The International Simutrans Forum

 

Author Topic: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways  (Read 5822 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline isidoro

  • Devotee
  • *
  • Posts: 1119
Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« on: June 17, 2016, 01:47:08 AM »
I don't know if it has something to do with the Brexit affair:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/11/why-german-trains-dont-run-on-time-any-more

Specially to the German guys, are the facts in the article true?

I don't know if British Railways is in such outstanding position for the newspaper to care about foreign railway systems.  British railways is a common example of where neocon policies lead to.  More expensive services with much lower quality...


Offline Ters

  • Coder/patcher
  • Devotee
  • *
  • Posts: 5316
  • Languages: EN, NO
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2016, 05:36:11 AM »
Seems like Germany is no better that the rest of the world in neglecting existing infrastructure.

The number of minutes lost per day seems very high. It is more comparable to what I would estimate is the yearly number of minutes lost in Norway, based on the reported number of passengers suffering from delays and cancellations. I haven't been able to compare number of passengers served in a given time period by the respective country's passenger train operator(s), though, so the numbers may be more proportional to that than the total population of each country. My estimate doesn't include goods either, and it is not clear how minutes lost for goods is counted. For passengers, it makes sense to calculate a sum of every passenger's lost time, but what is the unit for goods? A train, a container/car, a shipment, a parcel, each tiny item inside the parcel/piece of coal?

Offline Taurus

  • *
  • Posts: 60
  • Languages: DE, EN, FIN
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2016, 08:50:04 AM »
They seem to be true, certainly the facts about the big building projects being not much more than a national embarassement. If you want to see a proper railway system go to Switzerland or Austria. Comparing the mentality in Germany and Switzerland for example: A train is registered as delayed if it is more than 15 minutes behind schedule in Germany. In Switzerland it is only 3 minutes. The British system is the perfect example why one should not privatise passenger railways. The most recent example is GTR/Southern punishing their staff on the back of the passengers with huge numbers of trains cancelled. Most times due to shortage of staff even though the staff was there and would have been able to operate the service.

Offline Ters

  • Coder/patcher
  • Devotee
  • *
  • Posts: 5316
  • Languages: EN, NO
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2016, 06:01:52 PM »
As for delays, a Norwegian airline was relatively recently criticized for cheating after being proclaimed as the most punctual airline in the country. How did they do it? They simply didn't report shorter travel times than they knew by experience that they could keep most of the time.

Offline Isaac.Eiland-Hall us

  • Benevolent Dictator
  • Administrator
  • *
  • Posts: 3585
  • PanamaCityPC.com/support/
    • Facebook Profile
  • Languages: EN
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2016, 06:27:59 PM »
That doesn't sound like cheating to me unless I'm missing something. What it sounds like you're saying is that they estimated what time they thought they could actually make and planned around those times, rather than times they didn't think they could actually make but merely hoped they could make.

Wouldn't that be what everyone should be doing?

Offline Ters

  • Coder/patcher
  • Devotee
  • *
  • Posts: 5316
  • Languages: EN, NO
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2016, 07:45:42 PM »
That doesn't sound like cheating to me unless I'm missing something. What it sounds like you're saying is that they estimated what time they thought they could actually make and planned around those times, rather than times they didn't think they could actually make but merely hoped they could make.

Well, someone apparently decided to interpret it as them having padded their flight times by a few minutes to hide the fact that they are just as slow as the competition, and thereby unjustly win the comparison on who is most punctual by just "tampering with some numbers". Whether that was what they actually thought when setting new flight times is unknown to me. But without evidence to the contrary, I would assume they were just being honest or realistic.

Offline Octavius

  • *
  • Posts: 43
  • Languages: EN,NL,DE
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2016, 08:16:29 PM »
Large projects with cost overruns and delays are common all over Europe, I think. For a big station renovation project in the Netherlands the ministry of transport recently set a minimum price for the public tender, hoping that the construction companies wouldn't bid too low and go bankrupt, as often happens, leading to delays and additional cost.Note And the Swiss may have done a good job with the Gotthard base tunnel, but the Lötschberg base tunnel, although opened, is only 2/3 complete.

But this article in The Guardian reminds me of an article on the website of the Dutch rail infrastructure manager a few weeks back (→link, in dutch). They compared the punctuality of railways in a number of European countries in 2015. In short:
  • In the Netherlands, 89.2% of the pax trains was less than 3 minutes late at stations. Small halts were not included, but there is a valid reason for that. At the same time, 91% of the passengers was less than 5 minutes late (only taking into account the largest operator) and 80% of the goods trains was less than 3 minutes late.
  • In Switzerland, 87.8% of the passengers and 80% of the goods trains was less than 3 minutes late. The ratio of goods trains to passenger trains is much higher in Switzerland than in the Netherlands.
  • In Germany, 93.7% of the pax trains was less than 6 minutes late, but for long distance trains the number was only 74.4%.
  • In Belgium, 90.9% of the pax trains was less than 6 minutes late. Note that distances in Belgium are much shorter than in Germany.
Conclusion: it's practically impossible to compare these numbers.

