Will China Have to Rebuild An HSR Line?

Sep 6th, 2012 | Posted by

A report from China this week suggests that a new high speed rail route may have to be partially rebuilt due to problems with the way the tracks were laid.

Break on the New Beijing to Shanghai High Speed Rail

The Harbin to Dalian high speed route, located in Manchuria, is facing problems with frost and deformation of the roadbed:

Part of the newly built Harbin-Dalian high speed railroad connecting Northeast China’s Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces is now facing reconstruction due to roadbed deformation, an expert said on Tuesday.

Wang Mengshu, chief engineer of the China Railway Tunnel Group and academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told the Global Times that certain parts of the railroad were not initially designed properly.

“In regions where the temperature varies greatly around the year, frost heaving becomes a major problem in construction,” said Wang. “Designers need to pay extra attention to the amount of water in the roadbed. Too little water reduces roadbed strength, while too much water could cause deformation.”

Wang said a certain part of the Harbin-Dalian line, the first of its kind in Northeast China, was designed to avoid building tunnels for the purpose of reducing cost, causing the railroad to travel through ravines where rain water can easily accumulate and damage the roadbed.

An anonymous expert from the Ministry of Railways made similar comments and added that 70 percent of the ballastless track, a type of track specially required by high speed lines, was built on a viaduct to help drain water. Some 20 percent of the track built directly on the ground roadbed has seen different levels of deformation, reported Economy & Nation Weekly on Sunday.

The Harbin-Dalian high speed railroad is currently the northernmost high speed line in China with temperatures dropping to as low as -40 C in the area.

There’s nowhere along the California HSR route that comes anywhere close to having temperatures as low as -40C, so I doubt this specific issue would affect the California project. But it is another blow to the Chinese HSR program, which has been reeling from budget and safety concerns.

Sometimes people ask the question as to why it takes longer to build infrastructure in the United States than in China. This helps provide the answer. It’s worth taking more time to get it right. China may have pushed too far too fast in their efforts to get as much HSR built as possible. And in an attempt to cut costs, they appear to merely have given themselves a larger headache that will have to be cured at a greater cost than had they taken their time to get this right.

The same pressures to cut costs will exist on the California HSR project, coming from people who never supported the project to begin with. We’ll do all we can to make sure that costs are never cut for their own sake, and that the rail system gets built right the first time.

  1. Alon Levy
    Sep 6th, 2012 at 20:58

    It’s a Rorschach test. To you, it’s obviously a problem of cost cutting and schedule acceleration. To a free trader, it’s obviously a problem of China not importing trains that were modified with the Russian or Finnish cold winters in mind.

    joe Reply:


    I know Richard’s asserted HSR is 3 times more expansive than it would be if he ran the zoo. CARDD under oath to Congress claimed HSR was 100 miles too long.

    Finnish trains would overcome civil engineering issues with frost and soil moisture. Or the Russians would not cut corners. Or what?

    If I thought I had such expertise, I’d go into business for myself. Why haven’t you?

    Joey Reply:

    I know Richard’s asserted HSR is 3 times more expansive than it would be if he ran the zoo.

    It’s 3 times more expensive than what other countries pay for the same thing.

    joe Reply:


    Other countries would not build the same thing so it’s a different HSR system, a different design – he’s not proposing the same project at 1/3 the cost per mile. He’s described a better system at 1/3 the cost.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Californian Special Snowflakes.

    Joey Reply:

    What’s the functional distinction? It’s not any less useful.

    Joey Reply:

    More useful in fact, at least as far as passengers are concerned.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    I bring up Russia and Finland because both buy weatherized trains, capable of operating in temperatures down to -40 degrees. Both also have a long history of an expansive rail system operating in cold weather, whereas China Railways was a basket case until recently.

    On second thought, rereading the post more carefully, I see that the issue is not really a matter of cold weather, but a matter of water accumulation and deformation, i.e. the sort of things that an EIS can point out. So again it’s a Rorschach test – is it obviously a problem of cost cutting, or obviously a problem of not having enough environmental work?

    joe Reply:

    It’s a mix of civil engineering and experience with construction where reducing sunlight to the soil surface causes the soil to freeze and expand.

    IMHO, it’s cost cutting.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    As I said, it’s a Rorschach test.

    joe Reply:

    Cost cutting or not doing enough work in the EIS – which is cost cutting.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Orders of magnitude.

    joe Reply:

    Both are cost cutting – one’s apparently orders of magnitude larger.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    To be more precise, environmental work is a tiny portion of the cost. Anti-CAHSR people who complain about design and engineering costs, far from all of which is environmental work, demagogue about a billion dollars spent so far, on a project that’s currently at $53 billion. France, which does rigorous environmental work and closely involves locals in alignment selection, actually has lower per-km costs than China, by a substantial margin.

    So it’s not cost skimping. It could be about rushed work, since this design takes time. But Spain builds lines quite fast, too. I think it’s just an authoritarian mindset – environmentalism is just for wimps, the US didn’t have any of it in 1900, etc. It’s the same mindset leading to burying the trains quickly after Wenzhou, supposedly to protect local technology (like, um, the innovative technology of overclocking an E2 Series).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    But as I said, it’s a Rorschach test. It affects me as much as it does you and Robert.

    Wdobner Reply:

    Why are those two things mutually exclusive? Would not an EIS not being performed be a product of cost-cutting?

    And what does ‘Buying Weatherized trains’ have to do with the geotechnical engineering done on the right of way?

    It’s only a Rorschach test if you’re myopic.

  2. BMF from San Diego
    Sep 6th, 2012 at 21:20

    It takes more time here because we have greater public involvement. It is also apparent that the China project lacked some quality design and/or construction oversight. Just being mindful… although they have 1.2 billion people, their industry is still very young relative to Europe and America. Weren’t they still stealing foreign designs on things as little as 2 years ago… perhaps still are?

  3. peninsula
    Sep 6th, 2012 at 21:56

    Really? Are you new? The pressures on the project are coming from the ridiculously pushed down our throats timelines from the panic’d real estate developers, construction industry and the unions that SUPPORT the project – who can’t possibly fathom a reason to slow down the project long enough to get it right. Its RICH that Robert is trying to pre-emtively claim that the royally f’d up mess they forcing down californian’s throats is going to be the fault of the opposition. What a crock.

    joe Reply:

    “who can’t possibly fathom a reason to slow down the project long enough to get it right. ”
    CARRD’s motto.

    Like it or not, Caltrain’s electrification is dependent on HSR funding.

    StevieB Reply:

    Caltrain electrification is several years away. Opponents would have a decade delay with the objective of doing nothing.

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    Let’s see, the idea of a high speed railroad in California dates back to the 1970s, a proposal for one failed for some sort of environmental qualifications in the early 1980s, the CAHSRA has been involved in some sort of design work since the 1990s, and the bond issue was voted upon in 2008. That’s a history going back almost 40 years, during which the French essentially started the research and built their network as it currently exists, as have the Germans, the Spanish, the Taiwanese, the Chinese, and others, while the Japanese system is only a few years older. Heck, Amtrak’s Acela sets, which some here consider less than optimal, are already something like 15 years old, and the setting for their operation goes back to a High Speed Rail Act of 1965.

    If something taking 40 years to get this far is your idea of rushed, I’d hate to see what you consider slow!

    Peter Reply:

    Exactly. Anyone arguing that California’s planning is rushed has either not been paying attention or is deliberately distorting the facts (i.e. lying).

    Paul Druce Reply:

    Except that detailed useful planning wasn’t done in that timeframe and it’s mostly awful work that has been done.

    VBobier Reply:

    I’m sorry, but where did You get Your degree from? Harvard or Yale?

    Joey Reply:

    I’m sorry, do we need a specific degree to determine that a $2 billion tunnel in Millbrae is unnecessary when there’s vastly underutilized infrastructure at-grade that could be converted? What degree should I shoot for before I can safely say that the elimination of CalTrain express service is not a good thing?

    William Reply:

    Unless you give CAHSRA power over BART, Caltrain for station design and operations, the Millbrae tunnel is necessary given the current constraint.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Whatever they’re paying you, they should double it.

