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The EU's emerging high-speed networkS

by DoDo Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 03:43:19 AM EST

In the next 2–3 years, in Europe, there won't be many high-speed line openings to report on.

The Madrid–Valencia/Albacete high-speed line will be one of just two put in service next year in Europe. It sports several tunnels and viaducts, especially the Motilla–Valencia section, which has to cross the coastal mountains towards the Mediterranean.

Above: the 830 m long, 80 m high Viaduct of Istmo spans a bay of the Contreras Reservoir, parallel to a highway. A year ago the structure stood finished (photo from the line's site).

Below: a year later, a class 355 diesel test train of infrastructure authority ADIF (rebuilt from one half of the Talgo XXI prototype roll-through gauge-changing train, used for first tests up to 220 km/h) kicks up dust on the new track (photo from ADIF).

However, a lot of lines are in construction, so there will be another phase of major expansion in a few years. Time for an overview.

The theme of the last diary on lines opened in 2009, delays for unfortunate to absolutely stupid reasons, will play prominent for many of the ongoing projects.

What will appear only in traces is the emergence of a genuine EU-wide high-speed network: even with the inclusion of projects in design or advanced study stage, what we will have in 2020 is still just the four major networks of national character and a couple of isolated lines, connected by conventional lines.

Bumped


Terminology note: for the purposes of this diary, "high-speed" starts at 250 km/h. (This is in line with Council Directive 96/48/EC, Annex 1, section 1; apart from the watering-down to include line upgrades.) But I'll mention a few noteworthy lines slower than that.


Iberian Peninsula: joining the continent

A sixth European high-speed line was supposed to enter service in 2009, but didn't, despite being finished: Figueres–Perpignan, the international line crossing the Spanish/French border in the 8,403 m Perthus Tunnel.

Back in the Aznar era, the line was the first (and so far last) public–private partnership (PPP) project for both countries. And the supposed wonderful new way of financing was an instant successdisaster. The preferred bidder already calculated with 50% more costs than the €610 million foreseen by the governments. Then it was too insistent on financial guarantees, leading to an annulment and re-issuing of the tender, and with that a three-year delay. Minor construction issues added another year, so the 44.4 km line was completed for €1.1 billion, half of that public subsidies.

Now, the Figueres–Perpignan line was supposed to finally link up Spain's standard-gauge high-speed network with France's standard-gauge network. However, presently it is a track to nowhere. Literally.

Nothing to connect to: the Figueres end of the Figueres–Perpignan line in December 2008. Also note the former British Rail class 37 diesel. Photo by user javi82 from SkyscraperCity.com. (Since then, work on the government-built connecting line across the valley progressed a lot, check photo.)

The connecting Barcelona–Figueres line was delayed by long local disputes affecting the Barcelona and Girona city crossings. (The tunnel boring machine for the 5.6 km Sants–Sagrera tunnel under Barcelona, which was seen as a threat to the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, will start drilling in a few weeks.) So the Figueres–Perpignan operator got a franchise extension of 3 years.

Meanwhile, in the rest of Spain, after the Zapatero government struggled to finish Aznar-era high-speed rail projects (and threw money at new road projects) in its first term, projecting and construction tendering really took off more recently. Most of the lines now in the works are due by 2013.

The once and future high-speed network of the Iberlian Peninsula drawn over Wikipedia's Topographic map of Spain. Legend:

  • Dark red: lines in service (also see Puente AVE)
  • Red: lines in construction at the end of 2009 (some of these are built as broad-gauge line upgrades, but prepared for quick re-gauging, 25 kV/50 Hz electrification resp. 're-voltaging' and use at 250–300 km/h)
  • Blue: lines in advanced design, or in preliminary planning but with commitments to build them
  • Light blue: lines promised in the past by one government or another, but not advanced at present

Next year, construction is slated to start on Portugal's first two high-speed lines, too. Tender winners have already been chosen for Lisbon's link to Madrid. That line became a campaign theme in the recent elections (see subthread in Torres's Upcoming Portuguese Elections diary), but the anti-HSR opposition failed to win. This and the Lisbon–Porto, [Porto–]Braga–Valença[–Vigo] projects are PPP schemes. I have strong doubts about the finishing dates of 2013 resp. 2015 (for Lisbon–Porto).


France: PPP wonderland

The only TGV line in construction now is the Eastern Branch of the LGV Rhin–Rhône. Track-laying on the 140 km, €2.312 billion line between Dijon and Mulhouse began in June, so it is well on its way towards the planned December 2011 opening.

Above: Catenary fitting near Bonnal in October 2009. Note the high superelevation – and the former West German V100 diesel loco.

Below: Viaduc de la Savoureuse at Bermont, south of Belfort, in May 2009. Both photos from LGV Rhin–Rhône Médiathèque

Much more is to come: earlier this year, President Sarkozy announced a grand high-speed rail expansion programme. Though, it must be noted, most of the projects were on-going nearly a decade ago when Lionel Jospin was PM, but they were put on hold by successor Alain Juppé and then President Jacques Chirac... in particular the 53 km Mont d'Ambin Base Tunnel across the border with Italy, which Jospin wanted completed by 2012, but all that's been done since is the digging of the intermediate access tunnels.

The once and future high-speed network of France drawn over Wikipedia's Map of Metropolitan French cities. Legend:

  • Orange: lines in service
  • Red: lines in construction at the end of 2009 (for Perpignan-Figueres, see Spain)
  • Blue: lines in tendering (construction starts 2010, in service 2015–2016)
  • Light blue: lines in design or study phase
  • Grey: plans beyond 2020

French infrastructure authority RFF started tendering the construction of the 106 km LGV Est Européenne second section, between Metz and Strasbourg. However, the rest of the new projects shown on the map are to be built as PPPs... as usual, that involves

  • the rise of overall costs even before tenders are issued (LGV SEA to Bordeaux for €7.2 billion, vs. the over-budget €5.5 billion for the just as long and elaborate TGV Est first stage);
  • the socialising of risks thereafter (public financing agreement for Nîmes–Montpellier after the choice of contractor); and
  • the extra step of PPP tendering may increase realisation time, too.

Of the less well developed projects, I call attention to Montpellier–Perpignan, which reached the design study stage last month. By linking up the French and Spanish high-speed networks, it will break with the current practice of low-speed "firewalls" guarding the major national high-speed networks, and finally create a European one.


Austria: tunnel vision

Austria, being in the Alps, was difficult terrain for 19th century engineers, so several spectacular mountain railways were needed to connect all major cities by the early 20th century. However, these lines had tight curves and lots of single-track sections. So, from the late sixties, Austria embarked on an upgrade programme that is in practice a complete reconstruction of mainlines: double- and quadruple-trackings with curve widenings and bypass tunnels. Some of the current projects qualify as high-speed.

Map adapted from Boris Chomenko's Map of Austria at Trainspotting Bükkes. Colors on this map and the Swedish map further below indicate voltages; see legend below:

The Westbahn is Austria's busiest line, and lies on the EU's priority east–west corridor from Paris to Bratislava/Budapest. The complete quadruple-tracking of the part from Vienna to Linz started in the nineties. The Vienna–St. Pölten section is the most challenging and most ambitious: the 250 km/h 'extra tracks' are in practice a new line far away from the old one, crossing the Wienerwald mountains and the outskirts of Vienna in a 23,844 m tunnel.

That tunnel is rather complex. There is a subterranean junction with the old Westbahn in the middle, and the Vienna end is three branches into a junction of the old Südbahn (which leads into the Südbahnhof terminus, site of Vienna's future through central station, construction starts next year). Thus the tunnel has separate names for the two sections: Wienerwald Tunnel and Lainzer Tunnel.

The deep valley of the Inn cuts the Tyrolian Alps in two. Running in it downriver from Innsbruck, the saturated Unterinntalbahn carries all the east–west domestic and the bulk of the north–south transit traffic. The latter is to grow further in the 2020s with the 55 km Brenner Base Tunnel (for which currently the exploration/future access/even later escape tunnels are bored). The capacity problem is solved with a quadruple-tracking. Since good valley-bottom real estate/land shouldn't be wasted, the extra pair of tracks disappear in valley-side tunnels almost throughout.

