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Rail News Blogging #22

by DoDo Tue Mar 26th, 2013 at 09:54:09 AM EST

Concluding the round-up of news since December, this time, the themes are financing, new rolling stock with technological novelties, the use of renewables, and various conflicts and problems.

Let's start with financing. London is currently building Crossrail, a new rapid transit system with an east–west tunnelled central artery which shall create a faster connection between suburban networks into various terminus stations and relieve parallel Underground lines (comparable to Paris's RER but integrated with existing services with less consequence). Crossrail services are to be operated with new trains, altogether 600 cars. The sizeable price tag of £1 billion was seen as an opportunity to launch another experiment into the involvement of private capital: last year the UK government initiated a procurement scheme in which train manufacturers were to finance the trains themselves and then let operator Transport for London lease them. But, as was often the case with PPP infrastructure projects, private investors faced risk premiums and had greater difficulty gathering capital on financial markets, leading to delays. Then on 1 March, amazingly, the government pulled the plug on the idea and reverted to procurement from public sources only, openly admitting that this method ensures speedier delivery (my emphasis):

The Government, the Mayor of London and Transport for London have today announced a move to a fully publicly funded procurement for the delivery of the new fleet of trains and maintenance facilities for Crossrail thereby helping to ensure that passenger services can open as scheduled in late 2018. This change was proposed by the Mayor of London and agreed by the Secretary of State, Patrick McLoughlin.

Sometimes Boris Johnson makes sense.



On the same day in Denmark, the left-of-centre government decided to tap into the Danish North Sea Fund to finance its growing list of rail infrastructure projects (see RNB14). The sum available until 2015 is about €3.7 billion. (The Danish North Sea Fund was set up based on Norway's model in 2005.)


Belgium awarded further construction contracts for the Mechelen Bypass project. As I wrote in The EU's emerging high-speed networkS, Belgium originally opted against a high-speed line between Brussels and Antwerp because time savings wouldn't justify it, but then still built a 17 km new line from Brussels to the outskirts of Mechelen for capacity reasons (which opened June last year, see RNB14). The Mechelen Bypass project will extend this across Mechelen by adding two new 160 km/h through tracks alongside existing tracks (thus all it truly bypasses will be the station platforms, not the city).

The reason I bring this as financing news becomes apparent if you look at the project map. The new tracks are only a part of a bigger project which includes station reconstruction and road re-arrangement. The last part creates faster road connections across the city, including a tunnel right under the new rail tracks. In other words, this looks like an example of a cross-subsidy where, to add insult to injury, a rail project also serves as the green-washing of a road project. (It's not the first.)


There is a news from Hungary which made international news:

THE Hungarian government has given the go-ahead for a long-discussed project to build a 113km freight line between Tatabánya and Cegléd, by-passing Budapest. This would be the biggest new railway construction in the country since 1912.

...Funding for the project is most likely to come from European Union funds, and if secured, construction could begin in 2017 with the line taking three years to build.

However, a recent €1bn cooperation agreement between the Hungarian government and the China Development Bank (CDB) might be used [as] an alternative source for financing construction. If the government decides to proceed with this option, construction could start as early as 2014 and be completed in 2017. Chinese investment was expected to fund the proposed Budapest airport railway. However, with the demise of Hungarian national air carrier MALÉV in spring 2012, this has been dropped from the agenda in favour of the Tatabánya - Cegléd line and possibly a high-speed connection from Budapest to Belgrade.

This news is worth to dwell on from three viewpoints: transport planning, Chinese foreign investment and an EU member's use of non-Western foreign investment.

  • The bulk of rail transit traffic across Hungary crosses the Danube on a bridge in southern Budapest, a bridge that is a 'temporary' post-war construction which should have been replaced and widened to three tracks decades ago. Thus a freight bypass of Budapest would make eminent sense from a capacity viewpoint. Indeed I first heard of the project in the late eighties from my late grandfather, who retired from the rail industry. Of course, with austerity kicking in and East Bloc trade collapsing after the system change and the glorious start of capitalism, the project was buried for good in the nineties.

  • China is (1) awash with money due to its export economy and low wages, (2) hungry for natural resources to supply its industry, and (3) has a large rail construction industry which would suffer once the current frenzied rate of construction inevitably subsides. To mitigate all three of these problems, in the last few years, China began to offer both capital and expertise for rail projects all across the developing world, primarily but not exclusively for mining railways (also see RNB7 and RNB8 from a year ago). A contribution to this project in Hungary would only extend the trend into the EU. However, common to all these projects is high political and/or economic risk, and most have been drawn out or scrapped after either the Chinese or the other side balked at the necessary guarantees.