    William Reply:

    Richard, I don’t know what’s your objection in creating an umbrella organization that’s responsible for funding and service levels. Only by doing this you can force all organizations below it to make change that doesn’t benefit itself.

    All of your examples cited before for a smooth operations either has an umbrella organization that’s responsible for funding and service level, like ZVV, or has benefits for the cooperating system.

    No one person or organization is going to voluntary give-up something that it gets nothing in return, unless it is forced to by someone or some organization who is higher up.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Let me interpret: Richard has no objection to creating a Verkehrsverbund (which I’m going to calque as transport association), but he argues, with a good deal of truth, that even in the absence of one there is no excuse for the Millbrae tunnel. A transport association does consistently what can be done ad hoc here by Jerry Brown. On top of that, if it were privately owned land, the cost of takings would be at least a full order of magnitude (probably more than one) less than the cost of a tunnel, since the third BART track is of no use to BART’s operations. And then there’s the fact that HSR is making both Millbrae and Diridon more important and adding ridership for BART, which in Millbrae’s case is the reverse-peak direction and in Diridon’s is either reverse- or off-peak.

    jonathan Reply:


    No one person or organization is going to voluntary give-up something that it gets nothing in return, unless it is forced to by someone or some organization who is higher up.

    I call bulshit. Caltrain *gave up* their right-of-way at Millbrae to Bart, in return for … what, exactly?

    William, I do hope Richard is wrong about you being a government shill for the transport-industrial complex. I’d though they would have the sense to hire people who know the difference between a *train line* and a *national grid electricity transmssion line*; something you haven’t mastered.

    synonymouse Reply:

    When y’all are talking about any modifications to anything BART, please remember at all times you are dealing with one of the most powerful entities in California in approaching the BART Empire. The Tejon Ranch Co. and Villo-vitch are banger street punks by comparison. Who else has has the chutzpah to pull off Indian broad gauge amidst other proprietary anomalies and get away with and spending an absolute fortune on everything it does(which is pretty much anything it wishes) to do). Even with the Roundabout, CBOSS, arbitrary platform height, non-interoperability, etc. the CHSRA cannot even begin to equal BART when it comes to arrogance, hubris, profligacy, monumental stupidity. And get awards for it and pet status from MTC. BART rules, PB
    cheerleaders drool.

    Joey Reply:

    We have no indication that BART would be opposed to the idea. It has not even been considered.

    Joey Reply:

    And for what it’s worth, BART currently has several times the amount of capacity they need, or ever will need, at Millbrae. Taking one of the three tracks should be a non-issue.

    William Reply:

    We also don’t have any indication that BART will voluntary give up one track for nothing in return.

    Joey Reply:

    …and therefore we should not even consider the idea, and just go with the most expensive alternative right off the bat.

    William Reply:

    …that’s why I said we needed one organization to have power over the others to force cooperation.

    As it currently stands, BART and Caltrain don’t have to do anything, it is the newcomer, aka CAHSR, that needs to build around the current constraints.

    Joey Reply:

    You’re still assuming that the problem can’t be fixed when no one has even tried. I agree that regional oversight is necessary, but there’s no reason to wait for it as we try to fix problems. For what it’s worth, Metrolink has been cooperative (shared tracks LA-Anaheim), as has CalTrain, to the extent that the CHSRA has told it to (note that current plans put CalTrain, not HSR, in the single-track tunnel). And maybe BART wouldn’t like the idea too much, but there’s no reason not to field the possibility as soon as possible. Maybe BART wouldn’t have a choice. Maybe the state would step in. Maybe BART could be granted some compensation elsewhere (which would still be an order of magnitude cheaper than the tunnel). If no one ever tries to fix things, they’re never going to be fixed.

    William Reply:

    We are all speculating here, as we don’t know whether BART, Caltrain, and CAHSRA had negotiaged about the Millbrae issue.

    My point still stands, unless we give CAHSRA or any agency the power and mandate to review CPUC orders, to force cooperation of local agencies, to negotiate with UP and FRA on ATC/PTC issue, the current design is the best of what CAHSRA and its contractors can do given the limited resource CAHSRA is given. CAHSRA is simply not equipped to fight the battles a lot of people in this blog is asking it to fight.

    Peter Reply:

    Sorry, but if you have a “limited resource”, wouldn’t you want to spend it most effectively? I’m certain that for a good deal less than $2 billion the CHSRA could fight and probably win these “battles”.

    William Reply:

    The cost, as in this cast Millbrae tunnel, is the result of current regulations and conditions.

    To change it, we need to change the regulations and conditions that result in it in the first place.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    What our MTC pal WIlliam is saying is that if any completely anonymous party anywhere in any “public” organization makes any objection to anything, then not only is that objection automatically valid (pending adoption of One Regional Government, conveniently staffed by PB/Bechtel) but that no justification need be provided, no costs provided, no cost/benefit analysis performed, and no alternatives considered, and then it is the job of the public to front up however many billions of tens of billions of dollars are “required” to work around this issue.

    Not only that, but nobody even needs to state that secret “stakeholders” exist, who they are, and what their non-negotiable cost-inflating “issues” might be.

    The scope for massive abuse and fraud should be obvious. In fact, all you have to do is look around you to see the results.

    On no! You can’t run non-BART trains through Fremont! Because, uh, because, hey, look over there, NIMBYs that we paid off! Stakeholders! Nothing we can do about it!

    On no! You can’t buy working proven standard train control for Caltrain! Because, uh, because those are the Requirements. That our Very Very Very Very Very Special Friends wrote.

    On no! You have to spend $4+ billion building elevated separate HSR stations in San José, the Capital of Silicon Valley! Because, uh, because, those are the Requirements.

    On no! You have to spend $2 billion tunnelling under Millbrae because, uh, because, uh, like, uh, BART, and, like stuff. (Oh yeah, we at PB/Bechtel designed that “multi-modal station”, in such a way as to deliberately prevent Caltrain express tracks. Awesome job! Now for another hundred billion!)

    Oh no! You have to run freight on Caltrain and run shared Metrolink as an FRA-regulated freight corridor because, uh, because, oh no, stop twisting my arm secret anonymous Port of San Francisco employee, ow wow wow that’s hurting!

    Oh no! We have to run via Palmdale, because, uh, because mean old Los Angeles County made us do it! Shit crap damn fuck it, we sure do hate having to run up the system cost by an extra $10+ billion, but ow wow wow oh stop hurting us, OK we’ll do it.

    Oh no! The Stakeholders of Gilroy want a $2 billion trench! There’s really nothing we can do but make them happy, no matter how much it inflates the project budget. Oh, the terrible discomfort this causes us, as percentage-skimming master contractors and sub-contractors. You have no idea!

    Oh no! It turns out that neither Caltrain nor Metrolink are owned by CHSRA, so there’s no alternative whatsoever but to have completely separate stations with incompatible platforms and three incompatible train control systems. Because, uh, because BART isn’t the sole transportation agency for the state. Otherwise, no problem: just ask “William”.

    Oh no! We’d so love to “review CPUC orders”, but that’s a DIFFERENT AGENCY, so we’re just going to have to make room for loading ice reefers and allowing trainmen to ride on the side of boxcars. It really pains us, but pending One World Government under the UN, there’s really nothing we can do about it. So, hand over an extra $10 billion, suckers!

    So, as you see, CHSRA=PBQD really truly has our best interests at heart, and “William”‘s best interests at heart, but their hands are tied! Tied I tell you! Tied!

    Joey Reply:

    William: we have no indication that this option even appeared anywhere in the process. In fact, we have good reason to believe that it didn’t. See the supplemental AA (hint: search for 2D – that’s the subsection that includes Millbrae). No mention is given of any option that keeps all the tracks at-grade. If they had talked to BART and they said no, then they would’ve (or at least should’ve) put that in the AA.

    jonathan Reply:

    William, there _is_ someone who should be able to knock heads to get petty, empire-building,
    asinine, smapp-minded bureaucrats to work together for the public good. And it’s Gov. Jerry Brown.

    Anyone with even the sense to follow political winds and dole out HSR money as early invesment in the the “book-ends”, *SHOULD* also have the political clue to ensure that those moneys are spent in ways that are, in fact, compatible with HSR.

