Stockholm-Malmö line is the same lenghth as the Madrid-Barcelona one, and along the track the population density is the same as in Spain. There aren't many people living in the northern 2/3 of Sweden.

I think the East Link will go forward as planned. There has been no info in the media about funding being cut, and the new government likes infrastructure investments as much as the old one did (which earmarked something like 12 billion euros for rail investments for the next 10 years, only good thing they did).

The Malmö track, I don't know, but if it had been postponed there would have been moaning in the media so I guess it's still green.

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

by Starvid on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 12:12:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Stockholm-Malmö line is the same lenghth as the Madrid-Barcelona one, and along the track the population density is the same as in Spain.

But at the two ends, there are agglomerations of 5 million in Spain, but only 2 million or so in Sweden, so less potential.

I am happy to hear that there is no news of cutbacks in rail investment.

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

by DoDo on Sat Jan 27th, 2007 at 07:30:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
300kph is 186mph.

Now, there are many trains that go faster than a US Interstate speed limit that don't come close to Very High Speed rail. After all, there were trains going 100mph more than half a century ago.

Part of emotional force to the characterisation is one of those mode-wars things that have developed between Medium High Speed and Very High Speed rail, because they are typically pushed into fighting over the same pot of money, even though a rational transportation infrastructure investment policy would leave ample funds for the expansion of both.

To get an American handle on the difference between Very High Speed and Medium High Speed, consider a main North American rail backbone with a "Y" at both ends ... Southern California to join a Mexico City to Chicago backbone, and from Chicago to Ontario via Detroit and the eastern seaboard via Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Focus on the Southern California to main trunk leg. If it is going to go through main population centers, one route may be LA / Phoenix / Albuquerque / Amarillo / Oklahoma City

LA / Phoenix is 358 miles (577km). So if you maintained an average trip speed of 160mph, that would be 2 1/4 hours. At an average trip speed of 100mph, its just over 3 1/2 hours. And that extra 50 minutes is critical for the share of the market between LA and Phoenix.

Phoenix / Albuquerque is 330 miles, so its a similar situation.

Albuquerque / Amarillo is 269 miles ... and a very small market, so if anything have a dominant share could be critical.

Amarillo / Oklahoma City is 245 miles.

And so it goes ... OK City / KS City is 299 miles. KS City / Bloomington IL is 316 miles. Bloomington / Chicago is 118, so KS City / Bloomington / Chicago is 434. At 160mph avg. trip speed, that is 2.7 hours ... at 100mph, 4.3 hours.

Basically, if the US relies on MHS rail, it is restricted to east of the Mississippi and the Pacific Coast. The distances urban centers between the Mississippi and the Left Coast are just to long for MHS technology to serve.

On the other hand, suppose that there is a VHS rail link between Cleveland and New York: Chicago / Cleveland / Pittsburgh / New York. It may well be with that as an anchor, a MHS route between Washington and Pittsburgh (189miles / 304km) becomes viable, and its much easier to bring provide the infrastructure for 100mph trains than for 180mph 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 Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 04:23:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks very much for those comments. I had never pondered the implications of VHS trains for the US, and I think you've laid them out quite cogently.

Of course, I have never heard development of a VHS train system in the US even mentioned, in any context, including the reduction of oil imports and/or lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Correct me if I'm wrong: maybe some public interest groups talk about it? But of course they would be completely out-lobbied.

I was always struck by the right of way of the Pennsylvania Rail Road, with its extensive tunnels, being given over to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Technology and society March forward!

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns

by Alexander on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 04:49:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is a collection of US true high-speed projects for you.

The first real one was the Texas Triangle: a project to use TGV technology to connect San Antonio, Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth was established nearlya two decades ago. Highways and above all airlines strongly lobbied against it. It was finally killed by, who else, Dubya.

The project coming closest to reality was a whole network for Florida. They evewn wrote out the main tender and announced a winner. That after voters even put it into the Florida constitution in a referendum. But after years of sabotage and a campaign consisting almost completely of flat-out lies, Jeb Bush put the question of finance on a referendum (simultaneously with the 2004 Presidential Elections) -- and people voted for it...

A project resurfacing again and again is LA to Las Vegas, also in maglev form. But as far as I know, it was never much more than daydreaming.