  • For Hungary, involving Chinese capital in rail projects is part of a broader policy: Viktor Orbán's government is seeking financing from sources other than the EU or IMF. So far this involved the quite unabashed lobbying of the autocratic regimes of East Europe and Asia (for example, they lobbied Azerbaijan by handing over an axe-murderer convicted for the murder of an Armenian co-student in Hungary in his sleep, who was promptly pardoned and given a hero's welcome by the Aliyev regime). Just like Cyprus's attempt to get Russia involved, the Orbán government's policy saw meagre success: the hoped-for lenders either saw investment as too risky or asked for even higher interest rates than Western lenders. That's one major reason why I am quite sceptical about the Budapest freight bypass becoming reality any time soon, with or without Chinese capital.


Speaking of China, the rail sector there is due for another sea change. In China, the operation and development of railways is entirely in the control of the Ministry of Railways (MOR). However, in 2011, the construction contract scandals and the Wenzhou accident (a result of irresponsible development of technology) highlighted the problem that the rail administration controls itself. So last week, China announced that MOR will be replaced by a new structure, one more reminiscent of Europe a few years ago: there will be a corporation for the daily operation of the system and the ownership of construction projects, and there will be an independent authority under the transport ministry to oversee the former and also to give strategic long-term planning. This is all great, but they also expressed hope that the corporation could attract private capital. If they think Europe is an example to follow in that respect, they haven't looked closely.


New rolling stock

As discussed in my mini-series on modern electric and diesel locos in Europe, this market saw a difficult transition to the model of the aerospace industry: manufacturers now compete for orders from all across Europe with complete modular product platforms, instead of national customer-coordinated development. The key challenge for manufacturers now is not the development of interoperable technology, but getting your product approved for as many networks as possible. Consider the case of the Channel Tunnel, where through freight trains underperformed compared to through passenger trains (Eurostar) and both freight and passenger shuttles in no small part because there was no single loco approved for all three networks to be traversed (UK, France, and the Channel Tunnel itself with its special safety needs), necessitating a locomotive change or two. Leading the race to get all the approvals is French maker Alstom, which tested a prototype of its PRIMA II locomotive platform in the Chunnel last September (see RNB17). In January, Siemens followed suit with a prototype of its Vectron locomotive platform. I suspect the third European rail industry giant, Bombardier, will soon follow with its market leader TRAXX locos.


In my report on the rail industry fair InnoTrans 2012, I noted that manufacturers now also created an electric version of their locomotive platforms with an auxiliary diesel engine to spare a locomotive change at short non-electrified sections, the so-called last-mile diesel. On the approval front, Polish maker PESA stole the march on the main manufacturers with its new Gama locomotive platform: the first loco with a last-mile diesel went into service on 12 January. Just four days later, the diesel engine was
put into practical use in mainline service: during an overhead line power outage (see video below).


The EU standardised the length of platforms for long-distance trains at 400 m. Respecting that, from the nineties, it became customary to limit the length of multiple units at around half of that (that is 200 m, equivalent to seven or eight non-articulated cars) and form longer trains by coupling two or more multiple units. However, this decade, longer multiple units are making a re-appearance. First Eurostar ordered 400 m long trains in late 2010 (see Chunnel safety again). Then in 2011, German Railways DB ordered the ICx, electric multiple units to replace its remaining locomotive-hauled trains in IC/EC service (and, eventually, its older, slower than 300 km/h ICE1 and ICE2 high-speed trains), in seven- and ten-car versions, with the latter (at 288 m long) providing an intermediate capacity option between one single and two coupled seven-car trains. The only problem was that ten cars was short of the typical intermediate capacity in IC/EC service. So on 5 March, DB decided to revise the order and lengthen the ten-car units to twelve cars, citing an increase in traffic (so, was the original order based on an expectation of a decrease in traffic?). The revision also includes a more energy-efficient internal lighting and more luggage room.


In Japan, a new Shinkansen type for central and western Japan, the N700A Series entered service on 8 February. This is not a truly new type but the further optimisation of the N700 type, which was already one of the most energy-efficient in the world. For passengers, the most noticeable change is, as for the ICx, new internal lighting using LEDs; and energy efficiency is further helped by some weight reductions. But the two biggest technology improvements are in fields where Japan was behind Europe:

  • The N700A employs a new train control system, which introduces a positive tolerance above the speed limit and uses a track model to predict the power needed, thus improving speed control and ability to make up for delays.
  • Modified brake discs were used to shorten emergency braking distance, which is important due to earthquakes. (A European high-speed train can stop in under 3.3 km from 320 km/h with eddy-current brake and in under 4 km without on dry level track, older Shinkansen need just under 4 km from 275 km/h.)

