Deleting Stops Doesn’t Make HSR Safer

Jul 29th, 2013 | Posted by

A horrific crash like that which took place last week in Spain provides a good opportunity to take a close look at California’s HSR system to see if there are any things that could or should be addressed to improve safety. But not every suggestion is a good one. Take this one from Thomas Elias, who suggests the problem is stops in the Central Valley:

What do stations in Merced, Fresno, Bakersfield and San Jose have to do with a crumpled train and at least 79 fatalities in Spain? It might be this: being rushed can lead to carelessness and that can bring disaster….

But no control system is fail-safe. So why not remove factors that might someday encourage an engineer worried about job ratings and on-time performance to do something risky?

Stops at intermediate stations (only lightly used during high-speed rides this columnist has taken in Europe) now appear to be the most obvious items that might create a rushed feeling.

So one California lesson from the Spanish crash may be to take a second look at those stations and figure a way to eliminate one or two before spending many millions to build them.

This doesn’t make sense. This is like saying the secret to reducing plane crashes at SFO is to have fewer planes serve the airport. Plenty of HSR systems around the world make intermediate stops between the largest destinations without a problem. That includes Spain, where the AVE trains between Madrid and Barcelona make intermediate stops on ERTMS-enabled tracks and have never had a problem.

California High Speed Rail Authority spokesperson Lisa Marie Alley also pointed out to Elias that the California HSR system will use much better signaling than the one in place in Galicia:

Still, insists Alley, there will be no risk of a Spanish-style accident. “We will have a fully unified control system covering the entire route where things talk to each other, not a piecemeal one,” she said. “Where we’ll make full speed is yet to be determined, but we will build absolutely the safest mode of transport for Californians that’s ever been seen.”

HSR is one of the safest methods of travel on the planet, and that will be true in California as well. One of its most important aspects is that it connects major cities in between SF and LA, and helps integrate the Central Valley into the rest of the state’s economy. Cutting out intermediate stops is completely unnecessary from a safety perspective and economically damaging to the state as well.

  1. D. P. Lubic
    Jul 29th, 2013 at 22:26

    “This doesn’t make sense.”

    I’ll say. If what this fellow is talking about were the case (stops reduce safety) then we should have problems with all-stops locals, transit systems like BART, heck, even bus systems.

    VBobier Reply:

    Agreed and no one has ever reduced the stops on a line, after an accident the same number of stops are there, just the mess has been cleaned up and repairs have been made, just as it should be.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    However, sometimes they’ve renamed stops, or even entire streets, to dissociate them from accidents.

    adirondacker12800 Reply:

    They change the name of the company operating the trains too. Though that had more to do with them going bankrupt after all the lawsuits. The BRT had the accident. On what is now a BMT line.

    Bus Nut Reply:

    This isn’t strictly true–in bus transportation safety concerns with stops (for example, poor visibility before a bus stop, such as a hillside or curve, leading to excessive rear-end collisions) can and do lead to bus stops being relocated or removed.

    The notion that stops lead to carelessness, however, is a new one to me! Making service stops on a busy line would tend to keep an operator alert and engaged unless there is a circumstance such as working through several hours without a bathroom break–proven to cause impairment.

  2. Donk
    Jul 29th, 2013 at 23:21

    What a nincompoop. This article wasn’t even worth rebutting. This is almost as dumb as reacting to the Newtown shooting by proposing to arm teachers. I’ve seen LA Times commenters that formulated better arguments than this nitwit.

  3. BMF from San Diego
    Jul 30th, 2013 at 07:07

    Rather sarcastically, the safest system is one that doesn’t run.

  4. BMF from San Diego
    Jul 30th, 2013 at 07:09

    Train drivers are trained to care about rules, not on-time performance.

  5. JJJJ
    Jul 30th, 2013 at 07:26

    We need to ban everybody from leaving their home. Thats the only way to be sure

    John Nachtigall Reply:

    Wont help

    I am no HSR suppporter, but the argument is stupid. I think he skipped a step in his logic. He seems to assume that

    no small town stops = no lack of modern control systems

    Those are not connected in this case since the small town stops are new and dedicated and it is the big city stops (on the ends) that use legacy track.

