Saturday, December 27, 2008

Saturday Open Thread

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

I'll be back on Monday to continue the high speed rail conversation. For now use this as an open thread to discuss whatever's on your mind that's HSR related - even if only tangentially.

Some articles that have appeared over the last few days regarding California HSR:


Brandon in California said...

I am gratified to hear that Barack Obama continues to forward his agenda on energy and transportation. I was a bit concerned after seeing little to nothing from his camp for a 2-week window, but recently have heard more.

Anonymous said...

The SFGATE article is very positive! now lets hope the state budget gets sorted out ASAP so we dont have to stop the planning work

Alon Levy said...

I'm sorry, but the second comment on the anti-maglev post is right. Maglev has better performance than conventional rail on issues like gradients and acceleration. It's also been proven to be able to reach 431 km/h, with the Chuo Shinkansen line planned to reach 500; conventional HSR technology is limited to 360, notwithstanding whatever China thinks it might be able to develop.

Spokker said...

Now this is interesting! It's a concept for the Temecula/Murrieta HSR station.

"The proposed location of the transit center is at 27199 Jefferson Avenue in
Temecula. The transit center will be adjacent to a park and ride facility. The
City of Temecula will contribute $0.6 million for the cost of the park and ride
facility. Total project cost is $8.0 million and the transit center is estimated to
be completed in fiscal year 2012."

What I found most striking is their idea to build a bypass track and a trench that branches off from the main line that trains would use to make their stops.

Brandon in California said...

As a concept, it looks intersting. But the alignment and curves it seems far removed from being practical for HSR. I also wonder where a 1200-1300 foot platforms would be located... and along straight or curved track.

I should think that Temecula, or the area, does not necessitate special design considerations, so I should also think that local financial support would be necessary to do anything beyond what would be expected for a remote/commuter station.

On the surface of it... partially the conspiracy theorist in me, who owns the land and land immediate to the station?

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm a newbie to this stuff, so these question might be a bit naive:

1. The central valley gets some pretty thick fogs in the winter. Does this have any effect on HSR operations?

2. I once saw a freight train laying on its side between Mojave and Edwards - I heard that the winds did it. How much is HSR affected by that kind of wind?

3. Both SFO and LAX are saturated and growth constrained. Has there been any thought to placing a dual-city airport somewhere in the central valley that would be on the order of < 90 minutes from both downtown SF and LA? One argument I've heard against this is that a location out there would not have a population from which to draw employees. (I don't find that argument to have a lot of strength.) I've also heard some statements that Palmdale will be replacing or supplementing LAX. Might one assume that that would impact the placement of the Antelope Valley station?

Rafael said...

@ Brandon -

for Pete's sake, Obama has hardly seen his kids for two years and his grandmother died recently. If anyone has earned a vacation, it's him.

When he gets back, it will be interesting to see how he will resolve the conflict between the short-term imperative to create construction jobs vs. the long-term objective of cutting total demand for oil by at least 1/3. I suspect that quite a few of the so-called "shovel-ready" projects relate to expanding road or runway capacity. Obama would be wise to eschew those in favor of repairing existing capacity plus other forms of infrastructure: rail, water, sewers, renewable electricity generation, HVDC overlay distribution grid, building insulation/HVAC, mobile broadband internet, natural disaster damage mitigation (e.g. an eminent domain program for properties at high risk, to be exercised after the next cataclysm - i.e. don't rebuild in the same place).

In addition, a jobs-oriented stimulus funded by all taxpayers cannot be confined to construction, which is still dominated by men. Obama will also need to spend on education (especially for those aged 3-5), health care and social services, to create jobs for women.

@ Alon Levy -

the technical merits of maglev aren't in doubt, but their relevance is. Steel wheels HSR represents a substantially lower technology risk, would allow Nevada to tie in with the entire CA network and, at 220mph speeds are high enough to be competitive against short-haul flights.

