Vol. 8 No. 15
Copyright © 2007
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elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.
In this edition...
Photo by Bernard CollardeyPhotgraphic trickery and a high-speed shutter captures the V150 as it passes by on-lookers and the press.
Frances TGV breaks speed record
While the United States struggles to keep its passenger rail system (AMTRAK) from being dismantled by the Bush administration and continues to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into an archaic highway system that no longer meets the needs of America in a global economy, here is whats happening in Europe:
France has unveiled the worlds fastest high-speed train that broke all records by reaching a speed of 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph).
Last Monday, France announced it would try to surpass its own record of 17 years ago - 515.3 kph (320.2 mph). On Tuesday, they succeeded. A black V150 train rocketed along a stretch of the new high-speed line between Paris and the city of Strasbourg on Frances border with Germany.
The speed is comparable to that of a freight propeller airplane.
The custom built V150 TGV (train a grand vitesse), manufactured by Alstom, consists of three double-decker cars between two engines. The higher speeds are facilitated by larger wheels which cover more ground at each rotation and a stronger 25,000 horse power, said Alain Cuccaroni, the Alstom engineer in charge of technical aspects of the testing.
The train reached similarly fast speeds in several trial runs over recent weeks, but this was the first test to be officially monitored. The event was broadcast live in France and Germany.
What is important for us today is to prove that the TGV technology, which was invented in France 30 years ago, is a technology for the future, said Guillaume Pepy, director-general of the state rail company SNCF, which is TGVs main customer.
Close rivals for the high-speed train are the ICE (intercity express) by Siemens, which reached 357 kilometers per hour in September 2006, and the Shinkansen Bullet Train of Japan, which has reached 443 kph.
Alstoms goal is to trounce its rivals to gain a competitive advantage in the rapidly expanding markets.
France, Japan, Germany, Korea, and Spain are large markets for high-speed trains, with China, Russia, Brazil, Argentina and Taiwan also entering the fray.
The current world speed record for a train is held by Japan with its magnetic levitation trains that have reached 580 kph, but these trains do not use ordinary track and have a far higher running cost than the TGV. Alstom says that record is not a fair comparison since mag-lev is a different type of technology.
To prepare the infrastructure for the high-speed test, the new track, which will open on June 10, had to be banked around the turns, and rails were treated for perfect contact. The electrical tension in the overhead cable was beefed up from 25,000 volts to 31,000. The double-decker cars were transformed into a laboratory for the event, so that technicians could gather data during the run.
The goal of the operation, called V150, is more than simply breaking a record, said Cuccaroni. Data from the test should help improve the security and comfort of passengers in the future.
Click the image at the left to access a YouTube ™ video clip of the historic run. For other video clips, access www.youtube.com and use TGV as your search term. There are several videos in English and other languages.
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This latest success in higher speed will shorten travel times significantly: Paris to Strasbourg will be 2 hours 20 minutes, down from 4 hours; Frankfurt and Stuttgart from Paris will take 3 hours 45 minutes, down from 6 hours.
The Alsatian city of Strasbourg has undergone a metamorphosis to upgrade the station and track for the new high-speed train. In an article for the International Herald Tribune, reporter Nicola Clark writes, The sweeping cobblestone plaza that once greeted visitors exiting the 19th-century railway station here is now a vast sea of gravel and earth-moving equipment. In place of the sidewalks and taxi ranks, a 150-meter-long arcade of steel arches and scaffolds masks the stations original Renaissance-inspired façade.
The construction work at the Strasbourg station is part of EUR 5 billion investment (about $7.5 billion) to extend the countrys famed TGV network from Paris to the German border.
For Jean-Paul Manuel, a cab driver, the fast train is long overdue.
I think it is scandalous that we havent had a TGV before now, said Manuel, 48, who has watched for 25 years as Frances high-speed rail network expanded to places like Lyon, Lille and Marseille, turning once-quiet provincial towns into thriving tourist destinations. Its time for us to wake up and get moving, he said.
Manuel and other residents of this Alsatian city of 270,000 have high hopes for what the imminent arrival of the eastern high-speed link will mean for the local economy. Strasbourgs hotel and tourism industry expects as many as 4.6 million visitors per year once TGV service begins, an increase of around 30 percent from 2006.
All along the newly renovated high-speed rail line, real estate speculation is booming. In Reims, where commuters will be able to reach Paris in 45 minutes, down from one hour 35 minutes, office complexes and hundreds of homes are going up near the train station. Other towns such as Nancy and Metz are also in a building boom in anticipation of the TGV effect.
Southern New England States
Unprecedented Transportation Summit
Thursday in Connecticut
HARTFORD --- Senior elected leaders from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, as well as representatives of the transportation and environmental advocacy community, will gather in Hartford April 12 to hear Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Tim Murray address the region on the growing transportation crisis, and how the New England states might work more closely together to solve it.
Assembled by the National Corridors Initiative at the request of the Connecticut state legislatures leadership at the suggestion of CT State Rep. David McCluskey (D-West Hartford), the unprecedented three-state transportation summit is being hosted by Connecticut State Senate President Don Williams and Connecticut House Speaker Jim Amann. The conference grew out of a White Paper by NCI calling for a regional New England/New York State entity to tackle infrastructure on a permanent basis.
Following an opening statement by Senate President Williams and House Speaker Amann, in addition to Massachusetts Lt Gov. Tim Murray the conference will hear from Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, NCI President Jim RePass, Rhode Island Economic Policy Council Executive Director Kip Bergstrom, First Albany Corporation Managing Director and infrastructure expert Ned Flynn, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers representative Dan Lauzon, former Massachusetts State Senator and long-time transportation activist John Businger, and American Road and Transportation Builders Association President & CEO Peter Ruane, with closing remarks and public commentary and questions called for by President Williams and Speaker Amann.
