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Rail News Blogging #10

by DoDo Sat Mar 10th, 2012 at 07:17:18 AM EST

I'll start with an update on one of the most significant new competitors in long-distance passenger rail transport which I wrote about in The Dawn Of Open Access (2/2): Austria's WESTbahn, which is engaged in a cut-throat competition with the incumbent ÖBB. I will also write about further ETCS progress in Belgium, progress with new lines in Germany and Denmark, and cooling the London Underground.

Westbahn und ÖBB streiten weiter - Bahn - derStandard.at > Wirtschaft Westbahn and ÖBB continue quarreling - Rail - derStandard.at > Economy
Wien - Die ÖBB und die seit Dezember 2011 zwischen Wien und Salzburg fahrende mehrheitlich private Westbahn sind weiterhin in Rechtsstreitigkeiten verwickelt. Vor dem Europäischen Gerichtshof (EuGH) wird am 21. März in einer mündlichen Verhandlung über die Forderung der Westbahn Management GmbH beraten, dass die ÖBB Infrastruktur der Westbahn sämtliche Informationen über Zugbewegungen und insbesondere eventuelle Verspätungen von Anschlusszügen in Echtzeit zur Verfügung stellen solle, berichtet die "Wiener Zeitung".Vienna - ÖBB and the majority privately-owned Westbahn which runs between Vienna and Salzburg since December 2011, are further embroiled in legal disputes. On 21 March, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will hold a hearing on a demand of Westbahn Management GmbH on ÖBB Infrastructure to provide in real time all information on train movements and in particular on any delays of connecting trains, Wiener Zeitung reports.
...Die ÖBB-Personenverkehr AG hat ihrerseits die Westbahn wegen unlauterem Abwerben von Kunden, unlauteren Werbemaßnahmen in ÖBB-Zügen, dem "irreführenden Tarifmodell" und der behaupteten Kommunikation von falschen Verbindungszahlen geklagt. ...Trotz der Rechtsstreitigkeiten gibt man sich bei den ÖBB gelassen. Die Fahrgastzahlen seien trotz des neuen Mitbewerbers konstant geblieben, Bahnfahren werde immer beliebter, heißt es von seiten der ÖBB....ÖBB Passenger Transport Co. in turn sued Westbahn for unfair poaching of customers, unfair advertising measures in ÖBB trains, the "misleading fare model" and the alleged communication of false connection numbers. ...In spite of the disputes, ÖBB representatives are relaxed. Passenger numbers have remained constant in spite of the new competitor, rail travel is becoming ever more popular, they say at the ÖBB.

There is a price war, too: WESTbahn is also suing against ÖBB's reduced fares aimed at off-peak periods. (Now wasn't reduced fares one of the promised benefits of open access?...) Different WESTbahn bosses contradict each other on how ÖBB's fare reductions affect WESTbahn: one calls the enterprise a "disaster", the other claims ridership is above plans but income lags due to their own fare reductions.

There is another WESTbahn controversy among those I mentioned in the open access diary which continues in the courtrooms:

Auch zum Thema "Rauchen im Zug" ist ein Rechtsstreit anhängig - allerdings diesmal nicht mit den ÖBB. Nach einer Anzeige gegen die Westbahn wegen Verletzung des Tabakgesetzes ("Nichtraucherschutz in Räumen öffentlicher Orte") werde der Fall nun ausjudiziert, so der Westbahn-Sprecher. ...Die Westbahn habe mittlerweile ihre Raucherabteile geschlossen, weil "Rauchersheriffs" Sammelklagen angekündigt hätten.A legal battle is pending over the topic "smoking on the train", too - but this time not with ÖBB. Following a complaint against Westbahn for a breach of Austria's Tobacco Act ("Protection of non-smokers in rooms of public places"), the case is now being brought to court, says the Westbahn spokesperson. ...Westbahn has now closed its smoking compartments, because "smoking sheriffs" have announced a class action.

On one hand, apart from breaking the law, WESTbahn's smoker compartments had the extra nuisance that the extra investment wasn't reflected in a surcharge in smokers' ticket prices, thus non-smokers had to pay for the impassable compartment next door. On the other hand, ÖBB would deserve scrutiny, too: ÖBB stations make a mockery of anti-smoking regulations with designated spots for smokers in the middle of island platforms, so if there are trains on both sides the smoke expands along the entire platform and is sucked up by the air conditioners of the trains...

:: :: ETCS IN BELGIUM :: ::

Railway Gazette: Infrabel commissions Belgium's first ETCS Level 1 installation

BELGIUM: Trains began running under Belgium's first installation of ETCS Level 1 on March 6...

While ETCS is in service on the high speed lines from Liège to the German border and from Antwerpen to the Dutch border, the 25·5 km four-track route between Schaerbeek and Leuven is the first implementation on a conventional line in Belgium.