It's like VHS vs. Betamax or Windows vs. Mac all over again: low risk plus compatibility trumps features. Maglev? Fuggedaboudit!

@ Spokker -

Caltrans is currently usurping the I-15 median between Temecula and Miramar for carpool lanes. Afaik, these are not be constructed as covered trenches to permit rail tracks to be laid in the future. Until and unless the issue of the ROW for HSR is resolved for the entire LA-SD section, there isn't going to be a spur to San Diego at all. Trains can't fly.

@ Karl -

(1) Bullet trains are not affected by fog because all signals are relayed directly to the driver cab. Full grade separation against both rail and road traffic plus anti-trespass measures such as fences ensure that the tracks aren't fouled by something that isn't supposed to be there. For belts and suspenders, bullet trains feature automatic train control, which means that the train will engage the emergency brakes if a driver runs a red light.

(2) Bullet train cars have a much lower center of gravity than flatbed cars loaded with double-stacked containers. Also, the noses of bullet trains are designed to resist sway due to lateral wind gusts - by far the largest of which occur when two trains traveling in opposite directions at full speed pass each other. There has never ever been an instance of a bullet train being blown off its rails.

(3) The Palmdale and Ontario HSR stations will be located as close as possible to the airport passenger terminals, precisely because LAX and other SoCal airports are running at or close to capacity and nearby residents are preventing expansion. Most likely, unmanned people movers will be used to bridge the remaining distance and encourage more passengers to use these relief airports.

Rafael said...

Texas has a constitutional prohibition against using the anyhow inadequate gasoline taxes on anything but highways - even when there is literally no place left to build more of them.

Passenger rail reduces congestion on the roads, so that those who choose to drive can actually do so. How much is reduced congestion worth to motorists? Gasoline taxes belong in the general fund, earmarked taxes are always hopelessly inefficient in the long run!

I'm all for spending stimulus funds on sensible rail projects anywhere in the US, but states with legal impediments to paying for any of it themselves should not be eligible.

Anonymous said...

Reading a news article in the Dallas paper, there will be a vote next year to repeal that law about gas taxs and rail..lets see if it passes in Texas

Spokker said...

What should the rules be about prohibiting photography of the high speed trains?

And where can we find the biggest, baddest, most insecure dudes to hire as police officers and enforce our unconstitutional rules?

On a more serious note, what are you advocating for security on the network? Are you going to speak out against airport-style security on CAHSR?

Rafael said...

@ Spokker -

a number of countries, e.g. Spain and the UK, now have security scans for high speed train passengers. It's basically a placebo, since the most vulnerable component of any long-distance train system is the tracks. Those need to be monitored via closed-circuit TV, not just for terrorists but also for garden-variety extortionists, saboteurs, teenage idiots, suicidal maniacs, livestock, wild game etc.

Separately, the US has gone way overboard in allowing its government to generate fear regarding the threat of additional terrorist attacks.

Yes, 3000-plus people died on 9/11/2001 and that really was tragic. Still, that was fewer than lost their lives in Northern Ireland over a period of 30 years - relative to a population 300 times smaller.

Also, some 40,000-plus die on US roads each and every year. Just because they aren't all bankers doesn't mean they're chopped liver. Perhaps it's time to get some perspective on just how dangerous terrorists really are. Life is risk, whatever you do.

Rafael said...

Btw, some rapid rail news out of Europe. Austrian railways OeBB recently brought its new railjet into commercial service. The first route is Munich to Budapest via Vienna at a top speed of 230km/h (~140mph). Some sections in Austria will support 250km/h by next year but that's pretty much the limit as the tracks have to be shared with rapid freight. The whole country only has a population of 8 million and most of it is mountainous.

The second route will be Vienna-Zurich. With top speed constrained, OeBB selected an unpowered trainset consist pulled by one of its 430+ Taurus locomotives. Optionally, the consists could be upgraded to EMUs later on.

