01 December 2009

Earthquakes and Terrorists

The specter of derailments has been raised in scoping comments and through general opposition to the high-speed rail project in letters to the editor, online forums and blogs. Such comments generally express fear that a train could hurtle off the rails somewhere on the peninsula and smash into residential neighborhoods and schools. The recent train bombing in Russia seems to have renewed this concern. While HSR has a demonstrated safety record that compares favorably to any other mode of transportation, the risk of derailment is not zero, whether from track or equipment failure, track intrusion, terrorist attack, or an earthquake.

Chronologically, the few noteworthy accidents that took place at speeds of 200 km/h (125 mph) and above were traced to the following causes:
  • Track failure: on 21 December 1993, a French TGV derailed at over 290 km/h (180 mph) after a sink hole formed under the track. Deaths: 0.
  • Equipment failure: on 3 June 1998, a German ICE derailed at 200 km/h (125 mph) after a wheel failure and struck a bridge, which collapsed onto the train. Deaths: 101. The Eschede disaster remains the world's deadliest high-speed rail accident.
  • Equipment failure: on 5 June 2000, a Eurostar partially derailed at over 200 km/h (125 mph) after a piece of the train failed. Deaths: 0.
  • Earthquake: on 23 October 2004, a Japanese Shinkansen derailed on an elevated structure after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck nearby. The derailment dynamics are neatly illustrated by a simulated animation. Deaths: 0.
  • Track Intrusion: on 26 April 2008, a German ICE derailed in a tunnel after striking a stray flock of sheep. Deaths: 0. (not counting sheep.)
  • Terrorist Bomb: on 27 November 2009, a Russian conventional (not bullet) train derailed at 200 km/h (125 mph) after a bomb was detonated on the tracks. Deaths: 26. Note, a 1983 TGV bombing failed to produce a derailment.
Mitigation Measures

Preventing a derailment is always the first line of defense, but once it happens, there are design features that can mitigate the consequences. In all the zero-fatality high speed train accidents mentioned above, the train remained upright and was confined to the track area; those that 'escalated' by departing entirely from the track were deadly. Therefore, so-called Derailment Containment Provisions are an important passive safety feature, about which a study prepared for the Dutch HSL-Zuid project provides a good introductory overview. Such measures can include:
  • Crash barriers and wheel guides that are integrated into the trackway, keeping derailed vehicles upright and moving along the track even when off the rails.
  • Articulation - train cars that are semi-rigidly coupled together and cannot jackknife off the tracks.
  • Guide blocks on the underside of trains that slide along the rails.
In the United States, one can reasonably argue that our foreign policy could make high speed rail a more attractive target for terrorism than in any other country where HSR exists. Here in the Bay Area, big earthquakes are quite likely. Those real risks are often held against HSR on the peninsula as if they could not be mitigated--but they can. Some form of derailment containment is almost certain to be used on the peninsula corridor, if only in the most sensitive locations such as bridges, tunnels, curves, or schools.


  1. Clem, great post, as usual. It appears the German ICE crash was the only fatal high speed train accident in history so far. Do you know of ANY others?

    That accident was terrible, but compared to the dozens of plane crashes and millions of car crashes annually, HSR must be. safer by orders of magnitude

    Those of us down in Southern California could really use a Metrolink / HSR Compatibility blog. I am not qualified to do it myself, sadly. Do you have time to look at the route thru Los Angeles and Orange counties?

    I know that CAHSR is currently planning to have the high-speed tracks separate from Metrolink/Amtrak/Freight, not like the slow-fast-fast-slow configuration up north. I hope that will not make it too hard for Metrolink to share those expensive, high-speed tracks. There will be plenty of time in the schedule to run local or regional trains as well as the long-distance HSR trains.

  2. There have been 3 deaths from 2 accidents of TGVs on lignes classiques, all at grade crossings: 1 engineer, 1 passenger, and 1 truck driver. There have been no deaths in Shinkansen trains.

  3. Earthquake resilience is a good reason to consider Japanese track and train designs for California. The N700 shinkansen also features greater car body width, lower axle load, higher acceleration, lower unbalanced cant deficiency, lower noise emissions and better tunnel boom characteristics than the European competition - though that's not standing still, either.

