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China wants 380 km/h trains

by DoDo Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:35:20 AM EST

A Telegraph story from the Salon:

China planning 'world's fastest train' from Beijing to Shanghai - Telegraph

...Ministry of Railways says it is raising the speed it intends the new line connecting the cities to reach when it opens in 2012.

...according to the ministry's deputy chief engineer, Zhang Shuguang... "It is possible that we can start to manufacture 380 km/h trains in two years' time, and put them into service on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway,"...

Well, I am very sceptical. Let me review the obstacles, and before them, the Chinese high-speed drive and the heavy European part in it.


Despite its leaders and population buying into the American dream (cars for everyone), the New China continued to see railways as strategic infrastructure. Meaning: massive line expansions and breakneck-speed modernisation. Part of this were ever more ambitious high-speed plans.

The Chinese railway industry first developed a number of multiple units. The high-speed push began with trains for the upgraded Guangzhou–Shenzhen[–Hong Kong] line: the DDJ1 prototype (1999), and a year later, applying lessons learnt with an X-2000 rented from Sweden since 1998, the eight DJJ1 "Lanjian" ( = Blue Arrow) trains, one of which achieved a national record of 264 km/h. However, in regular service, they only did 200 km/h.

A DJJ1 at Ex-Tutang station on 17 December 2006. Since then, these trains have been replaced by CRH1 units (see below). Photo from Rick W @Flickr

Seeing the difficulty and complexity of the technological challenge, a number of not much publicised prototypes followed, including "Xianfeng Hao" ( = Pioneer). Then, in 2002, came the intended real thing, the DJJ2 "China Star". After achieving only 321.5 km/h in trials, planned service top speed was scaled back to 270 km/h. Then it entered regular service in 2006 with just 160 km/h, and not long after, the apparently failed trains were mothballed.

A "China Star" disused already in 2007, left exposed to the weather in Shenyang. Photo by undiyz @ Hasea.com, taken from the blog of a Hong Kong netizen

Then the leadership chose another option: import foreign high-speed trains, with technology transfer. From 2007, the new subsidiary China Railway High-speed (CRH) began to run the following types:

  • CRH1: a 200 km/h train from Bombardier's Regina platform (which originates in what used to be ABB's Swedish branch, maker of the X-2000)
  • CRH2: the train whose origin is never mentioned in official Chinese media, being a spinoff of JR East's E2-1000 Shinkansen from Japan; first batch 250, rest 300 km/h
  • CRH3: Siemens's Velaro CN, a wide-bodied export version of Germany's ICE-3 high-speed train, for 350 km/h
  • (CRH4: it was speculated that this was reserved for an upgrade of the "China Star")
  • CRH5: a 200 km/h train from the now Alstom-owned Pendolino platform

What's more, European and Japanese firms and technology was involved in line construction. Which is on a scale unthinkable elsewhere: the 935 km from Wuhan to Guangzhou and the 1,318 km from Beijing to Shanghai are just the beginning. The first leg of the latter, China's first true high-speed section, the 117 km long Beijing–Tianjin high-speed line, is (also) fitted with Europe's long troubled signalling system ERTMS. On trials on this line, first a CRH2 reached 370 km/h (22 April), then two months later (24 June), the CRH3 set the current speed record for China: 394.3 km/h.

The line was opened on 1 August, a week ahead of the Olympics. The leaders didn't miss the opportunity to boast with the fastest (conventional) train service in the world, thus the CRH3 were ran at their top speed of 350 km/h. Where I note that

  1. design line speed itself was pushed up progressively from 200 to 350 while the line was already under construction!
  2. The line being relatively short, the CRH3 reach top speed only for a short time.
  3. The Spanish version (which holds the rail speed world record for a series train without any modifications at 403.7 km/h) of the train doesn't yet do 350 km/h because the operators want that only when ERTMS Level 2 becomes truly reliable. (Also see: High-speed to Barcelona)

Show the best image for the Olympics: cleaners remove the stain of unlucky insects from a CRH3 train in Beijing Central Station, while a CRH2 waits on another track. Photo from SPIEGEL

:: :: :: :: ::

Now, all the above is very impressive. So, why am I sceptical about 380 km/h trains produced in 2010 and ready in 2012 when Beijing–Shanghai opens?