Right now, however, the marketing focus is on quiet cabins plus maximum comfort and service for passengers in three classes. In the upper classes, passengers can order at-seat meals. In economy, there's a bistro car which also offers concierge services. The trainsets are internet-ready, which is to say that OeBB still has to install the trackside infrastructure (esp. in the country's many tunnels) to make it work.

Railjet may represent a model for those parts of the US where true HSR (at 186mph or above) cannot be justified but rapid rail can.

Railjet exterior
Railjet interior
Access for the disabled

Rob Dawg said...

(1) Bullet trains are not affected by fog because all signals are relayed directly to the driver cab. Full grade separation against both rail and road traffic plus anti-trespass measures such as fences ensure that the tracks aren't fouled by something that isn't supposed to be there.

What are these "Full grade separation" and "ensured" you mention? While I agree they are important, they aren't in the budget.

Rafael said...

@ rob dawg -

of course they are. The entire network will be grade separated against road traffic, if only because FRA mandates it for sections classified to support more than 125mph.

Grade separation against rail is accomplished via dedicated tracks everywhere except short sections of the Caltrain corridor and the short Fullerton-Anaheim section of the LOSSAN corridor. In those locations, guaranteed time separation will be used instead.

Fences are explictly included, but CHSRA has understandably not advertised all of the measures they will take to monitor trespassing.

See e.g. table 1.1 of chapter 1 of the 2008 Business Plan.

Tony D. said...

Karl 1:07,

I love your #3 point regarding SFO and LAX. I don't know how long you've been at this blog, but I've expressed the same idea as it relates to SJC-San Jose Int. Airport (the only reason it's "international" is because of one daily flight to Guadalajara, MX).

High-speed rail could really make possible relocating SJC to southern Santa clara Co., San Benito Co., or central valley. No airport belongs in the center of a major city. I can also see Palmdale as being a "Super LAX" for the greater LA region, conveniently connected by HSR and allowing the current LAX site to be redeveloped into a beach-front community. HSR opens up a world of possibilities in terms of our overcrowded, city-constrained airports.

As for employees of airports, I'd imagine they could also use HSR to get from city centers out to remote airport terminals.


Anonymous said...

Why is there any discussion of BUILDING NEW AIRPORTS when the purpose of HSR is to suck up a bunch of the intra-California traffic that currently fills the state's airports?

Relocate SJC? Come on. Think there's gonna be one on the farmlands south of Gilroy? First, HSR will make a big curve through the area. Second, there are farmlands there, and the CHSRA has done a lot to avoid taking farmlands. Third, there are wetlands there. How about highway access? Time to build a freeway to the location, and then widen 152 and 101 some more.

Finally, any new airport would probably end up being farther from San Jose than SFO. It's about 35 miles from Downtown San Jose to south of Gilroy. It's 33 miles to SFO. So, looking for an airport to serve the Silicon Valley, which runs north from San Jose? That'll now be SFO.

Tony D. said...

anon 3:23,

Calm down now, just thinking outside the box. Many world airports are connected to crowded city center's via high-speed rail/transit: Tokyo's Narita Airport, Hong Kong International Airport, and Shanghai's to name a few. And yes, a hypothetical "Gilroy" airport would be farther from San Jose than SFO. BUT! 15-20 minutes from San Jose/Gilroy via HSR, 30-40 minutes from San Jose/SFO via Hwy. 101/auto (and that's with no traffic). Anyhow, my point is that HSR will give us the ability to use a city/airport model that's now in use in other parts of the world. And just my opinion; large airports belong in remote farmlands, not the urban core.

Anonymous said...

(hopefuly this is not a duplicate.)

Thanks everyone for the illuminating answers to my questions.

I'd like to expand a bit and add a couple more:

1. With regard to LAX/SFO (and San Jose), my thought was that perhaps it is time for a California-wide international airport rather than one for SF and one for LA (and other smaller metropolitan areas). From where I live (Santa Cruz) I imagine that with HSR that I'd be equally distant (in terms of time) from either SFO or the CalPort (hypothetical name) airport somewhere in the central valley.

