The Greta Effect

Bloomberg is reporting that Germany and Sweden are seeing a trend of reduced domestic air travel and greater rail usage. In Germany, intercontinental air traffic is up 2% year-over-year and international European traffic is down 2%, but domestic traffic has crashed in the last few months and is down 12% now. In Sweden, domestic air traffic is down 11%.

The Greta effect

Greta Thunberg famously crossed the Atlantic by sailboat to avoid personally contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. But she’s fairly practical about alternatives and said right out that she travels in such conditions to highlight how difficult complete decarbonization is. She is also very insistent on the fact that while changes in behavior are nice, collective political action is still needed.

Moreover, the young (as in, younger than me) Greens I meet in Germany are themselves practical as well. The more committed might take a train to France or Italy, but there’s not much interest in back-to-the-land 1960s communes, degrowth, or political revolution in the sense of the socialists and anarchists. Nor have I seen anti-nuclear sentiments recently – the one anti-nuclear sign I saw at the September 20th climate march, which had 100,000 people in attendance, was held by a pensioner and someone who looked 40, whereas the median age at the rally looked like 20.

It’s relatively easy to change travel behavior to avoid domestic flying in Germany as well as Sweden. Domestic rail travel pain in Germany means hourly Hamburg-Munich and Berlin-Stuttgart trains take 5:40 each. International rail travel pain means Berlin-Paris trains take 8:11 with a short transfer that I don’t trust DB or SNCF to meet. Domestic trains only get this long if many transfers are needed, in which case the main competition to the train is the car rather than the airplane, or if one needs to travel between Umeå (population 123,000) and central or southern Sweden. It’s thus likely that the shift in travel pattern reflects a change in consumer desires to avoid polluting – other explanations, such as the grounding of the 737 MAX, would equally affect domestic and European air travel.

Upcoming carbon taxation

Germany has been planning climate legislation for years, but the September 20th protest created a lot of pressure on the government to enact an aggressive package. A carbon tax will begin at €25/t-CO2 in 2021 and rise to €55/t by 2025, where the original plan was to only go up to €35/t. Sweden has had a carbon tax going back to 1991; starting in 2014, the Löfven cabinet has hiked the tax on industry to match the tax on transportation, both currently at €114/t. The effects on the German economy are to be seen, but in Sweden, economic growth has been healthy throughout this period, ahead of any not-newly-industrialized developed country save Australia (although the differences near the top are small).

In addition to the German carbon tax package, the EU is planning to levy a carbon tax on jet fuel for internal flights; so far, international emissions, including international aviation and shipping, are not subject to carbon tax. A leaked report suggests the EU is considering a tax of €330 per 1,000 liters of jet fuel, which corresponds to a hefty €130/t-CO2, the high figure coming from the fact that a ton of CO2 emitted at high altitude causes more global warming than one emitted at ground level. A very fuel-efficient plane like the A320neo consumes 2.25 liters per 100 seat-km on a 1,200 km flight, raising fares on a full flight by €9.06, which is not a game changer but is noticeable at low-cost carrier rates.

Planning for busier trains

The upshot is that demand for flights in Europe is likely to go down, shifting toward rail. The article linked above about the Greta effect says that DB expects its intercity rail traffic to double to 260 million passengers a year by 2040. The article makes no mention of which further investments in intercity rail DB is assuming, but a virtuous cycle is likely: higher ridership justifies more investment, and faster and more convenient trains attract higher ridership.

Of note, the weakness of international rail in Europe points to international connections as an investment priority. In Sweden, trains from Stockholm are fast toward Gothenburg and Malmö, averaging almost 140 km/h, and there are unfunded plans for high-speed rail connecting the three largest cities. However, Stockholm-Oslo trains are quite slow (about 6 hours for what looks like 500 km), even though Oslo is bigger than Gothenburg and Malmö and there are extensive economic and cultural connections between the Nordic countries. The Greens have called for Stockholm-Oslo high-speed rail, and the government should work with Norway on establishing such a line.

In Germany, the situation is different. London and Paris are vast cities, and Paris is within reasonable high-speed rail distance of most of Germany, with good connections on the French side and poor ones on the German one. Trains between Paris and Frankfurt take about 3:48, of which 1:47 is between Paris and Saarbrücken on the German side of the border, a distance of 380 km, and then 2:00 is between Saarbrücken and Frankfurt, a distance of about 200 km by rail and 160 by air. In Belgium, the existing high-speed line east of Brussels is compromised to the point of being slower between Brussels and Liège or Aachen than legacy lines like Stockholm-Gothenburg or London-Manchester.

The reason the map of the high-speed rail I think Germany should build is heavy on international connections is mostly that Europe is gradually building thicker international economic and social connections. However, a future with more expensive air travel and a consumer taste for greener ways of travel does not change the basic picture, and makes it more urgent.

(Map legend: blue is existing or under-construction lines, red is lines that are either in planning or not even in planning but should be built.)

Speed and capacity

DB’s forecast for 260 million annual rail travelers argues in favor of building more capacity. However, in no way does this conflict with building a dedicated high-speed rail network for Germany. On the contrary, the bypasses providing relief to congested lines are already planned to be high-speed: this was the case for the Tokaido Shinkansen and LGV Sud-Est decades ago, and this is now the case for HS2 and the planned Frankfurt-Mannheim express connection.

A largely dedicated network for high-speed passenger rail, with freight using the legacy lines, improves intercity rail reliability, allowing average speeds to rise to be closer to their theoretical technical maximums. Average speeds of 250 km/h on a few lines are plausible, as on Paris-Strasbourg or Madrid-Barcelona. Moreover, through-tunnels enabling intercity trains to run through Frankfurt and possibly Munich without reversing direction facilitate planning high-speed rail as a separate system. Timed connections with regional trains remain important, but critical trunks like Frankfurt-Cologne and Berlin-Hanover can run very frequently.

The schedule I tried writing for the above map in which domestic city pairs mostly run every half hour all day, interlining on a few trunks, assumes ridership of about 250 million. This is not the same as DB’s forecast of 260 million: this counts only high-speed rail riders, and assumes the average trip is 350 km long. To get from DB’s forecast to 87.5 billion p-km per year requires the virtuous cycle of higher ridership and more investment to work over time, but this is plausible given high levels of investment.

Green convenience

When Greta talks about systemic solutions, she understands that it’s important to make it easier to live a comfortable life without greenhouse gas emissions and harder to live one with high emissions. There are many aspects to green convenience: carbon-free electricity (largely achieved in Sweden but not in Germany), pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets, urban and periurban public transport, intercity and freight rail, passive solar design, urban density, carbon-free industrial power generation.

In every case, it’s important to seize upon any social, economic, or political trend that facilitates the green option. If people want to live in big central cities, then governments should make it easy to build housing there so that more people can enjoy the low-carbon wealth of Munich or Stockholm rather than live in cheap declining rural areas and drive. If people support solar power, then governments should leverage its political popularity and subsidize it to decarbonize electricity.

In the case of intercity transportation, a shift in taste toward intercity rail is a cause for celebration. Europe is full of intercity trunk lines ranging from ones that scream “build me now” no matter what (HS2, completing Berlin-Munich, etc.) to speculative ones. Any positive shift toward rail justifies adding ever more marginal intercity rail lines to the network. Perhaps if the network I mapped was justified before the Greta effect, after the Greta effect the most marginal parts of the network (like Stuttgart-Würzburg) are on more solid footing, while unmapped marginal lines like Munich-Prague or even Bremen-Oldenburg-Groningen become plausible.

