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Should the US build or improve it's HSR network?

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SSLL
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Acela Express...a major disappointment?

This was once touted as an alternative to driving and flying between Washington and New York and Boston at comparable comfort and speed to flying. Is this a major disappointment, and does it have a negative effect on the future of train travel in the US?
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Amtrak cancels once-ballyhooed Acela Express because of brake problems
Saturday, April 16, 2005
By Devlin Barrett, The Associated Press


WASHINGTON -- The Acela Express, Amtrak's much-ballyhooed hope for high-speed train travel, was shut down indefinitely Friday because of brake problems, leaving thousands of travelers scrambling for other transportation.

The beleaguered rail service pressed slower trains into use along the Northeast corridor between Washington, New York and Boston.

All Acela service will be suspended at least through next Wednesday and most is likely to be shut down for much longer because of newly discovered cracks in disc brakes, said Amtrak chief operating officer Bill Crosbie.

"We're very early into this," said Crosbie, estimating it was likely to take more than two months to do all the repairs, depending on the availability of replacement parts.

Millimeter-sized cracks were found in 300 of the Acela fleet's 1,440 disc brake rotors.

Amtrak said the extra trains would not be able to compensate for all the lost Acela seats. People with reservations who cannot get a ticket on another train -- or don't want one -- are entitled to a refund, the company said.

Amtrak normally runs 15 Acela weekday roundtrips between New York and Washington and 11 between New York and Boston. Acela accounts for about 20 percent of Amtrak's Boston-New York-Washington weekday service, some 9,000 passengers. On Friday's that's usually about 10,000.

The cracked brakes come at a bad time for Amtrak. A Senate committee will debate next week whether to end the rail service's federal subsidy -- as the Bush administration has recommended -- and radically reshape train travel in the United States.

"We're always under political pressure," said Amtrak CEO David Gunn. "I don't think that this will be a factor per se."

When Acela service was launched Dec. 11, 2000, the trains were billed as the faster, brighter future of Amtrak. Running only in the Northeast corridor, the trains can reach speeds of 150 mph and feature amenities such as conference tables in passenger cars, pub-style cafe cars with expanded menus and three audio music channels with headphone outlets at each seat.

The manufacturer, Bombardier Inc., had no immediate explanation for the cracks found on the steel spokes of disc brakes on most coaches.

"We want to get them up and running as soon as possible, but until we really understand the issue fully that's going to be an open question," said Bombardier spokesman David Slack.

The cracks were discovered during routine inspections, and no brake failures or other safety problems had occurred, Amtrak said.

That was little comfort to stranded business travelers and those who had made weekend plans.

Standing in line at New York's Penn Station, accountant Linda Priebe feared she wouldn't make it home to Baltimore Friday.

"If they can't give me a ticket to go in a couple of hours, I'm going back to the hotel," she said.

Art curator Stanley Babcock wasn't ready to give up.

He said he was ready to ride sitting on the floor. "Otherwise all my hotel and restaurant plans will be ruined."

Most other Amtrak service was scheduled to operate normally, but the company added four more regional trains Friday to try to handle the displaced passengers.

"It's going to be a challenge for us because we have limited additional equipment," said spokesman Cliff Black.

Lawmakers already upset over the Bush administration's plans to end most funding for Amtrak argued the incident shows Amtrak needs more help, not less.

"When Amtrak is terribly underfunded and has to operate on a shoestring budget, these kinds of things will keep happening, which will really disrupt people's lives and our economy," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

The White House seeks to radically reshape what Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta had called "a dying railroad company."

A day before the Acela cancellation, the administration sent Congress a plan to reshape Amtrak as a private operator focused on running trains, not maintaining tracks or stations.

President Bush proposed in his 2006 budget eliminating Amtrak's operating subsidy. If the railroad ceased operating, the administration has offered to set aside $360 million to run trains along the Northeast Corridor. The current budget gives Amtrak some $1.2 billion in operating subsidies and capital investment.

Acela Express service also was halted in August 2002 after inspectors discovered cracks on a bracket holding a shock-absorbing assembly to one Acela Express locomotive. Additional cracks were later found around the assemblies of other locomotives.
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I think it is a disappointment indeed. Acela is not that much faster than existing trains on the route, the trains are unreliable, punctuality is bad and the project has cost a lot of taxpayers money.

I'm not sure if Amtrak could have done better though. Amtrak's budget is very limited, the North-Eastern Corridor is a difficult line with oldfashioned infrastructure and American federal safety rules prohibit just importing proven technology from Europe.

This being said, the North-East is one of the few areas in the USA which have a serious potential for high speed rail, due to the high population density and a reasonably good underlying public transport system.
 

