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Rail News Blogging #15

by DoDo Mon Jul 23rd, 2012 at 06:11:49 AM EST

After some hiatus, I'll report on Bologna's new cross-city link, examples of centralised traffic control in Bulgaria, Switzerland and Australia, the happy ending of a tussle over listed bridges in Germany, Shinkansen extensions; and before all of those: further electrification in Britain.

Electrification programme central to UK government's £9·4bn rail strategy - Railway Gazette

A rolling programme of electrification is at the centre of the High Level Output Specification which sets out the government's strategic plans for rail investment in 2014-19.

...It includes £5·2bn of schemes which are already committed, including Crossrail, Thameslink and electrification of the London - Cardiff, Manchester - Liverpool/Preston, and Manchester - York routes.

New schemes totalling £4·2bn envisage the electrification of the Midland Main Line as part of a high-capacity 'electric spine' passenger and freight route from Yorkshire and the West Midlands to Southampton.

...The government hopes this will encourage private investment in electric freight locomotives. Completion will enable further electrification in the 2019-24 Control Period 6.

The re-launch of electrification in Britain was originally a tentative plan by infrastructure manager Network Rail, which was then seized upon and pushed by Lord Adonis, transport minister of the previous, Labour government. I feared that the Tories would kill it, but fortunately they didn't, there was only a change in priority between individual projects. The HLOS now goes beyond that to a surprising extent:

  • it put the Midland Main Line (a priority in the original NR study but put on back-burner already under Adonis) back on the agenda;
  • the planned end of the overhead line into Wales was restored to Swansea (the new government first cut it back to Cardiff);
  • there are new projects in south and central England, including even a replacement of third rail electrification with overhead line.

The note about encouraging investment in electric freight locomotives in particular gives the (unexpected) appearance of an actual strategy that deserves its name (they must have looked at developments in the rest of Europe). Then again, nothing is final until financing is approved.


Bologna tunnel boosts speed and capacity - Railway Gazette

ITALY: A 17·8 km link connecting the Bologna - Firenze and Bologna - Milano high speed lines was brought into service in June. It includes a tunnel under Bologna which allows high speed services which do not stop in the city to run through at speed.

The link has been built to separate high speed trains from local services, with the aim of cutting journey times and improving service reliability.

It will also free capacity on the surface lines to enable the development of a network of commuter services operating at 15 or 30 min headways within a 30 km radius of the city and serving 13 new stations.

Italy's existing high-speed lines line up in a giant question mark from Turin to Salerno (SW of Naples) (see Delays come to an end). This link in Bologna is one of four on-going projects to connect or complement the lines with separate tracks in urban areas (the others being in Turin, Florence and Naples; while Milan and Rome are more or less done).

While the Bologna link shaved four minutes from the schedule of through trains, I hazard to guess that a reduction of lateness will be the more significant effect. The article also mentions the new underground level of Bologna's central station on the 10 km tunnel section of the link, which is to open in December, when services stopping in Bologna will switch to the new link, too. From what I could find, the cost of the entire Bologna project (with station reconstruction etc.) was €1.4 billion – although Italy is notorious for excessively high construction costs, this is less than the budget of in-construction (Stuttgart) or abandoned (Munich, Frankfurt) urban crossing projects in Germany.


Plovdiv - Svilengrad integrated control centre opens - Railway Gazette

BULGARIA: A centralised traffic control centre has been opened in Plovdiv, marking the latest stage in the long-running modernisation of the main line to Svilengrad, close to the Turkish border.

This connects to the recent discussion on the rail corridor across Romania and Bulgaria towards Turkey, which is in bad shape but in a state of slow but on-going modernisation. Also check rail maps.

Swiss start work on fourth control centre - Railway Gazette

SWITZERLAND: The foundation stone for SBB's new Central Region control centre at Olten was officially laid on July 5, although preparatory work has been underway since last October...

...Described by Stehrenberger as `a quantum leap in managing train operations', BZ Mitte will house around 350 staff, bringing under one roof activities that are currently dispersed across more than 100 locations. He expects this to improve both day-to-day performance and the co-ordinating the response to any incidents.

The new centre at Olten is one of four which will manage all operations across the SBB network from 2016. BZ West in Lausanne went into service in May 2010, followed by BZ Ost at Zürich Flughafen which was inaugurated in December of that year. BZ Süd is now under construction at Pollegio, and is expected to open in 2013 in readiness for the start of test operations in the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

The centralisation of train dispatching on the entire network of a European national railway is indeed a quantum leap. The steps in centralising train control:

  1. automatic block signalling on mainlines: no human omission (by signalmen at block signals) will hold up traffic between stations any more
  2. central dispatching of a line: human omission won't hold up traffic in stations, either, and train overtakings or traffic under restrictions (f.e. due to an accident) can be planned (like air traffic control)
  3. central dispatching of a network: it is now easy to re-route trains or launch supplemental trains

SBB's project combines steps 2 (for some routes) and 3.

Rio Tinto automation contract confirmed - Railway Gazette

AUSTRALIA: Train operations on Rio Tinto's heavy haul iron ore railways in the Pilbara are to be fully automated by 2015 under two contracts announced on July 6...

At present automation (which presupposes centralised traffic control) is becoming an option for isolated networks with more or less uniform rolling stock (peoplemovers, metro lines and now mining railways).


Pegnitztal: Stahlbrücken müssen nicht Betonbrücken weichen- Nachrichten bei Eurailpress Pegnitz Valley: Steel bridges do not need to make way for concrete bridges - News at Eurailpress
Im Pegnitztal bei Nürnberg wird die Deutsche Bahn nicht wie bisher geplant die unter Denkmalschutz stehenden historischen Stahlbrücken durch Betonbrücken ersetzen.German Railways DB will not replace the listed historic steel bridges in the Pegnitz Valley [between Nuremberg and Bayreuth] with concrete bridges.
Der Konzern hatte nach Einwänden des Denkmalschutzamtes zu Beginn des Jahres ein neues Gutachten in Auftrag gegeben. Erste Erkenntnisse nach der Überprüfung von vier Brücken würden nun daraufhin deuten, dass ein schneller Neubau der über 100 Jahre alten Bahnbrücken möglicherweise nicht unmittelbar zwingend sei, so der Konzern. Nun sollen alle 23 Brücken ,,einzeln und intensiv" untersucht werden.After objections from the Office For The Protection of Listed Monuments, the company commissioned a new report at the beginning of the year. Initial findings following a checking of four bridges now suggest that a rapid replacement of the more than 100 years old railway bridges may not be necessary immediately, according to the company. Now all 23 bridges are to be investigated "separately and intensively".

There is a twin back-story here. One is that the technical basis for the replacement of the bridges was an outdated model of the ageing of steel bridges, while newer models recognising load relocation (requiring detailed measurements but used to extend bridge life) were already well-known. The other is that DB has a history of cashing in on subsidies with excessive design costs and overbuild while playing tone-deaf in face of criticism from the public sphere. In this particular case, the monitoring & maintenance of the listed bridges would be much cheaper than replacement, and there have been loud protests for months. So I'm quite positively surprised that DB could be moved in the right direction.


Three Shinkansen extensions approved - Railway Gazette

JAPAN: Three more extensions to the country's expanding high speed rail network have been authorised for construction by the government, under a programme which includes the first commercial application of gauge-changing trainsets which have been under development for the past decade.

...High speed trains are expected to reach the northern island in 2015, with completion of the link between the Tohoku Shinkansen at Shin-Aomori and Hakodate via mixed-gauge track in the Seikan Tunnel. The 211 km Hokkaido Shinkansen to Sapporo, serving intermediate stations at Shin-Yakumo, Oshamanbe, Kucchian, and Shin-Otaru, is expected to be completed by 2035, offering a journey time of around 5 h.

The 125·2 km extension of the Hokuriku Shinkansen along the coast of Honshu from Kanazwa to Tsuruga is to be completed by 2024...

The third project to be authorised is a further section of the Kyushu Shinkansen's western branch to Nagasaki ... which is to be completed by 2022...

All of these projects are long-planned but have been delayed repeatedly by austerity. Of particular interest is the Seikan Tunnel, which is still the world's longest rail tunnel (until 2016). Its construction was launched in 1971 with the goal to complete it by 1978 and run the Shinkansen through it. Instead, it was completed in 1988, then fitted with narrow-gauge tracks, as the Shinkansen didn't get anywhere near it until 2010, and will now first race through it with a 37-year delay.

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

Speaking of listed bridges, here is a siggle freight train on two of them – the Kalte-Rinne-Viadukt (184 m long, 46 m high) and the Krausel-Klause-Viadukt (87 m long; 36 m high) on the Semmering line in Austria:

The weather wasn't kind to my camera; but here is the Kalte-Rinne-Viadukt again in slightly better lights, with a railjet:

Related news: this past week, ÖBB completed the replacement of normal IC trains with railjets on the line from Vienna south to Graz. This is not a line for any high speeds, so the move is supposed to raise passenger comfort; though I preferred the old coaches, especially those with two facing rows of seats in separate compartments.

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

by DoDo on Sun Jul 22nd, 2012 at 06:17:12 AM EST
And railjets now have free Wi-Fi, as this post proves.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Jul 22nd, 2012 at 07:57:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It should be noted that the re-prioritisation of the electrification of the Midland mainline to Sheffield may well be seen as a bone thrown to Nick Clegg, who represents constituency in Sheffield

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Jul 22nd, 2012 at 08:57:45 AM EST
National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers (RMT): Electric trains to cut UK travel times

Millions of passengers on some of Britain's busiest rail routes will on Thursday be offered the prospect of faster, more reliable and cleaner journeys when the government unveils plans for major electrification for the first time since rail privatisation.

Routes between London and Swansea will be the first to be electrified since 1991. The main Liverpool to Manchester route, the world's first inter-city railway, will also be converted.

For a link to a diagram.

the Sheffield and Cardiff lines are the only two main lines from London still to be electrified, and you would think that those two lines are the logical ones to do next.

As for the change from ending electrification in Wales at Swansea from ending it to cardif, you have to ask what madman decided to stop it in Cardiff originally. The main line actually terminates at Swansea, with trains heading further then reversing out to head further into the wilds. Swansea is the logical place to finish, with a possible extension all the way to the ferry port and thence to Ireland.

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 Jul 22nd, 2012 at 10:51:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It would actually make more sense to build a new station on the main through line and close the current station entirely. A look at google maps suggests there's plenty of space in which to do this.

As much of Swansea is now north of the line as south and so would help re-balance traffic flows away from the crowded sea front "centre".

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Jul 22nd, 2012 at 11:33:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
speaking as an ex sort of local, themain people who would enjoy that would be the Taxi drivers. Plus although you have a lot of apparentlywide open spaces, Swansea is relatively lumpy, and the number of places you can put a station are actually quite limited.

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 Jul 22nd, 2012 at 12:19:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, anything can be done if the will is there. Question is; do they believe in the redemptive power of electrification to raise Swansea away from being a dead end dump ?

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Jul 22nd, 2012 at 01:24:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
oh there are dead end dumps way beyond Swansea

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 Jul 22nd, 2012 at 02:42:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fer sure, but for such a sizable town, it sure is dead

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Jul 22nd, 2012 at 03:46:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
thats because all the wildness is off in the hills beyond :)

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 Jul 22nd, 2012 at 07:44:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
you have to ask what madman decided to stop it in Cardiff originally

The original Network Rail plan had the entire London-Swansea section as priority project. Adonis's version broke the project into two phases, London-Bristol and Bristol-Swansea. The Coalition government modification was to extend the first phase to Cardiff and forget about a second phase. I guess some idiot thought that they can pretend to do more than the previous government on the cheap, and Swansea can then be reached with hybrid trains. Now they are effectively restoring a two-phase implementation, because the works for the London-Cardiff section were contracted already.

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

by DoDo on Sun Jul 22nd, 2012 at 02:01:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Definitely a bone for Clegg, don't know if it will save him when the election comes, but despite all the politicking it's a good thing for the country to have a better line North from London to Sheffield.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sun Jul 22nd, 2012 at 12:12:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If it is a bone to Clegg, then it is a rather large bone: the entire 'electric spine' project would create a freight corridor starting in Southampton and bypassing London via Oxford, about as long as the Midland Main Line project itself.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jul 22nd, 2012 at 01:55:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
they could electrify Harwich and Felixstowe to Peterborough while they're at it

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Jul 22nd, 2012 at 03:45:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
like any cross country lines are going to be improved. If London or Manchester isn't on one end, it's lost

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 Jul 22nd, 2012 at 07:45:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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