Deutschlandtakt and Country Size

Does the absolute size of a country matter for public transport planning? Usually it does not – construction costs do not seem to be sensitive to absolute size, and the basics of rail planning do not either. That Europe’s most intensely used mainline rail networks are those of Switzerland and the Netherlands, two geographically small countries, is not really about the inherent benefits of small size, but about the fact that most countries in Europe are small, so we should expect the very best as well as the very worst to be small.

But now Germany is copying Swiss and Dutch ideas of nationally integrated rail planning, in a way that showcases where size does matter. For decades Switzerland has had a national clockface schedule in which all trains are coordinated for maximum convenience of interchange between trains at key stations. For example, at Zurich, trains regularly arrive just before :00 and :30 every hour and leave just after, so passengers can connect with minimum wait. Germany is planning to implement the same scheme by 2030 but on a much bigger scale, dubbed Deutschlandtakt. This plan is for the most part good, but has some serious problems that come from overlearning from small countries rather than from similar-size France.

In accordance with best industry practices, there is integration of infrastructure and timetable planning. I encourage readers to go to the Ministry of Transport (BMVI) and look at some line maps – there are links to line maps by region as well as a national map for intercity trains. The intercity train map is especially instructive when it comes to scale-variance: it features multihour trips that would be a lot shorter if Germany made a serious attempt to build high-speed rail like France.

Before I go on and give details, I want to make a caveat: Germany is not the United States. BMVI makes a lot of errors in planning and Deutsche Bahn is plagued by delays; these are still basically professional organizations, unlike the American amateur hour of federal and state transportation departments, Amtrak, and sundry officials who are not even aware Germany has regional trains. As in London and Paris, the decisions here are defensible, just often incorrect.

Run as fast as necessary

Switzerland has no high-speed rail. It plans rail infrastructure using the maxim, run trains as fast as necessary, not as fast as possible. Zurich, Basel, and Bern are around 100 km from one another by rail, so the federal government invested in speeding up the trains so as to serve each city pair in just less than an hour. At the time of this writing, Zurich-Bern is 56 minutes one-way and the other two pairs are 53 each. Trains run twice an hour, leaving each of these three cities a little after :00 and :30 and and arriving a little before, enabling passengers to connect to onward trains nationwide.

There is little benefit in speeding up Switzerland’s domestic trains further. If SBB increases the average speed to 140 km/h, comparable to the fastest legacy lines in Sweden and Britain, it will be able to reduce trip times to about 42 minutes. Direct passengers would benefit from faster trips, but interchange passengers would simply trade 10 minutes on a moving train for 10 minutes waiting for a connection. Moreover, drivers would trade 10 minutes working on a moving train for 10 minutes of turnaround, and the equipment itself would simply idle 10 minutes longer as well, and thus there would not be any savings in operating costs. A speedup can only fit into the national takt schedule if trains connect each city pair in just less than half an hour, but that would require average speeds near the high end of European high-speed rail, which are only achieved with hundreds of kilometers of nonstop 300 km/h running.

Instead of investing in high-speed rail like France, Switzerland incrementally invests in various interregional and intercity rail connections in order to improve the national takt. To oversimplify a complex situation, if a city pair is connected in 1:10, Switzerland will invest in reducing it to 55 minutes, in order to allow trains to fit into the hourly takt. This may involve high average speeds, depending on the length of the link. Bern is farther from Zurich and Basel than Zurich and Basel are from each other, so in 1996-2004, SBB built a 200 km/h line between Bern and Olten; it has more than 200 trains per day of various speed classes, so in 2007 it became the first railroad in the world to be equipped with ETCS Level 2 signaling.

With this systemwide thinking, Switzerland has built Europe’s strongest rail network by passenger traffic density, punctuality, and mode share. It is this approach that Germany seeks to imitate. Thus, the Deutschlandtakt sets up control cities served by trains on a clockface schedule every 30 minutes or every hour. For example, Erfurt is to have four trains per hour, two arriving just before :30 and leaving just after and two arriving just before :00 and leaving just after; passengers can transfer in all directions, going north toward Berlin via either Leipzig or Halle, south toward Munich, or west toward Frankfurt.

Flight-level zero airlines

Richard Mlynarik likes to mock the idea of high-speed rail as conceived in California as a flight-level zero airline. The mockery is about a bunch of features that imitate airlines even when they are inappropriate for trains. The TGV network has many flight-level zero airline features: tickets are sold using an opaque yield management system; trains mostly run nonstop between cities, so for example Paris-Marseille trains do not stop at Lyon and Paris-Lyon trains do not continue to Marseille; frequency is haphazard; transfers to regional trains are sporadic, and occasionally (as at Nice) TGVs are timed to just miss regional connections.

And yet, with all of these bad features, SNCF has higher long-distance ridership than DB, because at the end of the day the TGVs connect most major French cities to Paris at an average speed in the 200-250 km/h range, whereas the fastest German intercity trains average about 170 and most are in the 120-150 range. The ICE network in Germany is not conceived as complete lines between pairs of cities, but rather as a series of bypasses around bottlenecks or slow sections, some with a maximum speed of 250 and some with a maximum speed of 300. For example, between Berlin and Munich, only the segments between Ingolstadt and Nuremberg and between Halle and north of Bamberg are on new 300 km/h lines, and the rest are on upgraded legacy track.

Even though the maximum speed on some connections in Germany is the same as in France, there are long slow segments on urban approaches, even in cities with ample space for bypass tracks, like Berlin. The LGV Sud-Est diverges from the classical line 9 kilometers outside Paris and permits 270 km/h 20 kilometers out; on its way between Paris and Lyon, the TGV spends practically the entire way running at 270-300 km/h. No high-speed lines get this close to Berlin or Munich, even though in both cities, the built-up urban area gives way to farms within 15-20 kilometers of the train station.

The importance of absolute size

Switzerland and the Netherlands make do with very little high-speed rail. Large-scale speedups are of limited use in both countries, Switzerland because of the difficulty of getting Zurich-Basel trip times below half an hour and the Netherlands because all of its major cities are within regional rail distance of one another.

But Germany is much bigger. Today, ICE trains go between Berlin and Munich, a distance of about 600 kilometers, in just less than four hours. The Deutschlandtakt plan calls for a few minutes’ speedup to 3:49. At TGV speed, trains would run about an hour faster, which would fit well with timed transfers at both ends. Erfurt is somewhat to the north of the midpoint, but could still keep a timed transfer between trains to Munich, Frankfurt, and Berlin if everything were sped up.

Elsewhere, DB is currently investing in improving the line between Stuttgart and Munich. Trains today run on curvy track, taking about 2:13 to do 250 km. There are plans to build 250 km/h high-speed rail for part of the way, targeting a trip time of 1:30; the Deutschlandtakt map is somewhat less ambitious, calling for 1:36, with much of the speedup coming from Stuttgart21 making the intercity approach to Stuttgart much easier. But with a straight line distance of 200 km, even passing via Ulm and Augsburg, trains could do this trip in less than an hour at TGV speeds, which would fit well into a national takt as well. No timed transfers are planned at Augsburg or Ulm. The Baden-Württemberg map even shows regional trains (in blue) at Ulm timed to just miss the intercity trains to Munich. Likewise, the Bavaria map shows regional trains at Augsburg timed to just miss the intercity trains to Stuttgart.

The same principle applies elsewhere in Germany. The Deutschlandtakt tightly fits trains between Munich and Frankfurt, doing the trip in 2:43 via Stuttgart or 2:46 via Nuremberg. But getting Munich-Stuttgart to just under an hour, together with Stuttgart21 and a planned bypass of the congested Frankfurt-Mannheim mainline, would get Munich-Frankfurt to around two hours flat. Via Nuremberg, a new line to Frankfurt could connect Munich and Frankfurt in about an hour and a half at TGV speed; even allowing for some loose scheduling and extra stops like Würzburg, it can be done in 1:46 instead of 2:46, which fits into the same integrated plan at the two ends.

The value of a tightly integrated schedule is at its highest on regional rail networks, on which trains run hourly or half-hourly and have one-way trip times of half an hour to two hours. On metro networks the value is much lower, partly because passengers can make untimed transfers if trains come every five minutes, and partly because when the trains come every five minutes and a one-way trip takes 40 minutes, there are so many trains circulating at once that the run-as-fast-as-necessary principle makes the difference between 17 and 18 trainsets rather than that between two and three. In a large country in which trains run hourly or half-hourly and take several hours to connect major cities, timed transfers remain valuable, but running as fast as necessary is less useful than in Switzerland.

The way forward for Germany

Germany needs to synthesize the two different rail paradigms of its neighbors – the integrated timetables of Switzerland and the Netherlands, and the high-speed rail network of France.

High investment levels in rail transport are of particular importance in Germany. For too long, planning in Germany has assumed the country would be demographically stagnant, even declining. There is less justification for investment in infrastructure in a country with the population growth rate of Italy or of last decade’s Germany than in one with the population growth rate of France, let alone one with that of Australia or Canada. However, the combination of refugee resettlement and a very strong economy attracting European and non-European work migration is changing this calculation. Even as the Ruhr and the former East Germany depopulate, we see strong population growth in the rich cities of the south and southwest as well as in Berlin.

The increased concentration of German population in the big cities also tilts the best planning in favor of the metropolitan-centric paradigm of France. Fast trains between Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich gain value if these three cities grow in population whereas the smaller towns between them that the trains would bypass do not.

The Deutschlandtakt’s fundamental idea of a national integrated timed transfer schedule is good. However, a country the size and complexity of Germany needs to go beyond imitating what works in Switzerland and the Netherlands, and innovate in adapting best practices for its particular situation. People keep flying domestically since the trains take too long, or they take buses if the trains are too expensive and not much faster. Domestic flights are not a real factor in the Netherlands, and barely at all in Switzerland; in Germany they are, so trains must compete with them as well as with flexible but slow cars.

The fact that Germany already has a functional passenger rail network argues in favor of more aggressive investment in high-speed rail. The United States should probably do more than just copy Switzerland, but with nonexistent intercity rail outside the Northeast Corridor and planners who barely know that Switzerland has trains, it should imitate rather than innovating. Germany has professional planners who know exactly how Germany falls short of its neighbors, and will be leaving too many benefits on the table if it decides that an average speed of about 150 km/h is good enough.

Germany can and should demand more: BMVI should enact a program with a budget in the tens of billions of euros to develop high-speed rail averaging 200-250 km/h connecting all of its major cities, and redo the Deutschlandtakt plans in support of such a network. Wedding French success in high-speed rail and Swiss and Dutch success in systemwide rail integration requires some innovative planning, but Germany is capable of it and should lead in infrastructure construction.


  1. michaelrjames

    First, I reckon this belated program to haul German rail into the 21st century is a reflection of their very confused politics (at least since Merkel-Schäubel, with my shaky grasp of German politics, possibly well before). Austerity economics and a misguided, extraordinarily short-sighted view of costs versus benefits, possibly inspired by Thatcherist extremist antipathy against trains and public transit in general, has not served the nation well, and at some point it had to show. Even to those same econocrats who tried so hard to make DB “cost efficient”. I am a tiny bit encouraged by this tardy acceptance of reality but really I don’t expect a real change until there is a true changing of the guard from Merkel and the Right (who in American usage like to call themselves Centre-Right; nah). Just like I see nothing but trouble for the “competition” policy mandated for France’s TGV routes. The problem is that these pet theories of economists have negative consequences across decades.

    Second, Germany’s relatively small geographic size (about half the size of Texas as Texans love to point out; or less than one quarter the size of Queensland … ) fools one to think that really fast trains are unnecessary in the same way they aren’t necessary in Switzerland or The Netherlands. But as you point out their biggest cities span quite long routes north-south and east-west. As Feargus O’Sullivan mentioned in CityLab a few days ago, “(government) officials booked just under 230,000 flights through the government travel portal” from Bonn to Berlin, accounting for a significant fraction of domestic air travel, because a lot of federal ministries remain in Bonn (for Millennials: in addition to being the birthplace of Beethoven, unassuming Bonn was the pre-unification capital of West Germany). Despite having to first travel to Cologne airport, flying still beats the train and as he also points out, beats rail on price too unless one books well in advance (another detestible trick the econocrats love to impose on the travelling public).

    Third, while it remains true that the bigger distances in France (and Spain) meant adopting TGV in the 70s was an easy decision because it was the only way to link their major cities in reasonable travel times. This may be why Germany put significant effort into maglev, which looked like a good long-term bet and would be a typical German vorsprung durch technik while the French went with much less challenging standard wheeled technology and motive power. Alas, at a crucial point in its development the politics turned timid and austerian and while building Shanghai’s amazing MagLev they couldn’t even get the energy or modest funding to build the proposed 40km Munich airport link. Ever since, this decision in 2008 gets mis-reported as one based on the exorbitant cost of maglev, but it was really just a failure of nerve:

    German federal transport minister Wolfgang Tiefensee announced the decision after a crisis meeting in Berlin at which industry representatives reportedly revealed that costs had risen from €1.85 billion to well over €3 billion ($4.7 billion).[6] This rise in projected costs, however was mostly due to the cost estimates of the construction of the tunnel and related civil engineering after the designated operator Deutsche Bahn AG shifted most of the risk-sharing towards its subcontractors – and not due to the cost of the maglev technology.

    Perhaps, with the need to boost the economy (EU wide, especially post-Brexit), maglev could still be their GND? Make it the Airbus du jour? Berlin to Munich is about 480km and takes 3h55m by train, compared to HSR London to Paris (460km) in 2h15m, or Paris-Bordeaux, 560km, of 2h10m. By Maglev, Berlin to Munich could be 1h15m.

    • Diego Beghin

      In my experience, TGVs are always cheaper than flights when buying a long time in advance (~2 months) but also when buying last minute. It’s unusual for a 2nd class TGV seat to cost more than 100 euros; but flights can really go crazy at the last minute.

    • gertikan

      The Munich airport maglev was just a bad project, a very expensive exclusive airport line (we know how well those are regarded by this blog). Reasonable alternatives to that novelty demonstration project were multiple times cheaper. Maybe some sort of maglev will make a comeback as a rapid transit technology but that particular kind of maglev can be counted as a loss.
      It’s not coming to the rescue, especially now that there is a setting of conventional (mediocre) high-speed lines. Why spend billions all over again for (half) an hour of time savings? Better spend the money on getting it right this time around for the few remaining green-field projects that make sense.

      • Max Wyss

        I doubt that Maglev will really make it, because of all the issues with monorails (yes, maglev has to be treated like a monorail). We will see in ten years or so, how well the Chuo Shinkansen performs, and we may be able to draw some conclusions.

        • michaelrjames

          because of all the issues with monorails

          I assume you mean the switching thing? Not being a train geek I have never understood why it is such an issue. Especially on long-distance routes where there would be very little of it. And also when I see what a big maintenance issue standard rail switching is. Then again, it’s true that the Shanghai Transrapid avoids it almost totally (at least during service) by having a single train shuttle back and forth on each 30km track.

          But then again I assume those lower-speed Metro maglevs (Linimo, Changsha, Incheon, Beijing S1) have much more frequent switching at termini. Further, the reported costs per km of these systems are nothing extraordinary, of between US$40m to $100m. In fact, despite all the endlessly repeated mantra about being too expensive the original Shanghai system was nothing that special (in as much as one can be certain about costs in China). It’s not clear to me why Transrapid should be much different. As usual any “cost explosions” as in Munich (the tunnel was responsible not maglev) or Chūō Shinkansen (60% of the thing is tunnel thru mountains!) or indeed Shanghai (cost blew out because they were building it elevated on a soft floodplain). If anything as costs for everything else inflate like crazy, the actual differential between wheeled versus maglev has to be decreasing, and especially if one figures in maintenance (which seemingly no one does). It’s a VHS versus Betamax thing. Plus legacy issues and the less-than-convincing interoperability.

          No sadly, I don’t think Chūō Shinkansen will be any kind of model for the rest of the world, not least because journalists and politicians fail to differentiate what is really the cause of its extraordinary cost. Plus its weakness of relying upon rubber wheels until it reaches 150km/h!

          I repeat what I said earlier. It’s really a failure of nerve on the part of the Germans. To me there still seems a certain inevitability about it, in which case why delay? If the German politicians have finally turned the corner in their tiny beancounter-ish minds on a fast rail network to displace flying …. then why not keep the flying part but just make it a few centimetres off the ground? Especially Germany where a single north-south corridor can link all their major cities (except Berlin). Similar logic to Japan/Chūō Shinkansen.

          • gertikan

            Failure of nerve? Maybe you could say that about the Hamburg-Berlin project. But why bother if the speed advantage is negligible for a cool new technology (22 minutes non-stop, ZERO if it stops at all intermediate stations). You want that first project to be a resounding success.
            In contrast, the failure of the Munich airport project was just common sense rearing its head. It doesn’t matter if the tunnels were the most expensive part (they usually are). Spending billions so that a few people can use an expensive airport express train is insane. Even Tiefensee, the worst transport minister in memory, saw how bad it was. The shorter the line the less sense it makes to deploy those fantastical new technologies that can go 500 km/h or more. Same problem with hyperloopdedoop: more than 1000 km/h but people want to start out with regional transit projects?! If it doesn’t take advantage of the technology then it’s destined to fail.
            Something like Hamburg-Munich would require confidence in the technology, in its efficiency (!) through real-world experience and ample funding. None of that is forthcoming.

          • michaelrjames

            gertikan, 2019/08/12 – 13:00

            22 minutes non-stop, ZERO if it stops at all intermediate stations

            That doesn’t make sense because maglev can decelerate and accelerate much faster (and smoother re pax comfort) than standard trains, thus its time advantage only improves with more stations.

            Something like Hamburg-Munich would require confidence in the technology, in its efficiency (!) through real-world experience and ample funding. None of that is forthcoming.

            Spending billions so that a few people can use an expensive airport express train is insane.

            Yet 3 of the 4 “low speed” maglevs that I mentioned, serve airports! Please explain.

            Even Tiefensee, the worst transport minister in memory, saw how bad it was.

            Maybe it was exactly because he was the worst transport minister ever. You seem to be cherrypicking which things he’s bad at. No, the reality is that the decision was typical of so many made during this era of German austerian neoliberalism. Just one with the piecemeal development of the national network (subject of Alon’s post) and starvation of public funds etc that have seen a decline in German railways over the past 15 years. Unless you have another more plausible explanation?

            The shorter the line the less sense it makes to deploy those fantastical new technologies that can go 500 km/h or more.

            Yet again, Japan, Korea and China (and a lifetime ago, UK: first maglev train in Birmingham airport people mover) have all built maglev “Metro”, ie. short distance, multiple-stop lines. You must have some clever explanation for this “insanity”?
            In fact there has always been a bunch of engineers and transport specialists who have argued maglev may be more appropriate and effective at such short-distance, frequent stopping service.
            BTW, at this point Alon and other train geeks will tell me that modern EMUs and steel-wheel technology can match the performance of either maglev (perhaps esp. for Metro-type service) or the French rubber-wheeled Metro system. I say: explain the above. Sincerely, why do you think these industrial titans with the biggest cities in the world are doing all this insane development.

            You shouldn’t really raise Musk’s hyperloop because it taints the rest of what you write.

            If it doesn’t take advantage of the technology then it’s destined to fail.

            It does. First, you need to quantify the real-world cost difference and second, as part of that exercise, extend the analysis out to say 25 years (at least, Shanghai is already 13 years in operation … like new; almost zero maintenance cost).

            Something like Hamburg-Munich would require confidence in the technology, in its efficiency (!) through real-world experience and ample funding. None of that is forthcoming.

            Then, you must be one of those who say that the Shanghai maglev is a failure? And that insanity is the only explanation for Japan/Korea/China …
            Finally, any investment in advanced technology will have its payoff, even if farther into the future than econocrats prefer. In the case of Transrapid, we could count what the Chinese are doing with the (stolen) tech. But perhaps more significant will be the cable-free elevator technology and travellator technology that ThyssenKrupp have developed. One of the benefits is the same as rail-maglev: almost perfect performance, non-stop without maintenance or breakdown. The other is much higher pax capacity per elevator shaft.

            I don’t know if you are German, gertikan, but I find the attitude very disappointing. Instead of pre-empting the future with the best technology in the world (Transrapid is way ahead of the Japanese) you spend your “creativity” in evading diesel pollution tests.

          • adirondacker12800

            Then, you must be one of those who say that the Shanghai maglev is a failure?

            If it’s so fabulous why isn’t anybody building new ones? Or extending them?

          • michaelrjames

            Plenty of reasons, just none of the ones given here. Least of all “cost” which is almost always given as the reason.
            Why do you think these countries are building maglev Metros?

            Incidentally there is a potential good to come out of Elon Musk’s hyperventilating about hyperloop: it proves there is actually a perceived role for even faster transport. And as I long predicted (on this blog IIRC), hyperloop is evolving into a version of maglev. I continue to claim that the NEC Amtrak Boston-DC route should be built as Transrapid to overcome all the ridiculous blockages it has.

          • adirondacker12800

            Why do you think these countries are building maglev Metros?
            Which countries? If the WIlipedia article on maglev lists them all there are two in China. And a lot of people all over the world spending a lot of money to document again that it costs too much money.
            There’s no place cheap to put a brand new ROW between Boston and Washington D.C. It would cost too much to carve one out.

          • gertikan

            The Asian airport maglev projects didn’t cost at least 3 billion euros like the Munich one would have. They were in the hundreds of millions range. Like the conventional rail alternative for Munich that was proposed by the city which would have cost a fifth. That’s why the Munich project was insane and was finally stopped by politicians who had been very keen to build it and had given it a lot of allowances.

            Generally, the extant maglev line can be categorized as either expo novelty rides (Daejeon, Linimo), airport lines or people movers (Incheon, Changsha, Shanghai). They were built as short demonstration projects for a new technology in places where it doesn’t matter as much. I don’t have anything against test projects. But notice how they’re not heavily used main lines. The Shanghai maglev as a transportation project is objectively a failure. It is used at less than twenty percent of capacity, mainly as a tourist attraction. Most other people use the subway because it goes where people actually want to go and its tickets cost 90% less. Most of the time its max speed is reduced to 300km/h to save money. Financially, it is also a failure since it has amassed hundreds of millions of operating losses. But it was useful as a test project. It provided enough data for the forward-looking Chinese government to use conventional HSR as it constructed the nationwide HSR network that has become quite a success.

            You can see the parallels to monorails which, in their time, were touted as the next big thing. Marginal demonstration projects were constructed here and there. It never got its big break because the advantages compared to conventional rail were simply not big enough. The main disadvantage being that the tracks, vehicles, and signaling technology are all proprietary. Whereas in conventional rail there is standardized equipment in all areas with vigorous competition. No wonder steel wheels are still winning out. China is going for 7,000 route kilometers of urban rail transit. Only 59 km of that will be maglev. Why? Because it’s not better enough.

            Re. the Hamburg-Berlin project. The timing simulations of the maglev project were run in comparison to a standard HSR project which, sensibly, wouldn’t have had three intermediate stops. Even the current train doesn’t have them. It also didn’t help that maglev would have used three times as much energy.

          • michaelrjames

            gertikan, 2019/08/13 – 13:23

            Like almost all arguments on this subject, your arguments are weasely. It’s not that they are exactly wrong–they may be technically correct–but that they do not show that maglev was the problem. You’ve said that yourself for the Munich project. (Maybe they should have chosen Berlin’s “new” airport as the demonstration, in which case its construction cost is barely a blip amongst the cost blowouts!)

            I don’t have anything against test projects. But notice how they’re not heavily used main lines. The Shanghai maglev as a transportation project is objectively a failure. It is used at less than twenty percent of capacity, mainly as a tourist attraction. Most other people use the subway because it goes where people actually want to go and its tickets cost 90% less. Most of the time its max speed is reduced to 300km/h to save money. Financially, it is also a failure since it has amassed hundreds of millions of operating losses.

            It has 4m pax per year and so no, even in competition with much cheaper metro that is not a failure. The stuff about operating losses etc is b.s. because they chose to load it up with debt (capital costs) that no transit rail in the world could support (this is as true for the west as the east, check out how much of their capital costs of building the networks they run today would JR or HKMTRC pay or repay: answer is close to zero; they too would look like utter financial failures if subject to the same calculus). The “operational loss” is entirely false as all of its operational costs are lower than any other rail (in the world anywhere) so it is just plain misleading to imply otherwise. The power used in levitation is only a fraction of total power consumption, so the unfavourable comparisons with HSR are also false because they are comparing different things (very different speeds, especially below 300km/h versus 400+km/h or the even higher speeds proposed for the Japanese maglev). In fact because maglev trains are much lighter and have much smaller profile they use less power in both propulsion and overcoming air resistance. Of course they run Transrapid a bit slower outside peak hours to reduce that electricity consumption and because, let’s face it, at 300km/h it is still bloody fast–still the fastest average speed of any commercial railway. All of China’s and the world’s HSRs have been run at lower than their potential (many can do >350km/h) to about 300km/h because of the vicious square law of energy:speed, to overcome air-resistance in this range. (Hence Musk’s reheated hyperloop fantasies).

            It is true that they made a very poor decision to terminate it at Longyang Road when everyone knows it should have been built all the way, at least to the Bund if not further. Of course it needed its own ROW tunnel under the river. Though really the change to the Metro (3 lines) at Longyang Road is hardly a big deal. But the worst was the extension of Metro Line 2 to the airport. And again it was a purely political decision to charge so much for maglev while keeping M2 at peasant prices. Not that $8 is very excessive (though when I used it, it was $5 if you had an air-ticket), and given everyone using it is flying it is hardly prohibitive; if there was no M2 how many more pax would be using it? Also, M2 is a misnomer because it is not a true extension of line 2, but is a completely separate line and coming from the airport you are forced to change trains at the same point the Maglev does, to join M2 to the city (well, two stops earlier at Guanglan Road so Metro actually is less convenient than the more central interchange of Longyan Road)! OK, it is just a walk across the platform (or maybe an escalator ride, I forget) but then the exact same thing could have been done for the maglev but for the same reasoning wasn’t. Some of these things are the result of maglev not being part of the Shanghai transit system, and thus internecine rivalry.