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samsonyuen said:
The White House seeks to radically reshape what Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta had called "a dying railroad company."

A day before the Acela cancellation, the administration sent Congress a plan to reshape Amtrak as a private operator focused on running trains, not maintaining tracks or stations.

President Bush proposed in his 2006 budget eliminating Amtrak's operating subsidy. If the railroad ceased operating, the administration has offered to set aside $360 million to run trains along the Northeast Corridor. The current budget gives Amtrak some $1.2 billion in operating subsidies and capital investment.
What the hell to these pig-molesting old farts know?
If you design a company to focus on operating trains and not maintaining tracks and stations, that means that they won't own the tracks and stations and that means that they'll have to rent their use, quite probably with other service providers in busy areas like New York, which means shared track space, which means unreliability will strongly be in effect.
Profitable railways tend to own their own infrastructure. This allows them to provide reliable service. Even with non-profitable systems, subways and such have dedicated track that they own and it is through that keystone that they are able to provide reliable service.
What is needed in the US is new infrastructure. The New England rail network has enough people with enough economic generation to give it treatment similar to Japan's bullet trains but at about half and one-quarter the scale (network size and operation density respectively). With the exception of the 3 west coast states, virtually all money is made by the North East. It should have the infrastructure for good rail travel both for the sake of sustaining it now and allowing to continue in growth in the future.
 

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The North East Corridor like many other areas in the USA is completely urbanized, there are many many towns between each big city so the velocity of any HST would be limited a lot by regulations and security subjects.
 

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The bright side: the trains are always sold out, they are cheaper for businesspeople than airlines, if you buy a last-minute ticket.

They are about the same time as airlines between NYC and DC (if you include the time it takes you to get to the airport, etc.)
 

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TRZ said:
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What is needed in the US is new infrastructure. The New England rail network has enough people with enough economic generation to give it treatment similar to Japan's bullet trains......
Sounds like a great idea. I wouldn't mind making the same sell if I was a politician running for office. But where's the money going to come from? We barely have enough money to patch up the pot holes on the freeways let alone build any new infrastructure. And if you think the freeways are falling apart the rails are even in worse shape. :) I don't think the north east can pull off a shinkansen but of all places in the US, the north east has the most potential for HSR. It's the most urbanized, densly populated, and has the most developed transit to connect buses to the train stations.

Art curator Stanley Babcock wasn't ready to give up.

He said he was ready to ride sitting on the floor.
hmmm now that's one way to cut down on costs. Maybe if they built trains with no seats they'll have enough to buy new brakes. :)
 

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Name specific ones?
One of the most important is that the crashworthyness limits are much tighter in the US, leading to a much heavier and thus more expensive and less efficient train. And even more important, this also meant that they couldn't just by a standard European train. So a brand new train had to be developed -> so all R&D costs are devided on a very limited number of trainsets, making them very expensive. European trains are sold in much larger quantities, making them cheaper.

Another one is that the FRA doesn't accept unpowered cab cars (cars where the engineer controls the train) at high speeds. That's why Acela has two engines in its relatively short train, again making it more expensive.

Another problem is that part of the tracks around NYC is owned by Metro North. Metro North doesn't allow the tilting mechanism of Acela trains to function on their territory, limiting speed on the section between NYC and New Haven.
 

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Vertigo said:
One of the most important is that the crashworthyness limits are much tighter in the US, leading to a much heavier and thus more expensive and less efficient train. And even more important, this also meant that they couldn't just by a standard European train. So a brand new train had to be developed -> so all R&D costs are devided on a very limited number of trainsets, making them very expensive. European trains are sold in much larger quantities, making them cheaper.
Yeah, this is because of the potential of having to share space with freight trains, which are much heavier. The reason why they can't buy an ordinary train is mainly political. US is a car country and the reality of things is that train R&D is a good way to "launder" money (not in the fullest sense of the world, but close) for someone.

Another one is that the FRA doesn't accept unpowered cab cars (cars where the engineer controls the train) at high speeds. That's why Acela has two engines in its relatively short train, again making it more expensive.
Yeah, if all trains were made lighter, this would make sense.

Another problem is that part of the tracks around NYC is owned by Metro North. Metro North doesn't allow the tilting mechanism of Acela trains to function on their territory, limiting speed on the section between NYC and New Haven.
Again, it's all about politics. BTW. Do you have any idea as to why they don't allow this?
 

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Yeah, this is because of the potential of having to share space with freight trains, which are much heavier. The reason why they can't buy an ordinary train is mainly political. US is a car country and the reality of things is that train R&D is a good way to "launder" money (not in the fullest sense of the world, but close) for someone.
That's right. American safety rules for trains are suited for lines with heavy, slow freight trains, where impact protection makes a lot of sense. And America has a lot of them, so in general, the safety rules are very fitting for the American situation.