The Innsbruck bypass with the 12,696 m Inntal Tunnel was opened in 1994 already, but it shall be connected to the BBT (giving a record 62.7 km tunnel length for the freight trains using the connection) and get a second tube (for safety and higher speeds). On the next 40.2 km, tunnel boring finished this year and construction of the 250 km/h track could commence; the line opens in 2012 too. The next section until the German border is in the design stage.

The eastern fourth of the 10,570 m Stans–Terfens tunnel is a cut-and-cover section passing under the highway, the old Unterinntalbahn, and the highway again, before connecting to the rocky section bored into the valley side. You don't actually see the already covered tunnel on this July 2009 air photo: the visible portal belongs to the future diversion of the old line atop the new one

There is a project for only 200 km/h that is elaborate enough nevertheless to deserve mention: the Koralmbahn, which plugs one of the last gaps in the intercity network, Graz–Klagenfurt. The high costs demanded by geology would be hardly justified by domestic demand, and transit traffic could have the volume to justify it only if other parts of the Italy–Poland corridor receive significant upgrades. Yet, in no small part thanks to heavy lobbying by Carynthia's late governor Jörg Haider, the Koralmbahn got the go-ahead.

The centerpiece of the 130 km line will be the 32.8 km Koralmtunnel, the main part of which should finally be bored from next year (tendering underway). On the 24 km section east from the main tunnel, they are already laying tracks, for an early opening in regional service in 2011. The full line is slated for 2020 only.

Two more projects on the Italy–Poland corridor, the Klagenfurt–Villach line doubling and the Semmering Base Tunnel, are only on the drawing boards. The second, bypassing Europe's first mountain pass line, would be the most needed, but it was subject to a two-decade-long politicised debate regarding potential environmental damage. The Gordian knot was untied last year by changing the route into an S shape bypassing the water-bearing rocks (lengthening the tunnel to 27 km). But 250 km/h traffic shouldn't be expected to roll through before 2020.


Germany: no end to delays

Map of Germany's high-speed rail network, adapted from Wikipedia's ICE Network map. As can be seen, for various legacy reasons, the 'network' is rather disjointed and complemented by less ambitious upgrades – hence I left the latter on too. Dates are for start of regular service (not necessarily with top speed). Legend:

  • Orange: high-speed lines in service
  • Red: high-speed lines in construction at the end of 2009
  • Blue: planned lines
  • Narrow lines: conventional lines upgraded for 230 km/h
  • Black: conventional lines upgraded for 200 km/h
  • Grey: other conventional lines served by ICE trains

The ABS Karlsruhe–Basel is an on-going four-tracking of the German-side Rhine Valley line, with two tracks for 250 km/h. Currently in the works is the section north of Basel including the 9,385 m Katzenbergtunnel, opening shifted a year to 2012 due to a design change (portals shaped against tunnel boom).

The Munich–Berlin corridor is an important but much delayed Reunification project ("VDE 8"). The second of three true high-speed lines on it is the 123 km, €2.733 billion NBS Erfurt–Leipzig/Halle, of which the last 23 km to Leipzig is in already in service, the rest in six years.

VDE 8 delays cascaded from those at its centerpiece, NBS [Nuremberg–]Ebensfeld–Erfurt. Necessitated by the old German high-speed line specifications (co-use with night freight trains => no steep climbs), it crosses the Thuringian Forest mountains as a tunnel-and-bridge chain – an expensive endeavour with lots of sub-projects, just perfect for ministers looking for budget cuts. Unlike the parallel highway...

The section south of Erfurt was built first in the nineties, but the start of work on the tunnels and bridges further south was delayed. Thus this road to nowhere is a monument to the true priorities in transport planning: the parallel section of the A71 highway is in service since 1998, and the rest of it across the mountains since 2006... Photo looking at Tunnel Sandberg by user Mazbln from Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

This year, at last the final tenders for big superstructures were let, so the present official date for opening finally looks realistic. 21 years of construction... Estimated final costs for the 107 km line (and the upgrade of the rest to Nuremberg) climbed to €5.178 billion (though the c. €45 million/km for the new part is still well below Italy's spending extremes).

All four planned lines (the rest of Karlsruhe–Basel, Frankfurt–Mannheim, Stuttgart–Ulm, and the Hannover–Hamburg/Bremen Y) are subject to seemingly endless debates with local and regional authorities.


Elsewhere in Europe: plugging gaps

In Sweden's north, the rail network thins out, and the sole north–south mainline goes deep inland, and the cities along the coast are connected only by branch-lines. This obvious gap in the network is to be plugged with the new Botniabanan, of which the first leg, the 185 km to Umeå, nears completion.

Adapted from Boris Chomenko's Map of Scandinavian Peninsulasat Trainspotting Bükkes

Due to the low demand, the line is really exceptional: a single-track mixed-traffic line, but Sweden's fastest at 250 km/h. A short section in the middle opened for local traffic on 16 October 2008, the entire line will be put in service in August 2010.

A special vehicle for ERTMS testing crosses the bridge of the Veckefjärden (on the edge of Örnsköldsvik) in November 2006; photo from Botniabanan
Tracks laid in September 2006 north of the 635 m Hällberg tunnel (south-west of Örnsköldsvik); photo from Botniabanan

A honorary mention goes to the Brussels–Mechelen doubling (Lijn 25N) (see in grey on map in previous diary). Belgium originally opined that Brussels–Antwerp is too short a distance to justify a high-speed line on time savings – forgetting about capacity issues. The mistake is corrected in conjunction with Brussels's new second airport access ("Diabolo"): 220 km/h tracks are laid in the middle of the A1/E19 highway (a path originally reserved for an eventual highway widening!). This line will go into service in 2012.

Asphalted subgrade of the in-construction 25N line in the middle of the highway near Elewijt, 9 September 2009. Photo from Images des Chemins de Fer

I wrote in the previous diary that the Italian lines put in service last Sunday fill the last gaps between Turin and Salerno – well, not quite. For, all the main cities of the route receive city crossings with tunnels and new stations, none of which is completed. The last (Florence) is slated for 2014. As for further lines planned in Italy (Milan–Brescia and [Milan–]Tortona–Genoa first among them), there is lot of talk but no firm commitments.

In Switzerland, the boring of the 57,051 m Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT; the world's longest) is nearing its end. (Also see First breakthrough on longest tunnel.) The two-tube tunnel was bored from both ends and three intermediate accesses, only 4 km of the section between the southern (Faido) and central (Sedrun) intermediate accesses remains; the final breakthrough is expected for November 2010. But, even though two of the four sections are ready for them, track-builders will take it real slow: commercial service with up to 250 km/h is planned for the end of 2017.

State of excavation diagram from AlpTransitGotthard. The interior lining of the section between the northernmost (Amsteg) and central (Sedrun) intermediate accesses was finished on 9 December 2009, a pair of 11 km empty tubes ready for track construction. Photo below from ATG

Another part of the so-called Gotthard Base Line, the 15.4 km Ceneri Base Tunnel, was started recently, and should be opened in 2018. The rest of the line (which involves a number of shorter bypass tunnels and the extension[!] of both the GBT and the CBT) shall be built in a second phase – in the 2020s.


Turkey: European ambitions

I mentioned Turkey's ambitious programme to build a new high-performance rail network in the previous diary, on the occasion of trains made in Spain taking up 250 km/h service on the first line. Without much ado, here is Wikipedia's map:

As can be seen, the future network deserves not just honorary mention in Europe. A link-up of the Istanbul–Edirne line with the future EU network (via a Bulgarian or Greek high-speed line) is in the veeeery uncertain and far-away future, however.

:: :: :: :: ::

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

Display:
The mountain-crossing section of the Madrid-Valencia line is also noteworthy for a tragicomedic legal battle. A timebomb from Aznar times (when every project was rushed), the section's environmental study was annulled by courts, on multiple instances, because it just didn't address the impact on a traversed natural reserve(!). All the while, construction was on-going and is now practically finished. (Google Translate is not enough for me to get the legal niceties.)

A little to the west from the Viaduct of Istmo, the Madrid_Valencia line crosses the Contreras Reservoir over the Contreras Viaduct (main span: 261 m, 37 m high); again with ADIF's class 355 diesel test train. Photo via user Dutch Mentor from URBANITY.ES.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Dec 17th, 2009 at 03:45:24 PM EST
Google Translate is not enough for me to get the legal niceties.