    Note that in the south of France, SNCF has deployed the Japanese concept of deploying linear arrays of accelerometers along the route to detect the passage of seismic waves and automatically cut off power to the OCS, triggering an automatic emergency brake maneuver to minimize the risk of a serious accident. It's possible FS has already done much the same in central Italy.

    However, only the Japanese have first hand experience of what an actual major earthquake does to HSR trains and infrastructure.

    Unfortunately, Japanese trains also require very large minimum curve radii. Perhaps that could be changed, at least for low-speed operations near stations such as the SF Transbay Terminal.

  4. @ Joseph Eisenberg -

    afaik, there are no plans at all for Amtrak or Metrolink trains to run on the HSR tracks in SoCal. Among many other adverse considerations, a mixed traffic waiver from FRA would be required.

    Of course, it's important to remember that CHSRA is not a railroad. It's just a planning body. Likewise, it's important not to think of existing operators as limited to their existing services.

    For example, Amtrak California might well bid for the contract to operate the intercity-distance HSR trains. Profits from HSR operations could cross-subsidize the legacy lines.

    Similarly, if Metrolink were to invest in additional rolling stock that meets the technical specs for use on the HSR tracks, it could conceivably operate a brand-new service between Palmdale and Anaheim (later on, Irvine). Part of the right of way HSR will use belongs to SCRRA (the legal body responsible for enabling Metrolink service). However, there are no plans for any such service.

    Caltrain could also acquire and operate suitable HSR rolling stock for regional service between SF and Gilroy on the HSR tracks. Again, there are no plans for any such service, but it's an option that could be included in the final agreement on sharing track.

    Regional HSR services would need rolling stock with very high acceleration performance, unless stations feature bypass tracks for express trains. I don't believe four tracks dedicated to HSR will be feasible at Millbrae, RWC/PA/MV, Sylmar, Burbank or Norwalk. They might be in Gilroy and Palmdale, depending on where the lateral alignment ends up there.

  5. @ Clem, PeakVT -

    does the TGV network still include any grade crossings today?

  6. This issue here isn't the Caltrain line -- though careful, risk-mitigating design and operation helps here as it does anywhere. The highest priority for Caltrain would be the adoption of a proven, debugged signalling system and first world operating rules, track design standards and track inspection and maintenance practices from, well, the first world rather than from San Carlos or Ogden or Philadephia. Fully guided conflicts at terminals, crossovers and junctions (controlled flight into terrain) are much more of a real world issue for dense suburban traffic than trains jumping off tracks and attacking people.

    The big (and somewhat off-blog-topic) issue is that I can't see how CHSRA could realistically or honestly propose ballasted track (as opposed to slip-formed slab with some form of integral and continuous derailment containment) anywhere on the hundreds of miles of very high speed open track outside the urban areas.

    That's a very large and unaccounted cost.

    Not that there aren't potential total life cycle costs for choosing slab construction for plain track (outside longer tunnels, where it is nearly always the unambiguous winner), but I've never seen this figure into CHSRA up-front capital estimates any where or in any fashion.

    Any sort of double-track high speed tunnel, no matter how short, should also be off the table. More cost. (Tunnels: don't do it unless somebody has a gun to your head you. I'm looking at you, Pacheco.)

    E = 1/2 m v^2.

  7. Rafael: the N700 actually has high unbalanced cant deficiency - it tilts slightly in order to be able to run at 270 km/h on 2.5-km curves.

    Richard: the TGV runs on ballasted track in order to reduce construction costs, and does so with two orders of magnitude fewer deaths than the slab-tracked ICE.

  8. @ Richard

    Ironically, the fact that the second ICE derailment listed (after hitting the flock of sheep)took place in a tunnel that probably saved a number of lives. The tunnel prevented the cars from jackknifing and rolling.

    However, if there had been any loss of life or severe injuries, it would have been very difficult to extract the injured if the cars had been severely damaged. So, in that respect, it was probably a fluke.

  9. @Rafael - AFAIK the LGV lines have never had grade crossings. But the TGV trainsets travel extensively on the "lignes classiques" which do have grade crossings. This looks like one in Brittany on the Rennes-Brest main line.

