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Rail News Blogging #19

by DoDo Sun Dec 9th, 2012 at 11:09:26 AM EST

Today, on 9 December, European railways switched to the 2013 timetable. The changes include the start of regular service on new lines, including:

  • The 50 km Hanzelijn (Hanze Line) across Eastern Flevoland polder in The Netherlands was inaugurated on 6 December. The on-time, within-budget €1.128 billion project finished a new link that cuts 13 minutes from travel times to the north-east of the country, and is expected to be travelled by 32,000 passengers/day.
  • The Katzenbergtunnel, a 9,385 m bi-tube tunnel on a 250 km/h bypass of a curved section along the Rhine in Germany was inaugurated on 4 December. This €610 million project is part of the quadruple-tracking of the Karlsruhe–Basel line, an extremely busy transit corridor.
  • The new Vienna–St. Pölten line was inaugurated on 23 November, and went into service today along with the first two platforms of the new Vienna Main Station. Switching to the new line and with top speed raised to 230 km/h, the locomotive-pulled railjet trains cut 15 minutes from Vienna–St. Pölten travel times and shorten the entire Vienna–Salzburg trip by 23 minutes to 2h 22m. The total number of daily trains on the old and new lines rose from 325 to 450. Most of the new trains are regional passenger trains, including new limited-stop services with a top speed of 200 km/h (I described two similar services in RNB #17). Vienna's new main station now opened only for regional and commuter services (which were newly connected across the city), long-distance trains will follow only in 2015, so the second half of the tunnel at the Vienna end of the new line is now being used by freight trains only.

Below the fold, I bring further stories on delays caused by rolling stock certification difficulties, ERTMS in Norway, and a new high-speed line in Manchuria.

Rolling stock delays and certification

In recent times, both manufacturers and train operators suffered from problems related to the certification of rolling stock, which has become more strict and more complicated. Some recent stories:

  • In the Netherlands, following test service from July, the AnsaldoBreda V250 trains finally take over the domestic/BENeLux-only Fyra services using the HSL Zuid high-speed line. That's five years behind schedule, after diverse quality, train control system and approval problems.
  • Siemens is producing Velaro D high-speed trains for German Railways (DB), which are destined for cross-border services. Due to problems in the delivery of parts and the certification of the vehicles, the trains were already a year behind the delivery schedule and multiple years behind the plans for those international services. Still, DB wanted to use the first trains at least to bolster domestic services this winter. But there is now another delay due to problems with the train control system.
  • Two years ago, Siemens decided to merge and re-brand its modular electric and diesel locomotive platforms under the name Vectron. What followed was an extensive and partly still on-going certification test campaign across several European countries. However, train operators didn't want to burn their finger with another potentially delayed product and waited until the granting of approval. Until last month, Siemens received just two small orders for altogether eight Vectrons, and the first was handed over on 6 November only after approval for Germany. Now, after certification for Poland, the first major order came for 23 Vectrons (in a DC-only version) for DB's Polish freight branch.
  • Hamburg-Köln-eXpress (HKX), Germany's first competitive long-distance passenger open-access train operator, started service on 23 July, a delay of altogether two years. A lot of that delay was related to delays in the commissioning of its refurbished coaches – which in fact is still on-going: service started with a limited schedule and leased vehicles, and problems with those vehicles necessitated the use of lower-quality replacements and even service cancellations even last month.

ERTMS in Norway

The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) is, as its name indicates, an EU-initiated standard for a new system of signalling, train control and train-to-dispatcher communication. (I introduced its main element, the European Train Control System (ETCS) in 310 km/h with ETCS.) ERTMS is intended to eventually replace the multitude of existing national systems, but introduction is slow due to its great complexity and the high cost of replacing existing equipment.

However, ERTMS/ETCS is finally maturing as a technology, and it is becoming the best option where existing systems are past their useful age. Thus it was possible that on 26 November, Norway's government decided to install ERMTS on the entire network. Norway is the fourthsixth country (after Switzerland, Denmark and the BeNeLux countries) to go for complete replacement.

High-speed line in Manchuria

When the commissioning of the new 921 km Harbin–Dalian Passenger Dedicated Line in China's north-east started only two months ago, I thought it won't open until next year, and made my summary of the situation in RNB #18 accordingly. Yet it was opened on 1 December, albeit with a twist: top speed is only 200 km/h for now (which is still sufficient to cut 4 hours from the travel time). The reason is interesting: this is the first high-speed line in a region with Arctic winter, thus, in addition to modifications to rolling stock and infrastructure, top speed is to be restricted in the winter months by schedule. So there is time for commissioning for 300(350) km/h until 1 April 2013.

:: :: :: :: ::

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

Winter has arrived.