Link?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 17th, 2009 at 04:30:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Multiple articles I 'read' over the time... I believe this was the last (but surely not the last development).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Dec 17th, 2009 at 05:23:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Today, 250 km/h traffic officially started in another country: Russia. The Sapsan (Siemens Velaro RUS, a descendant of the German ICE3) run on the upgraded Moscow-St. Petersburg mainline. However, I don't know any details: e.g. which parts of the line are fit for the new top speed, how much of that the trains are actually scheduled run at top speed, and what if any technical obstacles (signalling, tolerances, maintenance) might throw a hammer in the works.



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

by DoDo on Thu Dec 17th, 2009 at 05:15:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eh, the above comment would have been better placed in the previous diary, now re-posted. For relevance in this diary: Russia is planning a network of dedicated 300-350 km/h high-speed lines since the Yeltsin era (the Sapsan have the top speed to run on them); but I haven't read about any substantial progress on this, either.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 03:08:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This bulk of this diary should be promoted to the msm

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Dec 17th, 2009 at 03:54:17 PM EST
With a map of Europe's high-speed network(s). Maybe just the existing and under construction though, to make it more easily understood.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu Dec 17th, 2009 at 05:52:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, maybe only a map with short callouts to explain, and an introductory couple of paras. Branded as ET - offered free. And pictures of trains, of course.

The EU has a map in this 2005 pdf (pages 12/13).

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:21:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Surely you mean dumbed to the MSM?

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 06:47:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Absolutely. I'd rather have some communication than none at all. All informative communication requires translation for the vocabulary and mutual understanding of both parties, and is thus pidginized.

When does simplification become pandering? I don't know. When does simplification become recursive? I don't know. But I do believe it is possible to make almost any subject interesting for a specific audience.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 09:07:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow. What a great diary.

Just a local point: the light blue Bordeaux-Toulouse connection was (politically) announced for a 2015 opening, but I think it pretty obviously won't be done for that date.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Dec 17th, 2009 at 04:08:59 PM EST
Indeed when none of the impact studies have been completed, no public consultation has been conducted; not to mention choosing the final alignment, tendering the PPP concessionnaire, and tendering the detailed design and then construction -- it won't come before 2018, or even 2023, methinks. And the same goes for Bordeaux-Dax(-Bayonne-Irún), on the intended primary Madrid-Paris connection.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Dec 17th, 2009 at 04:30:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The word is SNCF doesn't consider Bordeaux-Toulouse a sufficiently profitable option. Whereas the Midi-Pyrénées region wants it and is willing to contribute.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 01:57:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - The EU's emerging high-speed networkS
In Sweden's North, the rail network thins out, and the sole North-South mainline goes deep inland, and the cities along the coast are connected only by branchlines.

It is the rysskräck. One of the main reasons for building the mainline a bit inland was to be able to move troops even if the russians had landed and taken control of the coastal towns.

Actually, to be even more sure an inland track (the green one on the map) was built in time for ww2. After the war it was disused but still exists and has some tourist trains.

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

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Dec 17th, 2009 at 06:07:14 PM EST
Actually, to be even more sure an inland track (the green one on the map) was built in time for ww2.

However, it was started much earlier.

Inlandsbanan - Wikipedia

In 1907 the Riksdag decided that the first link between Östersund and Ulriksfors was to be built. The next stage Ulriksfors-Volgsjö (today Vilhelmina) was conceived in 1911; the year after that the Sveg-Brunflo stage was given the go ahead. The northernmost stage Vilhelmina-Gällivare was agreed in 1917. By purchasing the private railway lines between Sveg and Kristinehamn the entire stretch stood clear.

It was to take many years for the workers to finish this line. Originally the line was to be inaugurated in 1924, but due to recession and labour shortages it wasn't finished until 1937.

Years ago, I saw a documentary on the line on a German TV channel. IIRC they said that the Inlandsbanan had a US inspiration: it was to drive settlement and create economic growth the way Northern Pacific and Great Northern did in the regions settled by Swedes emigrating to the USA (and thereby keep more Swedes from emigrating to the USA).

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

by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:06:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the last steps in the colonization project that begun in the 17th century.

It was often sold as a way to increase prosperity in the northern regions but in the end every project tended to be controlled from Stockholm, serving the needs of Stockholm. Which meant northern Sweden was mainly bset up to ship resources south.

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

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 09:42:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An amazing achievement DoDo.  Very occasionally there has been talk of linking Ireland with Europe through a Dublin Holyhead bridge/tunnel but the financial problems of the Chunnel have dampened that a great deal.  Do you know of any feasibility studies, and what the costs/technical constraints would be?

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Dec 17th, 2009 at 07:01:57 PM EST
Well, if they want to avoid the financial problems of the Chunnel, all they have to do is abandon the idea of private financing...

However, at present, I consider Dublin-Holyhead a daydream (near the level of the Bering Strait crossing or the Japan-South Korea, Taiwan-mainland China tunnels). The distance is almost twice of the Chunnel's, yet the demand to be expected is lower. Tunnelling should get much cheaper before this becomes realistic.

Curiously, a crossing of the Irish Sea has been proposed repeatedly at its narrowest point (towards Scotland), too. This is strange because the sea bottom is MUCH deeper there, IIRC 800 m -- it would be the deepest undersea tunnel, three times deeper than anything today.

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

by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:14:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia has more:

Irish Sea tunnel - Wikipedia

Four possible routes have at different times been identified, the first two taken together as North Channel routes. These are:

A fifth route, via the Isle of Man, would require two tunnels, but has never been seriously considered due to length and difficult geology[1].



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:15:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the sea bottom is MUCH deeper there, IIRC 800 m

Either I can't trust my memory, or used to look at a map with depths in feet...

Coastal and Marine Research, University of Ulster

Beaufort's Dyke is one of the deepest areas in the waters of the inner UK coastal shelf with a maximum-charted depth of 302m, approximately 3 times the mean depth of the surrounding waters.

That can be mastered, though it would still be a new record (vs. Eiksund tunnel's current record of -287 m from 2008).

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

by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:24:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By the time anyone gets around to building that we'll be able to run buses over the ice sheet between Holyhead and Dublin.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:50:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
High-speed to somewhere nearby - Manchester perhaps? Liverpool? - and short-hop flights would probably make more sense, especially if you can engineer aircraft to use zero-carbon fuels. That tunnel is way too expensive for such a small population on the Irish end.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:55:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How about travelling by submarine? One of the problems with ferries and faster boats is that they stop running when the sea is rough.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:07:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wouldn't a submarine be slower than a surface ferry? The slow ferry is almost never cancelled, the fast ones run unreliably for about half the year.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:24:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not if it's a nuclear submarine, 30 knots easily... ;)

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 06:50:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They could take a tip from Columbian drug smugglers, who build ships that basically run just below the surface with snorkels up for air and exhaust.  They are going for a low profile to avoid detection, but a similar design on a scale of a large ferry with tanks that could be pumped out for docking would be much less vulnerable to most sea conditions. :-)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 01:15:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In comparison to the Channel Tunnel, there are many factors which put it in the pipedream category. As already mentioned, potential traffic on the route is a pretty small fraction of the potential on the Channel, while the costs of building a tunnel would be higher.

It was widely assumed that the ferry companies would slope off with their tails between their legs, leaving the tunnel to mop up Dover-Calais traffic. Certainly at the beginning, the restructuring was painful, but  the ferries still take a huge share. Shuttle traffic is actually declining. Plenty people have decided that sitting in their car in a tube looking at the car in front is not preferable to enjoying the delights of a ferry, regardless of the time saving. Short of government action to ensure there was no ferry competition, the same factors would weigh on a UK-Ireland tunnel.

Unless you carve a high-speed line across Wales from Birmingham to Holyhead, high-speed rail will not be able to compete with air timewise on the Dublin-London route. So again, unless government action on environmental or other grounds limits air traffic on UK-Ireland routes, passenger services will not have the advantages that Eurostar has gained over flights on its routes.

Through-trains beyond the tunnel mouth in Ireland, whether passenger or freight, also come up against the gauge problem.

Finally, the three routes (North Channel, Holyhead and Fishguard) are so far apart that a tunnel on one would have limited impact on traffic on the others, unless the governments found a way to encourage/force traffic through the tunnel. Just imagine if traffic from Belfast to Glasgow was forced to go down to Dublin than back up from Holyhead... in no way can that be preferable to the short crossing on time, cost, environmental grounds - unless there's an expenses fiddle to be worked, so it could be great for AMs, MSPs and MPs;-).

by koksapir on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:36:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, you've got to put in context of air travel that is forced to carry full costs - carbon emissions, government subsidies of airports, higher fuel costs etc - which changes the economic balance a fair bit.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:44:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Certainly at the beginning, the restructuring was painful, but  the ferries still take a huge share. Shuttle traffic is actually declining. Plenty people have decided that sitting in their car in a tube looking at the car in front is not preferable to enjoying the delights of a ferry, regardless of the time saving.

Actually, there is another, stronger reason: the ferries had more room to cut prices. However, even while I think Dublin-Holyhead is a pipedream, I want to note:

  1. Let's not confuse car and air traffic. Ireland may be small, but Dublin-London is actually one of the busiest air routes within the EU, to which one could add Dublin-Libverpool, Dublin-Manchester and Dublin-Birmingham. So, if and when Britain gets itself to build High Speed 2, the giant tunnel would get much closer to being justifiable on high-speed traffic grounds.

  2. Passengers is one thing, cargo is another. Though Ireland's broad gauge network would limit its usefulness beyond Dublin, a faster competition to Dublin port's traffic would be something. (Then again, I am assuming that the French side track access issues hampering Eurotunnel's ambitions to attract through rail traffic are solved by the time a Dublin-Holyhead tunnel could be built.)


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 08:43:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
12M people travel from the Republic of Ireland to Britain by air every year (compared to 9M Chunnel passengers) of which 8M travel Dublin London (the busiest route in the EU).  So the passenger traffic volumes could be comparable to the Chunnel depending on price/convenience etc. To that you could add some of current ferry traffic. Volume of freight comparisons I don't know.

The other issue is the need to upgrade rail lines on both sides, and the 1,435 mm standard gauge and the 1,600 mm Irish broad gauge.  

The only way I could see any such project becoming seriously considered would be as part of a pan EU initiative to reduce carbon emissions and facilitate closer economic integration.  I doubt it could ever be "profitable" without some state infrastructural subvention.

The Irish sea isn't all that deep for the most part.  Would a bridge for some of it be a technically/financially feasible alternative for part of it?

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 11:51:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Irish Sea - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The sea is of significant economic importance to regional trade, shipping and transport, fishing and power generation in the form of wind power and nuclear plants. Annual traffic between the two islands amounts to over 12 million passengers and 17 million tonnes of traded goods.


notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 11:54:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
8M travel Dublin London (the busiest route in the EU)

Heh, and here I thought the _Puente Aereo Madrid-Barcelona_ was the busiest.

According to page 4 of this Eurostat press release (PDF, 4 December 2009), the busiest intra-EU air links were

Madrid-Barcelona       3.5M -24%
Roma-Milano Linate     2.5M  -1.1%
Paris Orly-Toulouse    2.3M  -0.1%
Paris Orly-Nice        2.3M  -1.3%
London Heathrow-Dublin 1.8M  -8.2%
Though maybe other airport combinations between Dublin and London make up the difference.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 02:22:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(passenger number for 2008 and percentage change from 2007)

See DoDo's Puente AVE.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 02:43:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
maybe other airport combinations between Dublin and London make up the difference

Gatwick, Stansted, Luton... Am I forgetting any?

They'd have to share 6.2 million passengers to make up the 8m sum, and that would put at least one of them (if not two or three) in the table above Heathrow-Dublin.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 02:51:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
city?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 02:59:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not in the top 30 airports by passenger traffic, according to the Eurostat pdf. So unlikely to make a big difference. It's still odds-on one of the airports would be doing more than Heathrow.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 03:04:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dublin airport passenger traffic to fall, says authority - The Irish Times - Thu, Jan 29, 2009

The DAA said yesterday that a record 23.5 million passengers used Dublin airport last year, an increase of 1 per cent on 2007.

Passenger traffic rose by 5 per cent in the first half of the year, but declined by 3 per cent between July and December as the effects of the global credit crunch, rising fuel prices and the economic downturn here took hold.

Passenger numbers declined in each of the last four months of 2008. "Given the current economic climate, the outlook for 2009 remains difficult, and passenger numbers at Dublin airport are expected to decline in line with the contraction in Irish GDP," the DAA said.

Traffic to the UK declined last year by 1 per cent to 8.6 million passengers, while the number of people using domestic routes fell by 5 per cent to 870,000.

My original source was Wikipedia - this is the best other source I have found, but it doesn't give a separate breakdown for London

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 03:18:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wikipedia does say
There are approximately 50 daily departures from Dublin to all five London airports (Stansted, Luton, Gatwick, Heathrow and London City), The Dublin-London route is the second busiest route in the world after the Hong Kong-Taipei route.
50 daily departures times (say) 350 days times (say) 200 passengers per flight gives 3.5M passengers.
During the 1980s, major competition, especially on the Dublin-London routes, resulted in passenger numbers swelling to 5.1 million in 1989.
Also
Top 10 International Arrivals Figures for 2008.
Rank	Origin				     Number of Passengers
1	   London Heathrow Airport, England, United Kingdom	894,536
2	London Gatwick Airport,  England, United Kingdom	541,593
3	   London Stansted Airport, England, United Kingdom	462,756
for a total of 1.9M

Conclusions: the Eurostar figures count both departing and arriving passengers, otherwise the Heathrow figures for 2008 would be way off between different sources. The total Dublin-London traffic is over twice that for Dublin-Heathrow and it probably does exceed the Madrid-Barcelona traffic but it didn't in 2007 (Madrid-Barcelona was 33% higher a year earlier).

100 passengers per flight is a better average than 200 at least for the Dublin-London distance range.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:04:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Both Ryanair and Aer lingus - the dominant carriers - only use large jets on the route - with 180+ seats and very high load factors.  Heathrow landing slots are too valuable to use with smaller plans and Ryanair has a policy of only using large planes.

Perhaps the "second busiest route in the world" only applies to international routes?

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:19:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, as you know Madrid-Barcelona is on its way to becoming an international route. And half of the passengers are already foreigners anyway.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:44:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean Catalans travelling to an independent Catalonia?

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:54:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean Catalonia is Spain but Catalans are foreigners. Or something like that. I can never figure out what the PPers are all about.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:55:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Conclusions: the Eurostar figures count both departing and arriving passengers

Surely you mean DDA and Wikipedia (Irish Sea Tunnel article) figures.

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

by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:27:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eurostat gives 1.8M passengers on the Heathrow-Dublin link, whereas WIkipedia quotes 0.9M arriving passengers. Therefore the Eurostar figures must count travellers in both directions.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:42:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which are the Eurostar figures you speak of?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:49:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
these upthread.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:52:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gah, dyslexia!

I mean Eurostat, of course.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:54:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh. In the meantime, what I thought I "got" was that for a meaningful comparison with Eurostar figures, airport arrivals and departures statistics must be added.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:57:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I get it now.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:55:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank omitted "international". Dublin-Heathrow is the busiest intra-EU international link, and was in 2007 too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:29:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the Toulouse connection (and probably Nice too) there are also flights to and from Paris CdG. Upwards of 4,400 flights a year. I don't know how many passengers that would add, but at a rough guess at least half a million.

And SNCF would rather leave that traffic to planes...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 03:01:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The government seems more fond of the LGV PACA, having decided to pursue the more expensive coastal variant from Marseille to Nice.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:01:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Would a bridge for some of it be a technically/financially feasible alternative for part of it?

Sure; but what's the point? It would not be cheaper, and traffic on it would depend on weather.

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

by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 04:03:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Checking this source, it appears 12M as the figure of total flights between Ireland and Britain is right (6M arrivals as well as departures to/from the UK); the 8M figure may be Dublin to all of Britain, however.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:05:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the 8M figure may be Dublin to all of Britain, however

Yes.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:25:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The point being that current Air passenger volumes Ireland (excl. N. Ireland) to/from Britain are greater than Chunnel volumes.  (I haven't looked at freight).

Thus if we did want to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions, the volumes would be significant and sufficient to justify a tunnel.  I don't know how you would calculate the CO2 saving and I also don't know whether the cost could be justified on any rationale.  You guys are the train experts.

However the idea doesn't seem as mad to me as it might sound at first.  Note a route across the Irish sea from Dublin to Holyhead would have to navigate a maximum sea depth of c. 100M - which seems v. little and which is also why I also raised the bridge option - which could be enclosed to avoid weather issues - although snow on Irish sea is v. rare and slight and I presume wind is not a problem for trains.  In fact the entire route could also be a giant offshore wind farm with bridge pillars doubling as turbine pylons.

The problem with the bridge option is that at least one section would have to be v. high to allow shipping traffic underneath - or have an opening mechanism for large ships.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 06:55:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The point being that current Air passenger volumes Ireland (excl. N. Ireland) to/from Britain are greater than Chunnel volumes.

Well that wasn't a proper comparison. You'd have to compare with Eurostar + all flights to Belgium and Northern France.

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

by DoDo on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 03:08:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fair point.  I was just trying to get a handle on potential orders of magnitude of the available traffic.  Obviously any tunnel will never capture 100% market share, unless short hop flights are banned, and prices make sea passenger/freight uneconomic - which feeds back into the issue of the financial justification for the project.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 08:07:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thus if we did want to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions

Well, the concrete for the tunnel lining would involve a lot of CO2 emissions.

I also don't know whether the cost could be justified on any rationale.

That's a political issue, not a technical one. If a government sees a benefit, whether its benefits are quantified or not, it can decide to shoulder an investment. But, even though I don't think that the Irish Sea Tunnel would cost more with today's technologies than the Chunnel did with technologies back then, it looks like a tall order.

maximum sea depth of c. 100M

At a length of 90+km, the real challenge is not depth. It is length, and water control. Unless one or more expensive articical islands/giant caissons are built in the sea for intermediate accesses, it would have to be bored from both ends, meaning the transport of dug material away from and tunnel lining towards the TBM over up to 50 km. Building watertight tunnels across water-bearing strata is no problem per se, but you should better know in advance what rocks can be expected in sequence, so a lot of boreholes would have to be dug between Dublin and Holyhead.

bridge option - which could be enclosed to avoid weather issues - although snow on Irish sea is v. rare and slight and I presume wind is not a problem for trains

Enclosed: costs even more, you just lifted the tunnel above the sea, and added pylons. And wind is a problem for any vehicle with significant side wall surface area.

I repeat that bridges aren't a cheaper alternative. The reason Denmark built its two big sea strait crossing links as bridge-tunnel combinations was on one hand to avoid complications with ventillation for the road tunnel part, on the other hand to keep bridge-building experts employed. (And the same reasons apply for the planned Fehmarn Belt crossing.)

bridge pillars doubling as turbine pylons

That's not necessarily a good idea. Vibrations, danger to trains if a blade breaks or sheds ice.

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

by DoDo on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 03:29:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Vibrations/stresses on the bridge structure I would see as the major issue.  An enclosed bridge might mitigate ice danger - I would be v. surprised if much ever formed on moving or even still rotors at prevailing temperatures over the Irish sea.  It was the length of tunnel issue - with the attendant safety, fire, and ventilation issues which I was trying to address by raising bridge option.

As you say - cost is ultimately a Government decision, but I would see it as v. likely to be totally unaffordable for any Irish Government in the foreseeable future especially when the cost of upgrading rail infrastructures on both sides of the sea are taken into account.

Are there any general studies/macro-comparisons available of the relative CO2 emissions of building and operating rail networks (with large tunnel components) compared to other modes of mass transportation?

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 08:18:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If temperatures aren't like that, forget ice, but not broken-off blades. The bridge enclosure should be prety stiff to resist tons of material falling a hundred metres. With the enclosed bridge, you would have more or less the same safety, fire, and ventilation issues. (For the tunnel, it matters little if it is 5 or 100 km; as the two big Chunnel fires showed, what matters most for firefighter access and rescue is the direct vicinity of the fire, not the way there.)

As you say - cost is ultimately a Government decision, but I would see it as v. likely to be totally unaffordable for any Irish Government in the foreseeable future

There is the current budget crisis; but, you never know what governments are willing to waste money on. In the diary, I presented an example, the Koralmbahn: that little-justified project will cost the Austrian government €5.25 billion, while 3-4 other investments of a similar scale are on-going. (I estimate the Irish Sea Tunnel at €10-15 billion; for scale: the geologically much more difficult Gotthard Base Tunnel will cost around SFR9.7 billion = €6.5 billion). Another example: here in Hungary, the government maintained the big budget for highway construction even when public deficit exploded a few years back.

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

by DoDo on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 02:31:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well we are currently planning on spending 54 Billion on bad bank assets (mostly loans secured on development/speculation property) optimistically valued at 47 Billion.  (plus perhaps another 12 Billion direct investment in banks to make them solvent) - so we are currently planning on "investing" a lot more money than would be required to build an Irish sea tunnel.

If by some miracle that level of value is ultimately recovered over the next 10 years we could perhaps do worse that using the proceeds to pay off some of the national debt and invest in some major infrastructural projects which reduces our long term dependence on CO2 intensive transportation.  The costs you outline don't seem outlandish, although the government has a track record of mismanaging infrastructural projects to the extent that they come in at two or three times the original budget.  

The Chunnel experience is not encouraging.  Have tunneling technologies, techniques, and cost factors improved dramatically since?  No doubt prevailing ideologies would require some PPP type funding architecture which would require a huge risk premium to attract private investment.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:15:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Chunnel overspending had in part financial reasons -- as I told at the start if my very first reply, if you want to avoid this, don't give the project to a private consortium that has something even worse than a bad record at managing big projects: no record and no experience at all. But yes, technologies improved; the Gotthad Base Tunnel is even longer than the Chunnel and is under up to 2000m rock with some rather difficult geology, but will cost less despite significant cost overruns too, see the figure I quoted.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:33:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
especially when the cost of upgrading rail infrastructures on both sides of the sea are taken into account.

  • Irish side: in a first phase, a passenger connection into Dublin's main stations, an intermodal centre, a shuttle terminal and a gauge-changing installation would be enough. Should cost less than €1 billion.

  • British side: HS2 would be built independently of any Irish Sea projects, so only Warrington(or some nearby alternative)-Holyhead would have to be counted. At around 160 km, it could cost as little as €2 billion, but surely no more than twice of that. It would carry some domestic traffic, so Ireland wouldn't have to pay for it all to get the UK into the project.

In short, the tunnel's costs dwarf that of the necessary connected projects.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 02:42:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think to make the tunnel project worthwhile, and to switch Ireland's huge dependence from road to rail, I would want to see the entire Irish rail network (such as it is) upgraded to electrical - and perhaps standardized to European gauge while they are at it.  Dublin's transport infrastructure is under a lot of pressure as it is, so I would want trains to terminate in Belfast, Derry, Sligo, Galway, Shannon, Limerick, Tralee, Cork, Waterford, Wexford etc.  Rail freight has almost died at the moment so I would be interested in the relative costs of rail container traffic compared to shipping etc.  Any rail traffic strategy would have to have  large freight component to be viable.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:02:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... the downside of the Steel Interstate strategy in a place the size of Ireland is that the Steel Interstate relies on marshaling time overheads at origin and destination railhead to be offset by running the time-sensitive freight at 160kph, and you just don't gain much time that way in Ireland.

OTOH, if its portside, that means that one time advantage of trucks is offset by doing ship loading/unloading directly from/onto the train.

So a grid of "Steel Interstate" model corridors that all end at a port would seem to be the most promising basic model.

If the the passenger trains are going at least 175kph, its hard to see why they'd have to go faster.

If only the standard gauge turn-outs have to be high speed turn-outs, it seems like it'd be possible to dual-gauge the track in intermediate stretches and switch out to a dedicated standard gauge section for crossing and passing loops and stretches with a larger number of turn-outs per km. Common right rail if the typical standard gauge passing loop is passing to the right.


