Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Good train news

I wrote a while ago about the rail speed record that the French did with their souped-up TGV. Today the Japanese have increased the speed of their Shinkansen bullet trains by introducing a new N700 model. The new version of the bullet train is saving 5 minutes on the trip from Tokyo to Kyoto. This doesn't sound like much, but the saving comes from a new automatic train control that allows the unit to accelerate quicker out of the station and maintain a faster speed in turns. So the time savings that this train achieves don't come from increasing the top speed but from getting to the top speed quicker and being able to maintain it better.

And in fact, the top speed of this thing (around 300 km/h) sounds almost sluggish compared to the 500+ that the French clocked, but the crucial difference is that the TGV in question was a modified unit on a one-off mission, while the Shinkansen will achieve its speeds at regular service. For example, there were 1300 people on board the train on its maiden voyage.To compare like with like, the average speeds of the TGV:s in regular service are between 250 and 300 km/h with peak top speeds at around 320, being very similar in performance to the Shinkansen.

While these news will perhaps only excite a tech-buff like myself, the other piece of railnews is much more exciting in general. The major railway operators in Europe have announced that they will form an alliance, similar to those formed by airlines, and harmonise their ticketing so that a customer can buy just a single ticket between any destinations, and also will be able to get the best price. This is a move that will make buying rail tickets as convenient as getting airplane tickets, and this will hopefully help in boosting the competitiveness of trains versus flying, and rid Europe of the unnecessary short haul flights we so much love to fly.

(Pic: http://www.pref.aichi.jp/)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More procrastination at http://mitluana.vuodatus.net/blog/675236 ;)