The Anonymous Widower

Dutch Leave Passengers In The Cold

This article on Global Rail News is entitled Dutch Minister Resigns Over Fyra Failures.

The first paragraph sums up the article.

Dutch infrastructure minister Wilma Mansveld has resigned following the publication of a highly critical report on the failings of the Fyra high-speed rail fiasco.

The report, which was led by CDA parliamentarian Madeleine van Toorenburg, said that passengers had been “left out in the cold” by the HSL-Zuid project.

The second paragraph gave me the title for this post.

But as I effectively said in Back From The Hague, the Dutch, Belgians and Germans couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery!

So no wonder there’s frozen passengers all the way from Amsterdam to Brussels.

October 30, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment

I’m Off To The Hague Today

Is there any other train journey between two capitals in the world, that is more difficult now than it was six or seven years ago?

When I first did this trip, I was able to buy a Eurostar ticket from London to Any Dutch Station, as many visitors to The Netherlands did.

But when Fyra; the high-speed train started, this was not possible any more. I couldn’t even get to the Dutch capital without a second change.

Today, I’ve bought a Eurostar ticket to any Belgian Station and will go to Antwerp for a spot of lunch, before I buy a ticket to Den Haag Laan van Nieuwe Oost Indie, so that I avoid all the hassle of using Dutch local ticketing, which will mean buying an Oyster-style card.

I will then use Shanks’s Pony to get to my final destination.

If that is progress, you can stick it up your backside.

Suppose to go between London and Edinburgh, you had to change trains at Newcastle or Berwick! Even the most rabid of Scottish Independence advocates, would never want a service like that between Scotland and England!

Also, if I was going to most important stations in Switzerland, I can buy one ticket from London.

Surely, this should apply to all major cities in Europe, that are within say five or six hours from London.

Going the other way, I could buy a ticket from say Paris direct to virtually anywhere in the UK.

October 8, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | 3 Comments

How Not To Plan A High Speed Railway

The farce that is Fyra might have got a bit better as there are now going to be some extra Thalys trains on the line soon, as is reported here.

But this will only partially compensate for the loss of the Fyra V250 trains and capacity will be nowhere near that needed.

It will also do nothing to get round one of the major design faults of the line; the lack of a branch to the Dutch capital, The Hague. A city incidentally, which doesn’t have an airport well-connected to the city centre, unless you count Schipol.

In some ways the design of the line, would be like the UK, creating a high speed line to Scotland, that bypassed Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

The Dutch also have a problem in that their tracks aren’t to the European standard of trains on the left, electrified to 25,000 volts AC, so it makes it difficult for high speed trains to run on secondary lines, as they do in most other European countries, The suburban Class 395 run in rural Kent and on HS1. Like the Thalys, they have a multi-voltage capability.

Another problem is that there aren’t enough Thalys trains and you can’t just rustle up some new ones quickly. In fact I suspect there is a large shortage of rolling stock across Europe and I suppose the real problem, is that because every country seems to work to different standards and local politics, manufacturers rely too much on living on the scraps politicians give them. So say if we need say some extra stock on the East Coast Main Line, we can’t generally borrow from the Germans. Saying that though, but for a few years Regional Eurostar trains did run to Leeds.  But then that train was designed to run in the UK, France and Belgium.

We also complain in this country about orders for trains going to foreign manufacturers, but this is a Europe wide problem.

What we need is standards for railways that apply across most of Europe. When you have travelled on trains as much as I have you realise what a disconnected design it all is.

July 23, 2013 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Slow High Speed Rail

The Dutch and the Belgians have abandoned their new Fyra high-speed trains and are replacing them with coaches hauled by TRAXX locomotives as is reported here.

The Fyra was supposed to run at 250 kph, but they have proved to be very unreliable.  On the other hand the TRAXX-hauled coaches  are probably limited to about 200 kph. So they will have a high-speed line called HSL-Zuid, which has been designed for up to 300 kph, with trains on it running at well below that speed.

It’s a bit like putting the the Class 90s and the Mk 3 coaches you get between London and Norwich, on the East or West Coast Main Line. Some of course, used to work there twenty years ago, so they are a bit clapped, but they are generally more reliable than Fyra, which has been nicknamed the ALDI-trein

In fact here’s an idea!