Meanwhile, the other Japanese contender for the title of most efficient high-speed train, East Japan Railway's E5 Series, began to operate at its intended regular top speed of 320 km/h on 16 March. The E5 Series can stop in under 4 km from full speed, too, with brake discs supplied by Knorr-Bremse of Germany.


Renewables

In January, Spain's RENFE announced that all of its electricity comes from renewables: one provider supplies 6% from hydro, another supplies most of the rest from wind. The rail network in Spain uses two voltage systems: 1.5 kV DC and 50 Hz, 25 kV AC. Both of these can be fed from the public grid, thus it is relatively uncomplicated to contract wind farms and such.

The situation is more difficult for railways using the 16.7 Hz, 15 kV AC system (Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Norway): railways basically have their own separate grid (with their own power plants), which not only has a frequency different from that of the public grid but is single-phase rather than three-phase. In most of these countries, there is ample hydro power for the rail grid, but in Germany, the bulk comes from thermal plants. Nevertheless, DB wants to increase the share of renewables to 35% by 2020, thus in March it contracted two more wind farms near the North Sea (increasing expected annual wind production to a still meagre 0.14 TWh) and contracted Austrian hydropower (boosting hydro by 0.3 TWh or 3 percentage points to altogether 20% of DB's total consumption).


Various conflicts and problems

In Bulgaria, the (now outgoing) government wanted to deal with loss-making state railways BDZ the 'usual' EU way: by splitting up into multiple independent branches and privatising the freight branch after prior cash injection. However, these plans were scuppered by the European Commission, which was concerned about the cash injection part and 'lack of competition'. However, egged on by a World Bank credit to BDZ conditional on the sale, the government started a second privatisation attempt last June. Now this looks to be failing for a very different reason: the anti-austerity protests which toppled the government also took direct aim at the rail privatisation plan, and the transport minister admitted that potential bidders are withdrawing due to political risk.


A very different conflict is brewing in a member state which can showcase a shiny new market entrant on the long-distance passenger market. In Austria, open-access operator WESTbahn threatened to leave the Salzburg traffic association by the end of March over the issue of compensation for its losses from accepting passengers with reduced-fare regional passes. The association has a rule of reviewing compensation for a new member only four years after joining, and WESTbahn (which didn't start all that well and in November expected profitability in 2013 "at the earliest") apparently can't wait. (In January, Germany's also struggling open-access operator HKX – see RNB19forecast profitability for 2013, too.)


You may recall that in December, Austria opened a second Vienna–St. Pölten line (see RNB19). This line is fitted with ETCS Level 2, the wireless version of the intended all-European train control and signalling system (introduced in 310 km/h with ETCS). One would think that after so many years of dealing with teething problems in other countries and extensive tests in Austria, entry into service would go smoothly, but no: in January, ETCS problems forced trains to deviate to the old line, meaning 15-minute delays. This affected 20% of the railjet services to Salzburg operated by Austrian Federal Railways ÖBB and 40% of ICE services to Frankfurt.

ÖBB explained that some components couldn't cope with ice and snowdrift. This is an apparent parallel to the Fyra problems in the Netherlands and Belgium: the extensive tests were conducted prior to winter, in warmer weather. However, in this case, I wonder: Austria and ETCS L2 component suppliers could have relied on multi-year winter experience in another country, Switzerland.


For passengers, delays are one thing, but lack of information makes things worse. In Germany, this became an issue between the Federal Railway Agency (EBA) and DB, with the former insisting on a comprehensive coverage of stations with information systems and the latter dragging its feet for financial reasons in the case of low-traffic stops. EBA had to go to the courts and won on 18 January. The decision means that 1,900 out of DB's 5,500 stations will have to be retrofitted with electronic displays and loudspeakers.

I'm conflicted about this. On one hand, yes, all passengers deserve good information (especially from a company as bad at communication as DB), and running such an information system shouldn't be a problem (indeed I observed it on SNCF's secondary lines years ago). On the other hand, the cost of installing these systems (and maintaining them, where vandalism is an issue) might motivate DB to end services to some low-traffic stations instead. I should also add that writing from Hungary, I could also say "You have problems!...", given that passenger information cannot be considered proper even on main stations here, especially since the separation of infrastructure (which includes train dispatching) and train operations.

Furthermore, I wonder how technology will change the picture. Should the spread of smart-phones be similar to that of simple cell phones, that is basically all but the homeless will have them in a few years, then an applet or a web page will be able to provide better information than station displays and loudspeakers. For example, even in Hungary, we already have this: a Google Maps-based page showing the location of all passenger trains in Hungary (located with GPS), and giving both scheduled and calculated delayed arrivals/departures if you click on the train's circle. Sometimes even the reason for the delay is named.