But celebration does not mean idleness. Climate change is a systemic issue. The state must plan ahead, using the shift toward rail to plan further investments now so that they open in the 2020s and early 30s. This way, the rail network will meet near- and medium-term growth in demand, while stimulating long-term growth, to be satisfied through future investment, paid by taxes on the richer Germany of the 2030s. Good transit activists should take a page from Greta’s refusal to treat good news as grounds for letting up, and demand intensive investment in Europe’s rail network to ensure that green travel will be more convenient, featuring higher speeds rather than more sitting on luggage in the corridors of full trains.


  1. Tonami Playman

    Interest in domestic flying may be dropping in Europe, while interest in rail increases. However, here in the good old United States. Flying is still the only option for medium to longer distance and driving the preferred option for medium to shorter distances. Greta’s activism has definitely jolted the EU governments into action. For how long this renewed awareness will last is still an unknown. I hope it stays this way and hopefully we on the other side of the pond start taking similar legislative action, no matter how grim that thought seems in this current administration.

  2. Max Wyss

    I think one of the reasons for the high drop in domestic flights in Germany is the opening of the München – Berlin high speed connection; considering how far out of the city MUC is, even well connected, this connection is attractive for the trains… (and weren’t there some strikes at Lufthansa recently?).

    • Alon Levy

      The Berlin-Munich connection opened at the end of 2017, whereas the fall in domestic air travel has happened in the last 3 months.

    • michaelrjames

      I think the reason that DB got upset with Greta’s Tweets on her journey back to Sweden, was not just that picture of her sitting on the floor with her luggage but that it really showed up how slow the German train journeys are. They responded that they moved her into First Class between the cities of Kassel and Hamburg, but she responded that they misrepresented her journey because that was only the last 75 min of her journey which was 4 hours without a seat prior to that. Of course if she took AVE + TGV from Madrid thru Spain and France, it is not possible to be without a seat (mandatory booking etc) and that was clearly not worthy of a Instagram or Tweet. I don’t reckon I’d have such a stark contrast if I travelled by train from Singapore up to Bangkok today (as I once did a half a lifetime ago). It made German DB seem quaint to say the least.

      Incidentally, when I saw that picture my first response was that she was seriously breaking one of James’ rule of travel: way too much luggage. But it turned out that she was travelling with her father (who took the pic) so it did conform to my rule: only as much luggage as you can handle by yourself unassisted (she had one big roller-duffel and one backpack) and still have one hand free at all times. However, those were monster duffels and I am quite sure exceeded airline allowance for checked luggage!

      • Alon Levy

        Speaking as someone who routinely tags BVG on Twitter whenever there’s bad U-Bahn service, I don’t think there was anything special to DB’s fraudulent response. BVG, too, gets aggressive whenever I criticize it on grounds of (say) train delays, and DB is even more aggressive. Of note, it did not say “Greta was in first class part of the way”: it said “Greta was in first class,” period. It somehow managed to be a GDPR violation and libel at the same time. Greta and associates had to explain that there was a train cancellation and thus the train they were on had standees, and Greta only got to sit from Göttingen north. Overall the trip from Basel to Kiel was 11 hours, because of DB slowness plus further delays.

        France has mandatory seat reservations, yes. SNCF runs TGVs mostly nonstop on the LGVs: obviously there are some intermediate stops, e.g. a Paris-Marseille train might have a stop at Valence-TGV, and there are tails, i.e. a Paris-Riviera train will make many stops from Toulon east; but there is no concept of turnover involving major cities. Trains from Paris to Lyon do not continue to Marseille, and trains from Paris to Marseille do not continue to the Riviera. Likewise, the LGV Est was not built for Paris-Strasbourg trains to make intermediate stops at Nancy or Metz. The tails aren’t about turnover but about having the train gradually fill up on its way west from Nice to Toulon and then expressing to Paris, and the occasional low-ridership intermediate stop is not materially contributing to train crowding.

        Of note, the (seat reservations not mandatory) Shinkansen relies on turnover even more than the ICE. It’s like the Northeast Corridor this way in that cities are arranged on a line, and to ensure there’s through-service, Osaka doesn’t even get a CBD stop but a near-CBD stop at Shin-Osaka. (This is also how the ICE serves Kassel, but Kassel is a region of 450,000 and Osaka is a region of 18,000,000.) And I’d argue strenuously in favor of the American, Japanese, and German approach over the French and British approach (London-Manchester trains don’t stop in Birmingham).

        • michaelrjames

          But isn’t that approach ie. of “stopping service” HSRs, exactly what produces those slow journeys? The express concept doesn’t only save time of stopping but, as in your example of Paris to Marseille, it saves a lot of distance too by bypassing the city centre (of Lyon etc) altogether. Or the Nice train that does bypasses both Lyon and Marseilles. Same for London to Manchester bypassing Brummy.
          The LGV can be shared with different trains doing various combinations of these services. Certainly the Shinkansen I took from Tokyo to Kyoto was express.

          • Alon Levy

            Nah, the Shinkansen makes intermediate stops. All trains from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka stop at Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya, and Kyoto. Then farther west all trains stop at Shin-Kobe, Okayama, Hiroshima, and Kokura on their way to Hakata, and nearly all also stop at Fukuyama, Shin-Yamaguchi, or both.

            The low speeds in Germany are not caused by intermediate stops. They’re caused by not having long continuous stretches of high-speed line. Every city pair has long stretches on legacy track, except Frankfurt-Cologne, which instead has long slow approaches.

          • Luke

            It’s worth noting, too, that the Japanese are only now prioritizing top speed increases over acceleration, and the Koreans are now acquiescing to the importance of acceleration over top speed in these multi stop services by developing a domestic EMU family to gradually supplement and replace their current loco-hauled KTX trains (there had been controversy over the “305km/h KTX” only averaging 170km/h on the Seoul-Daejeon-Daegu-Busan service)

            More reinforcement of the Swiss paradigm of “only as fast as you need to”.

          • Alon Levy

            I really don’t think Japan or Korea follows the Swiss paradigm of running as fast as necessary. The Shinkansen in fact runs as fast as possible, squeezing minutes through better acceleration and active suspension. The run-as-fast-as-necessary paradigm isn’t about limiting top speeds, but about limiting reductions in travel time to what is necessary to have timed connections every hour or half hour at major nodes. The Shinkansen and KTX both run way more frequently than that, since Seoul’s metro area has about 3 times Switzerland’s population and Tokyo’s has 4.5 times.

            Incidentally: Japan’s paradigm doesn’t necessarily work amazingly well outside huge cities. I know how much rail ridership there is in and around Sapporo, and it’s pretty hefty, but per capita it’s somewhat lower than in Stockholm or Munich or Prague or Budapest or Zurich or Vienna. And I think Sendai and Niigata are both well behind Zurich and even Lyon, but don’t quote me on this, I don’t have good JR East rail ridership figures for either. What Switzerland is doing is really good for the urban geography of Switzerland, and it’s being successful adopted in the Netherlands. But in a larger country with larger cities like Germany or Japan, something different is needed.