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 Dec 20th, 2009 at 03:32:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ireland is a very open economy with huge import/export volumes.  The point of shifting to rail freight is not to speed transport within Ireland, but Ireland/UK Europe.  Thus the competition comparison is road plus ferry freight to UK/European mainland.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 06:28:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unless you carve a high-speed line across Wales from Birmingham to Holyhead

Liverpool or Warrington to Holyhead would be enough, along the North shore: that wouldn't be problematic, nor too long. On the HS2, the planned London-Warrington time would be 1h06m. The distance to Holyhead would be around 160 km, another 100 km for the tunnel and the connection in Dublin -- that 260 km would add less than an hour, so around 2h in total. That would be quite competitive with air, accounting for the airport-city commutes. But the expensive thing is the tunnel, not a North Wales route.

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

by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 09:07:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Shuttle traffic is actually declining.

There was a recession and a tunnel fire, but, actually, passenger and coach shuttle traffic grew 8% in Q3/2009 vs. Q3/2008, only truck traffic declined.

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

by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 09:20:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to wikipedia the Dublin metropolitan area is significantly smaller than the following UK metropolitan areas: London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and comparable to Liverpool and Glasgow.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:37:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're talking about building something several more times expensive than the Chunnel for 1/10 the population. This doesn't seem like a winning plan.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:42:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just putting things in perspective - the proper comparison for Dublin-Liverpool in terms of expected traffic is Liverpool-Glasgow.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:57:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But Liverpool-Glasgow has the advantage of having the large Manchester-Leeds hub in the middle.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 06:00:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There haven't been direct Liverpool - Glasgow trains for a good few years, suggesting demand is not enormous.
by koksapir on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 06:10:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An alternative interpretation is that the absence of direct Liverpool-Glasgow services pushes people to other modes of transport (namely, private car, coach, or air).

How many people take the bus or fly direct between the two?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 06:24:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact there are no regular direct flights from Liverpool to either Glagow or Edinburgh. Is that evidence that nobody wants to make the trip in either direction, or that a combination of public policy and business expediency has decided not to provide the service so that people who want to make the trip have to drive?

Or, maybe, if you want to have a business trat requires you to travel across the UK frequently, you have to move to Manchester or Birmingham or London.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 06:46:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you want to take the train, you can change at Preston, Wigan or Warrington, of course. Plenty people would drive - it's 3.5 to 4 hours. A check search suggests there's only a couple of direct coaches a day.

Can we take this pair of cities as representative? Is the public transport provision on the route disguised through being shared with Manchester? Are they simply at a distance which favours car travel?

Clearly it's true that for a business with regular need to travel across the UK, basing yourself at one end of the distributed population brings additional costs, not least in time, over basing yourself more centrally.

by koksapir on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 07:16:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can we take this pair of cities as representative?

I don't know, we're only talking about the 5th/6th largest metropolitan areas in the UK...

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 08:52:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's also 3.5 to 4 hours by train, with one change and over a dozen services daily.

What is it you were saying about evidence for no demand? It's not slower than driving and there's at least one train an hour during the workday.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 02:06:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ground effect aircraft can have twice the fuel efficiency for short hops, where jets waste a lot of fuel climbing to cruising altitude and descending again.

And of course they've been made as flying boats, so a dockside terminus station in Liverpool and Dublin would give central city stations on both sides.

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 Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 06:50:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nah, no ice sheet. The sea level is going to drop by >100 metres thanks to some serious geo-engineering. Dubliners will get across like Moses and the children of Israel, on dry ground.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 05:13:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nope, ice sheet. While the global average rises, the new conditions will lead the circulator will stall south of Europe so the current will be coming down from the Arctic. The new ice pushed down from the Arctic will fill in the crossing late every winter, and then by summer it'll be back to the water crossing.

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 Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 06:52:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Floating submarine tunnels?  Rather than tunnelling the seabed, make a buoyant tube and anchor with cables to a depth of say 100m deep.  It's probably cheaper than tunnelling too.
by njh on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 06:55:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Trains have significant weight, so you don't want a solution resulting in significant up-and-down movements.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:16:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the tunnel has a positive buoyancy greater than the weight of the train, then the only variation in up and down will be due to the modulus of elasticity of the anchors.  The same principle in reverse makes suspension bridges work.
by njh on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 05:25:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a reason that the number of railway-only suspension bridges is almost zero; but, I submit, it could work on principle. However, questions:

  1. Are there any precedents to such a buoyant bridge-tunnel for transport?

  2. What would give the buoyancy? Something like baloons?

  3. How would the watertightness of the tubes be ensured? (Double, triple tube?)


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 03:29:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. boats and submarines?  I don't know of any archemdies tunnel in existence, but there are plenty of structures in the ocean with the same principle - oil platforms often use buoyant legs to reduce the total strength requirements.

  2. Displacement of water: if the tunnel is say 10m in diameter it displaces roughly 80m^3 per metre, which is much much more than any train weights (that would be a lot more than 80tonne axle load!), even with the tunnel itself weighing a few tonnes per metre there is far more lift available than any train would require.

  3. I think so.  We can hypothesize various simple strategies: double wall with inner pair of train tubes and outer service tube, fast closing doors every few km, automatic breach detection and autopilot system (if a breach is detected behind, accellerate away, before, decelerate and reverse at maximum rate), automatic detactment and floating in the case of severance, safety tanks where people can climb in and float to safety. etc.
by njh on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 05:11:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. None of those is an example of something with a vehicle running across it, e.g. an example for mastering the vibrations of the elastic structure in practice. (I don't say it's impossible, just untested.)

  2. I don't think the tunnel would be buoyant all by its own displacement. The typical cross section of a single-track tunnel is somewhat less (c. 50 m³), but the per metre displaced water is still an order of magnitude above the per metre weight of an European train (I think you can get as high as 100 tons for 10 metres = 10 t/m in Britain [25t axleload self-emptying car for mined stuff]). However, I would estimate the tunnel walls to be much heavier. for example, the immersed tube of the Marmaray Tunnel comes in at 140 tons per metre (or 70 tons per track), and a 'double-hull', buoyed tunnel with two tubes for high-speed tracks should be heavier than that.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 06:13:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. I imagine there are plenty of vibrations in km tall drilling platforms.

  2. But the Marmaray is meant to sink!  As I suggested to JakeS, his (indirect) suggestion of ferrocement is very appealing, given its lightweight, toughness, and proven record with maritime applications.  There are 100 year old boats still floating in the sea.  AAC (aerated concrete) with a ferrocement outer would be even better, given its positive natural buoyancy.  We know that positive buoyancy is possible, given that there are ships that carry trains.  It's then just a question of diameter and materials choice.
by njh on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 06:34:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But the Marmaray is meant to sink!

Actually, it is meant to float: before the interior is completed, just at the limit of buoyancy so that it can be towed into the right position before it is sunk to its place. Buoyancy doesn't matter once it is at the bottom and covered over.

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

by DoDo on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 06:49:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
1) And in skycarpers and radio towers and suspension bridges and cable-stayed bridges too. But the typical vibrations and the critical components in all of these are different and need to be tested.

Ferrocement, and/or larger tube diameter for buoyancy, now that I don't see why it can't work. You should patent it :-)

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

by DoDo on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 06:57:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A cubic meter of cement weighs something on the order of ten times as much as a cubic meter of water.

"A few tons per meter" is unlikely to cut it.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 06:13:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry for nitpicking, but
  1. cement is actually rather light, c. 1.5 t/m³;
  2. concrete is more dense, up to 2.5 t/m³;
  3. however, methinks the buoyant tunnel would be made of steel, which is much more dense than concrete: 7.8 t/m³.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 06:24:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
portland cement has a density of 1.44 (that is, m^3 of portland cements weighs 1.44 times that of a m^3 of water).  Concrete can go as high as 3 with very dense aggregate.  Are we talking about trainloads of cement here, because any load will be subject to the axle loading of the rails which sets an upper bound on the train linear density.

Or are we talking about the tube itself?  I was considering the tube to be made of steel alone, but now you mention it, a ferrocement design would be much lighter (steel has a density of about 8).  There are many ferrocement boats out there and ferrocement is lighter than concrete.

by njh on Tue Dec 22nd, 2009 at 06:27:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary, your efforts save me from having to search out the information on all these projects. Something to add... not exactly a new opening, more an opening of a private network to others. On Wednesday, FT Deutschland reported a statement by Eurotunnel that ICE trains are now passed safe to transit the Channel Tunnel. That means, if formal approval has now been granted by the safety authority made up of the two governments' representatives, that the old stipulation of a passenger train having to be capable of being split in two and each half able to exit the tunnel separately is gone. It opens up the prospect of London - Cologne/Dusseldorf/Frankfurt through trains, although the problem of secure facilities to satisfy the UK Border Agency in any such station still needs solved, including platforms for through services in Brussels, unless they run them through Belgium non-stop.

