Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday Open Thread

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

by Rafael

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.


crzwdjk said...

Also coming soon to HS1 tracks are freight trains powered by Class 92 electric locomotives. The line even has passing sidings for just this purpose. And it means that there will be a direct link from France to the outskirts of London that is wide enough for European-size freight trains, and also means there's a direct freight link between the 25kV electrified networks of Britain and France, and means that a freight train with a Class 92 can go all the way from Basel to Glasgow.

TomW said...

Oh dear Rafael... you are normally very reliable, but you've things rather mixed up regarding that new UK High Speed Commuter Train:

1) It doesn't start today - that was just a demo run. What starts tomorrow is some "taster" runs, with the old service runing as normal. The full new service kicks in later this year.
2) The lightness and electirc motors are nothing new. The 100mph train which currently run that route are also light, electric and quick-accelerating. The lower time comes from the extra speed, espeically close to the London station.
3) The new regional service is nothing to do with Eurostar - it's run by Southeastern, the UK domestic rail franchise holder for that area. (The Javelin services were a condition of the franchise)
4) Yes, HS1's track fees are coming down, but that's not do with the Javelin services... it's because the line's owner has managed to re-organise its debt, reduceing its intrest payments.

The UK rail system is a complex one, so don't feel too bad about getting confused.


Re: VIA Rail's 125mph plans: VIA should learn to run their operations like a railway, not like an airline.

TomW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TomW said...

@ arcady: Actually, the Class 92s can only operate to the French side of the Chunnel, and then the locos have to be switched for something able to run on French tracks. However, you are right that European-size freight trains will now be able to get all the way to London, rather than only as far as Ashford, so your good news stands :-)

Anonymous said...

New Transportation Reauthorization Draft bill from the T&I committee in the house is to call for 50 billion over 6 years for HSR.

Alon Levy said...

The Tel Aviv-Jerusalem line was never intended to be HSR. The average speed was intended to be 140 km/h, about the same as on the Acela between NY and Philly. The problem is that the existing line is slow, mainly because it gains 800 meters of elevation in 80 route km. The rugged terrain increased the cost of the original line, and it's increasing the cost of the current line.

Besides, Israel can't get any infrastructure project done, unless it's for the military. Tel Aviv was supposed to have a subway in the 1960s; the current proposal is for the first line to open next decade, and nobody believes it'll actually open.

Anonymous said...

For anyone who doubts the potential for profitability - here you see that companies are very interesting in getting in

Anonymous said...

good report passengers prefer high speed rail to short flights.

Unknown said...

ore information about England's new Javelin train.


Richard Mlynarik said...

Hang on! Gene "perjury in the service of BART contractors is no crime" Skoropowski has testified repeatedly that a "commuter train overlay" on a high speed line is infeasible.

Strangely enough, he touts his High Speed Rail expertise with Fluor on HSL-Zuid, but then somehow conveniently forgot that more than 2/3 of the service on that high speed line will be regional shuttle trains (aka "commuter trains") and that such service was the primary selling point of the project.

I guess they have different sorts of windmills in Holland, where international high speed trains and regional commuter shuttles can mix compared to those on the Altamont Pass, where it's simply impossible. Yeah, that explains it. Different windmills.

And let's not even consider the regional trains on the Madrid-Zaragoza Barcelona poster child.

Or think about what sort of trains might be shuttling between Madrid and the dedicated turnback platforms in Segovia.

Or even our Special Relationship friends' CTRL. This impressive hole in the ground in Stratford doesn't seem to have anything at all to do with London-Paris or London-Brussels trains, but must do somehow, right? Whatever it's for, it can't be commuter trains!

Just repeat this manta to yourself until you really truly believe it:
"Those aren't commuter trains -- they're high speed trains that carry commuters." (Actual quotation from commuter train expert Gene Skoropowski, 13 December 2006.)

Unique California Conditions!

crzwdjk said...

And yet in France, the LGVs are reserved exclusively for high speed trains, and the same applies in Japan and Taiwan. Clearly, there's more than one way to do it, but in Japan and Taiwan, the segregation is because of technical differences (track gauge), while in France it seems that in many cases, they don't have room on the LGVs, while the parallel conventional lines are more than adequate (4 track, electrified, speeds up to 200 km/h in some cases). In other places though, it seems that they're trying to get as much use out of the high speed lines as possible, with commuter and freight taking up the the space left over after HSR. In Spain, they even go so far as to build gauge-changing trains to enable through running. What does this mean for California? Making some fairly reasonable assumptions about ridership and service levels on the line, getting commuter trains and freights onto the line might be a good way to cover some of the expense of building the line, but it would require changing the FRA regulations to allow through service between the HSR line and the conventional mainline network. Then it might even be possible to run freights over part of the line during the night (notably the Bakersfield-LA section), if they're sufficiently fast and lightweight.

Unknown said...

Good grief Richard, do you ever calm down? I thought you Bay Area folk were all into meditation and yoga.

While I'm a bit dubious of the need to 4-track all commuter trackage to support high speed trains, I don't think CTRL is comparable to a typical commuter railway - it's 67 miles long and has only 4 stations, including the terminus. The javelin trains run on existing commuter routes and then join the CTRL at various points for high speed runs into London, it's not as if they're running an all-local-stops commuter service and Eurostar on the same track.