        • fjod

          I suppose the logic behind the French and ‘British’ (or perhaps more accurately West Coast Main Line) attitudes is that the demand between Paris/London and each smaller city far outstrips the demand between the smaller city pairs, which would result in poor rolling stock occupancy for the outward half of the journey (i.e. Lyon-Marseille or Birmingham-Manchester). No German or American cities have the same primacy of Paris and London so it makes sense to chain inter-city segments if each segment will have roughly equal train occupancy. Also obviously saves the time penalty of negotiating slow approaches to intermediate cities.

          • Alon Levy

            Okay, but Seoul and Tokyo are even more dominant, and yet Japan and South Korea don’t run trains this way. Likewise, New York is absolutely dominant within the Northeast.

          • fjod

            Yeah, SK is an example I completely didn’t consider, although I’d argue Tokyo is less dominant over other Japanese metro areas than Paris or London is over French/British metros, either GDP or population-wise. But that’s obviously a minor point.

            So I wonder what the reason is for the networks developing in the ways they did in the French/British cases but not in South Korea and Japan: the time they were built? governance of who built them? individual unrelated circumstances? I can see why Germany and the US’s various political, economic and demographic circumstances might have made through-running preferred, but I can’t distinguish between the others, which obviously range from very high avoidance of through-running as in France to total acceptance of through-running as in Japan.

          • Alon Levy

            Well, the Shinkansen doesn’t through-run in Tokyo, but it has the infrastructure for it – southbound and northbound trains terminate right next to each other, and there were plans for through-running until JNR was broken up. But on each side of Tokyo, Shinkansen run through major cities, i.e. Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka, Sendai.

            The British avoidance of through-running has a decent explanation: Manchester and Liverpool are on an east-west axis, favoring a north-south rail alignment that serves at most one. The WCML passes in between them, and doesn’t pass through Birmingham, because of historical bypasses. I think Britain is making a mistake reinforcing the historical WCML pattern instead of making an effort to run HS2 through Birmingham at least and then doing a Leeds-Manchester-Crewe route, but I get why it does it.

            The French avoidance is not just about Paris, because there’s no turnover at Lyon or Marseille. It’s not really efficiency, because Paris-Riviera trains are pretty empty at Nice and only really fill up at Toulon, but it’s plausible that SNCF thinks it’s about efficiency. SNCF does manage higher seat occupancy than DB – around 70% vs. 50% – but that’s also in context of a peakier schedule, so the average number of operating hours per train is a lot lower.

            I’m almost tempted to continue my The ___ Way of Building Rapid Transit series and doing a special post comparing different paradigms of HSR.

          • SB

            Gyeongbu HSR (Seoul-Busan) serves Daejon and Daegu but misses Suwon and Ulsan station is located middle of nowhere.
            HSR services for Suwon requires using legacy tracks.
            Honam HSR misses Dajeon because branching point is before Dajeon and Gwangju-Songjeong Station is located in outskirts of the city. Furthermore most Honam HSR services starts at Yongsan Station.
            And Seseo HSR provides reverse branching because now there is two separate services to Seoul.

          • michaelrjames

            So I wonder what the reason is for the networks developing in the ways they did in the French/British cases but not in South Korea and Japan: the time they were built?

            The British case is the oldest and thus most highly evolved network, so I think it evolved to best serve those big-city markets in the fashion you described in your first post.
            For the French, as I vaguely recall reading somewhere, they originally intended to serve more intermediate destinations but that changed as they actually rolled out the LGVs. I’m guessing for the same logic. Remember too that all the intermediate towns and of course others not on the main route at all, can catch local trains for the shorter journey to the nearest TGV station–that’s actually not that far for most places in France. It makes their journey two-legs and notionally longer but ….

            I can’t quite see why Alon so emphatically supports the “stopping service” mode. It strikes one as “passing strange” to spend all that money on building HSR just to cripple it with a lot of stops.
            Incidentally, Alon did my head in about Tokyo-Kyoto since I have the distinct memory of it being non-stop (though this was in the 90s). Checking, I found this (summary):
            Tokyo to Kyoto options:
            Nozomi shinkansen takes 2h15m
            Hikari shinkansen takes 2h30m
            Kodama service: “stops a lot and is much slower”

            The point is that for a 300km/h train just stopping and regaining operational speed consumes 7.5 minutes; add platform dwell time and you’ve got ten minutes at least. With those stops Alon mentioned it would be adding almost an hour to that journey! Oh, and doesn’t it limit the number of trains to 12 tph?

          • fjod

            – re HS2:
            The reason I’ve heard for avoiding running through Birmingham is avoiding the need for a Stuttgart-21-style tunnelling exercise, seen as New Street station is too congested to handle many more trains than it currently does, and too physically constrained to expand.

            However building the Leeds HS2 terminus at right angles to the main station is incredibly stupid design. The current constraints at Leeds are too few terminating platforms from the west (which can easily be added on the northern side of the station) and too few tracks to the east (which again can easily be added). There is enough capacity in Leeds’s through platforms to accommodate the planned 4 HS2 trains per hour, and using through platforms will allow them to continue northwards/eastwards.

            The Leeds-Manchester high(er)-speed link that you mention Alon is being planned as part of ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’, which is about as likely to happen as HS2 phase 2b IMO. This would see Manchester Piccadilly’s HS2 station redesigned to enable east-west through-running between Liverpool and Leeds (and beyond). So in a sense, this alleviates the problem.

            – re michaelrjames’s comment:
            It’s surely just more efficient in terms of turnaround times etc to run trains through intermediate stations under HSR, for the same reason as it’s more efficient to run through intermediate stations on conventional intercity rail. Obviously you probably don’t want to mimic the French model of politically-motivated stops in the middle of nowhere (e.g. Haute-Picardie or Vendôme TGV), but though-running through major stops avoids the expense of building many terminal platforms, adds flexibility in routing, and allows for easy extension of the HSR if/when needed.

          • Eric

            It strikes me that it depends on frequencies.

            Let’s say on the there was demand for one train per hour from Paris-Lyon and one per hour from Paris-Marseilles. Then, running these trains separately would mean hourly frequencies for each, i.e. an average of 30 minutes waiting added to the actual travel time. Running Paris-Lyon-Marseilles trains twice an hour would mean an average wait of 15 minutes. So Marseilles residents would benefit despite the intermediate stop: they would lose 5 minutes of travel time but gain 15 minutes of waiting time. Also, with this demand level, a separate Lyon-Marseilles train would probably have unviably low frequencies.

            Whereas if we imagine six times the above demand, there would be an average 5 minute wait for separate Paris-Lyon and Paris-Marseilles, versus a 2.5 minute wait for Paris-Lyon-Marseilles. This 2.5 minute difference would be outweighed by the 5 minute addition to travel time. Also, with this demand level, a separate Lyon-Marseilles train would probably have good frequency. Since separate Paris-Lyon and Paris-Marseilles services would be cheaper to run (all seats taken for the entire distance) and also have slightly better customer value, it would be preferable.

            We see that depending on the demand levels and frequencies, there is a clear preference for one way or the other.

  3. wiesmann

    Interesting that your map does not including anything for the Zürich – Munich connection.
    Besides connecting the two cities, this would allow for fast Munich – Milano travel.
    There is some work underway to electrify the existing track as currently the bus is faster (3:45) than the train (4:10), hopefully this will be done next year.

    • Alon Levy

      The Stuttgart connection is more direct and hits Frankfurt and the Rhine-Ruhr better. Munich-Stuttgart-Zurich would be 2 hours with a transfer, or somewhat less with a bypass around Stuttgart.