...An Infrabel/SNCB masterplan envisages that the entire network would be equipped with ETCS Level 1 by the end of 2022, with the long-term aspiration of moving towards Level 2 and eliminating lineside signals. From 2025 all trains on the Belgian network would be required to be equipped with ETCS.

Yet another recent story of progress for the European Train Control System, which is supposed to improve interoperability in Europe by replacing all the various older national systems, but had difficulties and only got rolling recently (as detailed in 310 km/h with ETCS).

The special relevance in Belgium is the Buizingen train crash two years ago (also discussed on ET), in which a newer train collided with an older one that only had an older train control system. Would Infrabel keep to its ETCS plan of full lineside deployment by 2022 and full on-board deployment by 2025, that would make it the third country to replace older systems completely, after Switzerland and Denmark. Unlike those two, though, no single big contracts have been granted for ETCS deployment, so the programme is vulnerable to budget cuts.


NBS Erfurt - Nürnberg: Letzter Tunneldurchschlag in Thüringen- Nachrichten bei EurailpressErfurt - Nuremberg high-speed line: Last tunnel breakthrough in Thuringia - News at Eurailpress
Mit dem Durchschlag des letzten Thüringer ICE-Tunnels am Fleckberg am 06.03.2012 sind nun alle 14 Tunnel im Thüringer Wald rohbaufertig hergestellt.With the breakthrough of the last Thuringian ICE tunnel at Fleckenberg on 3/6/2012, now all 14 tunnels in the Thuringian Forest are structurally complete.

This line (which featured in The EU's emerging high-speed networkS, this discussion and Rail News Blogging #5) will bypass the currently slowest section on the Berlin–Munich route. It is built as an expensive chain of tunnels and bridges due to ill-considered plans from the nineties to also run freight trains on the line (and because it is not on the shortest route for political reasons, so that Thuringia state's capital is not bypassed). The costs made it a victim of budget cuts that delayed completion by a decade and a half (while a parallel highway was completed in 2006). Now that most of the difficult parts are structurally complete (only some of the Bavarian tunnels remain to be finished), track construction is unlikely to be delayed.

Railway Gazette: Bidding begins on København - Ringsted new line

DENMARK: Infrastructure manager Banedanmark has shortlisted six companies for the first civil works on the 56 km København - Ringsted line to the west of the capital. The design and build contract for five bridges is due to be awarded by mid-year, with all of the main contracts to be underway by the end of 2013.

Designed for operation at up to 250 km/h, the electrified double-track route will relieve the current main line through Roskilde, where east-west flows between København and Jylland combine with the north-south corridor linking Sweden and Germany via the Øresund fixed link and the future Fehmarn Belt tunnel.

...Tenders for the railway systems will follow in 2013-14, with tracklaying expected to get underway in 2015. The 25 kV 50 Hz electrification and ETCS Level 2 would follow, allowing commissioning to start at the end of 2017 and test running by mid-2018. Total cost of the project, including the government's 20% contingency reserve, is put at DKr10·4bn.

The Ringsted line is a long overdue capacity enhancement in Denmark, which was in preparation but sabotaged by the conservative government a decade ago, and was re-launched recently with the growth of Scandinavia–Germany freight traffic (also see this earlier comment). Hopefully work will start in this election period...


Railway Gazette: Using ground water to cool the tube

UK: London Underground has awarded Morgan Sindall a £9m contract to install a cooling system which will use ground water to lower air temperatures on the platforms at the deep-level Green Park station.

...While air-conditioning is fitted to the new Bombardier trains being delivered for London Underground's large-profile lines, the smaller profile deep-level tube lines have little space for on-train air-conditioning, and temperatures on trains and at stations can get uncomfortably high in summer.

Victoria station is already cooled using a portion of the 47 million litres of water that are pumped out of the LU network every day.

The endemic problem of heat on the Tube was the subject of an exchange two years ago; in which ThatBritGuy mentioned the plan for the cooling system.

:: :: :: :: ::

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

On the photo below, ČD Cargo 240 107 (an old Czechoslovak standard type) pulls a container train above the shore of the Danube near Chľaba, Slovakia.

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

by DoDo on Sat Mar 10th, 2012 at 07:23:47 AM EST
Another news on the WESTbahn-ÖBB death match: the bus service from Salzburg's main station to Munich's airport was cancelled in late February due to low ridership. WESTbahn blames the bad location of the bus stop at Salzburg's in-reconstruction main station, and promises a second attempt next year. (Rather than trying to organise a direct rail connection.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Mar 12th, 2012 at 10:51:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An ever popular topic is that of cant deficiency for high speed running, especially when combined with low speed services.  One solution is the tilting train, which improves passenger comfort at the cost of complexity and weight on the train, and increased wear on the rails.

How about instead we move the rails?  To do this we would make concrete sleepers with a circular underside - imagine starting with a 5m dia concrete pipe and cutting the sleepers from the sides.  These would then rest on a bearing which in turn would rest on a pipe or half pipe track bed.  In the case of a tunnel the only real cost would be the bearings.

When a train goes around a corner the train would roll sufficiently to keep the cant small.  The stiffness and length constraint of the rails will tend to pull the track to a minimum number of wiggles.  It is important to keep the mass of the rail+sleeper unit as low as possible.

by njh on Sun Mar 11th, 2012 at 12:05:04 PM EST
I don't understand your last paragraph. Do I get it right that your circular underside sleepers can roll in a bearing to change the cant to fit the train runing on it? If so, what is the mechanism for the movement? (It appears to me that you describe some passive mechanism, but the force the train itself exerts on the track will act to decrease the cant and thus the opposite of what is desired.) What are the "wiggles"? And what is the importance of keeping the mass as low as possible (apart from material costs and mass to move)?

Without fully grasping your concept, only on the general idea, my thinking is that any active track would be

  1. requiring a higher volume,
  2. include lots of moving parts in need of maintenance,
  3. require a very high standard of reliability (one blocked bearing will result in a derailment, as will a misjudged train top speed),
  4. require a very high standard of geometric precision (normal track is maintained to be sufficiently straight and level, this would need to maintain its qualities while moving),
  5. requiring the research of an entirely different elastic behaviour than either standard ballasted track or slab track,
  6. for all the above reasons it would be very expensive.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Mar 12th, 2012 at 11:06:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, ok, on reflection it's a stupid idea.  The main problem being that the track bed would need to roll into position faster than the train movement, which is not going to happen with a passive solution.  The remaining arguments are good but not definitive counterpoints.

What are the "wiggles"?


by njh on Mon Mar 12th, 2012 at 12:44:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
King's Cross station overhaul: 'Vest' structure to be unveiled at London railway station as part of £500m overhaul | Mail Online

A spectacular new western concourse will be launched today at a London railway station first built in 1852 - after an eight-year £500million restoration project.

Described by rail bosses as 'the biggest transformation in the 160-year history of King's Cross station', the restoration of the Grade 1 listed building is part of a further £2.2billion redevelopment of the once shabby King's Cross area of north London.

A vast steel and glass lattice-work roof forms the centrepiece of the rail network's 'gateway to the North', which will provide three times the space of the current station concourse.

The site is set to open to the public on Monday.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2012 at 04:48:14 PM EST
We are having some interesting discussions of light rail in Colorado just now.

There is a state funding program "RTD" which is the Denver regional transportation district, and a few years ago they got some taxes set up to fund a light rail system. A good start was made, but the budget got completely blown and one of the routes was poorly chosen and has low ridership. But the RTD had promised additional lines, some of which might actually get some pretty heavy usage downtown Denver to Boulder, where the main state college campus is--about 50 km, and downtown Denver to the airport--about 40 km.

Since RTD doesn't have any money left, they proposed last week that the Denver-Boulder route be done as a dedicated bus lane, built in association with an overhaul of the main highway. This caused an explosion in the communities along the original light rail route, who supported the original tax bill (which is almost impossible in Colorado) and have been paying for this for a decade. Now everybody is mad, but they don't really have a solution easy to come by.

Less than 48 hours after announcing a plan for the financially beleaguered FasTracks system that has angered some Boulder County officials, top managers from the Regional Transportation District made their case in person to the Boulder City Council.

The meeting came two days after RTD staffers announced their recommendation that the district's board of directors use a "hybrid" approach to completing the Northwest Rail line from Denver to Longmont.

The staff recommendation calls for bringing a 12-mile commuter rail line from Denver to Church Ranch Boulevard in Westminster by 2020 to 2022. Up to 80 miles of bus rapid transit, using dedicated lanes and traveling at high frequency, would cover the rest of the corridor up to Longmont -- via Broomfield, Louisville and Boulder -- by 2020.

http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_20124743/rtd-brings-fastracks-pitch-boulder-leader s?source=rss

Light blue on the map shows the part built so far, while dark blue shows the next phase, orange shows the long range plan, and green shows the proposed "bus rapid transit" route.


by asdf on Wed Mar 14th, 2012 at 06:50:35 PM EST
A friend just forwarded http://www.rowvillerailstudy.com.au/ to me.  http://www.rowvillerailstudy.com.au/publications/ is an interesting read for those of us who are interested in the details behind large scale engineering projects.
by njh on Wed Mar 21st, 2012 at 07:47:07 PM EST

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