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Rail News Blogging #9

by DoDo Sun Mar 4th, 2012 at 03:16:32 AM EST

Three news this time: Dubai Metro to expand upon success, the first application of ETCS on a suburban network, and electrification in Iran.

Railway Gazette: RTA backs Dubai metro extensions

UAE: Following two separate studies, Dubai's Roads & Transport Authority has confirmed its intention to seek government approval to build a 20 km extension of the metro Green Line from Etisalat to International City, Academic City and the Dubai Lagoons for opening within five years.

A 12 km extension of the Red Line from Jebel Ali to the border with Abu Dhabi is also proposed, subject to developments along the route going ahead.

...On February 22 the Dubai government announced a US$675m financing package which will allow the 10 km Phase 1 of the delayed Al Sufouh Tram project to be completed by November 2014.

As I argued in Local Rail and its dKos versions, the key to the success of urban rail systems is to launch them, as they have the nature to gain a critical mass of riders who will guarantee support for further expansion. Dubai Metro was the first of several on-going projects in the previously completely urban-rail-free Gulf oil states. The ability of mass transit in the richest of the rich and luxury-mad societies in the region to draw enough passengers was viewed with scepticism, especially after the Dubai property market crash from late 2008. However, in spite of economic collapse and project delays, ridership on the first line doubled from 30 million in 2010 to 60 million (about 165,000 a day) last year, while the second line (which had its opening delayed until September last year) was just 10% short of its bold target of 100,000 a day in December.


Railway Gazette: ETCS Level 1 goes live in Madrid

SPAIN: The Ministry of Development announced on March 1 that ETCS Level 1 signalling had been brought into use on RENFE suburban route C4 in Madrid, running from Parla in the south via Atocha, Sol and Chamartín to Colmenar Viejo north of the capital. According to the ministry, this is the first application of ETCS on a suburban network in Europe.

...The adoption of Level 2 is also planned for the Madrid suburban network with the aim of increasing capacity.

ETCS stands for European Train Control System, which is supposed to improve interoperability in Europe, but had difficulties and only got rolling recently (as detailed in 310 km/h with ETCS).

Railway Gazette: Tehran - Mashhad electrification project launched

Electrification and infrastructure upgrades will raise the top speed of passenger trains from 160 km/h to 200 km/h, and allow journey times on the 926 km route to be cut from around 12 h to 6 h. Capacity will be increased with a view to raising annual traffic from 13 million to 20 million passengers.

A second phase of upgrading could enable tilting trains to run at up to 250 km/h and raise annual capacity to 50 million passengers.

Not much reported alongside its nuclear ambitions, Iran's industrial policy also includes the expansion of railways, which existed only in the north and west of Iran at the end of the Shah's reign. Relative to the country's size, this is a nation-building project comparable to China's rail programme in ambition, albeit it is much slower due to massive delays reminiscent of the East Bloc in its last decades, and that's true for this project, too.

The Tehran–Mashhad line is the busiest in Iran. Its double-tracking and upgrade for the current 160 km/h was finished only in March 2003. This line shows that Iran is coming under the European rail sphere of influence, meaning the import of standards as well as vehicles (diesel locos from Alstom as well as express diesel multiple units from Siemens and Slovenian partner TVT-Nova). The electrification contract, however, was awarded exactly three years ago: they didn't hurry.

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The bonus photo this time shows a railbus leaving branchline station Magyarkút-Verőce last autumn. Tilting poles galore.



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

by DoDo on Sun Mar 4th, 2012 at 03:21:38 AM EST
In Iran they spend lots of money to make the trains tilt, in Hungary they just tilt the scenery.
by njh on Sun Mar 4th, 2012 at 11:27:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Rail News Blogging #9
the key to the success [of] urban rail systems is to launch them, as they have the nature to gain a critical mass of riders who will guarantee support for further expansion

Cannot be emphasized enough.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Mar 4th, 2012 at 05:04:54 AM EST
This is something that should encourage US transit advocates above all,as it's them who have to fight for the launch of urban rail systems the most. A recent example is Detroit: a long-prepared light rail plan was foiled last December, after the anti-rail lobby managed to convince local politicians to build their default non-solution instead: "Bus Rapid Transit" (BRT, in essence fast buses with separate right-of-way). In January, they backtracked one step and allowed the private consortium supporting the light rail project to do a feasibility study on a shortened route.

In Europe or elsewhere, if there is an obstacle then usually budget constraints. That said, from Spain we also have some recent almost-exceptions to the rule of guaranteed success after launch, and austerity certainly didn't help:



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Mar 4th, 2012 at 07:19:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One caveat: the first line has to be one of the busiest. Two Texan examples: Houston's first line (34,000 boardings per day) is one of the busiest in the US in passengers per mile. On the other end of the spectrum is Austin where they put commuter rail on some existing infrastructure which doesn't go where the people go. Hence a daily ridership of under 2,000.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sun Mar 4th, 2012 at 05:21:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Austin's line is called "MetroRail" but it is in fact a 50 km suburban line with even the stations in Austin proper rather far away, and it is not faster than the highway, being run with European branchline DMUs. Such a line is no excuse for the lack of a light rail or subway network, which was Austin's original plan, foiled by transit opponents in a referendum. However, considering that at $105 million the cost of the realised project was a twentieth of the light rail plan, having a twentieth of the ridership too is okay – I don't think this system will die, either.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Mar 4th, 2012 at 05:50:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That said ridership is rather low even in comparison to US lines with similar character, like the Oceanside-Escondido "Sprinter" (in the suburbs of San Diego) with its now over 10,000-a-weekday and growing ridership. I find this applies for the ridership forecasts already: both failed to meet the targets, but that target was just 2,000 a weekday for Austin and 11,000 for the Sprinter.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Mar 5th, 2012 at 04:12:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm writing this sitting in a train in Rome waiting to leave (almost-free Wifi). Trenitalia sometimes uses the information monitors to post sarcastic messages about the EU rail policy. I didn't have enough time to read it carefully, but I think they just had one in which they were proud of using ETCS while Germany is still taking its time about it.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Mar 4th, 2012 at 10:00:40 AM EST
I had the misfortune to watch some of Hudson Hawk, a terrible movie.  But a small plot device is the postal subway, which a bit of searching lead to http://www.silentuk.com/?p=2792
by njh on Sun Mar 4th, 2012 at 11:55:02 AM EST
Just wow...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Mar 4th, 2012 at 12:42:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The most striking thing is to read a matter-of-fact claim to have seen everything that London has to offer, and to have the impression that it's true and not meant as bragging.
So far the night had been unreal, Grail busting of the highest order, but what now. With practically everything of interest now stricken from London, visited time and time again, it seemed high time we look further afield. Paris, USA, Australia, all contained possibilities to entertain for the immediate years.
Also the idea that there's a community of explorers out there.

Definitely movie material. I have a feeling these people are the real survivalists, not the gun-toting 'self-reliants'...

There are three stories about the euro crisis: the Republican story, the German story, and the truth. -- Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Mar 4th, 2012 at 01:49:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Several years ago somehow I got to the site London's Abandoned Tube Stations   and spent days exploring it. (My favourites are South Kensington and Trafalgar Square; and of the overland lines covered, the Northern Heights line.) It's an amazing hobby.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Mar 4th, 2012 at 05:03:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another gem I remembered but didn't find at first is the eastern platform in Aldwych. Aldwych station itself is on a short branch that closed for regular traffic in 1994, but it had such low traffic in its entire active history that one of the two tracks was closed shortly after opening, back in 1917, and with it the western platform in Holborn and the eastern platform in Aldwych. This latter platform was later used to test station interior design concepts, but apparently that's long past too now.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Mar 5th, 2012 at 05:33:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
given that they've spent so much on re-configuring the East London line to run from West Croydon in the south to Canonbury in the north, it's not so much of a reach to get onto the Old St line to Finsbury pk (there's already a connection) and from there re-build the line all the way up to Muswell Hill at least.

Only problem I can see is for the southbound to cross the main line at Finsbury. Everything else is just track laying

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Mar 5th, 2012 at 08:04:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If they want to step it up: cave exploration is one of the last frontiers - plenty of adventure left. Did you know there is a cave that has been explored to the depth of more than 2km? Expeditions last for months. I feel a shiver just thinking about those depths. Look at this specimen in Vietnam.


Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sun Mar 4th, 2012 at 05:06:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's frustrating is that this complex infrastructure, built over extended periods of time (look how long it took them to get it into service, over a decade), supporting an entire industry and an essential city service, can be overwhelmed in only a few years by some sort of "improved" technology. I can't tell if this system became uneconomic because of the Internet, but over here we are closing post offices right and left because of the loss of letters. It is tragic, and brings with it a question of what people will eventually do with themselves...
by asdf on Sun Mar 4th, 2012 at 07:20:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wondered the same thing, and also why they couldn't have just upgraded the handling equipment at the stations to make it completely robotic.
by njh on Mon Mar 5th, 2012 at 11:17:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Optical character recognition remains inadequate to that task, and non-standard envelopes have to be sorted by hand anyway, because they can't go into the machines.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Mar 6th, 2012 at 01:53:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think at the stations of this subway, only the unloading of the letters takes place, the sorting of letters happens a few levels higher.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Mar 6th, 2012 at 02:41:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right, I was thinking of something like the automatic coal/grain/sugar cane unloader cars.  That would deliver directly into the appropriate conveyor lifter at each station.
by njh on Tue Mar 6th, 2012 at 12:03:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The rails of the streetcar in seattle are quite pitted.  I suspect it is due to the grit on the road chipping off the surface.  The normal solution to this is to grind the surface down until it is flat, but given the amount of pitting this would require regular replacement of the rails.

I was wondering whether anyone had tried 'printing' the rails back into profile.  There would be a special tram with an array of MIG nozzles over the rail.  The rails would be swept and vacuumed.  A camera would examine the rail profile in real time, then the MIGs would add sufficient metal to bring the rail back into profile.  The surface of the rail would now be quite hot and possibly lose its hardening temper.  A suitably controlled blast of air would temper the rail head and finally a grinder would polish the rail profile back.

I'm imagining a rate of 10cm/s, resurfacing the entire network in roughly 12 hours (faster than road resurfacing).  More importantly it would avoid expensive rail replacement, and give a smoother ride. (I think most of the vibration and noise is from rail imperfections, which this process would reduce by a couple of orders of magnitude)  The replacement process could happen during normal operation as the resurfacing tram can just trundle around between others, and the process is incremental.

by njh on Thu Mar 8th, 2012 at 08:56:03 AM EST
The rails of the streetcar in seattle are quite pitted.  I suspect it is due to the grit on the road chipping off the surface.

Are you sure it's not some form of rolling contact fatigue?

I was wondering whether anyone had tried 'printing' the rails back into profile.

Yes, by way of welding techniques. Links: Electro-Thermit GmbH (Germany), Holland Company (USA). There is the problem of course that welded sections are inferior to running rail, so prevention might be more desirable.

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

by DoDo on Thu Mar 8th, 2012 at 09:34:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One would think that the contact pressure of a street car would be significantly less than that of a freight train. If street cars can cause fatigue failures, it would suggest that freight rail replacement would be required very often...

100 tons for a coal car with 8 wheels, compared to maybe 20 tons for a trolley car?

by asdf on Thu Mar 8th, 2012 at 02:01:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Axleload isn't the only factor in rolling contact fatigue (RCF), traction forces also count, as does curving behaviour (the combination of elevated speeds, higher cant deficiency and greater yaw stiffness), and all can be enhanced by track geometry. For example, on European standard-gauge railways (which have much lower axleloads than US ones), RCF as widespread problem is a relatively recent development and the most common type is "head check", which appears in medium-radius curves (where the outer rail is overloaded) and at switches (where the load of axles is temporarily on one wheel). On high-speed lines and subways, the less easily explained "squat" type (which may resemble pits due to rocks) is common: this is caused by traction forces, too, but there is less pattern in the places where it appears. I'm less familiar with RCF on light rail, but the literature says it's a problem there, too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 8th, 2012 at 02:44:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is on a straight section, I'll take some pictures next time I've got a chance.
by njh on Fri Mar 9th, 2012 at 12:55:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The wonders of "open data" have made it possible. Some months Süddeutsche Zeitung started a project to grab all real-time delay announcements of Deutsche Bahn's long-distance trains (meant for personal consumption on www.bahn.de or in their app). SZ built their own database and application around it. It enables users to pull statistics, see a "live map" or replay of long-distance trains, and even build their own apps via an API.

Why? DBs statistics can be a little bit 'misleading' or broad-brushed.

The performance of the ICEs is not japonaise. All the major relations on the high-speed lines are tardy. A case of major node congestion? Delays themselves [of preceding trains] seem to be most prevalent cause of delays. Then construction and technical difficulties with trains.

Isn't it great?

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Fri Mar 9th, 2012 at 08:34:02 PM EST
But the real-time announcements can also be misleading. Today I was on a delayed TGV train, and I watched the updated schedule on my computer (the TGVs have Wifi but connection to the outside internet costs 5 Euro per hour......) We made up the 15 minute delay bit by bit, but the online schedule didn't fix it until the last stop.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat Mar 10th, 2012 at 09:29:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The article in the SZ analyzes the data
Eine Auswertung der riesigen Datenbank fördert jetzt Erstaunliches zutage: Ausgerechnet auf den Hauptstrecken des ICE-Netzes sind die Verspätungen am größten.
and reaches the "surprising" conclusion that the main lines are the worst. I doubt this comes a surprise to anybody who has actually ridden the trains.....
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat Mar 10th, 2012 at 10:52:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
After a round of DB-bashing, an article in the SZ finally states the obvious: If you want the trains to be more reliable, you have to invest more. At the end, a comparison between investment per capita in Germany and Switzerland 308 vs. 53 Euro. Guess which is more reliable....
In diesem Punkt muss sich der Bund daher tatsächlich den Vergleich zur Schweiz gefallen lassen: Das Nachbarland steckt jährlich 308 Euro pro Einwohner in das Schienennetz. Hierzulande sind es gerade mal 53 Euro.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat Mar 10th, 2012 at 02:46:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A good commentary with all its other points, too. I will quibble and emphasize one of those:

So hat Japan etwa, genau wie Frankreich, ein eigenes Netz, auf dem nur Hochgeschwindigkeitszüge fahren - während die deutschen ICE-Züge sich ihre Gleise mit dem Regional- und Güterverkehr teilen.For instance, Japan, like France, has a separate network on which only high-speed trains run - while the German ICE trains share tracks with regional and freight services.

The comparison with Japan is good, though even there, the situation is not as clear-cut: on one hand, there are two lines (the Akita and Yamagata Shinkansens) which run partially on dual-gauge track, on the other hand, high-speed tracks ar used by services with different top speeds and numbers of stops. (Thus the punctuality difference vs. Germany has further differences as reasons, including investment levels.)

The comparison with France makes less sense. On actual newly built high-speed line sections in Germany, freight trains are separated in time of day, if allowed at all. This is not where delays come from, even if it is the difference vs. France (where freight trains aren't allowed at all on existing high-speed lines, though the soon to be in-construction Nîmes–Montpellier bypass will be an exception).

There is all-day track-sharing only on the upgraded/extra tracks lines (like the 250 km/h Cologne–Düren and Rastatt–Offenburg sections and the several 200 km/h sections). The problem is these, and conventional line sections between the ends of actual high-speed lines and stations, where long-ditance traffic doesn't have its own tracks. For example, a Hamburg–Munich run on the shortest route includes, among others,

  • the hyper-busy tracks across the Hamburg urban area;
  • the upgraded Hamburg-Harburg–Hanover line, which is also the main artery for freight to and from Hamburg's port;
  • the node of Hanover's main station, which represents a crossing with the Berlin-Ruhr Area corridor, but the south/east exit lacks flyovers;
  • the upgraded Würzburg–Nuremberg line, which is one of the busiest east-west connections;
  • the upgraded Ingolstadt–Munich line, which is again part of the main north-south freight artery.

Or there is the Hanover–Berlin "high-speed" line, of which only less than 60% is actually high-speed, the rest is upgraded existing lines shared with other traffic.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Mar 10th, 2012 at 04:38:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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