            Most of your talking points seem lifted direct from the Wiki article, and it is riddled with unsubstantiated opinion and interpretation which should have been edited out long ago*. There is a peculiar eagerness amongst many to propagate those inaccuracies.
            *just one example from the Wiki:

            Maglev systems have been much more expensive to construct than conventional train systems, although the simpler construction of maglev vehicles makes them cheaper to manufacture and maintain.[citation needed]

            “Much more expensive” than what? No proper reference is cited (meaning this sentence should be deleted by Wiki editors). Not if you compare it to CaHSR or UK-HS2 (or for that matter HS1).

          • gertikan

            Regardless of technology, it is insane to spend 3 billion euros to build an exclusive airport line that few people would use and would only offer a time advantage of 15 minutes. That is not a controversial opinion but common sense. Why was Munich so expensive? Because of the extensive tunneling. Why so many tunnels? Because that’s the only way to bring a high-speed line into the central city and operate it at 350km/h. That project would never have been proposed as conventional HSR (similar cost and similarly absurd). The only reason why it was even considered was because people were desperate to get any maglev project off the ground. So yes, maglev was the root of the problem.
            “We have to build something so we can export it!” was the mantra at the time. But despite the sunk cost fallacy, sanity prevailed. Reality weighed maglev against conventional tech and found maglev wanting. That’s all there is to it.

            You don’t have to convince me that the Shanghai maglev is not a failure. Try to convince the Chinese. 4 million pax/year = 11,000 pax/day. For an urban rail line that’s failure. Are you really condemning the Shanghai government for extending the M2 line (1.2+ million pax per DAY) to the airport, something that is just practical and serves the majority of the population? BTW it’s a one-seat ride to the airport. The only times where you have to transfer is for some rush hour service. Meanwhile the operating losses (reportedly 70-80 million euros / year) are stacking up with or without capital service. The passengers aren’t coming even with the reduced ticket prices and free giveaway tickets from forced bulk buys (all political decisions to boost it). $5-$8 or so and a transfer may be reasonable to you as a tourist but the locals think otherwise.

          • michaelrjames

            gertikan, 2019/08/14 – 14:20

            It seems your thinking accurately tracks the austerian econocratic mindset of Schaubel et al. Measure absolutely everything in short-term dollar costs. How can anything else matter? The real problem is, IMO, those who take that approach can never come to correct decisions, on anything strategic, because they are incapable of the vision required. You’d fight and argue against any such project because, naturally, the first demonstrator project would always be more expensive than some old-tech “solution” or of course of not doing anything.

            The only reason why it was even considered was because people were desperate to get any maglev project off the ground. So yes, maglev was the root of the problem.

            You so easily label anything that costs an extra dollar as “insane” and the decision to kill it as “common sense” (nothing more likely to get my ire up and activate my b.s. detector; those are genuinely contemptible arguments). Not only is there nothing at all wrong with supporting such projects, it was the way most such new tech has been introduced to the world since industrialisation. Why does wartime usher in so much technical (and social) progress? Obviously because things that would be dismissed by such tiny-minded beancounters gets over-ridden by exigencies. The future payoff is often so great that, to use a PR phrase, it is priceless. For example, here is Germany 15 years later and with a inter-city rail system that is seriously lagging, not just France but Italy and Spain (Japan, Korea and China)! And to catch up it is going to spend a fortune on a less-than-perfect solution.

            We are hearing exactly the same b.s. arguments against the likes of Green New Deal or even less ambitious renewable energy projects, yet because there are no bombs raining down on our cities the politicians and weak-minded can shrug to convince themselves it is not an existential situation.

            Building a Transrapid, anywhere, is the same argument I put forward for the Anglosphere on (standard) HSR: even Americans would be converted once they have one of their own to actually experience. Apparently even Germany requires it to be a local “homegrown” effort, and the amazing Shanghai implementation is not enough (such that everyone, including you, has to be deceptive about its cost and operation). One can argue the merits of any particular first implementation for it, but at some point you just need to bite the bullet. Germany fumbled the ball. The $3bn “cost” might have been an investment in a world dominant industry. Who knows? Certainly not you as none of your arguments, even where valid (narrow costs for one given tunnel etc) are convincing.
            FWIW, yes Shanghai should not have built M2 to the airport (especially without it being a one-ride to the city etc) and should have implemented the maglev to be both more affordable to all Chinese and extended it across the river (then at least beancounters complaints about costs would been closer to the mark, if still incorrect in the long term). Having said that, Shanghai is one of the world’s biggest cities (more than the population of Australia) so it could probably have both, though they could have delayed M2 extension until the maglev was reaching certain thresholds.
            Compare it to the JFK-airtrain whose cost is hard to pin down but was estimated at $1.9bn but seems to have exploded to $3bn, and was little more than one third the length of Shanghai maglev and was designed to carry 4m pax p.a. which happens to be what Shanghai is carrying. So, was it designed as a failure on your terms? Of course it is carrying about double that estimate, which really just proves the old adage, build it and they will come. Especially in big crowded congested cities. Even though it only takes you to Jamaica where you have to take a subway for a long journey into Manhattan or elsewhere. Note also that Airtrain is partly funded by a levy on all JFK air travel, so assuredly on your narrow terms it is a financial failure too. (But we shouldn’t neglect the 12+m inter-terminal travel it facilitates free of charge; I wonder what that saves the airport?). I suppose you would argue it should never have been built?

          • gertikan

            I’m not arguing an “extra dollar”. I’m arguing against an extra order of magnitude of costs without the attendant benefits. That will never cut through to a mind of a ‘true believer’ where ‘visions’ supersede practical considerations. Back in the day when Munich maglev was cancelled, Schaeuble and austerity weren’t even a thing. I don’t have to argue by constructing grand operatic narratives of “world-dominating industry”, “econocrats”, “elevators”, “wartime efforts” etc. The fact is no government outside of Japan has been building a wonderful new high-speed maglev line. Are they all dumb austeritarians who simply don’t get it? To you yes. Everyone else who has the actual responsibility and expertise just shrugs their shoulders and keeps building advanced conventional systems because maglev is simply not that great.

            (Again, the Shanghai M2 is a one-seat ride. Like all busy metro systems (1.5 million per day actually) it gets additional service in the busiest central section. Wait a few minutes for the direct train or transfer. The extension is not a separate system! Re JFK, this blog has numerous examples of ridiculous New York construction costs. That’s a New York problem while the people mover may be useful.)

            I’ll leave you with a quote that fits

            This is typical gadgetbahn. Like all gadgetbahn, it’s being presented as an alternative to a real project, … turning the burden of proof on its head. Like all gadgetbahn, it requires new technology, so it “could work if we would just try it!” And like all gadgetbahn, a set of its supporters, blinded by technolust and frustrated with reality, will clamor for that test track, often while attacking the real project. This is the beginning of what happened here with the monorail.


          • michaelrjames

            Those are all the same old and tired arguments of beancounters everywhere: responsible, prudent, cheaper alternatives, saving taxpayers money, blah blah.
            The original gadgetbahn thing is from 2002 and hasn’t aged well. It’s a sneer at new tech and has become a lazy anti-intellectual insult to anything new. Just a few years after it was published Transrapid was transporting 4 million pax per year on that actual real-life so-called gadgetbahn at 430km/h (or 300 km/h). And while there are things that deserve that smear, I don’t think an actual working technology, developed by highly-skilled German engineers over several decades, and can’t actually be definitively shown to cost significantly more than steel-wheeled version, or even conventional Metro (if built by the Anglosphere) is one of them. And Japan is currently building a 330km (eventually ≈500km) version of this gadgetbahn! Do you realise that before the Paris-Lyon TGV opened in 1981 there was loud scepticism from various beancounters across Europe, particularly the UK (Thatcher was in power), but not so much within months, especially by train cognescenti in the UK (whose own tilt-train tech was about to be shut down by Thatcher). So I think that insult boomerangs back at whoever deploys it.

            I remind you that you continue to put all the blame on the cost of the Munich airtrain on maglev, even though we both agree it is other causes.

            On Shanghai M2, it is one ride, but not in peak hours! So, you know, just when most people are using it! Thus, most users from the airport will have to change trains exactly as Transrapid users have to, and of course all users of JFK-Airtrain, Heathrow-Express and most users of airport connectors in big cities throughout the world. It is the reason why they are building the new CDG Express (which also will necessitate a change at gare de l’Est) to replace the current RER-B airport link; because its 8m pax cause congestion of this commuter line, ie. just like M2. It is precisely a rational argument to try shift more traffic to the maglev; maybe they should follow NYC and reduce fares a bit closer to Metro while recovering income by applying a levy on air-pax. Also there there are no other connections at Guanglan Road, also adding 10 extra Metro stops en route; this is very much like the problem with Paris RER-B only, given the size of Shanghai, probably worse–we’ll see what happens with time.
            Are you really going to say that doesn’t make sense, or just throw another tired insult at me?

          • gertikan

            You’re right. Competitive travel times to the airport and capacity are valid concerns. But fear not, citizens of Shanghai. Just recently, the authorities have indeed started construction on the “Airport Link Line”. To be ready by 2025, it will have limited stops and will be part of a fast commuter rail system with plenty of capacity. It will link Shanghai-East/Pudong Airport to Hongqiao Airport. That’s the route that the maglev extension was supposed to take. This makes clear that (a) the ‘suspended’ maglev extension project is dead and buried, and (b) the existing maglev will never see a significant ridership increase. Because the alternatives keep getting more attractive and the Shanghai maglev will never catch up.

            Somehow the tired old arguments and technologies keep winning. You said it yourself, it’s VHS/rail vs. Betamax/maglev.
            VHS and rail won.

          • michaelrjames

            If there was a binary choice at Disneyland between those old-school monorails and a Transrapid maglev, I know which would be carrying vastly more pax.
            And stop citing articles showing the bleeding obvious: that if the city builds two competing airporters with one going all the way thru the city and costing one quarter as much as the other one which terminates in the boondocks, one ends up being favoured! Doh. (However let’s not exaggerate; 4m still use the maglev. Heathrow Express carries 6.2m and that is only after they abandoned a more pricey exclusive service (how British, “niche”!) that failed.)
            And all new technology is niche at the beginning. Sometimes it remains niche for quite a long time until various factors come together to make it more widespread. The internet was niche for at least 3 decades before it went mainstream. In my lab in the early-90s we splurged $30,000 on a state-of-the-art digital camera, funny enough a Kodak who then dominated scientific and engineering applications, which was at least a decade before such tech went mainstream or became affordable.
            Indeed apparently true HSR remains niche in Germany …

          • Alon Levy

            Hey, HSR isn’t niche here, the few lines that made it through multiple rounds of austerity and NIMBYism are well-patronized.

      • michaelrjames

        gertikan, 2019/08/16 – 12:23
        Finally, you face up to the facts. I can largely agree on those observations. VHS won but that was not a very important issue since it was just a transitionary technology anyway (and everyone knew it), while Transrapid (or I suppose Japan’s version) could be transformational in transportation over the long term. The reason I deploy the VHS-v-Beta analogy is that it was purely a marketing war, and at consumer level only (beta-formats actually dominated professional video recording, and they only stopped producing the format in 2015!). In many ways the wheels v maglev is similar.

        It is obvious that M2 was extended primarily to serve the towns and developments (much industry) in the Pudong with its serving the airport as a relatively minor (and transitional) arrangement. With ten local stops it could be nothing else. Like the A-train/Rockaway line serving JFK and awful Piccadilly line serving Heathrow all those decades until finally something was done.
        While steelwheels may have won to connect the two airports, it is probably still the result of political issues more than technical or financial. One would have to see if the tunnel under the river is this future airport link’s exclusive ROW or is it shared with Shanghai metro lines? As other mega-cities have discovered (NYC, London, Paris, HK) an airporter really needs its own ROW. So if it is exclusive then that is already a big part of the cost of such a link, ie. the extra cost of maglev would be marginal (if there is any extra cost). And inter-operability is a non-issue for these kinds of lines.

        Oh, and I don’t think it necessarily spells the end of maglev, though I personally think the Chūō Shinkansen is a mixed bag. Inevitably journos and pollies will speak only of its immense cost without ascribing the bulk of that cost to the 60% of its route being in deep tunnel.

        Final note:

        Because the alternatives keep getting more attractive and the Shanghai maglev will never catch up.

        Be honest and admit that if you travel to Shanghai that you would still take the maglev! I know I would. Or maybe you have never ridden it? Emphatically it is not some toy monorail nor any gadgetbahn, despite how many times people keep saying it.

        • gertikan

          It’s a niche technology, finally you admit it. Betamax, Concorde, … who cares if it existed at the margins. If you want to make a real difference the mass market is the only thing that counts.

          The Shanghai maglev will remain a test track. It’s not the dastardly detractors who turn it into a gadgetbahn but the tourists who ride it as a sightseeing event and all the people who decline to ride it and ride the alternatives instead. Let’s not denigrate the monorails by comparing them to the Shanghai maglev. Even the Disney world monorail serves ten times more passengers a day.