I am reminded of my trips to Stockholm - The Arlanda airport run is so convenient that they could have put the airport anywhere (and I'm always amused to read on the back of the ticket that they give a refund if the train arrives more than a couple of minutes late.)

2. Trains break down, that's simply a fact of life. I'm wondering how frequently HSR systems have crossovers to allow bi-direction, single track operation, and how frequently there are sidings into which a failed trainset can be moved to clear the way for other traffic.

With regard to steel-rail vs maglev, I imagine that it's a lot harder to send out a self-powered (diesel) unit to lift and pull a dead maglev that is sitting on the guideway than it is to roll a standard wheeled trainset. (I have this image of a broken maglev train sitting on the guideway out between Kelso and Cima.)

3. With regard to fences and signals - there's always that odd cow, horse, or deer that wanders through a broken fence onto the tracks. What happens when a HSR locomotive hits an animal? (Yes, I know that it is very bad for the animal; I'm more interested in what happens to the train.)

Brandon in California said...

Rafael - I spoke to his 'camp'... his lieutenants. I never spoke to messages directly from Barack Obama himself. So, for Pete sake right back at you.

Karl- A single animal will likely not affect an HSR train very much. Might not be noticable at all from a ride quality point of view. But, a small heard of ... say sheep... would affect an HSR train. Google 'sheep' and 'derailment' and you'll find info an August incident in Gemany involving an ICE train.

Clem said...

Rafael said:

> bullet trains feature automatic train control, which means that the train will engage the emergency brakes if a driver runs a red light.

It's even better: the train will not even let the driver run a "red light". If it does not sense the correct deceleration, in anticipation of the light, the system takes over and ensures that the train comes to a safe stop before the "red light".

Anonymous said...

With HSR there is no need for any new 20Billion dollar airports.
There are now hourly flights from SFO to 6 SoCal airports. get rid of those and no need for bay fill runway..that could never be built.
I am worried that the San Diego line will never be as SoCal is filling up all the open space for car pool lanes

Anonymous said...

Brandon: Google 'sheep' and 'derailment' and you'll find info an August incident in Gemany involving an ICE train.

That accident is rather special. The animals were hit within a tunnel. As usual along a lot of high-speed sections, there was fence around the tunnel portal. Indeed the German Sheep Farmers' Association is certain that the animals were driven into the tunnel on purpose.

Anonymous said...

Karl, 2) on the difficulty to tow a broken-down is a good point! However, breakdowns while travelling on dedicated track are rather uncommon for both high-speed trains and maglevs.

On 3), to add to what Brandon wrote, check out the 24 photos in this German article. That ICE hit 20 sheep. You'll see minor surface damage on the tractor head, but also a middle car tumbled to the side. The last two photos are interesting in comparison, you see a 160 km/h tilting train that hit a cow herd.

Anonymous said...

Rafael, on Railjet: I may hop on one in the first week of the new year, will report.

It's interesting to see conventional loco-pulled train technology to reach speeds above those high-speed service started at (the 200-210 km/h on the Shinkansen). Still, thinking of noise and acceleration, I'd prefer EMUs desite the higher speed and less train length variability.

Anonymous said...

On track security: there are more ays to control various dangers. (Not just) TGV lines have motion/obstacle detectors on overpasses. The rails themselves can be used to detect an interruption if it is used in track signalling circuits. In addition, the drivers of passing trains can report back if they see something. (In fact, in that German sheep hitting case, this could have prevented worse, but the dispatcher wasn't up to it: a few minutes earlier, a trainin the other direction already hit one animal, but the dispatcher failed to follow rules and instate a temporary restriction.)

Rafael said...