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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.

Display:
Some March we have: from yesterday afternoon until late morning today, it was snowing again. Below, night train Metropol speeds towards its final destination Budapest.



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

by DoDo on Tue Mar 26th, 2013 at 07:31:34 AM EST
La Repubblica has an article today about the new high-speed trains that are supposed to start operating in 2014,  reducing the time from Rome to Milan to 2 hours and 20 minutes. They give the impression that they will be very expensive, though, up to 400 Euro. (they mean km/h....)
Quello presentato oggi è il primo dei 50 avveniristici treni ad alta velocità, i Frecciarossa 1000, ordinati il 2 agosto 2010  dall'ad delle ferrovie Mauro Moretti all'azienda  di Finmeccanica che aveva vinto la gara con Alstom. Può viaggiare fino a un massimo di 400 euro e collegare Roma Milano in 2 ore e venti minuti.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Mar 26th, 2013 at 09:39:33 AM EST
...the occasion being the roll-out of the first train:

I notice the lack of bogie shrouds. I wonder if they completely abandoned the idea or intend to test it only in the 400 km/h test runs (for the planned 360 km/h regular service top speed).

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

by DoDo on Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 04:50:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not train information that's the issue; the UK has very good coverage of useless information, happy to tell you that the train just approaching is exactly the one you expected.

bu remote systems could be improved, how about a sensor that says "don't make an important announcement when a train is passing cos no bugger can hear it".

But the real problem is not info when things are going well, it's the complete lack of relevant info when things are going wrong. Even best guesses, so long as they are identified as such, would be better than the complete absence of same. That will, by definition, require a designated comms person on the actual problem solving team cos they will be the only people who can possibly have useful knowledge of what's going on.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Mar 26th, 2013 at 03:57:03 PM EST
Urban trains in Barcelona have the following remarkable technological marvels:

  1. An LED indicator panel that shows you the current/next/previous stations.
  2. Automated station announcements. (OK, we have those in London too.)
  3. Indicators showing which doors to use.
  4. Platform indicators showing train arrivals to the nearest second.
  5. Mobile access throughout.

Now, fairly or not, Spain isn't renowned internationally for engineering prowess.

So why is all of this so much better, more carefully thought out, and so much more sensible and useful than the London Tube?

And all for 10 Euro for a book of ten tickets which will take you across most of the city - unlike the London Tube, which charges at least £2.10 for a single journey in Zone 1, and a lot more if you travel any kind of distance.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Mar 26th, 2013 at 04:34:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We have commuter rail beyond our means.

Don't tell the Bundesbank, or they'll want to levy it away.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 26th, 2013 at 04:47:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They used to put these not so useful (and probably expensive) LCD totems on platforms of small stations. Unless you stand in front of it, you can't read it. >90% of the platform is outside of the visual field. Nowadays they've been putting up these smaller LED displays on posts, perpendicular to the track so that everyone can see. But the ones I've seen just display the time and nothing about incoming trains. Maybe that's enough 'passenger information'?!

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 06:09:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Could they be systems only displaying service disruptions in terms of train information?

When I was at the InnoTrans 2006, I joined a larger group who travelled by car and stayed in a village along Berlin's outer orbital railway. The village's rail stop had no information system, not even a loudspeaker (which you normally have on mainlines even in Hungary). On the morning on my way home, the train I was supposed to take to the main station so that I can catch my EC train home was cancelled. We learnt this only when a co-passenger called DB on his cell phone. But then DB sent taxis for all of us. (But I still missed my EC train and had an adventurous way home, changing trains twice and hitch-hiking from the Slovak-Hungarian border.)

For a contrast, here is the SNCF passenger information system in the very lightly frequented stop of Dingé (on the Rennes–St. Malo line; IIRC three trains per day per direction stopped here in 2007): a three-line display and in front the small intercom that (IIRC) announced all incoming trains and was suited for two-way communication.



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

by DoDo on Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 08:11:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We have those in the UK. But the installers seek out positions where there are so many visual obstructions that you have to stand practically beneath them to see what is happening.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Mar 30th, 2013 at 09:09:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Helen:
"don't make an important announcement when a train is passing cos no bugger can hear it"

This is apparently the standard procedure too in commuter train stations around Paris. Do you think they contracted the same consultant?

Helen:

But the real problem is not info when things are going well, it's the complete lack of relevant info when things are going wrong.