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

by DoDo on Sun Dec 9th, 2012 at 11:10:16 AM EST
Here i an additional story I didn't want to cram into the diary, about Nottingham's light rail system. Nottingham Express Transit (NET) currently consists of a single line, which was built and operated in the British public-private partnership (PPP) structure called Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and was opened in 2004. They now want to build two more lines, again using the PFI structure. IRJ reports these details:

An important focus for NCC's project team has been minimising risk for contractors in the procurement phase, which has helped to keep costs down. This proved to be vital for a project that was seeking substantial government funding at a time of spending cutbacks. "We felt it was sensible to develop some of the designs ourselves and get to the point where we had a reference design that would help potential bidders and give them confidence in what they were being asked to deliver," says Deas. "In doing so, we minimised the risk they were exposing themselves to and therefore the overall price for the job."

So there isn't just a public mitigation of private financial risk, but the public side takes over basic planning. What happened to the much-touted advantage of private capital over public investment in the fields of innovation and risk-taking?...

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

by DoDo on Sun Dec 9th, 2012 at 11:32:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another new service was the completion of the OverGround outer circle route of london which was enabled by the opening of the new section of rail between Surrey Quays and Queens road Peckham.

You can now catch a service directly from Canonbury on the North london line to clapham juncton in both directions.

BBC Video of the new route

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Dec 9th, 2012 at 11:20:15 AM EST
Spot-on quote from 1:25 in:

So much of what actually happens in London is re-creating old railways. This was a classic case, of putting a 1.3-kilometre link back where there has been no railways in the past in order to provide a through service.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Dec 9th, 2012 at 11:40:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The East London line, which was once a short, smelly and largely pointless line from nowhere (Shoreditch) to a dump (New Cross) is now in danger of becoming over-stretched with trains from Canonbury and dalston in the North to 4 separate destinations south of the river.

I just can't help but think they missed a trick by not building a new station interchange between it and a new Central line stop at Shoreditch station. It might have been a bit of a walk underground to a new platform on the Central line but that's hardly unprecedented

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 04:07:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know how difficult it would be to build, but it appears to me that the creation of another Overground-style commuter sub-network with a RER-style tunnel would make sense: one using the lines from Liverpool Street to the north and from Cannon Street to the south, with a tunnel between Shoreditch High Street and Cannon Street. That way, there would be an intercharge with the East London Line, too.

Still, even if that would be implemented and Crossrail 2 would be built, a gap would remain in the network for an east-west (northeast-southwest) connection between Central London and Hackney. (Do I remember right that the reason for neglect is class-based?)

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

by DoDo on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 05:59:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
that would conflict with Crossrail which is in practically the same area.

Also, I suspect that one aspect of the current expansion of re-building and expansion of Blackfriars, London Bridge as part of  thameslink 2000(?) will be the inevitable closure of Cannon Street.

Still, one can see the North London Line into Moorgate being extended to Bank to join up with the Waterloo and City line. However I'm not sure there's spare capacity into Waterloo to justify extending it to either Clapham or Willesden Junctions.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 06:51:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure if you mean the second north-south network I propose or the east-west link I miss when you talk about conflict with Crossrail, but there is conflict with neither:
  • Crossrail only affects the lines east from Liverpool Street, not the ones to the north. Without the connection I propose, commuters will still have no other choice but to change trains at Liverpool Street.
  • Crossrail tracks the existing Hammersmith & City line from Farringdon to the east; Crossrail 2 would have a station at Angel before turning north-east to Dalston Junction (where it would turn north). There is an up to 2.5 km wide region between Stratford and (say) Holborn without a (north)east-(south)west connection. This region is crossed successively by the rail line to Liverpool Street, the East London line, the Northern line and Thameslink, and the Circle line. (The network is much more dense further to the west.) Such a new line could be integrated with an eastern branch split off of the District line.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 09:09:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, apologies, I was unaware of the (rather bizarre) swing from Stratford to Whitechapel and then to Liverpool St.

however, I learn about the Chelsea - Hackney line which is the second part of the CrossRail project.

I confess that, to my eyes, it seems an unlikely and expensive solution to no particular problem which has been identified, unless you consider the likely congestion at Euston should HS2 ever get built.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 10:34:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, the Chelsea–Hackney line is the one I referred to as Crossrail 2. If London's transport planning would be as consequent as Paris's, then the Thameslink, East London/Overground, Crossrail 1 and Crossrail 2 networks would form a coherent RER system, which would (1) replace most commuter lines into terminal stations with transit lines (connecting two old lines into different terminal stations), (2) serve as a faster alternative with less stops and capacity relief for the busiest underground lines on parallel sections in the city core. The original intention certainly seems to have been that, but implementation seems less coherent.

Then again, Paris is now already building a third network, the Grand Paris Express, which is an automatic express metro (thus it is a level between the normal metro and the RER). Maybe what London builds is more an equivalent of that.