@ Karl -

a) there's no such thing as diesel maglev.

b) HSR trains hardly ever break down because they have to maintained very well for safety. In April, one Eurostar train was stranded for 10 hours because its driver had misdiagnosed a computer fault. This sort of event is exceptional. RENFE in Spain will refund 50% if an HSR train is between 15 and 30 minutes late and 100% if it is more than 30 minutes late. SNCF offers a voucher worth 1/3 of the original ticket for delays in excess of 30 minutes for trips of over 100km (60mi).

c) A single international airport for all of California makes no sense, the state alreaddy has clsoe to 40 million inhabitants.

However, consolidating a number of secondary airports (Stockton, Modesto, Fresno) in the Central Valley plus perhaps SJC into a single long-haul airport with a busy HSR station directly inside the passenger terminal might make sense. A note of caution, though: Lyon Satolas in France never worked as a relief airport for Paris.

Short of constructing a large new airport entirely from scratch, the only viable candidate is Castle Airport (formerly Castle AFB) in Atwater (Merced county). Residents of Bakersfield will probably prefer to use Palmdale once HSR goes live.

Sacramento is planning a light rail link to its own airport, which would be a mistake. That link needs to be heavy rail right to the terminals to attract passengers from further afield. Transfers with baggage are bad.

Anonymous said...

On sidewinds, in addition to what Rafael said. For relatively light driving trailers, this was considered a serious enough problem to take pre-cautions.

In Typhoon-visited Japan, as well as South Korea and Taiwan, there are rules for (local) speed reductions during high wind. From Series 700 onward, Shinkansens have "duckbill noses" meant to act as airfoils to sidewinds (but also to reduce tunnel boom), see pictures here.

In Germany, the sidewind problem was quite an issue, because German Railways DB did not give as much thought to it as EBA, the local version of the FRA. There are no duckbill noses there, and the first ICEs with driving trailers (ICE-2) had to wait years to get approved for full-speed run with driving trailer ahead. In light of this, before the distributed-power ICE-3 sets began to run on the hilly (thus windy) Cologne-Frankfurt line, in addition to speed reduction rules, DB installed additional wind shields at supposed high side wind exposure sites. However, after years of service, the sidewind fear proved overblown -- the wind shields have been removed since.

Rafael said...

@ DoDo -

great, would love to hear what you think of the railjet offering. Btw, cabin noise is generally lower in an unpowered car, that's why OeBB picked that config.

The Siemens-built Taurus locomotive is the workhorse of the Austrian railways. By itself, one recently achieved a world record speed of 357km/h (not in Austria, though).

Anonymous said...

On the anti-maglev letter to the editor. I wish LTE writing rail advocates would be more precise (300 mph train service?...), but he is right on the point.

On the high-speed wheel-on-rail line Rafael charted, LA-Las Vegas could be 1h40m-1h45m, so even the time saving (15-20 minutes) is not too significant.

The possible higher grades and acceleration (re Alon Levy) may mean less tunnels for the maglev, but the track itself is more expensive, and you rather go elevated on the city accesses. (To boot, elevated sections mean more noise radiation even if maglev is more silent on the same speed under the same conditions.)

To boot, the main service disadvantage: while HSR crains could go on beyond LA to San Diago or beyond the Mojave junction to Sacrameno and San Francisco, maglev travellers would have to change at Anaheim to something else.

It's no wonder China chose conventional high-speed over maglev for their rather long most important line from Beijing to Shanghai, even if their 380-km/h-in-three-years dreams are clearly unrealistic.

Tony D. said...

Rafael 7:47 C,

Now we're talking! Relocating and consolidating air operations for San Jose and the Central Valley/Coast...HSR makes it a possibility. Yes on 1A, it's not about building new airports in conjunction with the current crop; it's, again, about possibly relocating and consolidating air operations. HSR for intra-California travel, new Gilroy/Hollister or Central Valley airport for long-haul flights.

Anonymous said...

@ Rafael, I was thinking external noise, especially that emanating from the gap between the locomotive and the first car.