    And the simple truth is that CBOSS _does_ _not_ _yet_ _exist_; and even if it’s successfullhy implemented, _is_ _not_ _compatible_ _with_ _anything_ _else_ _on_ _the_ _planet_.
    Anyone who says CBOSS is compatible with HSR is lying, or at best, misusing words in EXACTLY the same way as saying that “driving on the right of the road” is compatible with “driving on the left of the road”. They are not at all compatible, and mixing them will lead to disaster. What _does_ work is carefully-quarantined regions (nations, like Sweden used to be) where everybody changes systtems.

    That is the _only- way that CBOSS will be compatible with HSR; and making it so compatible will add more to the cost of HSR than the (grossly inadequate) budgeted price of CBOSS. That’s a fact. Just look at the non-recurring engineering costs to add a brand-new national signalling system to
    existing ETCS Level 2 systems. And to arrange the change-overs.

    While I don’t have a degree from Harvard or Yale, I do have a ocuple from Stanford.
    CHSRA has own requirements for HSR signalling. ETCS Level 2 is the only system which currently meets those requirements. And in my professional opinion, any claim that CBOSS is compatible wit h ETCS Level 2 is grossly incompetent. CBOSS _can_ be made to work _in mutual exclusion- with ETCS Level 2, but that’s at all the same thing as “compatible”.

    VBobier Reply:

    @ jonathan, CBOSS is now supposed to be made made compatible with HSR as that is I think what the legislature wanted CBOSS to be, ETCS would have to be made compatible with FRA type traffic, which includes both Freight, Metrolink and Caltrain…

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    CBOSS is now supposed to be made made compatible with

    Here’s a simple, perfect, always-accurate guide: if anybody at Caltrain states anything, they’re lying.

    My butt is supposed to be made compatible with flying monkeys. Write me a check for $200 million — no, on second thoughts, just leave the amount blank and I’ll fill it in later — and I double-pinky-promise it will be!

    Joey Reply:

    ETCS would have to be made compatible with FRA type traffic, which includes both Freight, Metrolink and Caltrain…

    So Europe doesn’t have freight, grade crossings, or shared corridors?

    jonathan Reply:

    @VBobier: CHSRA has requirements for HSR signalling. Those requirements include proven technology already operating successfully on HSR; and availability from multiple vendors. The very document which spells out those requirements notes that ETCS Level 2 is the only system which meets those requirmentes.

    NOw, let’s look at ETCS and CBOSS:
    * incompatible RF frequency bands (GSM-R in, uh, 700MHz spectrum,. vs 200MHz for ITCS/CBOSS)
    * incmpatible encoding of digital information on RF (GSM-R versus .. whatever A now-defunct-companywith-IP-owned-by-GE chose for Amtrak Michigan)
    * incompatible packet formats
    * inoperable on the same track segment at the same time: you have to choose one or the other.

    let’s look at this like adults. CBOSS is totally incompatible with the technology which CHSRA has identified as necessary for HSR. (In this area, CHSRA has made a sane choice; ETCS is _the_ _only_ candidate for greenfieled signalling deployments, all over the world — with the exception of North America).

    There is just no fucking way that CBOSS can be made “compatible” with ETCS.
    The _only_ thing which can be done, is that HSR trainsets will have to be dual-equipped, with both CBOSS and ETCS Level 2; with expensive non-recurring enginereing (NRE) costs to integrate CBOSS into the native ETCS cab systems. And expensive, error-prone systems to switch the HSR cabs from native ETCS signalling, to CBOSS.

    I say again. CBOSS and ETCS are incompatible, in *exactly the same way* and for *exactly the same reasons* as driving on the right, versus driving on the left. I fyou mix them, you have to pick borders ahere everyone changes from one to the other (vice-versa, for the opposite direction).

    If you don’t enforce such boundaries and borders, in both cases you get the same result: collisions and fatalities. Anyone who says otherwise is either incompetent, or lying. Really. I tell you three times.
    And — unlike Ricahrd — never ascribe to malice what can be explained by incompetence.

    I can’t make it any plainer. Vbobier, do you see now why CBOSS is incompatible with CHSRA’s required ETCS Level 2 signalling?

    jonathan Reply:


    We also don’t have any indication that BART will voluntary give up one track for nothing in return.

    William, you’re missing the point. BART can give the right-of-way back to Caltrain for exactly what BART paid for it in the first place.

    By the way, I *do* trust that if you have any connection or affiliation with BART, you would let us know of it, as a minimal standard of honesty.

    Clem Reply:

    I don’t know why you guys are even arguing about CBOSS. It’s been known for more than a year, from Caltrain’s own bid documents, that CBOSS will not be compatible with HSR. Simple as that. If you can read, you can see this for yourself.

    jonathan Reply:

    Clem, I think you hit the nail on the head:

    … Caltrain’s own bid documents [say] that cboss will not be compatible with HSR. If you can read, you can see this for yourself.

    If the general population could read for themselves, they’d know that hundreds of millions of dollars of Prop 1A HR funds are to be spent on a system which isn’t compatible with HSR.
    But these technical details signalling systems are too much for most people, whom (as we’ve just seen) see no difference between amps and volts (stray current versus EMF), or between three-phase national electricity grid lines, and single-phase 25kV rail electrification using the rails and ground as return-path for the overhead catenary. They genuinely don’t get it.

    So politicians and public employees can say “everything is compatible”, and business goes on as usual.

    William Reply:

    I got all my information from this blog, Clem’s blog, and official websites. I don’t know where you get the idea that I work for government.

    However I am an Engineer working for an IC company, so I can comment from my experience on working in a big project under tight deadline. Most of time engineers would actively working to remove dependencies to other departments and/or other companies because having these dependencies does not help accomplish one’s job any faster or easier or in the spec one wants it to. It is up to the management to require working with other department or other companies to take the best learning from others.

    This is where my point of making Caltrain, Metrolink, BART “under” CAHSRA from, as right now they are parallel organizations that are not required to work with each other at all, much less for CAHSR’s benefit. One say that BART should give up one track for CAHSR so no tunnel is needed because CAHSR can bring more ridership to BART, well, so does the current configuration. I don’t know if an executive order from the Governor has any bound on BART or Caltrain, as they are not funded by the state, but we can try. However, CAHSRA, BART, Caltrain are all created by law passed by the state legislature, so we can either have another super agency manage them, or making CAHSRA the managing agency.

    William Reply:

    When Caltrain made the CBOSS requirement, it was under the 2015 PTC deadline, and CAHSRA, although already stated in its technical documents, had not make any official selection of PTC systems.

    The only way I see to resolve this is to make CAHSRA the lead agency in selecting PTC for all HSR shared lines, or even better for the whole California.

    But come to think of it, when Bay-to-Basin is completed, it would be ~10 years after Caltrain implemented CBOSS, given the current 2015 deadline, so with the larger CAHSR fleet, it is possible that CBOSS be ripped out for CAHSR compatible systems.

    jonathan Reply:


    Personally, I think PTC is a crock of shit: it’s a US-invented term for a US-special version of wha tother English-speaking countries call Automatic Train Protection. PTC exists so that US industry can come up with a unique US “solution” for what are, admittedly, unusually long an dlow-volume lines, predominanlthy single-track lines at that.

    Sweden has similar conditions (on a smaller scale) and sponsored “ERTMS Regional” for the same reasons — lots of single-line, low-volume trackage, where the captial cost of instlaling “normal” ETCS is hard to justify. ERTMS Regional looks a lot more like the Wabtec system.

    _if_ — and it’s a big if — the US Class 1 rail companies keep prevaricating about PTC, and go back go Congress complaining that PTC can’t be implemented by the 2015 deadline and they need another five years — then it seems possible that one of the large US companies with a stake in ETCS technology (like GE) might try and push ERTMS Regional as an off-the-shelf standard “solution”. Oh well, one can daydream.

    However. CBOSS is a white elephant, a unique-to-Caltrain system, based on ITCS, to be modified to (at to Caltrain’s special requirements. To date, the ITCS development team has an appalling record: it took them ten yeras to realize that they’d need SNMP or equivaalent in their wayside nodes!

    But the kicker is that Caltrain Modernization, and CBOSS, is being funded from the Prop 1A HSR pot –not just the “local connectivity” pot. And it’s _illegal_ to spend that HSR money on non-HSR systems., on non-HSR-compatible systems, when it could be spent on Phase 1 HSR. Prop 1A makes that quite plain.

    Ergo, it’s _illegal_ to spend that money on CBOSS. Morris, are you taking notes?
    What are the penalties for spending Prop 1A funding in violation of Prop 1A? Civil, criminal or — as Richard would put it — grounds for promotion?

    Meanwhile: yes, CHSRA’s documents make it quite plain that they viewed CBOSS as being of use only during a construction phase. Those documents go back to the completely-separate-and-unequal-tracks design.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    From a purely technical point of view, there is no problem, having the CBOSS and the ETCS equipment on board of the train. Having two signalling systms on board is considered “extreme simplicity” in Europe, where international use easily requires 4 to 6 different signalling systems to be understood by the vehicle.

    Switching system while in motion is a bit tricky, but common practice; it happens every time a TGV enters and exits a high speed line; it happens every time a train enters and exits the Lötschberg base tunnel, or the Swiss NBS (which both are ETCS Level 2).

    Also, it is possible (and implemented) to have two signalling systems in concurrent use: The LGV Est in France is equipped with ETCS Level 2 and the standard French KVM 430. The preferred system is ETCS, but if a vehilce does not speak ETCS, KVM 430 is used. Of course, such a set up requires care with the control center, but it is done.

    Another thing to keep in mind: by the time the signalling system has to be operational, it may well be that GSM-R has been replaced with LTE(-R) (so much for frequencies etc.).

    Clem Reply:

    Having two signalling systms on board is considered “extreme simplicity” in Europe

    Don’t confuse commonplace with simple. It is technically challenging and very expensive to fit multiple and functionally redundant systems to rolling stock, to the point where the Europeans were driven to spend billions to develop ERTMS to end all this nonsense. The basket case is Thalys, whose trainsets are said to cost 60% more than a regular TGV set because they carry a half dozen different signaling systems to traverse France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany at low and high speeds.

    Jon Reply:

    Even with the existing political setup CAHSR can negotiate with BART to get what it needs at Millbrae.

    Let’s start with the fairly reasonably assumption that CAHSR does not have the budget to spend $2b on a Millbrae tunnel. Let’s also assume that Caltrain and CAHSR cannot share platforms for a multitude of non-reasons that we won’t go into here. So with the blended plan and no tunnel, CAHSR will use Caltrain tracks, but no high-speed trains will stop at Millbrae. That’s bad for CAHSR and bad for BART, because BART would benefit from all those HSR passengers paying to get from Millbrae to SFO, or one of the other BART stations between Millbrae and SF. So it’s in the financial interest of both parties for CAHSR to buy one of BART’s tracks from them at a reasonable price.

    The reason this hasn’t yet been proposed is because the planners are not operating under financial constraints, and did not make the assumption that CAHSR does not have the budget to spend $2b on a Millbrae tunnel. Now that some financial realism has been inserted into the planning process we might see this idea resurface. Realistically, the Millbrae tunnel idea is already dead in the water.

    jonathan Reply:

    How much would a people-mover from the Caltrain platforms to SFO cost?
    More or less than $2bn?

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    But but but then people would miss out on their opportunity to ride BART!

    Joey Reply:

    Less, if it’s done with any remote degree of competence.

    Jon Reply:

    Whether you use a people mover or BART, HSR has to stop at Millbrae so you can get on it.

    Yes, they should just coordinate with Caltrain so they can both use the same platforms. Bet you they won’t though.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    The SFO ALRS (Airport Light Rail System aka “Airtrain”) budget was about $430 million in circa 2000 dollars, for civils, systems, stations, and vehicles, I don’t have a better breakdown, though the rail+vehicles contract to Bombardier was ~ $140 million of that. This includes nine stations, one maintenance depot, and (very roughly eyeballed) circa 4.2 route-km of gudeway (aka “track”)

    Extending to Millbrae would add roughly 2.3km of route and a single station. The most expensive civil structure — the (for all practical purposes) rusting away BART Quetin “inexplicably unindicted” Kopp memorial southern wye leg across Highway 101 and out to the Caltrain right of way — is already in place, and the rest of the route is plain sailing. It would be possible to re-use the useless BART tunnels leading to Millbrae for the ALRS extension, but it’s may be as good ideafor all to fill them in for various reasons (after inviting Steve and Quentin and friends to check them out) and build a a light elevated structure alongside Caltrain to Millbrae.

    Half a billion-ish — even at California rip-off costs — seems like a nice round number to make it happen. Double that (or even quadruple it) and the public come out billions ahead, and end up with a much better transportation system than today’s Kopp-promoted PB-designed abortion.

    But does anybody — even one single person — working for any of the “public” agencies ever act remotely in the public interest? Look around you for the answer.

    Jon Reply:

    That’s half a billion more than needs to be spent. The SFO BART wye was a stupid idea, but now that it’s there, it may as well be put to good use. Reinstate the Millbrae – SFO BART shuttle train once HSR opens, preferably free for transferring HSR passengers, and you’re done. The only infrastructure change that needs to be made is converting one BART track to standard gauge and adding another standard gauge track on the west side of the station. Job done.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Jon, the issue that that having BART run to Millbrae involves costs, significant costs.
    I wouldn’t advocate pulling it up otherwise: not I don’t advocate tearing up any other part of the existing might-as-well-live-with-it BART network.

    (There was an excellent window of opportunity for making Oakland-Fremont-SJ a conventional rail system, with better service, and avoiding ridiculous and unjustifiable seismic costs for retrofitting the “A-line” to Fremont, but — surprise!!! — that opportunity was never considered, let alone taken.)

    A 3-car BART train — even a hypothetical two-car hypothetically driverless BART train — shuttling back and forth between SFIA and Millbrae is simply the wrong tool for the job. But far worse is the obstacle that the BART station (spare me the “multi-modal” BS!), the BART tunnel structures, the BART portal, the BART platforms, and crazy little BART yard and the Santa-Clara-bound BART “tail tracks” pose to corridor-wide Caltrain/HS service.

    Even if a $2.5 billion tunnel for a single Caltrain track were to be rejected as idiotic (ie even if everybody at PBQD, CHSRA, HNTB and Caltrain were to die in a fire), the space constraints at the Millbrae station site and on what was FORMERLY Caltrain ROW to the north and south of it are such that the best solution is to tear up and BART tracks, admit “mistakes were made”, and do something better.

    I guarantee you that the half billion (or whatever, double it if you like) to extend ALRS to Millbrae replacing BART is a quarter of the cost of keeping BART at Millbrae while attempting to wedge in useful and desirable and operationally non-nonsensical Caltrain/HSR tracks and platforms and platform access.

    So, I’d agree with you normally, but this is a pretty exceptional case. And as I note, it’s a case deliberately created by PBQD/Bechtel, designers of the BART extension. Talk about people who need to die in fires!

    jonathan Reply:

    … silly silly people. Sunk costs are just that: sunk costs. Money thrown in the ocean.

    Abandon the BART line to SFO. Extend the airtrain to Millbrae.
    Take not just one platform at Millbrae, but *two platforms*, for HSR.

    Done. And cheaper ;). And as for “negotiation” with BART? Just take it by eminent domain ;)

    Jon Reply:

    I’m not convinced that modifying BART’s infrastructure to accommodate HSR would be more expensive than replacing it with an Airtrain extension. It would be nice if the CAHSR engineers actually did a cost/benefit analysis of the various options rather than just saying ‘build a tunnel!’, but there you go.

    The other reason I would favor keeping BART at Millbrae is because HSR passengers who live near a BART station south of about Glen Park would find it quicker to transfer to a BART train at Millbrae rather than transfer from Transbay to Embarcadero in downtown SF, or take the Airtrain to SFO and get on BART there.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    admit “mistakes were made”, and do something better.

    Does the station have to be at Millbrae then? Rational or even semi rational people would have put the SFO BART station and the Caltrain SFO station just west of the spaghetti bowl of BART tracks., people mover tracks and freeway flyovers that go into the airport.

    … and why is BART in a tunnel and the Caltrain tracks at grade through Millbrae? I have feeling I don’t want to know.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Jonathan, if you reduce Millbrae’s BART infrastructure from three tracks to one, you probably won’t be able to run the frequency that currently serves Millbrae + SFO.