  2. ant6n

    Some Thoughts:

    When the Deutschlandtakt plans for a 4h connection between Berlin and Munich, it’s not Berlin-Munich in 4h, it’s connecting 5 cities with a 1h separation between them each. So if you cut the travel time to 3h, you likely lose all the intermediate nodes. Those are in important because they connect to regional rail — the Deutschlandtakt isn’t about getting as fast as possible across the country, it’s about covering the country with as many transfer-nodes as possible, while still staying fast. The Deutschlandtakt is about connecting the whole country, including the regions, it’s not primarily about minimizing speed between the biggest hubs.

    Maximizing the number of transfer-nodes actually _is_ very difficult, due to the size of the country, compared to Switzerland and the Netherlands. There are all sorts of edge cases where things don’t quite work out, so the planners are trying to deal with all the awkward edge-cases.

    At the same time, German planners frown upon the 300km/h speed and lines. It’s considered not economical, the newest ICE4 was originally only supposed to travel at 250km/h — the idea was that instead of chasing speed, the focus is on cheaply moving as many people as possible. 300km/h is back mostly in order to to be able to connect nodes below the 60 minute thresholds (e.g.). Further, the German planners consider a 4h travel time to be competitive with air travel, and the success of the 4h Munich-Berlin connection does appear to validate that idea. You’ll find that many “sprinter” (express) trains connect big city pairs in just below 4h (e.g. Berlin-Frankfurt, Berlin-Munich).

    Further, compared to France, Germany seems very reluctant to actually invest in their rail system. Maybe it’s the conservative government, or the strength of the car-lobby. And then they do invest, it takes forever, because unlike in France, the planning processes, approvals and possibility for NIMBY-disruption all make everything much slower..

    • Alon Levy

      That’s why I bring up all the poorly timed intermediate connections. Ulm and Augsburg aren’t really getting timed connections, so speeding up Munich-Stuttgart to just less than an hour does not break anything. Nuremberg gets a few timed connections, but the only ones that look good are to some S-Bahn trains and to Fürth. Erfurt has excellent timed connections between ICE trains but not between the ICE and slower trains. Halle has the ICE trains arriving and departing on the hour but the connections all have a different offset except for one S-Bahn line (to Bitterfeld, which gets a direct intercity train to Berlin) and one regional line.

      The “4 hours is enough” line imitates one really bad aspect of French planning: the idea that train trip times are a binary competitive-or-not option. France’s national flight level zero airline thinks the boundary is 3 hours and is puzzled as to how the 3:50 Paris-Toulon trains are successful. Germany’s national austerity-wracked railroad thinks it’s 4 hours. In reality ridership is a continuous function of trip time, and usually what people think of as the boundary is the inflection point where -d(ridership)/d(time) is the highest. So yeah, people ride Berlin-Munich at 4 hours; a lot more will ride if it’s 2:45. People ride Berlin-Frankfurt at 3:30; a lot more will ride if it’s 2:00. There’s a reason SNCF has higher long-distance ridership than DB, and much higher ridership expressed in passenger-km.

      Precisely because Germany is big enough, TGV-speed trains would be able to have timed connections as well, at such cities as Stuttgart, Erfurt, Fulda, and Hanover. And then because a lot more people are going to ride a 2:30-3:00 train than a 3:30-4:00 one, there may be enough ridership to justify a 30-minute takt on the largest city pairs, which makes it a lot easier to time connections at various intermediate cities. For example, the crayon I’m thinking of right now involves Berlin-Munich in about 2:50, Hamburg-Munich in about 3:20, and Berlin-Frankfurt in about 2:00, with 30-minute frequencies and a timed transfer at Erfurt between Hamburg-Munich and Berlin-Frankfurt trains. (Hamburg-Frankfurt is to take around 2:20 direct via Göttingen and Fulda, the 250 km/h line is faster than a 300 km/h Erfurt detour could be.)

      • DGL

        I’m confused as to why all the city nodes need to be nicely tied into a :00 time. Like, Couldn’t you just focus on speeding up the trains and then have pulses at whatever time the train happens to pass important destinations? :05 :17 :36 :46 :57 pulses or something would be the same since small town pulsing bus networks are rarely interconnected.

        • Alon Levy

          If the northbound train gets in at :10 then the southbound train gets in at :50, so the pulse can’t connect to the train in both directions. (This is equally annoying when writing schedules for American regional rail, like in Framingham or Worcester or what not.)

          • DGL

            Right, I had just figured this on my own, It makes sense. although you might want to clarify it a little bit better in your writing.

            It certainly makes it annoying to have stops be planned along with service frequency and speed by necessity.. One thing I would point out with this then is that, given an optimised schedule, The :00 and :30 (if 30 minute service) Pulses mean only that cities with low frequency pulse bus systems must be placed where the two trains pass one another. Elsewhere, stops are possible and easy enough since it is not a huge time delay, but what it does mean is that pulsing bus networks are impossible to do well. Either this means high frequency networks placed haphazardly relative to the train line or, probably more realistically, it means small towns without any bus systems to speak of. (maybe better to do walking+cycling infrastructure for this). Oh, the joys (and complexities) of pulse scheduling…

          • adirondacker12800

            it can if the frequency is every half hour at :10 and :50. If there is so little demand that they only get once an hour it’s probably not worth the effort to worry about it in the context of a national system. It’s a pity Framingham isn’t at a distance you prefer but people in Framingham or Worcester aren’t as obsessive as you and will be able to cope with that it isn’t tidy as you would like. Or the ones in Erfurt or wherever.

      • ant6n

        DB is already planning 30 minute Frequencies on many main corridors, so I’m not sure to what extend this could help speeding things up (For example, it’s not exactly possible to do Erfurt-Berlin in 28 minutes instead of 58). There may be some examples where faster running times could make some particular city pair work out more nicely, but remember this is an attempt at a global optimization, which also tries to work within the realities of cost-benefit, what kind of infrastructure could be built in 12 years, capacities and political realities. It’s also an evolving plan, so we’ll see.

        Another point: speeds around 300km/h do tend to become less economical, and the environmental footprint gets higher as well. This is also due to induced demand – not all mobility is desirable.

        Do you have citations for your claim that TGV is more successful than ICE? Perhaps some numbers showing mode-shares relative to travel distance, or riderships for different modes? I was under the impression that TGV didn’t move as many people as ICE, and the only metric their better is utilization — which is not surprising given that TGVs don’t run on a Takt.

        • Alon Levy

          First, Erfurt-Berlin is around 250 km, so just getting it to an hour is a minor miracle. What I think they should be targeting is 70 minutes, which allows :15 and :45 connections at Erfurt.

          Second, total DB long-distance rail ridership was 147.9 million in 2018 (source, PDF-p. 19); the ICE is 2/3 of that per Wikipedia. In 2017 SNCF got 110 million on the TGV and another 27 million on the Intercité (source); I can’t find 2018 data yet. The TGV somehow manages higher punctuality than DB Fernverkehr, 87.9% vs. 74.9% (same source as for DB ridership). The modal split by p-km is higher in France than in Germany (source), though not by a large margin, and Switzerland’s is much higher than both.

          Third, above the 300-320 km/h range operating costs do climb, but they’re still lower than on the weird mix of 160 with slowdowns and 300 that trains have here; in Spain the AVE has lower energy consumption per seat than the legacy trains, because they don’t have constant acceleration and deceleration cycles. Yeah, the energy consumption of a consistent 200 km/h line is even lower, but you’d rather consume the electricity of 300 km/h than consume the fuel of flights and car trips.

          And fourth, Germany’s very slow infrastructure build is not an immutable fact of nature. The fact that the government here likes having budget surpluses for their own sake does not mean that there’s no fiscal capacity to spend money on HSR.

          • Herbert

            Well Germany’s strong States with their ambitious leaders (Saarland used to be considered the last state whose governance didn’t make one chancellor ready and look where Heiko Maas and Annegret Kramp Karrenbauer are from) make it hard to squash NIMBYs.

            Frankfurt-Cologne could only get built after promising intermediate stops at Limburg and Montabaur, 20 km apart… To be fair, those have become success stories now, but those fights cost something Germany has less of than money: time.

          • ant6n

            If TGV is slightly more successful, it may not be necessarily due to speed. The countries are different, and pricing/subsidies may also play a role. So I’m still not convinced of the necessity of having 3h connections, especially considering that the curve that’s being optimized isn’t some inflection point along the ridership curve, but rather cost benefit – marginal costs go up, marginal benefits go down. Throw in the concerns for induced demand, and the situation really isn’t so obvious.

            Note also that the cost to run a 300km/h line isn’t just energy, but also rolling stock acquisition, maintenance (track & trains), inspections.

            And for the point re how long it takes to build infrastructure — this is a plan aiming at 2030, and it already proposes a bunch of construction that many consider to be very unrealistic to have built by then.

          • Alon Levy

            Track maintenance costs are pretty trivial on passenger-dedicated lines, around €100,000 per double-track-km in France and Spain. IIRC the costs are about the same on classical lines. They’re higher in Germany on mixed lines, since they run freight at night and don’t have regular maintenance windows. Rolling stock is legitimately more expensive – a 25-meter car is somewhat less than €2 million up to 160-200 km/h, a 25-meter 350 km/h car in Europe is around €4 million – but for what it’s worth the most recent ICE 4 option is about €4 million per 28-meter car (source). So I don’t even know at this point what the real rolling stock cost premium is. Regardless, the capital costs are dominated by physical infrastructure and not equipment – but German curve radius standards are already overly generous because of track-sharing with freight.

          • Herbert

            For what it’s worth, Paris Toulouse is Europe’s busiest domestic flight corridor

          • Alon Levy

            I imagine that is from before the new LGV opened? Paris-Toulouse and Paris-Nice were very close, I imagine Paris-Nice is ahead by now. (And Berlin-Rhine-Ruhr is very close to Paris-Nice provided you count Cologne and Düsseldorf as the same metro region, same way you count CDG and Orly or Tegel and Schönefeld.)

          • Herbert

            The busiest city pair in Europe is London Dublin. But the London end is split on like half a dozen airports.

            And I fear we’ll see South Korea build a tunnel to Jeju (world’s busiest flight corridor) before England tunnels under the Irish Sea…

    • Pokemon Black Card

      ICE4 was spec’d at 250 because it was envisioned as a replacement for conventional trains operating at 160-200. Only later did they decide to use it to replace other ICEs capable of 280.

      • Herbert

        It was also envisioned as a kind of rail answer to the airline approach of only running one type of vehicle.

        Most long distance runs should be taken over by the ICX when it was still called that in planning.

        This has obvious upsides as seen in aviation. But also downsides.

  3. Eric

    “Domestic flights are not a real factor in the Netherlands, and barely at all in Switzerland”

    I went to (a fun site) and it listed no domestic flights in Netherlands, and just one (Zurich-Geneva) in Switzerland.

    • Alon Levy

      Yeah, I figured Zurich-Geneva might be a thing (and it’s the only Swiss city pair long enough that trains take multiple hours…).

      • Max Wyss

        Most of the Genève-Zürich flights are operated by SWISS, and have operational reasons (transferring aircraft and/or crews to and from the main base in Zürich). There is some domestic travel, but its volume is very small. There may also be a few such flights between Basel and Zürich (but they may not even be open for passengers).

        Decades ago, when I was living about 30 minutes outside of Zürich, I had a very short term arranged meeting in Genève. I was considering flying, but from door to door, I would have gained maybe 10 minutes. So, it was not worth the extra expense…

        Some time ago, Swissair also had flight numbers between Bern and Zürich. But those few passengers were actually checked in in Bern, and then put on the regular IC trains to Zürich Airport; their baggage was transported as Fly Baggage and ran through to their destination.

        • Max Wyss

          That got forgotten: Some of the Genève-Zürich flights are extensions of intercontinental flights, where neither (Zürich or Genève) could provide enough passengers, but combined it works, or where Genève may fill kind of enough, but the continuation to Zürich adds a welcome additinal number of seats.

  4. Benjamin Turon

    I don’t think that American passenger rail planners are even capable of “imitating”… except so far “Brightline…

    • Matt da Silva

      The barrier isn’t the planners in the US – it is a combination of the regulators and (especially) the quirks of the pro-transit political coalition in the US. While the regulators have recently improved by allowing euro-style rolling stock and one-person train operation, transit politics are still driven by operator and construction unions and business concerns have little investment. The absence of right-wing support for railroads and transit in the US means that fiscal hawks are less interested in ensuring efficient transportation operations and more interested in killing public funding for transportation.

      • Pokemon Black Card

        Do you remember when SNCF offered to build a basically turnkey LA-SF HSR with private investors, and the CA gov said “no” because it needed to go through Palmdale and Merced and Fresno?

        Pepperidge Farm remembers.

  5. Pokemon Black Card

    Do you remember when SNCF offered to build a turnkey LA-SF HSR with private investors, and CA said “no, it needs to stop in Fresno”?

    Pepperidge Farm remembers.

  6. adirondacker12800

    tickets are sold using an opaque yield management system

    That’s how they squeeze the most fare out of the system. All of American Airlines’ bookings went to a computerized system in 1964. 55 years later the software does a very good job of making things work the cheapest way.

    • Herbert

      Yield management in theory puts the most flexible ass in the emptiest seat and the most willing to pay and unflexible ass in the most expensive seat while ensuring relatively equalized seat occupancy rates and good revenue.

    • Max Wyss

      For rail applications, yield management is a proof for lousy service.

      If the service is good (such as a connection every 30 minutes (maybe even only every hour), yield management becomes counter-productive and more expensive.

      It is OK, to have some capacity available at lower prices, with restrictions, for sure, but the rest of the capacity should be freely available. Good service means flexibility for the passenger. In this respect, the DB system of Spar-Preise is way superior to the French approach (which got even worse with the introduction of the OuiGo model.

      Also, Yield management works only reliably with non-stop connections; it fails when a seat may be used several times on the whole journey of the train.

      • adirondacker12800

        American Airlines started to make all of their reservations using a computerized system in 1964. They’ve had competent programmers refining it since then, for all sorts of customers. The computers keep the seats warm. Very well.

  7. Herbert

    Well at BMVI the fish really does rot from the head as they say in Germany.

    The CSU ministers leading this ministry for the last decade and a half are widely acknowledged to be incompetent. There are some excellent people a few levels down, tho

    • Alon Levy

      So it’s one of these problems that may go away if the Greens somehow manage to beat AKK? (I imagine that in any red-red-green coalition they’ll want BMVI…)

      • ant6n

        Depends on what you consider to be the problem. Greens like trains, but they may not like super-fast high speed rail. So they may bring more investment towards rail, but not necessarily towards greenfield lines.

        • Herbert

          The greens under Habeck have become more friendly towards the ICE. But yes, they have an irrational hatred of Stuttgart 21 and way too much skepticism towards every single big € HSR project…

        • Herbert

          The greens do however have competent and well read transportation experts like Hofreiter.

          • Felix Thoma

            I think the main reason why the Greens have become more friendly towards the ICE is that they now more and more represent young urban elites having their family and colleagues spread all across the country …

            Considering Stuttgart 21 I think that scepticism is rational – however not because they say that it makes the integrated periodic railway timetable impossible, but because it might quickly turn out to be the major railway bottleneck in Southern Germany.

          • Felix Thoma

            The proposal to build an additional terminal station orthogonal to the new through station is actually one of the best ideas I’ve heard how to deal with the issue, but as far as I know the problem of mixed traffic between ICE/IC and RE/RB remains.

          • Alon Levy

            The problem here is that if you want trains to pulse, it’s hard to funnel all of them through one through-running tunnel… through-running tunnels are excellent if you’re interlining different regional lines to a high-frequency S-Bahn trunk, which is how Zurich uses its tunnels, but then the pulsing intercity trains use the giant throat and terminate on the surface (or at least most of them do?).

          • Herbert

            The approaches to terminal stations eat a lot of time. Trains can run only very slowly for kilometers and they have to backtrack on the way out…

            Plus capacity is limited due to many tracks being occupied by one train entering the station

          • gertikan

            That is the definition of insanity. (1) Let’s build some through tracks under the station (original S21).
            (2) Let’s remove the old station completely and sink an eight-track station perpendicular to the old one (this S21).
            (3) Hey, the new station is not enough (we knew that all along). Let’s build a new terminus station in place of the old terminus station that we just destroyed.
            What is all this love for S21? S21 is not a rail project but one of the most expensive land reclamation projects in the world. Building a small eight track station for €10 billion, while the old one was not even at capacity. Indefensible vanity projects like this have held back rail in Germany for too long.

          • Oreg

            Some of the main objections against Stuttgart 21 by rail activists and passenger lobbyists concern its conflicts with a Deutschlandtakt in two ways: (1) it cuts capacity in half, from 16 to 8 tracks; and (2) it places the station at odd intervals to other big cities. Another objection is that the money would have been better spent on rail upgrades elsewhere with much stronger benefits.

            Seems all rather rational to me.

          • Herbert

            A sixteen track terminus station does NOT have double the capacity of an eight track through station. A terminal track can logically only ever be used from one side and that same side is occupied both when a train arrives and when one departs. On a through station one can put two trains on the same track and have them leave the way they came

  8. Eric

    There is also the issue of international travel. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th, busiest destinations from Frankfurt Airport (for example) are non-German European cities within HSR range. Similarly the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 10th, 11th, 13th busiest destinations from Amsterdam are within HSR range. It may be that international travel is depressed compared to intranational travel between cities of equal size and distance, but these international numbers are objectively high nonetheless.

    • Herbert

      Europe has open skies, so running anywhere to anywhere air service is easy.

      Railroads are still nationally owned and unless there is a joint venture, they’ll likely do whatever it takes to keep “competition” from their rails. Just like aviation in the “golden age”

    • Diego Beghin

      KLM is thinking of doing like Air France and eliminating their flight to Brussels. They’d partner with an HSR operator. It is quite silly to fly those 200 km when you can do Schipol-Brussels in 1h40 by train (as a bonus, there are also stops at Rotterdam and Antwerp)…

      • Herbert

        The problem with such ultra short hub feeders is that quite a portion of passengers WON’T take the train from e.g. Brussels to Amsterdam but a plane from Brussels to some other hub of some other airline. That’s one of the reasons why Lufthansa restarted flights from Stuttgart to Frankfurt despite a successful codeshare with Deutsche Bahn

        • Diego Beghin

          I don’t get the argument. Passengers already have the possibility of taking a plane to some other hub. Why would replacing the Brussels-Amsterdam flight by a train make them more likely to seek other airlines? Do people love planes so much? For me it’s the exact opposite, I hate boarding planes, and if I can do it one less time during my trip I’m even willing to pay a small premium.

          And again the HSR-plane connections at CDG work very well, they killed off for good the Brussels-Paris flights.

          • adirondacker12800

            If I’m fooling around with Thalys reservations requests correctly there are 23 trains a day between Gare Du Nord and Bruxelles Midi and two to CDG. It’s not people changing from a plane to train at CDG. Not from Belgium.

          • Yom Sen

            No, most of the trains to CDG are SNCF trains Brussels – Lille – Lyon not managed by Thalys. Look at you will see 8 SNCF trains per day mostly through Lille in 1h35 and 2 Thalys in 1h15.

          • Diego Beghin

            Yes, Thalys *used to* be Air France’s partner, but that was 15 years ago.

            But it’s true that the problem with the CDG HSR station is that it’s on a bypass. Only trains which don’t go to Paris proper stop there. Schipol is actually a lot more compelling since it’s on the mainline to Amsterdam. It would be easy to have 1 tph there.

          • Herbert

            Security at a small airport takes less time. And if you have a connection it’s only one security line

          • Diego Beghin

            If you’re flying outside Schengen then you need to do the security line again. If you’re flying inside Schengen then it’s likely there’s a direct flight from Brussels. It’s not a super hub but it’s not that small an airport.

          • adirondacker12800

            I’m doing something wrong, it offers me 7 and 8 hour bus rides for CDG to Bruxelles Midi. Ten trains a day is still a lot less than the trains going to and from Gare du Nord. I’m sure if I spent the next week charting things out there may be trips that make more sense to use CDG instead of Brussels. For the vast majority of trips why wouldn’t I just fly to Brussels? And if I did the reverse there may be a few trips where it makes sense to fly to Brussels and get to the train station with service to France but normal people would just fly to Paris.


          • Diego Beghin

            You misunderstand me, there are no train services from CDG to Brussels Airport. But there are train services from CDG to the main international rail station in Brussels. Those are very useful to me when I’m flying to Brazil since there are no direct flights from Brussels.

          • adirondacker12800

            I understood you which why I attempted to get a train from CDG to Midi. Not the Brussels Airport. I’m sure there are trips where it makes sense to wait for a train in Belgium that is going to CDG, there are many more obscure destinations there. And probably a few obscure destinations from Brussels. There’s a reason why there aren’t flights to Brazil from Belgium. Probably something to do with Lisbon being almost 8,000 kilometers from Sao Paulo not that there is a train station at CDG. A quick surf of Wikipedia you could fly from Brussels to Madrid and change planes….

          • Diego Beghin

            I fly to Brazil once a year, rest assured that I’ve gone through every possible hub (Paris, London, Frankfurt, Lisbon, Porto and yes, Madrid). I prefer using CDG but sometimes it’s too expensive. The good thing about being forced to make a connection is that there are a lot of competing airlines to choose from…

          • Herbert

            Where do you have to do security again when leaving Schengen?

            I know pax arriving in Schengen from non-Schengen have to clear security before connecting. But not the other way round

          • Diego Beghin

            Frankfurt. I had to throw away a water bottle I had bought after security in Brussels. You can imagine how annoyed I was.

          • Herbert

            Frankfurt is insanity. They once made me throw away duty free due to it allegedly not being in the right kind of bag

  9. df1982

    Out of interest, how would you do Berlin-Frankfurt in 2:00? All new build or following the DB method of staged upgrades? Looking at the existing line (for the Sprinters), the most frustrating part is Fulda-Erfurt. It makes a big detour and is annoyingly slow track. A new, direct 300km/h line between these two cities (about 90km), could do the stretch in 20 minutes or so, down from 1h+ at the moment. The area is largely unpopulated but very hilly terrain, so would be mainly viaduct and tunnels (and thus expensive). But for the saving it could make to journey times it may well be cost-effective. To tell the truth I’m quite surprised there seems to be so little effort at bringing times down on this city pair.

    • Herbert

      I think the current idea for that area (may or may not be linked to the term “Mottgers Spange) NIMBYism is in overdrive…

      • Herbert

        Seriously, there’s nothing moving on that except newspaper articles variously proclaiming the death and the already decided construction of “Mottgers Spange”

  10. Alex Mazur to Stanmore 🇬🇧🇭🇰🇷🇺 (@mazuretsky)

    I cannot talk for Sweden, but fastest legacy lines in Britain are above 140 km/h. Top speed on WCML/GWML/ECML is 125 mph (201 km/h). Moreover, real-world trains do 158 miles from London Euston to Crewe in 1 hour and 30 minutes – an average speed of 170 km/h (this is just one train I have looked into, maybe there are faster ones)

    • Alon Levy

      I meant average speed between major cities, so London-Manchester, London-Birmingham, London-York, etc. In Sweden I computed it as the average speed from Stockholm to either Gothenburg or Malmö. You can usually go higher by picking two outlying stations, e.g. between two beet field stations on the LGV Est trains average 272, and between the airports in Frankfurt and Cologne they average around 190 (edging out Berlin-Hamburg for fastest connection in the country), but that’s not too relevant to the broad riding public.

      • Herbert

        Another thing; there are currently flights from Munich to Nuremberg because Lufthansa has decided Munich had to be their second hub in Germany (a decision that imho makes less sense every year) and the airport is not linked to the high speed line which passes rather closer to it. So everybody heading into MUC from the north will continue to fly unless this is remedied…

          • Herbert

            It’s not all genuine O&D flights.

            Lots of the flights heading to Munich and Frankfurt are hub feeders. Berlin has the biggest O&D market due to it being the biggest city. TXL and SXF are just both not fit to be hubs for other reasons

          • Alon Levy

            Wait, so letztbekanntem Zielflughafen just means final destination? So the table shows all flights from (say) Berlin to Munich provided Munich is the final destination but regardless of whether Berlin is the origin or a connection points? Sigh. I guess that explains the asymmetry in table 2.2.2 on PDF-pp. 200-203… there’s more Munich -> Berlin and Frankfurt -> Berlin traffic than Berlin -> Munich and Berlin -> Frankfurt by this weird methodology…

          • adirondacker12800

            …Mirabel, all those planes flying between Canada and Europe were going to have to stop in Montreal. Until they didn’t. One of the things the rail naysayers love to crow about is how airplanes can go anywhere. Today’s O&D might not look anything like tomorrow’s O&D. Looking at air traffic gives you a hint at demand but who knows what the air traffic will look like … tomorrow. Southwest pulled out of the Providence-Philadelphia market, the legacy carrier raised fares and Amtrak saw a 94 percent increase in Providence-Philadelphia passengers. 94 percent of not-much isn’t much more but they saw an increase. Pittsburgh spent a lot of money expanding their airport. Then the airline said “Philadelphia makes more sense as a hub”. Saint Louis tore down a suburb so TWA could have a bigger hub. Then TWA disappeared. Look at the destination charts for U.S. airports, on Wikipedia, it more or less tracks population. Except for Las Vegas and Orlando. And less so for other destinations in Florida. It’s a good hint but who knows what the airlines will be up tomorrow. …. Probably going bankrupt. Again.
            When is the new airport in Berlin supposed to open?

          • Alon Levy

            The airport is supposed to open in ’11, which means it will open in 92 years.

            The top domestic air corridors here track city size pretty well. The top corridor is by far Berlin (TXL + SXF) to the Rhine-Ruhr (DUS + CGN), which is around 2.5 million in both directions. Rhine-Ruhr to Munich is maybe 2 million. Berlin-Munich is 1.7 million, Hamburg-Munich is 1.3 million, Berlin-Frankfurt is 1.2 million, Berlin-Stuttgart is 1 million. Frankfurt itself is close enough to most cities that people take trains or drive, it’s not like the almost 5 hours of slog to Berlin (or 4:15, but that’s a train every 2 hours that opened after the air travel survey I’m using).

          • Herbert

            There are those that say Air Berlin went bankrupt not only because of Etihad, not only because of Hartmut Mehdorn but because BER never opened and the airline named after Berlin had hubs in Dusseldorf, Palma and Nuremberg but not Berlin…

          • adirondacker12800

            I smell “that is outside of the scope”, considering why higher speeds within Germany make trips outside of Germany better. Like the umpteen high speed rail studies for Upstate New York. Gathering dust in a NYSDOT archive, they studiously avoid considering anything other than New York City. Like Buffalo-Boston or Syracuse-Philadelphia. Make the system in Gemany really fast it makes places outside of Germany attractive. Make Frankfort-Cologne “good enough”, Frankfort-Brussels doesn’t look very good and Frankfort-London unattractive. Munich-Amsterdam. Hamburg-Zurich. …. and because the Swiss have decided to do “good enough for us internally” Frankfort-Milan is not going to look good.

          • michaelrjames

            You may be right about those narrow parochial views, even if their Canute-like ineffectiveness is obvious to everyone. One can already travel London to Cologne (497km) on Eurostar in a shade under 4h; of course it is via Brussels and Lille so … Cologne to Paris is 3h15m, via this same Thalys HSR route (prior routes take about 6 hours). And Switzerland built the Gotthard Base Tunnel specifically to funnel northern European freight and cars thru their country, to Milan, with minimum negative impact on their environment while making a healthy profit. The European HSR network will inevitably link the major cities so it will be weird if the German federal government doesn’t link their own major cities as effectively.
            Wiki tells me:

            Plans to continue the line past Cologne to Frankfurt had to be abandoned, because the Thalys train sets are very inefficient under Germany’s 15 kV electric system and thus unable to operate at full speed on the Cologne-Frankfurt high-speed rail line.[9]

          • adirondacker12800

            500 km in 4 hours is an average of 125. A bit slower than Amtrak does between New York and D.C. Not much to brag about.

          • michaelrjames

            adirondacker12800, 2019/08/06 – 23:36
            500 km in 4 hours is an average of 125. A bit slower than Amtrak does between New York and D.C. Not much to brag about.

            Not really. The thing is that London to Brussels is 373km and Eurostar can do it in as little as 1h43m, leaving the longest part of the journey, an extra 2h+ to cover the approx. 124km from Brussels to Cologne.

            As to your other remark: Acela has an average speed of 110 km/h end-to-end on that route. So, you can argue it either way, but it is the Germans who are the laggards.

          • Diego Beghin

            leaving the longest part of the journey, an extra 2h+ to cover the approx. 124km from Brussels to Cologne

            It’s not that bad, as the crow flies Brussels-Cologne is more like 180 km, and if you go through Leuven and Liège, that’s 200 km. And the fastest train does it in 1h48.

            There are two major slow zones: Brussels-Leuven (30 km, and since we’re leaving from the South Station, that includes the extremely slow North-South tunnel) and Aachen-Cologne (the final 65 km). Belgium could build a high-speed bypass of Leuven, but that would save only 4-5 min. A 50 km high-speed line between Aachen and Cologne could save 8-10 min. Optimistically you could get the total trip time to 1h30 (133 km/h average speed), which isn’t bad for a 200 km line with two intermediate stops and going through a lot of built-up areas.

  11. Felix Thoma

    Dear Alon,

    I agree with most of your statements, and also would favor a segregated high-speed network (mainly for punctuality reasons), but it’s far more complex than you described, because Germany and Europe are complex.

    Actually it’s all about planning culture and country size. Let me explain it to you with some math intuition. We consider The Netherlands (but it carries over for other countries with a small population and one language such as Denmark or Sweden) and Germany. For simplicity, we assume that The Netherlands have 1 city and Germany has 4 cities, and in each city there are 4 transport researchers, let’s say a mathematician, an engineer, an economist and a social scientist. Let us further assume that they have time for 4 contacts and they choose to cooperate with the colleagues in their own country which are closest to their interests.

    In the Netherlands, the scientists tend to work interdisciplinary, forming a clique in the city. This might explain why the country is so famous for its integrated planning. But this kind of regionalism or nationalism doesn’t exclude with international exchange – due to the lack of professional literature in their home language, scientific and professional communities are fluent in English and thus have strong links especially to the English-speaking countries. Carrying this over to politics, you might recognize the concensual and slightly nationalist tradition of the Northern European countries.

    In Germany, the scientists tend to work within their sciences, forming 4 cliques parallely spreading on each of the 4 cities. Indeed, there are about 4 branches of German transport sciences: the mathematicians / computer scientists (e.g. Periodic Event Scheduling Problem for railway timetables), the engineers / railway planners (e.g. Deutschland-Takt), the economists (e.g. Bahnreform) and the integrated sociological / ecological planners (e.g. Mobilitätswende). This might explain why Germany is so slow with innovations such as digitalization in transport. To make it even more complex, Germany was reunified not so long ago, and the GDR not only had a population similar to The Netherlands, but also a Communist approach of central planning, which both explains why the transport institute of TU Dresden. You can still see this in many professional careers: In Western Germany, they start with a basic science and then specialize to transport science, while TU Dresden still has the integrated “Diplomstudiengang Verkehrsingenieurswesen”. The different scientific communities are still working a lot in German, but don’t share a common professional language, and German science is quite conservative in the sense that it puts a high value in writing books and citing from them (even if they are many years old) instead of direct contact, meaning that the different scientific and professional communities don’t integrate well with each other. In a way, German politics is about the same, with 4 parties with a mainly Western tradition (CDU/CSU, SPD, FDP, Grüne) and 1 former Eastern Communist party (Linke, formerly SED), which is, like the new AfD, not yet really accepted as partner by all parties. There are even some ideological links between science and politics that you maybe already guess but it would go to far to describe them here. Although German politics, because of our history, puts a high value on federalism and internationalism, there is some kind of German-speaking scientific and professional language nationalism.

    The mathematicians and computer scientists tend to publicate in English (or in mathematical formulas), so they tend to look to the English-speaking or -working countries, e.g. to The Netherlands. The Netherlands has a periodic timetable with short headways so that hubs like in Switzerland are hardly necessary and only exist in a few cities (e.g. in Leiden). Math professors teach that optimization of transfer times in a reailway timetableis actually an optimization problem, e.g. the Periodic Event Scheduling Problem, which was successfully applied only twice: once at Netherlands Railways and once at Berlin U-Bahn. However, the German mathematicians have few contact to the German engineers, so they don’t have any impact on the Deutschland-Takt.

    The engineers / railway planners, as well as the other subjects and professions, tend to publicate in German, so they tend to look at the German-speaking or -working countries, e.g. to Switzerland. Switzerland has the integrated periodic timetables with hubs. So at first the hobby planners, then the engineers / railway planners and now the politicians are tending towards the Swiss model.

    Finally, despite all civil and political exchange since World War II, scientific and professional exchange to France is still lacking, because French people even more tend to work in their all language. So, unfortunately, high-speed rail and modern tram design is not spreading to Germany and integrated periodic timtabling and suburban railways are not spreading to France.

    Best wishes,


    • Herbert

      There’s been decades of German French cooperation in all fields, there’s even three tramways / tram trains that cross the language barrier (Saarbrücken, Strasbourg/Kehl and Basel/St. Louis) albeit all of them of more recent vintage.

      But as I can see comparing metro Nuremberg to Dresden, public transit planning can be incredibly parochial in Germany. In Dresden they don’t know how to do bikes, in Nuremberg people are scared of trams

      • Felix Thoma

        Railways (EBO) and metros/trams (BOStrab) are also quite different discussion spaces. While railways are more or less nationwide compatible, the metros/trams are mostly incompatible with each other. So while there are indeed some local level cooperations between EBO and BOStrab (e.g. Karlsruhe and Saarbrücken) as well as between Germany and France (Saarbrücken and Strasbourg), this doesn’t carry over to national railway politics. And even to regional railways – just look at the regional train with one Diesel rail car from Strasbourg to Offenburg which is just embarassing for the European capital.

    • Felix Thoma

      Just one more aspect: The ICE (partially) high speed train itself made the work of scientifical and professional communities across the country much simpler, so what I described as “scientific and professional language nationalism” might even become stronger and the connectivity between different “theories” or “ideologies” might suffer from that, which would explain the problem that international innovations are hardly implemented in Germany. Furthermore looking at increasing right-wing populism in depopulating regions, the Deutschland-Takt strategy, which is developed out of the decentral regional integrated periodic timetabling concepts, is probably a better strategy than just focussing on high-speed rail. In order to react to the growing agglomerations and the low punctuality, some measures in the big hubs (e.g. to separate ICE, RE/RB and S-Bahn trains) are planned as part of the Deutschland-Takt, but it’s probably not sufficient, as also new bottlenecks are created (e.g. Stuttgart 21).

      • Herbert

        Erasmus will produce an increasingly “European” generation of academics. I mean it has already produced millions of “Erasmus babies”

        • Felix Thoma

          Yes, indeed, I did Erasmus myself last year, and it changed the way how I see my own country. But knowing the problems is easy and changing the routines and structures is harder, because often whole career paths are connected to them.

          Of course international families will increase the transport demand between different European countries, which will result in higher air traffic, unless there is a centrally planned and connected network of high-speed lines in the European Union, which is unfortunately not the case until now, as there are gaps with smaller velocity even within countries, especially in Germany.

        • Felix Thoma

          And of course there will always be people living and working on the local level as well as people living and working on the national/European/international level, as this is first of all a personal decision, but it is also an economical, social and environmental question and can even be influenced by political decisions which lifestyle should be promoted most.

          • michaelrjames

            Here’s a report on another critical bit of national infrastructure in which Germany apparently lags seriously, from WSJ yesterday:

            Sara Germano.
            The sorry state of the internet has become a national joke and an economic liability. Germany ranks 33rd in the world in average monthly fixed broadband connection speeds, and 47th for mobile, according to Speedtest Global Index.
            …. In the meantime, the consequences are felt everywhere from the German countryside, where many companies in the highly decentralised economy have their headquarters, to Berlin’s start-up scene.

            The reasons? I’d argue this looks very much like the same culprit I pointed out in the first comment on this thread. A stubborn disbelief in the role of national leadership in building national infrastructure, driven by a short-termist austerian ideology.

            Sara Germano.
            Germany’s internet woes are rooted in a range of factors, according to network operators, regulators, business executives and industry analysts. Among them are the country’s large geographic area; an evenly spread population; decades of subdued private-sector investment; and strict fiscal rules that discourage government investment in infrastructure. But one technical factor stands out: the reliance on copper rather than glass fibre to link end users to the fixed-line network.
            … Telecom giants in France and Portugal were already rolling out all-fibre networks early in the decade in keeping with a 2010 European Union report that recommended investment in fibre.

            Funny, in Australia we have long-standing political blockages on both these infrastructure issues. A perpetual kabuki theatrical dance about HSR that never goes anywhere because it requires persistence about 3 times as long as the political cycle (note one statistic relevant to discussions on this thread: the Sydney-Melbourne air route is currently the world’s second busiest city-pair with >9m pax). And telecoms which has always required government intervention due to our extremes: huge geography yet extreme centralisation (the aforementioned cities hold some 35% of population and overall about 80% live in the main cities and towns, almost all on the coastal fringe). More than a decade ago a new Labor government ushered in a very ambitious broadband plan (NBN) that was FTTP (fibre to the premises/home) which was to cost about $50bn (about $30bn by the government-owned NBN Co.). Naturally when the conservatives took power in the early phase of this rollout, they instantly downgraded it to FTTN (node) claiming it would cost half as much and be rolled out twice as fast (and allow them to privatise the wonderful monopoly of NBN Co to their buddies, SOP). Keeping the ancient copper wires from node to premises, and which becomes increasingly expensive to maintain while failing to deliver acceptable speeds. Naturally it has so far cost the same if not more, and is no faster. In fact, that is without factoring in the negative impact on the digital economy. Meanwhile everyone–individuals, business, city and rural–are screaming due to the inadequate service and the high cost of data plans, which is because the conservatives insist NBN Co. have ‘cost recovery’ (to avoid a legally mandated hit to the federal budget if it doesn’t). There is rare unanimity in condemning this lamentable state of affairs but the conservative government continues to refuse any changes, mostly because they don’t want to put at risk their promise of a budget surplus in this fy. The narrowness of view and sacrifice of national interest is staggering.

          • Felix Thoma

            I think the problem is that there is still the neoliberal tendency of thinking infrastructure development as a competetive instead of cooperative process, so different companies (e.g. mobile providers) are working against each other instead of together, and there is no focus on effective institutions which guarantee that infrastructure spreads to the whole country. But what I wanted to point out with my original comment is that in large countries the best level for cooperation is not necessarily the national level …

  12. Felix Thoma

    > However, the combination of refugee resettlement and a very strong economy attracting European and non-European work migration is changing this calculation.

    I don’t think that the refugees use German long-distance trains frequently and have much impact on their planning. Deutschland-Takt is mainly the result of a decade of effective lobbying by the Initiative Deutschland-Takt (linked above) and rail associations in all political parties, particularly targeting at the governing parties CDU/CSU and SPD, as the Greens are anyway in favor of integrated periodic railway timetabling, and the current hype around climate as well as the rise of the Greens came later.

    • Alon Levy

      Refugees who just arrived and are still in training aren’t using the trains much, but give them 15 years and many will have solid skilled jobs or small businesses and some will already have children going to uni. I know that this is not why the Deutschlandtakt is being planned, but fast economic and demographic growth should make the state more willing to invest in long-term infrastructure and less willing to do the weird thing NRW is doing with the mixed 20- and 30-minute takt in the Ruhr involving S1 sitting at Duisburg sitting for 10 minutes.

      • Felix Thoma

        When the refugees were distributed over the whole country, some rural infrastructure such as regional railways seemed to become rentable again. However, after the duty to remain at the assigned place was lifted, most refugees from the countryside to bigger working-class cities, so they indeed mostly increase the demand for suburban railways. The industry always complains about the missing skilled workforce, but this problem will be addressed by the refugee immigration be a new law for controlled immigration. Without doubt, many talented Syrians etc. have come to the country. But on the other hand, Germany has had 50 years of immigration and still only a few Turkish or Arab people don’t have the upper class ‘ICE’ jobs. I don’t want to judge if the “old” or the “new” Germans are responsible for that, but one major reason might be the slightly culturally conservative education system.

        • Alon Levy

          (Funny you mention the education system, I’m trying writing a liberal what-the-future-could-look-like thing just because the American socialists write their utopian Green New Deal pieces in which socialism certainly doesn’t look exactly like it did here, and my piece literally opens with four German teens, two with recent migration background and two without, all graduating the same Gesamtschule in Munich despite their very different class backgrounds.)

          I’ll try looking next time I’m on a train here, but for what it’s worth, the most racially diverse crowd of people I socialize with is also the most bourgeois – the board games crowd. It’s about 25% people of color – a few Germans of Turkish or other non-European background, a few African-Americans, a few Asian immigrants, a few Middle Eastern immigrants. The more politically leftist crowds are around 100% white.

          • Felix Thoma

            Of course there are much much (!) worse education systems than in Germany, and actually the German system the advantage that there many programmes don’t have a numerus clausus, the tuition fees for most universities are very low and they offer much freedom for their students to develop – but in big cities even very green/left-leaning parents tend to search ‘good’ schools for their children (which doesn’t at all mean exclusively “White”, for example I was on a bilingual German-Spanish primary school and I liked it very much!) and there is a run on the classical “Gymnasium” high schools, so at the end of the day the career depends quite much from the social background. And as said before, the universities (and thus also the teacher education) is dominated quite much by the traditional subject cultures, making it less innovative than it could be.

          • Alon Levy

            Yeah, the way Gesamtschulen here are in practice combined Haupt- and Realschulen while the Gymnasiums remain separate is pretty bad :-/.

          • Felix Thoma

            I was on a quite good mathematical Gymnasium, so I shouldn’t complain. And actually it has already become much better in Berlin since the Hauptschule with a extremely bad reputation and the Realschulen have been combined to “Integrierte Sekundarschule”. Another problem is that the school system is different in each federal state and that in some university subjects such as medicine the “numerus clausus” is so high that many students have to study at the other end the country, causing additional demand for ICE traffic 😉 … but apart from this aspect I think that the discussion has now gone away quite much from the original topic …

          • Alon Levy

            Germany is pretty unique in how local higher education is, no? In France I guess the universities are regional too, but the grandes ecoles are all national, and then in the English-speaking countries it’s perfectly normal to move a few hundred (or few thousand) km for uni, and in Sweden I met multiple native Stockholmers who went to Linköping for undergrad rather than SU or KTH…

          • Felix Thoma

            yes and no, there are many small universities and no elite universities like in English-speaking countries (often the Studienstiftung scholarship programme with highly competitive access is called the German elite university), but now there is also the tendency to focus additional funding to some excellence universities and clusters, e.g. the three Berlin universities with their math institutes.

          • Eric

            Re education (in any country), it strikes me that the subjective “quality” of the school is almost entirely determined by the “quality” of its students, which is for the most part a direct reflection of social class. And of course every parent demands the best possible education for their kids, which means straightforward selection by social class. Is there any possible way around this?

            I do suspect it’s a good idea to decouple high school attendance from place of residence, so that the class sorting due to education does not spill over into class sorting in housing (as in the US, where every upper middle class parent feels they have to work extremely hard to afford one of the handful of houses in the rich school district with the “best” schools, where real estate prices are of course vastly inflated due to the demand for the schools).

          • Alon Levy

            Is there a way around this? Yes, the Nordic countries do not track people into academic and vocational schools at age 10 based on teacher recommendations (or whether one has sufficiently connected parents to raise a fuss and demand a special test). Finland has vocational schools but going to one vs. an academic one is by student choice, and the choice is made at a later age, IIRC 15. And Canada follows the American system of not having any academic-vocational school separation but governs and funds schools at the provincial level rather than the white flight suburb level. Result: Canada and the Nordic countries have a lot of income mobility, Germany has less, the US has even less. (And Finland provides very good education at all levels, having avoided certain brainfarts like Sweden’s school choice system.)

          • Nilo

            Higher education in Brazil is highly localized to give a comparison.

          • Eric

            My own experience in this regard is American. The US avoids all the pitfalls in your article except “governs and funds schools at the … white flight suburb level” and this particular pitfall, as you phrased it, does not really fit. There are plenty of “bad” schools in the US with abundant funding, so this does not seem to be relevant. As for governance, few parents know ahead of time how a school is run (instead they choose a school district based on data such as average test scores, Ivy League admissions, and subjective word-of-mouth reputation). And the bottom line is that nearly any school district in a rich white suburb will be a good one; the quality of governance rarely comes into play. The one quality which DOES seem different in the US is that admission to the top districts is limited to those who can afford to buy a house in an exclusionarily-zoned rich suburb. Decoupling high school attendance from place of residence could solve this problem (though it is practically difficult in low-density suburbia). I don’t know if Canada or Scandinavia limit their schools by place of residence in the same way.

          • Alon Levy

            The “except” bit is huge. There’s no real professional governance of education in the US beyond the level of the individual school. School districts are run by local busybodies with too much time on their hands, and ditto PTA meetings.

            The closest thing to a professionally-governed American school system – i.e. a civil service hierarchy that answers to elected politicians facing competitive elections in which education is an issue – is New York, which has good test scores for the high-poverty inner-city district that it is. Even that doesn’t quite have the salience of education politics elsewhere, like when the left-wing parties in Germany call for comprehensive education while the right-wing ones defend the Gymnasiums, or when the Alliance for Sweden voucherized the school system, etc.

            Canada and Scandinavia don’t have a rat race for top unis and neither does Germany (Germany just has the “what your teachers thought about you when you were 10 determines which social class you’ll grow up to be” problem). There are issues of ghettoization in Scandinavia (less so in Canada), but which uni you got into at 18 (if any) does not determine your life trajectory the way it does in the US or UK or France.

          • Felix Thoma

            > Germany just has the “what your teachers thought about you when you were 10 determines which social class you’ll grow up to be” problem.

            Even this has improved a lot since the “Integrierte Sekundarschule” in Berlin also offers the possibility to get the Abitur, but after 13 instead of 12 years, and Bachelor graduates of the “Fachhochschule” can also apply for a Master at the “Universität”. So the problem of remaining social imbalances is less in the theoretically possible education paths is more that some skills which are not scientific in the closer sense of the word but often highly demanded by the companies (such as technical, economical, social skills as well as “mindmaps” which help to orientate in the society), are not properly represented in the classical school system as well as in the traditional sciences at university, so they are often communicated on a familiar level.

          • Felix Thoma

            In order to have a more constructive conclusion: Germany does of course have excellent science in subjects such as math and engineering. And Humboldt’s education ideal was good – 200 years ago when the universities allowed the bourgeoise youth to study independently of the monarchy. And assuming a stable economy and families with 2 parents and 2 children, the still very common heuristic of studying and working the same as the parents is a simple way to guarantee in a highly diversified economy that the distribution of skills is right in each generation – just think of the “Mittelstand” youth who just wants to take over the business of their parents. But this is a minority, and looking at the huge societal (low birth numbers, uncontrolled immigration) and economical challenges (digitization, climate, energy and transport transition, collapse of the GDR economy after 1990), we need new ideas how to match people with the demanded skills and jobs in a better way and how to include strategic thinking and discussions (as we do it here with public transport) into the classical sciences.

          • Eric

            “School districts are run by local busybodies with too much time on their hands, and ditto PTA meetings.”

            Why is this a problem? This is equally true of good as bad school districts (likely more so, as the bad ones are often large cities rather than individual suburbs). The lack of professionalism has not seems to impact the quality of the good districts.

            “Canada and Scandinavia don’t have a rat race for top unis and neither does Germany”

            Canada, Scandinavia, and Germany don’t have top unis! McGill does not compare in selectivity to any Ivy, and the top 7 European universities (according to a ranking I just checked) are in the UK or Switzerland.

          • Alon Levy

            The international rankings are really weird; I suspect they assume all universities work on the American model fusing top-level research with teaching, and not on (say) the German model of separate institutes.

            The parental busybody problem means schools overinvest in visible stuff like facilities and underinvest in curricular rigor. Israelis in Silicon Valley are impressed with the public school facilities but find that they have to give their children booster tutoring if they want to move back to Israel – and Israeli schools aren’t especially good.

          • Oreg

            @Alon: “the American model fusing top-level research with teaching, and not on (say) the German model of separate institutes.”
            That’s an odd statement. The integration of research and teaching actually originates in Germany, going back to Alexander von Humboldt. German universities still operate on this model. In addition, there are some public research institutes (Fraunhofer, Max Planck) but they are often affiliated with universities where their staff also teach. Such institutes also exist in other countries, notably the government labs in the U.S.

          • michaelrjames

            Oreg, 2019/08/12 – 05:59

            I think what Alon was referring to is that the calculation method used by these international rating organisations gives a lot of points for success in research. This favours the Anglosphere where most scientific research is done within the universities. Even the giant national labs with their separate research campuses, eg. Lawrence Livermore or Applied Physics Laboratory (often claimed as the world’s biggest research site) are still formally affiliated with a university (in those examples, UC-Berkeley and Johns Hopkins who manage the labs for the DoE and DoD respectively). But this is mostly not the case in Germany or France where the big research organisations and their labs are standalone.
            When a university’s staff member, or even a former student, wins a Nobel prize their score goes up significantly. Obviously it also favours older and bigger institutions.

  13. Onux

    How would you handle a situation where building HSR at French speeds allows you to connect two places in 2h00, but there are two intermediate places you want to pulse? I offer Hamburg to Nuremberg as a rough example, which could be 2h00 at Paris-Bordeaux speeds, but with Hannover (for Berlin-RhineRhur) and Erfurt (for Berlin-Frankfurt) as desired pulse points. (Note: the full route is obviously Berlin-Munich, but lets assume Nuremberg-Munich is an hour).
    Assuming equally spaced cities (they are not exactly, but it is close) and constant average speed then the train would arrive in Hannover at 0h40 southbound and 1h20 northbound, with a similar mismatch in Erfurt.
    In this case do you aim for a 3 tph schedule on all three lines even if demand isn’t enough (departures at 0h00, 0h20, 0h40)? Do you go over the top on engineering to make two legs 0h30 each, while leaving the third at a slower 1h00 (so your arrivals are 0h30, 1h30, 2h00)? Something else?
    Note I am asking a generic question, so even if Hamburg-Nuremberg has something to get out of this problem I am still interested in knowing how to handle splitting a 2h00 journey with two intermediate pulse points (or a three hour journey with 3 or 4 intermediate pulses, etc.)

    • Alon Levy

      The answer is that pulse schedules are hard and there’s a reason it took Switzerland until last decade to get a decent one. Basically everything is a kludge, so it always depends on local conditions. For example, maybe one transfer isn’t really important. Hanover is such a case – the useful transfers there are wrong-direction, i.e. Rhine-Ruhr to Hamburg and Berlin to Frankfurt, rather than Berlin to Hamburg (there’s a fast direct line) or Rhine-Ruhr to Frankfurt (lol). So you can decide, okay, trains only need to be timed in pairs, not in a four-way pulse, so there’s no need to hit Hanover on the hour.

      For another example, Hamburg-Munich can go via a new Göttingen-Erfurt line or via a new Würzburg-Nuremberg line. The existing Hanover-Würzburg line only allows 250 km/h in normal service, but could go higher – it used to allow 280 and still allows 280 when recovering from delays, and the curve radius there is wider than on 300 km/h LGVs. A cutoff via Erfurt would be 30 km shorter than going via Würzburg, and it’s not really worth it to spend the money on a 100 km Erfurt-Göttingen line just to speed up Hamburg-Munich by ~10 minutes. So it’s possible to move the pulse point to Fulda, and only build Göttingen-Erfurt if for some reason a pulse at Erfurt is so important so as to justify the extra expense.

