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Rail News Blogging #20

by DoDo Tue Mar 5th, 2013 at 02:40:07 AM EST

I haven't done a rail news blogging for almost four months, so quite a few stories accumulated. In this issue, I bring stories about new high-speed lines and urban nodes, and before that, fare policy.

SNCF unveils Ouigo low-cost TGV service - Railway Gazette

FRANCE: SNCF President Guillaume Pepy and Director of the long-distance passenger business Barbara Dalibard unveiled details of the national operator's 'Ouigo' branded low-cost TGV service on February 19.

From April 2 Ouigo services will run from Marne-la-Vallée Chessy station on the eastern outskirts of Paris to Marseille and Montpellier. There will be three return services a day and four on Sundays.

...Four double-deck TGV Duplex sets have been refurbished at SNCF's Bischheim workshops to operate Ouigo services, operating in pairs to offer a total of 1 268 seats or 20% more than a standard formation. No catering facilities are provided and the bar area has been replaced with additional luggage space. Each Ouigo passenger is entitled to take one piece of baggage free of charge, up to two extra items being charged at €5 or €10 each.

SNCF is applying the budget airline model on the rails.


Let's move on to Spain. In early February, Migeru alerted me to a series of three articles (in Spanish) on the state of Spanish high-speed rail. They concluded that it is generally in a good shape even at these austerity times, but it could do even better would Spanish national operator RENFE not undercut itself by being a laggard on flexible fare policy. That is, RENFE didn't offer much in terms of fare reductions for off-peak trains, tickets sold ahead of time, and return trips. However, even this part of the series ended on a positive note, as fare policy was about to change. Now there are a first few weeks to see the result:

Market pricing boosts high speed sales by 38% - Railway Gazette

SPAIN: Ticket sales for RENFE high speed services have increased by 38% year-on-year following the introduction of a new market-based fares structure, according to Development Minister Ana Pastor. A total of 824 188 tickets had been sold since the new fares were introduced, she told the lower house of the Spanish parliament on February 27.

The new fares had come into force on February 8, when RENFE says it set a new daily record with 110 030 high speed and long-distance tickets sold by 19.00, 80% up on the year before.


Staying in Spain, 8 January 2013 saw the opening of the line between Barcelona and Figueres, which is south of the French border. This section, which was delayed for several years by disputes over the routing and financing of its tunnels under the urban areas of Barcelona and Girona, finally links up Spain's standard-gauge high-speed network with the standard-gauge network of the rest of the EU. As for the link-up with France's high-speed rail network, there is no concrete timetable for the missing c. 130 km between Montpellier and Perpignan along the French Mediterranean coast...

Direct high-speed trains to France will only start on 1 April 2013. The first test run of an SNCF double-deck TGV into Barcelona was on 12 February, these trains will operate six-hour-long Paris–Barcelona services. RENFE's S-100 trains (which are modified TGVs) will run to Toulouse and later Marseille and Lyon.


While austerity hit Spain's high-speed rail programme only in the form of a slowdown and attempts at deregulation and involvement of private capital, another major programme was put on the back-burner: the plan to re-gauge the entire conventional network from Iberian broad gauge to standard gauge. However, somewhat startlingly, one project from this programme is now moving on: the re-gauging of the Mediterranean Corridor between Barcelona and Valencia. This line was already prepared for re-gauging (with adjustable sleepers and overhead lines) when almost all of it was upgraded for 220 km/h in the nineties and noughties (as a cheaper alternative to building a parallel high-speed line). Last year the government had new studies prepared, and in December they announced that work on the first 97 km from Barcelona will be let this year for completion in 2015, and the rest of the project will be divided in two. One track of the final Castellón–Valencia section is to be dual-gauge.


In neighbouring Portugal, austerity hit railways much harder, although the abandonment of the high-speed programme was a political decision (the centre-right governing since 2011 opposed high-speed rail in an earlier campaign). This included the outright cancellation of the on-going Lisbon–Spanish border project, justified with irregularities in the awarding of the public–private partnership (PPP) construction contracts. (To assuage its miffed partner in Spain, the Portuguese government is peddling the idea of a new trans-Iberian standard-gauge freight corridor.) The political battle over the cancellation is still on-going, the one-time Socialist minister hit back in February:

Why was Portugal's TGV train project scrapped?

The abandonment of the TGV project was a 'colossal mistake' and Portugal has lost "hundreds of millions of euros." The former Minister of Public Works, Transport and Communications, António Mendonça, considers that withdrawal from the TGV project has had a significant impact on the economic development of the country.

He was commenting at the parliamentary committee of inquiry into Public Private Partnerships in Portugal's road and rail systems.

According to former socialist minister, "stopping the project prevented the injection of significant EU funds into the economy which could have boosted the country's development and helped alleviate the high unemployment rate."


Where high-speed lines meet upon a major city, there are two main options: one is to continue the tracks into the city (which usually means the construction of long tunnels and/or viaducts and major station reconstruction), the other is to connect to conventional lines on the edge of the city. This latter option is of course cheaper, but such co-use sections become a significant part of travel time and a main cause of delays due to conflicts with other trains. Unlike in other European countries, in Italy, there is a consistent programme to give high-speed trains their own tracks across and state-of-the-art stations in major cities, in separate projects called urban nodes.

The project for Turin was completed in practice with the re-opening of Turin Porta Susa station on 14 January 2013. This is a completely rebuilt through station not far from the old terminal, with a lower level including a new station on Turin's seven-year-young metro line (see "M" symbols above escalators on the photo below from IRJ), saving passengers from Milan the torturous 180-degree circle into the old station.

Of the urban nodes along the completed high-speed lines (which now link up all cities from Turin to Salerno, south of Naples), only those for Naples (2014) and Florence (2016) and a smaller part of that for Bologna (2014) remain to be finished.


Italy is (in)famous for excessively expensive construction projects, but none of the above urban nodes have a cost tag anywhere near that of Stuttgart 21, the project to replace the surface terminus of the German city with an underground through station and tunnel connections. As reported by epochepoque in December, the price tag of the project (including the connected high-speed line to Ulm) jumped again, from 4.5 billion to 6.8 billion. About half of this was justified with extra costs from delays caused by the disputes of the last few years and the project modifications adopted as a consequence, the rest is a new financial buffer for further project risks. Neither of this was unpredictable, but none of this was told voters when the financing of Stuttgart 21 was put on referendum in Baden-Württemberg state (and got approval).

While the cost increase moved the forecast profitability of the project into negative territory, that forecast loss is allegedly still less than the money already spent or to be spent either way, so German Rail DB doesn't want to cancel it. So, since then, the question was financing, with neither the city of Stuttgart, nor the state of Baden-Württemberg, nor the federal government willing to pay extra. DB didn't help the situation by repeatedly calling off talks. Even if Stuttgart 21 escapes cancellation, this heads-in-the-sand attitude will cost DB (and the construction industry) dearly in future projects.


Still in Europe, some "boring" news. In France, on the second phase of the LGV Est Européenne line from Paris to Strasbourg, the second tube of the 4,020 m Saverne Tunnel (which takes the line across the summit of the Vosges Mountains) was holed through on 25 February, leaving no major risk factor ahead of the planned spring 2016 opening of the line. Meanwhile, in Austria, in the centrepiece of the new Koralmbahn line, the 32.8 km Koralm Tunnel (see The EU's emerging high-speed networkS), the first of two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) was launched on 29 January 2013, the other will follow in March. They will excavate the central part of the tunnel, the two ends have already been excavated with the drill-and-blast method.


Beyond Europe, in China, the last of the new lines promised for 2012 (see RNB16, RNB17 and [with map] RNB18), the 663 km from Beijing to Zhengzhou, was opened on 26 December 2012. With this section, there are now 2,400 km of continuous high-speed tracks between Beijing and Shenzhen (on the border of Hong Kong), and a pair of trains running the whole distance in 10h 16m resp. 10h 25m are the longest high-speed services in the world.

Overall, the recovery of the Chinese high-speed programme from the double shock of the replacement of the railway minister due to corruption and the Wenzhou disaster (which led to measures including speed reductions, safety checks, and a review of construction contracts) is continuing apace. Investment levels (throttled by the reviews) jumped back to original levels. This trend was helped by the increase in passenger numbers, with total high-speed ridership growing to 1.33 million a day by last November. For example, look at the figures for the most important (and expensive) line, Beijing–Shanghai (from the print version of the above article):

The short-term goal for this line was 80 million passengers a year, that's 20 million per quarter, and Q3/2012 was already about 19 million. The long-term goal is 120 million per year, that's 30 million per quarter.