      • Max Wyss

        Even today (well, back a few years when Zürich-Stuttgart had the fastest schedules ever, using ICE-T, the route via Stuttgart was only about 45 minutes longer than the “official” (especially when the EC went through the Allgäu). On my regular trips between Zürich and München, I usually took the Stuttgart detour (well, in Germany I had an EuroDomino; for the short stretch between Lindau and St.Margrethen, I would have had to pay extra, plus the EC supplement…).

  4. samw

    Would planners over there really take a short term trend of 3 months of higher rail travel and plan for tens of billions of new investments to accommodate future growth? Over here (US, MA in particular) they’d call that a passing fad

    • Alon Levy

      I mean, in Massachusetts there’s a growing trend of people wanting to live near the urban core that the state is not meeting through zoning liberalization… (this is also true in Germany but to a smaller extent, while Sweden has been very YIMBY since 2014.)

      • michaelrjames

        I think I’ve said it before, that part of the reason for resistance in some parts of the world is due to the destructive nature of developers and the things they want to build. Serious high-rise that destroys any street ambience these old city cores might have. In Sweden and many other European cities they may allow some development but it will be low-rise and preserve what is cherished about the old city, while still providing significant new housing. Of course it is also true that the kind of thing developers want to build is never affordable by most residents and so further kills life in the host city. There has been a decade of a building orgy of this kind of thing in London and it’s only made housing affordability worse.
        So the Swedes may be YIMBY’s but they are not laissez-faire yes men to developers or development. But then Scandanavia is the home of the likes of Jan Gehl …

        • Alon Levy

          …Have you seen the area around T-Centralen? It’s 100% urban renewal hell, complete with 5 high-rises (the only 5 in Central Stockholm) each uglier than the other 4, parking garages, and a plaza that’s way too big around Sergels Torg. The YIMBY turn in Sweden is not about prettiness, it’s about the fact that rents got extremely high. Same thing in Paris and its acceleration of housing construction in the last few years.

          • michaelrjames

            No, you’ve got me there. I had assumed they wouldn’t desecrate their city. So you forced me to download the Stockholm City Plan which is 26MB because it is a typical glossy PR doc with huge full-page pictures etc. Most of it is what I call low-rise, maybe up to 8 floors as shown for the Hammarby Sjöstad development.

            I can’t see any evidence of high-rise, but it’s true that one couldn’t be definitive from this doc. The principles (excerpt below) seem very Gehl-esque, but it’s true even Anglosphere city plans use this kind of language just before they grant planning rights for a 45 storey building …

            The city is revising Stockholms Byggnadsordning, a planning document that is intended to inform the decision-making processes. The historical assets and the city’s built and natural distinguishing features are given prominence in the revised text. Guidelines describe how existing assets can be preserved and developed as the city continues with this fast pace of change. Major changes to the urban environment are to be preceded by in-depth heritage environment analyses. In the case of small-scale additions and changes, account must be taken of the surrounding city development characteristics. There needs to be a well-defined approach to
            the existing built environment’s scale, location, proportions, building materials and colours.
            Changes to and renovations of individual buildings are to be based on knowledge of the existing heritage environment. Changes must be made in a conscious manner that takes account of and embraces local characteristics. An approach that strengthens historical assets may involve adapting to the existing character or using a more modern form of expression.

          • Alon Levy

            Look on Google Earth, they’re a series of 5 buildings right next to T-Centralen and Sergels Torg. They’re unavoidable.

          • michaelrjames

            Well, I think I see the buildings you mean, but I can’t tell how tall they are. (I am forced to admit that I can’t see how to get street view to work; probably my too-old to update OS. I can’t see the icon …) However they don’t look particularly tall. On the other side of the park is Scandic Continental hotel which casts the biggest shadow in that part of the CBD, yet when I check it out its highest bit (it is 3 towers stepped in height) is only 13 floors.

          • Tonami Playman

            Regarding the 5 high rises, using the 3d path tool in Google earth, I measure 62m height with a 19 floor count for each tower. For reference the obelisk at Sergels Torg is 37m high and most of the old block apartments range from 24m to 30m with 6 to 8 floors. For what it’s worth I did calculate that the towers have a 4 to 5% floor area advantage over a 9 floor block style building built on the same footprint. But yeah. they do look ugly and out of place. I think I’ll loose the 5% and go for the block style building, but the developers of this might not have felt the same way.

          • Nathanael

            “each uglier than the other 4”? Wow. I think that technically qualifies as hyperbole, because it’s impossible. But yeah they are ugly.

          • michaelrjames

            Thanks to Tonami Playman and to Nilo.
            In fact (Wiki):

            Though apparently [the Hötorget buildings] not skyscrapers in an international context, the 19 stories-tall buildings [72m] stand out on the Stockholm skyline and so are called “scrapers”. Built 1952-1966, they were labelled the architectonic five “trumpet-blasts” (trumpetstötar) of the renewed city centre by the Municipal commissioner (Borgarråd) Yngve Larsson.

            Ha, Trump towers, ahead of their time!

            So two major things: (1) these are not residential but office buildings in the CBD; (2) built in the worst period, design-wise, in human history (50s to 70s), they are testament to all the errors in that thinking. I incorrectly surmised from Alon’s post that they were recent and in response to the new pressures to build more residential density in central areas with Metro access. No, they are merely an aberration representing all the false logic and hope from that lamentable era. No accident that in the exact same epoch, Paris built Jussieu and Tour Montparnasse (and Palais des Congres at Porte Maillot, and Tour Pleyel etc; and the 31 storey residential towers in the 13th) and London built a series of horrors with perhaps (in the centre) Centrepoint being the top icon of the age (unoccupied for years with developers going bust IIRC! the perfect 70s political and architectural icon).
            At least at 19 storeys they are not as bad as they could have been. And judging by the rest of the CBD they served as a lesson, as nothing that tall has been built since (seems true?). The modern Scandic Continental hotel I mentioned earlier appears 13 floors, and its three towers are built in stepped formation which is an architectural ploy to minimize the impact of the tallest tower–however as Google maps shows, it still casts a shadow across the entire length of the adjoining park. (The peculiarity of Google maps is that being composites, buildings in the same pic/frame cast shadows in different directions; the Hötorget buildings cast shadows on each other disguising their intrusiveness.)

          • Eric

            Being so far north, in Stockholm shadows are an unavoidable issue with any sort of density…

    • bahntemps

      I mean, in the US, “look, hyperloop!” and “but the self-driving cars!” are considered serious reasons to delay the passing fad that is [*checks notes*] electrification and more frequent trains.

      At any rate, given sea level rise, perhaps Boston itself is a passing fad.

  5. adirondacker12800

    ….sailing….highlight how difficult complete decarbonization is.

    The industrial chemists have been fooling around with the Fischer–Tropsch process for nearly a century. Marine engines aren’t particularly picky about what they run on. Dump something with carbon along with some hydrogen in one end of today’s Fischer–Tropsch and you get almost anything you want out of the other. Carbon sequestration may turn out to be cheaper than pyrolyzing crop waste and using off peak renewables to run electrolysis plants for hydrogen… the sequestration plants would be a carbon source… though why you would dump synthetic fuel into a ocean liner that takes five days to cross the Atlantic when you could dump it in a jet plane instead is different question. She’s being overly dramatic.