    Joey Reply:

    Eight tph turned on one track … that would be unheard of by modern metro standards! … but yeah, there’s really no reason to take more than one track.

    Jon Reply:

    Yep. If we are going to remove BART between SFO and Millbrae, don’t waste money extending Airtrain out to Millbrae, jut extend it to the other side of 101. Lleave Millbrae as is, demolish the southern leg of the wye and build a combined BART/Caltrain/HSR/Airtrain SFO station in the space where it was. The existing BART station at the international terminal can be kept as a turnaround for short-line services.

    Of course, the solution that will probably be proposed is for HSR to use the existing Caltrain platforms at Millbrae, and BART to be extended down the peninsula.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Jonathan, if you reduce Millbrae’s BART infrastructure from three tracks to one, you probably won’t be able to run the frequency that currently serves Millbrae + SFO

    Alon, that’s how BART operates today. All revenue trains (4tph, max) use the one (of three, count ’em, three, construction and engineering corporation enriching and public defrauding) BART platform track at Millbrae. BART platform tracks 1 and 2 are never used in revenue service, and pretty much never were.

    Lots of people deserve to die in a fire for this.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Ah. I was thinking it was going to go up to 8 tph, rather than stay at 4 (SFO trains would be truncated to Daly City?).

    jonathan Reply:

    Alon, why can’t one platform serve 4tph?!? And in this option there wouldn’t *be* any BART to SFO: just take the free AirTrain. ;)

    Peter Baldo Reply:

    If HSR is going to be built, and Caltrain modernized, it makes sense to rethink and rebuild the entire HSR/Caltrain/BART/Airport station, making connections among all 4 better in the process. Maybe Caltrain, HSR, and BART should all share a station underneath the airport terminal.

    I don’t think any of the current interconnections is particularly good. Even Airtrain, being so far above the terminals, so difficult to reach, so crowded, and so slow, isn’t so great. It’s ridiculous to force Caltrain and HSR riders to travel on BART for 1 stop, if they want to go to the airport, then force them to take Airtrain to their terminal. Even BART riders usually have to jump on the Airtrain to get to their terminal. Super Shuttle beats the pants off of any and all of them.

    So, stop calling BART names. Just build something from scratch that’s better for everybody.

    jimsf Reply:

    Right wrong realistic or not, I have no doubt that the reason they wyed bary into the sfo internation terminal is because bart ultimately intends to run trains up from the south directly into the airport just as it runs trains from the north directly into the airport. Id bet money that given enough time, they will do it. They will fill that gap with a direct trip from the southbay into the terminal. Thats why the wye is already in place.

    Ben Pease Reply:

    re adirondacker12800: “why not put the station due west of the airport?”
    The undeveloped area just west of the airport is a marsh inhabited by endangered San Francisco garter snakes. The developed areas west of that are low-density residential. Renovating Millbrae Ave. BART is probably a better fit for a multi-modal center than a new site confined to the Caltrain right of way with no major access roads.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If you are using the people mover to get from the remote parking lot to the HSR station there doesn’t need to be access roads except for deliveries and emergency vehicles.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Re Ben Pease and garter snakes: the tiny remaining area of marsh between Highway 101 and the Caltrain ROW is indeed one of the last San Francisco Garter Snake toeholds.

    However, the “West of 101” combined Caltrain/BART/Airtrain station was to have been built on and east of the Caltrain ROW, not on the marsh.

    What happened was the typical grossly unethical, grossly unprofessional, limitless corrupt business which is our CHSRA-controlling pals at PBQD’s entire business: they and their pals unilaterally redefined “Caltrain/BART/Airtrain station on the Caltrain ROW” to mean instead “4000 car parking garage and freeway access ramps to the parking garage, all located on the wetlands”. And we can’t have that, can we? Oh no!

    So the only feasible alternative was to built a 4000 car parking garage on the site of low-income housing in Millbrae (redevelopment at its finest!), with the BART main line conveniently bypassing the airport and temporarily ending in “tail tracks” heading towards Santa Clara. Also, as a totally unexpected side-effect, this maximized the cost of the project and the amount of utterly useless (and today essentially unused) BART track! Score!

    “Alternatives development”, “alternatives analysis”, and “environmental analysis”, the PBQD way! The exact same “analysis” (= corporate profit maximization and public pauperization) process went down with Los Banos vs Altamont.

    Everybody involved deserves to die in a fire.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    was to built a 4000 car parking garage

    At two bucks a day how long will it take to pay it off? I come up with “never” assuming they keep the lights on, pay someone to come around and collect the parking fees out of the collection box – at two dollars a day it’s an automated system isn’t it? sweep it out now and then etc.

    Amanda in the South Bay Reply:

    Jesus, all you need to do is transfer between Caltrain and BART at Millbrae more than once to realize that BART could easily lose a track (or maybe even two) and it wouldn’t matter at all. That whole station is a concrete monstrosity.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Someone with graphics skills should draw a meme of a concretized Godzilla stomping over San Jose.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Would anybody notice?

    There are plenty of people in SJ (the tenth most importantest city in the universe!), but they’re not downtown, and few would notice if downtown were to disappear — provided the TOD-tastic sacrosanct freeways already ripping right through it were un-stomped.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    ..Second Avenue Subway… some of the tunnel work will be 50 years old before it sees a train.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    So you think that the 1970s-era tunnels will see Phase 2 service in the early 2020s? That’s optimistic. I would’ve guessed 2060 at the current rate. (Full completion is next century.)

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The bits and pieces of Phase 1 built in the 70s are already at least 40 years old. If they complete it by 2016 it won’t quite be 50 years old. If they complete it in 2016 like they keep insisting they will.
    106th Street for the 100th anniversary of the opening of the IND!
    125th for the 100th anniversary of tearing down the Third Avenue El!. The parts in the Bronx that survived into the 70s….

    Alon Levy Reply:

    But the parts built in the 70s are not Phase 1 but Phase 2 – those are the tunnels between the stations in East Harlem.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    The second set of platforms at 63rd Street have been there since the 70s. Well the cavern anyway.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Ah. That. Sorry, wasn’t thinking straight.

  4. Donk
    Sep 6th, 2012 at 22:22

    Good thing we have PB to design our railroad beds.

    Nathanael Reply:

    They’re quite good at designing heavy construction.

    jonathan Reply:

    I haven’t heard of any BART lines falling down.

  5. James in PA
    Sep 6th, 2012 at 22:56

    Conference on Permafrost (and Railroad related construction techniques.) August 2006
    One week conference. Over 100 abstracts posted.

    Rail Embankment Stabilization on Permafrost May 2010

    found from Google search “frost deformation siberia railroad”

    The the failed China HSR project was rushed, (Russia and China) have been studying permafrost extensively for over 100 years.

    James in PA Reply:

    Constructing the Qinghai-Tibet Railroad: new challenges to Chinese permafrost scientists 2003


    Useless Reply:

    @ James in PA

    Railways in China’s Northeast(ie Manchuria) were originally built by the Japanese 100 years ago, and has served China well since 1945. This is why China’s own effort to build a new railway in Manchuria failed, because China has not built one before and lacks the experience.

    VBobier Reply:

    Of course back when the empire of Japan occupied Manchuria, Japan called it Manchuko and setup a puppet government…

  6. Andy M
    Sep 7th, 2012 at 02:54

    What percentage of the total Chinese HSR system is to be rebuilt? Probably a very small percentage. What percentage of highways or airports have had to be reworked shortly after completion? Who can say in all honesty that they’ve never had to bring a product they brought back to the shop because it turned out to be defective? The only way to avoid mistakes is to do nothing at all. But if you want to achieve change, you have to go out and do things. Some percentage of errors will thus be inevitable.

    Paul Druce Reply:

    It’s about 55 route-kilometers.

    Useless Reply:

    @ Andy M

    > What percentage of the total Chinese HSR system is to be rebuilt?

    100%. All HSR tracks built in China to date will have to be rebuilt in as little as 10 years.

    synonymouse Reply:

    @ Useless

    I am curious as to why you are convinced that all the Chinese hsr is so botched as to require total reconstruction. I am not saying you are wrong just incredulous they could have done such a bad job, almost seemingly on purpose.