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

by DoDo on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 01:53:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I doubt that's applicable to London as a significant percentage of commuters travel considerable distances from outside the London metropolitan area.

That said anything which reduces the peak load on the central london tube network will be good, but I can't really see these being significant

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 02:11:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The absence of underground lines in Hackney is more due to the superabundance of over ground connections.

Practically every other train into liverpool street from NE London (and there are lots of them) stops at hackney downs.

The Central line was extended east into essex to service a commuter belt development which had a poor train service while the Victoria line went into an area of NE London for similar reasons. There was never a need for Hackney to have an underground service.

Ken Livingstone once made a fuss about the lack of one for electoral purposes, but it was relatively unconvincing and he dropped it after the election

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 07:00:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There was some talk about a line from Hamburg through to Vladivostok or maybe somewhere in China.  Have you heard of it?
by stevesim on Sun Dec 9th, 2012 at 11:48:05 AM EST
That's all too vague. The rails exist already, maybe you heard about the China-Europe container trains (see RNB #18).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Dec 9th, 2012 at 12:03:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yes, that was it.

thank you.

by stevesim on Sun Dec 9th, 2012 at 12:29:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Any idea what happened to Kazakhstan's standard gauge "New Silk Route" line? Back in 2006, you said it would be finished by 2010...
by Gag Halfrunt on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 06:07:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Possibly the situation with Iran put it on the back-burner. By 2007, Kahakhstan was peddling the idea of a standard-gauge connection north of the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. Even that doesn't feature any more among the CAREC 2020 priority projects. However, the $2 billion broad-gauge Central Kazakhstan link paralleling the proposed New Silk Road route, Zhezkazgan–Saksaul'skaya, is the single biggest project on the list.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 07:03:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I find the Hanze Line very interesting - in Britain it would be hard to get that built for 13 mins gain. But I guess it relieves congestion too?
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 03:15:01 AM EST
The main benefits are that indeed it relieves congestion, and also that it provides better connections for Eastern Flevoland itself.

13 minutes is a significant gain for Zwolle (Amsterdam Zuid to Zwolle shortened from 1h 16m to 1h 3m), and further gains elsewhere make for significant reductions for Groningen, too (travel times used to alternate between 2h 16m or 2h 25m, now it's 2h 2m for all trains). There will actually be some further gains: the trains that use the line now are limited to 140 km/h, but the track was built and commissioned for 200 km/h, so future trains can cut another five minutes or so on the Hanze Line itself.

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

by DoDo on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 06:15:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I use the Hanze line from Amsterdam to Groningen on Monday. It was a disappointment. The scheduled win was just 5 minutes, but with 2 changes of trains instead of 1. The 5 minutes earlier train was a few minutes late, but delays on the new route were growing larger. It took me then 3 hours instead of 2:07 or 2:12.

It appears automatic now, that a little snow gives excuses to NS for delays and adjusted schedules.

by das monde on Wed Dec 12th, 2012 at 03:44:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just wanted to say that I enjoy your "Rail News" diaries.  Over here the public gets public transportation about as well as they get evolution - IOW <20% are informed and rational enough to understand the issue.
by Marie2 on Mon Dec 10th, 2012 at 05:49:09 PM EST
Troublemaker Fyra is not having a smooth start....

Teething troubles for high-speed train link Fyra continue< Belgian news | Expatica Belgium

On Tuesday morning, the 7:40 Fyra international train service between Amsterdam and Brussels was cancelled due to technical problems.

This was confirmed by Belgian Rail spokesman Bart Crols. It's the second incident in three days.

Passengers had to alight in the Breda area, in the southern part of the Netherlands, where they could take a bus to Antwerp. In Antwerp, they could continue their journey taking another train to Brussels. It is not yet clear what the consequences will be for the rest of today's schedule.

The brand new high-speed train ran for the first time on Sunday morning. On Sunday afternoon, things went wrong north of Antwerp. Due to a technical failure, the Fyra train was halted for 45 minutes. Yesterday, the first Fyra had a delay of 30 minutes, which disturbed the rest of yesterday's schedule.

It's the third day in a row with constant delays - and it's also affecting services of Thalys.

I can't find this quickly whether this is in any way related to the V250 trains, or how many of the V250 are now operational. In October the NS only dared to use 2 V250 trains commercially, with an extra 4 approved for commercial use. That left at least 7 in the rigorous testing phase...

by Nomad on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 08:53:28 AM EST
Thanks for the (almost expected) report! Any news on the cause? Software or did something fry, possibly weather-related?

AFAIK the international Fyra service was newly introduced with the V250, so this must have been a V250.

Again AFAIK, the limited commercial use was also a test, so I guess it was either not rigorous enough or didn't include winter conditions.

Seems like Fyra passengers will suffer through another year; the final test of whether this is about badly managed teething problems or unmanageable quality or systemic problems will be next year.