      • adirondacker12800

        I’m confused. If I’m in Hamburg and I want to go to Nuremberg or Munich, why do I care when the train between Berlin and Frankfort crosses my trip or where it crosses my trip? If there is so much demand for Hamburg-Frankfort and Hanover-Frankfort why are there empty seats traveling around when the train from Hamburg and Hanover can just go to Frankfort? I’m confused.

          • adirondacker12800

            So that people stand on one leg and there are empty seats on the one they left? Ya want the cheap seats put up with a 14 minute wait for your connection.

          • Alon Levy

            …no? There is turnover. Same way there’s turnover on NEC trains that stop at New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington.

          • Herbert

            I wouldn’t be surprised if Erfurt had more people taking trains every day than Philadelphia

          • adirondacker12800

            If there are lots and lots of people using the train for local travel, they all can’t arrive at :59 so a few of them can catch the :01 to Berlin. Someone is going to be disappointed about their lousy connections.

          • Alon Levy

            It’s not a distinction that people (like this one) make very clearly when talking about American regional rail, but in the biggest German cities there’s a distinction between S-Bahn and Regionalbahn.

            The S-Bahn through-runs, often in dedicated tunnels even if the mainline station is a terminal like Frankfurt or Stuttgart, and does not participate in the mainline takt because you clearly can’t time a 5-minute urban rail trunk to an hourly intercity train.

            The Regionalbahn is longer-distance, and connects stuff like Berlin-Magdeburg, Berlin-Cottbus, etc.; it runs on an hourly (occasionally half-hourly) takt. In Berlin it’s still impossible to connect everything on one takt because track capacity into Hauptbahnhof is limited, and are you really going to expand a mainline rail tunnel for 2 extra tph in each direction? But it’s still normal to time a bunch of different connections if they have separate paths into a surface terminal, like Zurich.

            The best American analog of this, infrastructure-wise, is Boston South Station, where you could if you wanted have Worcester, Providence, Fairmount, and OC trains timed to arrive at :25 and :55 and depart at :05 and :35. But here it’s more useful than in Boston, since in Boston that only gets you timed connections between cities all to the south and southwest of Boston, whereas at terminals like Zurich it connects trains in all directions, like Basel and St. Gallen and Schaffhausen and the Gotthardbahn.

          • adirondacker12800

            If I’m in Attleboro and I want to get to Connecticut or beyond why would I change to the Intercity train in Boston? Time it at Boston how badly does that screw things in Providence and some day Worcester? Someday Boston is going to have quite a few intercity trains and quite a few local trains. What are you going to time? Someday far in the future I can imagine the cheap seats involve changing trains in Springfield or Albany. Time it there and don’t worry about the major stations on the NEC. Even with it timed there somebody is going to be unhappy.

            For the foreseeable future MARC is going to have to share tracks with Amtrak in D.C. and Baltimore. SEPTA only has two tracks through Suburban and Jefferson. Have the Amtrak train loiter around at 30th Street, it slows down the rest of the NEC. I don’t need to know when the 40 minute gap is on NJTransit. I know it exists and will check a schedule when I want to get from Saratoga Springs to Dover. I don’t worry about it much when I want to get to Penn Station Newark. S’kay if the busiest local train in Erfurt is scheduled to make connections to the intercity trains at :13 and :43. WIkipedia says there are local trains from Erfurt to and from Weimar, Jena, Gotha, Eisenach, Bad Langensalza, Magdeburg, Nordhausen, Göttingen, Mühlhausen, Würzburg, Meiningen, Ilmenau, Arnstadt, and Gera. Which one is going to meet the intercity trains? Adults understand that the intercity is sometime around the quarter hour and will check schedules. And if their local train gets in at :19 they are screwed whether the intercity departed at :00 or :15. Or :13.

  14. Richard Mlynarik

    I do not understand what the point of this posting might be.

    It seems to be “Germany should build more high speed lines”, but … na und?

    If one starts (and anybody in the non-anglophone western first world would) start with the premise that urban/regional transportation at anything below the densest (sub-10 min, all-day) level of service should operate according to Takt-type scheduling, with timed transfers and minor and major transfer nodes and all, then what does that mean for super-regional/national/inter-national service?

    Unless your Flight Level Zero high speed planes-without-wings are truly and completely operationally segregated from the “lesser” regional/local services, they’re going to have to slot their arrivals and platform dwells and departures into the regional Takt of track and platform occupancy — even if to pulse at the same interval on a different beat of the bar — which means that something like Deutschlandtakt is inevitable, and in fact mandatory, and a couple decades overdue.

    If on the other hand you do have a fully segregated FL0-alike HS rail setup, including stations and station approaches, then sure, go ahead, ignore that whole 10/15/20/30/60/120 minute headway business, go nuts with the yield management ticket prices, ignore what happens to your customers when their reach their station-imitating-an-airport, and build ad hoc chunks of high speed track linking ad hoc city pairs all airline style.

    I don’t see that this latter approach has any relevance to the German state or German regional and national transportation infrastructure as it exists or will exist any decades soon.

    To my mind the planning discipline of a national Takt stitching together the regional Tåkte is a necessary prerequisite for inter-regional and national infrastructure investments Sure, any national Takt inevitably comes sub-optimalities and trade-offs, especially at first inception, but the point is to identify these points and then (guided by all the usual “as fast as necessary” and “Elektronik vor Beton” type mantras) design strategic pieces of infrastructure (bypasses, new capacity, higher speeds, segregation of services, whatever) that improve under-performing services within the context of the framework. Without an overarching planning discipline, you pretty much end up with random idiots advocating random civil works for random reasons. (Not that having a national Takt prevents that alone.)

    So yeah, Germany ought to be a bigger version of Switzerland. You got a problem with that? Na und?

    • Alon Levy

      Yeah, something like the Deutschlandtakt is necessary, but there’s nothing there that says “trains from Berlin to Munich need to take 4 hours minus turnaround rather than 3 hours minus turnaround.” (It’s not pulses at intermediate cities, because these cities miss nearly all of the regional transfers anyway.) There’s nothing there that says “Munich-Stuttgart needs to be 1:36 rather than 0:56.” Etc.

      The problem with the strategic bypasses approach is that if you build enough of them, turning the entire line into 300 km/h HSR is itself a strategic bypass. So much of Berlin-Munich is already fast, including the tunnel-heaviest segment of the route, that affordable investments in Brandenburg and around Nuremberg and Munich can shave an hour. Paris-Frankfurt is fast on the French side of the border and needs 100 km of HSR in not-terrible terrain where an Autobahn ROW is available to be equally fast on the German side, which would cut more than an hour from the trip time. Hanover-Würzburg is a beautiful HSR line that’s crying for fast onward connections to Hamburg and Frankfurt, which connections would have an order of magnitude less tunneling than West Germany built in the 1980s for a mixed freight-HSR line. (Hamburg-Hanover should be doable without tunnels, Fulda-Frankfurt looks like it needs maybe 10 km?)

      Zurich-Basel is a good rail line that averages around 110 km/h. Zurich-Bern averages maybe 120. These speeds are common in Germany – Berlin-Munich was about that fast before the 300 km/h line through Erfurt opened, and Berlin-Cologne is about that fast today. The result: massive domestic air traffic, about on a par with Paris-Nice or Paris-Toulouse before the LGV Sud-Ouest-Atlantique opened. France for that matter ran trains about that quickly before the TGV opened – I believe Paris-Lyon was 4 hours on what was then a 510 km line – and there were hourly air shuttles and big jams on the Autoroute.

      • Herbert

        Google “Y-Trasse” and “alpha-e” if you want to be depressed about NIMBYism in overdrive

      • gertikan

        Berlin-Munich didn’t need to be 4h but I’m afraid that or 3.5h at most is what we’ll have to live with forever. Three hours would have been perfectly possible but the routing was royally effed up. The direct eastern route would have been quicker and passed the difficult mountains of Thuringia. 5+ billion was spent on that segment alone. For that we get the benefit of a quick connection Nuremberg-Erfurt, yeaah. And now Erfurt (population 214,000) is a ‘hub’ for ICE trains aka a “Systemhalt” – every ICE train stops there because… I don’t know.
        Given that 10 billion were already spent on the line, it’s impossible to get a future government to spend the billions for a bypass so that some people can get to Berlin half an hour quicker. That train has unfortunately left the station.

        • Alon Levy

          You don’t need to bypass Erfurt. The current line, even with the Erfurt detour, is 623 km long. At TGV speed it’s 2:50, maybe a few minutes less if you figure out that completing the high-speed line through Bavaria (i.e. north of Nuremberg, and between Munich and Ingolstadt) would cut ~20 km from the route. The Erfurt detour was pretty stupid, but that money’s been spent already.

          • Herbert

            Erfurt is at least a city that can survive the demise of the rural and suburban east. The eastern Thuringian “cities” can not

    • adirondacker12800

      And they can’t all arrive at :59 and depart at :01. Somebody somewhere is going to annoyed that their connection isn’t perfectly timed.

        • adirondacker12800

          Because having more than one train on a track at time gets regulators, not to mention passengers and their heirs, upset?

          • Alon Levy

            But all of these stations have a ton of terminal tracks and a bunch of approach tracks as well (SS has 6 approach tracks and room for expanding to 9, and 13 platform tracks). Intercity stations have at a minimum two platform tracks per running track, even when excavated underground like Stuttgart21, so trains can dwell a couple minutes and it’s fine.

          • adirondacker12800

            It falls apart once it narrows down to two tracks, they can’t all be using them at the same time. Pesky regulators wanting they to be far enough apart to stop if something happens.

          • Max Wyss

            @Herbert: a nice and simple example would be Neuchâtel. There are 9 routes from Neuchâtel (I am looking now at the xx:30 node during the day):
            • Yverdon (and beyond) express, from Biel, track 3, dep xx:26
            • Yverdon local, (only in the :00 node)
            • Biel (and beyond) express, track 5, from Yverdon, dep xx:34
            • Biel local, originates, track 6, dep xx:36
            • La Chaux-de-Fonds and beyond (semi-express), from Bern, track 4, dep xx:28
            • Corcelles-Peseux local, track 7, dep xx:36
            • Ins-Kerzers-Bern (semi-express), from La Chaux-de-Fonds, track 2, dep xx:32
            • Ins-Fribourg (local), originates, track 1, dep xx:35
            • Travers-Buttes (local), originates, track 1, dep xx:41
            There are 7 tracks. Track 1 is shared, the trains come in and stop in the eastern or western sector, and turn around.
            The trains arrive the same number of minutes before xx:30 as they depart after (with the exception of the expresses, which arrive 2 minutes before departing.
            There are no connections between expresses from Yverdon to Yverdon (does not make sense anyways), and between the express from Biel to the semi express to La Chaux-de-Fonds (not really needed, because La Chaux-de-Fonds is also served from Biel).
            All other connections are guaranteed. All tracks are in use, but that’s what they are there for.

          • Max Wyss

            OK. Actually, in 2011/2012, they pushed another pair of expresses through the line; because of construction work, they cut the Basel legs to Biel, with connection on the same platform to the Zürich trains.

            I got my data out of the departure tables, downloadable from the SBB website.

    • gertikan

      yes the main benefit is to have at least some guiding strategy, any strategy at all. The last few decades, rail has been worn down by the irrational privatization drive and disinvestment, expensive high-speed projects that arent really high-speed, and a general lack of direction i.e. cluelessness.

    • gertikan

      build ad hoc chunks of high speed track linking ad hoc city pairs all airline style.

      Sadly enough that’s what happened in Germany, minus the airline style. The ad-hoc weird lines. Something neither hot nor cold. Something trying to resemble high-speed without the benefits of it that would justify the huge investments. Nowadays, the federal transport minister has to beg state ministers for a few million to finance small but highly effective projects. That’s how bad the hangover is.

  15. robz

    Switzerland long restricted bus routes from competing against Intercity rail. In the last five years they’ve stopped and you see busses doing Intercity routes at a fraction of the cost and higher frequency.
    It would also be interesting to know the fraction of passengers who switch to metro rather than regional rail. I’d guess this is the majority and will only increase as the population continues to migrate from the regions to the big cities.
    My suspicion is that the system looks good from the planners perspective but most passengers see longer journey times as they have to wait for neatly scheduled but unnecessarily less frequent intercity trains. Some of that waiting is at the origin/final destination as passengers know there is no point starting a journey on metro as the connection isn’t available.

    Maybe there is a metric that counts frequency into journey time. I.e. a 1 hour travel time with a 60 minute frequency gives 90 minutes average journey (1hour moving plus an average 30 minutes waiting).

    • Alon Levy

      On an hourly train that runs on schedule, the average wait time doesn’t mean much. Passengers arrive just before the train leaves. If there’s a daily flight on some intercontinental route, it doesn’t mean that passengers wait 12 hours on average, it means they wait 0.5-1 hours net of required security checks and such.

      Regional rail in the sense of S-Bahn isn’t timed with intercity trains either way, because in the central tunnel serving the main station it runs as a highly-branched metro line with the frequency of a metro line. The S-Bahn half of the Stadtbahn here runs 18 trains every hour, it’s pointless to time anything with intercity trains at Hauptbahnhof.

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