But, even inside, I haven't heard that -- at high speed, travel noise should be first and air conditioner noise second, and the transformers or motors can be at the level of other auxiliary exuipment.

You'll find the top reason for the concept more or less openly even in official presentations (for example, pdf, page 4, in German): the Taurus locos to be used are ones already in service. Thus ÖBB could both spare the costs of traction units and not leave some Tauruses jobless (they ordered too many).

BTW, the first reports I read from Austrian railfans said that ride comfort was not improved that much compared to old intercity cars. (Though, I note, the Austrians compare to a high standard...)

Clem said...

The notion of maglev propulsion as an advantage to reduce tunneling costs is technically unfounded.

(1) over distances of a few km, conventional HSR is capable of grades well in excess of regular trains, 3.5 to 4% is typical. This in itself allows a great reduction in tunneling costs compared to conventional rail. Compare the vertical profile of the old Paris - Lyon line vs. the new high speed tracks.

(2) in hilly terrain the greatest constraint on vertical curvature is passenger comfort. This typically results in vertical radii on the order of 10 km, and the required radius goes up as the SQUARE of speed... i.e. not good for maglev. This may require tunneling regardless of the capability of the train itself.

Rafael said...

@ DoDo -

sure, dedicating a few underutilized Taurus loco's to railjet helped reduce the cost. However, OeBB did end up choosing trainsets with tractor cars at either end, minus the actual drivetrains for now. The marketing folks wanted to make sure other operators couldn't break up the consists and/or attach their own coaches.

We'll see how well that resonates with passengers, the offering's premium class appears to be geared toward executive travel. With reliable terrestrial WiFi and adequate work surfaces, that might actually be popular. Without those, I wonder how many of those seats will remain empty.

Anonymous said...

Clem's 100% right on the vertical curve issue. Even on the Koln-Frankfurt HSR line, you feel the vertical curves. Sure, a maglev can climb at 10%, but without huge vertical curve, the passengers would be thrown to the roof at the crest or pressed to the floor at the valley.

Gamecoug said...

Re. Vertical Curves, it's a valid point, but the maglev would be able to decrease speed where the vertical curvature caused passenger discomfort. This would still allow the Maglev to go over taller mountains faster than conventional HSR.

Rafael, can you give estimates on the cost of Maglev vs. conventional HSR? Marketing info I read about the Transrapid (Germany's Maglev) claims that trackage costs are similar. Are they lying, or are there other hidden costs that they aren't mentioning?

The Conventional HSR idea is best for many the reasons enumerated here, but also because they could then link up to CAHSR at Palmdale and have nonstop trains from LA/Anaheim or even SF or SD to Vegas (assuming they'd use compatible trainsets).

HSR and Maglev are both close in speed to air travel, so other than the fact that Maglev is flashy and new, I don't see the point. IMO, Maglev is eventually the future, but I'd rather let the Germans and Japanese work through their issues on someone else's project before we try to implement it in the US.

Rob Dawg said...

Rafael said...
@ rob dawg -
The entire network will be grade separated against road traffic,

Probably grade separated against meteors and aircraft as well. That's not what I said. That's not what you asserted. You said; "Full grade separation against both rail and road traffic plus anti-trespass measures..."

Am I misquoting?

Gamecoug said...

@rafael (or any other expert) - this is a somewhat off-topic question but here goes: I'm wondering what the performance comparison would be between a diesel FRA compliant commuter train and a non-compliant EMU trainset (non-HSR). What i'm looking for is, how long would it take a modern EMU trainset to accelerate to full speed (let's assume it's 70 mph), and would that be similar to the time required to decelerate from that speed? what would the time frame be for an FRA compliant diesel?

Anonymous said...

Gamecoug, the short answer is: lying and practising wishful thinking.

The claim of equal costs was that the comparable Hannover-Berlin HSR and Hamburg-Berlin maglev projects (both across flat, sparsely populated terrain without tunnels) both came in around 34 million D-Mark/km (€17 million/km). However, that's a crude miscalculation in both cases.