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

by DoDo on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 10:12:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They're grinding their teeth and keep their mouth shut, except to mumble that they will do a review next week.

Anyway, both NS and ProRail already got fried today for the train accident in Amsterdam, in April this year. The Dutch Safety Board released a pretty damning report today - although anyone familiar to the Dutch railsystem and previous accidents won't be too surprised. As a result, Prorail and NS will invest more in ATB-w, NS will have to reanalyze the interiors of their trains on safety values.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 10:51:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Injuries due to handrails, luggage racks, rubbish bins and ticket machines?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 11:47:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If it is not too complicated to dig for the info: how does the increased investment into ATB-w relate to the plan of replacement with ETCS? Is it a quick fix/stopgap measure, or was the ETCS plan kicked into the uncertain future?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 11:50:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I just decided   to step back from the internet because of a splitting headache when I caught your post. Ill have a look tomorrow but from out of my head I recall its a stopgap measure.
by Nomad on Tue Dec 11th, 2012 at 02:49:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
as the splitting headache has stayed along and developed into a full bout of flu...

The report of 166 pages is in Dutch (pdf here). There are some scathing conclusions in there - but as said, for anyone familiar to the Dutch trainsystem, hardly surprising ones. On the day of the accident, due to repairs on the tracks, there were limited tracks available. NS planned trains too tight - thereby ignoring safety norms. Prorail, as regulator, didn't check those, 'trusting that the NS would keep to the norms' (!).

My memory served ok - the ATB-w will serve as a stopgap measure until the rollout of ERMTS in 2016. I don't immediately see where and how much kilometers will be upgraded to ATB-w.

As to the injuries due to the interior - nearly 190 people in total suffered injuries. Launched luggage wasn't a problem, the board concluded. Rubbish bins and tray tables did form a frequent cause. Other injuries were caused by staircases and handholds. Notably, the board observed the role of the seating positioning of the passengers. People who sat 'sideways' (seat along the side of the cabin) in the SLT-train suffered the most severe injuries, those seated 'backward' the least. That should be interesting, as the NS has been expanding that type of seats in its newest train.

by Nomad on Thu Dec 13th, 2012 at 01:51:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Trenord is not doing much better with the new schedule coming into effect. Trains with 3 ticket checkers but no driver, staff but no train and so on. And one of the top administrators was arrested (apparently due to an unrelated bankruptcy) just before a press conference in which he was supposed to explain what's going on.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Dec 12th, 2012 at 02:55:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The project I love to hate:

McKinsey Report - Cost for Stuttgart 21 to rise to 6.8 billion Euros - Spiegel Online

Dramatic cost increase for Stuttgart 21: the project will cost considerably more than planned. According to a report, costs will rise to 6.8 billion Euros - 2.3 billion more than hitherto estimated. Further cost increases cannot be ruled out.


1.1 billion for things that were not costed out or for which the cost estimates have proved unrealistic.

Around 800 million for requests of the state Baden-Württemberg and the city of Stuttgart. Including real estate purchases and the replanned Filder line to the airport.

Around 400 million from delays - among others caused by the long mediation process.

The news was leaked last week but nothing official from Deutsche Bahn till today's board meeting. Until now, costs were 'limited' to 4.5 billion Euros in the financing agreement and Bahn CEO Grube is on record that costs above 4.7 billion euros would make the project an economical loss [for DB].

Given that there are now Green governments in the state and city that adamantly refuse any further financial contribution (the Federal government is not keen either) there are these options:

-- Stop. Now. Unlikely (even Green state prime minister Kretschmann said "only a miracle can prevent S21 from happening now") since contracts have been signed, image/political disaster, loss of face etc. DB says 2 billion Euros to abort now but I wouldn't take that figure at face value. I didn't study mathematics but last I looked even 2 billion is a lot less than 6.8 billion + X. But this is the psychology of previous investments speaking and it is rarely rational.

-- Take up the compromise put forward during the mediation process by Heiner Geißler: 4 underground tracks and keep the aboveground existing station. Again unlikely because this would involve throwing a lot of plans into the bin, replanning and renegotiating for years. DB isn't keen on that.

-- Stick it out. DB will build to the bitter end using 'their own riches'. Recently they posted a record profit of over 2 billion Euros. They have also increased ticket prices with the new timetable. DB wants to reach profit of 4 billion euros by 2017. So guess who's going to pay for the mess? But if you have some of the highest ticket prices in the world it shouldn't be too noticable, right?!

This 'sudden' 50% increase won't be the last. So I hope the painful slog during the next 10-15 years produces a learning effect in the public, DB, and the political scene. At some point it becomes blindingly obvious - usually that's the point where it's too late to turn around (Euro-austerity mess anyone?).

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Wed Dec 12th, 2012 at 07:14:40 PM EST

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