  10. If I remember correctly, I heard somewhere that one of the engineers (I think) working on the project would like to see the whole railbed, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a concrete slab, not ballast.

    Anyone remember hearing this?

  11. Clem, how did the homes and schools and the people in the neighborhoods (within feet of the tracks) fare in each of those high speed train accidents you listed?

  12. @ Anon

    I think the only collateral damage was to the bridge in the Eschede accident. The bridge was poorly designed and vulnerable to a derailment. I think even here the damage was constrained to the ROW.

  13. "The TGV runs on ballasted track in order to reduce construction costs, and does so with two orders of magnitude fewer deaths than the slab-tracked ICE."

    Alon, you remain a master of your craft.

  14. And you remain a master of yours.

  15. Being passed over here is that US foreign policy (and home grown McVeigh style tea bagging unhinged gun nutters) makes US domestic ballasted track and US domestic tunnels and US domestic bridges have different risk profiles from the domestic civil engineering artifacts of places with different foreign policies.

    We really ARE special!

    This is something that should at least be thought about objectively state wide, though it's relevance to the lower kinetic energy Caltrain line is tenuous.

    What we're certain to see instead is the now usual fascistic security theater of long lines, slow station access, mandatory ID required to travel (Internal passports! Who can claim we won the cold war? Papieren bitte!), checkpoints, "sterile" platforms, landside, airside ... all of which completely ignore the plausible scenarios.

    All aside from seismic engineering, where it sounds like Japan has lessons to teach.

    We now return to Pacheco-Altamont.

  16. That last accidental anon was me. Obviously.

  17. @ Richard

    Why is it that you assume that high speed rail will have a security theater anything like airlines do? Setting off a bomb on a high speed train is nothing as impressive as setting a bomb off on a crowded subway or an airplane (As Carlos the Jackal found out).

    CAHSR will be secured by security fencing and 24/7 CCTV surveillance. Anyone planting a bomb or something similar will be seen...

    The only HSR line that has anything close to the security of airlines is Eurostar. And that's because it travels through the Chunnel, which is an obviously strategic asset with clear vulnerabilities. Even that is likely overkill, though.

    Unless I'm missing the point of your post.

  18. Peter 10:54 - or could it be that the collatoral damage is limited in those examples, because there ARE no homes, schools, neighborhoods located within feet of those other high speed lines?

  19. @ Anon 13:00

    No, I actually think all the damage was constrained to the ROW itself in all those cases.

    And the fact that the bridge collapsed onto the derailing train was the primary factor for the high death toll in the Eschede accident. A better bridge design would have prevented most of the deaths, if I recall correctly

  20. The title of this post should have been "Earthquakes and Terrorist and Steel Tires, Oh My"

  21. The "guide" that looks more like a concrete trough, does that also produce any noise insulation from steel on steel or maybe aerodynamics? Would that help on the peninsula?

  22. @insulation: concrete slab track is apparently less noise absorbent than ballast (gravel) track with sleepers. There was a link at one point to experiments from the Japanese where they were putting bags of aggregate between the rails on the slabs to try to bring the slab track up to the noise mitigation levels of gravel. The japanese have other sound mitigation measures that on the balance make their trains quieter, despite the slab track. I wonder if there's some way to use slab track but leave a trough in the middle that is then filled with gravel, but I'd rather not see CHRSA start experimenting with track design.

  23. Richard, France is getting increasingly paranoid about security issues, moving to adopt American tough-on-crime policies. But it still doesn't have the fascistic train security you describe. And when it does, the result is a half hour delay on Eurostar, not a 90-minute delay as with airports.

  24. This discussion about terrorists and derailments is all very fascinating, but misses the larger issue; i.e.: How quickly can the system recover after a major seismic event?

    For example, the BART seismic engineering study predicts a major earthquake could disable the core system for many months (perhaps even 1 year). And that is even with the $1+ billion in seismic upgrades they are now doing. The Berkeley Hills tunnel will probably collapse when the Hayward fault erupts, and the condition of that tunnel is so bad that BART isn't even going to bother trying to shore it up.