Well, someone apparently decided to interpret it as them having padded their flight times by a few minutes to hide the fact that they are just as slow as the competition, and thereby unjustly win the comparison on who is most punctual by just "tampering with some numbers". Whether that was what they actually thought when setting new flight times is unknown to me. But without evidence to the contrary, I would assume they were just being honest or realistic.
I'd say that their competitors were cheating by promising unrealistic flight times.

Note: Multiple construction companies can set up a daughter company to bid together, which is an acceptable tactic if the project is too big for a single company. The daughter company then hires its parent companies to do the actual work. If it runs out of funding, the daughter company goes bankrupt, but the construction companies themselves don't suffer much.

Offline Junna

  • Devotee
  • *
  • Posts: 1068
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2016, 08:49:03 PM »
"any more"

People are just way more stressed and touchy about a delay than they ever were before, anyway.

 
Seems like Germany is no better that the rest of the world in neglecting existing infrastructure.

The number of minutes lost per day seems very high. It is more comparable to what I would estimate is the yearly number of minutes lost in Norway, based on the reported number of passengers suffering from delays and cancellations. I haven't been able to compare number of passengers served in a given time period by the respective country's passenger train operator(s), though, so the numbers may be more proportional to that than the total population of each country. My estimate doesn't include goods either, and it is not clear how minutes lost for goods is counted. For passengers, it makes sense to calculate a sum of every passenger's lost time, but what is the unit for goods? A train, a container/car, a shipment, a parcel, each tiny item inside the parcel/piece of coal?

It would also matter a lot in terms of relevance, if the goods in question were time-sensitive or not. If they weren't--then surely it makes little difference if it is delayed on behalf of more urgent transports. I mean, the total time spent in transit must surely be a quite a lot less than it used to be-- since the majority of goods trains now are all bulk trains that see little or no shunting and redistribution along the way (many times regrettably though, since it's just a fact that most of it is on lorries).

The EU has this weird policy where, officially they want to 'promote railway goods transport' and this and that 'effective utilisation of infrastructure', yet they are presiding over -- in most of Europe at any rate -- accelerating modal shift to road transport. This goes not only for parts of Eastern Europe where the goods percentage on the railways was kept intentionally high, but in Sweden too, the railway goods continues to decline rapidly (I'm not sure about Norway but I guess it is likely to be like that too). On the one hand the EU leadership proclaims that they want to foster this and that but in practice it's all laissez-faire, meaningless sloganeering.

Offline prissi

  • Developer
  • Administrator
  • *
  • Posts: 9238
  • Languages: De,EN,JP
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2016, 09:00:54 PM »
The statistics for england is proabably worse. While in Germany certainly trains are delayed quite often, there are lot of trains running for thousand kilometres (Rügen-München, Berlin-Zürich) or even more. Thus is the Moscow trains is delayed or some of the Berlin-Warzawa trains (which was rather the norm three years back), then there was little the DB could to to make them run faster. And there are no such trains running 1000 km inside Switzerland.

In the UK I would compare that to East Mainline (London-Scotland), which had delays on every occasion I travelled with it, between 5 min and more than an hour. What the UK has in much bigger number are cancelled trains; I have never ever heard that a train is cancelled due to a missing driver. But I hear this monthly here.

In Germany trains are mostly cancelled due to broken engines, fire/trees/flooding on the track or suicides.

But in the end, the big expansion of motorways came to Europe all at the same time. And now some bridges pay the toll, be it the Schiersteiner Brücke in Germany, the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland, or even the Interstate-35W-Mississippi-River-Brücke in the US.

Offline Ters

  • Coder/patcher
  • Devotee
  • *
  • Posts: 5316
  • Languages: EN, NO
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2016, 07:15:01 AM »
[...]in Sweden too, the railway goods continues to decline rapidly (I'm not sure about Norway but I guess it is likely to be like that too).

I don't have any numbers, but my impression is that goods on rails is pretty stable in Norway. Maybe the decline has already happened, or it never was that high to begin with. My direct observations might have been skewed by the fact that wood is to a greater extent sent to Sweden rather than being processed locally in Norway, but the goods market seems attractive enough for other companies to quickly fill in when one goods train operator recently shut down.

