Sun Nov 27th, 2011 at 07:41:10 AM EST
Again after some hiatus, a greater number of news with commentary. This time, on UK to Spain truck transport plans, a cross-border commuter rail line, Britain's antiquated rail infrastructure, metro automation, switch to rail in developing world countries, and spending cuts in the USA.
Railway Gazette: Modalohr piggyback wagons approved for Channel Tunnel
|The decision would enable planned Autoroute Ferroviaire Atlantique piggyback services to be extended to the UK, 'potentially bringing significant new traffic'.|
Autoroute Ferroviaire Atlantique is proposed to link Irún in Spain with Paris and Lille...
The Modalohr system is a more advanced truck transport system than the standard European RoLa system: the trucks reside in separate 'pallets' which are rotated relative to the underframes at the terminals, thus all cars can be loaded at the same time, and semitrailer trucks don't have to be taken on the train and idle. (There are three more similar new systems, but Modalohr is the only one that proved itself in years of regular service; also see this Salon comment.)
:: :: CROSS-BORDER COMMUTER LINE :: ::
Railway Gazette: CEVA project launched
SWITZERLAND: Work on the SFr1·6bn CEVA cross-border regional express project in Genève was officially launched on November 15.
The 16 km project will link Genève-Cornavin with Annemasse in France, via stations at Lancy-Pont Rouge, Carouge-Bachet, Champel-Hôpital, Genève Eaux-Vives and Chêne-Bourg.
Geneva currently has two unconnected main stations on opposed sides of the city centre (one on a Swiss mainline, another at the end of a branchline from France) and only trams and buses for urban public transport. CEVA is a commuter line that would create a connection, running across and under the city. It is also a project waaaaay behind schedule. It was first conceived in 1880, and is built on the basis of a still valid French-Swiss agreement from 1912(!). The project was to be re-launched back in 2002 (when it was supposed to be built by 2008), but it was held up by disputes over financing.
:: :: ANTIQUATED BRITISH INFRASTRUCTURE :: ::
A pair of news about deadly accidents resulting in lawsuits:
Network Rail 'to blame for Cumbria rail crash death' - Home News - UK - The Independent
The family of a grandmother killed in the Grayrigg train crash blamed Network Rail today for her death.
They said they held the firm responsible for the death of Margaret Masson after a jury at her inquest found a set of badly-maintained points caused the 2007 train derailment in Cumbria.
Her son George Masson described as a "scapegoat" the overworked engineer who admitted forgetting to check the points, but who had warned Network Rail bosses months before the crash about safety concerns.
Network Rail, which is responsible for track maintenance, was also facing calls for a public inquiry into its handling of the rail network and possible criminal charges.
Saving on infrastructure maintenance was the gravest ill of British rail privatisation which started in 1994. A massive repair programme was launched after the Hatfield train crash in 2000, and maintenance was totally reorganised after the Potters Bar accident in 2002, but apparently even that was far from enough.
Network Rail to be prosecuted over level crossing deaths - Home News - UK - The Independent
The ORR said it had started criminal proceedings against NR for breaches of health and safety law which led to the deaths of the girls - Olivia Bazlinton, 14, and Charlotte Thompson, 13 - at Elsenham station crossing in Essex in December 2005.
...A London to Cambridge train passed over the crossing with the red lights and yodel sounding - a warning for foot passengers not to cross the footpath crossing.
After the train passed, the lights remained on and the alarms continued to sound as another train, travelling to Stansted airport in Essex, was going to pass through the station.
The girls opened the wicket gates and walked on to the crossing. They were both struck by the Stansted train and killed.
This case, however, seems to be overblown. The new info the new criminal proceedings are based upon is that it was proposed in 2002 to equip the gates with a system that locks them when trains pass, but weren't. This is really a worthy investment, but for this particular incident, it remains true that the girls didn't wait for the end of the red lights and warning yodel sound to pass – a case of lethally bad safety culture.
Railway Gazette: Northwest Triangle electrification contract awarded
UK: Balfour Beatty Rail announced on November 11 that it had been awarded a contract by Network Rail to undertake electrification and minor signalling works under Phase 1 of the Northwest Triangle scheme to electrify routes around Liverpool and Manchester.