The project currently closest to reality is the California High-Speed Rail. Planning of the line is well-advanced, with extensive cost estimates and impact studies. But California had a budget crisis, and Schwarzenegger tried the same tricks as Jeb Bush in open support of the highway lobby ("we are a car state"), even though studies showed highway widening would be a more expensive yet lesser capacity option. Still, the project isn't killed yet, and there shall be a referendum on bond issuing.

Further proposals were for a Midwest network centered on Chicago, and lines in Virginia. In both cases, "medium high-speed", e.g. faster trains on upgraded lines seems to get support instead (if even that).

The most ambitious proposal resurrects the Texas Triangle: the insane project of the Trans Texas Corridors, with 16-lane highways and six railway tracks (two for each type of transport) and pipes of everything. I guess if part of it ever becomes reality, it will be the roads, and the rail part will be shelved for cost overruns.

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

by DoDo on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 05:37:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wouldn't the most sensible one be a high speed version of  the northeast corridor from Boston to DC, to be extended north to Portland and south through Richmond down to the NC Research Triangle and Atlanta? There is the problem of dealing with construction in a very densely populated area (much more so than France. However, it would make a lot of sense, especially with a twin set of stops, one every decent sized center - i.e. stopping in places like New Haven and Baltimore, the other just the major ones - Boston, NYC, Philly, DC, etc. Nobody would use it for the full route, but I'd imagine that with the right ticket price there would be enormous demand for shorter legs. And again, we're talking about an area with an enormous population.
by MarekNYC on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 05:47:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's already a high-speed train on the Boston-DC corridor.

Although the last time I took it, a mechanical problem forced us to go very slowly from just north of Philly to DC.  It was embarrassing, getting passed by the regular trains.  :-(

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 06:01:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a false high-speed train -- see earlier discussion in the thread :-)

It reaches a mere 150 mph on a mere 18 miles of track.

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

by DoDo on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 06:04:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OH, never mind, that's "fake high speed." Sorry.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 06:06:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it's  cheaper to fly from NYC to Boston and vice versa than to take the train. That coupled with Amtrak's terrible performance is why I never did it. My normal method was to drive to New Haven, CT and take the (slow) NYC commuter rail the rest of the way in.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 12:48:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In that corridor, if the trains were substantially faster for the full corridor, then the trains would attract a larger market share simply because of being quicker, end to end, for many travellers ... and then the increase in patronage would all for a reduction in ticket costs compared to the present, and that would attract higher volume, and that would allow ticket costs to be further reduced.

That's exactly why the 2 hour and 3 hour boundaries are so important. With a central metro point of access and a much shorter check in time because of no serious load balancing problem, you provide a quicker route to some, and that short-circuits the whole "nobody takes it because its more expensive because nobody take it" vicious circle.

New York to Boston is 300km, 187 miles. A VHS train could do the trip in under an hour and a half. You can be an hour and a half getting to La Guardia and getting through the check in and the security line, and still be waiting in line to board the flight.


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 Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 01:32:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The train is ridiculously expensive - which is why I always take the bus. As of a few years ago the Chinese started running buses from Chinatown to Chinatown for next to nothing. Considering the cost of parking in the city (curbside is hard to find and alternate side rules make it very annoying), driving to NYC sounds like an expensive choice, though if it's several people the cost calculations change a lot.
by MarekNYC on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 01:55:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep, and given that AMTRAK already achieves more than a third of the air/rail market share even on NYC-Boston, that route could resemble the main Shinkansen corridor, would it be built. In Japan, your good idea of two sets of stops is already realised, BTW -- in fact there are even three classes of trains in terms of how many stops they have. But first voters have to be convinced to pay the price tag...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 06:03:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pay the price tag? Did you forget we're talking about the US? Why couldn't the US pay for this the way it pays for its wars, by selling War Bonds to the Asians?

Anyway, the voters have already been spoken for: as Reagan said, Americans don't like trains.

A bomb, H bomb, Minuteman / The names get more attractive / The decisions are made by NATO / The press call it British opinion -- The Three Johns

by Alexander on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 07:31:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was always struck by the right of way of the Pennsylvania Rail Road, with its extensive tunnels, being given over to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Which they are now lobbying to privatize.  

Technology and society March forward!  

Not.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 10:18:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The main problem with what you call MHS (and what I'd call state-of-the-art conventional fast train) is sharing tracks with 'normal' trains, which go even slower. Especially slow and long freight trains, which would have to make way mid-way along the route, yet accelerate slowly. So an upgrade-only option is really cheaper only if the capacity limit is not hit, and freight railroads won't protest. But once you build a new line, it makes little sense to not build one suited for 200 mph -- the WCML in Britain and similar projects have showed that trying to squeeze more tracks into existing infrastructure can be even more expensive. (BTW, given population numbers, Washington-Pittsburg would justify a real high-speed line.)

I suggest to you that there is a better reason to have both 'MHS' and 'VHS' than getting branchlines for trunk lines. Conventional fast trains could have more frequent stops , e.g. serve more stations, along the same corridors (even if not necessarily on the same lines), too.

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

by DoDo on Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 at 05:14:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Much corridor in the US that was originally double line is now single line with passing loops.  Adding the track in existing corridor for a high speed dedicated passenger line and low speed freight/suburban local line with common passing loops can make the crossing problem a lot more straightforward.  Especially if the passenger trains are sparkies, like the electric tilt trains they have been promoting in Queensland.

However, this is more focused on competing with the car for transport mode share rather than competing with air ... the higher speed to allow it to more effectively recruit "right angle" park and ride patronage with a lower total trip time. IOW, more for Cleveland to Columbus than Cleveland to New York.

Where, as in Sydney for example, the existing rail corridor is often completely built out, that changes the balance dramatically.


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 Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 01:44:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Adding the track in existing corridor for a high speed dedicated passenger line and low speed freight/suburban local line with common passing loops can make the crossing problem a lot more straightforward.

I'm not sure I understand your argument. Do you mean turning a single-track line into two parallel single-track lines, with shared passing loops? Or do you mean turning a single-track line into one double-track line, with all train types using both tracks? In either case, I note that the very use of passing loops is a limiting factor (making freight much slower), and you need the more the bigger the difference between top speeds.

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

by DoDo on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 05:35:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How can the use of passing loops make freight trains slower? This is not Europe I am talking about, its the US ... they presently run on single track with passing loops.


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 Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 11:01:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One passing loop is one slow-down and stop followed by one waiting for a train to pass followed by one acceleration. Many passing loops due to the need to make way for frequent passenger trains multiplies the loss in time. (BTW, the corridors where fast train service would be likely are in large part still double-tracked in the US, including the main trans-Appalachian lines.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 12:24:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not that with that system, the freight trains do not have to make way for the passenger trains, given that the main passenger line is not used by the freight trains at all, and the passenger line can effectively use nearly stretch of the freight line as a passing loop, with the single line and passing loop system ensuring that individual stretches of the freight lines are vacated for long periods of time.

As to the suggestion that the main focus of medium high speed rail should be to duplicate the route of very high speed rail, I don't get it ... you raise the problem caused if the approach is used where it would not provide an effective supplement to a VHS trunk and where it does not offer substantial real reductions in required capital works, when the simple answer would seem to be, don't use the approach in that context.

However, in the US we have to get out of the old encrusted habits of thought that see real long distance passenger rail as a matter for the two coasts with flyover country receiving slow, infrequent, heavily subsidized, and poorly performing services suffering from delays that can exceed the planned travel time due to the priority enjoyed by freight.


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 Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 12:53:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not that with that system, the freight trains do not have to make way for the passenger trains, given that the main passenger line is not used by the freight trains at all, and the passenger line can effectively use nearly stretch of the freight line as a passing loop, with the single line and passing loop system ensuring that individual stretches of the freight lines are vacated for long periods of time.

This doesn't make any sense to me. How is two single-track lines more capacity than one double-track one?

the main focus of medium high speed rail should be to duplicate the route of very high speed rail

Not dublicate. The VHR has less frequent stops, its new line is built much straighter, and away from smaller cities where it doesn't stop. Say, you build a VHR with stops in Philadephia, Harrisburg and Pittsburg, and upgrade the old Pennsy mainline with some cutoffs and tunnels, to run MHS with further stops in Merion, Coatesville, Lancaster, Lewistown, Johnstown and Greensburg.

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

by DoDo on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 06:16:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The constraint is not capacity, the constraint is cross mode interference. If capacity is the constraint, double track with central passing loops is the go.


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 Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 08:17:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now you lost me.

What is a central passing loop? Some sort of round-abouts for trains?

If the constraint is crossing tracks, would not bridges be the solution?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Jan 25th, 2007 at 07:12:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, the constraint is the fact that all except a few trunk freight lines are designed for relatively infrequent and long freight trains, with a single line with "passing loops" (this may be an aussie phrase) or sidings that the train going one way sits on until the train going the other way has passed.

Since the freight has priority, once a passenger train in the US leaves the passenger only lines in the Northeast, small delays cascade into massive delays as it sits in a passing loop, waiting for train A to go past a passing loop further up the route so that train B can get off the passing loop and go by the Amtrak so that the Amtrak can move. A delay of 15 minutes can easily spill over into a delay of three to five hours in tack access delays.

Now, most of these are in rail corridors that once had two way track (because there used to be far higher frequency of passenger trains and much more local freight travelling by rail). So in these corridors, you can take advantage of the existing rail right of way to  put in a dedicated passenger service track.

If the frequency is brought up to the level where passing loops are needed at all, the passenger line can take advantage of the long stretches between freight trains by having switches that allow either the existing freight track or existing freight passing loop to be used as a passing loop for the passenger services.


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 Thu Jan 25th, 2007 at 10:53:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, so for your MHS, you were thinking in train frequencies like Amtrak long-distance?

I think if one bothers about speed at all, then only when passengers can  rely on frequent trains. I mean, it makes little difference if a travel takes 3 or 5 hours when you would leave at 8 o'clock but the only trains are at 6 and 18 o'clock.

Regarding two single track, use the other for passing vs. one double-track operation, let me demonstrate that the difference is significant with the following virtual train scheme I generated.

This is a 50-mile line between two major cities, with 12 sections. The borders of the sections are considered both crossover points and stations for local trains. I put paths of twice-hourly passenger trains with 50 mph travel speed and once-hourly medium-high-speed trains with 133.3 mph top speed on it in both directions. (For simplicity, different gradient lines represent acceleration/braking for the fast trains, I didn't bother to resolve that for the local trains.)

The second line for each path represents a 2.5-minute buffer for lateness. Then: the orange fields show time-distance zones when trains can pass each other, while the grey zones represent a train travelling 'on the wrong track'. In the first mode of operation, all the grey squares must be kept free, and there is room left for only one long non-stop freight train with 50 mph per direction. In a double-track operation, you only have to watch out for the fast trains and their crossing of same-directional trains, room for around four freight train paths in both directions.

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

by DoDo on Sat Jan 27th, 2007 at 06:18:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the VHS and MHS route share the same corridor, that has to be a new alignment ... at least in the parts of the country where VHS routes will be most lucrative.

If VHS routes in the US are laid out so that the corridor also runs through towns that are the target for MHS interurbans, that means a substantial reduction in the effective trip speed of the VHS route as it deviates further and further from the direct route between its target markets ... and also as it makes accommodation for the existing built environment.

And meanwhile in many areas of the country there are freight corridors in use that were allocated to serve dual track systems and are in use by single-track plus passing loop systems. Because of the byzantine complexity of the access rights on the corridor ... strategic parcels that were bought outright, easements, perpetual roll-over leases, etc. ... the owners of those access rights rarely narrowed the corridor when they switched to single track ... that normally does not happen unless the entire corridor has been abandoned (and sometimes not even then ... it can sometimes take a while for an abandoned route to make its way through the system and lose its corridor status).

And because of the time that they were laid out and their importance in the development of population centers, they often run exactly where we would want an interurban branch line to run. That is especially the case for Dixie and the Great Lakes States, which are politically critical to ensuring the an expanded passenger rail system is not seen as a pure subsidy to the "urban east coast".

Get an new track on that system that relies on stretches of the freight track for its passing loops, and enact priority for the passenger services, and you have a substantial savings compared to the cost of acquiring the right of way for a new alignment.

And, as in the above thread, that is not the conditions that are in place in another area, then don't do it there.


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 Jan 27th, 2007 at 12:01:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the VHS and MHS route share the same corridor

I realise I used confusing terminology. Sometimes 'corridor' is used to mean a general route along which several transport infrastructure lines can be built: e.g., say a highway and a canal and a local road, or a high-speed and a conventional rail line. (Or alternatively: different plan versions for a future line.)