    The better question is how to resolve Ms. Alley’s statement about full controls the whole length with the apparent reality which is on the ends with legacy track it seems common practice is to NOT update the controls for a variety of reasons including logistics, cost, and motivation.

    So will CAHSR be full modern HSR control systems for the whole blended system or not? Modern control systems being defined as equivalent to the current HSR control systems on virgin track.

  6. Telso
    Jul 30th, 2013 at 08:29

    He’s got it backwards! As discussed frequently in the comments, the fastest way to cut time is remove the slow bits (reducing sharp curves, etc.). But once the track is built and the schedule is set, there are only a few things left to catch up once delayed: waiting till the last minute to decelerate, reducing dwell times, accelerating more quickly, going faster than the standard top speed (on a given section of track), and using padding (being on time with the technical track time).

    Faster top speeds can be reasonable to catch up but not reasonable in regular service (e.g. between two curves when it wouldn’t normally make sense to speed up and then slam on the brakes), but the speed should never be above what the track is rated for (if it’s safe to go 10 km/h faster on a section of track, the track should be rated 10 km/h higher, but you shouldn’t be using safety margins just to catch up a few seconds, as this and many accidents show, and PTC should enforce this). I gather acceleration is usually about maximum, while brake slamming isn’t, but so long as it’s just uncomfortable (not unsafe), that’s an operational decision to be made by the railroad, just as it is by the airlines, who balance extra fuel and maintenance costs versus value of making sure delayed passengers and plane arrive earlier. And dwell times are easy: if you’re late and it only took 20 seconds for all passengers movement and you scheduled a minute, you leave immediately. (And padding is free, and, please, let’s not start upping the padding to compensate; keep the 7% Swiss standard and move on.)

    If you’re worried about the engineer wanting to catch up when late, you want as many possibilities for him to make up time as possible. Clearly, that means putting in as many stations as possible, as they have the longest deceleration, the most dwell time and the longest acceleration. Obviously more stations have their own set of problems, both for safety and for operational reasons; we want exactly as many stations as makes sense, taking into account passengers served and convenience vs. cost and extra time for through passengers and safety, etc. No more, no less. (I suppose you could also put in more curves, but that’s idiotic for so many reasons.)

    But if we were basing our decision solely on remov[ing] factors that might someday encourage an engineer worried about job ratings and on-time performance to do something risky, we should be, if anything, adding stations, not removing them.

    wdobner Reply:

    Padding is not free. It has a real cost in terms of wasting resources which can be better utilized in other ways. As you say it should be kept to 7% and no more.

    Better to just not try to rectify a late train along the route. If a train becomes late en route, it should stay late. Adding to that lateness should be avoided, but don’t try to eat into margins to get a train back on time, and don’t force additional scheduled running time on every train to operate along the line. It’s likely going to be cheaper to maintain a relay train ready to slot into the schedule rather than have to schedule every train to operate additional running time.

    Unfortunately most rail and transit agencies have performance metrics which are driven by statistics such as on time performance. Thus it is to the management’s benefit to reduce the number of late trains by increasing padding rather than cutting costs by eliminating padding and accepting a few late trains.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    FWIW, padding (a reasonable amount of) does wonders for stabilizing the system. Small disturbances can be buffered by the padding, and will not propagate all over the network (well, this refers to the very extensively used Swiss network).

    About maximum speeds. The maximum speed for a line is set, and must not be exceeded. Period. However, there are cases, such as some Neubaustrecken of the DB, which are rated for 280 km/h, but normal speed is 250 km/h. But when the train is late, the driver is authorized to speed up to 280 km/h, in order to catch up a few minutes. This is absolutely safe, because it is still within the allowed speed.