    The Caltrain corridor is especially critical. It is near a major fault line, and will have a very large number of grade separations. The preference for aerials might make economic sense, perhaps even "aesthetic" sense, but are going to be much more vulnerable to ground motion. The advantage of raised embankment is that it is the least vulnerable to earthquake.

    And while Richard was probably joking when he said "back to Pacheco vs. Altamont", that alignment decision also raises questions about seismic vulnerability. A tunnel through Fremont hills might have same vulnerabilities as the BART Berkeley hills tunnel. I don't recall whether Pacheco also relied on tunnels.

    If the CHSRA did actually build Altamont, and the rail line does get knocked out in the vicinity of Fremont due to earthquake, it is not going to completely cut-off the Bay Area. People would still be able to reach HSR trains in Pleasanton (or Livermore) using BART, bus, or car. On the other hand, if the Authority continues to push for Pacheco, and that route got disabled by earthquake (on Calaveras fault), then the Bay Area would be completely cut-off from the HSR service. Trains could only get as far as Merced.

  25. Do you know of ANY others?

    I believe the list I posted includes the most serious accidents that have ever happened, worldwide, at > 125 mph. I did not miss any fatal HSR derailments, that's for sure. Wikipedia has a massive list of rail accidents including non-HSR.

    TGV runs on ballasted track in order to reduce construction costs, and does so with two orders of magnitude fewer deaths than the slab-tracked ICE.

    This is a dumb generalization for several reasons: (1) the ICE accident occurred on "low-speed" (200 km/h) ballasted track, and (2) there is no statistical link between slab track and fatalities, and (3) the statistics of extremely rare events do not mathematically support direct ("two orders of magnitude") comparisons.

    how did the homes and schools and the people in the neighborhoods (within feet of the tracks) fare in each of those high speed train accidents you listed?

    Obviously a leading question: there were none of those anywhere near the tracks. Not that it would matter: if the train stays upright and confined, it doesn't really matter what's next to the track. The statistical sample of HSR derailments is tiny and may not adequately quantify the probability of a school being destroyed by an errant high-speed train provided that a train derails, but the risk of derailment in the first place is certainly well-bounded by the enormous statistical sample of those HSR services that did not derail, let alone destroy a school. In short: your children will be safe by any reasonable metric of risk or safety. I do get the feeling that you're trying to draw the discussion outside of the realm of reason... "But the children!!!"

    Got anything better than that?

  26. Re Eurostar: I think the reason why Eurostar has that security theatre is mostly because the UK isn't party to the Schengen agreement, so they have to conduct passport checks. So they check passport prior to boarding to prevent a stowaway sneaking in.
    If CA's system has security theatre I will barf. Talk about stupid, seeing as there's no reasonable way to both create an effective screening process while also maintaining throughput/passenger happiness.
    And there's nothing stopping any serious terrorist from just dropping a bomb on a train from an overpass.

    Re earthquakes: c'est la vie.
    Really. It's California. They happen. And the impact of an earthquake shouldn't be any greater than the impact on freeways and bridges

  27. @ insulation, Andy Duncan -

    there's regular slab track, which is very stiff and therefore needs to be constructed to tight tolerances on well-prepared subsoil. Ballast track stiffness is on the order of the trains' suspension systems, so those (and the axles and wheels) are not as severely stressed as on slab track that has settled.

    The primary advantage of slab track is that it sharply reduces the dead load on aerial structures. Another (claimed) advantage is that it is essentially maintenance-free and can support medium freight trains at night on tracks that are used for HSR during the day. That supposedly justifies the higher up-front cost. However, some experts suspect DB's preference for using slab track for time-separated mixed traffic may have contributed to its problems with premature fatigue in ICE3 and ICE-TD axles.

    There's also vibration-isolated slab track, basically a slab on top of an elastic layer on top of the stiff subsoil. This reduces stress on train suspension systems, much like ballast track does. In spite of the steep price tag, it is sometimes used for tunnels that run close to residential housing that is already exposed to other severe environmental impacts.

    Example: the new HSR tracks in the lower Inn Valley in Tyrolia, Austria. Eventually, those will connect to the new Brenner base tunnel, which will feature regular slab track.

