• German "Efficiency Deficiency"

  • Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.
Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.

Moderators: Komachi, David Benton

  by Gilbert B Norman
Couldn't prove by me during my just completed Overseas journey, but the Manchester Guardian reports otherwise:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/ ... e-any-more

Fair Use:
.A joke heard quite regularly these days is: “If you want to see German efficiency, go to Switzerland.” While it has German engineers squirming, most can only nod in agreement. It is certainly hard to imagine such a prestige project happening in Germany these days. Most of the country’s recent high-profile construction schemes have become great national embarrassments, beset by massive delays and huge cost overruns. A new Berlin airport, originally scheduled to open in 2010, is still years from being realised and billions over budget, while the Elbphilharmonie – a concert hall in Hamburg’s harbour city – is seven years behind schedule and €550m (£430m) over cost. Stuttgart’s underground railway station is in a similarly shambolic state. That’s not to mention the collapse of Cologne’s city archives a few years ago, thanks to the botched construction of a new underground line
Times columnist Paul Krugman presents a more "Macro"

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/19/opin ... urope.html

Fair Use:
.The funny thing is that there are some aspects of European policy, especially German economic policy, that do hurt the world economy and deserve condemnation. But Trump is going after the wrong thing. Europe does not, in fact, treat us badly; its markets are about as open to U.S. products as ours are to Europe’s. (We export about three times as much to the E.U. as we do to China.)

The problem, instead, is that the Europeans, and the Germans in particular, treat themselves badly, with a ruinous obsession over public debt. And the costs of that obsession are spilling over to the world as a whole.
I think the Global economies are looking at a recession next year. Such are simply part of the economic cycle. While I do not think we're looking at an "'08 Rerun" , we will be looking at a distinct "slowdown", we in the USA have precious little slack with which to play. But evidently, the EU community has none.
  by David Benton
No mention of the effect of the "competition" required by the EU. Perhaps whatever capital available was used to expand into other countries, or ward off others moving in.
Infrastructure debt should be treated differently to debt used to run the country , wether for welfare or other "running" expenses. Of course it is all lumped in together, so a government investing in the future may look worst than one with less debt , but using that borrowing to simply run the country . Anything rail related is of course a long term investment, probably looking at the 20 -30 year life, vs maybe 10 - 20 for air / sea , and 5 - 15 for road.
Here in NZ, the govt has pledged to stick to keeping debt below 20 % of GDP, with a possible relaxation in their next term. (voter willing). Many economists are saying now is the time to borrow and spend on infrastructure, with historically lowest ever interest rates at the moment.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Mr. Benton, I think we should clarify that within the EU, the Rights of Way remain State owned and controlled, but that the State systems, such as DB, SNCF, OBB, will have private sector competition wherever a private operator thinks there is a "£ or € to be made". This applies to both classes of service - (what a joke) freight and passenger.

It is now possible to ride Munich to Vienna (about 350 miles) using the Meridian and changing at Salzburg to the Westbahn. I've ridden both, and are essentially commuter trains (kind of like the NJT-SEPTA NYP-PHL ride "on the cheap").

In addition to the State roads, there are private freight operators around to handle twenty car, two TEU's, trains (that's 20 containers). All I can say to that is "whatta joke". I have shown YouTube videos of US freights to Austrian rail people, as well as to an English speaking Polish gal, and this year to a Ugandan gal who is with their Transport Ministry. All appeared to me to be "quite astounded". But trying to be a "Good American", I temper it with "what a joke all too much of Amtrak represents".
  by David Benton
Totally different markets , Mr Norman. There is no need or way to have the 10 000 ft long American freight trains in Europe .
Speed is essential, that's the main reason for the 20 container trains. Terminal time is where it is make or break on the short distances in Europe. By the time the 10 000 foot train was ready to leave the short train would be at its destination. One man crews and high road speeds make it economic . Also reliability is a huge issue. Penalty costs for straying outside your "slot" are calculated in $ per minute. On a busy mainline a broken coupler would be a question if its ten's of 1000's or hundreds.
In the USA , you would not consider freight competing under 500 miles, in Europe that is a long haul .
  by RRspatch
A couple of things to note when comparing European railways to North American railroads.

1) Coupling systems. North American railroads use the ARR buckeye coupler while Europe uses the "Hook and Screw" connection. The problem with the Hook and screw system is it's limited in the tonnage that can be placed on it. While there are some captive fleets in German, Norway and Sweden that use Buckeye type couplers everything else freight wise uses the Hook and Screw system. There have been plans to change the coupler system in Europe dating back to the 70's but nothing ever has come of it. Loose passenger cars in Europe still use this system. All EMU's and DMU's use automatic couplers.

2) Capacity. Sidings on most lines are set up for about 30 to 40 cars or so. There are lots of "head-end" videos on YouTube that show this. Even if you solved the coupler problem you would still have to spend a LOT of money lengthening sidings and expanding yards. Another thing is European railways simple don't want a lot of freights getting in the way of all those passenger trains. This of course mirrors what North American railroads say about a hand full of Amtrak trains.

3) Speed. In Europe a freight train must quickly get up to speed leaving one siding and race to the next siding to clear another passenger train. This is best done with trains that are short and light. As someone who spent half his railroad career on the freight side (BNSF) I can tell you that US freights are not short or lite and take a long time to start and stop.

4) Tonnage. Europe has decided to limit axle loading as not to have freight pound the tracks apart. Anyone who has traveled on a Amtrak train out west knows how rough the ride can be at times. A full cup of coffee on an ICE or TGV train is no problem. A half cup is about all you'd want to try on Amtrak unless you have a lid on it.

5) Distances. Distances are generally short in Europe which tends to lend it's self to trucks. Anyone who has ever driven on a highway/motorway in Europe knows where all the freight is. When I was in Europe in 2007 and again in 2012 I made it a point to look for yards and industrial sidings. Most of the industrial sidings I saw were overgrown with weeds or had been disconnected from the main track. A lot of plants and warehouses didn't even have a rail connection even if they were located right next to a rail line.

In closing there has been some improvement in European freight traffic with private operators nibbling around the edges here and there. But you'll never see the type and volume of freight traffic we have on this side of the Atlantic.

For those interested in railways in Europe may I suggest the following forums -

The Turntable - Germany.

Train in France

Trains in Italy

Railforum UK

All of them have sections for discussing freight operations. Google Chrome has a "Translate to English" feature that will give you readable English version.
  by David Benton
Thanks for the links, RRspatch.
It all points to the future is short fast intermodal, they really need to automate the loading / unloading / transfer of containers to really gain market share.
The French were working on a automatic transfer system, basically a network of trains that interchange containers at junctions automatically.
Haven't been able to find details of it since it was first mooted 5 or more years ago .
Unless private / industrial sidings can be automated, it will all be intermodal . You still have the problem of accessing private sidings along busy passenger lines , though I guess that could be done at night.
  by kato
David Benton wrote: Wed Aug 28, 2019 1:01 am Speed is essential, that's the main reason for the 20 container trains.
The infrastructure also isn't there, as in curves etc. As part of the current EU TEN projects (about €500 billion investment until ca 2030) routes and attached sidings are also being rebuilt to finally allow 740m freight trains - 35 cars.
RRspatch wrote: Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:36 pmWhile there are some captive fleets in German, Norway and Sweden that use Buckeye type couplers everything else freight wise uses the Hook and Screw system. There have been plans to change the coupler system in Europe dating back to the 70's but nothing ever has come of it.
Freight companies are slowly - very slowly - beginning to trial and switch over to Scharfenberg couplers. Because unlike Buckeye those actually provide an advantage - being able to couple faster and fully automatically due to lack of a separate brake pressure hose to manually couple. Because that's what's considered critical in freight operations in Europe. Bringing the train assembly time down as far as possible. SBB Cargo has them lowered in trials by 75% using such automatic couplers.
RRspatch wrote: Wed Aug 28, 2019 8:36 pmWhen I was in Europe in 2007 and again in 2012 I made it a point to look for yards and industrial sidings. Most of the industrial sidings I saw were overgrown with weeds or had been disconnected from the main track.
For Germany:
Deutsche Bahn had its MORA-C programme in 2004 in which to increase profit it stopped serving half of all sidings and concentrated marshalling operations to a few dozen yards. They stopped serving another 25% of remaining sidings more recently in 2016, mostly those where competition by other freight companies makes them unviable for DB Cargo.