:: :: :: :: ::

In RNB21, which shall come within a week, I will focus more on cross-border links (the sorry state of cross-border links).

:: :: :: :: ::

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

Display:
It's not just high-speed lines and not just Western Europe where urban nodes are modernised. Here is the northern exit of Prague's central station, which was re-routed into a pair of tunnels (and beyond them a pair of long bridges) a few years ago, as seen from the train window:

This was on a Berlin trip a month ago. Each day of the trip, the Sun shone for five minutes. No such luck when I photographed the ICE1 high-speed train below, which just emerged from the tunnel to the low level of Berlin's central station (opened in 2006) and is receding southwards. (This line takes the place of (some of the) tracks into the onetime terminus stations Potsdamer Bahnhof and Anhalter Bahnhof, the long disused area next to it has now been turned into a park.)



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

by DoDo on Sun Mar 3rd, 2013 at 05:14:09 PM EST
In the photo diary on my previous trip to Berlin in September, I wrote that due to upgrade plans stretched and delayed for two decades, between Berlin and Dresden,

instead of the direct line, trains use 200 km/h sections of the Berlin-Halle/Leipzig and Leipzig-Dresden lines, and in-between chug along at 80-100 km/h (and less at slow-speed zones) on a single-track secondary mainline with old signalling.

This is no longer the case: following the completion of the upgrade of some sections to 160 km/h, express trains finally use the direct line (dark purple on the map below from Railways through Europe; magenta is the deviation route used previously). However, still about a third is 120 km/h and the rest even slower, and due to the missing (but now at least planned) section across the onetime border of West Berlin (grey on the map), there is a silly detour.



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

by DoDo on Sun Mar 3rd, 2013 at 05:28:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Rail News Blogging #20
The first test run of an SNCF double-deck TGV into Barcelona was on 12 February, these trains will operate six-hour-long Paris-Barcelona services. RENFE's S-100 trains (which are modified TGVs) will run to Toulouse and later Marseille and Lyon.

At 6 hours from Paris, Barcelona will be doing relatively better than Toulouse at 5h 15min. Work is under way on the Paris-Bordeaux stretch to complete the LGV to Bordeaux, though, which will reduce the Paris-Toulouse time.

As for the Bordeaux-Toulouse section, there's political uncertainty around it in that local authority budgets are strained and some departments are pulling out of their contribution promises, though the two regions involved (Aquitaine but above all Midi-Pyrénées, for which the project is vital to help disenclave France's N° 4 city) are still backing it.

In a letter dated 6-02-2013 addressed to an official local development agency of the area where I live, the regional prefect lays out the reasons why the project of a second airport for Toulouse has been shelved (essentially, the projections of saturation for Toulouse-Blagnac were way off beam, surprise, surprise). The prefect adds:

Enfin, le projet de lignes ferroviaires à grande vitesse entre Paris et Toulouse (Tours-Bordeaux, puis Bordeaux-Toulouse) se poursuit normalement.Finally, the project of high-speed rail lines between Paris and Toulouse (Tours-Bordeaux and Bordeaux-Toulouse) is being carried out normally.

Normally -- if late...

On Toulouse-Barcelona, good news if RENFE is going to speed up the connection!

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 4th, 2013 at 02:38:28 AM EST
SNCF is applying the budget airline model on the rails.

Impossible. One key part of the budget airline model is to use out of the way terminals, far from any train station....You can't do this with trains. When do tickets go on sale? I may be going to Marseille in June - if so, this might mean my first visit to Disneyland Paris.....

The project for Turin was completed in practice with the opening of Turin Porta Susa station on 14 January 2013.

Porta Susa has always been there, with most trains stopping there (I would usually get there; it's about the same distance to the centre as the main station). They have completely rebuilt it and added a metro station (which it didn't use to have).

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Mar 4th, 2013 at 02:39:22 AM EST
One key part of the budget airline model is to use out of the way terminals, far from any train station...

