Posts Tagged ‘high-speed rail’

Looks like Saudi Arabia will beat out Morocco for Africa’s the first high-speed rail service in the Arab world:

Saudi Arabia will soon start offering high-speed train services between Makkah and Madinah. According to the local reports, the first rail service will be on September 24, 2018. The 450km line will link the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah via Jeddah and the King Abdullah Economic City of Rabigh.

The Haramain high-speed train line, which has been repeatedly delayed and resulting with cost increases, having originally been due to open in 2012.

There will be eight services daily in each direction until the end of the year, according to the news on Saudi Gazette. Trains on the line will travel at speeds of 300kph, is expected to cut down the amount of time taken to travel between Mecca and Madinah to two hours. It will also shorten the travel time between Jeddah and Mecca to half an hour.

The design and construction of the project will allow it to withstand tough climatic and heavy traffic conditions. Since temperatures in the region range from 0–50°C, the track will be designed to handle the temperature changes.

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Prophetic Words

In what Transdef calls the “speech of his life”, Senator Simitian explains his No vote on the high-speed rail construction. Ten years ago, Simitian co-sponsored the bill that had put the HSR bond measure on the ballot, but has now soured on the project’s mismanagement.

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From the China Daily:

China’s largest train maker, CSR Corp Ltd, launched over the weekend its first test train that can reach speeds of up to 500 km an hour.

The six-carriage train with a tapered head is the newest member of the CRH series. It has a maximum drawing power of 22,800 kilowatts, compared with 9,600 kilowatts for the CRH380 trains now in service on the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, which hold the world speed record of 300 km per hour.

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The Cost of Doing Nothing

It is the oldest line in the book. When white elephant projects fail rational economic analysis, promoters always claim that “the cost of doing nothing isn’t zero”.

A $98.1 billion outlay for high-speed rail must be measured against the alternative. Creating equivalent capacity with 2,300 miles of highways, 115 new airport gates and four new runways would cost $170 billion.

It is amazing how often this rationale is used, but not everyone falls for it:

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Bring on the Blight

New computer renderings of CA high-speed rail show just what the CHSRA has in store for San Jose, and it isn’t pretty. Here is the Hedding grade separation, which gets both a trench and an aerial. My, what an inviting place for some TOD.

Aerials blasting straight through town. Absolutely hideous, the worst kind of 1950’s planning:



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Actual screenshot from the FRA’s webpage:


How ironic that the FRA website features photos of trains they’ve outlawed from American rails.

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In a shock move, Florida’s Governor Rick Scott approved the $1.2 billion ‘Sunrail’ commuter rail project. This was the same Governor who had earlier canceled the Florida high-speed rail project. Even his supporters are perplexed:

State Senator Paula Dockery, also a Scott supporter, isn’t happy as well. Dockery says high-speed rail had no risk to taxpayers and there were predictions of high ridership, while Sunrail is predicted to have low ridership and tremendous cost.

To recap: Scott cancels a high-speed rail project that would not have cost the State a dime — but approves an Amtrak-style ‘Sunrail’ service requiring enormous operating subsidies.

It is almost as if there were a conspiracy in this country to cancel good transit projects, and fund bad ones.

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“Peer Review Group” has issued a report on the organizational structure of California high-speed rail. The group has reached a depressing conclusion that nobody in the State has the necessary skill set to develop a high-speed rail system, or even negotiate a PPP:

The LAO Report identifies a concern with Caltrans’ “…lack of expertise in working with private partners on PPPs,” which is exactly the problem that the project faces even now in the issue of the lack of operator/designer/builder feedback, and which will become much more serious when the time comes to develop, award and oversee (or regulate) the operating arrangement. The Authority does not have this expertise either, and the Group is deeply concerned that neither the Authority nor Caltrans will be able to acquire it in a timely way if the Department must stay within existing State agency limitations on positions, salaries, and skills.

High-speed rail is a mature turn-key technology. There are numerous 3rd world countries that have built lines, or are in the process of doing so. How is it that California, with its diverse economy and engineering talent, is having these kinds of problems?

The full report: 59472351-PeerReviewGroupCommentsonHSRLAO-sReport

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In February, the Altamont Alternatives Analysis report was released. And in case there was any doubt as to whether the Altamont Corridor project is a charade, the AA report confirms it.

Any new transit project would start off asking where travelers are going. Naturally, San Francisco is the top destination, but the Altamont project inexplicably terminates trains at San Jose.


Because the CHSRA believes bridging the mighty straights of Dumbarton is too dangerous. Never mind that Caltrain (a full HSR partner) is doing exactly that. What a strange state of affairs to have one agency describe a Dumbarton bridge as impossible, while another agency has already gotten voter-approved funding for such a project.

East of the Hills, things get more bizarre. The City of Pleasanton is absolutely opposed to oppose elevated tracks passing through the center of town. So guess which route Altamont trains would take?

An I580 route would bypass nimbys, exploit an existing median space, and hit all the big employment centers. But CHSRA took that route out of consideration for a dubious reason: to reserve ROW for a possible BART extension.



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For the past 58 years, the German state of Baden-Württemberg has been governed by the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). That all ended last night in a crushing defeat to a center-left opposition, composed of the Greens and their Social Democratic Party allies. For the first time, the Greens would govern a German state.

According to media reports, the weekly Stuttgart-21 protests played a major role in CDU defeat. German voters are known for careful spending of public funds, which may explain the historic CDU defeat.

A recent Guardian article provides fascinating account of the Stuttgart-21 protests. The whole thing is worth reading, but here is one highlight:

It must help to feel the support of a weekly turnout, too. Because the Stuttgart movement isn’t just about blowing whistles or keeping trees and stations because they’re old. It’s about ensuring public money is wisely spent (Swabians are notoriously careful). So they’ve sought advice from Swiss rail experts about the number of trains the new station would process. They’ve pointed out the plan’s weaknesses in fire safety and wheelchair access. They have lawyers in their ranks who have proven it’s possible, and affordable, to withdraw from the current building contracts. And they’ve won concessions in arbitration, curbing the sell-off of public land. They’re not stopping there either: they’ve worked out an alternative, Kopfbahnhof 21, which would refurbish the existing station, and invest in the regional network instead of all those tunnels.

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