As of 2018 rail has a modal share of 18.7% for freight in Germany measured in ton-kilometers compared to 70.7% for trucks. Partly due to the above profitability measures DB Cargo has a market share of 52%, down from 79% ten years ago.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Another factor affecting European freight service is how much more of the Continent has navigable waterways available when compared with North America.

Lest we forget, no mode of land transportation can match the inherent economics of water.

North America only has one chain of navigable waterways- the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio chain - and that essentially flows North-South.

By comparison, Western Europe has, in addition to three navigable N-S rivers - Loire, Rhine, and Elbe, it also has the quite navigable E-W flowing Danube. So the point being is how much more readily accessible is Western Europe to navigable waterways for handling bulk commodities.

But, in the six years of late I've been going over, I've met people in transportation. I've shown photos and videos of our trains - and they are met with astonishment. This year traveling Salzburg to Munich, I was seated next to a young gal from Uganda who was with their transport ministry. She said she has worked on plans for revitalized railroads there, and was flying back home, just as was I.

Trust me, to show her a vid of a BNSF "double stack", she was astounded. She was also astounded when I said it was the head of a large trucking company (JBHunt) that went to the railroad, rather than other way around, if they wanted the business (well, that's the story I've heard).
  by kato
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Thu Aug 29, 2019 8:46 am So the point being is how much more readily accessible is Western Europe to navigable waterways for handling bulk commodities.
However the USA actually transports more freight on inland waterways in comparison to Europe.

Transport in billion ton-kilometers

Railroad: USA 1047 vs EU 416.
Inland Waterways and lakes: USA 195 vs EU 145.
Truck: USA 1265 vs EU 1831.
Air Freight: USA 9 vs EU 36.
Pipeline: USA 551 vs EU ~110.
Domestic Shortsea: USA 110 vs EU ~800.

It's slightly better in some Western European countries, but even there tends to hover at about the same modal share as in the USA.
  by ExCon90
Regarding RRspatch's point 3 above, a further consideration is that the longer the train is, the more time is lost at every speed restriction, since the whole train is held to that speed until the last car has cleared the restriction--by which time, if there are enough curves and the train is long enough, the head end has reached the next speed restriction. There's no way a train that long can be agile. We may certainly hope that the PSR advocates are aware of the effects of train length on transit time and consequently on equipment utilization.
  by David Benton
Good point Ex Con. This was Noticeable on the Main Trunk here in NZ. With a short train and electric loco, the Engineer would accelerate on the short straights , before braking for the next corner. With a longer train and diesel, He would hold it to the curve speed the entire section. maybe it is just for passenger comfort, I enjoyed the feeling of quite brisk acceleration, Maybe some would rather the steady ride. Freight trains are held to the curve speed for long sections of course.
I would love Kiwi Rail to try a short fast train to try and compete with trucks .
Another factor in Europe , I don't think Motorists would be as tolerant as Americans of long freight trains. Or at least more likely to complain and be heard by their local MP.
  by kato
The short haul also makes braking up trains into multiple trains more efficient realistically.

If i transfer a set number of goods from A to B (say from a mine to a steelworks) then at 2000 km distance it's more efficient to just load up a train with a week's worth production and run it like that with say 100 waggons, because it'll spend several days on the track. If it's only 200 km distance i can switch to daily trains shuttling back and forth with the daily production in 20 waggons, because the train can be back for the next haul the next day.