Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Train in Spain sets out to beat the plane

with 9 comments

The Guardian

Oh the subs at the Grauniad are having fun today. The last time I posted about high speed trains I got lots of hits. So I am going to do it again. A new high speed line will open this month from Madrid to Barcelona

I found a much better image than they did anyway (but the site is in Spanish, not surprisingly). The trains are German, where they are called ICE (InterCity Express) and like the French TGV need special tracks to get to their top speed. 220 mph

The aim is to have 10,000km (6,200 miles) of high-speed track in Spain by 2020, meaning that 90% of the population will be no more than 30 miles from a station through which the train passes.

The Barcelona line is to be extended to Perpignan in France, making the Catalan capital just four-and-a-half hours from Paris. Work to join Madrid and Lisbon is under way.

December saw the opening of lines connecting Madrid to Valladolid and to Málaga, which have slashed journey times and proved hugely popular. Carrillo describes the success of these two lines as “unprecedented and well ahead of what we expected. Traffic has doubled on the Málaga line, and grown by 75% on the Valladolid line.”

The distinction between the Spanish and British models of investment, says Christian Wolmar, the author of a history of Britain’s railways, comes from conflicting philosophies of rail’s worth.

“We ignore the social values of trains,” he says. “Just as we don’t expect motorways to pay their own way, we shouldn’t expect trains to.

Actually AVE is expected to be profitable. And another way to correct this imbalance is to charge road users for their use of road space. And charge more to use the road at peak periods.

At these sorts of speeds even Canadian distances look conquerable.

“Time spent in a train is time won, while in a plane it is wasted,” he [Aberlado Carrillo, the director general of the state rail operator Renfe’s high-speed service] says. “In a train you can work, read, talk, use the internet, eat, or simply relax and enjoy the journey. With a plane, the only objective is to arrive.

“Personally, I am not bothered if the plane arrives 20 minutes earlier than the train. The question is how that time has been used.”

And of course if we were really serious about greenhouse gas emissions, we would be seriously looking at ways of getting people off planes and into electric high speed trains.

UPDATE February 18 2008

A story in the travel section of the Guardian has a very different looking AVE train

Written by Stephen Rees

February 2, 2008 at 9:17 am

Posted in Railway

Tagged with , , ,

9 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. That, is a beautiful engine.

    I sure wish we had those on our Talgos here in the north west, like we should.


    February 3, 2008 at 1:00 am

  2. As with most high speed trains, this is not a separate “engine’ but rather the leading car of a multiple unit.

    Talgo was designed to operate over railways built originally for steam trains. The track tends to be lightly graded (less than 2%) but has a lot of curves. The design of the Talgo train allows it to take curves at higher speeds without passenger discomfort. The Amtrak Cascades never operates near Talgo design speed, as it has to share track with freight trains, and the signalling is optimised for freight operations

    An alternative solution for higher speed on conventional track is to use tilting trains, of which the Italian pendolino is the most widely used.

    TGV, ICE, AVE and shinkansen do not tilt, and to achieve high speeds require a new railway which tends to be straighter but can be more sharply graded as electric trains have much less difficulty climbing hills than steam locomotives.

    Stephen Rees

    February 3, 2008 at 7:42 am

  3. Wow, so that is the new AVE train.. That is sharp though I know it’s the same but the paint really makes this stand out. Awesome job!

    It’s a shame the United States doesn’t have this vision or investment. While the distances are much larger I agree with the statement of “Time spent in a train is time won, while in a plane it is wasted,” he [Aberlado Carrillo, the director general of the state rail operator Renfe’s high-speed service] says. “In a train you can work, read, talk, use the internet, eat, or simply relax and enjoy the journey. With a plane, the only objective is to arrive.”

    My experience on planes is just that, arrive. Nobody really wants to strike up a conversation nor are they willing to have breakfast, lunch or dinner. On the train, the experience is you can start a conversation with the entire rail car (at least on the Talgo because of their size, wouldn’t recommend that on a Superliner or Amfleet) and even have groups of people join you for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and really, that is what makes the experience so much better.

    The Spanish AVE, French TGV, and German ICE systems all have this capability of making friendships, intergrating a network that is easy to get around, and more importantly, keep the business man or woman, working when they need it without expensive network cards. Even the conference rooms onboard the TGV-East line is something remarkable.

    This is a vision the United States and Canadian really should look towards but until our fashionation of the auto and plane leaves us, we won’t see beyond what is possible.

    The Acela, is not high speed rail. The TGV, AVE, ICE, is High Speed Rail.


    Brian Bundridge

    February 3, 2008 at 7:45 am

  4. Thanks for adding a link to me on your blog – I have added yours to the transportation section of the blogroll.

    Acela is similar in concept to the British HST (which is diesel, and was marketed as InterCity 125 initially – a reference to its top speed in mph) and the East Coast mainline (which was originally branded InterCity 225 – max speed in kph) which uses electric locos.
    The West Coast mainline was upgraded – very expensively indeed – to make the most of the Pendolino’s tilting ability – an acknowledgement (much too late) of what the British tilting APT might have achieved, if it had not been launched before it was ready for prime time

    One upon a time the British did not like to talk to strangers – on trains as anywhere else. This reserve seems to have lessened in recent years, and on my last trip on a Midland Mainline 222, I was offered a large can of beer by my seat mates before I had even sat down!

    Stephen Rees

    February 3, 2008 at 8:18 am

  5. When I lived in Madrid I took the AVE all the time. It’s really comfortable, in my opinion. Could we say this is the equivalent of RER in Paris? Anyhow, thanks for posting this Stephen. It brings sweet memories (and it’s a much more sustainable transportation alternative!)


    February 3, 2008 at 10:26 am

  6. Raul

    I don’t think so. RER is a suburban railway service that extends much further out of central Paris than the metro. Basically it was built by connecting existing suburban railway lines with a new set of deeper tunnels, with fewer stations but all interchange with the Metro. London is now going to do something similar with CrossRail. It took commuter trains out of some of the major terminals (one of which is now a lovely museum and art gallery) and got passengers much closer to where they needed to be.

    AVE is known as Inter City Express in Germany, which describes its function prefectly. It is a direct replacement for short distance air shuttle services like Toronto-Ottawa and Toronto-Montreal

    Stephen Rees

    February 3, 2008 at 10:40 am

  7. Perhaps some day we’ll lay ballast and rails on top of existing freeways. In the meantime I’ll look forward to riding that high-speed train from Toronto to Montreal! 10 hours on VIA Rail doesn’t really work too well.

    I’m happy to hear about the BC government’s plan to reinvigorate the valley interurban service.

    Benjamin Damm

    February 3, 2008 at 11:07 pm

  8. So far as i am aware at this time the BC government does not have a plan to reinvigorate the valley interurban service.

    Stephen Rees

    February 4, 2008 at 9:15 am

  9. I quite agree, “Time spent in a train is time won, while in a plane it is wasted,” . I often take the Euromed from Barcelona to Alicante and it’s a great trip, beats the plane anyway.

    Malaga Golf

    February 18, 2008 at 5:51 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: