Oct 19, 2014

Ahemedabad metro rail project gets green signal

NEW DELHI: Aiming at providing much needed connectivity to the commuters in some of the densest and traffic congested areas of Ahmedabad, Union Cabinet today approved Rs 10,773 crore for the phase-1 of Ahmedabad metro 1 covering 35.96 km. 

The metro is expected to considerably reduce the traffic congestion and will bring in fast, comfortable, safe, pollution-free and affordable mass transportation system for the people of Ahmedabad. 

The first phase will cover two co .. 

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California High-Speed Rail Lucky No. 13: Let's Look at Maglev and Other Alternatives

The maglev train in Shanghai briefly reaches a speed of more than 250 mph, on its very short demonstration route 

Three more installments to go! This is No. 13 in a series, started back in July, on the biggest infrastructure project underway in America, and either the most important one (if you're a supporter) or most misguided (if you are not). That's the proposal for a north-south California High-Speed Rail (HSR) system, which Governor Jerry Brown has embraced as his legacy project and is selling hard in his re-election campaign. For previous episodes see No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5, No. 6, No. 7, No. 8, No. 9, No. 10, No. 11, and No. 12.

Today, mail from some readers who say that California needs a better land-transportation system, just not this specific HSR proposal. Their alternative suggestions come in two main categories: taking seriously the possibility of self-driving cars, and changing from a conventional wheels-on-rails railroad system to the maglev systems, for "magnetic levitation," now in use in some other parts of the world. I also get mail in a third category, involving Elon Musk's "Hyperloop" transport vision, but that one is still hypothetical enough that I'll leave it for another time.

Before you point it out: Yes, I'm aware that responding to any proposal by saying, "I like the idea, I'm just not sure of the execution" often has the same effect as "Actually, I don't like the idea." That's for later. My purpose for the moment is to let advocates of these systems lay out the main points in their cases. The grand unification theory is still to come.

First, self-driving cars. I turn the floor over to a reader in California whose identity and background I know. He works in the advanced-research parts of the info-tech industry and did his bachelor's and doctoral training at Caltech and MIT. He says:

Your series on High Speed Rail is under-emphasizing an important aspect of the big picture.

Should we invest in infrastructure? Absolutely! But the right kind of infrastructure.

The technology and accompanying infrastructure creating the greatest impact today and over the past 30 years has been not just big scale physical stuff, but the brains coordinating and controlling physical stuff—specifically, computing and communication.

This revolution has already penetrated business, commerce, and entertainment. But it is just starting to touch transportation. 

Certainly, the logistics business is seeing impact through better tracking and scheduling, and personal transportation is benefiting from Maps, GPS, and mobile apps. But the really huge impact will come with self-driving vehicles.
One of Google's self-driving cars, with more info here.

If it is built, High Speed Rail in California will be obsolete for most of its lifetime. Consider:

-Self-driving cars cover ALL highways, not just one station-to-station route.

-Self-driving cars will be safer and more efficient than current driving because they coordinate with each other.

-Self-driving cars can be faster on highways because they can caravan. For the same reason, they can be more energy-efficient. Because they are point-to-point instead of station-to-station, they get you from source to destination faster and with less hassle.

-Self-driving cars will create productive time because the driver can attend to other things.

-Self-driving cars avoid a single point of failure (track disruption) because the road system and vehicles are distributed.

For these reasons, by 2030 or 2040 when HSR is done, the best physical investment in getting between San Francisco and Los Angeles will be to double the width of Interstate 5—much cheaper than a whole new train system.

Rail is terrific for some purposes but it represents old technology. There's an analogy in telecommunications. Over 80% of the world's population now has telephone service---but not through stringing wires all over the countryside. The developing world has leapfrogged land lines by going straight to cellphones. California already has a great road system. We should leapfrog passenger rail by using our existing roads much more effectively.

The infrastructure ingredients of information technologies include both small-scale physical (sensors, signals, gateways, vehicles, roadway accommodations) and informational (algorithms, protocols, UI design, training, economic and legal support structure).