It's not power and speed. Even accounting for the rule that trains have to run safely at 10% above their service top speed (that would be 418 km/h for our Chinese Superstar), the goal is not out of reach. And last year, a TGV test train had several runs above 500 km/h culminating in a new rail speed world record of 574.8 km/h (I diaried). However, there are other factors:

  1. Economics of enegy use. At high speed, air resistance is the overwhelming factor, and its force increases with the square of speed. You need to multiply force with speed to get power, so power goes with the cube of speed: that means +28% just from 350 to 380 km/h, +103% compared to the 'standard' 300 km/h!

  2. Noise emissions. Unsurprisingly, the relationship with speed is almost the same as for traction power. But noise emission limits are not flexible, unlike train power and ticket prices, so this is a more pressing concern.

  3. Ride comfort. The stronger forces mean more carbody motion, which is fine on a test run, but regular passengers might not like it.

  4. Track wear. Stronger forces mean more strain for rails and trackbed, which means they have to be replaced quicker. High-speed tracks are rather expensive. (Just the other day, on the Cologne–Frankfurt line that sees 300–330 km/h traffic, it was found that rails have to be replaced much earlier than planned.)

  5. Safety and train frequency. A lot of potential accident factors (side winds, track fatigue, etc.) are more severe at higher speeds, and there may be unknown new factors, ones you would rather discover in multi-year top speed test runs. One of these factors is signalling. It is critical because of the opposed needs of having a safe stopping distance between trains, and running trains as frequently as possible. No system proved itself yet at 350, not to mention 380 km/h, so you either risk accidents during signal trouble or have to run much less trains than possible at somewhat lower speeds.

Chinese decision-makers might well ignore the first three and half of the last: prestige objects don't have to be economic, the regime won't be troubled with protests from noise-bothered locals, ride comfort can still be much much better than on old Chinese trains, and accidents happen. But no way around maintenance needs and the need for high train frequency, I believe. (In fact, I have conflicting reports about whether the CRH3 truly do even the announced 350 km/h, or, in case they did it during the Olympics, whether they kept it up after.)

Anyway, for a serious go for higher speeds, the way to go is to optimise technology, and that's a serious job. Some examples of what European and Japanese developers are up to.

A Chinese official flattered German reporters on a CRH3 by saying that

"The Japanese technology is more economical and energy-efficient, while the German type is bulkier and more than 10 times higher in price. But we wanted our passengers to sit in a sturdy, secure Mercedes rather than a cheap, light Honda."

Well, that sounds compelling, but it aint'. For one thing, Siemens's wonder is more susceptible to flying off the rails due to side winds and generates more noise in tunnels. Aerodynamics researchers in Japan long discovered that a duckbill-like nose shape is better, even if ugly – most prominently on the Series 700. The newest high-speed train on Japanese rails is a thoroughly optimised version, the N700.

Duckbill nose of the first true high-speed tilting train, the 300 km/h Series N700 Shinkansen, run by both JR Central and JR West. Photo from The Japanese Railway Society

Changes include

  • nose shape (with much more complex curvature);
  • shrouding for all bogies (such shrouding has been frequently tried but frequently abandoned in the past 70 years, due to difficulties for maintenance workers and stuff getting stuck in it while aerodynamic benefit was little due to poor design);
  • complete covering of the joints between the cars (diaphragms);
  • aerodynamic design of the underside of cars (important in noise emissions);
  • pantograph held by a single bar between noise-insulating spoilers [photo] (for an ICE-3 leading car, the pantograph causes one third of the air resistance!).

Together with weight savings, energy consumption was cut by 19%(!) compared to the Series 700. Yet, this wonder still only runs at 300 km/h. The third big Japanese company, JR East, wanted the successor to its decade-old 275 km/h E2 units (progenitor of that "cheap, light Honda") go one mayor step further.

Looks like out of a sci-fi movie, does it? The two Fastech 360 prototypes were meant as testbeds for 360 km/h traffic with noise emissions, track wear and safety not worse than current trains at their much lower top speeds. The many innovations are on the same fronts but more extreme than for the rival N700. However, in testing, the trains came short of expectations: in particular on noise, and braking distances. JR West decided to order a new generation of trains for only 320 km/h.