    As to corruption, we have a lot hereabouts too. Just consider such notables as Heminger, Willie Brown, Rose Pak.

    And now for something entirely different – rechargeable electric buses in the Valley. Anybody know if these things are compatible with existing trolley bus tech – operating voltage for instance?


    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Why do you need a battery operated bus if there are trolley bus wires?

    synonymouse Reply:

    This operation would save on the cost of overhead. Sac is the only place in the Valley, today, with overhead lines. Only trolley buses in Ca. are in SF.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    If there are no overhead wires there isn’t any problem with the battery bus’s voltage, frequency etc not being compatible with the overhead wires.

    synonymouse Reply:

    It would be advantageous if the systems were compatible. Invaluable R&D coming back to the electric traction industry.

    In the fifties and sixties there was virtually no development or manufacture of any consequence in the US in electric transit. The first Flyer trolleybuses had to use rebuilt motors and controls. On of the busstitution pro-diesel arguments was you can’t get equipment and parts anymore. Whereas the diesel bus market remained viable, even without GMC coach.

    The more suppliers the healthier the industry and compatibility is key. Look at the blinking BART proprietary disaster.

    Useless Reply:

    @ synonymouse

    > I am curious as to why you are convinced that all the Chinese hsr is so botched as to require total reconstruction


    “A person with ties to the ministry said that the concrete bases for the system’s tracks were so cheaply made, with inadequate use of chemical hardening agents, that trains would be unable to maintain their current speeds of about 217 miles per hour for more than a few years. In as little as five years, lower speeds, possibly below about 186 miles per hour, could be required as the rails become less straight, the expert said.

    Strong concrete pillars require a large dose of high-quality fly ash, the byproduct of burning coal. But the speed of construction has far exceeded the available supply, according to a 2008 study by a Chinese railway design institute.

    Such problems, the expert said, are caused by a combination of tight controls that have kept China’s costs far below Western levels and a strong aversion to buying higher-quality but more expensive equipment from foreign suppliers.”

    synonymouse Reply:

    It would appear to be a public relations disaster. Send in Rose Pak.

    Our hsr will suffer its own failures. I suspect TehachapiBahn will prove very disappointing as well but for different reasons, still the hollow-core will hold together over here. It will be expensive to operate and maintain and terribly underutilized in relation to its costs. What’s the passenger potential between Bako and Mojave?

    And they probably will not even see their way to exploit the long-haul connection to the East at Mojave, which is Tehachapi’s feature that Tejon lacks.

  7. John Nachtigall
    Sep 7th, 2012 at 07:56

    It is not because they were going too fast and it is not because the technology did not exist. The reason this failure happened is the underlying culture of corruption in China. Simply put, it is ok to cut corners and try to get one over on whoever or whatever is on the other side of the deal. In this case it was a design flaw in the original route and track layout. But there are examples across the spectrum

    From plastisizer in baby formula


    to contaminated heprin


    to mine safety


    this is just another example in a long line of examples. I am also sure it will not be the last HSR example.

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    Dam construction:


    Bridge collapse:


    Mine safety:
    Way too many links

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    You left out the best one in the US…Galloping Gertie


    The difference being that those disasters were caused by poor engineering and inattention to detail, not by purposely corrupt actions. The people who designed those projects were not purposely trying to make money by making a substandard item (bridge, dam, etc.)

    But before you can say it, I think China today is similar to the US in approximatly the 1880-1920 period. The robber barons would be right at home in modern day China where who you know is much more important than what you know.

    You can scream all day about Bain…but they are not putting plastisizer in baby formula so it passes the protien check knowing that it is going to be consumed by babies.

    It is yet to be seen if China grows out of it like the US did. However, because it is not a free society and due to the inate preference to not “show dirty laundry” I predict they will not.

    Peter Reply:

    Mine safety is one area where the U.S. competes with China in terms of skirting regulations to increase productivity, though.

    The fact that the U.S. doesn’t have more mining accidents is mainly because we have less mines with less miners, plus a dab of following regulations thrown in for good measure.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Unions…As much as I hate modern union, they were created to make safe these kinds of industries (coal, steel, etc.). The reason the US has the safest mines in the world (and they do) is because unions forced companies to care about safety.

    Tom McNamara Reply:

    The reason the US has the safest mines in the world (and they do) is because unions forced companies to care about safety.


    Not exactly. A lot of your deep ore mining has been exhausted, so companies are forced to rely on on poryphry or strip mining to pull stuff out of the ground. Although it’s not necessarily *safer*, putting less people underground where they can get trapped and sue effectively limits miner’s liability and exposure.

    In fact, while miner strikes were helpful to the labor movement overall historically, I wouldn’t say they affect the degree of safety in the US except in so far as the regulations that Washington creates.

    joe Reply:

    How else do miners make mines safer but organize and have safety legislated?


    Largest civil uprising since the civil war.

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I hate modern unions (no really I do) but you can’t really argue that they changed the landscape for mining and steel industries for the better (at the beginning of their existence). In the early days of the unions they formed out of concern for safety more than for pay. It was not until later that they became the job wrecking, life sucking, organizations that we have today. In the beginning, they were entirely needed and did a good job of driving safety into the workplace.


    China is at 20X the death rate per ton of coal. Also this article is interesting because you can see how the death rate in the US has been driven down to practically 0. I would say it is as low as you can reasonably get it considering the inherent danger of the job.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Nearly zero except for the dead miners


    The 40 hour work week didn’t come down from the mount carved into a third tablet. It’s a post World War II convention brought to you by unions.

    joe Reply:

    12 hours a day 6 days a week.

    Kids worked.

    Doors to sweat shops were locked and workers trapped in fires.

    No retirement.

    This will all happen again… is happening again.

    Australian Billionaire publicly complains the paying $2 Australian dollars an hour is enough.

    jonathan Reply:

    @John Nachtigall:

    oh, so you _do_ think that having Government regulations to forbid plasticizers and other harmful chemical sin baby formula, is a good idea? If you do, when does regulation for the public good become “evil”?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    I never said government regulation was bad. You have me confused with other people on this board. My job is to deal with FDA regulations ensuring my company meets those regulations to ensure safety and compliance. Without those regulations there are lots of people that would do lots of stupid (or evil) things. They are needed and justified. Without them you would just have modern day snakeoil salesmen who would take advantage of sick people.

    And the problem in China is not the regulations…what they did was illegal there also. And you can also argue it is not the punishment, I think in the end they were sentenced to death for that. The problem is for every case you hear about there are dozens and dozens that you don’t. Like India and Greece the culture is one of corruption, it is all about who you know. It all boils down to enforcement and respect for life. As I said above they are about 100 years behind the US curve, I don’t think they are gaining, however, so they could stall out like Russia did and just become a kleptocracy

    Drunk Engineer Reply:

    The difference being that those disasters were caused by poor engineering and inattention to detail, not by purposely corrupt actions.

    Oh, my. You are trying to differentiate between stupid and evil, which nearly almost impossible.

    For example, the Tutor Saliba change-orders: stupidity or evil?

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    we differentiate between stupid and evil every day. Manslaughter or Murder. Careless driving or Vehicular Homicide.

    Here is a hint. If you are putting plastisizier in baby formula you are evil. The only place that product is going is in babies mouths. The same with intentionally faking heprin. People will also always use that product in a life saving or extending situation.

    The people who developed the Teton Dam did not do it on purpose. They gained no money or advantage from making a dam that failed. They messed up big time, but they did not endanger those peoples lives on purpose.

    In the end, there are close cases (using substandard concrete that cuts into the factor of safety for building for example or the people who constructed the levees in New Orleans) but it is not all that hard to tell stupid from evil.

    On your specific question, I would say greedy but not evil. I don’t see any evidence they build substandard projects, just that they charge too much.

    Gianny Reply:

    Full collapse of 13 story building.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    There’s a popular science book I saw a while ago, whose name I forget, that explains all the engineering mistakes that can go wrong, and have. In one case, bad construction led to the collapse of a housing project tower in Britain.