  6. adirondacker12800

    make it easier to live a comfortable life without greenhouse gas emissions and harder to live one with high emissions.

    I don’t care where my electricity comes from, just that I have it. Airplanes and international shipping might not get electrified but going all electric wouldn’t change my life much. Might make it better because I’d have more thermostats and electric cars, which are about to be cheaper to buy than internal combustion engine cars, are cheaper to run.

    Umeå (population 123,000)

    They get higher than Japanese level of urge to travel by train … it comes out to 1,300, 1,400 boardings and alighting every day? Two long trains a day or four shorter ones? If it’s along the way between larger destinations might make sense to stop there more often than twice a day but 123,000 people aren’t going to generate a lot of demand.

    • michaelrjames

      I don’t care where my electricity comes from, just that I have it.

      I’m a hypocrite too so I won’t throw that at you.
      But you see on your tv news the craziness of half of east-coast Australia under fire? In the middle of one of the worst, longest droughts recorded. Even Murdoch media are reporting that this might mark a turning point for many deniers, who of course are the more rural Australians and the most reluctant to admit human-induced climate change.
      What if a hurricane Sandy happened every second year, instead of once a century, and got worse each time so that New Yorkers became uncertain just how safe their home and workplace and work were?

      Oh, and in these record-breaking heat extremes, guess which form of electricity generator is prone to breaking down? Coal-fired. True. Every time there is a grid failure, or controlled brownout, the Murdoch media screeches the blame on to renewables (mostly wind because in heatwaves there is less wind, but it is usually more than compensated by increased solar power) but that position has lost so much credibility that they have finally stopped doing it. More people are beginning to care about where their electricity comes from because it turns out our reliance on coal, and the mostly 40-50 year old generators, is the biggest factor in unreliability.

      • adirondacker12800

        Brushfires knocking out the transmission make your microwave just as useless whether it’s a coal fired plant or a solar farm and storage batteries supplying it. There isn’t going to much change in anyone’s lifestyle if all their electricity comes from non-carbon sources. Which are cheaper than coal and threatening North American natural gas. Not much is going to change. The Puritans who fantasize about making people suffer, will be disappointed.

        • michaelrjames

          Brushfires knocking out the transmission

          That’s not the reason that makes coal-generators so unreliable. It’s the heat and their chronic need to dump huge amounts of surplus heat, that in turn also consumes huge amounts of water.

          Your other point is not exactly correct either, though for the moment it is true that we have a grid that is unfit for purpose. Renewables are causing a slow rebuilding of a different type of network, essentially a more distributed one with distributed storage too, that makes it less prone to big shutdowns due to single events. Australia is typically only stumbling to this new world but it already has the world’s highest installed private rooftop solar PV and storage is getting very big too (though I don’t think private storage is so great).

          • adirondacker12800

            And when the coal fired plants close the only change to your life will be lower electricity bills because solar, wind and storage will be cheaper than coal. The Puritans will be disappointed.

          • michaelrjames

            Yep. Solar is already driving down electricity prices here. Due to the merit order effect. Marginal cost of solar power at the middle-day peak is so low it affects the entire market and that is a big reason why the industry has stated they will build no more coal-generators (even though this stupid government talks about subsidizing the building of new ones–because the banks refuse to lend–or to actually nationalise a 50 year old one (Liddel) whose owner has said they will close in about 4 years). Solar is stealing coal’s lunch.
            This despite every idiot thing this climate-change-denialist fossil-fuel subsidising, anti-green ‘government’ has done in the past 7 years.

    • Thomas K Ohlsson

      Instead of guessing like a true american idiot it is quite easy to find out how many trains that serve Umeå daily. Just search the internet! might be a qlue…


      • adirondacker12800

        Somewhere between not many and a few?

        I can’t decide if that it is short or it’s on a single track is more informative. I don’t read Swedish, how many of them go to Copenhagen?

  7. Lee Ratner

    I know that many fellow rail enthusiasts dream of reviving transcontinental rail transport in the United States but considering the distances involved that seems impracticable. I see coast to coast or cost to middle interior dominated by air planes while in best case fantasy scenario, you have HSR networks focused on certain big metropolitan areas.

    • michaelrjames

      Of course, but that doesn’t mean a coast-to-coast HSR network isn’t doable or sensible. There are probably enough city-pairs–even in flyover country–to create such a network even if hardly any one uses it to go coast-to-coast.

      • adirondacker12800

        Not in the Mountain West. There aren’t many people out there and they are too far away for hundreds of miles of tracks where almost no one lives. Two thirds of the people in the US live near I-35 or east of it. There are lots places east of that but even someplace along I-35 are marginal at best.

        • michaelrjames

          Yeah, yeah. but there is perennial talk (cheap talk) of a HSR from LA to LV, and then how much further is it to the likes of Salt Lake City then Colorado, or Phoenix and then on to join the Texas HSR?

          • Mike

            Phoenix is just too out of the way to make that feasible. There’s a whole lot of nothing from Phoenix to central Texas, except Albuquerque and El Paso. Though it would be nice to upgrade the lines to 125mph electrified rail.

            I can see some sort of LAX-LV-SLC-Denver-KC-Chicago-east coast HSR trip that’s remotely feasible in my lifetime, but I can’t imagine the individual regional trip demand would be worthwhile to build the individual segments, or the sheer number of connections you’d need to make an all-HSR cross-country route a worthwhile endeavor.

          • michaelrjames

            They could have made exactly the same arguments when they built the IHS but they didn’t. The same logic should apply. You’ve been trapped into narrow econocratic thinking of the type that would destroy any network in the world (from city Metro, suburban trains, roads/freeways, telephony etc) by shutting down the weakest link in the network. Then the next weakest link …

            Phoenix to El Paso, via Tuscon, is about 690km. Less than Paris to Marseille (4h by TGV), a bit more than Madrid to Barcelona (2h38m by AVE).

          • Mike

            The IHS was developed partially for national defense reasons, but that was a different time and a different context. There was a perceived fear that the US would be invaded by the Russians/Chinese during the 1950s; now it’s more likely that we eat a bunch of ICBMs or internally implode first.

            The concern about Phoenix to El Paso is that 430 miles of track would only get you to El Paso, which by car is about 550 miles from San Antonio, about 625 miles from DFW Airport, and 750 miles from downtown Houston (give or take). While I imagine it’s mostly easy track to build along I-10/I-20, it has zero build priority relative to a Houston-Dallas-San Antonio/Austin HSR triangle. Plus you’d have to convince the state of New Mexico that it’s a good idea to build an HSR line through their state where they may not get a whole lot out of it outside of Las Cruces, Deming and/or Lordsburg. At least Utah and Colorado share a common border!

            I love traveling by rail and as a carfree citizen I will support excellent mass transit systems; I just can’t see Phoenix-El Paso-San Antonio-Houston HSR happening given our current environment and how Houston-Dallas is progressing. Tucson-Phoenix-Palm Springs-LAX will happen first, and I’m okay with being proven wrong.

          • michaelrjames

            I don’t think many, including HSR enthusiasts, would disagree. But the kind of scenario I envision is that Dallas-Houston gets built and is successful (enough) for them to complete the triangle with Austin & San Antonio. If Phoenix-LV-LA is partly justified on commercial grounds then it just takes the feds to step in and fill the gaps. And yes it can still be on national security grounds. Anything can be. Just as the IHS was (by Eisenhower who was impressed with what he saw in Germany, and had memories of leading a road convoy of military trucks across the US that was a logistical nightmare, even though freight rail could have fulfilled those functions).

