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FRA Tier II speed upgrade: 150mph to 160mph


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#21 jis

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Posted 07 October 2018 - 07:31 AM

I did not mean any disrespect. As I said my early reaction was similar. After realizing the futility of it I characterized it to myself as my own “juvenile tantrum”, something to be avoided in the future, at least for myself.

I might have stashed away a copy of the report somewhere. I will look for it next time I get on my laptop. I also learned a lot from Thirdrail here before he disappeared, and a few Amtrak retirees and refugees that I know personally, including a few at PB these days.

 
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#22 Anderson

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Posted 07 October 2018 - 02:49 PM

In early 2016, Amtrak requested permission from the FRA to run 160 mph instead of 150 mph in three sections:

  • 17.4 miles between Kingston and Warwick, RI
  • 10.0 miles between Hebronville and Mansfield, MA
  • 22.5 miles between County Int. and Ham Int., NJ

I calculated the maximum time savings of running 160 mph instead of 150 mph over those segments.  They are respectively:

  • 26.10 sec.
  • 15.00 sec.
  • 33.75 sec.

Many folks would oppose the expenditures necessary to achieve the faster speed as just not worth it.  Others would say that each train thereafter would benefit - forever.

 

jb

Remember, segment three isn't 150 to 160, it's 135 to 160 (since IIRC 135 is the max speed on NEC-South right now).  So you're probably looking at somewhere around 90-100 seconds.  That's not nothing, but most of your NEC-South improvements get you somewhere between 1 minute and 3-4 minutes.


Edited by Anderson, 07 October 2018 - 02:54 PM.

Amtrak mileage to date: Somewhere between 120,000 and 150,000 miles...I /really/ need to run all of my trips through a calculator sometime.

...and no, I am not /that/ Anderson...;-)


#23 John Bobinyec

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Posted 07 October 2018 - 05:49 PM

 

In early 2016, Amtrak requested permission from the FRA to run 160 mph instead of 150 mph in three sections:

  • 17.4 miles between Kingston and Warwick, RI
  • 10.0 miles between Hebronville and Mansfield, MA
  • 22.5 miles between County Int. and Ham Int., NJ

I calculated the maximum time savings of running 160 mph instead of 150 mph over those segments.  They are respectively:

  • 26.10 sec.
  • 15.00 sec.
  • 33.75 sec.

Many folks would oppose the expenditures necessary to achieve the faster speed as just not worth it.  Others would say that each train thereafter would benefit - forever.

 

jb

Remember, segment three isn't 150 to 160, it's 135 to 160 (since IIRC 135 is the max speed on NEC-South right now).  So you're probably looking at somewhere around 90-100 seconds.  That's not nothing, but most of your NEC-South improvements get you somewhere between 1 minute and 3-4 minutes.

 

The original reference that I made was to an application that Amtrak made to the FRA to be able to run 160 mph instead of 150 mph.  They can already raise the speeds to 150 mph if they want to - that's not the question that I was referring to.

 

jb


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#24 jis

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Posted 07 October 2018 - 10:20 PM

But you seemed to be suggesting that there is a big incremental cost involved in going to 160 from 150, possibly inadvertently so.

Edited by jis, 07 October 2018 - 10:21 PM.


#25 Seaboard92

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Posted 08 October 2018 - 12:39 AM

I'm going to be the major opposing opinion here; but I really don't see the point in raising the speed limit at all.

Yes incremental improvements would likely save a few minutes of travel time for the Acela but at what cost to the rest of the line. If the majority of the trains (NER, NJT) are moving at 125 mph and your Acela is moving at 160 mph I see quite a few problems.

First in order to get the handful of time saving minutes one needs to have the path clear of other trains so the Acela could reach the maximum speed. By doing that you are forcing NER (to be known as limited) with NJT (to be known as local) onto one track. So in order to save the Acela a few minutes you would either need to lengthen the limited times due to being cut in behind the locals. Or you would need to schedule the limited's ahead of the locals. With there being two commuter lines in NJ using the corridor with let's say half hourly service for ease of calculation.

That leaves you with scant few times where one can route a limited out of the way of the Acela and a local. So likely the schedule for the trains that carry the most passengers get lengthened. And the 110 mph long distance trains really get the cold shoulder because they would be the slowest train by speed but not by run time falling between the limited's and the locals by having the stop profile of a limited.

Secondly it's an awful lot of money to invest to save a few minutes that we could put into buying replacements to the P42, the Amfleets, or the Superliners. All of which aren't getting any younger and are suffering more breakdowns as they age.

So in my opinion 150 to 160 is just a waste of time, and money.
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#26 John Bobinyec

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Posted 08 October 2018 - 04:00 AM

But you seemed to be suggesting that there is a big incremental cost involved in going to 160 from 150, possibly inadvertently so.

I'm sorry, I thought the FRA was requiring quite a bit more in enhancements which would make that kind of thing infeasible.

 

jb


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#27 jis

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Posted 08 October 2018 - 06:51 AM

But you seemed to be suggesting that there is a big incremental cost involved in going to 160 from 150, possibly inadvertently so.

I'm sorry, I thought the FRA was requiring quite a bit more in enhancements which would make that kind of thing infeasible.
 
jb
Mostly the incremental cost was in getting another safety case done, one that applied to all proposed segments for the higher speed on NEC both north and south. Actually there would still be greater length of track with the higher speed in the north than in the south. That is even more so with the botched project execution in NJ. There never was any additional money allocated for that change since none was deemed necessary.

#28 RPC

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Posted 08 October 2018 - 12:17 PM

I've got to admit I'm with Seaboard92 here. Given the limited funds available and the State of Not Good Repair of the NEC, I'd focus the funds on:

1) projects addressing the areas that are at risk of being removed from service (Gateway including Portal Bridge, Baltimore tunnels, Susquehanna bridge);

2) projects aimed at boosting the limit in the lowest speed areas. You'd get a lot more utility for a lot more trains if you could e.g. raise the limit through Frankford Junction by 10mph for all trains than any of the stretches listed above for Acela only.


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#29 jis

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Posted 08 October 2018 - 01:40 PM

I've got to admit I'm with Seaboard92 here. Given the limited funds available and the State of Not Good Repair of the NEC, I'd focus the funds on:

1) projects addressing the areas that are at risk of being removed from service (Gateway including Portal Bridge, Baltimore tunnels, Susquehanna bridge);

2) projects aimed at boosting the limit in the lowest speed areas. You'd get a lot more utility for a lot more trains if you could e.g. raise the limit through Frankford Junction by 10mph for all trains than any of the stretches listed above for Acela only.

None of these funds were allocated at a time when anything could have been allocated to Gateway. It was soon after the collapse of ARC.

 

Who says that funds are not allocated to raising speeds at lower speed areas? Any idea what the speed limits was on the Elizabeth curve five years back? Any idea what it is now? Just to pick a random example. All NEC projects are somewhat opportunistic in nature as in having funds lined up when opportunities materialize for making significant improvements. When this round of funding happened neither Gateway nor Portal were in a state where they could be meaningfully funded to achieve anything within the limits of the time horizon of the funding. These funds were partly time limited so either the money could have been rescinded and sent back to the general coffers or used for something useful. The money became available because the Florida Governor did not want it back then. It certainly seemed like a good idea to make opportunistic use of it to improve reliability and state of good repair of the track, electrification and signaling system in NJ. Apparently some people here disagree because they are fixated on 150/160mph for Acelas. Frankly I expect people here to be a little better informed about the content of each project instead of endlessly parroting newspaper headlines. They would be even if they bothered to go back and read discussions here and on other boards, but apparently not. :help:


Edited by jis, 08 October 2018 - 01:52 PM.


#30 John Bobinyec

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Posted 08 October 2018 - 02:17 PM

Speed limit on the Elizabeth curve was once 40 mph.  What is it now?

 

jb


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#31 jis

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Posted 08 October 2018 - 02:22 PM

According to Thirdrail 80 for Acelas and 60something for Amfleet AFAIR. Frankly I had expected it to go upto sixty-something. I was floored when Thirdrail informed me that it was going up to something like 80 for Acelas. Apparently the tilt mechanism keeps the lateral forces on passengers within comfort limits even at that speed. To get there the curve spirals had to be modified and of course ACSES civil speed (PSR) enforcement (using track mounted transponders) had to be used instead of signal speed enforcement.