Meanwhile in Europe, many of the same problems were attacked by the engineers at Alstom, when they designed the TGV successor, the AGV. I introduced it before (in High-speed to Barcelona), so I only note that it is in some respects a less radical design. For example, noise requirements aren't as strict as in more crowded Japan, and the AGV lacks diaphragm and full bogie shrouds; then again, it has car-connecting bogies, and a narrower body (which reduce the benefits of shrouding), and reduced cross section compared to the Chinese and Japanese rivals means less drag and noise by default [if speed and drag coefficient is the same].

However, this very advanced train is still 'only' meant for 360 km/h, and that after heavy testing: some parts were tested years ago, the train itself from this year, but type approval is expected in 2011.

Above: the AGV prototype during testing at the Velim test track in the Czech Republic. Photo from a helicopter from NTV's Gallery

Below: model displaying the AGV in the livery of its first purchaser, Italian private operator NTV. Photo from Railway Gazette

How can the train be made to cut air even better? One possibility is to learn from nature: that shark skin is not totally smooth is a feature. Small dimples influence turbulences in a way that improves air [resp. water] flow.

You can already see this on golf balls. But researchers want to try it on airplanes – and trains. Tests in 2004 (see SPIEGEL article [pdf, in German!]) showed that a dimpled surface can reduce high-speed train air resistance by up to 16%.

Wind tunnel test of the 1:20 model of a dimpled ICE train. Photo from inventors network

If it takes such effort to advance this little, those Chinese developers have a monumental task ahead of them. Either that, or these ambitions will be buried, like the "China Star".

Don't get me wrong: I do think that China will become one of the cutting-edge high-speed rail developers. I also do believe that rail passengers will one day travel at 380, even 400 km/h. But I think that may take fourteen, not four years.

:: :: :: :: ::

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

Display:
And what is America doing?

After being overtaken by the likes of China and Russia (Siemens/Germany export successes), Turkey (CAF/Spain export success), Morocco and Argentina (Alstom/France export successes), now it seems one project may get serious: that of California. I read that Governor Ahhhnold, who tried to undercut California High Speed in so many ways, but lately seems to have become a convert when the TGV ran its world record, signed in support for the financing bill that shall be put to vote in November. (Last elections, Jeb Bush used a similar occasion to bury the Florida project by campaigning for the denial of funding.)

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

by DoDo on Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 at 05:49:39 PM EST
We are serious here in CA. Arnold finally got his act together and signed the bill modifying the proposal that was already on the ballot. Recent polling has suggested 62% of voters support the plan, which is a bit higher than the mid-50s that we've been consistently seeing since March. Given that there is no organized and funded opposition - i.e. nobody to run TV ads against it - and that the state's political leadership is either supportive or not opposed, I think we will win this vote.

Unfortunately that's just the start. The bond would provide $10 billion, but the cost estimate to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles is over $40 billion. We're going to have to get a big chunk of change from the feds, which will be easy if Obama wins and difficult to impossible if McCain wins. Private companies have shown interest in making up the last $10 billion, but don't want to be contributing any more than 25-30% of project costs. And of course it's not yet clear what exactly they're going to want in return.

Few decisions have been made regarding the technology that we'll use, and that's obviously going to be a high priority after November, if we win.

For anyone who's interested in more about the California HSR project, I run the California High Speed Rail Blog which is the central online hub for project supporters. I'd love more input and thoughts on what we're proposing in CA, especially since I am not strong on the technical aspect of things the way DoDo is...

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Wed Sep 3rd, 2008 at 06:11:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is it necessary to secure the entire budget for tendering for major construction to start? Because if they'd start it with the $10 billion (preferably for tunneling contracts), the project may gain its own momentum.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 01:36:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
for tunneling contracts), the project may gain its own momentum.

I think I have the perfect investment property for you - a subway that goes down Second Avenue - densely populated area, the only competition is ridiculously overcrowded.

by MarekNYC on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:04:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
:-)

What's up with that project, by the way? I thought tendering is underway.

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

by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:49:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Phase 1 (96th to 63rd) is under construction. Current estimated completion date is 2015, it was 2014 until recently. The second phase (96th-125th) has the bulk of the existing tunnels and current plans are to build it from 2014-2017. If they actually build Phase 1, I'm pretty certain they'll build Phase 2 since it will be relatively cheap and easy. Beyond that is pure speculation.

