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Rail News Blogging #14

by DoDo Sat Jun 16th, 2012 at 07:19:59 AM EST

This week I have a bunch of news related to rail privatisation, one related to the BRT mirage, one on electrification in Denmark, and one on a new line in the Netherlands. I'll start with a story from Berlin.

In the drive to turn former state monopolist German Railways (DB) into a listed company, from the nineties, the separate suburban rapid transit (S-Bahn) network of Berlin got its own management, which achieved high operating margins by saving on ordered vehicles and on essential maintenance. Predictably, this resulted in accidents and in 2009 hundreds of vehicles were pulled from service for maintenance. This in turn resulted in a chaos in services with effects lasting to this day.

Berlin politicians were naturally fed up with DB. But the solution that was brought into play was to void the exclusive agreement with DB and tender the operation of at least some Berlin S-Bahn services (that is, the application of the privatisation model preferred for subsidized local rail across Europe, franchising). How this solves the basic problem of the profit focus and technology-ignorance of managers, I don't know. At any rate, the Grand Coalition (SPD + CDU) city government that emerged from the Berlin elections last September seemed favourable to the idea.

However, a change in the Berlin SPD now makes re-tendering less likely. This week the party booted the minister responsible for transport from the party chairman position, electing Jan Stöß from the left wing of the party instead. Stöß said that he wants to prevent the privatisation of the S-Bahn and wants to keep it in public responsibility.

Next is another pair of news related to DB, but moving on to the long-distance passenger market.

Back on 23 April, representatives of the Czech Republic and the German state of Bavaria met to sign a memorandum calling for the improvement of cross-border rail connections. This would be sorely needed, because there isn't a single electrified link along the common border. Yet another news five weeks later was the discontinuation of Nuremberg–Prague services at the end of this year...

Why the discontinuation? Presently, both long-distance routes across the Bavarian-Czech border (between Prague and Nuremberg resp. Munich) are served by the alex trains of "private" railway Vogtlandbahn, which is currently a subsidiary of Netinera, a company majority-owned by the Italian State Railways (FS). The services are franchises awarded in 2007. So what did DB do? On the Nuremberg–Prague route, they launched a competing long-distance... bus service. (Domestically, DB forcefully argues against the liberalisation of long-distance bus services, which is pursued by the neolib idiots in the federal government.)

The model the EU chose to "liberalise" long-distance passenger transport is not franchising but open access: ownership and operation of track and trains is separated, with competition of train services allowed on the same routes. As I reported, two of the biggest open-access ventures so far are Austria's WESTbahn and Italy's NTV, both of which prepared for launch with lots of conflict with the incumbent. But based on recent news, their success so far has been so-so.

WESTbahn's CEO was Klaus Wehinger, a former manager of the Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB). But Wehinger leaves his post at the end of this month, reportedly due to personal differences with the main shareholder and the disappointing performance of the company. WESTbahn launched its trains last December, and in the first half year, it was 20% below target, and now expects to stay in the red even at the end of the year. I suspect the reason is less in low passenger numbers than in the murderous price and legal war with ÖBB (which I reported in detail here).

Meanwhile, after long delays mostly related to the commissioning of its AGV high-speed trains, NTV launched its Milan–Naples services on 28 April. After four weeks, NTV reported a rather meagre seat occupancy of 41%. 95% of the services were less than 15 minutes late, 81% less than 5 minutes, though the chief culprit here is probably on the infrastructure side (for example traffic mess at the entrance of main stations). However, up to now, NTV operated only two daily pairs of trains, and plans to expand that significantly until the end of the year as its 25 AGV trains are delivered by Alstom. NTV is also marketing heavily: for example, they plastered the streets along the Giro d'Italia cycling race with the logo of their train brand ".Italo".

:: :: TRANSLOHR SALE :: ::

Light rail and metro are expensive to build and often require subsidies to operate, but both have the tendency to cause a lasting change in traffic patterns and public perceptions. The road vehicle lobby tries to confront this with schemes involving special buses, often called "bus rapid transit" (BRT), which are sold as being cheaper but having the same benefits. In truth, BRT usually means lower capacity and less attractive service with higher infrastructure maintenance costs.

