Category Archives: high speed rail

22 reasons the hyperloop and driverless cars don’t mean we don’t need HS2

CityMetric.com

That Tweet links to Hannan’s Telegraph column, of which this is an excerpt:

Hyperloop may or may not turn out to be viable. Driverless cars almost certainly will: some of them are already in commercial use in the United States. So why is the Government still firehosing money at the rather Seventies idea of high-speed trains?

The short answer is that firehosing money is what governments do.

Well, no, that’s not the only reason is it? I can think of some others. For example:

1. Trains are faster than cars, driverless or otherwise.

2. High speed trains are faster still. Hence the name.

3. The biggest problem with cars as a form of mass transportation isn’t either pollution or the fact you have to do the driving yourself and so can’t do anything else at the same time (problems though those are). The biggest problem is that they’re an inefficient use of limited space. Trains not only move people faster, they take up less room while they do it. So driverless cars, marvellous though they may be, will not render the train redundant.

4. The hyperloop is still unproven, as Hannan himself admits, so the phrase “become a reality” seems just a teensy bit of a fib.

5. Honestly, nobody has ever travelled a single inch by hyperloop.

6. At the moment, like Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, it’s basically one big fever dream backed by an eccentric billionaire.

7. Frankly, I am pretty stunned to see one of Britain’s leading Brexiteers buying into a piece of fantastical utopian nonsense that would require detailed and complex planning to become a reality, but which is actually nothing more than a sketch on the back of a napkin.

8. (That last point was me doing a satire.)

9. Even if it happens one day, a hyperloop pod will carry a tiny fraction of the number of people a train can. So once again Hannan is defeated by his arch nemesis, the laws of space and time.

10. In other words, Hannan’s tweet translates roughly as, “Why is the government spending billions on this transport technology that actually exists, rather than alternatives which don’t, yet, and which won’t solve remotely the same problem anyway?”

11. High speed trains definitely exist. I’m on one now.

12. I really shouldn’t be thinking about either the hyperloop OR Daniel Hannan if I’m honest.

13. I wonder why the French are so much better at high speed trains than the British, and whether their comparative lack of whiny MEPs is a factor?

14. It feels somehow typical that even in a genuinely contentious argument (“Is HS2 really a good use of public money?”) when he has a genuinely good point to make (“The way the cost of major projects spirals during the planning stage is a significant public concern”), he still manages to come up with an argument so fantastically dim that bored transport nerds can spend long train journeys ripping it to shreds.

15. He could have gone with “let’s cancel HS2 and use a fraction of the saving to sort out the northern railway network”, but no.

16. Somehow I suspect he’s not really bothered about transport, he just wants to fight strawman about debt.

17. Also, of course we’re using debt to fund the first new national railway in a hundred years: what else are we going to do?

18. “Unbelievable that at a time when I need new shoes we are borrowing money to buy a house.”

19. Can I go back to my book now?

20. I said I was going to stop this, didn’t I.

21. This is a cry for help.

22. Please, somebody, stage an intervention.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason.

Super train that would speed between cities at 700mph has its first successful test

The concept of a ‘hyperloop’, a rail system that works in a vacuum tube and thus reaches very high speeds, has been a pipe dream for a while now.

Elon Musk mentioned the concept back in 2012 and liked its immunity to weather, speed and low power consumption.

The speeds of such creations, which some analyses suggest could reach up to 760mph, would reduce a 6 hour journey by car to 35 minutes – even quicker than a flight, which currently takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Now, one of the startups working on this transportation system, just shared footage of their first full-scale test in a vacuum.

The trial run in a track built outside Las Vegas, saw the test vehicle reach 70 mph using magnetic levitation, pulling 2 Gs of acceleration.

A HYPERLOOP ONE affiliate “The Muhammad Ali Hyperlink” has plans to build this new revolutionary transportation system between Louisville and Chicago; It will follow Interstate 55 and stop in Indianapolis!!!

So it is closer than you think! Check it out!

2nd railroad track opens between Schenectady, Albany

Daily Gazette

Announcement comes as new design details released on train station

The second railroad track between Schenectady and Albany has been completed, eliminating what has been a major bottleneck for passenger and freight traffic in upstate New York.

The $91.2 million track covering the 17 miles between the Capital Region’s two largest cities went into service June 26 after three years of construction, according to an announcement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

The long-planned track eliminates a single-track situation that had forced trains to wait for up to 20 minutes in either Schenectady or Rensselaer until an oncoming train cleared the tracks, and is seen as vital if a high-speed rail line across upstate New York is ever to be developed.

The work was arranged jointly by the state Department of Transportation and Amtrak, which has a long-term lease over the tracks between Poughkeepsie and Schenectady, which are owned by freight-hauler CSX Corp.

“The double-track project has provided improved flexibility and scheduling in the operation of Amtrak trains between Albany and Schenectady and will reduce delays in this location, which have been a bottleneck and the cause of delays for years,” Amtrak spokeswoman Chelsea Kopta said. “Amtrak was proud to partner with NYSDOT on completing this project, which will enhance transportation and tourism opportunities in the Capital Region.”