There's also a commuter rail project currently being built that will connect up the LIRR to Grand Central. Right now it only goes to Penn Station which is much less convenient to the heart of the Midtown office district. This involves creating a tunnel from a current terminus in Western Queens into Manhattan and down to the station. Construction began in the early seventies and they completed the tunnel under the river a good thirty years ago, but the city went bankrupt.

There are two other rail projects in advanced planning stages. One is extending the 7 line westwards towards the Hudson to create better access to the rapidly developing far west side of midtown. The other is building another pair of tunnels under the Hudson to relieve the ridiculously overcrowded commuter rail lines from Jersey to Midtown. While they're at it they're also planning on hooking up the NJ lines to Grand Central, rather than just finishing up in Penn Station.

by MarekNYC on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 01:19:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The second phase (96th-125th) has the bulk of the existing tunnels and current plans are to build it from 2014-2017. If they actually build Phase 1, I'm pretty certain they'll build Phase 2 since it will be relatively cheap and easy.

Heh. My example of the horror of horrors, the rail connector tunnel under Boston with the $8.7 billion cost estimate, also has most of the raw tunnel already built...

There's also a commuter rail project currently being built that will connect up the LIRR to Grand Central.

I recall reading when the tunneling contracts (Spanish firm Dragados was involved) were sent for re-tendering.

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

by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:13:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not a good idea. It's been tried before, and either the country goes into a depression, or the city becomes bankrupt. Maybe it's just superstition, but how about trying a First Avenue subway for a change.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:56:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It probably is necessary to have the local funding lined up to a certain degree, to get the federal matching funds.

At least, certainly under the current administration, if the state government did an improvement and then said, "this work we already did is going to count as part of our financial support of this project", I'd expect to hear that it was water under the bridge, the money allocated going forward is what counts as the local contribution.

I have no idea how much of that is administrative and how much the underlying acts.


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 Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:39:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I submit I was suggesting some blackmail: if local funding is not only lined up but its spending has begun, with a $10 billion project, national prestige and pressure from construction companies might move an opposed federal authority to dole out the money.

Also, forgot to comment this from Montereyan:

Private companies have shown interest in making up the last $10 billion, but don't want to be contributing any more than 25-30% of project costs. And of course it's not yet clear what exactly they're going to want in return.

Yeah right. I am extremely wary of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).

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

by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:55:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo:
Yeah right. I am extremely wary of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).

Me too, but not if they are structured correctly, which is beginning to happen. eg City of Glasgow now has three municipal LLP "partnerships" with several more to come.

The key IMHO is a new take on financing through the creation of new forms of "Public Equity" in vehicles other than "the Corporation" which may be the entity that makes the Private sector "private", but is not, in fact, obligatory.....

I believe that it is possible to provide long term financing of public transport much more cheaply than by conventional "deficit-based" (ie secured debt created by credit institutions) finance through:

(a) "unitising" the resulting revenue streams; and

(b) capturing some of the land value created along the route, particularly in the vicinity of stations;

through the use of partnership-based frameworks for financing and assets maintained in public ownership by "Custodians".

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 05:50:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The money is not handed out by the Federal Railroad Agency, a sclerotic old bureaucracy puttering along in early 20th century "safety = more metal" mode, but in the Federal Transport Agency, which under Bush would not mind seeing a major state rail initiative collapse from lack of funding.

You can't blackmail the FTA into supporting a rail project ... at least, no under present management.


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 Sep 4th, 2008 at 06:29:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As am I. I've written extensively on the flaws of PPP elsewhere, and one of the first posts on my HSR blog was about the shotgun wedding Arnold Schwarzenegger imposed on the project, demanding PPP language and partnerships as a condition of his support.

What I've been told my Democrats in the state legislature here in California is that they agreed to it because the details will have to be approved by the Legislature, and they're not interested in PPP. Their hope is that a Democrat will get elected governor in 2010 and that the PPP push will die. I'm not as confident as they, but in any case, PPP is now written into the project but without any details on what that actually means.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 07:52:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To you, Montereyan, ARGeezer: I just discovered your month-old diary Would California have HSR today if it had been settled by France?, and commented extensively.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 05:19:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... of a Midnight Thought for Burning the Midnight Oil ... the final version benefited substantially from the comments, I thought.

Final version here: Midnight Thought on Living Energy Independence

and here: Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence


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 Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:37:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK!

I was off-line for days when you posted it (and, as it happens, again when it was promoted).

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

by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 03:51:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... piece ... the correct links (I believe) have now been added in an explanatory "postlude" added to the front of the diary.

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 Sep 4th, 2008 at 04:21:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes. The bond proposal was recently amended and one of the changes was to mandate that the $10 billion bond, if approved in November, could not pay for more than 50% of construction costs of any portion of the line. It's designed to ensure that if federal funding does not materialize the state isn't going to be on the hook for the full project cost.

I like your thinking here, but it's not workable (as much as I think CA should blackmail the feds, who take our tax money and never return it). The plan is to use the passage of the bonds as a stake to entice Congress to pony up.

Congress IS interested in doing this and we have powerful allies in DC, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Dianne Feinstein. But the real key is the White House. If Obama wins we'll be OK. If McCain wins, it's going to be ugly.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 07:55:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Montereyan, could you possibly adapt and cross-post this for ET?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 05:01:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Certainly. That particular post is a variation on a theme I've been hitting on the blog for several months now.

And the world will live as one
by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 07:48:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What I don't understand is the obsession with speed at the cost of efficiency (as you point out DoDo). Surely the answer is to make the time spent on trains 'productive', rather than passive relocation.

For business people, 3G networks and portable devices mean that communication, management, media post-production, design, engineering and whatever are not tied to location. One could even run a help desk on the move!

This is why I believe that European coastal transport by ship is feasible - with considerable rethinking on the design of those ships. Ships need to be designed for productivity rather than low-end entertainment. This already happens in a half-hearted way on the giant ferries running between Finland and Sweden: there are conference rooms, auditoria etc. - but surrounded by low end entertainment.

The Finnish Intercity double-decker Pendolinos have an excellent business section. Many use the time on board to prepare for meetings ahead. The Pendolinos are not run particularly fast, but they don't need to be if you can do some work on board. I travelled to Turku once with a songwriter who remixed a song on his laptop using Pro Tools and headphones during the journey.

The problem with energy, as one of my clients is fond of saying, is that its use is sub-optimized. In the case of energy for transport, the concept of relocation has to be rethought. Getting from A to B as fast as possible, has to be rethought as getting from A to B as productively as possible.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:32:49 AM EST
While much of the Chinese drive for speed seems to be all for prestige, there are some real factors, too: China is a big country. Even reaching 380 km/h, the Beijing-Shanghai trip would be around 3h40m, difficult to compete with airplanes.

Finnish Intercity double-decker Pendolinos

Nitpick: surely you mean locomotive-pulled double-deck Intercity trains and Pendolinos?

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

by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:47:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are the expert!

But more info here


You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 03:02:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Surely the answer is to make the time spent on trains 'productive', rather than passive relocation.

Damn right. On most French TGV, you can't plug your laptop, so that either you're on your own power, or you somehow know which trains do offer the possibility, or maybe you travel first class.

Just plain old 220v. power on a recent electrical train : it can't be such an engineering challenge ?

by balbuz on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 06:14:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not. The modern German trains all have power, at least at the seats next to tables, and some trains have them at most seats.

The ICE from Munich to Frankfurt even has WLAN (I haven't actually had a chance to try it yet), and this should be extended to Hamburg by the end of the year.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 06:30:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It shall come with the regular refurbishment, I guess. When I travelled across France last year, of my three trips on TGV, one was on a refurbished one, and from Reims to Le Mans, laptops were loudly replaying movies all around me...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 06:37:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(In most cases, those were cartoons which fathers showed their children.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 06:37:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Our bog standard economy class Great Western trains to London have plugs for each seat. I think Virgin trains do too but definitely not all lines offer that.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 07:20:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
have power plugs (at least in first class) and Thalys now has wifi throughout the train (which works fine).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 09:20:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Have you been forced out of the business jets to London City Airport? :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 09:21:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I should damn well hope so ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 09:34:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's still more convenient for me when I go to London. But there is no plane service to Brussels.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 05:09:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nor Eurostar service, unless you change trains at Lille?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 05:10:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or, eh, thinking jet-set, maybe you frequently travel from London to Brussels?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 05:11:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, Thalys is the Eurostar equivalent on Paris-Brussels line.
by Bernard on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 03:36:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well duh, but Jérôme said "Thalys and Eurostar have power plugs", so he must have experience with both.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 04:35:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And speaking of comfort on Chinese trains . . .