Again, SNCF SOP on this side of the channel too. I'm really starting believing this "consultant theory" now... :)

by Bernard on Fri Mar 29th, 2013 at 04:40:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Beppe Grillo's Blog
The only two high-speed rail services worldwide that are currently profitable are those between Tokyo and Osaka and between Paris and Lyon. All the rest are making losses.
So much so in fact, since no provision has even been made for any form of high speed rail service whatsoever for much of the so-called Corridor 5 - for example, there are no plans whatsoever after Brescia, not even a provisional plan for reaching the Veneto Region - that the high-speed train project in Friuli has failed miserably and is under administration and the Corridor 5 link with Slovenia has been put on hold for diplomatic reasons and will not be resumed. Indeed, the last train from Triest to Lubiana left in December 2011. Andrea De Benedetti e Luca Rastello

go for it DoDo! the rest of the article has plenty of 'toids.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Mar 27th, 2013 at 06:01:18 PM EST
In short, either completely wrong, outdated or spinning. In detail:

The only two high-speed rail services worldwide that are currently profitable are those between Tokyo and Osaka and between Paris and Lyon

If we speak about just train services (operational profitability), then almost all high-speed services are profitable. If the authors meant to include infrastructure and financial costs, then at least almost all TGV lines, the Tohoku and Sanyo Shinkansens, Spain's first line, Taiwan's line, and China's first line should count as profitable, too. But it may even be that they confused profitability and paying back all investment. Even on that account, I suspect at least LGV Atlantique and LGV Nord achieved that mark, too.

there are no plans whatsoever after Brescia, not even a provisional plan for reaching the Veneto Region

Huh!? The Brescia–Verona plans can be seen here, the Verona–Padova plans here, and Padova–Venezia Mestre is already in operation (as 200–km/h quadruple-tracked section) since 2006. Maybe something lost in translation and they meant no timeplan?

the high-speed train project in Friuli has failed miserably and is under administration

There are long-term plans for a Venice–Trieste extension of the Milan–Venice line, in public consultation from 2011, and there was a push for a speedier execution of the last 30 km (Ronchi dei Legionari Sud–Trieste) 'packaged' with a highway project from the early noughties. They must mean this 30 km, for which the EU funded a study in 2008, but it is apparently held up for the same reasons (geologic concerns) as the original version of the connected project below.

the Corridor 5 link with Slovenia has been put on hold for diplomatic reasons and will not be resumed.

This seems to be a misinterpreted dated info. This project was first delayed because the original route faced protests (with risk of tunnelling in karst the main concern), then a new route was chosen, then the formation of the project preparation committee was delayed due to government change in Slovenia, which is probably what they mean by "diplomatic reasons". But then agreement was reached in July 2012 (see the EU's progress report). I note that this line, even if much faster than the existing link, wouldn't be high-speed and would primarily serve railfreight.

the last train from Triest to Lubiana left in December 2011

That was when Trenitalia's exit forced the end of even the night trains, which is a scandal, but I don't see how this is related to anything before. I think freight trains are still running.

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

by DoDo on Wed Mar 27th, 2013 at 08:26:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
much appreciated DoDo.


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Mar 27th, 2013 at 08:44:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would also note that the basic premise that trains need to be profitable is problematic. Roads are as a rule not profitable if you look at the owners costs and direct incomes from the road. Roads and railroads provide transport, which if used serves a societal need. So the purpose of a road or railroad is not to make the owner money, but to provide transportation.

Then there is the question of how the costs are distributed, and that is as always a political question.

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

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 04:29:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The political answer is fuck you and your trasportation, I've got my tank-tread limo.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 04:38:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That comment lead me to a wonderful hoax:

TRACK-LINK / Gallery / KV-VI Behemoth

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, new facts have surfaced about the secret weapons developed by the Red Army during WWII. One of the most fascinating of these was the KV-VI Behemoth. In July 1941, Stalin learned of a single KV-II that had held off the entire 6th Panzer Division for more than a day. With the incredible success of this single tank, Stalin ordered a crash program for a land battleship based on the KV-II design

An more polished version of the hoax, from here (the original size of the picture below is 1400 pixels wide):



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

by DoDo on Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 06:49:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Available for hire - This tank limo has been created by welding two APCs together. It's fantastic and comes with jacuzzi!!! - Available for hire!!!! like me on facebook


guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 07:15:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Upon checking, a correction on the Italy–Slovenia link: although the rejected original route (chosen in 2008) was intended for 160 km/h for normal trains and 200 km/h for tilting trains, the new route chosen in 2011 (which is also less steep) is envisioned to have a top speed of 250 km/h and thus counts as high-speed.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 05:15:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another addition on profitability. I believe Germany/DB and Italy/FS don't even do separate income/expenses statistics on individual high-speed lines (which would be difficult at least in Germany because you can't nicely bundle services using a single line as in centralised France). But it's worth to note that Italian high-speed traffic is doing well.Last year Trenitalia's Frecce trains showed another year of significant growth, in spite of the appearance of private competitor NTV:

Trenitalia, 2012 da record: in crescita viaggiatori (+6,5%) e corse giornaliere (+4%) Trenitalia, 2012 record: growth in travellers (+6.5%) and daily trains (+4%)
Anno record, il 2012, per le Frecce di Trenitalia.2012 was a record year for Trenitalia's Frecce ['Arrow' trains].
In crescita tutti i principali indicatori: aumenta il numero di viaggi, che sfiora i 40 milioni, 39.837.652 viaggiatori (+ 6,5% vs 2011), e cresce anche la percorrenza media di ogni viaggiatore, tanto che i chilometri complessivi percorsi da tutti i passeggeri delle Frecce raggiungono i 12 miliardi e 310 milioni, con un balzo in avanti del 7,2%. Aumenta anche il numero complessivo di corse effettuate, 70.895 (+4%), con una media di circa 194 corse giornaliere che, 95 volte su 100, sono giunte a destinazione puntuali.Growth in all major indicators: the number of trips increased to almost 40 million: to 39,837,652 travellers (+6.5% vs. 2011), at the same time the average travel distance increased, too, so that the total kilometres travelled by all Frecce passengers reached 12.31 billion, a leap of 7.2%. The total number of train services run also increased to 70,895 (+4%), with an average of about 194 train services a day, and 95 out of 100, reached their destination on time.
Tra le rotte che hanno visto incrementare il numero di passeggeri svettano la Torino - Roma con un +27%, la Genova - Roma (+15%), la Milano - Ancona (+14%), la Venezia - Roma (+10%) e la Milano - Roma (+6%).Among the routes that have seen passenger numbers soar were Turin-Rome (+27%), Genoa-Rome (+15%), Milan-Ancona (+14%), Venice-Rome (+10%) and Milan-Rome (+6%).

I should note that Frecce trains include 200 km/h tilting trains on conventional routes, too, but all of the above-mentioned connections use high-speed lines for 50-100% of the distance. On the other hand, 40 million is still far short from the 100 million of the TGV in France, a country with a similar population, meaning there is still a lot of potential.

As for NTV: they started at the end of April and ramped up service in steps, so they had only 1.15 million passengers last year but expect 6 million this year. They now predict profitability for 2014, we'll see about that. (They reported low seat occupations of around or less than 50%; from figures for January-February this year, it must still be well below 70%.) So NTV's boss boasted instead about the overall market success (without mentioning recession): 16% increase for high-speed rail while highway traffic dropped 8%.


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

by DoDo on Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 06:23:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On an unrelated subject, I was looking over the European freight rail net the other day.

Would it be a correct concise summary to state that in freight rail terms the Warsaw Pact never ceased to exist?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 05:29:08 AM EST
What exactly made you think that? I think whether we look at cross-border freight volumes, ownership, or focus for infrastructure investment, the Comecon long ceased to exist.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 06:28:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mostly that East Germany's (freight) rail connections to Poland and Czechoslovakia seem to be better than their connections to West Germany (at least in terms of prices, I haven't looked at reliability or capacity).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 06:35:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By petter in terms of prices, do you mean cheaper? If it's cheaper because of depreciated infrastructure, that's not better :-)

Specifically regarding rail connections to Poland, I note that freight traffic is increasing (both exports to/from Germany and to/from North Sea ports), to the extent that Germany finally begun the work to restore double track and electrify the near-border section of the [Wrocław–]Horka–Magdeburg line, which is the main freight artery from the industrial centre in southern Poland to the west (see rail maps of Poland and Germany; the short stretch of single-track still shown on the Germany map has been double-tacked in January, too).

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

by DoDo on Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 07:11:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
@FGoria

Scopro ora che la linea ferroviaria Cuneo-Ventimiglia è a rischio taglio. Sarebbe una follia. Ecco perché http://www.linkiesta.it/francia-italia-ferrovia-della-discordia ...
The rail link Cuneo-Ventimiglia is at risk of closure. Here's a story of the railway between France and Italy...

Francia-Italia, la ferrovia della discordia

La locomotiva corre sbuffando, e non solo per il vapore: i rapporti ferroviari tra Italia e Francia sono da lungi litigarelli assai. Il blocco di Ventimiglia di domenica scorsa ha precedenti illustri, per esempio nella linea ferroviaria Cuneo-Nizza-Ventimiglia (per l'appunto) che tra tira e molla, chiusure e riaperture (è rimasta inattiva dal 1945 al 1979, dopo che i tedeschi in ritirata avevano fatto saltare gallerie e viadotti) è sintomatica di quanto Italia e Francia si sfidino da un secolo e mezzo a colpi di rotaia.