    I still remember a trip (not on the Neubaustrecke, but with a tilting ICE), where there was a problem with the tilting mechanism, and we were running 15 minutes late. Somehow, they got the problem going away, and with aggressive driving, making full use of the allowed speeds, keeping stops at the absolute minimum etc. the driver gained about 13 minutes over a stretch which normally is schedued for 75 minutes. OK, it felt slightly rougher than normal, but I was impressed. Now, if that had been the regular scheduled timing, there would have been delays galore, as the smallest disturbance would not have been recoverable.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    It’s likely going to be cheaper to maintain a relay train [ie extra relief trains and crews] ready to slot into the schedule rather than have to schedule every train to operate additional running time.

    No, just no.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Well, with a dense service, it does make sense. The SBB has several relay trains (called Dispozug) located at the most important nodes. These trains can be at the platform within 5 minutes. They are used, for example, when a regular trainset has a problem, and should be taken out of the diagram, or they are used if the delay is more than the interval. That means these trains are used when there are serious issues with a single train set. But as soon as the regular set can get back in service, the Dispozug is taken out of the diagram. (in Zürich Museumstrasse, with 2 tracks per direction, that may happen in the way that the train entering service waits on one track for the one to take out of service, which enters on the other track. Then, it is changing trains on the same platform within one or two minutes; has to be that fast, because the next train is already waiting…).

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Max, I know that. 2 Dispozüge (last I knew) at ZH HB for ~2000 trains/day.
    That’s 0.1% “padding”, not the desirable 5-7% (or even 10% or even 15%) of schedule padding required for reliable function.

    Out “wdobner” friend couldn’t even imagine such a density of service, let alone a network of transportation services that is expected to operate predictably and reliably. “What, you mean you can change from one train to another without playing roulette and without being unpredictably delayed for an hour?”

    The real scandal we have here with America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals is the terrible maintenance inefficiency (high “spares ratios” of equipment that is not in revenue service) and the completely, total lack of integrated service/infrastructure planning (meaning lots of equipment parked at terminals “out of service” between peaks, meaming very slow reversal times at terminals, meaning schedules that maximize crew hours instead of customer revenue hours, etc.)

    The typical US “commuter railroad” has 100+% of the not-in-service equipment that anybody who cared efficiency or customer service would tolerate. They are welfare operations for the vendors and staff, not providers of public services.

    Moderate timetable padding and a small number of reserve trains are normal global best practice: zero padding, huge spares ratios, unjustifiable amounts of idle crews and equipment are all nonsenses.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    US rail has tons of schedule padding. I’d guess at least 15%+, judging by how ahead of time some nonstop runs are. When Amtrak’s recovering from schedule slips in Connecticut, it can make up around 20 minutes by the time it gets to Providence if I remember correctly: that’s 20 minutes of slack on a two-hour trip, so 20%. I’ve also been on a Metro-North train that got to Grand Central 7 minutes ahead of schedule, i.e. 7 minutes of slack on a trip of about 47 minutes from Stamford (it’s nonstop except for a stop at Harlem that the schedule warns is for discharging passengers and the train might leave early), or about 15% of slack.

    When delays are so common, you have to have that amount of schedule padding. Conversely, as per the CAHSR peer review documents, dedicated-track HSR around the world has 3-4%, since the trains are mostly isolated from the rest of the system, there aren’t many stops, and the systems are reliable.

    Max Wyss Reply:

    Actually, there is some schedule padding in the SBB system, but not that much (you don’t have much space when you have to get 6 trains from Killwangen to Zürich within 10 or so minutes). The S-Bahn has another smart system of padding. Instead of setting an absolute departure time for every station, there are only a smaller number of stations with a set departure time. The departure time for the other stations is set that it is essentially not possible to depart at that time, meaning that the train is always at least half a minute late. Only at the selected stations, the departure time is exactly calculated, and it includes some “indirect” padding. Again, another way to stabilize the system with small schedule padding.

    About the Dispozüge; it is a bit more, as these trains can do several operations per day, maybe 20 or so (for both train sets together), but that would already be a bad day…

    I guess one of the flaws with USAn commuter railroads is that they are excessively focused on peak service, and the concept of a dense schedule throughout the day and on weekends may be very “foreign”. And a second weakness is probably the fact that every operator has their own timetables, without any coordination (coordination which has to be (en)forced by a regional authority).