The challenge we have as a society is whether we can marshal resources to conduct the distributed infrastructure investment required to transform transportation through computation and communication, or whether we are forever stuck associating "infrastructure investment" with more concrete and steel ending in a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Now, maglev, which in essence allows a train to "fly" at very high speeds while suspended at a very small distance above the rail bed. The train is supported and propelled by magnetic forces.

The two main arguments for maglev are lower long-term maintenance costs, since there is little or no physical contact or wear and tear on wheels or rail bed; and higher possible speeds, again because you don't have the constraints of what a system of metal rails and wheels can sustain. Beyond that is the general argument that wheels-on-rails are yesterday's technology, and maglev (among others) is tomorrow's. For some previous maglev back-and-forth, see installments No. 8 and No. 9.

One of my frequent correspondents has been Kevin Coates, who is writing a book about maglev possibilities and is a maglev consultant and executive director of a maglev-advocacy group. Here is an initial note setting out his argument about looking forward rather than back:

I’m reading American Road for some background information on America’s first highway building initiative, the Lincoln Highway. Fascinating story. It was only 95 years ago [this summer] that the first military convoy made the three month trek from DC to San Francisco – not on paved roads, for the most part. Their first day from DC to Frederick, MD took 7 hours and 15 minutes. In fact, there were no paved road networks west of Pittsburgh in 1914 – only 100 years ago.

The line that sticks with me from the book and is pertinent to what you are writing about now is the comment from, I believe, Henry Joy, CEO of Packard Motors and chief booster for a national highway who lamented his fear that the Lincoln Highway would be built more with politics than with cement and gravel.

I think this is even more true of the California Rail project where they are looking to deploy yesterday’s technology to address future travel needs without understanding the first thing about how expensive it is to maintain trains and tracks, much less high-speed trains and tracks.
Maglev diagram, via Florida State U.

From my observations, all these rail boosters in California lack the training and background to properly design a rail system, much less a high-speed rail system. None of these people are technically proficient with the inner workings of fast electric trains and they know even less, or nothing, about maglev technology which would make better sense on several levels; including speed, safety, energy consumption, maintenance and life cycle cost (NPV, if you will).

In short, since American politicians devalued passenger train travel by creating Amtrak over 40 years ago, we in America do not now have technical proficiency in high-speed rail R&D, construction and operations – and this includes the FRA, the CAHSR folks, state DOTs, and American industry. It pains me to report that this is the core reason why we are fumbling Obama’s HSR initiative. We simply do not know what we are doing when it comes to fast trains or fast train lines.

So, if we are going to build this type of infrastructure, then let’s go with the most advanced and less expensive wheelless versions. This would be a logical approach. Hell, the Japanese are even offering us $4 billion and no licensing fees if we use their superconducting maglev technology between DC and Baltimore. This is the same technology they are installing for their new Tokyo-Nagoya Chuo Shinkansen. The German system in Shanghai is different technology, but also less costly. Unfortunately, we have no one to evaluate these advanced technologies because we abandoned maglev research over 25 years ago.

The whole mess makes me ill.

The Shanghai project Kevin Coates mentions is familiar to anyone who has been to the city. It whooshes across the 18 miles from a not-quite-downtown subway stop to the far-off Pudong Airport in about 7 minutes, reaching top speeds of more than 250 mph. But the route is so short that the train barely speeds up before it has to start slowing, and it's poorly enough connected to the rest of the transport grid that, if you're taking any luggage with you to the airport, it's more hassle than it's worth. While living in Shanghai we often took visitors there for a gee-whiz ride but were generally stuck with the slow, traffic-paralyzed taxis for real trips to the airport.
Source-the atlantic

Chandy sabotaged Sabari rail project: Muraleedharan

BJP state president V. Muraleedharan

Kottayam: BJP state president V. Muraleedharan has alleged that Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Finance Minister K.M. Mani and Transport Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan had sabotaged the Sabari rail project. He told reporters after the state leadership meet of the BJP here, “Mr Chandy is responsible for sabotaging the Sabari rail project in his own district of Kottayam. Chandy, K.M. Mani and Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility in sabotaging the project,” he alleged. 

“The Chandy government is demanding to raise the status of Sabarimala as a national pilgrimage centre to hide their lapses in providing infrastructural facilities at Sabarimala,” he added. 

Though the Sabraimala pilgrimage was deeply connected with the development of the state, the government had failed in developing Sabarimala, he alleged. The meeting to evaluate the preparations at Sabarimala was also convened very late, he added.
Source-deccan chronicle

The Biggest Strike In Years Has Crippled Rail Service In Germany

A employee of the German railway Deutsche Bahn walks in front of a parked regional train on a platform in the central railway station in Munich on October 15, 2014A employee of the German railway Deutsche Bahn walks in front of a parked regional train on a platform in the central railway station in Munich on October 15, 2014

Berlin (AFP) - German rail travellers on Saturday faced delays and disruptions on one of autumn's busiest travel weekends as the train drivers' union began one of its largest strikes in recent years.

Only about a third of traffic on major lines was running, the Deutsche Bahn said in a statement, adding that service would be assured on around 30 percent of regional and city lines.

Launching its biggest strike since 2008, the GDL union called on its members to walk out from 3:00 pm (1300 GMT) on Friday on freight services and from 2:00 am (0000 GMT) on Saturday on long-distance and regional passenger services.

The stoppages -- on traditionally one of the busiest weekends in the autumn because of a school holiday -- are due to last until 4:00 am (0200 GMT) on Monday. 

The union accused national rail operator Deutsche Bahn of stone-walling in talks over its demands for a five-percent wage hike and a shorter working week of 37 hours.

Deutsche Bahn slammed the new industrial action -- the fifth in recent weeks -- as excessive, accusing GDL chief Claus Weselsky of putting his own "delusions of omnipotence" and "thirst for power" before the interests of the train drivers and passengers.

"With its 50-hour strike on a holiday weekend, GDL and its chairman Claus Weselsky has lost all sense of proportion," the company said in a statement. 

"GDL is running amok," it added, pointing out that the autumn school holidays began or ended this weekend for 11 of Germany's 16 regional states. 

The magnitude of the industrial action was surprising in a country where warning strikes rarely last more than a day. The last time Deutsche Bahn was hit by an industrial dispute as serious as this was in 2007-2008.

Berlin is working on legislation to stop small groups of employees from paralysing large parts of the country's infrastructure, such as rail and air travel, after several airline strikes. A draft law is expected in November.

GDL accused management of issuing "nice-sounding statements with no substance". 

The union also wants to represent other groups of employees within Deutsche Bahn, not just the drivers, but conductors, catering staff, dispatchers and other staff as well, a demand which management rejects.

In addition to the rail strikes, travellers in Germany have also been hit recently by repeated walkouts by pilots of airlines within the Lufthansa group. 

This week, the pilots of Lufthansa's low-cost subsidiary Germanwings walked off the job for 12 hours on Wednesday, grounding hundreds of flights and thousands of passengers. 
Source-business insider

Bendigo on board with urban rail service

Bendigo, Victoria's fourth-biggest urban centre, is pushing for its own local commuter rail service to deal with what it says are "unprecedented levels" of population growth in the key state election battleground.

The Goldfields city says it already has "the foundations required for a local rail system" because it is at the junction of two rail lines and now has four operational train stations. The fourth, at Epsom, opened this month.

Bendigo wants new stations built at Maiden Gully, Golden Square, Huntly and Marong, and has long-term aspirations for others.

The call comes in a new planning document released by the city that charts a road map for growth. It addresses land use planning, transport and other issues. The municipality, which is not all urbanised, is now home to almost 110,000 people, but is growing fast. One ambitious growth plan has predicted a municipal population of 200,000 by 2041.

The residential growth is not just restricted to new suburban houses. There is a growing trend towards apartment living in the CBD, in new buildings and in "shop-top" conversions of buildings that in some cases were built in the 1800s.

The city recognises that the establishment of its own urban rail service would be expensive, even though railway lines and stations already exist. But the Connecting Greater Bendigo document says: "The reintroduction of trains to the core public transport system in Bendigo is critical to the sustainable growth of the city."

It also says: "The next step for Bendigo's rail system will be to establish it as an urban system with its own operator, rolling stock and maintenance and stabling facilities. If this initiative is determined to be feasible, new infrastructure including additional tracks, signalling, infill train stations and other associated infrastructure will be required."