I’m sure we’ve got some old Class 90s and a few rakes of coaches, we could lend to the Dutch and the Belgians. But there are various problems in that Continental trains are bigger than ours and I don’t think they’d fit the platforms.  They also wouldn’t be able to work all the high-speed line as some parts and the rest of the Netherlands doesn’t use 25kV like the UK and most of Europe.

It would appear the Dutch and the Belgians, with the help of a basket case of an Italian train maker, have dug themselves an enormous hole.  Now they are going to get themselves out of trouble, using an engine built in Germany by a Canadian company.

I wonder how many civil servants and politicians have been fired because of this fiasco?

We may have done a few things wrong with the trains in the last fifty or so years, but we’ve never created anything as bad as this!

July 7, 2013 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment

A Train Builder With Form

I have been following the farce of the Fyra trains between Brussels and Amsterdam with interest. Modern Railways this month, gives a very full account of the problems and the big row between the Dutch and the Belgians and the Italian company; AnsaldoBreda who built the V250 trains. These trains were incidentally called Albatross by the makers.

I’ve just been reading about AnsaldoBreda on Wikipedia. It says this about the problems the company has had with an order for IC4 trains for Denmark.

Delivery of 83 IC4 trainsets for the Danish State Railways DSB was originally planned for 2003-2006. As of March 2013, 22 trainsets have still not been delivered,[52] On 2 July 2012, the DSB announced that the Transportation Authority had approved Denmark’s railway operator to put back into operation the fleet of 37 IC4s which had been withdrawn from service in November 2011. In December 2011, it was reported that one of the missing IC4 trainsets planned for delivery in Denmark was found in Libya. Reportedly, AnsaldoBreda and then Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi gave Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi the trainset as a present on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Gaddafi’s revolution in 2009.

I suppose now, it doesn’t work, as there is sand in the bogies!

No wonder the Dutch and the Belgians bought a load of dud trains, that go bunga bunga!

Incidentally, I  was led to look up AnsaldoBreda by looking at the progress of the Midland Metro extension to Birmingham New Street station.  I found that the same Italian company had sold a load of dodgy trams to the Brummies. The details are here.

June 28, 2013 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Belgians Give Up On Fyra

The Belgian government has pulled out of the Fyra project to run high speed trains between Brussels and Amsterdam.  It’s reported here.

This sorry story has a lot of lessons for governments, who try to implement large projects.

Building railway lines and in particular high-speed lines is not difficult, except for the odd local political and environmental problems, as HS1 found in Kent and HS2 is now finding. But the actual line generally works well from an engineering perspective, with the possible exception of the Wenzhou crash in China, where signalling may have been at fault. None of the high speed train crashes in this country, were caused by engineering problems on new lines.

The main problems with Fyra are all about using new unproven trains. No sensible project manager would ever use unproven technology at the heart of a new project. You could argue, that Boeing used an unproven battery system on the Dreamliner.  But look what happened there!

The other major problem with Fyra  is that they discontinued the traditional services between towns like The Hague and Brussels, thus alienating a lot of their target market.

So when you do a large project, make sure that it fits the aspirations of your customers.

If we look at HS2 to Birmingham, the technology to be used to build the line will be very much proven, as hopefully will be the trains, which will probably be derived from something that is working well in the UK or Europe.

The line too, will be an addition to the current services between the two cities.  This in itself removes a lot of risk from this line, as say there is a problem that cuts capacity on HS2, you don’t have only one basket for your eggs. I also believe the competition from such as Chiltern and Virgin trains and their successors, will make sure that HS2 is competitive and reliable. Those two services, will also act as valuable feeder services to HS2, as say you live in Banbury and want to go to Leeds, you’d hop to Moor Street station in Birmingham and then take HS2 to Leeds, when that section of the line is completed.

June 1, 2013 Posted by | News, Transport/Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fyra Explained

I have just found this detailed explanation of the Fyra fiasco on the International Railway Journal.

The title of the article is “Fyra problems could be more political than technical” and it starts and finishes with the simple phrase, “What a Mess!”

We may create the odd mess in the UK concerning the trains, but usually it blows over in a couple of days as all the underlying technology is sound and managers and politicians come up with a quick solution.