In the USA, the promotion of BRT schemes is part of a loud campaign by anti-transit think-tanks which may sound bizarre for European ears. However, there are BRT schemes in Europe, too. In particular in France, where two technologies with vehicles most alike to trams have been tried. In January I reported that the pilot line with Bombardier's TVR system is to be replaced by normal light rail, having been a failure. Now the other system, TransLohr's (introduced here), looks to be in trouble, too. The company was severely behind schedule in delivering vehicles for Paris, resulting in compensation demands, so the company declared bankruptcy on 4 June. But Paris didn't want the extra costs of switching to normal light rail, so the company was saved by a takeover: Alstom and FSI bought it a week later.


On 12 June the new left-of-centre government of Denmark announced an investment programme to boost public transport, with a heavy emphasis on electrification schemes. My problem is that looking at the details for the heavy rail part, I see little more concrete than a re-packaging of what the previous government accepted in its last years already: the electrification of a newly constructed line, the line to the planned Fehmarn Belt fixed link to Germany, the shorter line to Esbjerg, and the purchase of electric multiple units. But, at least they show commitment to these goals.


In Belgium, the so-called Diabolo connection and a connected new line was inaugurated on 7 June. The new line (introduced here), which is built in the middle of a highway, doubles capacity on the route to the north of Brussels. The Diabolo connection, a PPP project, connects it to the existing rail station at the airport, turning the latter into a through station and creating the possibility of circular local services.


The Netherlands is the country in Europe with the highest population density and also has one of the the highest railway network densities, yet the country is about to finish another new conventional mainline. How come? Land Reclamation. In the fifties, north-east of Amsterdam, Eastern Flevoland was laid dry in the inland sea. It was initially served by a branchline. However, Eastern Flevoland offers a more direct route towards Groningen and other cities in the north-east, and such a connection would also relieve the busy eastern line from Amsterdam to Apeldoorn, Enschede and northern Germany. So that branchline gets an extension to Zwolle on the other shore, the Hanzelijn (Hanze Line, see below on map adapted from Thorsten Büker), while the existing line is upgraded.

The Hanzelijn, which is to open at the end of the year, is equipped with both the Dutch ATB-EG and the international ETCS Level 2 train protection systems, the latter for a top speed of 200 km/h. Recently, that speed was reached during the commissioning of the track with an ICE-3 high-speed train borrowed by infrastructure manager Prorail from DB.

In related news, Nomad tells me the Dutch government decided to migrate signalling on all lines to some version of ETCS in ten years. That makes the Netherlands the fifth country (after Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium and Luxembourg) to make this decision.

:: :: :: :: ::

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

It's poppy season.

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

by DoDo on Sat Jun 16th, 2012 at 06:39:02 AM EST
Well, the Danish government is still operating on what is for all intents and purposes the previous government's appropriations bill. With elections medio September, you just don't get to add nine- or ten-figure budget items to that year's appropriations. Particularly not when you have to coalition with an ALDE party that is thoroughly infested with quackonomists.

The interesting fight will be whether next year's budget expands the scope of the project, or the ALDE nutters manage to kill it in their quest for budgetary religious purity.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jun 16th, 2012 at 12:37:00 PM EST
What is the time scope of this DKr2.6 billion "investment plan"? From the Railway Gazette article, it would appear that it extends at least to 2017 (the end of a rolling stock procurement mentioned in the article).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 16th, 2012 at 02:02:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The 2.6 bn plan cover only the Esbjerg-Lunderskov electrification and the double-tracking of the Vamdrup-Vojens alignment, both of which have a target date of 2015 (it also says so in the Railway Gazette article you linked to in the diary), and an assortment of small fry like new stations. The target dates for the assorted small fry are not published in the press release I found, but they are all connected either to the big-ticket projects or to the realignment of the Danish hospital system, so their deadlines are going to be in the same neighbourhood.

Everything else I could find is either agreements made under the previous government, agreements on conducting preliminary studies or agreements on the principle that such expansions should be done at some unspecified future date.

But the latter are not completely cheap talk under the Danish parliamentary tradition. Basically, what we're seeing here is the gradual process of turning the previous government's vague grand design into an operational strategy. This is not unusual procedure for the Danish bureaucracy, and while perhaps slower than one would have wished it ensures that such projects have a certain staying power. It also means that for the next five or so years, you will not see anything in the way of "new-new" projects. What you will see is concrete allocation of funding of various parts of the projects and a firming of the time tables ("everything 'before 2020'" becomes "this bit by 2015, that bit by 2018, and everything else 'before 2020'").

The main impact of differing political priorities will be the rate at which funds are allocated, and the order in which parts of the project are completed. And, of course, the risk of parts or all of the project being scrapped.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Jun 16th, 2012 at 03:05:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The 2017 date was in this:

Other projects covered by the investment package include procurement of an additional 55 double-deck coaches in 2013-17 to expand the current fleet of 112 vehicles working push-pull commuter and services in Sjaelland...

BTW the article also makes a reference to the IC4 debacle and what was learnt from it. I'm not sure all lessons were learned (like not going for the cheapest offer without reasonable trust in the supplier).

Basically, what we're seeing here is the gradual process of turning the previous government's vague grand design into an operational strategy.

Good. And that beyond the current annual budget, if I am not mistaken.

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

by DoDo on Sat Jun 16th, 2012 at 06:26:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, they didn't learn all the lessons they needed to, but the particular point about not taking the cheapest offer is something that has been gradually percolating through the bureaucracy after a number of spectacular and widely-published cock-ups of that sort.

The plan does indeed go beyond the 2013-15 annual budgets, and the more concrete it becomes the greater the institutional inertia that will be working in its favour. Though of course nothing is completely certain until the actual budget is passed...

I couldn't find the double-deck coaches in the political agreement - that sounds like an internal DSB decision. I did find nearly DKK 1 bn in light rail, though.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Jun 17th, 2012 at 07:05:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I did find nearly DKK 1 2.2 bn in light rail, though.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Jun 17th, 2012 at 09:10:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You should do another round up of those projects from 2009 - it will be interesting to see the successes and failures in a single article.
by njh on Sat Jun 16th, 2012 at 06:31:03 PM EST
By success/failure, do you mean whether projects went ahead or not? I can give a quick run-down in a comment:

Iberian Peninsula:

  • The projects in Portugal were killed with the legal argument that the PPP awarding wasn't proper (but austerity and the new government1s ideological stance probably counted, too).
  • The lines in-construction in Galicia and between Madrid and Valencia opened on schedule, construction continues on the others in the south and north.
  • Of the line in-construction north of Barcelona, the cross-border section was put in service after all (with a link to the old line), but the rest suffered yet another delay (this time due to tendering complications for works around stations in Barcelona proper) and is now slated for Q3/2013.
  • Of the projects shown as planned on my 2009 map, the one definitely going ahead despite austerity is the Madric-Galicia connection.

  • LGV Rhin-Rhône, in construction in 2009, opened on schedule.
  • All of the projects shown on the 2009 map as about to be tendered have been tendered and started or are about to start construction.
  • The projects from Bordeaux to the Spanish border resp. Toulouse are chugging ahead, with the government having selected a route and now awaiting public consultation.

  • Two of the main projects shown (Vienna-St. Pölten, Unterinntalbahn) are on schedule for their opening in December this year. (Sommetime I should post a photo diary series on the old Vienna-St. Pölten line.)
  • On the third project, the Koralm line, the eastern section was partially opened on schedule in December 2010, and the boring of the Koralm Tunnel started on schedule in May 2010. Two years later the drilled & blasted section at the east end was holed through, work is on-going at the western end. The full line is now slated for 2023 only.
  • A project shown in 2009 as uncertain plan, the Semmering Base Tunnel, started construction just a few weeks ago, but is now scheduled to be finished in 2024 only.

  • The lines shown as in-construction are all on schedule for the planned openings indicated in 2009.
  • Of the lines shown as planned lines in 2009, only Stuttgart-Ulm progressed to the start of construction (a month or two ago), while the others are practically dead for now.

  • Sweden's Botniabanan is now in service.
  • Milan-Brescia (minus an already finished section) in Italy started construction a few weeks ago.
  • In Switzerland, due to good progress of works, the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel was brought forward a year to 2016 (they are niow constructing track inside the tunnel from both directions). The opening of the Ceneri base Tunnel was delayed a year to 2019, however (though I wouldn't be surprised to see that brought forward again after tunnel boring finished, too).

  • The line to Konya opened with some delay in August last year.
  • The lines to Istanbul and Sivas, in-construction in 2009 already, are now to be completed by 2014 resp. 2015.
  • Of the lines shown as planned, the shorter branch to Bursa was awarded at the end of last year (to be completed by 2015) and the (Ankara-)Polatli-Afyon(-Izmir) section was tendered.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 17th, 2012 at 10:59:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds like a reasonably positive status report - a lot of construction is on time or close.

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 18th, 2012 at 05:01:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the (Ankara-)Polatli-Afyon(-Izmir) section was tendered

...and just a week ago, awarded:

Ankara - Izmir high speed line contract signed - Railway Gazette

TURKEY: A contract for the construction of the first stage of a planned Ankara - Izmir line suitable for 250 km/h running was signed by Minister of Transport Binali Yildirim and a consortium of Sigma, Burkay, Makimsan and YDA on June 11.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jun 19th, 2012 at 05:06:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So now that Diabolo is in, what does it do for travel times Brussels-Antwerp and Thalys?

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sat Jun 16th, 2012 at 09:08:19 PM EST
L25N is 17.6 km long, and as far as I can see top speed is 160 km/h now, so I didn't expect a lot of time gains. Yet, on the Thalys, four minutes were cut, from 39 to 35. They used it to add a two-minute buffer time to Paris-Brussels times, a one-minute buffer to the Antwerp-Rotterdam time, and also extended the stopping time in Antwerp by one minute. There is no time gain on Brussels-Antwerp IC trains, but the new direct trains between Antwerp and Brussels airport cut at least 20 minutes.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 17th, 2012 at 09:15:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A significant part of the plot of The Riddle of the Sands (Erskine Childers, 1903) is about train schedules in the area of Germany adjacent to the Netherlands. It's interesting to read about new mainline construction in that general area considering that there was a pretty comprehensive network of rail links there a century ago.

Of course, I've never been to that neck of the woods--and certainly not in 1903--so maybe I have the story completely mixed up...

by asdf on Sat Jun 16th, 2012 at 10:36:38 PM EST
Also I wonder why it is that separating the ownership of the track infrastructure from the train operations is always so troublesome. It seems to be pretty much the same as what the auto enthusiasts are telling us is the future of highways, with networked car controlling systems, traffic metering, etc.

What is so hard about running standardized trains on a standardized rail network? I know we can't manage to do it over here, but our bone-headedness isn't much of an excuse...

by asdf on Sat Jun 16th, 2012 at 10:38:49 PM EST
DoDo can comment better on the technical details, but the economics of open access discourage investment in and maintenance of the infrastructure that competitors can piggy-back on.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Jun 17th, 2012 at 07:09:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know how much it factors in, but highways has a tradition of being payed by the government as a seperate item, while tracks has a tradition of being payed partly by the government ad partly by passengers as a bundled item together with traffic. I once read a Swedish text from the 70ies arguing that if the price structure was pushing goods from rail to roads because the (then national) rail company had to cover the costs of the tracks too, while the lorry companies only paid for the trucks and gas.

So to make the comparision equivalent, the onwer of the tracks shoould be the government and must take the full costs of maintaining the system, that is it should charge only congestion fees. In parctise I suspect this means a much bigger rail budget.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Jun 17th, 2012 at 09:24:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, to make the comparison equivalent, the owner of the tracks should be the government, it must take the full cost of maintenance and must expand to meet forecasted demand, and then charge only the administrative overhead of running the scheduling system.