    In the vicinity of known earthquake faults, slab track might well be the only way to deliver sufficient lateral stiffness both before and after a derailment. There are long stretches in the Central Valley where ballast track can probably be used, though. I wonder if the UC Berkeley 3D shake table has ever been used to model the interactions of rail cars and track during an earthquake.

  28. @ PeakVT -

    thx for the info on grade-separated LGVs vs. legacy tracks with grade separations. I guess that means SNCF is keen to offer single-seat rides to wherever there's demand, even if it means running expensive HSR rolling stock at standard speed (well, standard for France at any rate) and exposing it to accident risks.

  29. @ Drunk Engineer -

    see this map for the names and locations of Northern California faults.

    Basically, there's no way to run tracks out of the Bay Area without having to worry about fault lines. Pick your poison.

    The Altamont routes all involve four crossings plus sections parallel to the San Andreas and/or Hayward faults. They also all feature tunnels both through parts of Altamont Pass itself plus a long one between Pleasanton and Niles.

    The Pacheco route runs parallel to the San Andreas and Calaveras faults for many miles, before heading east near where they converge. The tracks will have to cross the lesser-known Ortigalita fault near the San Luis Reservoir, though it's not yet clear if they will do so at or above grade. The engineers still have to optimize the lateral alignment using the Australian Quantm software and there are other factors - especially underground aquifers - that must be taken into account as well.

    Drill into one of those and you could end up draining or polluting a major source of fresh water for farmers in the especially arid south-western part of the Central Valley. Case in point: shoddy prep work by geologists and tunneling engineers near Valle del Abdelajis on the Madrid-Malaga AVE line in Spain. The video is in Spanish, but it should be self-explanatory. HSR is great and all, but if this were to be repeated in Pacheco Pass, Los Banos would become a ghost town very quickly.

  30. Why do I suppose CHSRA will have security theater?

    Ummm... because they've said they will. "Secure platforms".

    And because we already have the full fascist apparatus of internal travel passports in place and there's no way in hell an agency like our Vaterlandsverkehrsicherhietdiesnt is going to reduce the scope of its operations.

    And because plans for Transbay already include "HSR screening".

    And because even today the quasi-fascist government won't let you travel from Oakland to Sacramento on Amtrak today without Official ID, to be inspected by tin-pot self-important Amtrak feather-bedded conductors.

    And because that's the way Amtrak already operates in the Sacred North East Corridor, with restricted access to platforms, holding pens in mezzanines, government ID checks, etc.

    What possible chance is that HSR train and platform access could be made either of fast or convenient in our environment?

    That's Not The Way We Do Things Around Here.

  31. In the NEC, access to platforms is, for the most part, not very restricted. Sure, at NY Penn, they make you line up, but you can always go via the mezzanine and avoid all that. Access is controlled at Boston South Station, but free at Back Bay, Providence, and the rest of the stations to NYC. Newark, Trenton, etc. are shared with commuter rail and thus open as well. ID checks are done rarely and they don't much care if the name matches what's on the ticket.

  32. The significant life safety risks on a grade separated rail system are

    1. head-on, read-end and flanking train-train collisions. The risk of this is ~0% by virtual of correctly specified and implemented existing signal technology.

    2. fire, especially in constricted environments (tunnels, trenches)

    3. derailment into lineside obstacles

    4. derailment into other rail traffic.

    It makes a great deal of sense to analyze which of these, and under which scenarios, pose the highest risk in the context of California, and to engineer the system – where "engineering" always includes price performance consciousness – to minimize cumulative risk.

    Are we likely to see sense emanating from CHSRA?

    Is train derailment into opposing traffic a non-negligible risk? What are the plausible scenarios to cause such an event? Is "uncontrolled" passenger access to platforms likely to cause a train to derail and to cause it to with another train or a structure? Are there other more likely scenarios? Is track ("trackway") design to contain derailment an effective and justifiable approach? Are there other, more effective, cheaper, ways of maximizing overall system safety -- including the safety that comes from not making train travel less attractive than driving or airline travel? Is anybody going to do any objective analysis, or are we just going to go with preconceptions?

    PS Marginally-maintained (that's an economic fact) freight trains are far more likely to derail or to dump (euphemistically, "shift") their loads into the path of other traffic than passenger trains maintained under contract to guaranteed levels of availability. Just say no!

  33. This is precisely why UPRR doesn't want to share its own ROW with HSR. They are worried about the liability of their freight dumping onto HSR tracks.

  34. Clem:

    This is a dumb generalization for several reasons: (1) the ICE accident occurred on "low-speed" (200 km/h) ballasted track, and (2) there is no statistical link between slab track and fatalities, and (3) the statistics of extremely rare events do not mathematically support direct ("two orders of magnitude") comparisons.

    I'm not claiming slab track causes accidents. I'm claiming that Richard is wrong to state that slab track is the only safe way of constructing high-speed lines. It's not, and SNCF's record proves this.

  35. SNCF does not operate in earthquake country. Earthquakes would be the most likely cause of a high-speed derailment. See Japan.

  36. Adirondacker1280004 December, 2009 09:33

    And because that's the way Amtrak already operates in the Sacred North East Corridor, with restricted access to platforms, holding pens in mezzanines, government ID checks, etc.

    The NEC is vaguely like that at the major terminals, Union Station in DC, Penn Station in NYC and South Station in Boston. The only thing I can think of that resembles a holding pen is Club Acela. I guess it could be called one since it contains the whining first class and business class passengers and the occasional Continental passenger. The "strongest" containment I can think of is the fare control between PATH and the conventional platforms in Newark. Horrors! you have to swipe your Metrocard...

  37. @ anon @ 22:59 -

    there has been a grand total of one derailment of a shinkansen as a result of an earthquake, and even that did not result in fatalities or even serious injuries.

    It's important to recognize that earthquakes do pose a real risk, but also to quantify that risk realistically. The same applies to terrorism.

    Providing maximum protection against extremely unlikely events is nose-bleed expensive and may reduce the utility of the system. There needs to be more public discussion of the level of risk California residents are willing to accept vs. voters' willingness to pay for risk mitigation.

    Ideally, CHSRA would present the state legislature with two or three trade-off alternatives in this context to establish a guideline for project-level environmental analysis and subsequent engineering.


    Finally, don't forget that there is a non-zero risk of derailment related to earthquakes or terrorism today. If a major quake were to hit e.g. the Bay Area, it's conceivable a BART train could careen off an aerial. The Transbay Tube could crack and flood. A UPRR Mission Bay Hauler could plough into Palo Alto High.

    In 1995, an Amtrak train derailed in Palo Verde, AZ after tracks were sabotaged. The FBI later concluded this was an attempted freight train robbery that was merely made to look like an act of right-wing domestic terrorism. However, the episode did highlight the vulnerability of the nation's railroad network to real terrorist groups, regardless of providence or agenda.

    Such horror scenarios are of course extremely unlikely. My point is they are possible and, people are evidently willing to live with that risk today.

  38. @ anon @ 22:59 -

    btw, the south of France is actually considered a region at moderate risk of earthquakes.

    Italy, another country with a growing HSR network, has experienced lots of earthquakes in recent memory, some in the 6.9-7.2 range.

    China, Taiwan and Turkey also have HSR tracks in seismically active zones. Southern Spain and Portugal are also at risk.

    These existing implementations means there are many relevant real world data examples in addition to Japan. CHSRA should study all of them for the best way to minimize earthquake risks to passengers, staff and infrastructure at acceptable financial cost.

  39. @Richard

    US domestic ballasted track and US domestic tunnels and US domestic bridges have different risk profiles from the domestic civil engineering artifacts of places with different foreign policies.

    Other countries haven't had terrorist attacks against their transport networks?

  40. The only reason we haven't seen bad things happen to high speed trains is a combination of good engineering and plenty of good luck.

    The former can be practiced and built upon; the latter is bound to run out.

    That's all I have to say.

  41. Adirondacker1280004 December, 2009 16:04

    Other countries haven't had terrorist attacks against their transport networks?

    The US has had them as far back as the Civil War. We haven't had any on high speed rail because we don't have any high speed rail.

  42. Forwarded and modified, from a few thoughts I posted earlier on PAO:

    Supporters continue to contend that the redo on the EIR is minor - Kopp suggested in CHSRA board meeting yesterday that the resubmission would be limited to a total of 2 comments regarding vibration, and updates to the small (36 mile!) stretch between SJ and Gilroy. What supporters fail to acknowledge, or perhaps fail to grasp is that the entire EIR has been rescinded, not just portions, and the reasons don't really matter. The FACT is that the ENTIRE (SF to Central Valley) EIR is rescinded, and along with it, the route selection (100
    % of 08-01)

    The new EIR needs to be submitted to the public and rerouted through the review and approval process in its entirety. They might WISH they could just update a few paragraphs but more than 1 year and a half has passed since July 2008. And along with that year and a half - a whole lot of data and information has been added to the CHSRA's knowledge base.

    And the judge in his infinite wisdom allowed CHSRA to continue with PROJECT LEVEL investigation - much more detailed than even the original program EIR. So, fast forward to X months from now when they resubmit the EIR for public review - do you think they can get away with 'information unknown until further investigation', or out of date data on ANY part of the document where new data is now available? They've had engineers working on this for 18 months - are we to believe they have no new information on ANY subject other than UPRR from SJ to Gilroy?

    (As a minor example, just think of all the new sound impact data that was learned when Caltrain moved their horns a couple months ago)

    Nope, they'll have all kinds of new technical and cost data, (in fact they'll have an entirely new business plan by then!).

    They MUST bring the entirety of known data and information they have gathered since July2008 into the new document. Otherwise how can they legally and justifiably certify a document known to contain ommissions and out-of-date data?

  43. If the judge expected them to make significant changes to the EIR, why would he have allowed planning to continue?

  44. So they have good data (instead of thumbs in the air), to bring to the table, on which to base a route decision?

  45. http://www.insidebayarea.com/sanmateocountytimes/localnews/ci_13932398?source=rss

    Timely.. Just think of all the new DATA that will be in the next Program EIR...

  46. In the United States, one can reasonably argue that our foreign policy could make high speed rail a more attractive target for terrorism than in any other country where HSR exists.

    Except that foreign policy isn't the only excuse for terrorism. For example, both Spain and the UK have had lengthy and deadly histories with ETA and the IRA, respectively.

    In the two countries where I've ridden on high speed rail, Japan and Spain, "secure platforms" means that you have to have a ticket to have access to the platform. That's it. Spain does a very perfunctory baggage screening- you put your bags on the conveyor belt, walk around and pick them up on the other side. No long lines. No need to show ID. No metal detector to walk through, no emptying of pockets, no taking off your shoes, no taking laptops out for inspection. We had our son in his stroller and just wheeled him through, they didn't have us put the stroller through the x-ray or anything.

    "Secure Platform" doesn't have to automatically mean "ridiculous security theater."

    I know a lot of people love to hate Quentin Kopp, but he's on the record that a lack of security theater is one of the things that will make High Speed Rail seriously competitive with air travel, and Obama has made cracks about not having to take your shoes off, so it's not a given that the security theater proponents will get their way.

  47. I should add that in Israel, secure platforms mean the same as in Japan: you need to show a ticket to get to the platforms. And that's in a country that's infamous for its airport cavity searches and for its bag searches at shopping malls.

  48. @Bianca: even the much maligned Eurostar security screening is far, far simpler and easier than airport security. I haven't ridden it out of the new St. Pancras station, but when I rode it out of Waterloo in '03 at the height of the airport ridiculousness, I didn't have to even slow from a walking pace as I went through the scanners: bag on belt, scan ticket, walk through, pick up bag, keep walking. And that's supposedly the most elaborate and painful security screening of any HSR system anywhere.

  49. Andy,
    There are a large number of potential European capitals that Eurostar could be serving -- if it were not for the costs of security theater. Building (and operating) hermetically-sealed international terminals with passport and border control is not cost-effective for relatively infrequent service.

  50. @Drunk Engineer: Agreed and I don't think we should have it, the cost/risk just doesn't make sense, I agree with the general consensus here that preventing a derailed train from causing damage to itself and it's surroundings is a far better use of funds. My only point was that even in the most passenger-unfriendly security theater of Eurostar, the inconvenience to the passenger is far lower than it is at your typical airport.