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

by DoDo on Sat Jan 27th, 2007 at 06:24:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then use the rail terminology. If Very High Speed rail and Medium High Speed rail share the same alignment, it will be a newly established alignment with all the costs (and political controversy) of establishing a public right of way that goes along with it.

And there is still the problem, is it the optimal alignment for very high speed rail, or the optimal alignment for medium high speed rail. It can't be both at the same time, because the very high speed rail should take the most rapid route between the centers that it is connecting, and the medium high speed rail should take the route that provides the most effective transport for potential passengers at the intermediate stops in between.

And of course there are a lot of existing alignments in the US that are not fully built out that fill the bill for a medium high speed alignment ... existing rail alignments that would be suitable for very high speed rail is much less common.


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 Jan 27th, 2007 at 08:46:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then use the rail terminology.

This is also rail terminology here, wouldn't have used it otherwise. But from the rest of your reply, it appears to me that I still failed to completely convey what I meant. What I meant (and spelled out upthread, maybe not in the clearest way) was exactly this:

the very high speed rail should take the most rapid route between the centers that it is connecting, and the medium high speed rail should take the route that provides the most effective transport for potential passengers at the intermediate stops in between

I.e., I meant separate alignments between two major cities, which can get dozens of kilometres apart, one new and straight and avoiding smaller cities, the other an upgraded old line crossing smaller cities. To expend money on smaller-city-traversing high-speed alignments, or worse on parallel high- and low-speed lines, and have two types of service along the same line, makes sense only when population density is high anyway and concentrated along a narrow strip -- e.g. like Japan's West Coast, Taiwan's East Coast, but also the US Northeast Corridor (as in Marek's proposal).

And of course there are a lot of existing alignments in the US that are not fully built out that fill the bill for a medium high speed alignment

I would count only Washington-NYC(-Boston) and a few shorter stretches. I assumed upgrades to the existing lines, including cutoffs and tunnels, not simply different use.

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

by DoDo on Sun Jan 28th, 2007 at 06:19:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Quoth I:
And of course there are a lot of existing alignments in the US that are not fully built out that fill the bill for a medium high speed alignment

To which replied:

I would count only Washington-NYC(-Boston) and a few shorter stretches. I assumed upgrades to the existing lines, including cutoffs and tunnels, not simply different use.

I am not sure what "only count" applies to here.

Cleveland / Akron / Canton / Newark / Columbus / Dayton / Cincinatti / Louisville would be usefully served by 100mph rail. Many of those legs could run on existing alignments.

Detroit / Toledo / Cleveland / Buffalo / Rochester / Syracuse / Albany / Boston would be usefully served by 100mpg rail (ditto).

Miama / Fort Lauterdale / Orlando / Jacksonville and Atlanta / Chattanooga / Nashville / Memphis, especially with a VHS Dallas / Memphis / Atlanta / Jacksonville.

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 Sun Jan 28th, 2007 at 12:59:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oop ... Jacksonville / Tallahassee.

You can tell I'm not a Suthuna.

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 Sun Jan 28th, 2007 at 01:12:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
commercial flights under three hours.

It seems like a good idea.

by NNadir on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 12:47:13 AM EST
A question for our train afficinados:

How compatible are european train systems? I know that russian trains use(d?) to run on wider tracks and that Poland in 1918/9 inherited three different track widths (german,austrian and russian). But that was a while ago.

This breaks down into two questions:
a) How compatible are the old low-speed european train systems, especially tracks?
and
b) How compatible are the new (not fake) high-speed european train systems, especially tracks?

I ask this because I feel that if trains are to really compete with fligth we need a common european train system, and we do not really have one today. That does not mean that we need to merge everything, but to set common standards (tracks, trains, personel) so that the usefulness increases.

Hey, is this not what this whole EU-thingy is supposed to be about?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 10:39:48 AM EST
Poland in 1918/9 inherited three different track widths (german,austrian and russian)

Both Germany and Austria had standard gauge, maybe you mean narrow gauge railways?

