I'm pressed for time today, so here are a few snippets of HSR-related news from around the world:
- A new High Speed Commuter Train enters service in the UK today. Traveling at a top speed of 140mph, the Japanese-built "Javelin" is extremely light (for a train) and equipped with powerful electric motors. These permit rapid acceleration and deceleration such that the service can share the expensive HS1 tracks with Eurostar, whose trackage fees on the UK side have long been 10 times higher than in France. This is oneI reason why tickets are so much more expensive than those for similar distances within France. The new regional HSR service should reduce Eurostar's costs in the UK.
For more on the concept of running both long-distance and purely regional HSR trains on the same tracks, see also our earlier post on "HiSpeed Services And Branding".
- Meanwhile, Greengauge 21, a prominent HSR advocacy group in the UK, warns that the government's proposed top speed of 250km/h (155mph) for HS2 (the extension to London Heathrow, Birmingham and Manchester) will be insufficient to attract enough ridership. For the extension to be a commercial success, it claims the line will need to support top speeds of at least 300km/h.
- VIA Rail, Canada's counterpart to Amtrak, wants to upgrade service to 125mph in the core Windsor-Quebec City corridor. This could eventually connect to the Midwest HSR network that proponents think was given a boost by the FRA guidelines published yesterday since it will eventually link eight US states. However, much like the hoped-for Pacific Northwest link between Vancouver BC and Portland (perhaps Eugene), there are simply no public funds on the table. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a conservative, remains opposed to improved passenger rail service in his country. In addition, the Canadian border agency is demanding C$500,000 per year to man the new border post at the train station in Vancouver. This was enough to derailed the effort to get at least the Amtrak Cascades route extended.
- JR East has officially unveiled its new E5 series trains, which will serve the Tokyo-Shin Aomori route at a top speed of 320km/h (199mph) starting in 2013. The advanced active-tilt design will run on the existing Tohoku shinkansen line, which was built for a much lower top speed decades ago. While the Fastech 360 development platform for the E5 did achieve the desired top speed of 360km/h (224mph) on the same tracks, it failed to meet very ambitious targets for noise emissions and emergency braking distance. The signature retractable air brakes are not needed at the lower top speed defined for the E5 and were therefore cut from the final design.
- A new report on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv HSR line in Israel has uncovered cost overruns and inadequate planning in a key section. It seems likely that heads will roll in the agencies responsible.