I made a four hour trip from Suzhou to Shaoxing on a regular Chinese train, regular ticket.  I couldn't speak to the attendant very well, and feel lucky that I got the destination right.

The entire trip, I was jammed into a corner, standing.  For a good chunk of the trip, that was face-into-wall.

Fun fun.

by Zwackus on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 05:32:50 AM EST
I take the train regularly between Hangzhou and Shanghai.  A couple of times there were no more seats on the high speed trains (1 hour and 20 minutes) and I had to take the regular train, which is not only slower (3 hours +) but older and much shabbier, though basically "clean enough" -- even if I've never had the courage to look into the toilets on those trains.

Having said that, the high speed trains are just as nice if not nicer (i.e. more comfortable and clean) than any train I have taken in Japan, Europe and the U.S.

And from what foreign friends in China tell me, the same goes for longer distance trains as well.

FYI: the high speed train between Hangzhou and Shanghai (170 km in 1 hour and 20 minutes) is 54 RMB (about €5.50); the slower train is 30-40 RMB.

FYI 2: When the Shanghai-Hangzhou Maglev Train starts rolling in 2014, the commute between Shanghai and Hangzhou will be cut down to 27 minutes.

Cynicism is intellectual treason.

by marco on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 06:44:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I want a photo diary :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 03:04:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm afraid I don't have any good pix of trains in China, but here are a few to give an idea:

An older train from Hangzhou to Shanghai:


(the goofy guy on the right is me, and the one on my left is my kid brother)

And here are some pix from a newer train from Shanghai to Hangzhou:

Not a flying saucer, but Shanghai South Station:

Inside Shanghai South:

Boarding the train:

Dining car:

Inside:

Then there is the Shanghai Maglev connecting Shanghai Pudong Airport with Longyang-lu station in the city:

The maglev "tracks":

Approaching...

Arriving...

Here is a really short and crummy video of the Shanghai Maglev Train pulling into Longyang-lu station (which I took to get to Pudong Airport):

Unfortunately, I did not start recording till the train was close, which does not give you an idea of how quiet it is.  (This video was actually taken on a different day than those pictures.)

The maglev can go up to 431 km/h, but it has never gone much faster than 300 km/h whenever I have ridden it (which makes sense, given the very short distance it goes between Longyang-lu Station and the airport:



Cynicism is intellectual treason.

by marco on Sat Sep 6th, 2008 at 03:46:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the pics!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Sep 6th, 2008 at 09:36:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They would be worth doing a stand alone diary too!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Sep 6th, 2008 at 09:36:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Sep 6th, 2008 at 10:27:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "newer train" you took is by all looks (and restaurant car number) CRH2 #21 (one of the 250 km/h sets already built in China), so comparison with Japan was apt...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Sep 6th, 2008 at 10:42:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To a non-expert those trains and facilities certainly look like any European ones I´ve seen, marco.  Nice.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sat Sep 6th, 2008 at 12:45:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Marco, by the way, regarding the Transrapid extension to Hangzhou: did the government's final decision include any concessions to locals protesting along the planned route? (Also see this discussion.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Sep 7th, 2008 at 11:59:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When I took the Guangzhou - shenzen line last year, the workers installing new tracks where still working on the ballast with picks. One would place the pick, two would pull the pick with ropes. Around thirty workers where busy doing that while one guy lined up the rails. Although I don't know anything about trains, I doubt they could building high speed lines that way...

Rien n'est gratuit en ce bas monde. Tout s'expie, le bien comme le mal, se paie tot ou tard. Le bien c'est beaucoup plus cher, forcement. Celine
by UnEstranAvecVueSurMer (holopherne ahem gmail) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 08:44:47 AM EST
When there is manpower, who needs machines...

From this short description, what you say may have been (1) parallel tracks for suburban trains, (2) repair of a short section (say after an accident), (3) real 200 km/h track replacement, in which case I guess there'll be at least an inspection run followed by adjustments!?...

At any rate, the Beijing-Tianjin line is different: it is "FF Bögl" slab tracks supplied (again with technology transfer) by German firm MAX BÖGL (see their page, and photos of the track near Beijing in this pdf).