I don't think "far from any train station" is a necessary part of the budget airline model; but "out of the way" certainly is. And actually, Marne-la-Vallée Chessy is just that: it is outside Paris, 40 minutes from Gare de Lyon by RER, and you have to add the obligarory 30 minute check-in time to that.

Regarding Porta Susa, I actually knew all of that, but was in a hurry... will edit it now.

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

by DoDo on Mon Mar 4th, 2013 at 03:36:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just to reinforce the "low-cost" meme which the SNCF has introduced :

Following my instinctive "what's in it for me" line of thought : I can't imagine a scenario where I would use the new "ouigo" service. Theoretically a cheap service to Paris or Marseille expands my weekend options; in practice, since the trains stop at Lyon's airport, not in town, I either have to drive there and pay the exorbitant parking fee, or take the exorbitant tram (15€) which sort of dampens the price appeal of a 10€ trip. Not to mention that Disneyland is not Paris. On the other hand, fortunately Marseille lacks an "extra-muros" station, so the terminus is Saint Charles, in town.

Having written the above : I checked out the services, and it turns out that Ouigo also serves Lyon Perrache. This is not within walking distance for me, as is the hypersaturated Part Dieu station, but easily accessible by metro or tram. So it looks like the older, less-saturated Perrache station might become the "low-cost" terminal.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Mar 4th, 2013 at 05:02:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I actually usually stay near Perrache, as there seem to be more reasonably priced hotels there. Unlike Disneyland. (And we may have a different definition of "walking distance").
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Mar 4th, 2013 at 05:12:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Next time, let me know. I'm cheaper than a hotel (depending on your definition of "cheaper").

As for walking distance : I leave my front door at 8.35 to get the 8.50 train, most mornings.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Mar 4th, 2013 at 06:58:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My commute is entirely on foot: 30 minutes to work, 25 home, the difference being due to the 170m altitude difference.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Mar 4th, 2013 at 07:16:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My commute is like that when I do it by bicycle : 30 minutes door to door, same as by train, except that I need to take a shower when I get there because of the +150m.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Mar 4th, 2013 at 07:45:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In France, a Truly Low-Cost High-Speed Rail Option - The Transport Politic
Like Ryanair, Europe's foremost low-cost airline, OuiGo will not serve the more convenient passenger terminals where most TGVs board and alight. Rather, the Paris region stop will be located 20 km east of the city in Marne La Vallée (the location of Disneyland Paris); Lyon's, instead of being in the center of the city, will be out at the St. Exupéry airport. One major reason for this service pattern is that the public agency that owns the tracks (RFF) charges SNCF (also a public agency) more for the use of tracks and stations in center city areas than those in the suburbs. Labor represents for only about 20% of TGV operations costs, while track fees, which are becoming increasingly onerous (they will be augmented by €200 million in 2013 alone) and which pay for maintenance and upgrades, account for a large potion of expenditures.


Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Mon Mar 4th, 2013 at 01:39:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Translated into physical reality: the (conventional) tracks into and in Gare du Lyon are heavily loaded and more maintenance-intensive, thus RFF asks for more than for the use of the tracks into and in Marne La Vallée - Chessy, despite the fact that track construction was more expensive there.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Mar 4th, 2013 at 02:32:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Other point : the station itself is absurdly overloaded. I don't know how it would figure in a hit parade of overcrowded European railway stations (can you suggest a list?) but to me it's like Heathrow at times. (Resulting, among other things, in regional services being frequently delayed to cater to higher-priority TGVs)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Mar 5th, 2013 at 03:36:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lyon Part Dieu is even worse, functionally. Gare de Lyon (in Paris) is still fairly operational despite the heavy traffic, but Part Dieu is frequently in full dysfunctional overload.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Mar 5th, 2013 at 03:38:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No comparison with the traffic outside on the street, as I found out once on a bus from Bellegarde (trying to get from Basel to Rennes, with no electricity in the French side of Geneva station. Don't ask....)
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Mar 5th, 2013 at 03:44:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know Heathrow, I don't fly :-)

Overcrowded in terms of passengers, or in terms of trains? If the former, just from personal experience, Gare de Lyon is pretty crowded, along with Gare Saint-Lazare, but they are still no comparison for Budapest's three terminuses (no second concourse under any of them, no RER-type relief), and on that basis I suspect Moscow terminuses are the real non-plus-ultra.