Regarding compatibility, this is the main problem for international traffic. Track-related issues aren't even the worst of it. Issues include:

  1. signalling system
  2. electric system (AC, DC, which voltage and frequency, what voltage stability)
  3. maximum cross section
  4. track width (gauge)
  5. maximum axleload
  6. rules of operation
  7. train staff education
  8. couplers

The situation on each of these:

  1. Systems are essentially different from railway to railway (sometimes even within a country). Nowadays border-corssing vehicles are fitted with multiple systems. The EU pushes the ERTMS (levels 1-2-3) to standardise this, but it is a herculean task, and one plagued by technological problems. There are only half-functional pilot lines with ERTMS.
  2. There are four main systems: 1.5 kV and 3 kV DC (in BeNeLux, half of France, Italy, Poland, half of former Czechoslovakia and ex-Yugoslavia), industrial voltage: AC 50 Hz, 25 kV (rest of France and the other 'half DC' countries, Denmark, Hungary, all new high-speed lines in DC regions), and the 16.7 Hz / 15 kV railway AC (German-speaking countries, Sweden). Expect AC to slowly take over some DC lines, but overall, this separation will stay. However, modern power electronics made multi-system locomotives an econmic option.
  3. Cross sections were internationally standardised more than a century ago. However, there are too many of them with different sizes, posing different limitations. Generally, one could say that Britain has a very narrow cross section, France and BeNeLux and Switzerland and Italy the next smallest, other Germanic countries and Hungary have a somewhat wider but significantly higher one, while the Iberian peninsula and Scandinavia has a significantly wider one. But, non-national differences are in corner height: some railways have room  4m high for truck- or large container-transporting cars, some don't. But for future high-speed lines and trains, the narrow French norm was adopted, so no differences here between the newest Spanish, Italian, German trains or the British CTRL line.
  4. Russian broad gauge rules in the ex-Soviet-Union and in Finland. There is one broad-gauge line deep into Poland ending at the Czech border. The even wider Irish and Iberian gauges rule in the respective countries. However, Spain has a very ambitious program to rebuild all of its (surviving) broad-gauge lines to normal gauge. This started with building high-speed lines in normal gauge and upgrades with sleepers that have jacks in two positions for easy re-mounting of one rail. There is one lesser known, somewhat related difference between railways: the lateral inclination of the rails (1:20 and 1:40 in different countries). How much effect that has is still subject to research.
  5. The main difference here is between branchlines and mainlines, but across Europe, there is variation in the latter, too. On most mainlines, it's between 17 and 22.5 tons per axle. There is a push both from the EU and some railways to raise it on main freight corridors to 25 tons, but to do it across the whole European network would be very expensive. On the other hand, in the main factor in making a track suitable for some axle-load, rail type, there is a well-progressing development towards using UIC-60 rails (means: 60 kg/metre rails according to UIC norm). For high-speed trains, following the French-Belgian norms, 17 tons was agreed, though note that tracks have to bear more due to aerodynamic load.
  6. Some rules of operation are international, some related to the railway line traversed, some to the signalling system, some unique to railway company. The EU packages include standardisation or provision of information or instruction about differing systems to operators.
  7. Standardisation here is included in the EU's Third Railway Package.
  8. The former Soviet Union has its own automatic coupler, the rest of Europe a standard non-automatic coupler. Normal-gauge railways attempted to introduce a standardised automatic coupler in the seventies-eighties, but it foundered upon sabotage by cash-strapped railways (chiefly East Bloc). But from the nineties, a family of less powerful, lighter automatic couplers (the Scharfenberg type) became almost standard on new-built multiple units.

The sensible part of the EU Railway Packages pushes changes to increase compatibility on many of the above detailed fronts. The rules define a truckload of so-called TSI, Technical Standards of Interoperability. I also note that on another front of standardisation, rules for testing and accepting new railway vehicles, international railway organisations already progressed much without the EU, though EU rules are needed to break down the practice of requiring tests on the same subject for the same vegicle in each country separately.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 01:13:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, thanks.

I thought I knew two things and it turned out one of them was wrong. But now I know a lot.

Tricky system to standardise (lots of investment done into seperate standards), but I am glad that it appears high-speed railroads are built with a common standard in mind. Maybe one day not to far away, it will be cheaper and faster to go by train to most destinations. Or at least one of the two.

A follow-up question: what is a coupler?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 05:48:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The thing that couples train cars together :-) Here you see two railcars coupled with the standard European screw coupler:

...and a typical Scharfenberg coupler:



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

by DoDo on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 06:35:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mind you, trains that use different coupling system can share the same track, but they can't be marshalled into the same set without special gear.


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 Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 08:19:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another issue is buffer. When you have an automatic coupler like in North America, that also serves as buffer. But European trains normally have two buffers on both sides of their coupler. Many of the new Scharfenberg coupler trainsets lack side buffers, which calls for special safety considerations.

