Railroad High Speed Rail

Copyright 2021 by Richard O. Aichele - email rottoa@gmail.com - and inforworks.com

 

Fast. Smooth. Comfortable. The High Speed Railroad trains are revitalizing the way people travel and conduct business while and making positive Green environmental impacts in Europe and Asia.

 

High Speed Rail (HSR) Revitalizing Passenger Train Travel

Infrastructure and Technology Investments Ensure Steady Progress

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The Bombardier Zefiro series-production trains capable of speeds of up to 360 km/hour

 

 

Challenges Produce Progress

The covid-19 pandemic that enveloped the world beginning in January 2020 produced major negative health, lifestyle and economic issues for the world's population. Those issues coincided with a greater awakening about worldwide unresolved environmental issues. In the long history of the railways, they have always been impacted by difficult issues but have often led to creating and implementing solutions worldwide. Once again, the railway indusry's planners have utilized the past year's disruptions and delays to refine and revitalize important programs.

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Revival of Europe's Night Trains

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"Getting on a train in Munich or Berlin in the evening and arriving in Paris or Brussels in the morning after a relaxed journey with our Trans-Europ-Express TEE 2.0 and attractive night train services we will be travelling in ways that are even better for our climate and the environment in Europe in the future" said Andreas Scheuer, Germany's Transport Minister.

That pleasant experience once repeated every night on European trains had been vanishing. They occured aboard Intercity Overnight Sleeper Trains. Recent changing travel trends suggest a revival. The OBB Austrian Railways NightJet is leading that revival of that European Railroad tradition. For comfort and ecological reasons, many intercity travelers are now increasingly taking the trains instead of flying.

The approximate twenty year ridership decline of the overnight rail intercity service occurred as travellers for busines and pleasure shifted to airlines. That eras low ticket prices and speed of intercity air travel captured the market. Air travel's disadvantages including cramped uncomfortable seating, time spent between the city centers and the airports and time spent meeting security requirements were tolerated The negative environmental impact of air travel was similarly ignored by air travelers.

Factors such as environmental concerns, improvements in secondary rail systems and renewed interest in personal travel comfort allowed High Speed Rail to recaptured market significant share. It simply provided a fast, reliable, frequent, comtable and environmentally Green option. Governments and railroads believed the endangered Night Sleeper Trains services could be revived with new equipment and increasing the number of cities served. Recent ridership statistics although affected by the covid-19 pandemic showed increased public interest in overnight intercity sleeper trains.

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OBB, Austria's Railways, created Nightjet in 2016 as the operating successor to night sleeper trains services that had been operated by OBB and Deutsche Bahn. Ridership had been decreasing and the age of the sleeping cars was negatively affecting onboard services. Under the new Nightjet program, ridership in 2017 was 1.4 million passengers and that increased to 1.6 million passengers within a year. Sleeping cars including those from Deutsche Bahn were upgraded and had 160 additional cars in 2020. OBB has ordered 33 new seven-car trainsets from Siemens Mobile to allow for the expansion of new routes.

According to Siemens Mobile, "In August 2018, OBB had signed a Euro 1.5bn ($1.65bn) framework deal with Siemens Mobility for the supply of 13 seven-car trains for night sleeper operations and eight nine-car trains for operations during the day. Some of the new passenger coaches will be used for Nightjet operations. The upgraded trains will include two seating carriages, two sleeper carriages, and three couchette carriages. Viaggio coaches to be supplied by Siemens offer features such as LED interior lighting and air conditioning. The newly designed coaches will also ensure the supply of fresh air based on the amount of carbon dioxide in the interior air. OBB will operate the new coaches with its existing Siemens-built Taurus locomotives. OBB contracted PriestmanGoode to work on interior designs for its Nightjet and Intercity day train services." The new Nightjet fleet is expected to become operational in 2022.

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New Siemens Mobile cars.

Leonore Gewessler, Austria's Minister of Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology said: "Night trains are the future of climate-friendly mobility within Europe. It is our joint responsibility to ensure good services for the people of Europe. To ensure this is done sustainably we must shape the framework conditions for European night train services well for the future. I'm pleased about this joint avowal across Europe."

nightjet An agreement was reached between OBB (Austrian Federal Railways), Deutsche Bahn, SNCF, and SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) to work together with the goal of expanding the network of international Nightjet passenger night trains in Europe.

Starting in 2021, plans call for four new Nightjet routes reaching 13 cities beginning with Vienna, Munich and Paris and Zurich, Cologne and Amsterdam. In December 2023, Vienna, Berlin, Brussels and Barcelona will begin. In December 2024, Nightjet service on the Zurich and Barcelona route will begin.

The newspaper, Brussels Times [https://www.brusselstimes.com/news/art-culture/125706/european-night-train-network-picking-up-steam/] reporting on Europe's revival of the night train wrote: "Sweden has also decided to invest more in night trains, and is preparing the direct daily routes between Stockholm and Hamburg, Malmo and Brussels connections by summer 2022. The Malmo and Brussels trip would take eight hours, and the plan is to make the connection every night... Policymakers throughout Europe are paying attention to market demands New Mobility reports. In France, President Emmanuel Macron announced July 2020 that he intends to "massively redevelop" night trains, as well as rail cargo transport and short lines."

Open access operator RegioJet has also announced its plan of expanding its night train connections in 2021. RegioJet currently operates night trains connecting Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Croatia and says it will add Poland and Ukraine to its list in 2021, with other EU countries to follow.

Various favorable factors are moving the revitalization of night sleeper train travel forward. Christophe Fanichet, CEO of SNCF Voyageurs, noted two. Environmental and the age of travelers. "I think there is a real expectation. A young population that is paying attention to carbon and taking more time to travel."

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China Plans HSR and MAGLEV Expansion

A plan for further expansion of China's High Speed Rail pssenger train network is on the verge of being approved. China, which already has the largest HSR network with almost 38,000 km of high speed trackage allowing speeds greater than 200 km/hour, may add additional trackage over the next five years. At the same time, advances in locomotive technologies are expected to significantly raise the maximum operating speeds of the HSR trains. The CR450 program specifically has the design goals to develope locomotives, coaches and supporting infrastructure for 450 km/hour operations. The goal is to link residents of distant areas with centers of China's economic activity. As with other world nations, ridership of China's rail lines was reduced during the past year due to the health and economic conditions caused by the covid pandemic. China's strategy, as with European countries, is to treat the pandemic slowdown as a temporary challenge that will not delay long term objectives.

Developing high-temperature superconducting maglev propulsion is synchronized with China's continuing expansion of its High Speed Rail capabilities. See the China Maglev Prototype Targets 620 km/h Speed in this website. One of China's basic objectives is clearly to be a leader of futeristic technical ground transportation developments.

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Photo credit - Asia Times

"A project named CR450 which referred to the development of ultrafast locomotives and coaches that could cruise at 450km/hour, more than a third of the speed of sound. He said 350 km/hour lines, currently the backbone of China's rail network, would need only minimal upgrades for the new trains," according to Frank Chen in his "China Revs New High Speed Train Building Spree" article published March 8, 2021 in Asia Times. https://asiatimes.com/2021/03/china-revs-new-high-speed-train-building-spree/

Quotations (")below are excerpts of the Asia Timesarticle by Frank Chen:

"Lu Dongfu, president of China Railway Corporation and an NPC deputy, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that Beijing had expedited more than 3 trillion yuan (US $460 billion) in spending on new train arteries for the next five years to keep construction momentum. He said that 98% of counties and towns with a population of half a million throughout China would be accessible via high-speed lines by the end of the next five-year building spree."

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Aerial view of bullet trains at Guangzhou South Station

Photo credit - Xinhua

"China's high-speed rail network has expanded rapidly in the past decade. Photo: AFP Lu teased NPC representatives on Sunday during a panel discussion on a project named CR450 which referred to the development of ultrafast locomotives and coaches that could cruise at 450 km/hour, more than a third of the speed of sound. He said 350km/hour lines, currently the backbone of China's rail network, would need only minimal upgrades for the new trains."

