Friday, January 30, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Lessons for our high-speed rail

TomEliasW

By
From page A6 | August 01, 2013 |

The first thing the California High Speed Authority tells you about the late July train wreck outside the Spanish pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela is that “the system there is not true high-speed rail.”

That’s because the train that derailed while carrying pilgrims and commuters had a top speed of just 150 mph, compared to the projected ceiling of 220 mph for California’s planned bullet train.

But there still may be a lesson for the nascent California system, whose construction might begin early next year on a 130-mile stretch from Madera to Bakersfield: It could pay to dispense with some of the intermediate stops now planned during the run between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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.

Spanish authorities are just getting started investigating the wreck near Santiago de Compostela, a city in Spain’s far-northwest province of Galicia whose medieval cathedral is believed by many to house the remains of St. James.

But the early suspicion is that the train was going at least 100 mph on a turn suited to half that speed. What might move an engineer to drive his train and its 240-odd passengers at double the safe speed? The driver has said on social media that he likes going fast, but another motive might be a desire to meet a schedule, maintaining the line’s reputation for on-time performance.

Now switch to California, where the 432-mile route linking Northern and Southern California is to proceed via a roundabout route through the Antelope Valley, then over the Tehachapi Pass to Bakersfield, up the San Joaquin Valley to Merced, west over the Pacheco Pass to San Jose and then up the peninsula to San Francisco. That’s far from a direct route (50 miles above the driving distance), yet the plan is to do it in no more than 2 hours, 40 minutes.

With a top speed of 220 mph, that’s theoretically possible, if trains run at peak velocity most of the way. But rail authority spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley says, “We’ll never be going at 150 to 200 mph in urban areas.”

Then there are those intermediate stations. Rides on both the Thalys bullet train between Paris, France and Amsterdam and the French TGV train between Paris and the southern town of Lourdes demonstrate there’s about a five-minute slowdown approaching stations and a five- to eight-minute acceleration period after leaving them. Trains also stand still while passengers enter and leave.

Extrapolate this to California, and with four intermediate stations, trains will run well below maximum speed for at least an hour. Combine this with relatively low speeds in the San Fernando Valley portion of Los Angeles and on the peninsula. Then do the math, and it’s clear trains will not easily complete the run in 2:40 or less.

Which could mean that drivers will be rushed, as the Spanish engineer may have been.

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.”

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 France, Spain, England, Belgium and the Netherlands) now appear to be the most obvious items that might create a rushed feeling.

Which means 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.

— Reach syndicated columnist Tom Elias at [email protected]

Comments

comments

.

News

Suspected Ebola patient being treated at UCD Med Center

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A1

 
Town hall focuses on Coordinated Care Initiative

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

Schools give parents tools to help kids thrive

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Need a new best friend?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Stanford University to get $50 million to produce vaccines

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Two more cases of measles in Northern California in children

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Dartmouth bans hard liquor

By New York Times News Service | From Page: A2

 
Free tax preparation service begins Monday

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Walkers head out three times weekly

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3Comments are off for this post

 
No bare bottoms, thanks to CommuniCare’s Diaper Drive

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Storyteller relies on nature as his subject on Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Still time to purchase tickets for DHS Cabaret

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

All voices welcome at sing-along Wednesday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Great Chefs Program will feature Mulvaney

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

 
February science fun set at Explorit

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Take a photo tour of Cuba at Flyway Nights talk

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
See wigeons, curlews and meadowlarks at city wetlands

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8 | Gallery

.

Forum

Time for bed … with Grandma

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Weigh quality of life, density

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Olive expert joins St. James event

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
We’re grateful for bingo proceeds

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

 
A ‘new deal’ for the WPA building

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

 
Protect root zone to save trees

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

.

Sports

UCD men set new school D-I era win record

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
UCD has another tough football schedule in 2015

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Gould’s influence felt mightily in recent Super Bowls

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

 
Mustangs hold off UCD women

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Sharks double up Ducks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Sports briefs: Watney, Woods start slow at TPC Scottsdale

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

Recall that first Aggie TV game, national title?

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
.

Features

.

Arts

‘Song of the Sea’ is an enchanting fable

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
‘Artist’s Connection’ launches on DCTV

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

 
Gross’ paintings highlight a slice of Northern California

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

February show at YoloArts’ Gallery 625 is ‘Food for Thought’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12 | Gallery

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Friday, January 30, 2015

By Creator | From Page: A9