    See also this.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    Murphy was an optimist. Whoever said Murphy was an optimist was looking on the bright side.
    … if they hadn’t put steel rims over rubber on the train’s wheels the steel rim never would have disintegrated. If they hadn’t put switches near the bridge the train wouldn’t have derailed under the bridge. If they hadn’t put supports for the bridge in between the tracks the supports wouldn’t have been hit by the derailed train. If the passenger had pulled the emergency brakes instead of finding a conductor. If the conductor had pulled the emergency brakes..

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Modern Marvels runs engineering disaster shows every once and a while. They should be required watching for young engineers. To remind you that we are playing with real lives and we can kill hundreds, if not thousands, by inattention to detail.

    And personally, I am most shocked by the number of stadium collapses in the world (US included). Given the expense and time of building them I am surprised they mess up that often.


  8. Jon
    Sep 7th, 2012 at 08:17

    OT: The CAHSR have just released a paper addressing the vital question of will the train make the cow’s milk go sour?


    Your tax dollars at work. I wish this was April 1st, but sadly it isn’t. There are some other good ones just posted:


    Peter Reply:

    Sadly, it’s not the most depressingly stupid paper they’ve had to release to appease farmers. The one discussing the impact (more like lack thereof) of wind produced by HSR trains on bee pollination was the worst, IMHO.

    Stephen Smith Reply:

    In France there was one study that found that wine grapes grown near HSR lines actually yielded better wine…something about the vibrations, if I recall correctly.

    joe Reply:

    errr. I doubt it. I doubt vibration helps if it has any impact (what would the the physiological mechanism?) and doubt the wine quality is better or that they measured that wine objectively.

    Homogeneity is important when harvesting grapes for wine. If they are getting better wines then that means they are intentionally harvesting grapes near the track as a block and monitoring the harvest.

    It would be interesting to see any study on this possible influence.

    Matthew Reply:

    So that’s how they get the bubbles in Champagne!

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    The vibrations might in fact aerate the soil, but not the grapes themselves. Peasants dancing in the fields after sowing were believed to have the same effect, now the farmers can enjoy the benefit without expending the effort. Ahhh, technology….

    William Reply:

    No, some of the farmers near the original TGV route also had similar questions, so it is good for CASHRA to address them now as these will alleviate some farmers’ objection to CAHSR routing.

    Jon Reply:

    I’m not digging at CAHSR for producing this report, it’s just sad that they had to. This is precisely why it takes so long to build anything in California.

    jonathan Reply:

    It is “good” for CSHRA to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on contractors to answer these “environmental objections”? That trains will make the cows’ milk go sour? I’m sure that one was tried in the 1830s. Then and now, an appropriate answer is: “Go stick your head in a pig”.

    William, do you work for a government agency of some kind? That’s the most-obvious answer for your, ahem, “interesting” perspective.

    joe Reply:

    “William, do you work for a government agency of some kind? That’s the most-obvious answer for your, ahem, “interesting” perspective.”


    Various studies have examined the effect of electromagnetic fields (EMF) on the health and well-being of dairy cows. Previous studies showed increased feed intake and fat-corrected milk in dairy cows exposed to EMF. The best attempts to evaluate the biological effects of EMF on yield and reproduction variables of cows in a semi-controlled environment have been conducted in Sweden (Algers and Hennichs, 1985) and in the US (Raleigh, 1988).

    From CARRD.

    What should I consider when writing EIR comments:

    It is perfectly OK to raise an issue under CEQA with no support. The burden of proof is on the Authority – not you. That said, if you have evidence or facts – even better. Please don’t let your “lack of expertise” prevent you from trying to comment on the environmental impact concerns you have. With that in mind, here are a few tips:

    CEQA requires answers to all questions about EIR. ALL questions.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    CEQA requires answers to all questions about EIR. ALL questions.

    So when Syn is worried about how it will concentrate mind rays on his bedposts. he can ask if the bubble gum will lose it’s flavor overnight?

    joe Reply:

    Yes. He can ask and if there’s literature about the topic, like for cows and EMF, they’ll have to resound.

    Miles Bader Reply:

    I suppose they’d need to include a glossary to translate his, er, idiosyncratic terminology (“stiltarail” = “viaduct”, etc)…

    jonathan Reply:

    “WTF” yourself. You talk about HSR making milk go sour; and then you post a quote which discusses, not HSR but _EMF_, and not making milk go sour, but _yield_, and _health_ of the cows.

    WTF, indeed. I wonder if you know what those acronyms mean?

    joe Reply:

    WTF = What The Fuck

    The CEQA EIR instructions summarized on CARRD state the law requires *all* questions about EIR be answered.

    I referenced the literature on EMF topic which indicate a possible impact on dairy is legitimate area that if unaddressed would halt the project.

    “It is perfectly OK to raise an issue under CEQA with no support. The burden of proof is on the Authority – not you”

    It is “good” for CSHRA to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on contractors to answer these “environmental objections”? That trains will make the cows’ milk go sour? I’m sure that one was tried in the 1830s. Then and now, an appropriate answer is: “Go stick your head in a pig”.

    William, do you work for a government agency of some kind? That’s the most-obvious answer for your, ahem, “interesting” perspective.

    It’s mandated the CAHSRA spend thousands to answer environmental objections. CARRD and others encourage it.

    “go stick you head in a pig” is non-compliant with the CEQA.

    If he does work for the gubberment, then he knows what the law required whereas yuor view would put it at risk – obviously. Just read the CARRD site.

    jonathan Reply:

    Sigh. I see Williiam is functionally illiterate.Joe, I wasn’t aware you were, too.
    Do you understand the difference between _HIGH_SPEED_RAIL, and _HIGH VOLTAGE_?
    Time for you to go back to grade school.

    William patently doesn’t: he conflates an unsubstantiated claim that HSR (note: NOT EMF) will make his cows unhappy and affect their milk. To which an entirely appropriate response is to cite SNCF’s reportt that TGVs running on LGVs have had no effect on French cows.

    As CARRD’s web-page on how to submit an EIR response says, the authority can simply minute that “response is noted”. The AUthority could cite SNCF reports that TGVs running on LGVs through French farmland have no effect on French cows. And then add “response notied”, which is bureaucratese equivalent to “go stick your head in a pig”. (You did get the HHGT reference, I trust?)

    But for Wiliam and others who don’t get the difference between HIGH SPEED and HIGH VOLTAGE,
    sure, you can respond to fears that HSR will make the cows run dry, by citing ian utterly-irrelevant report about cows near a 500kV transmission line. Do you _truly_ not understand the difference between a high-speed rail line, and a national electricity grid transmission line? Are US schools really that hopeless?

    joe Reply:

    I understand it’s time for you to Fuck off.

    jonathan Reply:

    Why, Joe?: Because you don’t understand the difference between a *high-speed rail line*, on the one hand, and a *national electricity grid high-voltage transmission line*, either?

    There’s no other rational explanation for responding to a questoin about HSR affecting cows, with a tudy about *national grid transmissoin lines* affecting cows.

    Your pick, Joe. you can agree that the electricity-grid line response is a non-sequitur, and therefore unecesssary; or you tacitly admit that you can’t tell the difference between an HSR line and a national-grind electricity line. It’s your call.

    jonathan Reply:

    Joe, let me try one more time.

    First, the farmers’ complaint is specious. A farrago, without merit. Famers have been making this complaint since the 1830s, when the fantastic speeds of 25 mi/hr of Stephenson’s first locomotives would allegedly cause cows to go off their milk and miscarry. But cows the world over are not bothered by rail electrification, 25kV AC or 3 kV DDC — both can be seen in France and elsewhere in Europe, where cows have been used to TGVs for _generations_ — human generations ,not bovine. The complaint is without merit.

    Second, and more significantly: I’m not opposed to CHSRA answering such comments. I submit that citing French experience is a sufficient answer. And I do apologize if you didn’t get the reference ot the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy line, “go stick your head in a pig”.

    But — and here’s the rub — the material which “William” posted, citing studies of of national electrical-grid transmissions, is *irrelevant*, because the transmission method is
    *completely different*: three-phase AC with three independent conductors, versus single-phase rail electrification with a single conductor, and the rails/ground as return.

    And what _that_ — citing a totally irrelevant study — tells me is that the people preparing the responses are incompetent.. I would be glad to say so in court, as an expert witness, though I’m sure the stop-HSR-at-any-price people can,and will, find better-credentialled experts..
    Oh, and ipso facto, “William”, whoever he is, is incompetent, too.

