Champlain Division wrote:This insistence on building a concrete slab roadway and attaching tracks to it is just absolutely mind-boggling. Does no one recognize that 150 mph service with ribbon-rail, concrete crossties and conventional ballast laid on GRADED GROUND is already a reality! :(
HELLO!!!!! Has anyone heard of the Northeast Corridor between New Haven, CT and Boston, MA???!!!!!!!
That will work up to 150mph, but no more. For anything approaching european speeds (186 to 220) and above, you're going to have to go for track that is truely rigid and not subject to the whims of geotech problems. You can't hold 186mph track together with duck tape and chewing gum, it WILL come apart. HSR lines demand more preparation than merely laying concrete ties and CWR, you also need electrification (lets face it, JetTrain has finally died), high speed signalling, grade separation, and such. Building a HSR line in such a shotgun manner would be tantamount to cutting your own throat with a dull knife, the railroad won't fold immediately, but the operating costs to keep the poorly built track in order would quickly mount.
With regards to grades on HSR lines, the French LGVs have steep grades, but that's because the cars weigh 30 tons apiece and the ride sucks (think bus-like). For HSR as it will no doubt exist in this country, we need to allow for heavier cars and a more comfortable ride. If we are indeed to have overnight trains running at high speeds between major population centers, we don't want people getting sea-sick on all the hills. I'd like to see america copy something like the early german Neu Bau Strecke (New Built Lines) that their ICEs utilize. For the most part they are dead flat with many bridges and tunnels, and long sweeping curves. Prior to the introduction of the ICE 1s their Class 120 electric locos plied the routes with trains going as fast as 140mph, today ICE 3s do 186mph on these lines. In addition, it's generally respected that German trains are more comfortable than their French counterparts, partly due to the hill issue on their respective high speed networks.
In my humble opinion, I think the US should persue a nationwide policy of electrification of all passenger railroads as well as major freight trunks with tax credits for railroads that do so. We also need to improve intracity transit, so that people don't arrive at a destination train station and say "now what?". You can't throw an HSR system into a vacuum and hope it will work, the HSR has to be merely one leg of a transit SYSTEM designed to get you from your door to the other door with a minimum of time and walking expended. Europe has all this, they never lost their trams to NCL, nor their extensive regional train network to a highway network and airlines, as such HSR can work fairly easily. In the US we need some way to get people out of their car, and the best way to do that is to obviate the need for them, you catch a bus, van (possibly operated by the railroad) or taxi to the nearest station (hopefully no more than 10 miles in suburban areas, figure out to 50 miles from the city), ride a regional (or commuter, either works) train to the main station, have through-ticketing, through baggage, and timed transfers, and the same thing at the other end. Eventually HSR would work it's way into people's travel habits. If it could be marketed as being cheaper than the airlines, you might catch vacationers. If the convenience of not wasting time sleeping while standing still in a hotel, or the convenience of having all your electronic devices available all the time could be pointed out, business travelers might be wooed.