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The commuter railroads in the US tend to be pretty unified – each metro area has its own single agency. For example, everything in eastern New England is run by the MBTA. But even within agencies, there’s not much cooperation. The LIRR and Metro-North are both part of the MTA; they don’t cooperate, which led to the ESA cavern (no sharing at Grand Central) and to Long Island’s opposition to letting Metro-North serve Penn Station (“it’s our station, damn it!”). Even within Metro-North, the New Haven Line and the Harlem Line don’t have coordinated schedules for transfers.

  7. Paul Dyson
    Jul 30th, 2013 at 09:37

    Most disturbing is the CHSRA response from Ms Alley. “We have a fully unified control system”. Not with the blended plan you don’t, and especially not with any of the proposed IOS setups. Comments, Robert?

    jimsf Reply:

    That’s not a disturbing response. They don’t have one now because nothing has been built yet, but once trains go into operation of course train control will have been installed.

    Joey Reply:

    It will not be unified.

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    Comment: America’s Finest Transportation Planning Professionals are incapable of not lying.
    And Robert is as happy as can be about that: it’s CEQA and NIMBYs and Teabaggers and Palo Alto which are the sum of our problems.

    Jon Reply:

    It’s pretty obvious that CAHSR will rip out CBOSS and install ERTMS once HSR arrives on the peninsula. They simply funded CBOSS to buy Caltrain’s support in the near term.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Bullshit. It’s not obvious at all that CAHSR will do that. First, they can’t: Caltrain owns the line, not CA HSR. Second, spending Prop 1A HSR dollars on CBOSS, only to rip out CBOSS before HSR runs on it, is illegal: it means CBOSS is patently not compatible with HSR, and spending Prop 1A’s HSR dollars on local, regional, “connectivity” projects is explicitly forbidden by Prop 1A.

    thatbruce Reply:


    I don’t think Prop 1A states what you think it states:

    Under 2704.095.(d)

    Funds allocated pursuant to this section shall be used to pay
    or reimburse the costs of projects to provide or improve connectivity
    with the high-speed train system or for the rehabilitation or
    modernization of, or safety improvements to, tracks utilized for
    public passenger rail service, signals, structures, facilities, and
    rolling stock.

    If you’re just reading executive summaries, CBOSS meets this criteria. Unfortunately.

    Jonathan Reply:

    No, I’m specifically talking about the non-“connectivity” pool of money. Which has been used to fudn the “bookends”, Caltrain electrification and CBOSS.

    Jon Reply:

    First, they can’t: Caltrain owns the line, not CA HSR.

    For now. If you think PCJPB has more than negligible political sway in CA transit politics, I have a working Dumbarton bridge to sell you.

    Second, spending Prop 1A HSR dollars on CBOSS, only to rip out CBOSS before HSR runs on it, is illegal: it means CBOSS is patently not compatible with HSR,

    So wait, you’re arguing that CBOSS is compatible with HSR?

    and spending Prop 1A’s HSR dollars on local, regional, “connectivity” projects is explicitly forbidden by Prop 1A.

    Lots of things are explicitly required and forbidden by Prop 1A. Doesn’t mean there will ever be a successful lawsuit against CAHSR for violating Prop 1A. ERTMS will be pitched as an ‘upgrade’ to CBOSS rather than a replacement, and CBOSS spun as a necessary incremental stage to getting HSR on the peninsula. As a certain other commenter likes to say, Prop 1A is sacrosanct, except when it isn’t.

    Joey Reply:

    So what’s the point of that money we’re spending on CBOSS again?

    Jon Reply:

    There isn’t any.

    Jonathan Reply:

    O frabjous day! Callooh callay!

    Jonathan Reply:

    […] ERTMS will be pitched as an ‘upgrade’ to CBOSS rather than a replacement, and CBOSS spun as a necessary incremental stage to getting HSR on the peninsula.

    Sadly, that looks all too plausible. Where’s investigative reporting when it could actually have some benefit?

    thatbruce Reply:

    @Paul Dyson:

    The quote is in future tense, ‘will have’, and is conditional, ‘where things talk to each other’. In other words, it’s what they plan to do. Doesn’t mean that they’ll be able to do it, especially when one of their host RRs is hell bent on building something ‘special’ for their short empire.

    Jonathan Reply:

    You’re giving the CHSRA staff credit that they actually understand what they’re talking about.
    Do you really think the CHSRA staff understand the issues involved with CBOSS, and the parallels with the Spanish accident?

    thatbruce Reply:


    You mean, do they understand that by not putting more pressure on Caltrain to take up an established PTC system, they’re setting the stage for a future avertable accident to occur between a CHSRA train and Caltrain infrastructure? I think and hope they do. But do I think that they’re currently able to do much about it given their capture by vendors and lack of political leadership when it comes to interacting with other agencies? Not a chance.

    William Reply:

    If the people who are building it not worry about this, why do we worry about it?

    Also, there is nothing preventing CBOSS (ITCS by extension) to be extended to work on 200kmh+ HSR lines, or working with ETCS Level 2. By all means CBOSS only covers the equivalent functionality of ETCS Level 1, CAHSR still need something on top of that in any case.

    Jonathan Reply:

    Yes, William. BUt having CBOSS”work with” ETCS Level 2, is exactly like having driving-on-the-right interworking with driving-on-the-left. With the change-over at an intersection.

    William Reply:

    I don’t think me or you have enough expertise to determine how much of CBOSS can be compatible/reused for ETCS L2 or any other HSR ATC systems.

    Like Clem said in one post, GE is a supplier to ETCS, and GE also developed ITCS which is the core ore CBOSS. If CAHSR decided to use ETCS, it is possible that ETCS L2 functionality can be incorporated into CBOSS, say CBOSS L2.

    Jonathan Reply:

    You may not have enough expertise. Don’t speak for others.

    By the way, GE didn’t develop ITCS; they bought the company and development team who did. That team was what, 9 years behind schedule in deploying ITCS at the contracted speed? And that development team lacked expertise in areas of core competency. And yes, I *do* know have the expertise to determine that.

    William Reply:

    And how do you determine they “lacked expertise in areas of core competency”? Were you part of the team, or you are just saying it based on the news articles? Furthermore, are you implying that ITCS is not working as intended?

    Jonathan Reply:

    I am an expert in a relevant field. I am basing my conclusions upon statements in the team’s own report about “lessons learnt”, as they missed their implementation deadlines.

    I am not implying anything. I am stating as a fact that ITCS was delivered almost 10 years behind schedule. That in itself should be enough to give anyone second thoughts, about building a safety-critical system, with unique, one-tiny-deployment-in-the-entire-world, modifications, on top of ITCS.

    Joey Reply:

    And how much public money, how many hours of testing, how many potentially fatal accidents are we putting into developing this “interoperability,” as opposed to just buying a well-tested off-the-shelf system from the start?

    Jonathan Reply:

    Even at world prices — not the inflated, California transportation-industrial complex prices — we’re talking significantly higher cost than the list price of CBOSS.

    Just look at how much Siemens and Bombardier charge for legacy-naitional-signalling systems compatibility in their existing locomotive fleet’; and think of how many units they’re amortizing their development cost over.

    William Reply:

    I think how Apple and PC computers can read the same websites fine is a good analogy on how CBOSS/ITCS can interoperable with ETCS L2, if they were to be implemented on top of another.

    Jonathan Reply:


    reasoning by analogy is not a logically valid argument.

    If your knowledge is at the level of saying, “Gee, both Macs and WIndows PCs, can access the same web-sites, web-sites emitting HTML defined by IETF open-standards RFCs; therefore, CBOSS/ITCS can interoperate with ETCS Level 2”, then I don’t know what to say.

    A better analogy is coming up with a “standard” for traffic lights in which “red” means go, and “green” means stop. Now, how do you propose to have the special streets with these special traffic lights “interoperate” with the rest of the road network? _That_ is a much closer (though admittedly stretched, for pedagogical purposes) analogy.

    William Reply:

    Jonathan, per your example, you can have a driver “specifically” trained to perceive “Red as go, Green as stop” who can drive you around. The flaw of your example is that translation of signals can happen on both ends, not just the originator.

    Another analogy, the same data can be sent via IEEE1394 ports or USB ports. The protocol used on 1394 and USB ports are different. If you attempt to look at the data without the the proper receiving unit, they would be very different, just like the signals in your example. But if you look at the data after the receiving unit, the data would be the same.

    Third analogy, why can Intel processors run both Mac and PC? Because the processor translate every Mac or PC instruction into the same microcode that the processor understand, then execute them, then translate back to what each OS can understand.

    William Reply:

    Jonathan, per your example, you can have a driver “specifically” trained to perceive “Red as go, Green as stop” who can drive you around. The flaw of your example is that translation of signals can happen on both ends, not just the originator.

    Another analogy, the same data can be sent via IEEE1394 ports or USB ports. The protocol used on 1394 and USB ports are different. If you attempt to look at the data without the the proper receiving unit, they would be very different, just like the signals in your example. But if you look at the data after the receiving unit, the data would be the same.

    Third analogy, why can the same Intel processors run both Mac and PC? Because the processor translate every Mac or PC instruction into the same microcode that the processor understand, then execute them, then translate back to what each OS can understand.

    Jonathan Reply:


    Do you honestly not understand that analogy is _not_ a valid form of argument?
    You don’t even have the technical terms correct in your own analogies! I can’t respond to incoherent notnsense.

    One more time: The data being transported by ERTMS between “back office” and train, s *not*, repeat *not* the same actual data which CBOSS/ITCS transports from back-office to train.

    Your argument boils down to exactly this; one person can writ ein English, and another person can write in Russian. We can both send what we write over USB. Therefore — since the data goes over USB — we can each understand what the other one wrote. That is _exactly_ your analogy. You even begin one of your analogies by saying “exactly the same data [is] sent”.

    Translation is error-prone, flawed, and incomplete. If you actually cared, you could look up the history of attempts to “translate” on-the-fly between ISO OSI email, and SMTP: they failed. However there were email *gateways*, which bridged messages between disparate systems. But even then, the “messages” — the data payload — was understood as email and read by human beings.

    William, are you not even aware that in safety-critical systems like air traffic control, translation and mis-understandings are a big enough risk that ATC, worldwide, is conducted by default in English?

    William Reply:

    @Jonathan, I think you are getting around to my point, languages can be translated to a degree, how precisely depend on how close the languages are. Machine languages that serve the same function shouldn’t be more difficult to translate between each other than human languages.

    I think a translator hardware or software, can be designed to take care of the cases that no exact translation available, which is what you are worry about. In PTC/ATC’s case, it can be to tell the trains to slow down more, bigger gaps between trains, than trains on the same system. Yes, this can be avoided if all adapted the same system, but it is possible to operate a safe system this way.

    Jonathan Reply:

    William, I understood the point you’re trying to get at. I keep telling you: it doesn’t work that way.
    You simply don’t *have* a valid point; but that doesn’t seem to be getting through.

    Who in the world is going to pay for a “translator” and pay for assuring that the “translator” is safe?

    I can toss around words like “protocol state machine” and “state-transition diagram” and “isomorphism”, but I suspect I’m not conveying anything helpful to you.

    But even then, you’re ignoring the fact that to make your scheme work, one would have to install both the CBOSS (“Legacy”), AND brand-new ETCS Level 2 communicaitons machinery (ERTMS radio) along the Peninsula route.
    Given that the SFBA seems addicted to paying 4x-5x what other first-world countries pay to install signalling systems, that’s a few hundred million dollars, on *TOP* of the (by then) sunk CBOSS costs. At that point, it is in fact *CHEAPER* to ditch CBOSS altogether, and install ETCS in all the Caltrain trainsets (and a few cab-cars/donated locos for UP), than to attempt to build, and qualify, this hypothetical “translation software”.

    William Reply:

    …CBOSS/ITCS can be extended to work with HSR trains.

    To date, neither AAR nor FRA put their support of ERTMS L2 for use in the US.