In terms of trains, the bottleneck is often not the number of platform tracks, but the access tracks (number of tracks, number of switch groups and flyovers between them, signal distances etc.). I believe Zurich central station has the most trains of all stations in Europe (2,915 a day), and from what I know it operates pretty much at capacity. That figure includes the underground S-Bahn through station, though, and the busiest terminal is probably Paris Gare Saint-Lazare (at 1,700 a day it is more than twice as busy as any other in Paris), but operation seemed pretty fluid. On this front, again, Budapest terminuses, especiallly the main one for international trains, Keleti pályaudvar (East terminus) is much worse than anything I experienced elsewhere, with most arriving trains held up at one signal or another...

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

by DoDo on Tue Mar 5th, 2013 at 06:45:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I couldn't find numbers for trains/day, but Shinjuku Sta. is commonly said to average 1.5 million passengers a day.
by Zwackus on Thu Mar 7th, 2013 at 11:42:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Whether in terms of passengers or trains, some Japanese, Chinese and Indian stations are more crowded than anything in Europe, no doubt about it, but eurogreen asked about "a hit parade of overcrowded European railway stations".

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Mar 8th, 2013 at 02:39:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What about the London Tube? Last year they had actually closed the entrance to King's Cross as it was too crowded, and there was a mob of commuters crowded around the entrance waiting for them to reopen it (and showing a total lack of initiative. I easily found a less important entrance that was open).
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Fri Mar 8th, 2013 at 02:43:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gare de Lyon is indeed overcrowded: 5 extra platforms have been added in 1981 when the first TGV service to Lyon was inaugurated, and the station has been undergoing complete refurbishing since 2010, which didn't make boarding your train any easier (I think it's pretty much complete now).

Several regional (TER) and Intercity services, such as Paris - Clermont-Ferrand have been moved to the neighboring gare de Bercy.

The main reason for moving low-cost services to Marne-la-Vallée is indeed cost: the station, among many infrastructure projects, was part of Disney's extensive list of demands (among things like exceptions from French labor laws) when negotiating Disneyland Paris project with then Prime Minister Jacques Chirac in 1987, and is rather underutilized (5000 passengers/day) - Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport station, a few dozen kilometers away is actually much more useful.

(Apologies for linking to French version of Wiki pages: they are sometimes more complete than their English language counterparts)

by Bernard on Sun Mar 10th, 2013 at 05:10:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But the night train to Italy has been moved from Bercy to Lyon.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sun Mar 10th, 2013 at 06:38:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Curiously, there are no direct Paris-Barcelona TGV services scheduled yet for April. SNCF playing it safe perhaps?

This service interests me: it won't be stopping in Lyon, but I can no doubt pick it up with a change in Nîmes or Montpellier. 4 to 5 hours is good.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Mar 4th, 2013 at 05:05:42 AM EST
BTW: the 6.8 billion estimate is for Stuttgart 21 alone. The high-speed line should come in at about 5 billion.

Tomorrow there is going be a board meeting of DB that will probably rule in favor of proceeding with S21 (it could also table the decision). If the board says yes there will be some Nay votes (among labor representatives), something that's generally 'discouraged'. Nothing focuses the mind of a board member like personal liability. Reportedly the board wants to transfer control of the project from the management board to some neutral entity, and it wants DB to sue Baden-Württemberg and Stuttgart to get them to put up more money. I'd love to see that court case happen. That could actually be a vector to get out of this mess.

Schengen is toast!

by epochepoque on Mon Mar 4th, 2013 at 05:11:25 PM EST
BTW: the 6.8 billion estimate is for Stuttgart 21 alone. The high-speed line should come in at about 5 billion.

This is confusing. But the last news I find on the high-speed line is this, with an inflation-related increase from €2.89 billion to €3.26 billion. Meanwhile, the breakdown in this article suggests that the risk buffer half of the increase for Stuttgart 21 is rather certain extra costs. At any rate, PRO BAHN now gave out the slogan Milliarden-Grab Stuttgart 21 beenden, an Neubaustrecke Wendlingen - Ulm festhalten!.