Because that's how we do with highways.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Jun 17th, 2012 at 09:38:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To further improve the analogy, tucks as well as passenger cars and buses on highways should be made to run on schedule and be fitted with collision protection and automatic speed restriction.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 17th, 2012 at 11:02:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And drivers should have to pay for their use of the highways, with steep discounts if they book their use of a certain stretch 3 months ahead of time.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Jun 18th, 2012 at 02:11:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In The Dawn Of Open Access (1/2), I wrote on unbundling in combination with franchising:

This model can certainly increase the total number of rail passengers, however, transfers become more problematic, branch lines are abandoned in advance of franchising, and the costs for taxpayers do not decrease but increase. Due to unbundling, train operators seek to externalise costs to the (still state-owned) infrastructure manager.

...and on unbundling and open access:

You can't run a railway like a highway completely, given signalling (see 310 km/h with ETCS) and the resulting need to run by schedule, so the means were created to organise trains into timetable slots ("train paths"). Train paths are sold at fixed rates ("track access charges")...

I won't quote the passages on (negative) experience with open access in railfreight in full, just list point-wise without detailed explanation:

  • less profitable business was gotten rid off in advance & not much was gained back by startups
  • new market players died out/showed risk aversion
  • train paths needed the creation of a new bureaucracy
  • track access charges are subject to incumbent-new entrant blame games and pushing of externalities (the point JakeS raised, which is one of, if not the most important problem)
  • rolling stock commissioning is difficult (wholly standardized railways are far, far away)
  • ownership & management of maintenance facilities is necessarily less effective
  • distributed responsibilities lower safety
  • pressure on labour, which also lowers safety

As for open access in long-distance passenger transport, extra issues also in short form:
  • access to station facilities
  • with train paths the issue is not just getting them but getting favourable ones (travel time, connecting services)
  • competitive new entrants focus on the busiest lines, which has repercussions on the rest of the network of the incumbent

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 17th, 2012 at 11:22:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I though other issues with open access freight operators was access to terminal facilities and effectively to customers. How would an open access operator handle anything but a block train? How would they access an intermodal terminal?
by Jace on Mon Jun 18th, 2012 at 04:47:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Terminals are supposed to operate in open-access mode, but indeed that's a conflict potential, too. In particular in Poland, where new entrants are accusing incumbent PKP of blocking them by demanding unreasonably long buffer times and high charges for the use of their terminals.

An open access operator could also handle wagonload traffic, and there are examples on branchlines and industrial connections abandoned by the freight branch of the incumbent, but of course these aren't much profitable (nor are they an example of competition).

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

by DoDo on Tue Jun 19th, 2012 at 01:36:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Terminals are supposed to operate in open-access mode

The relevant passage in the Second Railway Package (2004/51/EC):

Track access to, and supply of services in, the terminals
and ports linked to rail activities referred to in paragraphs 1, 2 and 3, serving or potentially serving more than one final customer, shall be provided to all railway undertakings in a non-discriminatory and transparent manner and requests by railway undertakings may be subject to restrictions only if viable alternatives by rail under market conditions exist.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jun 19th, 2012 at 03:55:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another question is, why is light rail so expensive? There has been (hopelessly futile) discussion here in Colorado Springs about putting in a streetcar system. You would think it would be the easiest thing in the world to do it--the street configurations and grades are the same as they were 100 years ago when we had such a system, the automobile traffic density is low. All you would have to do is buy some pre-assembled track sections and drop them onto the pavement. Add some overhead wires and you're done. Why does it cost $15M to put in a mile of track on an existing grade?
by asdf on Sat Jun 16th, 2012 at 10:43:47 PM EST
I don't think you have pavement that can support even light rail. You'll have to tear it up and lay a proper support.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 17th, 2012 at 09:19:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Once upon a time it was done on mud...

What about the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LR55_system#LR55_rail system?  It seems very efficient.

by njh on Sun Jun 17th, 2012 at 01:00:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
$15M per mile is actually pretty good, compared to what other cities in the US have paid or are going to pay.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sun Jun 17th, 2012 at 01:48:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another question is, why is light rail so expensive?

Simple answer: because it's a democracy. Project opposition is given a voice and will effectively have to be paid off. Opposition can be due to noise, vibration, visual obstructions, construction impacts...you name it.

Additional answer: because the feds typically provide capital but not operating subsidies. Agencies tend to overbuild to minimize later operating cost (maintenance) requirements.

by Jace on Mon Jun 18th, 2012 at 04:39:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the political agreement I quoted upthread, it says that the Danish railways estimate an optimal maintenance investment of DKK 5½-6 bn over the next eight years (call it € 100 mil per year). Reading between the lines, it seems that the politicians didn't like that number - they wanted a mulligan on the estimate.

I have no idea of what a proper maintenance budget would look like for Denmark, so I can't say if € 100 mil a year is a lot, in the right ballpark or not nearly enough. Of note is that from 2007 through to 2014 there has been a major overhaul of the worst maintained track sections (tracks going bust under moving passenger trains tends to focus the mind wonderfully on the gainful aspects of proper maintenance). Of note is also that this did not (and will not, in the time remaining) completely eliminate the backlog of deferred maintenance.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Jun 17th, 2012 at 09:19:07 AM EST
Well the powers that be struck back...

Berlin S-Bahn split to go ahead - Railway Gazette

GERMANY: Meeting on June 19, the Berlin Senate voted to push ahead with controversial proposals to split the city's S-Bahn network into three separate businesses in order to introduce competition when tendering the next round of operating concessions.

Bids are expected to be called later this month for a 15-year concession, which will start when DB Regio's current contract ends in 2017.

The Senate backed the proposal put forward by Michael Müller, the SDP Senator responsible for Urban Development, even though the city's parliament had favoured awarding a single €3bn concession to run the 331 km S-Bahn network...

The message of the Berlin SPD leadership to party base: fuck you. (Again, that Michael Müller was just booted from the position of Berlin SPD chairman.)

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

by DoDo on Wed Jun 20th, 2012 at 04:07:58 AM EST
Does this imply that voters will move to the Greens or Die Linke?
by Wilfred on Wed Jun 20th, 2012 at 09:44:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Surely not the Greens, who regrettably have been sold the idea that privatisation solves every problem of rail years ago. Whether it influences voters may depend on how much noise a citizens' initiative will make. And not all is lost: the city government bypassed the city parliament in launching the tendering, but it cannot bypass it in the granting of the money to the tender winner, which one can expect to be up for vote in 2014. Though, that may be too long a time for the current Berlin SPD majority to survive...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jun 20th, 2012 at 03:16:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In related news, Nomad tells me the Dutch government decided to migrate signalling on all lines to some version of ETCS in ten years. That makes the Netherlands the fifth country (after Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium and Luxembourg) to make this decision.
Perhaps it is instructive to mention that this only happened after there was an accident because the 50 years old system wasn't implemented properly leading to a train accident and one death. There have been more accidents, but those didn't involve deaths.
by Wilfred on Wed Jun 20th, 2012 at 09:47:20 AM EST
Meanwhile, the Schwebebahn is installing ETCS. Is this really needed? There's only one track, and you can see pretty much everything that's in front of you. The only thing you can't see is what is up there on top of the track, and I don't see how ETCS will help with that.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Jun 20th, 2012 at 09:52:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, there are two tracks, and 60 km/h is too fast to trust operation by sight. I had a hunch that they use ETCS because the existing signalling system has aged, but after checking, I see there could be an additional reason. The existing system only allows three-minute headways, with most blocks (signal intervals) being the section from one station to the next. So a new system with shorter blocks (scaled to the braking distances of the new trains) and the two-minute headways mentioned in the Wiki article could allow for a higher train frequency.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jun 20th, 2012 at 03:31:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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