    (Morris, I hope you’re taking notes).

    D. P. Lubic Reply:

    I wonder if any of the farmers involved read this site, and see that we think they’re silly for sounding like their frightened predecessors of the 1830s. Of course, in the 1830s, railroads were really new, but to hear this sort of thing today. . .

    jonathan Reply:


    my stepfather, his brother, and their father were dairy famers. My stepfather went off to college and became a leading researcher in his field. His younger brother stayed on the family farm, and — if he hadn’t sold out, I could see him being concerned Silly, but concerned. And frankly, being much more reassured by seeing pictures of French cows happily grazing while a TGV zooms past, and hearing from unconcerned French farmers.

    I’m waiting and wondering whether Richard will say anything about Special Local Cow Conditions…

    (PS: “farmer” is a New Zealand thing, I can’t even _think_ ‘sheep rancher’ with a straight face).

    Jon Reply:

    I think ‘Jonathan’ is training to be another Richard M. C’mon people, this is only the internet. Don’t take yourselves so seriously.

    jonathan Reply:


    Chalk up one more person who doesn’t know the difference between single-phase AC with a single conductor (plus ground), and 3-phase AC transmission lines. or between “current” and “field”.

    Jon Reply:

    I know the difference perfectly well, given that I work as an electrical engineer. What you don’t seem to understand is that talking to other people as rudely and arrogantly as you do makes you a complete asshole, regardless of whether or not you are factually correct in what you are saying

    jonathan Reply:

    Here are pctures, for the readers with special needs.

    A picture of a 500 kV transmission line:

    See the big steel pylon, the big electrical cables, the insulators. And Here is a 500 km/hr test train:

    one of these things is not like the other. And here is a picture showing cows clearly terrified (sarcasm) by a passing TGV

    I defy William or anyone else to explain how EMF from a 500 kV transmission line, is relevant to an HSR line passing by cows in a field. Unless of course CHSRA plans to put a 500 kV transmission line through the farmer’s field. But the farmer didn’t say a damn thing about that.

    (PS: I am using “farmer” in the Commonwealth-English sense.)

    joe Reply:

    I must be a special needs retard because the report title is

    California High Speed Rail Authority
    Dairy Impacts
    Effect of noise, vibrations and electromagnetic fields from a high-speed rail system upon dairy production

    Now the reports says

    The proposed project has raised questions and concerns regarding its impact on many established and customary agricultural practices and consequent potential imposition of new regulatory restrictions. Customary agricultural practices found in the Valley are as varied as is the diversity of agricultural products and commodities produced. The San Joaquin Valley as a natural resource is unique to the state, the nation, and arguably the world by the quality and quantity in the diversity of its agriculture.
    The CHSRA has created a “technical” agricultural working group to assist the CHSRA in responding to the more technically oriented questions and concerns that have been asked regarding impacts to agriculture resulting from activities during the construction phase and the daily operation of the High Speed Train. The agricultural working group membership is comprised of members in possession of technical expertise in various categories of agriculture activities and infrastructure.
    The proposed project has raised concerns with regards to dairy farming due to possible effects of noise, vibrations and stray current on milk production, breeding, and overall health of the dairy animal.

    CEQA requires these questions be addressed.

    Farmers are asking and it’s not CEQA complaint or wide to be an asshole know it all.

    jonathan Reply:

    No, Joe. And it’s not germane to cite a study about a national-grid electricity transmission line.
    that isn’t relevant, no more so than the scientist who deliberately subjected cows to thirty micro-Tesla. — about the magnetic field strength you’d get in an NMR imaging machine, er, excuse me, MRI.

    And do continue your charming anecdote about (I quote) “Stray current”.
    You _do_ understand the difference between current and EMF, don’t you? Amps versus volts?
    25kV single-phase rail electrification, versus a national electricity-grid transmission line which uses *three-phase AC*?

    Rail electrification can have problems with stray current because of using the rails as “ground” — the return path for the electric field. Three-phase transmission lines don’t use the earth for transmission: they use three separate cables (or multiples of three), one for each phase. There’s no separate “return path”: it’s split between the three phases.

    There is *no* relation, *none at all*, between the study of a national electricity grid transmission line, and the stated query about HSR. None at all. The study of electricity–grid transmission lines is *irrelevant*.

    That’s not me being a know-it-all; that’s just a *fact*. If you disagree, please explain why you think the cited report _has_ any relevance. Actual reasons, not an argument-from-authority like “Oh, CHSRA’s contractors put in in, so it must be required by CEQA”.

    William Reply:


    These questions may seem “stupid” to you, but not to the farmers of which HSR line would pass through. And it is the law for CAHSRA to answer them in preparation of FEIR, no matter how stupid they are and in relevance to CAHSR.

    In fact, your reply may as well be CAHSRA’s response to the questions, but they are require to anwer them.

    jonathan Reply:


    I am glad to see you agree with me!

    What I _said_ was that CHSRA could well answer by citing the fact that French cows are thriving by HSR lines, plus “response noted” — which is bureacrateese for “go stick your head in a pig” — the words formed by the company motto of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, “Share aned Enjoy”, when the giant letters fell through the roof of hte building, forming the words “go stick your head in a pig”.

    The point you persistently fail to understand is that CHSRA *DID NOT ANSWER* the questions, at let least not with the cited study of EMF (eletromagnetic field) effects on farm animals from 500 kV national-electricity grid, three-phase transmission lines. Because 500kV three-phase transmission lines — three wires, each carrying 120-degree-out-of-phase AC — have almost nothing in common with 25kV single-phase overhead rail electrification using the rails and ground as return-path.

    the 500kV study is about electric-field impacts of cows under the transmission line.
    the dairy famers at least got someone to ask a relevant question, about leakage currents. Leakage currents are a consequence of using the rails-and-ground as the return path. something which by definition doesn’t happen with 3-phase transmission lines. Conversely, the voltages of a 500kV line are twenty times that of a 25kV rail electrification line, so the EMF of the 25kV line is inconsequential.

    It’s a really rather nice example of incompetence and ignorance, one in which you seem glad to partake.
    CHSRA may as well have answered that an above-ground high-pressure water main has no effect on cows; that has just as much relevance to HSR. Hm. Or an oil or gas pipeline, maybe.

    jonathan Reply:


    sorry, I read your last message too quickly. I find the dairy-farmers worried that HSR will make their cows’ milk go sour to be rather provincial and wryly amusing. I suspect they’ve never heard of LGVs goin through the French countryside and French dairy farms, let alone the historical objections from the 1830s.

    Yes, there are aspects I find annoyingly and disturbingly ill-educated, or in your words “stupid”,and which I still have trouble accepting But those are the CHSRA, and whoever prepared their inappropriate response. And you, for citing it without realizing how inappropriate it was.

    Perhaps that’s because I grew up in a place where overhead rail electification (1.5kV DC) had been in place since the 1930s, and got discussed in high-school. And where modern, constant-tension 25kV AC electrification was under construction. (Richard will be glad to know it was built by a Swiss consortium.)
    I doubt it, though.

    William Reply:


    My first response was to Jon’s question/comment on whether it is wise to spend money and time to answer such a question. I said in fact is is good to answer such a question.

    As I didn’t read the report, I’ll take your word for it that it answer the wrong question.

    Yes I am technically illiterate on this issue, but this wasn’t what my original comment was about.

  9. synonymouse
    Sep 7th, 2012 at 12:31

    “It’s worth taking more time to get it right.”

    You mean like engineering out the optimal route at Tejon that shows every indication of being a half hour faster, 50 route miles shorter, and $5bil cheaper.

    TehachapiBahn is every bit as ill-conceived as any botched Chinese hsr. Curious the now proven to be shortsighted Chinese argument against tunneling is the same argument used against the dual Quantm Golf Course route tunnels at Tejon. Typical cheerleader double standards.

    One problem common to both Chinese hsr and the CHSRA is they are conceived to a considerable degree as workfare. Efficiency gives way to welfare politics.

  10. D. P. Lubic
    Sep 9th, 2012 at 11:09

    For the political junkies: Is race in the race? Who knows for sure?


Comments are closed.