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

by DoDo on Mon Mar 4th, 2013 at 06:16:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...and to the courts it will go. The board voted for continuation with one Nay and one Abstain. Spiegel says the transfer of the control of the project was the idea of the management board.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Mar 5th, 2013 at 03:14:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Where high-speed lines meet upon a major city, there are two main options: one is to continue the tracks into the city (which usually means the construction of long tunnels and/or viaducts and major station reconstruction), the other is to connect to conventional lines on the edge of the city. This latter option is of course cheaper, but such co-use sections become a significant part of travel time and a main cause of delays due to conflicts with other trains.

This mystifies me. Perhaps I'm one of those dreamers who can't figure out why the trains don't run on time, but... Why don't they?

And if they do run on time, then it should be perfectly straightforward to coordinate the various train movements so that various classes of traffic can integrate smoothly. In fact, some of the initial network switching theory was developed by people at MIT who were deeply involved in--and possibly motivated by--the MIT model railroad club. So if you can keep the cows off the tracks, then mixed traffic should not be a problem. But it is.

http://tmrc.mit.edu/history/
 

by asdf on Tue Mar 5th, 2013 at 01:49:54 PM EST
I don't know what is the predominant cause of hours-long delays in the USA, but the seconds- to minutes-long delays leading to conflicts near European rail hubs have several reasons, including:

  • accidents and incidents
  • temporary speed restrictions due to track damage
  • constuction or maintenance works
  • partial power loss (say one of four electric motors in a loco is toast)
  • weather-related traction problems (rain, snow, fall leaves)
  • weather-related speed restrictions (rail dilatation in extreme heat or cold, strong wind, raised water table etc.)
  • signal problems (malfunction, late operation of manually-set equipment)
  • too slow boarding/unboarding of passengers
  • higher than normal passenger occupation (reduces maximum acceleration)
  • cascading delay: previous conflict between two trains of which at least one was delayed

The key systemic reasons why conflicts are a significant problem on railways (in contrast to roads) are train length and signal distance (braking distance), and you can only do so much with signalling and sometimes you need extra infrastructure. However, I won't say any more on this last subject, as it is the theme of an upcoming diary.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Mar 5th, 2013 at 03:43:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've read somewhere that the delays are brought about because freight has priority. Always. The tracks are owned by the freight operating company wheras the passenger service, Amtrak, is imposed from Govt. The only way the OCs accept this is by ensuring their own traffic has precedence.

And screw the people

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Mar 8th, 2013 at 09:24:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Trains don't run on time because sharing the rails into cities means sharing with commuter trains which are overloaded (and commuters packed in a train get sick and pull the alarm which stops the train... making all the other trains behind even more packed) and underfunded (partially because funds are going to those brand new, politically visible high speed trains...)

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Tue Mar 5th, 2013 at 06:05:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
funds are going to those brand new, politically visible high speed trains

That take is so 1990s. For example:

Francilien arrives at Paris Est - Railway Gazette

FRANCE: President of the Ile-de-France regional council and Paris transport authority STIF Jean-Paul Huchon joined SNCF Transilien Director General Bénédicte Tilloy and RFF Ile-de-France Regional Director François Régus Orizet on February 27 to mark the entry into service of the first of 35 Francilien EMUs for the suburban network serving Paris Est.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Mar 5th, 2013 at 06:15:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems to me that there are two problems. First, there are going to be conflicts if you have two trains that need to use the same track, so there will be times when the train is stopped if there is congestion. But second, if things run as planned, then those stoppages should be predictable, so the schedule should be met.

My experience is that people want the train to be moving. "Stopped on a siding waiting for a scheduled time" is not acceptable, even if the final arrival time prediction is met.

by asdf on Wed Mar 6th, 2013 at 10:48:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
there will be times when the train is stopped if there is congestion. But second, if things run as planned, then those stoppages should be predictable

Unfortunately, the cascading of delays usually happens at locations where the train conflict can occur just minutes after the emergence of the original delay, so this is not that easy. (Here I must again limit details for the sake of my upcoming diary on this subject.) Still, a complex delay prediction taking train conflicts into account would be desirable, if only to enhance passenger information.

On that account, both as a daily commuter and an observer of other passengers, I concur that people prefer continuous motion at any speed to stop-and-go. However, I think it is equally important to know the cause of delay and have a sense of how long it will be, people are much more tolerant of waiting if they get that information.