Camillo Benso, conte di Cavour, è un convinto assertore delle strade ferrate. Fa unire con i binari Torino e Genova, così dal 1858 per andare da una città all'altra di passa dalle venticinque ore in carrozza alle quattro in treno. Alla vigilia dell'unità d'Italia il Regno di Sardegna, con i suoi mille chilometri di binari, è lo stato più ferroviario della Penisola. Nel 1853 - Cavour è primo ministro del Regno sardo - si decide di unire i monti al mare: un po' la villeggiatura si sta allargando dai nobili alla nuova borghesia urbana, un po' è di moda tra i sovrani europei andarsene al mare in treno. L'idea è che Vittorio Emanuele II dopo aver cacciato i camosci in Savoia scenda a Cuneo e lì prenda il treno per andare a ritemprare le stanche membra nella più illustre città balneare sabauda: Nizza. E così si concepisce la ferrovia Cuneo-Nizza che passa per Briga e Tenda. La storia però assume spesso corsi imponderabili e dopo la Seconda guerra d'indipendenza, Solferino e San Martino e l'intervento delle truppe di Napoleone III, nel 1860 Nizza diventa francese. Veramente in base agli accordi di Plombières dovrebbero diventare francesi anche Briga e Tenda, solo che i piemontesi si rimangiano la parola data con la motivazione ufficiale che le località fanno parte delle tenute di caccia dei Savoia (non è vero niente: le bugie di Stato hanno una lunga tradizione). Parigi però ha la memoria lunga e si ricorderà di quella gabola ottantacinque anni più tardi.



guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 05:56:51 PM EST
From what I found, the situation is worse: the regional government of Piedmont apparently considers cancelling 34% of train services and 50% of bus services by June, and the Tenda line would only be the most spectacular victim. But there is apparently protest.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Mar 31st, 2013 at 09:48:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Mar 30th, 2013 at 06:19:35 AM EST
Somewhere in Poland.
by Gag Halfrunt on Sat Mar 30th, 2013 at 08:16:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
well-spotted sir!


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Mar 30th, 2013 at 09:06:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
what clued you in?


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Mar 30th, 2013 at 09:07:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The trains look like EN57s or a related class.
by Gag Halfrunt on Sat Mar 30th, 2013 at 09:37:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was going to say Somebody's Garage.  Something about the color in that picture looked really wrong, and I thought it was a very detailed model set of a derelict train yard, with fake grass and everything.
by Zwackus on Sun Mar 31st, 2013 at 03:58:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the colours definitely look enhanced, i loke it in this shot, something sumptuous to balamce out the abandoned and decaying vibe.

elephants' graveyard.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Mar 31st, 2013 at 07:13:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Looks like HDR to me.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Mar 31st, 2013 at 09:25:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Częstochowa?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Mar 31st, 2013 at 09:23:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An Austrian conductor told me yesterday that they would like to run railjets into Italy, but Trenitalia won't let them. Does this mean that the engines can already switch to direct current? And do they want to switch the Munich trains to Railjets (and if so, would they really be much faster?) or do they want to run new lines (high-speed Vienna-Verona?)

I made the Brenner S-Bahn to EC to Vienna connection in Innsbruck yesterday for the 3rd time in a row, despite the zero minutes for the connection (arrival 9:08, departure 9:08)....

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat Mar 30th, 2013 at 06:53:11 AM EST
Railjets to Italy was ÖBB's original idea for the Brenner service without FS. Locomotive-wise, the problem wasn't the switch to DC (the class 1216 locos can do that) but getting permission for speeds above 140 km/h. As for the cars, those were blocked with demands for extra fire safety equipment.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Mar 30th, 2013 at 04:46:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The power connections between the public grid and the railroad grid should not be that big of a problem. High-power semiconductor converters are used throughout power grids these days. I suppose the problem really is that the two grids were not designed to be connected, so there is no geographically convenient, high capability connection point.

Also I'm still puzzled by the locomotive interoperability problem. What holds back the EU-wide standardization? One would think that this would have been an early component of the Common Market, since it is part of making shipping and industry work properly, which was--I thought--the goal of the EMC in the first place...

And platforms. Why aren't the cars constructed so that you can have ground-level access as well as platform access? That's common in light rail systems, and would allow you to extend a busy platform by just paving a longer trackside stretch and having the passengers climb down...

by asdf on Sun Mar 31st, 2013 at 09:56:33 AM EST
If you wrote this with last issue's news about the Austro-Italian conflict over side-selective door control in mind, let me emphasize that the problem is not passengers' ability to unboard to/board from ground level (from standard IC/EC cars, it's possible even if inconvenient), but safety: passengers unboarding on the wrong side could be hit by trains passing on the neighbouring track.