The article also revisits the question of whether DB would compete with Eurostar or buy the UK share in the operator which is currently for sale. (They could even do both, as on Cologne-Brussels where they run ICEs alongside Thalys, in which they have a 10% stake, although it would be fair to say it's not full-blooded competition.)

by koksapir on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 06:04:02 AM EST
Something to watch will be if SNCF can find creative ways to block DB's attempt at open (hostile) competition (as opposed to the pre-agreed sharing of the market on the TGV Est). In this conext, it's worth to note regarding the parallel runs in Belgium, that the ICE3 competition was long held up by the issue of ballast pickup: first they weren't allowed on the new lines at all, then only with reduced speed. Currently, there is the special situation that the ICE3 run shorter times on the sections than the Thalys (owing to higher acceleration), but the Thalys beats them on Cologne-Brussels Central trips, because the ICE3 have an additional stop in Brussels North.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 09:31:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ironically:

BBC News - Thousands freed from Channel Tunnel after trains fail

More than 2,000 people spent hours trapped inside the Channel Tunnel after five Eurostar trains broke down due to cold weather.

The trains failed as they left the cold air in northern France and entered the warmer tunnel.

Some passengers were evacuated via service tunnels to car trains, while others were kept on their trains. Many have faced gruelling 15-hour journeys.

Eurostar has cancelled all its services for Saturday.

Meanwhile, more snow and freezing temperatures are expected for parts of Scotland and south-east and eastern England.

Heavy snowfall caused travel chaos, forced schools to close and cut off power supplies in parts of the UK on Friday.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 07:31:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A sixth European high-speed line was supposed to enter service in 2009, but didn't, despite being finished: Figueres-Perpignan, the international line crossing the Spanish/French border across the 8,403 m Perthus Tunnel.

...

Now, the Figueres-Perpignan line was supposed to finally link up Spain's normal-gauge high-speed network with France's normal-gauge network. However, presently it is a track to nowhere. Literally.

So, is it finished or not?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 10:02:55 AM EST
Finished. There is no station at the Figueres end of the PPP section, the non-autonomous line is to connect directly to the government-built normal-gauge Barcelona-Figueres line.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 10:22:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I updated the caption of the track-end image to make this point clearer.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 03:39:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, I completely forgot to post the picture below (originally chosen for the diary but then dropped for the track-end one). It's from an El Punt article and shows the almost completed line somewhat South of the Spanish portal of the Perthus tunnel at the end of 2008:



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

by DoDo on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 01:10:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Some projects I'd like to see advanced for strategic reasons.

  • One I discussed here in April 2007 is in France. I wrote that the Paris-Lyon main trunk of the Southeast network is near saturation level in rush-hour already, but it is supposed to carry the traffic boosted by all the additional lines there. A Paris-St. Étienne-Valence line, bypassing Lyon, could separate off the Paris-Mediterranean traffic. Something similar is advocated now in the framework of Transline, and the new long-term programme presented by Sarko includes the Paris-Orléans-Clermont-Ferrand part.

  • An East-West corridor from Paris to Bratislava/Budapest is supposed to be the EU's top priority project, but, as I lament periodically, that's all smoke and mirrors. A key piece not even on drawing boards, though not cheap, could be Vendenheim[future end of TGV Est North of Strasbourg]-Karlsruhe-Stuttgart. In addition to speeding up the big EU East-West corridor by up to an hour, it could serve Paris-Frankfurt, North Germany - Western Mediterranean, and domestic South German traffic.

  • Munich is a big node on transit routes, yet has no through main station, and not even plans for high-speed lines -- even though separating express traffic would make sense on at least two of the connecting lines just for capacity reasons. So, methinks dusting off the "Munich 21" concept of a subterranean station, and then two 100 km lines (N to Ingolstadt and SE towards the Austrian border), would make more strategic sense than "Stuttgart 21".

  • In Austria, it was long discussed, but no one would commit themselves to a Salzburg-Linz high-speed line. But, at least the section used by Salzburg's suburban trains should be bypassed.

  • Germany is blocking further East-West trans-EU routes: Aachen-Düren (the gap between Brussels and Cologne) would be a real no-brainer, along the highway; and there is the issue of going East from Frankfurt (though that would be expensive).

  • Also in Germany, of the projects on the map, I consider the Hannover-Hamburg/Bremen "Y-Trasse" an idiocy. It is tailored for being the cheapest possible: the shortest route. However, by connecting to the existing Hamburg-Bremen line, not only would time savings be moderate, capacity problems would not be solved at all. Not to mention that the route would be across pristine areas. No wonder that lots of locals and environmentalists protest the plans, and private freight railways are negative, too; no wonder either that Germany's new government chose to put it on the backburner in the latest round of budget cuts.

    So: if I were DB's CEO, I would rather advocate an alternative Y, one paralleling the highways between the three cities: higher costs, but also higher benefits. (The argument is made in German here by Markus Groebe, too.)

  • Sweden is disussing an Y of its own, from Stockholm to Gothenburg and Malmö. I say go for it...


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 10:16:35 AM EST
I do not have high hopes for the Y. As rumor has it, the government study that proposed the Y was in itself a pay-off to the centre party for supporting the FRA-law. So actually getting rail would demand more.

The greens has so far been more efficient. The Botnia track was part of their deals with the socdem government 2002-2006. But I doubt they could get the Y either (assuming left wing victory in 2010). At least not without a really good negotiation position.

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

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Dec 18th, 2009 at 07:17:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is that we spend far too little money on domestic infrastrucure and far too much on stupid shit. I bet I could cut useless spending to such a degree we could finance the Swedish Y on a 100 % equity basis with the accumulated buget cuts of just 2 years, 4 tops.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 06:59:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean stupid shit like Gripen? ;-P

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 07:05:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Touché!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 07:14:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, let's put it like this. Gripen is the cheapest modern fighter in the world, but did we really need all of 200 of them (Finland and Norway have roughly 50 fighters each), and are they really useful when we haven't bought any weapons for them, when we don't let the pilots train in them and have decided to destroy the C3I-system? (as a matter of fact, due to a powerful blogging campaign, that last thing has just been stopped)

Currently, the armed forces are extremely badly managed. Extremely. I know plenty of people with a good insight in the actual sausage-making, and it's worse than you can imagine. We get zero effect from the money we spend. Zero.

This means we should either stop the expenditure (roughly 5 billion euros per annum) or completely restructure it, something the current government is doing its best to fool people they are doing, but actually aren't.

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

by Starvid on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 07:15:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know plenty of people with a good insight in the actual sausage-making, and it's worse than you can imagine. We get zero effect from the money we spend. Zero.

I bet the FSB knows this just as well from its own sources in the sausage-making. But Russia doesn't invade, despite zero true military potential! So, perhaps, all of it is pointless?

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

by DoDo on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 07:22:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Russia is going to get themselves 4-6 Mistral class amphibious assault ships during the next few years, which will roughly make them 2-3 times as dangerous to Sweden as they were during the cold war. What's the hurry?

:: ::

Pointless? Certainly at the moment. The question cannot be allowed to be "should the status quo stand?". Either we must have a defence which works and spends tax money in an efficient way, or we should dismantle it entirely.

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

by Starvid on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 07:25:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This far we have dismantled all the capacity while maintained all the costs.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 07:30:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Really, the Gripen program is one of the things that's actually relatively well managed. Under budget, before schedual. The real disasters are things like the Visby stealth corvette (in the water since 10 years, still no weapons beyond the 57 mm gun, helicopter doesn't fit in the helicopter bay), helicopter 14 (delayed 15 years, no fines payed because we forgot to specify that in the contract), this new communications systems which was just stopped by bloggers, all the NBF/RMA-shit (don't even ask - 5 years of work, 1 billion (euros) spent, total result: a few power point-slides). Of yes, and business management systems like SAP, PRIO, the new central storage depot, the total fucking up of the SSG120 armored mechanized mortar program, the AMV/SEP debacle, the list goes on and on and on. And on. I could keep on for hours really.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 07:22:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And these are just equipment programs which while they are easy to critizise are far less important than the real deal: the number and efficiency of our combat brigades. Going from about 30 brigades and semi-ok efficiency (and another maybe 500 badly trained and equipped light batallions) we are now at 0 brigades at, ah, very high efficiency (and who knows how many light territorial batallions? Maybe 20...) . Or so they claim...