Rafael said...

@ Richard Mlynarik -

the purely regional trains on the HSL Zuid will be implemented with AnsaldoBreda V250 ("Albatros") trainsets with a top speed of 250 km/h (155mph). Cp. my earlier post on HiSpeed services.

In Holland and now the UK, the combination of modern HSR lines and new materials for permanent magnet motors is enabling a new class of passenger rail service.

This is quite different from the US, where most passenger trains remain limited to 79mph by FRA safety rules, antiquated signaling and a general lack of investment.

crzwdjk said...

In the US, regional trains are limited to 79 mph by the lack of capital resources on the part of the railroads and the general apathy of the people in charge of the money. Commuter trains can and do run at 90 mph (in Orange and San Diego Counties) and 100 mph (in New Jersey). You might even call Amtrak's Keystone service a "regional" service, and that has a top speed of 110 mph between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, and 125 mph between Philadelphia and New York.

Oh yeah, and about the CTRL services: the zone express pattern is typical of commuter rail operations. A train from further out will just skip all the stations on the inner part of the route, for example Metro North's New Haven trains that run non-stop from Stamford to New York, or Poughkeepsie trains that run non-stop from Croton-Harmon to New York, or LIRR Montauk Branch trains that don't make any stops between Babylon and Jamaica. The NJT expresses are probably also comparable, and I think even SEPTA has a few similar services. The Javelin is basically that: an all-stops service that then hops on the HSL for an almost nonstop run in to London.

Adirondacker said...

A train from further out will just skip all the stations on the inner part of the route..

SEPTA runs a few expresses in peak direction. Metra runs a lot, especially on the electric lines.

If you look carefully at rush hour schedules for Metro North, LIRR, NJ Transit or Metra, on some lines, there are no locals in the peak direction. Everything is some sort of express. Metro North and NJ Transit manage to weave Amtrak in, which is behaving like Baby Bullet service - stopping only at major stations. I'm sure there are other places in the world where this happens, it's just that I've never had the urge to look at Japanese, Australian etc commuter schedules.

Alon Levy said...

The problem with this schedule style, where trains run local for a few stops and then run express for the rest of the trip, is that the choice of where to begin the trip is often bizarre. For example, the Northeast Corridor Line has a lot of trains that begin at Rahway and run local, and a lot of trains that begin at New Brunswick and make all stops until Metropark, after which they run express. Similarly, the Hudson Line has trains that begin at Ossining, and trains that Irvington.

Now, all of those stations - Rahway, Ossining, and Irvington - are located one stop closer to the center than major express stations (Metropark, Croton-Harmon, and Tarrytown, respectively). The trains might as well be extended one stop to serve this stop, which would also be nice to people who use the trains to commute from suburb to suburb. Right now not only is there no train from New Brunswick to Rahway at peak hour, but also there's no way to transfer except at Newark. Needless to say, people choose to drive.

Adirondacker said...

For example, the Northeast Corridor Line has a lot of trains that begin at Rahway and run local

Rahway and stations east are also stops on the North Jersey Coast line. Train No. 3204 eastbound at 5:21 AM originates in Long Branch. as does 3210, 3550 originates in South Amboy as does 3502... I don't think anything originates or terminates at Rahway.
.... if you add 90 seconds to the schedule of 3706, the express from Jersey Avenue does it then leave Secausus Transfer at the same instant as a Midtown Direct? Does it then end up on the approach to Newark at the same time as a Raritan Valley line train? ...

Same thing with the train stopping or not stopping in Irvington, delay it 90 seconds, what New Haven line train does it then conflict with at 125th Street?

Needless to say, people choose to drive.

Both of them. Rahway, Ossining and Irvington, they aren't exactly huge jobs centers.

Alon Levy said...

You don't get any conflict from extending the Irvington local one stop back, so that it starts at Tarrytown. It costs a bit more to operate the train for 2 miles and 4 minutes longer, but that's more service for people in Tarrytown and for anyone who cares to take the train from further north and transfer. Irvington, Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, and Hastings aren't major job centers by themselves, but the totals do add up.

In New Jersey, it's harder because you have to make NEC trains stop at Rahway. Still, it creates little conflict; if there's a problem near Newark or Secaucus, NJT can shift the train's schedule 2 minutes earlier south of Rahway. There are not going to be any clashes - you can check the schedule. The NEC is running dramatically under capacity south of Rahway because of all the merges it has.

Adirondacker said...

There are not going to be any clashes - you can check the schedule

I don't have to check the schedule. They're spending 10 billion dollars to solve the capacity problems east of Newark. If one of those trains doesn't make schedule, things are snafu'd for a very long time.

I'm not going to try to find one. Foamers could probably point them out. Have the train leave Morrisville for NY two minutes earlier it then means the express to Philadelphia has to leave three minutes earlier. Which then puts it on the same track at the same time at Suburban as the SEPTA train from Wilimgton....
Have the crew in Tarrytown 4 minutes earlier at 7:00 means they miss the crew change on the 1:27..

It's very easy to airly say "leave two minutes earlier" in real life that doesn't always work out as well.