* Ham-Be HSR: the calculation was made with the 1998 cost estimate of 9.8b DM, but the final (2000) official estimate was 12.8b DM for a 292km line = 43.8 DM/km. However, the independent state auditors said total costs should be more like 15-18b DM - that is, c. 50-60m DM/km.
* Han-Be maglev: actual costs 5.3b DM for 158km new +110km upgrade - they must have divided the full costs with the length of the new section only.

I note the demise of follow-up projects due to cost estimate explosions, too: the Ruhr Area Metrorapid, and the Munich Transrapid.

The latter would have been a 37km airport link. It was terminated this April after a jump from €1.85 to €3.4 billion. The increase had to do with increased demands on tunnels (entering the city...), noise protection, and the strength of elevated section pylons (the last one probably learning from the Shanghai Maglev).

Meanwhile, in China, the project to extend the Shanghai airport link to Shanghai's second airport failed, too. After heavy protests by locals, a route further away from inhabited areas and with more underground sections was chosen -- again leading to a doubling of costs (to €46.6 million/km - in China!). But that was still not enough to end protests and troubles, so the project was abandoned this month.

It is uncertain whether Transrapid will survive the next year. The only project still alive is another extension of the Shanghai Transrapid to Hangzhou, but with the precedent of the other failure, that seems doomed. Meanwhile, the closing of the test line in Germany was announced for June 2009, and the two builder companies ThyssenKrupp and Siemens have dissolved their joint marketing company in October.

I'm sorry but maglev is a stillborn idea like aircars, it's not that it can't be built, but it's unpractical.

Rafael said...

@ rob dawg -

I don't see where we're getting our wires crossed.

(a) HSR will be fully grade separated against road traffic

(b) HSR will use dedicated tracks throughout, except from short sections of the Caltrain and LOSSAN corridors as indicated

(c) HSR tracks will be protected by sturdy fences and other measures to keep out trespassers and animals.

Where appropriate, adjacent tracks used by FRA-compliant trains will also benefit from grade separation against road traffic and from fences. All of this is included in the cost estimates. Which part of this is not clear?

@ gamecoug -

regarding FRA-compliant diesel locomotives vs. non-compliant EMU, please see the Caltrain 2025 documentation, especially the presentation and the interim report on mixed traffic (appendix C). The report was reportedly well received by FRA, which bodes well for Caltrain's application for a waiver on mixed traffic. It cannot afford to jettison all of its legacy rolling stock all at once.

EMUs (Siemens Desiro) are more expensive to purchase but cost less to operate, i.e. they require lower recurring subsidies from the three counties served. They would reduce local train line haul time by quite a bit.

Anonymous said...

Gamecoug, I also collected the specific cost of some recent high-speed lines for you (in Euros per kilometre, sorry for not doing the conversions).

Note that unlike the Hamburg-Berlin and Hannover-Berlin lines (for which you have to divide the DM figures in two to get € figures), these contain lots of tunnels or other significant earthworks. (All length figures not counting interconnections, costs including depots and even trains in some cases.)

* Lötschberg Base Tunnel line: ~€2.7b for 41km = €66m/km

* NBS Nürnberg-Ingolstadt: 3.573b for 77.4km new + 93.4km upgrade -- don't know how the total sum was divided up, but the new stretch surely cost under €3.1b -- that would be €40m/km

* LAV Milan-Bologna: €7b for 188km = €37m/km

* Taiwan HSR: ~€11.5b [last year] for 335.5km = €34.3m/km

* Madrid-Valladolid: €4.205b, 179.5km = €23.4m/km

* LGV Est (from Paris to the East): €5.515b for 301.4km = €18.3m/km

* Córdoba-Málaga: €2.539b for 168.8km = €15.0m/km

Anonymous said...