Mobilisation time is no longer 24 hours for frontline units and 7 days for total societal mobilisation, but 52 weeks (not days, not hours, but weeks) for the handful (8) of qualified "light manoeuvre battalions" we're supposed to have.

So mobilisation time has increased by more than 300 times, numbers are down by more than 95 % and costs are... the same.

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

by Starvid on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 02:27:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
AFP: Three Eurostar trains stuck in Channel Tunnel

LONDON -- Three Eurostar passenger trains were stuck in the rail tunnel between Britain and continental Europe, a spokesman for the operator said Saturday.

The trains broke down due to the cold weather snap affecting the region. The difference in temperature between the chilly open air and the warm tunnel under the English Channel caused the trains to break down.

"At the moment we have three trains stuck in the tunnel and we are trying to get them out with a rescue locomotive."

....

The high-speed passenger trains stuck in the tunnel were fairly full, he added.

"It's really technical problems due to the bad weather and the snow. The difference in temperature is quite significant," the spokesman explained.

"It's very cold outside and it's very warm in the tunnel so there's a big difference in temperature and that makes it difficult."

by Bernard on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 03:54:06 AM EST
Huh. Why did this never happen in 15 years?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 06:10:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting question: Thermal stress, they say.

Granted, this is really cold weather for December but that level of cold is not unprecedented.

Investigation is ongoing, we're being told.

by Bernard on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 04:11:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Could there be a lack of proper maintenance as an underlying cause perhaps?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 06:33:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That or recent replacement/addition of some component. But they don't say what broke down. It may have been the train safety system itself.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 06:40:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do they say which component broke down? Eurostar itself only says:

Following the disruption to its services over the last 24 hours, Eurostar does not want to cause its passengers any further disruption and will be conducting a programme of  `test-trains' tomorrow to better understand the problems that have been occurring.

I note such tunnel entrance temperature changes happen regularly elsewhere... even at high speed.

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

by DoDo on Sat Dec 19th, 2009 at 06:37:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo: I note such tunnel entrance temperature changes happen regularly elsewhere... even at high speed.

Pourquoi les Eurostar sont-ils toujours bloqués ? - LeMonde.frWhy are the Eurostar trains still blocked? - LeMonde.fr
... Nicolas Petrovic, directeur général adjoint d'Eurostar, s'est dit surpris, car les conditions météo n'avaient pas provoqué jusqu'à présent de tels incidents. "Nos trains, depuis quinze ans, sont préparés pour ça puisqu'on a de la neige régulièrement et généralement, on n'a pas de problèmes", a-t-il expliqué à Reuters TV. "Il s'est passé quelque chose de spécial hier soir, nos ingénieurs se penchent sur la question", a-t-il ajouté.... Nicolas Petrovic, Director General of Eurostar, said he was surprised because the weather had so far not led to such incidents. "Over the last fifteen years our trains have been prepared for this, since we regularly and normally have snow, we don't have problems", "he told Reuters TV. "It happened something special last night, our engineers are addressing the issue", he added.
"C'est un problème endémique aux trains Eurostar alors que la neige n'arrête pas nos navettes", a commenté de son côté Pascal Sainson, directeur des opérations d'Eurotunnel, qui a géré la situation de crise toute la nuit. Selon lui, "la neige entre dans le système de ventilation et court-circuite le système électrique des moteurs de traction des locomotives Eurostar qui disjonctent dans un tunnel où règne une forte chaleur. Les moteurs s'arrêtent et n'arrivent pas a redémarrer"."It's a problem specific to Eurostar trains while the snow is not stopping our shuttles," said his Sainson Pascal, director of operations for Eurotunnel, which has handled the crisis overnight. According to him, "Snow enters the ventilation system and short-circuits the electrical traction motors for locomotives Eurostar disjonctent in a tunnel where there is high heat. The engines stop and fail to restart" .
Mais, selon le Times de Londres, des incidents du même type se sont produits en février et auraient pu être évités. Deux trains, transportant plus de 1 000 passagers, avaient alors eu près de trois heures de retard. Un expert ferroviaire cité par le quotidien britannique estime que "ces circonstances n'ont rien d'unique" et que "les ingénieurs auraient dû anticiper ces problèmes. (...) Il est tout à fait possible d'équiper les trains de systèmes spécifiques qui les auraient protégé de la neige".But according to the Times of London, similar incidents occurred in February and could have been avoided. Two trains, carrying more than 1 000 passengers, had then been nearly three hours late. An expert quoted by the railway British daily believes that "these circumstances are not unique" and that "engineers would have anticipated these problems. (...) It is quite possible to equip trains specific systems that would have protected the snow.
La mauvaise gestion des passagers. La direction d'Eurostar est aussi sous le feu des critiques des passagers, dont certains ont passé plusieurs heures sous le tunnel. Plus de 2 000 passagers ont passé la nuit de vendredi à samedi bloqués, certains sans eau ni nourriture et dans le froid. Pour certains passagers, le voyage de vendredi a duré jusqu'à 15 heures. Un homme joint par France info a raconté que que son train avait erré dans la campagne anglaise après une véritable odyssée."On a l'impression que personne ne prend les décisions qui s'imposent", a-t-il dit. A son arrivée à Londres, un autre passager s'est élevé contre les conditions du voyage, sans eau, ni nourriture, ni couvertures. "La panne, ça peut arriver, mais la suite, on ne peut pas l'expliquer. On a été traités comme du bétail. C'est plus qu'un choc, je ne réalise pas encore", a-t-il expliqué.Mismanagement of passengers. The management of Eurostar is also under fire from passengers, some of whom have spent several hours in the tunnel. More than 2 000 passengers spent the night Friday to Saturday stranded, some without food or water and the cold. For some passengers, the trip lasted from Friday until 15 hours. A man joined by France Info has reported that his train had erred in the English countryside after an odyssey. "We're under the impression that nobody is taking the necessary decisions," he said. On his arrival in London, another passenger stood against the travel conditions, without water, food or blankets. "Things like the breakdown can happen, but what happened after, that cannot be explained. We were treated like cattle. It's a shock, I still haven't realized it yet," he said.

Also posted in this morning's Salon.

La Chine dorme. Laisse la dormir. Quand la Chine s'éveillera, le monde tremblera.

by marco on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 05:47:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Snow enters the ventilation system and short-circuits the electrical traction motors for locomotives Eurostar disjonctent in a tunnel where there is high heat. The engines stop and fail to restart" .

Hm. Maybe they mean that suddenly a greater amount of (melt)water gets down to the traction motors once the snow on the cooler filters melts. Now, Eurostars have the big old-style side coolers, lots more surface for snow to stick on than the ICE1 trains crossing the Landrückentunnel every winter since 1991/2 at 250 km/h; still, something more special must have occured if Eurostar first saw such a problem only this February. However, the big refurbishment of the Eurostar fleet is only coming, so I have no obvious guess.

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

by DoDo on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:13:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On the topic of Turkey's (and Iran's) network modernisation, any chance of freight running from India through to Europe by rail being competitive with sea in the near future?  I have some recollection that (pakistan?) some countries were on a different gauge which made long distance freight uneconomical.  Perhaps you could diary something about this and the electrification of the transiberian railway?
by njh on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:04:41 AM EST
I don't think rail will ever be competitive with sea transport on such distances. It just costs a whole lot less to transport stuff on the water, even before you take into account the number of jurisdictions these trains would have to go through.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:18:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This surely assumes that oil remains cheaper than electricity?  (or perhaps we'll switch to nuclear ships, or sails?)
by njh on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 05:26:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sailing ships works perfectly well, particularly when combined with a solar-powered electric engine.

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

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

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

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

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

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

And meltdowns.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

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

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

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

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

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

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

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

Railway Gazette: A long way to go

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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