one way to discover how HSR operators in other countries have built their infrastructure and run their trains is to tag along in the driver cab, at least vicariously.
Series 500 Bullet Train
The following YouTube video is part 1 of an eight-part series tracking the progress of a sixteen-car series 500 bullet train from Hakata (Fukuoka) to Tokyo on the Sanyo and Tokaido shinkansen lines traveling in "nozomi", i.e. express, mode at a top speed of 300km/h (186mph). The audio is in Japanese, but the author has kindly provided limited translation.
(Playlist for parts 2 to 8)
Total trip distance is 1069km (664mi), part 6 includes the "rollercoaster" section between Toyohashi and Laka Hamana. Operated jointly bby JR West and JR Central with a change of drivers at Shin-Osaka. Dwell times at run-through stations are around 50 seconds, this is normal in Japan. The journey as such is entirely uneventful. Infrastructure is supposed to be this dependable!
For our purposes, it's perhaps the design of the line that is of greatest interest: at-grade vs. elevated vs. trench vs. tunnel structures, selective use of sound walls, speeds through populated areas, fences etc. Also, contrast the graceful design of the train - inspired by the streamlined shape of a kingfisher breaking the water's surface without creating much of a ripple - with the ugly headspans.
Series 700 Bullet Train
Also informative is this in-cab video of a series 700 bullet train, the successor to the sleek but expensive series 500. This design features a duck-billed nose that minimizes tunnel boom and susceptibility to sway in heavy cross-winds and when passing high speed trains approaching from the other direction.
Note that the Japanese obsession with punctuality isn't just a source of personal pride for the impeccably dressed bullet train drivers but rather, an operational necessity: in many sections, the existing lines are at capacity, so drivers are expected to stick as close as possible to timetables that are prescribed down to the second. The Tokaido shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka supports a total of 285 trains on weekdays. It is headway constraints rather than a lack of engineering chops that force most Japanese bullet trains to travel (at slightly) lower speeds than their counterparts in Europe.
To activate close captioning in (somewhat broken) English, please click the up arrow on the lower right. Keeping the mouse button pressed, slide up and toggle the CC icon.
If you prefer a running narration in the Queen's English, below is the first video of a similar series documenting a Eurostar trip from Paris to London (h/t to Trains4America). The video was produced in 2004, three years before the second portion (CTRL2) of the High Speed 1 line in the UK was completed. Parts 11 and 12 of the series are now only of historical interest.
(Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
The UK is not a signatory to the EU's Schengen Agreement. The British government therefore required border controls including dedicated boarding platforms at all Eurostar stations in France even before the Al Qaeda terrorist bombings on the London Underground. Security consists of running your ticket through a bar code reader at a turnstile, your bags through a scanner and walking through a metal detector. With no baggage handling to contend with, passengers can arrive at the station as little as 10 or 15 minutes before their train leaves.
The first thing you'll notice is that the overhead catenaries feature poles not headspans. Also note the lateral distance to the nearest buildings and embankments/retaining walls on the way out of the French capital. The speed limits there may have more to do with signal block length and associated headways (i.e. emergency braking distance) on the regular network than with concern about noise: one section of the line supports a total of over 200 trains on a weekday. Out in the undulating countryside, extensive cut-and-fill earthworks were needed to keep the ruling gradient to 1:40 (i.e. 2.5%).
Lille, a city of a million inhabitants, got SNCF to run the line to the UK through its downtown area. French mayors and local business leaders understand that "beet field" stations like Haute Picardie make it much more difficult to attract the inward investment they need to compete with the Île-de-France region surrounding the capital. The section through Lille features tunnels, trenches and elevated structures with tall sound walls through residential neighborhoods. Some connecting regional trains depart from Lille Europe, many others from the legacy Lille Flandres station about 1/4 mile away, a single stop away on the local metro and tram lines. Passengers can also choose to walk through a shopping-mall-cum-conference-center.
Eurostar trainsets feature two tractor cars plus motors on the first bogie of the passenger cars immediately adjacent to the tractor cars, for a total of 12 powered axles. Total rated power is 12,200kW (16000bhp). In the event of an emergency, a single tractor car is sufficient to pull the trainset out of the Channel Tunnel, where the speed limit is 160km/h (100mph) for passenger and 100km/h (60mph) for freight and car/truck ferry trains. Along the route, the train has to adapt to four different signaling systems, multiple pantograph settings and two electrification systems. The 750VDC third rail pickups are no longer needed now that CTRL2 has been completed and trains terminate at St. Pancras International, shaving more than 20 minutes of the nominal line haul time and substantially improving punctuality.
Since the summer of 2009, Southeastern Highspeed regional trains also use the new High Speed 1 infrastructure. The series 395 "Javelin" trainsets have a top speed of 140mph and will provide frequent shuttle services between downtown and the sports venues in the East End during the 2012 Summer Olympics.
- operators all use automatic train control systems that engage the brakes if drivers ignore speed limits that are signaled in their cabs. In addition, the infrastructure operators have central facilities for managing traffic on the lines.
- high speed trains do run through suburbs and rural towns at 200-300km/h (125-186mph) in both Japan and Europe. Shinkansen lines typically run through Japanese towns on elevated structures, whereas European planners prefer to run trains at grade and construct numerous road overpasses.
- however, where the line runs (relatively) close to existing buildings, speed limits are either much lower or else noise is mitigated with sound walls and/or soundproof windows installed at the railway's expense.
- expensive tunnels into downtown areas of large cities are worthwhile IFF there is excellent connecting transit and/or transit-oriented development in the immediate vicinity of the station. Both can significantly increase ridership.
Sunday, October 25, 2009