But on passenger lines with high speed traffic, it makes it very expensive and not very effective: even with the heavy Acela, an accident would be disastorous. On passenger lines, effort is better spent on *preventing accidents* rather than *surviving crashes*, just like in air travel. Examples like Japan and France show that very light trains can still be very safe, because safety systems effectively prevent accidents to happen. So for the North-East Corridor and some other passenger corridors, safety regulations could be better changed to a more European or Japanese situation. If that doesn't happen, high speed rail in the US is going to be very difficult.

Again, it's all about politics. BTW. Do you have any idea as to why they don't allow this?
No, don't know. I suspect that Metro North is afraid of being held responsible in court if an accident happens with a malfunctioning tilting device.
Probably
 

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^ Well what did you expect? Its a Bombardier!!!! :rofl:
 

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Talgo and Bombardier made this beaut of a high speed train to run on the Spanish high speed rail network. It will travel at a top speed of 200 mph.

Bombardier can make amazing trainsets. It is not bombardier's fault, it is the federal government obsessively large weight requirements that strain the physical structure of the ACELA trainsets.
 

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DonQui said:


Talgo and Bombardier made this beaut of a high speed train to run on the Spanish high speed rail network. It will travel at a top speed of 200 mph.
Beaut?! It looks like a cross between a duck and a 1970's vision of what flying cars would look like!
 

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DonQui said:


Talgo and Bombardier made this beaut of a high speed train to run on the Spanish high speed rail network. It will travel at a top speed of 200 mph.

Bombardier can make amazing trainsets. It is not bombardier's fault, it is the federal government obsessively large weight requirements that strain the physical structure of the ACELA trainsets.
This Talgo train is called "pato" ("duck") here in Spain! :D
Its top speed is 217,53 mph (350kph). :cool:
Its commercial speed in Barcelona-Madrid high speed line will be 205 mph in 2007. :)

Cheers!
:wink2:
 

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SSLL
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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
It does look like a duck! What I don't understand is what Bombardier knows about making trains? They do jets alright, but trains? Could it have been their lack of experience in making high-speed trains that led to the problems with Acela? I hope it works out, and they resume service.
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Amtrak brake supplier Bombardier short of replacement parts for Acela trains
Tue Apr 19, 7:13 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AP) - Bombardier, the company that helps build Amtrak's Acela Express trains, has only 80 disc brakes in stock, not nearly enough to replace the 300 damaged brakes discovered on the railway's 20-train, high-speed rail fleet.



David Slack, a spokesman for Montreal-based Bombardier, Inc., said Tuesday he did not know how long it will take the company to supply Amtrak with enough brakes to put the Acela trains back in service. Bombardier and Alstom SA of France build the Acela trains.



Amtrak pulled the Acela trains out of service last Friday after discovering millimetre-size cracks in 300 of the fleet's 1,440 disc brake rotors. Each Acela train has 72 brakes.



Amtrak put one Acela train back in service Monday for a New York-to-Washington run, but the train did not make a scheduled trip from Washington to Boston because the wheels did not match perfectly, officials said.



Later Monday, Amtrak officials said there would be no Acela service at least through Friday, possibly longer. Amtrak normally runs 15 Acela weekday roundtrips between New York and Washington and 11 between New York and Boston.



The Acela problem comes as U.S. President George W. Bush is urging the U.S. Congress to eliminate Amtrak's operating subsidy and privatize it. A Senate subcommittee is to debate Bush's proposal Thursday. The current budget gives Amtrak about $1.2 billion US in operating subsidies and capital investment funds.



Acela normally makes up about one-fifth of Amtrak's service along the northeast corridor, carrying an average of 9,000 riders on weekdays.



Amtrak's four-member board of directors had a telephone conference call meeting Tuesday to get an update on the Acela status and to discuss a financing plan for the railway. The board's chairman, David Laney, said during a break that the members were still "hammering out a few issues" and the meeting could resume Wednesday.



On the Toronto stock market Tuesday, Bombardier (TSX:BBD.MV.A) shares closed unchanged at $2.63 Cdn.
 

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samsonyuen said:
It does look like a duck! What I don't understand is what Bombardier knows about making trains? They do jets alright, but trains? Could it have been their lack of experience in making high-speed trains that led to the problems with Acela? I hope it works out, and they resume service.
I think you're out of the loop, Bombardier does all kinds of transportation, their jets are just the most expensive part of their business and so is the most well known. They started by inventing the snowmobile and branched out in everywhichway from there. Bombardier is one of the top in the world for trains. Visit their website to see what I mean. www.bombardier.com
 
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