          • adirondacker12800

            Google maps says it’s 421 miles or 677 kilometers from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City. Or 748 miles or 1204 kilometers to Denver. There’s only 12 million people in all three states. Things are too far away and there are too few people.

          • michaelrjames

            Well, it is interesting to learn from you that they never bothered building 4 lane blacktops or freight rail or airports to those places. .. Ahh, that’s why they call it “flyover country”.

            “Only 12 million people …” You mean like Madrid + Barcelona (621 km)?

          • Matthew Hutton

            If you want to cross America then you’d use an overnight High speed sleeper train.

          • Eric

            HSR across the Mountain West is a difficult proposition due to, well, the mountains. The one route that might work is through the Gadsden Purchase (which was purchased precisely to create a flat railway route) to create a LA-Phoenix-El Paso-Dallas route. If you include Juarez with El Paso, the metro area has 2.7 million people which could eventually support separate connections to Phoenix and Dallas. LA-Phoenix is justified already. Further north, though, the mountains and generally low populations make a crossing unviable.

          • adirondacker12800

            4 lane blacktops or freight rail
            I like fresh vegetables in the winter and people on the west coast eat bread. And drink Florida orange juice. Wyoming coal doesn’t transport itself to power plants. When that goes away the railroads will face a few difficulties. Freight doesn’t get bored, need to eat or use the toilet or lots of it, care about the temperature. They built airports because flying is cheaper and much faster than long train or car trips.

          • Tonami Playman

            I thought the airports especially the small regional ones to connect fly over country were a bigger tax burden in terms of subsidies compared to the much derided Amtrak, but some how it’s cheaper. I know for sure that it’s faster, but I’m skeptical that it’s cheaper.

      • Joshua Cranmer

        It’s a rather long stretch between the fringes of urban California and the Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and Texas Triangle meridian (circa 100°W, the edge of the High Plains)–and very unpopulated too. The only other place you’ll find a gap between dense urban population with extremely low population is trying to hook up Perth to Adelaide in Australia.

        In this region of the High Plains and the Mountain West, the only major cities are Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Tucson, Denver, and maybe Albuquerque (which passes a little under my arbitrary threshold of 1M MSA population). El Paso is rocking about 800K MSA, and the largest on the High Plains proper is Amarillo is about 250K MSA (it’s also on absolutely no feasible line, unless you’re somehow thinking of driving a line east from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City and then to Nashville in a quest to find a long straightish line that only connects smallish large cities–you’re basically following I-40, which probably wins the award for “major interstate that has the smallest largest city it connects”). These city pairings are largely 500-1000km apart, and ultimately crossing the gap as a whole is going to take you 2000-2500km as the crow flies without detouring to hit any of these population centers.

    • Alon Levy

      Yeah :-/. And honestly, when I despair at US-wide rail revival (as opposed to strong individual corridors like the NEC and various lines radiating out of Chicago), it’s not even about coast-to-coast. It’s more about the long tail of city pairs located 1,000-1,500 km apart along corridors that will never justify rail. Think stuff like Orlando-Cleveland, Charlotte-Kansas City, Pittsburgh-Birmingham, or Houston-Cincinnati. Even at ~700 km you have city pairs like Charlotte-Cleveland, Pittsburgh-Nashville, and Atlanta-St. Louis, that don’t really fit into any high-ridership corridor, and don’t have enough ridership of their own to justify a dedicated line.

      In Europe these corridors exist too, but never domestically. London furnishes a lot of these corridors because there’s only one Chunnel and other countries’ corridors can’t all be London-oriented. Milan, same thing, because of the Alps. London-Berlin is 920 km but even with my call for aggressive investment I don’t think it can do better than 5:30. London-Milan is 960 km by air, and even handwaving the Paris bypass, doing it in 6 hours would be a miracle. Berlin-Milan is 840 km and with my wishlist for both Germany and Switzerland it would be 5:30 (remember, Zurich-Milan is 216 km by air and getting it down to 2 hours is beyond Switzerland’s current long-term investment plans).

      • Lee Ratner

        I still think that going after local transit and densifying cities makes a lot more sense than inter-city HSR. An intercity HSR trip doesn’t make much sense if you need a car at your destination.

        • Alon Levy

          Depends on where! London, Berlin, and Milan are very much not “you need a car at your destination” cities. Nashville, yeah, it’s different, but like most of the US it’s hopeless.

        • michaelrjames

          Can’t Americans chew gum and walk at the same time?
          Obviously many cities are attempting to build rapid transit, even the Sun-Belt cities. What is needed is a far sighted federal program, that also ties it into inter-city transport too. Hmm, something called GND?

          Still, all things considered, one “radical leftist” policy at a time and in those terms healthcare takes precedence. Yet, “building stuff” will have broader appeal to Americans and is cheaper too: that $1.5 trillion (each bloody year!) tax cut to the wealthy would build every bit of proposed HSR from NEC, Texas, CaHSR, Cascadia etc, each year and leave some change! It is truly surreal what multi-trillion dollar federal expenses get labelled radical and unaffordable.

          • electricangel

            Don’t worry about the tax cut. We blow $1trillion on various forms of”defense” around here. Cut that to$200bln and we could build plenty of hsr every year.

    • Nathanael

      Well, bluntly, who cares about transcontinental? 2/3 of the population lives east of the Missouri River, and THAT is perfectly amenable to HSR. Most of the rest lives on the West Coast, which is also perfectly amenable to HSR. If people fly over the Sierras, the Nevada Desert, the Rockies, and the Dry Praries, aka “flyover country”, that’s just not a big deal. There is much more travel within the eastern, populated part of the country than transcontinental.

      If we just had a comprehensive, medium-speed intercity network from New York to Chicago along all the major routes (there are four or five) it would be a massive change in intercity ridership and wipe out a lot of the air travel. We can’t even get one NY-Chicago route improved to *medium* speed, let alone high speed, due to obstructionism.

      • adirondacker12800

        There are two routes from Chicago to New York, via Buffalo and via Pittsburgh. There aren’t enough people along I-80 or I-86 for a route. When it’s two hours from Syracuse to New York a bus from Binghamton to Syracuse is good enough. And since people in Binghamton own cars, many of the will choose to just drive to Syracuse where parking is cheap or even free. It will get you to Boston, Montreal, Toronto and Detroit too. Chicago would be a bit of a stretch but there will be airplanes going to Midway or O’Hare or both so people can change planes.
        ……. no, just stop, making this faster than taking a bus to Syracuse would cost too much… stop…

        • Nathanael

          The correct rail route to serve Ithaca is the route via Cortland to Syracuse. Or via Owego, Binghamton, and Scranton to NYC.

          In addition to the two existing Amtrak routes you remembered (Cleveland-Buffalo and Cleveland-Pittsburgh) the routes from Chicago to NYC which you forgot are via Detroit, Canada, and Niagara Falls; via Columbus and Pittsburgh; and via Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Wheeling. These are variants which share routes partway, which is why I said four or five. They essentially vary in which Midwestern cities are served.

