Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Do the Locomotive

Vincent Kessler/Reuters

The black and chrome train with three double-decker cars bettered the previous record set in 1990. (see article below from the N Y Times)

From streetcars to commuter trains, at least the idea of riding in something besides an automobile is entering the heads of Georgians. Here's yet another letter to the AJC:


For the Journal-Constitution
Published on: 04/04/07

Transit: Georgia behind the times

The same day that the AJC editorial board makes a strong plea for commuter rail in Georgia ("Sign it, already, Editorial, April 3), Europe announces that a train in France has clocked 357 mph, a speed that would get you from Atlanta to Savannah in about 45 minutes. The last time I drove that way, I hadn't passed the clogged junction of I-75 and I-675 in 45 minutes.

Despite the federal funding, Georgia's yellow-smog road crowd continues to oppose the most sensible transportation for the 21st century. What is it that fuels such stubborn resistance —- highway lobby greed, or just plain ineptitude?


And from the New York Times:

Published: April 4, 2007

BEZANNES, France, April 3 — A French high-speed train broke the world speed record on rail on Tuesday, reaching 357 miles an hour (574.8 kilometers) in a much publicized test in eastern France, exceeding expectations that it would hit 150 meters a second, or 540 kilometers an hour.

The train, code-named V150, is a research prototype meant to demonstrate the superiority both of the TGV high-speed train and of its probable successor, the AGV, which is also manufactured by the French engineering group Alstom. The performance on Tuesday came close to but did not break the world speed record for any train, set by an electromagnetic train in 2003.

The French railroad company SNCF and Alstom publicized the event as a test of “French excellence,” building on national pride for the 25-year-old bullet train.

The train reached its maximum speed in about 16 minutes at a site about 125 miles from Paris on a specially chosen sector of tracks of the new Eastern Europe TGV line, which will begin service between Paris and Strasbourg in June. The V150 train, with a reduced number of train cars and larger wheels, incorporates technological elements from the AGV.

SNCF and Alstom insist that the demonstration does not fulfill any immediate commercial purposes, but others say the speed could serve as a selling point in Asia and other markets.

“This world speed record is intended for research, to improve security and performance,” said Anne-Marie Idrac, the head of SNCF upon leaving the train. “And today the train that runs the fastest is the Eastern TGV. We don’t see the market today for such high speed.”

Alstom, the world high-speed train leader, with 21 percent of the market, is hoping it might parlay the record into sales, as its competitors — Siemens of Germany and Hitachi of Japan — have cut into Alstom’s lead in the competition for the market.

But Alstom has 70 percent of the market for trains that reach 270 kilometers (168 miles) an hour or more, Patrick Kron, Alstom’s chief executive, said in an interview.

“There are big developments to come in Europe, but also Latin America where we just announced we are competing for an order in Argentina,” Mr. Kron said.

High-speed trains are a potentially lucrative market in developing countries — China and India are the biggest markets, with China spending about 15 billion euros a year on its rail network, while India is looking at developing a high-speed train system.

Crowds gathered on bridges overlooking the rail tracks to watch the train race by, and national television broadcast live images from the train.

“It’s quite an achievement; I hope it’s going to help us sell a lot of TGV’s,” said Arnaud Delahaye, a 32-year-old technician from nearby Reims as he watched the V150 train from behind fences after its arrival at a purpose-built control center.

The Maglev from Japan holds the world record for a train with a speed of 581 kilometers (361 miles) an hour recorded in 2003; it uses electromagnetic technology, where the train does not actually touch the rail. This technology is more costly, typically runs shorter distances and is less compatible with existing rail networks.

High-speed trains have not caught on in the United States as they have in Europe, where TGV travel is generally considered faster transportation than air travel for distances that the TGV can cover in less than three hours.

France operates 400 TGV trains on about 1,100 miles of track built especially for high speeds.

Chugging On,


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