The draft document, which has been released for public consultation, was prepared by consultants on behalf of the Bendigo council. In the short-term (defined as 2015 to 2020) the city wants more Bendigo-Melbourne services to run to and from stations near Bendigo's outer northern edge – a move that would allow residents from the north to travel by train to central Bendigo and Kangaroo Flat in the south.

And in the medium-term (2021 to 2028) it wants "regular services" operating solely within Bendigo. Associate Professor Trevor Budge from the City of Greater Bendigo said that the re-opening of Kangaroo Flat station a few years ago, and more trains servicing Eaglehawk in recent years, had changed travel behaviour.

"There are people actually using the [V/Line] trains now as though it was a suburban rail system. And they're realising it's the quickest way to get around Bendigo. Because you can get from the outer suburbs of Bendigo [to the centre] in four minutes on the train," he said.

Asked if Bendigo could support its own commuter rail service in future, he said: "We think we can. The rails are there, we've got the trains running on there now, people are actually using the trains now like a commuter rail system. It doesn't need a huge suburban train with seven carriages. It could be one Sprinter carriage running."

A better rail system with more stations and services would remove vehicles from the road, and create the platform for urban activity centres around new railway stations, he said.

"We're not asking for something that doesn't exist. Governments are on about 'let's use the resources we've got' – well we've got this extraordinary resource, we've already got the railway stations built," he said.

If two more strategically located stations were built in urban Bendigo, 70 per cent of the city's population would live within a seven-minute drive of a railway station, he said.
Source-the age

As clock winds down, CP Rail’s Harrison hunts for his dream deal

Norm Betts/BloombergHunter Harrison has spent his career preaching the benefits of tightly scheduled systems at railways across North America, first at Illinois Central, then at CN, and now at CP. A deal with CSX would add scale to the dream.

TORONTO/CHICAGO — Veteran railroad boss Hunter Harrison has won over many critics since taking over as chief executive of Canadian Pacific Railway, but he still has unfinished business – creation of a consolidated North American railway – and he is running out of time to do it.

That might explain why CP, Canada’s No. 2 railway with extensive operations in the United States, and the No. 3 U.S. railway, CSX Corp, have been talking about combining, even though such a deal would face tough regulatory barriers and alarm customers.

Harrison, 69, the former CEO of Canadian National Railway, has touted the value of consolidation for years. He says creation of a new transcontinental railroad could improve congestion around Chicago, where east- and west-based railways meet and hand off cargo, a process that can take days.A source familiar with the situation said the two held exploratory talks this month and are contemplating whether to take them further. Both companies have declined to comment, but CSX Chief Executive Michael Ward said on Wednesday that more big U.S. rail mergers could hurt service.

“There is a point, and we are approaching that point right now in Chicago during winter, when you can’t handle all the business. Now what are we going to do in 10 years?” Harrison said at a CP investor event on Oct. 1.

“Do we wait to get in solid gridlock and then address it?”

Harrison has spent his career preaching the benefits of tightly scheduled systems at railways across North America, first at Illinois Central, then at CN, and now at CP. A deal with CSX would add scale to the dream.

The man who hosts “Hunter camps” to personally train workers has never been shy about making sure his script is followed. At CN, a screen installed in his office let him monitor every train in the network, and he was known for calling workers directly to ask why a train was not moving.
Source-business.financial post

India aims to get on track with rail network

Commuters wait on a crowded railway platform as a train enters a suburban station in Mumbai. Danish Siddiqui / Reuters

Deal announced to fix dangerous Springdale rail crossing

STAMFORD ­-- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's office announced this weekend the state will pay the largest share of the cost to install gates at one of Metro-North Railroad's most dangerous crossings after finalizing a deal with the city and a private landowner.

"The safety of the community is paramount," said state Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, who had worked to negotiate the deal between the state and the owner of the 40-acre Riverbend Center office park in Springdale over the past three years.

Leone first helped broker a deal to fix the crossing at Riverbend Drive South in July 2012, but a final commitment was put off by financial concerns over the breakdown of costs to be paid between state, city, and the owner of the property the crossing is on.