  8. RichardB

    What is interesting is a proposed revival of overnight sleeper trains as being ecologically better. I understand there is serious talk in Sweden about new investment in this mode. If true this could mean a reversal of the long term decline in sleeper trains. For example there used to be a Paris – Warsaw service. When the Channel tunnel project was underway the original intention was to supplement the day time service with the Nightstar sleeper service. Rolling stock was procured and then they came to the conclusion it was a waste of money and the trains were ultimately sold unused to Canada’s Via Rail. One proposed sleeper service was London – Berlin timed at eight hours.

    • df1982

      The irony is that London is well-positioned for sleeper services to a large number of European destinations in the 8-10 hour range, but it’s hamstrung by the unreasonable requirement of pre-departure immigration checks (something that with Brexit is highly unlikely to be overturned). So you need stations with specially sealed platforms, which is not economically feasible for a single nightly sleeper train.

      • adirondacker12800

        It’s not economically feasible to have the low density sleeping car sit around during the day either. Your ticket price includes the rent on three or four seats worth of train for 24 hours that gets very expensive.

        • df1982

          The Austrian Nightjet model seems to work well. You have sleeper carriages hauled by an electric locomotive. The carriages are cheap enough that letting them idle during the day is not too onerous (and they can also last a heck of a long time), while the locomotive can be used for other tasks in daylight hours. It means you’re limited to 200km/h even on high-speed lines, but for most city-pairs that shouldn’t be a problem.

        • Alon Levy

          To put things in perspective, European HSR sets get maybe 500,000 km of service every year. This is really bad, it’s around 1,400 km per day (=single NEC roundtrip), which is 7 hours of service at HSR speeds. And this is cars that cost nearly twice as much as your workhorse regional or local EMU. Reasons for this include,

          1. Long low-speed tails on a lot of lines, so the effective average speed is often 150 and not 200.
          2. Peaky scheduling, more so in France than Germany.
          3. Slow turnarounds – this isn’t Japan. (Yes, German trains change direction quickly at terminals like Frankfurt, but that’s when they go on to an onward destination – they don’t turn and go back where they came from in 12 minutes as in Japan.)

          The result is that service that should cost maybe €0.04/p-km to operate charges around €0.12/p-km and is profitable but not 200% margin profitable. (In France it’s €0.06/p-km per the Spinetta report, but I forget how much cost of capital is included in that cost.)

          • michaelrjames

            1. Long low-speed tails on a lot of lines, so the effective average speed is often 150 and not 200.

            So, you are for “stopping services” on HSR but not “long tails”? The thing is that the long tail doesn’t affect most of the TGV pax who are going between those major cities, and it removes the need for those pax on the tail to first take a local train to the nearest TGV terminal. Surely you don’t object to this?

            Spain hasn’t been mentioned in this discussion but isn’t it a factor in why they built such an extensive LGV network (longest in Europe)? That is, because unlike France, the AVE has a different gauge to their existing rail network and long-tails wasn’t an option?

          • Alon Levy

            I mean, a stopping service with a stop every 150-200 km isn’t particularly slow. I think Berlin-Munich should only be making intermediate stops at Erfurt, Nuremberg, and Ingolstadt, so 4 stops over 600 km, one of which (Nuremberg) isn’t easy to bypass at speed. (I’m not counting Südkreuz, for the same reason you shouldn’t count Shinagawa on the Tokaido Shinkansen.) At Hanover every train has to stop – if you bypass it it’s more important to use the bypass for freight – but then trains can run nonstop to Hamburg, Bremen, Berlin, and maybe even Rhine-Ruhr cities; my map depicts a bypass around Bielefeld, and the question of whether to serve it could go either way.

            And I suspect Spain has built such a huge network because the construction costs there are so low it’s affordable to connect even small cities. Same reason why Madrid has such a long metro network (longer than Paris, twice as long as Berlin).

          • michaelrjames

            I mean, a stopping service with a stop every 150-200 km isn’t particularly slow.

            It kinda is. A stop every 150km is adding 10 minutes to every 30m journey segment, ie. 33%.
            The problem is that it undermines the justification of building very expensive HSR. With those 4 stops over 600km you’d be adding at least 40mins (more if it used bypasses). Thus Bordeaux to Paris (522km) would increase from 2h0m to 2h40m, close to its pre-LGV time of 3h.
            But it is surely very amenable to a econometric approach: you can quantitate how many people at those intermediate stations would benefit and by how much (time saved) versus what is lost by the majority of pax travelling between the major cities.
            Also, I’d be pretty sure most of those pax at intermediate points are travelling to either terminus, ie. major city. So they can be served by just having each train only stopping say, once or twice, and different trains serving different intermediate stations. I recall that prior to the TGV l’Océane, the Bordeaux train usually stopped at Tour (where standard rail joined the LGV) but the new map shows bypasses for Angouléme, Poitiers and Tours. So I assume there are different TGVs that serve those intermediate cities. The non-LGV route also passes Libourne and Orleans but the new LGV route takes a much shorter route which is why it is 522km compared to the previous 560km.
            It’s a bit of a paradox, and dilemma, that the faster the train the bigger the impact of stops.

            Re Spain, you may be right. I don’t know how they finance their railways but back then they were running healthy budgets with small relative debt. But also I think they chose to essentially rebuild their entire network to the international standard gauge.

          • Alon Levy

            Where are you getting 10 minutes per stop? A next-generation Velaro has a stop penalty of 2.5 minutes at 300 km/h. Add dwell time and 7% pad and it’s maybe 4 minutes. A current-model TGV has a much higher stop penalty because the dedicated power cars accelerate like crap and because the dwell times are 3-5 minutes so that people can go outside to smoke, but nobody needs such long dwell times and nearly the entire HSR world uses high-speed EMUs.

          • michaelrjames

            I haven’t read this recently but I believe it uses the Eurostar Velaro as its case study:
            3 minutes braking,
            2 minutes dwell time,
            41/2 minutes acceleration time
            –‐ a total of 91/2 minutes

            Rules for High Speed Line Capacity or, How to get a realistic capacity figure for a high speed line
            by Piers Connor, 26 Aug 2011.

            This table shows that to brake from 300km/h to a stop will take 7200m and to accelerate back up to full speed will take the even greater distance of 11500m. This is a total distance of 18.7kms or 111/2 miles but the distance isn’t what’s important to us, it’s the time it takes to make the stop and get away up to full speed again. For our train, we can expect to get a deceleration rate of 0.5m/s2. This will give us a braking time of 170 seconds or just 10s short of 3 minutes3. Acceleration takes longer, since the overall rate, which falls off as the train approaches its top speed, is quite low. Using the average 0.3m/s2 achieved by the German ICE train, it will take 4.6 minutes to get to full speed. So, just to slow down to a stop and restart to get back up to 300km/h takes a total of 71/2 minutes and covers 111/2 miles [18.7kms]. This is twice as long as it would take the train to cover the same distance at full speed. Just as a matter of interest, the equivalent figures for a 400km/h top speed are a brake time of 222s and an acceleration time of 370s, a total of almost 10 minutes.

          • Alon Levy

            Yeah, that’s the current Velaro, so the stop penalty excluding dwell time is 7.5/2 = 3.75 minutes. But there’s a next-generation Velaro planned to enter service in a few years, with initial acceleration around 0.7 m/s^2 and a power-to-weight ratio slightly more than 20, leading to a stop penalty of 2.5 minutes at 300 km/h excluding dwell time.