Cuomo’s office announced completion of the track at the same as it released new design details about the plans for a new $23 million train station in downtown Schenectady, on the same site as the old station, which began to be demolished this week. The new station is expected to be completed by late 2018, under a state DOT contract.

“We are grateful to Gov. Cuomo and DOT for completing another significant infrastructure project that is beneficial to Schenectady County. The second track will eliminate delays in train service going west from Albany, making rail travel to Schenectady faster and more convenient,” said Ray Gillen, chair of the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority.

The governor’s announcement also updated several other Capital Region rail projects, all part of an effort to improve rail service in the region:

— At the Rensselaer Amtrak station — the nation’s ninth-busiest Amtrak station — a $50.5 million project that constructed a fourth passenger loading track, extended the loading platforms and upgraded signals wrapped up this spring. A $3.5 million state-funded project to rehabilitate platform elevators and replace the escalators is to be completed by fall.

— Grade crossing and signal improvements have been done south of Rensselaer, on the busy line to New York City, with a little work still remaining.

The three projects together have received $155.5 million in federal funding, nearly all of it from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The state has contributed $23.15 million, according to Cuomo’s office.

Separately, New York was recently awarded $33 million by the Federal Railroad Administration to install positive train control technology between Poughkeepsie and Schenectady. Positive train control systems are designed to prevent incidents such as derailments and collisions by reducing the risks of human error. That work has yet to be scheduled.

BART Is Sounding Like West-Coast NY City MTA

All from California Rail News

First Item: The oldest equipment for the Blue Line dates back to 1990 which is being replaced while major maintenance is also underway for both the Blue and Green Lines. San Diego recently overhauled its oldest Trolley Lines: the Blue and Orange Lines and replaced its original cars from 1982. Meanwhile BART is still using most of its original cars placed in service in 1972 and its original computerize signalling system from the 1970’s which is incompatible with modern computer systems today.

***********

Second Item: You know the feeling: You step into a BART car and are immediately hit with a wave of stagnant, desert-hot air. Trapped in the Transbay Tube, you start counting the minutes until you’re at the next station where, despite the hot temperatures outside, the opening doors will still give you a second to gasp in some fresh air.
Why are some BART cars so darn hot? And what should you do if you’re trapped in a sauna pod?

The reason why cars can reach Saharan temperatures should come as no surprise — the system was not built to be used by the number of commuters who utilize it today. The trains were originally built with vents near the windows to cool seated passengers, which is why when you’re standing elbow-to-elbow, the air feels like it’s never getting to you.
Add in the obvious (packed trains, hot outdoor temperatures, body heat, etc.) and you’re in for an unpleasant ride.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing your train driver can do to fix the problem. Unlike your vehicle, BART cars’ air conditioning is not controlled by the driver. If you’re suffering, the best thing to do is to note the car number (you can find this above the doors or near the intercom) call the driver on the intercom and let them know the problem. They can pass this information along to maintenance so the car can be inspected on its next maintenance cycle.

**********

Third Item

Only a few hours after BART recovered from major delays caused by an equipment problem that snarled trains on the Richmond line, another equipment malfunction next day began causing 30-minute delays at the Union City station, officials said.
BART first reported an equipment problem in the Union City area about 10:47 a.m., advising that the problem was causing a ten minute delay along the Fremont line in the Warm Springs, Fremont, Richmond and Daly City directions.
At 12:30 p.m., BART was reporting that the problem was causing 20 to 30 minute delays at the Union City station.

***********

BART directors will consider a policy that seeks to protect people from immigration raids while riding the transit system or while trying to get a job with it. But the proposal doesn’t use the word “sanctuary” or advocate ignoring federal law.

The Director had better watch his step. Look at what happened to the NYC MTA Director who delayed trains to help two cats out.

High-Speed Rail Service Between Springfield, Boston Proposed

From NECN via California High Speed Rail

Some senators say a proposed high-speed rail service between Boston and Springfield could solve the skyrocketing cost of living in Boston.
Under the proposal, the line would link Boston, Worcester and Springfield, the state’s three largest cities.

Senators supporting this project believe it would help solve the out-of-control cost of living in eastern Massachusetts and help the economy in western Massachusetts that is being left behind.

This proposal is part of the 2018 budget and could make it onto the governor’s desk.

Ontario’s high-speed rail plan not so far-fetched

Toronto Star via California Rail

What has eluded us, perhaps, is the idea that passenger trains can be run as a business. In the U.K., where railways have been privatized, many train lines are profitable. Indeed, what has Britons outraged is that rail operators, mostly foreign, are making out like bandits. Still, because the state retains ownership of the tracks, government can fine franchisees and/or cancel their contracts if they fail to meet contractual obligations.

So while Ontarians are busy pooh-poohing the idea of high-speed rail, global infrastructure investors, including some from the U.K., are licking their lips in anticipation. Given that there are more than 62,000 drives between Toronto and Kitchener daily, the idea of a 45-minute train ride suddenly seems very attractive. “We have reached a tipping point in terms of congestion,” Collenette says. “So when you provide a rail alternative, people are quite happy to take it.”

The difference between the NEC and other regional corridor services.