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

by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 09:12:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Transportation at this sort of speeds should really be done in the low-drag environment of the upper atmosphere. The problem right now is that the only practical energy source for flight is kerosine, so electric trains (with sustainable power sources) are a better choice. When a sustainable energy storage system for aircraft is available, trains will revert to their natural place in the 10-1000 km travel distance region...
by asdf on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 09:09:53 AM EST
One would have to calculate the full energy balance for the same ((drag coefficient) * (cross sectional area) / passengers) - I mean, planes also have to climb to those altitudes.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 09:20:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right, the energy used to climb up the earth's gravity is not recovered on the way down... Though it would be really great if it could be...

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 09:30:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm pretty sure most of is used by the plane to keep on going forward as it descends towards landing...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 09:34:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
like Journey times need the standing round for security, and waiting for your bags adding in.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 09:33:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Plus travel time and price to/from final destination.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 09:35:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great post.

There's two things I wanted your take on:

1:

Bombardier `Green Train' Uses 20-30% Less Fuel Than Other Trains, Sets Swedish Speed Record : TreeHugger

Kitted out with ECO4 energy efficiency gadgetry, such as Bombardier's MITRAC Permanent Magnet Motor and an assistance system which allows the driver to monitor speed and traction force, this new train not only set a new Swedish speed record (295 km/h; 183 mph) but consumes 20-30% less energy than your average train.

A Faster, Yet Smoother Trip
Bombardier also says that the train has been equipped with "track-friendly bogies" which allow for increased running stability and less wheel wear on curved tracks. Passenger comfort has not been neglected, with an active lateral suspension system, for a more stable train travel experience.

So how much of that is really new, and what are we seeing elsewhere?

2:

They're finally building the Fehmarnbelt, though it should be finished by 2020, earliest. Some environmentalists (NABU - birds/nature protection group) apparently oppose it, which I don't really understand.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 11:59:34 AM EST
  1. I'm not sure what the comparison is for "20-30% less energy than your average train", but I will look. On the quick: the permament magnet synchronous motor is indeed the Next Best Thing; even lighter and even closer to 100% efficiency than an asynchronous motor. It is really cutting-edge: Alstom introduced it in the prototypes (including the middle cars of the world record train) leading up to the AGV, while Japanese manufacturers tried it in the Fastech-360 trains; when the motor is run in inverse as generator, that's what wind turbines use, and a few years ago, Siemens was first to tinker with permanent magnet wind turbine generators. The energy-saving aspect of traction force monitoring (which is not new: say the Taurus locos have it) evade me, unless it's that the software visually proposes an optimum to the driver.

  2. You shot down a future diary idea of mine :-) There are three connected issues there. One was the decision for a bridge instead of the more bird-protecting tunnel. The second was the most likely reason for that: the real priority is car traffic, not train traffic. For train traffic, the addition of the new link makes little sense unless there are connecting high-speed lines: the just one decade old Great Belt bridge/tunnel connection has enough capacity on an only slightly longer route. So I tend to agree with NABU: as it is projected now, this is not a necessary project.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 12:34:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
1) OK. Based on the press release, the 20-30% reduction seems a more hazy goal defined by the Swedish operator. I couldn't find much about this new driver assistance system, which is said to contribute 15% allp by itself, but I hope I'll see it demonstrated at the Innotrans in Berlin in 2-3 weeks. I guess it's about efficient acceleration-deceleration, in other words, suggesting to every driver what experienced drivers do by themselves (if they care). The press release also lists other improvements, stuff you can't quantify with flashy numbers, but something worthwhile with which ABB->ADtranz->Bombardier engineers tinkered with for some time - I think those are worth the money.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 12:49:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
2) In German media, suggestions appeared that the project may be pushed only to keep the engineers and workers and firms who built the Great Belt and the Øresund Bridges employed. I don't know how many facts and how much bad faith was behind them (and JakeS has to tell us if similar suggestions appeared in Danish media).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 12:54:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the Danish side is contributing the vast majority of the money. So that could be true.

I am of course hoping that the bridge will eventually be used for a highspeed service to Copenhagen... the value of having a highway is going to decline at any rate come 2020.

As for the effect on birds, I don't know, but I think that can be largely mitigated by some preventative measures.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 01:24:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Denmark seems a uniquely bad terrain for high-speed development:
  • there is no significant domestic traffic to be expected along the route,
  • in a country where Germany is still the Bogeyman, the Big Bad Scary Neighbour who could eat up and assimilate Us All, a line essentially serving Hamburg is just too symbolic in the wrong way,
  • there is the history of how the single higher-speed section was bunged in the time of both Rasmussens,
  • the current rail liberalisation believers don't want to invest.