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

by DoDo on Thu Mar 7th, 2013 at 04:46:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it is equally important to know the cause of delay

Within reason. I was once on a Hamburg-Munich train, where the DB insisted of apologizing before each stop for the delay, and listing the four reasons: forest fire, signalling problem etc., while you really wanted them to get to the details of connecting trains....

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Mar 7th, 2013 at 06:37:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The opposite of that is ÖBB's all-purpose explanation, "The train is delayed due to the late hand-over of the train at the border...", which is not a reason but finger-pointing. (For example, at one time my train was delayed because of flooding creeks and rivers after torrential rains, something which the ÖBB staff could have learned from the restaurant car staff, if not from any other source.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 7th, 2013 at 09:57:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, the opposite of that is the SNCF standard announcement :
"The train is stopped between stations [No Shit, Sherlock!] . Please do not attempt to get out [and kindly suppress the wave of panic that this announcement produces]".

Because that's all you ever get.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu Mar 7th, 2013 at 11:00:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Over here there is usually a crowd looking at the remains of whatever got run over by the train. One such accident nationally every two hours.
by asdf on Thu Mar 7th, 2013 at 12:46:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Huchon certainly is going for "politically visible" here. In the meantime, on the two workhorses of Parisian suburban rail, RER's A and B, "not working correctly" is pretty much every other day. From Denfert where I live to Chatelet where I work, bus or Velibs are very competitive with the often delayed, saturated or slowed down RER B.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Mar 6th, 2013 at 04:08:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The oldest stock used on RER B, the MI79 (which is now being refurbished, which should have "political visibility" too), is just one year older than the TGV-PSE. Even in the eighties when TGVs were supplied in the largest batches and they were most "politically visible", there were equally significant fleet additions for Paris: the MI79/84, the Z2N and most batches of the VB2N double-deck coaches. It was more the rural mainline, branchline and freight sectors that were relatively neglected. This changed in the last decade, however, with the regionalisation of regional passenger transport (where the special liveries for the rolling stock financed by the different regions offered "political visibility" for a wider range of administrations).

Another reason that a suburban trains – TGV contrast wasn't fair even in the eighties-nineties was that trains have a lifetime of at least two decades, thus there was no TGV to compare to old suburban stock back then. This changed now and indeed when I travelled on TGVs in France in recent years, most weren't brand-new.

So if there was a problem with suburban fleet renewal, it wasn't that it didn't happen or was relatively neglected, but that it didn't happen fast enough, especially with view to traffic growth (then again, TGVs and ZTERs etc. didn't replace old long-distance and medium-distance stock in one go, either).

Regarding RER A and B, are problems mostly related to old rolling stock, or rather infrastructure (signalling and track and power supply), and perhaps new rolling stock (MI09 on RER A)?

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

by DoDo on Wed Mar 6th, 2013 at 07:02:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, the spanking new Francilien rolling stock also fit in the "politically visible". They are supposed to replace the Z6100 and Z5300 that are now over forty years old: there are still Z5300 on the Paris Montparnasse network, I rode on one these only this morning; they are to be replaced by VB2N in about a year or two...

Anyway, the major issue with the Transilien (Paris commuter trains) system is not the rolling stock, despite its 22-23 years average age, it's the tracks, signaling and power supply infrastructure that are failing all too often: 2 weeks ago, a signaling cabinet was destroyed by fire in Sèvres Ville d'avray and has completely shut down all traffic on my train line. Then, this morning, a power station failure in Porchefontaine near Versailles wrecked havoc on the whole Montparnasse network (excluding TGV): there was enough power for only "8 trains per hour, each way" (the traffic "should restart" around 16:00).

The unions(always suspect by VSP definition), blame the lack of funding for delayed maintenance works and insufficient equipment upgrade, but these are no photo ops for Huchon.

by Bernard on Mon Mar 11th, 2013 at 01:14:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe that in Japan more trains run on time while using a narrower definition of "on time".

I think the central problem is political. For the system to work and be able to handle some hickups (be they weather, human handling errors, technical malfunctions) you need excess capacity. The faux-market way the trains in Europe increasingly is set up gives little incitament for excess capacity. Plus the spirit of the times says rather lavish private trains then enough public boring tracks.