If we are here, trains can differ in another thing: the longitudinal forces they can withstand. The US, with its much longer trains, demands much higher values than is the standard in Europe. But Europe also has railbuses and some trainsets which don't fit that norm, and for that reason can't be put in a long train or 'bumped' by a shunter.

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

by DoDo on Sat Jan 27th, 2007 at 05:50:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you can read French, you may be interested in the official report on the subject. http://www.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/rapports-publics/034000721/index.shtml

Something Dodo said but might have emphasized is that there are two standards evolving. The French one and the German one.

Something he missed is quai height which is also different depending on the country and is becoming part of that double standard.

If you continue reading on this subject, you'll find it's common for 'cross-section' to be referred to as gauge. Kinematic gauge if pedantic.

by richardk (richard kulisz gmail) on Sat Jan 27th, 2007 at 05:24:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
there are two standards evolving

Standard of what do you mean? Note that the ICE-3 already adopted the French kinematic gauge, axleload, train length standards. And the TGV Est of course forces both companies to look for compatibility.

Something he missed is quai height

Correct, but the difference has more dimensions than country. There are are different standard heights (the most used defined by UIC) used by different kinds of trains. For example in Germany, there are four standard elevated platform heights from 380 to 960 mm above railhead. This has consequences like the manufacture of double-deck car types in two versions (door high or low). The big difference you may mean, also in the previous question, was that on German main stations platforms for high-speed trains were built for the standard UIC 760 mm height, but the TGV system was for the 550 mm height. The EU adopted both in its TSI for high-speed trains. But note that to access Swiss and Austrian destinations, all ICE and some TGV trains are already suited for both platform heights (not the Duplex).

Kinematic gauge if pedantic.

To make things even more complex, there is kinematic and dynamic gauge (for vehicles) and structural gauge (for track, e.g. tunnels, bridges, wayside buildings, trees and catenary masts).

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

by DoDo on Sat Jan 27th, 2007 at 05:44:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Electrification and quai height are appearing as a double standard.

Your comment on gauge makes it sound like kinematic and dynamic aren't synonyms. I had to check. :)

In your other comment where you mention German vs French polishing, I assume that German polishing is much more infrequent since:

  1. DB runs HSTs at higher axle loads and lower speeds.
  2. DB runs freight extensively.
  3. Siemens decided not to use Jacobs bogies for the ICE3 so they "could be removed more easily" which is preposterous unless they have much higher wear rates

Unless they simply couldn't build an EMU with Jacobs bogies at the time.
by richardk (richard kulisz gmail) on Sun Jan 28th, 2007 at 11:46:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I brought up polishing practices as a track/vehicle-connectedness issue, e.g.: running polishing trains daily is a higher infrastructure cost, but results in less wheel wear and better ride comfort, while the intent of running freight trains not only results in higher construction costs (smaller maximum grade -> more tunnels/bridges) but more track wear and worse running comfort.

Regarding your points on polishing, I see multiple issues mixing here.

High axle loads, lower speeds and freight are a characteristic of the ICE-1, ICE-2 trains and the older lines. The ICE-3 and the Cologne-Frankfurt line don't differ from the TGV system in these respects (where the ditching of mixed traffic was definitely the abandonment of a bad idea).

Regarding bogies, it is true that the somewhat higher axle density (ICE-3: 32, most TGVs: 26 for the same 200 m length) and more uneven distribution of that mean higher track stress and wear, but it is not so significant compared to the above problems.

The "could be removed more easily" you read of could mean multiple things.

Either it was a reference not to the ICE-3 but the earlier generations, and not only to bogie maintenance but car maintenance (say one car is vandalised, it is removed while the rest of the train can get back into service) and operational rearrangement. The latter differs from the fixed-composition TGV concept and parallels the Shinkansen concept: the ICE-1 can run with 10 to 14 middle cars, the ICE-2 can even be arranged into an ICE-1-like "long train" by dropping driving trailers.