"Travel time from Beijing to Shanghais' city center to city center could be further trimmed to about 2.5 hours if the CR450 prototype can be commercialized within five years... The new CR450 trains will also ply the existing and future lines now zigging, zagging and looping around China's conurbation clusters with Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Chongqing designated as cores destinations."

"Beijing's revived penchant for futuristic technologies is also seen in maglev trains. The railway plan includes long-term maglev projects linking Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. The Shanghai Express, China's only commercial maglev line, is currently loss-making...Lu said during a group discussion with NPC members from the transport sector that headway must be made on trialing and commercializing frontier technologies and that he expected to launch one or two pilot maglev projects in the next five years.

Economic questions and concerns such as return-on-investment, operatin deficits, route ridership viability are faced by railroad planner worldwide and China is no exception. Frank Chen's article examines issues such as "how much money is that going to make? Not too much but [there are] broader benefits," or "how much money can we recoup" or "the frivolity of chasing top speeds for speed's sake... A Beijing Jiaotong University professor told Asia Times that since the railway master plan carried the aspirations of top leaders, NPC delegates were expected to approve most, if not all, of the high-speed projects including new maglev line research programs. The academic, who requested anonymity, said Beijing was less concerned if a specific line could turn a profit because top leaders were convinced that the benefits of key infrastructure must not be measured only by commercial rates of return on investment."

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Germany's Ambitious Rail Objectives

The synergism of German railways innovative capacity, attractiveness, competitiveness enhanced with a 7.6 Billion EUR investment is expected to "double the number of rail passengers and shift more freight to the railways by 2030," according to Andreas Scheuer, Germany's Federal Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.

High Speed Rail's operational and financial success ultimately depends on associated infrastructure and supporting local and regional rail services. Scheuer explained: "A pivotal element for us is the introduction of regular interval services throughout Germany. We call it the 'Deutschlandtakt': The greatest innovation our rail transport has seen since the 1994 reform of the railways. In the future, passenger trains are to meet every 30 or 60 minutes at our main stations and proceed on their journey after short stops. Under the motto "more frequent faster everywhere", changing trains is to become easier, services will be more reliable and journey times will often be significantly reduced. The importance of shorter journey times can be seen on the new line from Berlin to Munich. Once it opened to offer reduced journey times to just four hours, passenger numbers were reaching record high figures pre-COVID-19. We hope to see a similar effect with the planned upgrades that will offer future travel from Bonn to Berlin in under four hours.

Also important to us is that rail customers experience the benefits of the regular interval services throughout Germany as soon as possible. We will not wait until 2030 and then implement the target timetable in one fell swoop, but rather adapt it in stages after every upgrade is complete."

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Deutsche Bahn Orders 320 km/h ICE 4 Train Sets

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The decision by Deutsche Bahn for the investment of one billion EUR for 30 new ICE 4 trains to be built by Siemens Mobility "marked a big step for a strong and environmentally friendly rail system," said Dr. Richard Lutz, CEO of Deutsche Bahn AG. The trains will initially run on routes between the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and Munich via the high-speed Cologne-Rhine-Main line. The new trains will increase DB's daily passenger capacity on these mainline routes by 13,000 seats.

The new ICE 4 trains will have a top speed of 320km/h. According to Siemens Mobility, " A unique train concept has been developed, that can be individually adapted to the requirements of various transport tasks. The modular drive concept is based on independent Powercars with identical traction technology, resulting in more flexibility than ever before. High operational availability is guaranteed by a large number of reliable systems with high redundancy." Interior features include frequency-transparent windows for stable mobile phone reception for the 440 seats, more space for families and children and space for transporting bicycles.