M.E. Singer opinion from California Rail News

The premise of regionalization of passenger rail should be incorporated to ensure the viability of any national infrastructure program in the US. Although the California JPAs have created from scratch a spectacular inter-connecting regional program; the Northeast Corridor merely picked-up from where the Pennsylvania, New Haven, and New York Central left off, their remains a void of far too many unserved potential regional corridors.

However, unlike California and the NEC, their is little linkage between other regional states, despite their past history of being well served by a network of passenger rail operated by the private railroads. The issue today is how to incentivize the Class 1s, Amtrak, commuter, and the individual states to work together, as the markets are there, unserved by rail; forced to accept clogged interstates and expensive, infrequent air service–all inhibiting economic growth and tourism, due to a lack of mobility. The answer is not by operating but a daily long distance train, but frequently scheduled, convenient regional trains, capable of quick turnarounds, rather than languishing in yards all day.

Such markets just in the Midwest include: Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison; Chicago-Milwaukee-Green Bay; Summer seasonal services Chicago Wisconsin and Michigan; Chicago-Milwaukee via UP North Line thru Evanston-Waukegan-Racine; Chicago-Champaign-Springfield-Peoria; Chicago-Cleveland-Youngstown-Pittsburgh; Cincinatti-Columbus-Cleveland; Chicago-Quad Cities-Iowa City-Des Moines. Even The Milwaukee Road utilized its new bi-level commuter cars in the 1960s to operate weekends Chicago-Wisconsin Dells. Also, in conjunction with commuter lines, what about Special Trains for the vast number of football events throughout the Midwest? With two run-thru tracks at Chicago Union Station, the stub-end terminal concept should not prevent enhancing schedule convenience and true regional inter-connectivity by run thru services. (In 1972, even Amtrak operated two run thru schedules between Milwaukee-Chicago-St. Louis.)

The successful California JPA model appears to be the best formula to follow, given how the JPAs control marketing (routes, services, frequencies, fares, advertising), with Amtrak providing T&E crews, staffed depots, and maintenance. LOSSAN JPA has wisely extended schedules from San Diego to run thru LAUPT to serve San Luis Obispo; it is a matter of time before reaching San Jose. San Joaquin JPA acknowledges market potential to schedule day trips between Fresno-Sacramento. Capitol Corridor JPA provides true regional connecting service running from Sacramento thru Emeryville (Oakland) to San Jose, with plans for further route expansion.
What stops the continued growth of these JPAs is the acute shortage of equipment and the Amtrak cost methodology for state services. Given the near breakeven of LOSSAN, even under the current higher cost formulas, perhaps it is appropriate to consider full takeover of all passenger services; to serve as a Beta site for the other JPAs; eventually other regional/state consortiums?

Texas High-Speed Rail Project Moves Forward

NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth via California Rail News

Texas Central, the Dallas company planning to build a high-speed train between Dallas and Houston, has reached a deal with a major global consortium to design and build the project.

An official announcement is expected within a matter of days

“We have a world-class design builder that has just signed on to come and build this for us,” said Carlos Aguilar, CEO of Texas Central.
The 59 year-old Aguilar has been on the job at Texas Central since December. He brings decades of experience with huge infrastructure projects, including the Cantarell offshore natural gas field in Mexico, the London Underground and the world’s largest solar thermal energy plant in Ivanpah, Calif.

High-speed rail in Ontario, finally? Not so fast

This is in response to a blog from May 25
https://penneyvanderbilt.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/premier-wynne-announces-plans-for-high-speed-rail-in-ontario/

From CBC-CA via California Rail News

The proposed plan is a massive and expensive infrastructure program and politicians have preferred in the past to get elected by promising to expand highways in their ridings, rather than rail routes.

Paul Langan, from an advocacy group called High Speed Rail Canada, told CBC News that a lack of political will is a major reason why high-speed rail has never been built in Ontario.

In his report, Collenette also cites “political willingness to support the huge investment over more than one election cycle” as a factor in limiting high-speed rail development

Calls for high-speed rail in one of Canada’s busiest corridors have been made before and went unanswered. Will it be any different this time?

Ft Worth Takes Steps On Rail Link To Dallas

Fort Worth Star-Telegram via California Rail News

As state lawmakers in Austin debate measures that could kill plans for high-speed trains between downtown Dallas and Houston, the Fort Worth City Council is moving forward with plans to create a rail link to Dallas.

Fort Worth and Dallas are in the process of preparing for a 30- to 40-mile high-speed rail line between the two cities called the DFW Core Express. A $15 million environmental impact study of the possible route is expected to be completed in 2018.

As state lawmakers in Austin debate measures that could kill plans for high-speed trains between downtown Dallas and Houston, the Fort Worth City Council is moving forward with plans to create a rail link to Dallas.

Fort Worth and Dallas are in the process of preparing for a 30- to 40-mile high-speed rail line between the two cities called the DFW Core Express. A $15 million environmental impact study of the possible route is expected to be completed in 2018.

On Tuesday, the Fort Worth city council considered creating a local government corporation with Dallas, an entity that would govern inter-city passenger rail service. Discussions are also focusing on including a stop in Arlington and adding that city to the corporation.