If it was a reference to the ICE-3 and removal of bogies, then the main issue is that the ICE-3 has distributed traction. Both Siemens (DB series 425) and ex-ADtranz-Bombardier (DB series 423) has motorised Jacobs bogies. The problem is that currently, there is no high-speed-suited motorised Jacobs bogie in service anywhere in the world - not in France, not in Japan (where all Shinkansens have distributed traction, including the prototypes for 360 km/h trains). So far there is only the two test bogies in the two cars of Alstom's mothballed partial AGV prototype "Elisa", though the technology shall be revived this year, in the "Pégase" prototype and in the new attempt to break the world speed record with TGV POS 4403.

I also note that Jacobs vs. standard bogies aren't relevant to the question of interoperability standards, they were relevant in the failed pursuit of an all-European high-speed train (one unifying French, German, Italian and Spanish technology) that would have cut costs by economies of scale.

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

by DoDo on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 07:13:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I forgot the link for the new speed record attempt: en français, in English.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 07:36:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In other words, my second supposition was correct and they couldn't build an EMU with Jacobs bogies. You know, it's mildly irritating how you ignore what I've said in favour of reprising the topic from scratch. Which is only made tolerable because you really know the subject and that expertise is greatly appreciated. Especially with reference to the significance of various effects.

I did not consider vandalism before. I wonder if it's a serious problem. I'm guessing it isn't since the much lower cost of the TGV compared to the earlier ICEs would have allowed the SNCF to stock up on extra trainsets. Swapping cars isn't a problem when you can afford to roll an entire trainset to the shop.

by richardk (richard kulisz gmail) on Fri Feb 2nd, 2007 at 09:15:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your comment on gauge makes it sound like kinematic and dynamic aren't synonyms. I had to check.

Er, yes, I meant static. But here is a fuller classification of gauge types (though I'm not sure I got the English terminology right in each case), generally from narrowest to widest:

Construction gauge/vehicle limit profile/loading gauge at standstill:
this is the actual limit for the cross section of a specific railway vehicle.
'Static' loading gauge:
a railway vehicle must fit into this even considering the worst combinations of curves and the lateral play of moving parts (wheel in rail, axle in axlebox, suspensions). Until recently, the construction gauge was caluclated from this.
Kinematic (dynamic) gauge/reference profile:
similar to the previous, but dynamic effects like tilt in curves and uneven track are also considered. It's also called reference profile because both construction gauges (for vehicles) and structure gauges (for track) can be derived from it.
Structure limit gauge:
derived from the reference profile by considering the tolerances of track-laying.
Inner structure gauge:
the standard of a railway company for the space within which nothing fixed can protrude.
Outer structure gauge:
the standard of a railway company for what extra spaces to keep clear (for aerodynamics, for track workers, for waiting passengers etc.) in various situations: tunnels, bridges, overpasses, stations, side-by-side tracks etc.
Right-of-way:
the entire room demanded by a railway line, including ballest bed and catenary

BTW, for A swedish kind of death, here is a drawing from my work (clickable thumbnail):

Free Image Hosting by FreeImageHosting.net

It displays the rough outline of a Swedish IC car to be measured (no precise data was available then), the Hungarian and Swedish (Scandinavian "A") static loading gauges, and the narrowest (old standard, non-electrified line) and widest ('new' East Bloc standard, electrified line) structural gauges of potential test tracks in Hungary. It can be seen that corner height could be expected to be a problem on old lines, would it not be the case that the car apparently doesn't utilise the Scandinavian loading gauge in full.

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

by DoDo on Wed Jan 31st, 2007 at 07:15:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All you want to know about TEN - Trans European Networks - can be found at the website of DG TREN. Here are the maps of the 30 priority corridors which are currently planned, implemented or already finished in the run-up to its completion in 2020. The joint budget of the EU and MS - Member States - from 2007 to 2013 is 220 bn Euros (285 bn American dollars). The cost for the whole 2020 network is 660 bn Euros (850 bn American dollars).

link to TEN maps and TEN-T priority axes and projects :

http://ec.europa.eu/ten/transport/projects/doc/2005_ten_t_en.pdf

"The USA appears destined by fate to plague America with misery in the name of liberty." Simon Bolivar, Caracas, 1819

by Ritter on Wed Jan 24th, 2007 at 07:26:42 PM EST
I put up a US VHS speed diary on the Daily Kos, after doing a spreadsheet with line of sight distances between a set of cities in the US.

And then, just after I published it I had to cede my seat at the computer ... so I didn't get back to the comments until today.

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 Jan 27th, 2007 at 12:06:29 PM EST


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