To cap it all, isn’t the Fyra train one of the most ugly ones, we’ve seen in a long time?

February 28, 2013 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Fyra Replaced By Slow Train To The Hague

This article from the Europe by Rail web site is a lesson to all those politicians and civil servants, who think they understand the transport needs of the general public. This is the first paragraph.

The Belgian Railway authorities this afternoon announced the return of old-style InterCity services from Brussels to stations in the Netherlands. This is to provide some kind of replacement for the short-lived FYRA service, introduced in December 2012 and then withdrawn last month.

The service has actually lasted less than two months.

There is also a sting in the tail of the article.

Meanwhile, coach operators have spotted a gap in this busy cross-border market. One company starts a new express link from Rotterdam to Brussels early next month.

After all, the UK has a large network of long distance coach services that compete with rail, so why not between Brussels and big centres of population in The Netherlands/

February 2, 2013 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

High Speed Trains Compared

out of curiosity, I thought I put the various speeds and size of some of the high-speed trains in Europe.

Fyra – V250 – 8 car trains seating 546, running at a maximum speed of 250 km/hr.

UK – IC 225 – 9 car trains running at a maximum speed of 225 km/hr. Although they are limited to 201 km/hr. because of signalling.

Eurostar – 373 – 20 car trains seating 750, running at a maximum speed of 300 km/hr.

ICE 1 – 12 car trains seating 743, running at a maximum speed of 280 km/hr.

ICE 2 – 8 car trains seating 391, running at a maximum speed of 280 km/hr.

ICE 3 – 8 car trains seating 441, running at a maximum speed of 320 km/hr.

Although, they are all different, it’s surprising how with the exception of Eurostar, they are all fairly shortish trains.

The IC 225 is slower, but also as they run on normal lines with other traffic, and generally stop a few times on their journeys out of London, their performance isn’t as slow as you would think.

It may lead you to the conclusion, that on shorter high-speed services with stops, 200 km/hr may well be fast enough.

But as the French like to show, there is quite a lot of pride, that your trains run very fast. But then France and Spain are probably the only countries in Western Europe, that have the space for long high speed lines.

We have had only a few details about HS2, the line from London to the Midlands, North and eventually to Scotland. They seem to be planning for speeds of up to 400 km/hr., but how much is that to just prove they can do what the French do?

Putting an engineering hat on, it’s well known that the faster you go, the more energy you need and the more noise and damage to the track you make. And if you go at 400 km/hr instead of 200 km/hr, you don’t do the journey in half the time, as you have to accelerate and brake for longer.

We also get the old chestnut, of why don’t we have double-deck trains like they do in many places on the continent. Having travelled on a TGV Duplex to the South of France, I am very sceptical about them on short high speed distances, as loading and unloading can be a nightmare, given the excess baggage people take with them these days.

So I am veering towards shorter nimble trains with superb acceleration. Taking the HS2 route to Birmingham, which has two stops between Euston and Birmingham, they might even be as quick as a faster heavier train.

But then the trouble with a slightly slower service, is that it doesn’t polish the egos of politicians, who love to say they have things like the fastest or biggest in the world.

Obviously, past Birmingham, where there is more space, the service could go faster towards the North and Scotland.

You have to remember that most of the saving in journey times from high speed trains come from taking a direct flat route. Brunel and those that built the East Coast Main Line, knew that and were able to create tracks that now allow trains to run at 200 km/hr. The West Coast Main Line had to be threaded through country estates of the landed gentry and over quite a few hills, so it is much slower.

Looking at my target of Fyra, the Dutch don’t really need a 400 km/hr. line and in fact, limit the speed of trains to 300 km/hr., although they’re not going as fast as that yet.

So there would appear to be good reasons for not building short high-speed lines capable of 400 km/hr.  But by all means build them capable of 200 km/hr.

January 26, 2013 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Dutch MPs Show Their Confidence In Fyra

This story about the Dutch Aunt Sally, just adds to the mess the of the high speed train.

But as Fyra doesn’t actually go to The Hague, where the Dutch parliament sits, they would have to change at Rotterdam or drive there anyway.

January 26, 2013 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment