Third World Countries Need High-Speed Rail
- From http://www.railjournal.com/2001-03/highspeed.html Dawson
Third World Countries Need High-Speed Rail
High-speed rail and sustainable mobility have taken on a global dimension as
operators around the northern hemisphere try to improve on rail's already
strong environmental advantages.
Senior Editorial Consultant
HIGH-SPEED railways---those operating at speeds between 200 and
350km/h---have a crucial and increasing role in the mobility of billions,
yes billions, of people. Mr Gunther Ellwanger, director of high-speed at the
Paris-based International Union of Railways (UIC), says that high-speed
issues are different today compared with only a few years ago, and include
great advantages for third world countries.
Transport is responsible for 25% of the world's carbon dioxide (CO2)
emissions, with 80 to 90% coming from cars and highway trucks, and only 2%
from rail. Moreover, emission levels are increasing faster than
technological progress due to the total dependence of road and air transport
on oil, and the continuing growth of traffic.
"Countries such as China and India face enormous increases in motorisation.
The challenge is for us to avoid such growth in those countries because it
is not sustainable. It is a matter of survival," he told IRJ in Paris.
Car ownership in Europe in 1996 averaged 440 per 1000 inhabitants, compared
with 412/1000 in 1992. Italy topped the 1996 list with 573 cars/1000
inhabitants. In 1996 India had 4.5 cars/1000 of the population, and China
3.2. "If China and India were to have similar private car ownership as
developed countries, the consequences would be frightening," Ellwanger
High-speed rail projects have been developed for India within medium and
long-term time frames. They include lines radiating from New Delhi to
Amritsar, Jaipur, Agra (Taj Mahal), and Kanpur; Mumbai to Ahmedabad;
Calcutta to Dhanbad; Chennai to Bangalore and Mysore; and Chennai to
Hyderabad, Vijayawada, and Visakhapatnam.
China, which recently signed a contract for the 450km/h Transrapid maglev
system to link Shanghai and Pudong airport, is currently considering the
choice between maglev and high-speed rail for the planned 1300km
Beijing--Shanghai high-speed corridor.
Mr Qi Men Hang, deputy director general of the Chinese Ministry of Railways'
high-speed railway office, outlined the environmental benefits of the
project to delegates at the high-speed railway conference held in Nagoya in
November 2000 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Tokaido-Sanyo
Shinkansen line. Energy consumption per passenger-km will be
three-and-a-half times less than for a private car and five times less than
The social cost of noise, dust, carbon dioxide, nitric oxide, and sulphur
oxide emissions would amount to Yuan 0.0351 for high-speed rail, Yuan 0.0263
for an existing railway, Yuan 0.183 for air, and Yuan 0.132 for road
transport. It would also require the construction of an eight-lane highway
to provide the same capacity as a double-track high-speed line.
Mr C H Kim, director of Korean National Railroad's project management and
planning, told the same conference that the country's plans for high-speed
rail would produce annual socio-economic benefits worth $US 2 billion a year
through reductions in costs associated with time and operating. "Attracting
more traffic to railways helps to improve the quality of life," he said.
While high-speed rail's green credentials are impressive, there is no room
for complacency as both the UIC and other industry leaders have pointed out.
The competition is not standing still either on pollution and fuel
consumption (development of fuel cells), or on noise. "Environmentally,
high-speed railways are outstanding if the questions of noise and barrier
effects are treated in a sensitive way," said Mr Magnus Persson, who at the
time was Swedish State Railways' (SJ) director of transport policy.
Noise is probably rail's biggest current environmental problem. One of the
drawbacks is that solving the problem by putting a high-speed line in a
tunnel or a cutting, or by erecting high barriers, greatly detracts from the
quality of service to the customer who is deprived of a view of the
countryside during the journey.
Noise Reduction Limits
The Italian government is adopting norms for the reduction of acoustic
pollution and fixing limits for noise produced by rail traffic. Noise limits
for high-speed trains are also being prepared by the European Union. Current
remedies adopted by Italian Railways (FS) include tall barriers and screened
"But," Mr Raffaele Mele, of FS' infrastructure division, told IRJ, "we have
also developed a low-level acoustic barrier, which, in conjunction with
skirts on high-speed trains is both effective and unobtrusive."
Japan takes its environmental responsibilities more seriously than most and
has taken action on both infrastructure and rolling stock to make high-speed
Shinkansen services acoustically acceptable. Solutions have been found on
the latest trains by using a single-arm pantograph with the insulator
equipment surrounded by a cover; using hollow-axle wheelsets; adopting the
"aerostream" nose; using honeycomb-filled double-skinned aluminium alloy
bodies to insulate the passenger areas from external noise; and keeping the
below-floor area of the train as smooth as possible.
Trackside sound barriers are also fitted in sensitive areas. Collectively
these solutions create what is probably the world's most restful high-speed
The UIC's Ellwanger is also much exercised in promoting the environmental
benefits of high-speed rail, including developing tilting train systems to
reduce travel times on conventional lines. There is, he says, also room for
tilting high-speed trains, using the high-speed capability on dedicated
high-speed track, and tilting on conventional track to reduce overall
"The main issue at the lower end of the high-speed scale is whether to have
tilting trains, or non-tilting trains with greater superelevation---up to
180mm---on conventional track," he told IRJ.
Infrastructure parameters, especially curve transition parameters to prevent
sickness also had to be taken into the equation. "We have to compare that
with the alternative of increasing superelevation. The passenger doesn't
care one way or the other, but the choice represents technical and economic
issues for railways," Ellwanger said.
In France, the current level of superelevation is 160mm but in Germany it is
only 150mm. Tests at 180mm are currently taking place in France on the
Frasne--Vallorbe section of the Dijon--Lausanne main line. Tilting trains
can save 10 to 20% on journey times depending on the nature of the line,
especially curves and transitions.
Ellwanger is also interested in the development of a single type of European
high-speed train, noting the small size of the market and the large number
of different high-speed trains operating within Europe at the moment. He
also notes with satisfaction the strong personal and professional contacts
that have been established between Mr Helmut Mehdorn, chairman of German
Rail's (DB) board of management, and Mr Louis Gallois, president of French
National Railways (SNCF).
"This, coupled with the parallel contact between Alstom and Siemens, could
be the basis for a real European high-speed train. The timetable is to fix a
specification by 2007 with a train by 2010. The main technical issues are
the axleload and whether to have articulated cars or cars with bogies," he