    If CAHSR is a completely segregated system, then CAHSR can freely use any train control system that suits it. However, this is not the case today, nor it is easy to get rid of non-CAHSRA-ATC equipped train on the Peninsula due to variety factors of UP still holds freight, inter-city passenger rights, and the fact the SF Peninsula corridor is part of Strategic Rail Corridor Network makes it even harder to do so. Sure, laws can be changed, but that’s a battle neither PCJPB nor CAHSRA are willing to fight.

    William Reply:

    …Or CBOSS/ITCS can be extended to work with HSR trains.

    Joey Reply:

    Sure, CBOSS can work with HSR trains. It just means that all of the trainsets have to have another signaling system, there has to be another changeover point and associated safety risk, and we have to spend a few hundred million more which could otherwise be put to good use.

    Joey Reply:

    I will add that the Authority has (correctly) determined that ERTMS is the only system which can be used on their dedicated track (the fastest segments).

    jonathan Reply:


    Has anyone ever called you, on your and patronization and rudeness?

    Some of us have actually spent thirty-odd years, learning, and working, and researching (reading prior research), and doing original research, on issues involving computer networks; and internetworks; and distributed operating systems (distributed conensus); and network transport protocols; and network security. (Not to mention HTTP, and search engines; and the minor fact of knowing more about certain arcane aspects of virtual-machines than the founders of VMware, who I know by first names)..

    But your ground-rules seem to be, that because you know how to use a web-browser ,and how to use USB and FireWire peripherals, that you are competent to offer a technical opinion, on safety-critical software.

    No wonder that people like Richard M. go bonkers.

    That said, Richard’s knee-jerk Stalinist are completely unacceptable in any civilized society.
    I have lost count of how many drafts I have written here, with the words “Yes, Mr. Djugashvili”, and then cancelled. Ad-hominem is never appropriate. And never valid. No more, and no less, than argument-by-analogy. (I do hope you take that point).

    William Reply:

    I don’t recall I am ever rude with anyone on this board, nor it is in my personality to do so. You must be mistaken me with some other commentators.

    I am a computer hardware engineer, and I see data being formatted to fit certain output format everyday in the chip design, so forgive me if I don’t take the “no we can’t to it” response so easily.

    William Reply:

    “no we can’t do it”

    Richard Mlynarik Reply:

    If the people who are building it not worry about this, why do we worry about it?

    They’re morons with no professional skills and no accomplishments and no ethics — as has been proven time and time and time again throughout their sheltered-workshop no-compete “careers”.
    That’s an excellent match if you are also a moron, William.

    William Reply:

    @Richard, do you even realize why all groups you involved eventually become toxic and why people eventually ignore or exclude you in the decision making?

    Eric Reply:

    Is that a rhetorical question? Of course he doesn’t.

  8. synonymouse
    Jul 30th, 2013 at 10:42

    Getting rid of money-losing, politically mandated stops is the difference between hsr and AmBART.

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    Clearly we are narrowing the choice down to only one stop, Anaheim adjacent. Just a big (or actually small because there’ll be no money left for much construction) loop that brings you right back to the happiest place on earth.

    Joey Reply:

    It’s safest if there are no stops at all. Especially because that means that there would be no passengers.

    Jonathan Reply:

    What’s the accident rate on runaround (continuous loop, mine-to-consumer) coal trains?

    Paul Dyson Reply:

    I was going to recommend that system for loading passengers. If you can do it without quite stopping you save a lot of energy. When in the freight business I refer to passengers as “self-loading freight” but in this case we could convey them into a silo before arrival of the train.
    Well you can’t be serious all the time. You just have to know when we’re being serious.

  9. Derek
    Jul 30th, 2013 at 15:16

    Why Mega-Projects Always End Up Costing More Than Expected
    by Eric Jaffe, The Atlantic Cities, 2013-07-30

    The policy implications are clear: legislators, administrators, investors, media representatives, and members of the public who value honest numbers should not trust cost estimates and cost-benefit analyses produced by project promoters and their analysts.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Some large projects come in under budget, UK HS1 for example.