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

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Mar 9th, 2013 at 09:46:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
if a city the size of perugia wanted to power electric trains serving 80 mile radius of valleys, how many hectares of solar panels would you need bearing in mind the high number of sunny days in the region?

any clues where i could find calculations?  any communities in europe thinking to try it out?

even if trains just ran in the daytime, lol...


'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 6th, 2013 at 07:33:18 AM EST
I have wondered about that also. You need a calculator that takes into account what you can get from PV, from wind, from pumped hydro storage, under a range of weather conditions. Also you need to take into account the grid situation and the ability to control demand. This sort of work has been done, but I don't know of a free tool that already does it. Would love to have one, though! (Maybe a big spreadsheet.)
by asdf on Wed Mar 6th, 2013 at 12:20:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is a very rough calculation, I hope I made no calculation errors.

  • You say 80 mile radius (are you still not adjusted to km? :-) ), but that would include a lot of totally unrelated traffic on the Rome–Florence and Adriatic Coast lines, so let me delimit this at the junctions of Falconara (before Ancona), Orte, Terontola (both on the Rome-Arezzo-Florence line) and Sansepolcro.
  • Looking at timetables, I estimate that the sum of the travel time of all passenger trains moving between these endpoints on a weekday is 220 hours. Let's anticipate some frequency increase and calculate with 240 hours.
  • Let's assume that the average power of each train is 2.25 MW (probably a significant overestimate). This would mean an annual consumption of 0.1971 TWh and an average power need of 22.5 MW.
  • For photovoltaic panels at Perugia's location, one can assume an average capacity factor of 15%. This means that, would there be a storage facility (let's ignore its efficiency) or means of balancing, the required annual production would be met by 150 MW of solar panels.
  • At a panel efficiency of 15%, the total surface of 150 MW of solar panels would be 1 million m² = 1 km².
  • At Perugia's latitude, assuming all panels are installed on the flat roofs of industrial buildings, a roof area of about three times as much would be required, that is about 3 km².


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Mar 6th, 2013 at 06:15:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks DoDo, you rule!

one can dream... i already see many fields on the way to perugia filled with panels. of course it would be a lot smarter to create shade with them or put tem on existing rooftops.

it blows my mind that the tech is already there to do something like that...


'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 6th, 2013 at 06:53:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, here is something special: a brand-new solar-powered motor car on a narrow-gauge railway near me (on someone else's a photo emailed to me):

I don't yet have the technical details but the power of the roof solar panel can't be much more than 1.5 kWp :-) However, on a line with a top speed of 25 km/h, not much power is needed.

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

by DoDo on Wed Mar 6th, 2013 at 07:37:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
that looks like a high school science project with the technical complexity of a lawnmower.

we have the highest unemployment rates ever, but we can't build stuff like this and roll it out all over where the sun shines?

facepalm

thanks DoDo, nice one!

'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 6th, 2013 at 08:39:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Argentine Trains and Their History, Told by Bloggers · Global Voices

The Argentine railway network, the most extensive in Latin America, carries with it the history of the birth of towns, cities, and above all the economic activity and communication of the country.

Argentine bloggers dedicate posts to this means of transport which began in the year 1855. They are, with the passage of time, able to keep the history of its platforms alive. The blog Pan y Cielo [es], gives a very interesting account of immigration and its evolution:



Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 6th, 2013 at 07:56:08 AM EST
200 km, 72 stations, 27 billion euros, finished in 2030

The Grand Paris Express (Le Monde)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Mar 6th, 2013 at 11:53:45 AM EST
As far as I know, this was Sarkozy's present to more affluent parts of Île-de-France, but it could still make eminent traffic sense. However, I wonder if its only existing part would not become the victim of its success: metro line 14, which was built to relieve parallel metro and RER lines, is pretty busy already without the extra traffic from extensions. Mabybe they still can increase frequency, however. (If not, a sixth RER line?)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Mar 6th, 2013 at 07:09:19 PM 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 Thu Mar 7th, 2013 at 08:16:03 PM EST
Ha. You have to be close to the sea. Something similar to the above was not at all uncommon in Northern Germany, where the shore of the Northern Sea has a very wide tidal area, and narrow-gauge railways have been constructed to some islands. I found one photo on-line:



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

by DoDo on Fri Mar 8th, 2013 at 02:46:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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