Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Rail News Blogging #12

by DoDo Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 09:11:31 AM EST

This week's themes: litter in Zurich, UK electrification escapes austerity, monorail swansong in Sydney.

Railway Gazette: Waging war on litter

SWITZERLAND: Three days' worth of litter was collected by staff at Zürich Hauptbahnhof and put on public display to mark the launch of SBB's campaign to keep the network tidy.

Railway Gazette: Amey awarded Great Western electrification contract

UK: Network Rail has awarded Amey a five-year contract to install 25 kV 50 Hz electrification on the Great Western Main Line. The contract covers the line from Maidenhead near London to Bristol and Cardiff, along with the routes to Newbury and Oxford.

Announcing the contract on March 26, Amey put the value of the electrification works at £700m. Electrification forms just part of a comprehensive route upgrade, which includes resignalling with ETCS and a major remodelling of the Reading station area.

Britain (along with Denmark) was the big sceptic of rail electrification in Europe, then privatisation stopped the slow expansion of overhead wires completely. It was to the credit of the transport minister in Gordon Brown's Labour government, Lord Adonis, that electrification was re-launched with a strategic mindset and in complete state control (see Britain leads the way...). Surprisingly, the next government, that is David Cameron's current pro-austerity Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition, didn't stop the programme, nor did it try to cram PPP schemes into it, only changed priorities between individual projects. The first construction contracts were granted last autumn (see Rail News Blogging #3), but this one is the biggest project, and thus the biggest financial commitment. It is still not without inconsistencies, though: electrification of the Cardiff-Swansea section in Wales was saved, forcing either a change of trains or the use of more expensive and less energy-efficient hybrid trains.

Railway Gazette: Sydney monorail to be scrapped

AUSTRALIA: The New South Wales government announced on March 23 that it had paid A$19·8m to acquire light rail and monorail owner Metro Transport Sydney, clearing the way for the monorail to be removed to accommodate the new Sydney International Convention Exhibition & Entertainment Precinct. The deal will also simplify contractual arrangements for planned expansion of the city's light rail network.

...State Premier Barry O'Farrell said the 3·6 km monorail loop had 'never been truly embraced by the community' since opening in 1988; 54% of its 3 million riders a year are visitors to the city. Now it is reaching the end of its economic life, and the government 'cannot justify costly upgrades like the purchase of new vehicles required to keep it running.'

This development has a symbolic importance for a trend we are less familiar with in Europe: faced with the costs and complexity of building a proper fixed-guideway public transport system from scratch, many a city council in the recent past opted for something flashy and futuristic instead. There are successful monorails in the world, but, as in Sydney, if a real system emerges around it, there is still the issue of network integration. So Sydney is replacing its monorail with a boring standard light rail.

:: :: :: :: ::

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

Updates corner for recent news:

Railway Gazette: ETCS Level 2 on test in Madrid

SPAIN: The start of trials of ETCS Level 2 on the cross-city tunnel between Atocha, Sol and Chamartín in Madrid was marked on March 26 when Development Minister Ana Pastor travelled by train from Tres Cantos to Sol. According to the ministry, this is the first application of ETCS Level 2 on a suburban network in Europe.

The same line was commissioned with ETCS L1 just a month ago, which was a first too (see Rail News Blogging #9).

Railway Gazette: SJ to replace DSB in Göteborg

SWEDEN: An agreement has been reached for Swedish national passenger operator SJ to succeed DSB Väst as operator of Göteborg local and regional services from May 1, DSB announced on March 30.

DSB's withdrawal, and the whole history of DSB's Swedish operations as a case study of the ills of rail privatisation by the franchising model, was covered in Rail News Blogging #11.

Railway Gazette: Italo to launch on April 28

ITALY: Open access high speed trains will begun running between Napoli and Milano on April 28, operator NTV confirmed on March 30. The company says its investment of €1bn will offer passengers `the first choice of who they travel with' over the country's high speed network.

...Fares and timetables will be announced on April 12, when tickets for the first services will go on sale...

NTV's delays, and the potential negative overall effect open-access competition on inter-city passenger rail in Italy, was also covered in Rail News Blogging #11.

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

by DoDo on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 09:15:10 AM EST
I lived right next to the monorail station for a while and never had the urge to use it.  The competing light rail was just easier to get on, cost less and went faster.

Monorails are fundamentally an attempt to make things better for cars (avoid congestion) in return for worse for peds (have to climb stairs, cramped vehicles, can't easily see shop fronts).  People aren't stupid and choose the ped friendly option every time (the light rail is very popular).  And monorails have terrible points compared with twin rail system which means that you're generally limited to loops or shuttles.

It's also interesting how quickly the vehicles aged - there are 1920s era trams operating in Melbourne and San Francisco, for example.  The Seattle monorail has aged better, probably because of its connection to the futurist space needle.

by njh on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 12:31:00 PM EST
More than 110 years old.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 01:29:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you look at the top right hand corner from around 0:40 onwards, there's a hovering bird that appears to be transfixed in flight.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 01:48:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The visual perspicacity of ET is beyond compare.

That is in fact the all-seeing eagle of the Tree of Peace, on loan from the Mohawk Cultural Society, who appears whenever there's a chance the Wuppertaler SV can escape up to the Dritte Liga.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 02:05:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the explanation.

For a minute there, I thought something weird and uncanny was happening.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 02:19:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
didn't want you to think that a swinging floor causes hallucinations.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 02:37:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
to get a historical perspective, check out beginning 4:00. Auf Deutsch, but the visuals explain all. You'll see the original Kaiserswagen, which the Kaiser (not Beckenbauer, the real one) and his wife used 111 years ago. You can rent it today for weddings, bier basches, and Tom Tykwer films.

Of course, deciduous readers of ET are already familiar with the world famous high jumper, Tuffi.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 01:50:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmmm electrification terminates at cardiff,  if only the trains didn't terminate at Swansea...

To go further than that, the trains have to reverse out of the station and head out on a different line. but sensibly you'd think that electrification would need to expand all the way to Fishguard, to bring the Irish ferries as the terminus

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Apr 1st, 2012 at 02:35:17 PM EST
Renationalising British Railways Could Save Taxpayers £1.2 Billion A Year, Study Says

Renationalising the railways could save the taxpayer £1.2 billion a year, according to a union-commissioned study.

The report - for Aslef, the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association and Unite - said savings could be achieved through cheaper borrowing costs, removing shareholders' dividends and reducing fragmentation.

The study, by the Transport for Quality of Life think tank, said £300 million alone could be saved by taking train operating companies into public ownership.

A survey of 2,000 people as part of the research found that 71% believed privatised train companies were more concerned with making profits than providing affordable fares and a decent service for passengers. Only 19% believed that the railways should remain in private hands.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 02:14:39 PM EST
Heh. Like the point of privatisation was ever about saving taxpayer cash.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 2nd, 2012 at 02:44:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Automatic train operation already in 1969 who would've thought?

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Tue Apr 3rd, 2012 at 08:14:20 PM EST
Thanks for sharing that, looks like a great series!
by njh on Wed Apr 4th, 2012 at 10:17:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It must be really galling for the Swiss to have to put up with all those slovenly foreigners leaving litter all over the place.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 5th, 2012 at 03:31:48 AM EST
Do you mean the dirty money in banks?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 5th, 2012 at 03:34:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]

Top Diaries