Work on the project is to begin in April, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Under a previously discussed deal, the DOT had agreed to pay a third of the anticipated $1.2 million to $2 million cost of the project and cover the remaining two-thirds in advance to be paid by the city and Riverbend.

Under the newly announced deal, the DOT will pay about half the project's cost, DOT spokesman Judd Everhart said.
"Coupled with the other strategic, forward-thinking investments we have made to improve infrastructure and operations on this commuter line, we are moving closer to our end goal of ensuring safer and more frequent, reliable and convenient service for the tens of thousands of Connecticut residents who depend on this system every day," Malloy said in a statement announcing the deal.

Discussions between the DOT and Riverbend to install drop-arm gates at the crossing have gone on since at least late 2008, after an accident there injured a 17-year-old girl.

Since 1993, there have been six accidents between cars and trains at the Riverbend Drive South crossing, causing four injuries, making it Metro-North's second most accident-prone crossing in Connecticut.

The initial three-way deal was announced nearly eight months after two accidents in fall 2011 drew attention to the crossing's accident history and its status as the only gateless crossing on the 7.9-mile New Canaan Branch.

The site is equipped with flashing lights, bells, and crossbuck signs to warn drivers entering or exiting the park of the crossing.

In September 2011, a 1991 Cadillac Deville driven by an 80-year-old Greenwich resident was struck at the crossing.

Two months later, Marie Mojica, 58, a newspaper carrier, was injured when the left rear side of her Ford stationwagon was hit by an empty train just after 5 a.m. as she was leaving The Advocate's office in the Riverbend Drive South complex.

Last summer, a 19-year-old Darien man sustained minor injuries when his Jeep was struck by a train as he was driving out of the office park toward Hope Street.

The drivers were at fault in all the accidents, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police, which investigates accidents along the New Haven Line.

"The Riverbend project is a great example of how the city, state and private development can work together to address critical issues affecting the citizens of Stamford," Stamford Mayor David Martin said.
Source-stamford advocate

M-1 Rail pours first concrete for Woodward Ave. line

Detroit – — The M-1 Rail project along Woodward Avenue entered a new phase Saturday with the pouring of the first concrete along the tracks between John R and Clifford streets.

Construction workers will pour some 900 cubic yards of concrete around the previously-installed track in a process that should be complete just before the Thanksgiving Day parade along Woodward.

“A project like M-1 Rail is somewhat unique in the construction process and different from what people might see in road construction,” M1-Rail Chief Operating Officer Paul Childs said in a statement issued Friday. “We do significant pre-pour preparation to ensure the rail is properly secured, elevated and aligned before we pour any concrete. That helps assure the streetcars will ride smoothly and quietly up and down the tracks.”

Concrete will continue to be poured along the rest of the line. When closures of intersections are necessary, the work should begin on a Friday and re-open Monday, said Childs.

Construction methods take into account the drastic variation in Michigan’s weather, said Childs. The rail itself will have a grout pad or “rubber boot” around it, which provides vibration dampening and noise reduction, and also protects the steel from water seepage and stray currents emanating from either the streetcar-charging system itself, or from existing municipal utilities feeds.

“The boot assures safety, but also lets the rail expand longitudinally — in response to both heat and cold weather,” said Childs. “Of course that’s important for our Michigan weather, but more importantly, it protects the underground steel assets from water, current, and other environmental factors, and assures safety for rail passengers.”

The system with 12 stops is expected to have 1.8 million riders in its first year of operation, rising to 3 million by 2035. M-1 has raised $20 million in an operating fund to defray expenses for the first six years — but plans to raise that to $25 million before the first riders use the system, estimating it will need $5.3 million a year to subsidize operating costs initially.

The first shovels went into the ground on Woodward in late July; crews began welding track in September. The 3.1-mile line from downtown to Midtown is to be completed in late 2016. On Sept. 9, the project was awarded a $12.2 million federal grand to help build a vehicle maintenance facility, improve pedestrian access and include a fiber optic duct bank that will support broadband upgrades to increase Internet access at Wayne State University and other educational institutions.

Workers from local Detroit unions are doing the concrete work, and flaggers are placed at the intersections to assure safety – and that the new concrete isn’t disturbed.
Source-detroit news





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