            By the way, speaking of, here’s how France and Italy are planning to build the Lyon-Turin HSR:

            You may note that there’s going to be a circuitous tunnel just to get to a bypass around Turin, even though there’s a straight route with less tunneling that uses existing tracks and an existing Turin station. Turin is big enough that extensive turnover on a Paris-Lyon-Turin-Milan train can be expected, but trains will still split frequencies, because that’s how SNCF with its Air France management rolls.

          • adirondacker12800

            Easy to find and has tidy arithmetic.

            Click to access Northeast-Schedule-W02-010220.pdf

            The Acela leaves New York at 6:00 and arrives in Washington D.C. at 8:55. Which is execrable but it’s what it does. The express Acela leaves at 6:35. Easy arithmetic part. The 6:35 would arrive at 9:30 if it took as long as the 6:00. It arrives at 9:08. 22 minutes for six stops including a loiter in Philadelphia. Call it 24 minutes to make the arithmetic even easier, 4 minute stop penalty. If didn’t loiter in Philadelphia somewhat less than 4. ….For Acela…

          • Alon Levy

            The difference between trains that stop at Trenton and trains that skip Trenton is 5 minutes. But I feel weird working from real schedules on non-clockface railroads, because there may be schedule padding artifacts elsewhere on the line that aren’t evident in the timetable.

          • adirondacker12800

            If Amtrak, Amtrak mind you, can manage four minutes, competent operators should be able to, too. There’s sumptin’ going on with the schedule. It’s slower than in the past. They have to spend money on Wilmington to Baltimore and West Baltimore to DC. and a new tunnel in Baltimore before the one they are using now collapses. Again. I won’t beat the ARC dead horse again.

          • Alon Levy

            The flip side is that Amtrak has an apparent 5-minute stop penalty in 215 km/h territory, not 300 km/h territory…

          • Nathanael

            Oh, there’s definitely something wrong with that Air France thinking. They really need to understand that trains are good at stopping at intermediate points, and also, who the hell bypasses Turin?

      • Nathanael

        Given that St Pancreas already has an “inside customs” area, why not just check people on arrival like they do at the airport?

        • michaelrjames

          Given that St Pancreas already has an “inside customs” area, why not just check people on arrival like they do at the airport?

          (The patron saint of diabetics:-)

          For the same reason Eurostar doesn’t run late-night trains. By “late” it is about 8pm IIRC that the last train runs which is ridiculously early IMO. To be fair, TGVs in France don’t run any later either. It’s a simple cost-benefit calculation, ie. cost to the providers. In the case of Eurostar it is the cost of maintaining HM Customs & Immigration staff which I presume Eurostar has to pay “cost recovery” for.
          Of course sleepers don’t have to leave at midnight. They could be the last train to leave, say about 9pm, with custom clearance being required earlier, to largely avoid this issue. But then the train operators don’t want to lose day traffic to lower-cost night seats etc. I’m not sure but there might also be priority given to freight in these hours?

  9. Pingback: Today’s Headlines – Streetsblog California
  10. po8crg

    There are two obvious potential routes off that map that you aren’t suggesting lines for:

    One is that there’s nothing to Amsterdam (or the Randstad more widely). White central and southern Germany is perfectly reachable from the Netherlands via Brussels (and that high-speed line already exists), Amsterdam-Berlin via Brussels and Frankfurt is a hell of a detour, and even Brussels-Dusseldorf-Hanover is still a long way around. I’d have thought that something in the 90-100 minute area for Amsterdam-Hanover should be achievable, which would mean well under 180 to Berlin, and it would also open up an Amsterdam-Hanover-Hamburg-Lubeck-Copenhagen route, with Amsterdam-Copenhagen somewhere in the four-hour area.

    The other is the very tough routes across the Alps to Italy, either through Switzerland or Austria. The least-terrible terrain is probably the Brenner Pass route, for which the current plans (including the Brenner Base Tunnel) aim to get Munich-Verona down to about four hours. Not all that impressive for 300km by air – you’d be hoping for two hours. Given the enormous cost of the Base Tunnel and the immediate surrounding approaches, I’m wondering where the bottlenecks are, and whether a reasonable investment on the broader approaches, like a Munich-Innsbruck high-speed line, could really make a big difference. Getting from the German and Italian high-speed networks to Brenner seems to be a lot easier than doing the same to the Gotthard tunnel..

    • Alon Levy

      There is a route to the Netherlands. It’s the one going off the map to the northwest from Dusseldorf and Cologne. It’s just signed as going to Utrecht rather than Amsterdam because I expect there should be a reverse-branch at Utrecht with trains going to either Amsterdam or Rotterdam.

      And I’m not depicting routes across the Alps for a bunch of reasons, chief of which is to avoid having to figure out the slog that is St. Gotthard. The full NEAT plan calls for 2:15-2:30 trip times between Zurich and Milan (link), and that’s with a route that on the Swiss side is 80% in tunnel.

  11. df1982

    Michael, to calculate the stopping penalty you divide the total acceleration/braking time by 2, as a full-speed train would take half the time to cover the same distance. Also, while in practice trains often dwell for 2-3 minutes at stations, this is often timetable padding (which is prudently set at about 1 minute every 15 minutes). A late-running HSR train can, if well-designed, take care of alighting/boarding surprisingly quickly, depending on the numbers of passengers (double-decker TGVs are terrible on this measure, however).

    So a 4-5 min stopping penalty is reasonable.

    • michaelrjames

      Well, I was directly quoting railway-tech man.
      And I don’t believe one simply divides the time by 2; it’s based on the distance taken to stop and regain top speed.
      Also, not sure it is realistic making these calculations based on a future train that most of the world’s LGVs won’t have.
      Anyway, as I also pointed out, the biggest savings are in bypassing those intermediate stops. Trying to build LGV as thru routes in existing old cities …. What I know for sure is that the last time I did Bordeaux-Paris it took 3h05m, and today it takes 2h05m. Look at the differences in the Tokyo-Kyoto route I posted earlier.

  12. threestationsquare

    For medium-distance international leisure trips within Europe, the pain of avoiding flying is measured in euros at least as much as in hours. At the hostel where I stayed in Bucharest last May, the other guests seemed envious that I had travelled there by train from Berlin (a full day and night of travel), and to Berlin by train from London (almost a full day of travel). But they all asked how much I’d paid for the tickets (€113 and €130 respectively), and based on this concluded that it would not have been viable/worthwhile for them. Ryanair would charge less than €30 for either segment, which is hard to beat even by bus much less by train.

    • michaelrjames

      Ryanair would charge less than €30 for either segment, which is hard to beat even by bus much less by train.

      Even with full planes that is not enough revenue to pay for the pilots and cabin staff and landing charges!
      Of course the idiots who buy those “cheap” fares end up paying a lot more in baggage charges, and buying crap on-board. It is well known that that is the way most LCCs make their money.

    • Mike

      Not surprised. I ran into this in Bratislava last year; I could not figure out for the life of me why a significant number of tourists were English with a ton of pubs in Old Town being marketed specifically to the English for such a small place. Turns out the local airport is a Ryanair focus city with Wizz Air also having a highly popular flight to London; Ryanair also flies to Dublin non-stop and that’s the #3 segment to Bratislava by passenger volume. Apparently it was cheaper to suffer on Ryanair for three hours each way on a long weekend to warm up and drink cheap beer than it was to visit London!

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