But one can hope. Maybe a future European Commission will be the key.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:21:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way. JakeS always lamented the low electrification of the Danish network, and I always forgot to tell an anecdote: at a conference in Hungary, a guy from Denmark was explaining to a group of us in know-it-all mode that according to their calculations, diesels are now more cost-efficient than electrics. (This was a few years ago, before the oil price explosion.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:27:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm learning more about different energy structures, working with a new client. Their product is large reciprocating engines used in decentralized power generation - to avoid the horrific transmission loss across grids. The engines use oil, biofuel, biodiesel. They are windchasers - providing back up systems to wind farms especially. Unlike most other back up generation systems, they can be up to full power in 10 minutes.

And associated, as they mostly are, with tri-generation systems (electricity, heat and cooling plants) they can get over 92 % of the energy out of oil. They also cost little when not working - no fuel, just a maintenance crew.

But their point about optimization is worth considering. With fuel efficiency, fuel flexibility and the scalability of plants (the building housing the engines is basic industrial on a concrete floor) - they offer an interim gray solution. We cannot replace infrastructure overnight. Greater fuel efficiency can cut down demand for carbon fuels.

The answer, to me, is that the only way we are going to solve this problem, is to look at the entire energy infrastructure as well as working on domestic and industrial demand. That really requires consensus economies that are capable of national effort and national sacrifice - whether that means putting up with a view of a windfarm, videoconferencing, or outlawing plasma TVs.

The question is then which are the consensus economies that can do this without becoming command economies. The USA is not a consensus economy - it is the polar opposite. The Nordics do consensus quite well, and with most corporate CEOS coming from engineering backgrounds - they actually understand the technical problems. And there is a social cohesion. But Finland for example is relying almost totally on nuclear, and the whole energy picture is getting less attention.

But what about the rest of Europe? Which countries could look at themselves, their energy problem, and the global context, and come up with innovative solutions? I'd like to think there are quite a few, but I don't know.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:54:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It should be part of a Rotterdam-Amsterdam-Hamburg-Copenhagen(-Stockholm) service, which we talked about ages ago. The project could be made possible under a next round of Trans European Networks projects. Officially, the bridge will not be finished before 2018 (which makes 2020 optimistic), so there is plenty of time for the rest of the construction.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:59:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Still, "Copenhagen will be a satellite town of Hamburg", the rags might say...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 03:05:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would still like to see that diary ;-)
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 01:25:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way. Anyone with good knowledge of aerodynamics around?

The sharp edges of the AGV nose design perplex me. I think I 'get' how it should work with side winds: in place of a big airfoil like the N700's, the nose is kept down by that smaller widening above the first bogie; which could be sufficient because instead of escaping above a long flat nose, air is diverted along the side of the train, thus keeping pressure on the upper surface of that widening higher. But what could be the effect from vorticles on the other side? And are the sharp edges not a noise source? And what could the sharp edges on the underside of the tip of the nose be good for?

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

by DoDo on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 03:24:42 AM EST
I know enough about aerodynamics to say that it's not at all intuitive. For example, I couldn't even guess as to the relative importance of:

  • drag
  • lift
  • noise
  • crosswinds
  • stability
by asdf on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 10:06:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  • entering a tunnel
  • passing another train
by asdf on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 10:08:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by asdf on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 10:11:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Some slow train news (with video):

Outraged commuters in Argentina have set fire to a train, because they were angry about morning rush hour delays.

Images of the charred train at Merlo station, in the west of the capital, Buenos Aires, have appeared on Argentine television.

At nearby Castelar, passengers hurled stones at the ticket office and blocked the rails.

Actually, two or more trains had been damaged, apparently.

Don't cry for Argentina railways?!  

by das monde on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 05:37:05 AM EST
Argentina has privatised railways, another element of the neoliberal destruction there. I wonder if the Kirchners will now do more about it than plan to build high-speed and some suburban rail tunnels.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 05:40:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dodo, I´ll be thinking about you Tuesday when I try the AVE for the first time! and paying attention to all the details you talk about.  Going to Expo´08 in Zaragoza and may stay until Weds.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sat Sep 6th, 2008 at 12:52:31 PM EST


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