The Siemens Mobility ICE 4 contract largest train contract in Siemens nearly 170 years of corporate history and will be the backbone of the Deutsche Bahn's future long-distance network. In total, DB will be receiving 1,511 cars with which it can configure 50 12-car, 50 13-car and 37 7-car trainsets. DB will keep two end cars in reserve. The 12-car and 13-car trainsets will be operated in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The shorter 7-car trains are planned for use in Germany and Austria. The new ICE 4 trains in service by 2026 will be manufactured at Siemens Mobility locations in North RhineWestphalia, Bavaria and Austria.

Looking forward to a return to more "normal" travel, the intention is that more will follow. Dr. Lutz explained, "Deutsche Bahn is investing in new trains at a record level. Our fleet will be getting state-of-the-art additions with the new ICE trains, and our passengers will benefit from more seats, greater comfort and higher speeds by the end of 2022. The entire Deutsche Bahn fleet will grow by 20 per cent over the coming years. Even though demand has sharply declined due to the coronavirus pandemic, everything speaks in favor of climate-friendly rail transport for the longer term. That is why we're committed to growth,!"

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China Maglev Prototype Targets 620 km/h Speed

Attracting those air travelers represents a window of opportunity to many ground transportion planners that believe MAGLEV technologies can fill. To solve technical maglev development challenges, a maglev train prototype and a 165-meter maglev test track was unveiled at Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China on January 13, 2021. The researchers are using the high-temperature superconducting (HTS) maglev technology and the Maglev train prototype will have a designed speed of 620 km/h.

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Photo credit Xinhua / CTGN

The research program was described in a CGTN Technology article dated 14-Jan-2021. https://news.cgtn.com/news/2021-01-14/China-unveils-maglev-train-prototype-with-designed-speed-of-620-km-h-X36Lf2fBAI/index.html

   Below are excerpts from the CGTN article:

"Maglev trains, levitated from the tracks and propelled by powerful magnets to avoid wheel-rail friction, are designed to break the speed bottlenecks facing high-speed trains...With an investment of 60 million yuan ($9.3 million), the HTS maglev project was jointly developed by Southwest Jiaotong University, China Railway Group Limited and CRRC Corporation Limited... Compared with other maglev technologies, HTS tech is more suitable for the futuristic concept of super-fast transportation in vacuum tubes, where trains could hit speeds of over 1,000 km/h," according to Deng Zigang, deputy research center director at Southwest Jiaotong University in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China."

Deng Zigang is one of the maglev experts exploring potential development but noted, "Although the theory sounds good, everyone saw it (HTS maglev technology) as a lab toy in the past, without tests in a real situation,"

As an example of future potential, Ding said maglev may "eliminate the advantages jet passenger planes had over ground vehicles over a distance of 1,500 km. Take the 1200 km Beijing-to-Shanghai trip as an example. It takes about four-and-a-half hours by plane including preparation time; about five-and-a-half hours by high-speed rail, and only about three-and-a-half hours by maglev."

"The Shanghai Maglev train, launched in 2002, is the world's third high-speed maglev train that has been put into commercial operation after the AirRail Link in London in 1984 and M-Bahn line in Berlin in 1989. It's also the only one still in operation worldwide. With a designed maximum speed of 430 km/h, it only takes passengers eight minutes to transit between the city center and Pudong international airport, a 30 kilometers line."

"Using German technology, the Shanghai Maglev line is a demonstration line. Since then, China has been striving to develop its independent technology in the field, where Japan and Germany have been taking leading positions. Step by step, the country is making solid progress. Analysts say that the successful test on Sunday signifies that China has achieved the same level as Japan..."

"But those in favor of the high-speed maglev technology argue that its maintenance cost will be lower than bullet rail due to the absence of friction. Therefore, its cost-efficiency may be higher than high-speed rail in the long term..."

"There have always been safety and health concerns about the maglev technology. The elevated train seems less safe than the conventional train on the ground. And the public's concern about the electromagnetic radiation caused by the maglev line has been a major reason why the Shanghai-Hangzhou high-speed maglev project was suspended. But supporters of the technology say the Shanghai Maglev line has been operating safely for nearly two decades, which has helped accumulate valuable experience in safety issue."

 

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