 

Incidentally, before an Amtrak jockey tried to run an AEM-7+Amfleet consist through it at 100mph almost derailing the train and basically destroying the track, the speed limit used to be 55mph. It was reduced to something that was enforceable using signal speed limits after that. So it came down to something like 40-45, whatever the approach medium enforceable speed is (I forget). It was raised after ACSES was put into operation and that too only on tracks 2 and 3 AFAIR.


Edited by jis, 09 October 2018 - 12:50 PM.

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#32 west point

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Posted 08 October 2018 - 06:43 PM

If north of Frankford - North PHL was straightened to allow 160 that would save more time than all the other incremental speeds proposed.  Said 160 as new CAT would need to be installed over new routing.


Edited by west point, 08 October 2018 - 06:45 PM.


#33 jis

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Posted 08 October 2018 - 11:24 PM

That won’t be an incremental change. That would be building a new railroad on a new right of way costing mucho dinero
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#34 Amtrak706

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Posted 08 October 2018 - 11:46 PM

I think Seabord92 makes some very valid points, but some might argue that any speed upgrade is worth it, as they are maddeningly few and far between in this country for various reasons even though the potential is largely there. If 125 or 135 is good enough, why not lower the sections north of New Haven to save on maintenance costs? It could be seen as a slippery slope.

There is also the PR aspect of it for Amtrak, like there was in 2000 for the original Acela launch. Having even a passing interest in trains has unfortunately become more and more niche over the years, but it is entirely possible that the amount of non-railfan people who would know or care about something like this has not changed too dramatically from 2000 to 2018.

#35 jis

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Posted 09 October 2018 - 07:35 AM

The same argument can be used to discontinue all LD passenger service, or at least lower their speeds to those of the freight trains they must intermingle with. That kind of thought process is not really conducive to the development of a viable thriving passenger service that competes effectively with automobiles. Brightline realizes that and is not ashamed at all to talk about 100-125 mph service and the associated costs in places where such is unheard if previously.

#36 cpotisch

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Posted 09 October 2018 - 08:24 AM

The same argument can be used to discontinue all LD passenger service, or at least lower their speeds to those of the freight trains they must intermingle with. That kind of thought process is not really conducive to the development of a viable thriving passenger service that competes effectively with automobiles. Brightline realizes that and is not ashamed at all to talk about 100-125 mph service and the associated costs in places where such is unheard if previously.

I don't think anyone is arguing that all things being equal, it's bad to have increased speeds and reducing travel times, however, one can make the argument that the hundreds of millions of dollars spent cutting travel times by a couple minutes could possibly better be spent elsewhere. I won't speak to whether that is or isn't what they should do, but I just think that an argument could be made for it.


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#37 jis

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Posted 09 October 2018 - 09:20 AM

But no one wants to figure out actually how many million of the grant was used for purely increasing speed, once they have decided it is hundreds of millions in case of the NJ segment. As an abstract statement that is fine. Operationally it is useless and possibly destructive in an unfriendly hostile environment.

Edited by jis, 09 October 2018 - 09:27 AM.


#38 Ziv

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Posted 09 October 2018 - 10:02 AM

It is a longshot to put it mildly, but it would be great if the Boring Company could reduce the price of tunneling by 50% or more. Obviously, that is a wishful thinking number with no basis in fact at this point, but if the cost of tunneling did drop by a large amount, I wonder it the curvier, slower parts of the NEC could be straightened by going under the obstructions that would be so expensive to buy in an effort to straighten the current right of way. Getting the money for even a few miles of tunnels would be problematic, of course.

 

That won’t be an incremental change. That would be building a new railroad on a new right of way costing mucho dinero



#39 cocojacoby

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Posted 09 October 2018 - 10:36 AM

Wasn't this supposed to be a test bed for Amtrak to gain real world experience in operating high speed rail service?  The few minutes cut here or there is kind of irrelevant.  It would be a valuable learning experience if Amtrak ran at such speeds somewhere on the NEC, no? 



#40 jis

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Posted 09 October 2018 - 11:39 AM

It was to be more of a test bed for bringing track, signals and catenary to 21st century. They did not do too well. At best only a partial success which once again exposed Amtrak’s lack of ability to manage big capital projects.
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