Regarding the lengthening of existing platforms, what you describe has of course been applied in the past (for example, at two stations on the line I commute on). However, on one hand, it isn't always practicable: if we are speaking about island platforms, the distance between tracks usually gets narrower beyond the track even if the two tracks don't merge, and in the case of platforms on the outer side, there might be other infrastructure in the way (from a fence to non-railway buildings). On the other hand, it isn't very desirable, too: high platforms both ensure access for disabled people and reduce the likelihood of people endangering themselves by crossing the tracks.

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

by DoDo on Mon Apr 1st, 2013 at 03:15:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Platform accidents seem to be leading now to lawsuits. I wonder when it will become necessary to put full-height barrier walls between the platform and the train, with automatic doors like on an elevator.

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/subway_push_kin_suing_mta_UbxWKxqP4Nyii5sMAqDtKM

It's an interesting commentary on instinctive fear, I suppose. You look down an open elevator shaft and you rear back in fear. But you look at an oncoming train going 100 kph only an arm's length away from where you are on the platform, and don't even worry a bit.

I wonder when it will become necessary to put full-height barrier walls between the platform and the train, with automatic doors like on an elevator.

by asdf on Tue Apr 2nd, 2013 at 12:38:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As sad as that tragedy is, that lawsuit seems frivolous: they don't seem to have considered stopping distance.

Since accidents also mean traffic disruption and thus financial damage, I think platform screen doors will indeed become the norm where people falling or jumping from platforms is the dominant accident form: that is, on grade-separated transit railways. On mainline railways, that's unlikely. But platform barriers could spread. There are such at stations along the Berlin–Hamburg line, a special measure implemented when top speed was raised on this conventional line to 230–km/h; maybe these will in the future be demanded for lower speeds:



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

by DoDo on Tue Apr 2nd, 2013 at 04:02:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe we'll adopt the Chinese way of boarding the train, in which people wait inside the station until the train has stopped, and only then are the passengers allowed on the platforms..

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Apr 2nd, 2013 at 11:38:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Tue Apr 2nd, 2013 at 06:51:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting that this idea was first implemented in Leningrad, where I doubt that lawsuits were a problem.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Apr 2nd, 2013 at 05:26:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The subway barriers and "elevator doors" are very common in Asian countries. Unprodected platforms in big cities there is more an exception already.
by das monde on Tue Apr 2nd, 2013 at 08:10:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In a Kiev suburb station, a part of a crowded platform collapsed after a fat man jumped from a train onto it. About 20 people went down towards the rails.

by das monde on Tue Apr 2nd, 2013 at 02:24:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Totally overblown issue. Obviously, every new subway should be built with platform doors for various reasons (safety and automation being the primary ones). But to spend that kind of money for retrofitting legacy systems, like the NYC subway, that have so many more pressing needs is a poor choice informed by media hysteria.

They had a preliminary plan for NYC to use movable platform doors (to accomodate different train types). Completely unproven technology. Only in recent years have they begun installing countdown clocks, somethings that has been around since the nineties. Their automatic train control project is crawling along to a second line. Etc.

In contrast, the automation of Line 1 of the Paris Metro seems to be coming along nicely.


Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Tue Apr 2nd, 2013 at 06:49:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am growing weary of discussing platform edge doors. As I mentioned on Twitter yesterday, I believe the increased public concern over subway platform safety is a ruse to deflect attention away from the real issues facing our transit system. Politicians can use subway platform system to claim they care about transit issues and are looking out for riders when, in reality, the incident rate was one per 11.3 million subway riders and nearly a quarter of those were suicide attempts. But here we are. Again.

At the risk of sounding cold, I think the main impetus worldwide (perhaps not in NYC) is not passenger safety but reducing the traffic disruptions caused by such accidents. On a normal double-track railway line, you can at least switch to single track operation when a person is hit, but on most metros, that's not an option, so no trains run for an hour or more.

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

by DoDo on Wed Apr 3rd, 2013 at 01:42:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem today is of course not technical, but economical. On one hand, while for the 50 Hz/25 kV system, you only need a transformer, and for DC systems you need a rectifier; for the 16.7 Hz/15 kV system, you need a complete converter (one with a single-phase output synchronised with the rail grid), which is more expensive. On the other hand, if you already have your own power plants, you'll want to run them until they cover your investment and further if it's cheaper than investing in converters plus buying from the public grid.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Apr 3rd, 2013 at 01:37:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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