    Joey Reply:

    If only HS2 were remotely similar…

    nick Reply:

    Is this a cryptic comment and/or can you see into the future ? The budget for hs2 is now £42 billion plus trains ets which may be owned by a leasing company.

    Joey Reply:

    The per-unit-distance costs of HS2 are approaching that of the Chuo Maglev project. I suppose since it hasn’t started construction that it could technically come in “under budget,” but it’s hard to justify paying that much for conventional HSR.

    Joey Reply:

    Scratch that, significantly above the Chuo Maglev costs, if the numbers I’m using are correct – $340m/km for HS2 and $180m/km for the Chuo Maglev.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Joey Reply:

    Revising my estimate only makes HS2 look worse. If the cost of the Chuo Shinkansen is between $90b and $100b, then the 550 km route will come in between $165m/km and $180m/km.

    Keith Saggers Reply:

    Amazing project, can anyone explain the technology in layman’s terms?

    Alon Levy Reply:

    Where do you get $340m/km for HS2? Phase 1 is £21.4 billion for 190 km, which is $180 million/km, the same as Chuo rather than twice as high as Chuo.

    Joey Reply:

    It looks like the number I used included phase 2. Wikipedia was ambiguous about this, but following the references it becomes clear.

    thatbruce Reply:

    Except for toll roads. Promoters of those never underestimate how much it costs or overestimate how much revenue they get. Never.

  10. Reality Check
    Jul 30th, 2013 at 15:37

    Spanish train’s black boxes reveal driver was on phone to rail firm
    Court says Francisco Garzón was responding to call from Renfe controller when train derailed, raising questions about firm’s role in disaster

    The driver of the high-speed train involved in last week’s Spanish train disaster was responding to a phone call from the rail company when the crash took place, according to a preliminary investigation released on Tuesday. The driver, Francisco Garzón, has been provisionally charged with multiple counts of negligent homicide.

    The train, operated by Spain’s national rail company, Renfe, left the track and slammed into a wall as it was approaching Santiago de Compostela on a journey from Madrid to Ferrol in north-western Spain. The death toll from the accident stands at 79.

    In an official statement, the court handling the case said that “minutes before the derailment, [Garzón] received a call on his professional telephone to signal to him the route he had to take on arriving in Ferrol. It appears, from the content of the conversation and the background noise, that the driver consulted a plan or some similar paper document.”

    The person on the other end of the telephone “appears to have been a controller”, the statement said. The existence of the conversation emerged from an inspection of the “black boxes”, which began in the presence of the investigating magistrate on Tuesday morning.

    The statement said the train was travelling at 192km/h (119mph) shortly before the crash. It added that “a brake was activated seconds before the accident” and that “it is estimated that at the moment the train left the tracks it was travelling at 153km/h.” The speed limit on the bend where the train derailed was 80km/h.

    News of the call Garzón took adds a new dimension to the investigation and for the first time raises questions about Renfe’s role. Garzón who was only a few kilometres from Santiago del Compostela station when he answered the telephone, could have been called when the train was stationary.

  11. Derek
    Aug 1st, 2013 at 11:34

    The idea of increasing safety by reducing stops has merit. Direct flights from LAX to Seattle should have less crashes than those that have layovers at SFO. Similarly, I think you’ll find that driving on uncongested freeways is safer than driving equivalent distances on surface streets.

    Joey Reply:

    Are freeways really safer? Fewer accidents occur but they are at much higher speeds.

    Alon Levy Reply:

    The freeways are safer in that fewer people die on them per unit of vehicle distance driven. But replacing surface roads with freeways doesn’t make the overall system safer, because of risk compensation. It only makes the overall system faster, outside very congested urban areas, where it instead makes the overall system more heavily used.

    Derek Reply:

    Hardly any collisions, accidental or otherwise, occur on uncongested freeways. And most collisions on freeways are rear-end collisions where the closing speed is low. Many collisions on surface streets are right-angle and head-on collisions which are much more dangerous.

    aw Reply:

    It wouldn’t surprise me if most freeway accidents occur at interchanges, so deleting stops in this case may make the highway safer.

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