The conference begins at 10:30 a.m. in Room #2E of the Connecticut State Legislative Office Building.
Invitees include: CT/RI/MA Lt. Governors, Senate Presidents; House Speakers; Majority and Minority Leaders, Chairman and Members of all three states Senate and House Transportation Committees. Please route RSVPs/inquiries to NCI President Jim RePass, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org; the event is open to the public with public questions, and suggestions will be taken both at the conference and via email afterward.
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Californias third most powerful politician, Fabian Nunez, was in France the day of the TGV speed test, eyeing the train for a planned link between San Francisco and San Diego.
Speaker of the state assembly Nunez commented on the fortunate timing of his visit.
You have been ahead of time (in producing a) very practical rail system in France which can move people from one place to another, he said. Today youll be breaking a new speed record with your high speed train. The timing of our venue couldnt have been better. We are contemplating in California the possibility of a high speed train that would go from the San Francisco Bay area to Los Angeles and San Diego, in South California. Were here to study the rail system.
Nunez was part of a delegation of six California lawmakers visiting France to observe the rail system. Assemblywoman Fino Ma was the only one who actually rode the train during the test.
Ma said the approximately 15 minute-ride was pretty amazing.
It felt like we were ready to take off on the runway in a plane, the San Francisco Democrat said in a telephone interview. That steady acceleration ... feeling and force.
She said the ride made her even more convinced that California needs to develop high-speed rail, which has been in the planning stages for more than 10 years.
The lawmakers have been in talks with Alstom, the manufacturer of the TGV, and have been looking at other trains as well. They are particularly interested in the French model because they see a similarity between the Paris-Strasbourg link and Californias San Francisco-Los Angeles corridor.
The planned high-speed train link would go from Sacramento in the north to San Diego in the south via San Francisco and Los Angeles, covering a distance of 1,100 kilometers (683 miles). The time of the trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles would be reduced to two and a half hours. The planned speed of the train is approximately 200 miles per hour.
A nearly $10 billion bond measure that would help pay for a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and the San Francisco area will be on Californias 2008 November ballot.
Ma said she and other high-speed rail supporters hope to persuade Schwarzenegger to support the 2008 vote and to increase funding in his proposed budget to allow the states high-speed rail board to do engineering work and begin buying rights-of-way for the bullet trains in the next fiscal year.
Our highways are congested, Ma said. Were not going to be able to put more runways at our airports. The only way to move people around efficiently and effectively is a high-speed rail system like we have in Europe.
A spokesperson from Governor Scharzeneggers office said the governor has other plans for state bonds, such as prisons and flood control, but would be willing to work with the legislature to find ways to fund the high-speed rail.
Selected Rail Stocks...
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Selections from this weeks Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports e-bulletin
Major fire may affect cape rail prospects
To subscribe go to: www.atlanticnortheast.com
ROCHESTER, MA --- A major fire at the trash-handling, power-producing SEMASS plant here may close the facility for six months, news sources reported this past week.
A fire, reportedly started when a propane tank went through a shredder March 31, will also force the Bay Colony Railroad to find another recipient for the rail cars from its trash trains, which serve Cape Cod, according to Bernie Reagan, Bay Colonys senior vice-president for marketing. The company will attempt to send the trash to somewhere else by rail rather than have to use trucks. We are a railroad, not a trucking company, said Reagan.
As stated in Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation (EOT)s Request for Proposals for an operator on the lines in southeast Massachusetts, Bay Colony RR in calendar year 2006 had 3,627 carloads, most of those hauling trash between Cape stations and Rochester for SEMASS, the private incinerator/power generator. The lines operator is selected periodically by EOT from a list of qualified rail bidders
EOT was to make the selection of the operator 2-6 April. However, Reagan said the BCLR interview will occur on 3 April (unless the fire affects the selection process), so the schedule has changed.
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An ANR&P editorial,
DONT save the highways
The report of the Commonwealths Transportation Finance Commission, out on 29 March, paints a grim picture.
It will propose a solution to the problem of highway funding (the report breathed not a word about freight rail) in May or June. I was not asked, but I already have a solution.
The Commission warns that If neglected, the billions we have spent over the last century on highways and transit systems will literally crumble. I say, let half of it crumble. Shrink the highway system, thereby forcing traffic, both freight and passenger, onto other more efficient modes. Need I mention which mode I prefer? If duplicated by the rest of the country, that would constitute a major step toward ending global warming.
Those annoying French
If anything was required to make the French engineering community even more insufferable than it already is, last weeks 357 mph, world-record-breaking TGV run ought to do the trick.
And whats more, theyve got a right to enjoy it.
The fact is, the record-setting run of April 3 ought to be a wake-up call to America that it is falling farther and farther behind the rest of the world developed and developing --- when it comes to transportation infrastructure. Our freight railroads cant afford to build the capacity to handle demand, the highways are congested at all hours and growing worse, and the airline system is a miserable experience often enough to make the news on a regular basis.
The problem is, for the better part of the past 30 years we have had political leadership, in the White House and in Congress, which fundamentally does not believe in government, and has spent its energies engineering tax cuts for those already well-off instead of maintaining and renewing the underpinnings of a great nation.
The results have been devastating on our ability to compete. Hollowing out the infrastructure of America while simultaneously exporting jobs to developing countries with effectively zero labor and environmental laws is a formula for decline, and we are in it, by our own hand.
It is time for this country to start treating infrastructure the way, in the 1950s, American leadership under President Dwight Eisenhower treated scientific competition: by fighting back. The record-setting TGV run in France last week shouldnt be just a cause for concern. It should be Americas transportation Sputnik.
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