Having spoken about China... forgot the last one:

* Beijing-Tianjin: ~€1.4b for 115km = €12m/km.

Gamecoug said...

Thanks to both DoDo and Rafael for the great info.

Anonymous said...

Please! However, I have to point out a crude error in my reply on the German maglev vs. HSR trackaging cost comparison: it should be "Ham-Be maglev" and "Han-Be HSR"...

Anonymous said...

"Project Costs" aren't always apples to apples. Caltrans (highway guys) list real estate acquisition separate from construction costs, as an example. One has to be very through to look to see if HSR "Project Costs" reported include things like engineering and planning, right of way, vehicles, etc....

Alon Levy said...

re: maglev:

Karl: HSR trains don't generally break down. Maglev trains break down even less - to date there has been no such incident either in Shanghai or on the Yamanashi test track.

Dodo: although even Desert Xpress will be enough to kill SoCal-LV airline traffic, when competing against cars every minute counts. It will matter if LA-LV takes 1:40 as with conventional HSR or 1:15 as with maglev.

As for the Shanghai fiasco, this reflects mostly on the internal politics of China. Japan is going forward with its maglev project without the same issues.

The concern among the residents near the planned Shanghai-Hangzhou maglev was that the ROW was planned to pass within 22 meters of houses. German regulations require a 300 meter buffer, but the Chinese government decided 150 were enough and then ignored its own regulations. This prompted radiation concerns; maglev doesn't emit any harmful radiation, but the Chinese government has no credibility on environmental matters, so the petitions for cancellation caught on.

The current leaders in Beijing represent a more liberal tendency within the CCP, as opposed to the heavy-handed methods of the Shanghai clique, so they didn't press the issue. The Shanghai clique was very enthusiastic about maglev and other flashy projects, but the current government takes a more pragmatic view. It doesn't care enough to do a repeat of Three Gorges, certainly not in an area where the residents are rich enough that occasionally it has to listen to them.

Clem: maglev can turn tighter curves than conventional rail. A regular train running on the Shanghai maglev line would need to slow down to about 300 km/h to turn its main curve, whose radius is 4 km; the maglev trains turn it at 431 km/h.

Rafael said...

@ Alon Levy -

a) 2 out of 3 isn't all that great. There was a serious crash on the German test track, killing 23. The cause was human error.

b) downtown LA - downtown LV is 278 miles by car, a 4+ hour trip - more in traffic. How come "every minute counts" when both train options make the trip in less than half the time?

c) if you're on a maglev train that runs a 4km curve at 431km/h, you'll be subjected to a very uncomfortable lateral acceleration of 3.6m/s^2 (roughly 0.4g) on a level track. The track would have to be canted 20 degrees to fully compensate. That's feasible, but what happens if the power fails and a train gets stuck in that curve for a while? There are reasons why engineers compromise on bank angles.

Alon Levy said...

a) It's not all that great, but the Chinese and Japanese tracks have seen much more use. The fact that they haven't had these accidents, especially ones involving the trains losing power, is still significant.

b) Cars are more point-to-point. A family in the LA area traveling to LV might decide to forgo the car if they intend to spend the entire vacation at one hotel, but otherwise, they'll need a rental car, which is a significant disadvantage.

A good clue about the importance of this effect is the modal breakdown of LA/SF travel. Cars, which take 6-7 hours, dominate the market and are expected to continue doing so, even though air and eventually HSR take only 3-3.5 hours door to door. The success or failure of HSR versus auto involves being able to draw a small percentage of auto trips, so a difference of even 15 minutes is important.

c) I'm not sure about banking, but the current limiting factor for acceleration rates, in any direction, is train capability, more than passenger comfort. I believe subway trains can turn at 2.5-3 m/s^2. I'm not entirely sure: there are a few 35-40 meter curves on the NYC subway; if I remember correctly the trains negotiate them at 10 m/s, but I'll have to come back to New York sometime and check a speedometer.