Britain is behind the rest of Europe in rail electrification: there was a belief in a future for diesel in the fifties-sixties, and the slow electrification that still went on came completely to a halt with re-privatisation. Then, in 2009, the turnaround came: the transport minister of Gordon Brown's Labour government, Lord Adonis, saw to it to re-launch electrification (see Britain leads the way...). Then came the government change, and everything was on hold while the new Tory-LibDem government put projects on review. But, for some inexplicable reason, the electrification programme survived, even if scaled down.
:: :: METRO AUTOMATION :: ::
Railway Gazette: Automated trains launched on Paris Line 1
FRANCE: The first automatic trains to operate in revenue service on Paris metro Line 1 were officially launched on November 3 by RATP Chairman & CEO Pierre Mongin, at an event attended by Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development, Transport & Housing Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, and Jean-Paul Huchon, President of the Ile-de-France Regional Council.
Automated metros are all the rage recently: rail lines with isolated right-of-way, few or no junctions, same-length trains, not too high speeds, and an operating concept focused on frequency of trains rather than fixed schedules makes automation easier and can provide for a higher frequency, while train driver wage costs (and strike risk!) can be saved. The above project in France, however, is particularly important: unlike previous automated metros that were all new lines, it is a retrofit of a century-old line.
:: :: SWITCH TO RAIL IN DEVELOPING WORLD COUNTRIES :: ::
Railway Gazette: Afghan railway ambitions
AFGHANISTAN: Plans for east-west and north-south railways are making progress, with Asian Development Bank approving a US$754m multi-tranche package of transport assistance in September. As well as road rehabilitation this includes around US$300m for the extension of the recently-completed 75 km Hayratan - Mazar-i-Sharif railway 225 km west to Andkhoy.
...Unlike the previous project, work will be tendered rather than awarded directly to Uzbek railway UTY. Turkmenistan is separately developing plans for a cross-border link to Andkhoy, and the lines could eventually be extended to Herat.
Meanwhile, on October 18 the Ministry of Mines announced that studies for a 921 km railway from Kabul to Torkham on the border with Pakistan and north to Mazar-i-Sharif are to be undertaken by China Railway Group, on behalf of Chinese mining firm MCC which holds a concession to exploit copper deposits.
Afghanistan had no working railways at all until that link to Mazar-i-Sharif (reported in the Salon), now these projects are for a whole network, as part of the emerging Trans-Asian network. I called attention to the latter five years ago in Another Great Game. While China–Europe trains across the 'stans are still far away, all these corridors that converge on Iran are now pursued seriously (meaning, already under construction or there have been significant financial commitments).
Railway Gazette: Venezuelan railway extension contract signed
VENEZUELA: Instituto de Ferrocarriles del Estado has signed an 763m deal for the Italian consortium building the Puerto Cabello - La Encrucijada railway to add a further section of line to connect the harbour at Puerto Cabello with the city of Morón.
The consortium of Impregilo, Astaldi and Ghella has almost completed the 110 km La Encrucijada - Puerto Cabello line, which will run via Valencia to provide the city with access to the coast...
The consortium is also building the 201 km Chaguaramas - Cabruta line and rebuilding the 252 km San Juan de Los Morros - San Fernando de Apure route, under plans to support economic growth in central-southern Venezuela.
Prior to the election of President Chávez, Venezuela only had a few far-and-apart rail lines totalling just a few hundred kilometres. Then multiple major projects were launched,eventually linked up in a master plan into a coherent 13,600 km network spanning the country. This is a nation-building project; relative to the country, on the scale of China's or Turkey's rail expansion programmes. However, the Venezuelan rail programme is also marked by sluggish progress, with lots of delays during construction. And then there was the train crash in September on the first-opened of the new lines, which should have been preventable.
:: :: SPENDING CUTS IN THE USA :: ::
Railway Gazette: Congress axes inter-city project funding for 2012
USA: The Appropriations Bill setting 2012 funding levels for several government agencies including the Department of Transportation was ratified by both houses of Congress on November 17...
Amtrak faces a tighter operating budget next year, reduced from $561m to $466m, but it will be allowed to increase capital spending to compensate within an overall framework of $1·4bn...
However, President Obama's hopes for fresh funding to launch new inter-city and high speed rail projects have been dashed. Obama had submitted a bill to Congress in February to inject up to $8bn into passenger rail services next year as part of an investment programme worth $53bn by 2018, but the budget agreement includes no money at all in 2012.
The road and airline lobbies had their tools among the Republicans fight President Barack Obama's (or, to be more precise: Vice President Joe Biden's) inter-city passenger rail plans tooth and nail over the past three years, and this is their ultimate success.
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