The amount of good on the roads has certainly increased a lot since 1990, mostly during the 1990s I think. That might have something to do with the end of goods processing and shunting at every station, except a handfull of major terminals and hubs. Or the globalization that moved manufacturing from the local factories to Asia and increased consumerism. Or a mix of both. It has however been said that those sending freight would have been more willing to send their stuff by train if they could be more certain that their stuff arrived on time. And by "on time", it might not be minutes that is the problem. The lack of redundancy means that a single accident or fault will stop all trains for hours or days, either on that line (which is the only possible route) or in an entire region. People can be shuffled onto buses with minimal infrastructure (I think a platform is required), but goods can only be moved onto trucks at the specialized hubs/terminals, so goods that has been loaded onto a train, is as stuck as the train it is on.

In Germany trains are mostly cancelled due to broken engines, fire/trees/flooding on the track or suicides.

For Norway, I can add frozen engines or coaches, and faulty signals. Recently and currently, railroad maintenance has been another major reason for cancelled trains, but that should perhaps be seen as positive.

Offline Junna

  • Devotee
  • *
  • Posts: 1068
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2016, 01:40:16 PM »
There's been very frequent delays because of torn down overhead line equipment in Sweden. It takes ridiculously long for them to repair it whenever there is such a delay. Sometimes there's sections closed due to torn wires several times a week with resulting cancellations... In most places there is no possibility to re-route things either.

Offline Vladki cz

  • Devotee
  • *
  • Posts: 2327
    • My addons, mostly roadsigns
  • Languages: EN, CS
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2016, 02:14:26 PM »
I would really like to see the delay staistics for czech and slovak railways. There used to be a page that had statistics for each train, but it was taken down. Anyway - 5 minutes delay are nothing anyone would bother with... Yesterday I almost managed to catch previous EuroCity train as it was 90-min late, and mine was 60-min late but that was due to trees falling on the track (due to strong wind). I think that the times they put in timetables are too optimistic, that everything will run perfectly smoothly, but it usually does not. Perhaps they need it for marketing to show that they can make trip from Brno to Praha under 3 hours to make people even consider using train...


Offline Ters

  • Coder/patcher
  • Devotee
  • *
  • Posts: 5316
  • Languages: EN, NO
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2016, 04:23:12 PM »
Last I used it, the bus form where I live now into the capital based its time table on constant journey times, which probably worked well most of the day, but not during rush hour. In my experience the rush hour delay was predictable (15 min), so once you knew it, you could compensate. (It was caused partially by electric cars clogging up the bus lane.) Unfortunately, the delay made that particular bus kind of useless, as it was a rush hour extra departure that according to the time table was perfect for arriving in time for a 09:00 job or meeting in the city center. It was still useful for those having a 09:00 appointment at the outskirts the bus came in through, though.

Some time tables list departure times from the first stop and time to each of the other stops. These can't represent predictably varying journey times. Not that those that can seem to do so either.

Offline Octavius

  • *
  • Posts: 43
  • Languages: EN,NL,DE
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2016, 07:18:35 PM »
In Germany trains are mostly cancelled due to broken engines, fire/trees/flooding on the track or suicides.
There seems to be a lot of flooding in Germany lately. Over here the cause is usually excessive delay or overloaded infrastructure, although lack of personnel and lack of trains happens too.

I think that the times they put in timetables are too optimistic, that everything will run perfectly smoothly, but it usually does not. Perhaps they need it for marketing to show that they can make trip from Brno to Praha under 3 hours to make people even consider using train...
Over here they plan 10% additional time, but to fit in the timetable they may add some extra minutes. The additional time is not smoothly distributed over the entire route. Suppose it takes at least 7 minutes from A to B, 7 from B to C and 7 from C to D, including the stops, with A and D major stations, B and C small halts. Then they increase the time in the timetable from 21 to 24 minutes at least, with 7 from A to B, 8 from B to C and 9 minutes from C to D. This way, they are never early at B, which would lead to pointless waiting, and have extra time from C to D to get back on schedule. At D the train has to be on time, because it's a junction with other trains using the same tracks and where people want to change trains.

Offline prissi

  • Developer
  • Administrator
  • *
  • Posts: 9238
  • Languages: De,EN,JP
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2016, 08:07:50 PM »
AS far as I know any train is allowed 10% speeding to catch delays. At least the line to Cambridge I frequently find the train speeding 132 km/h in an 120 km/h stretch. Also the ICE in Germany has a given max speed of 280 but is allowed to travel up to 308 km/h (if there are not slopes etc.)

Offline Vladki cz

  • Devotee
  • *
  • Posts: 2327
    • My addons, mostly roadsigns
  • Languages: EN, CS
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #15 on: June 19, 2016, 08:55:33 PM »
AS far as I know any train is allowed 10% speeding to catch delays. At least the line to Cambridge I frequently find the train speeding 132 km/h in an 120 km/h stretch. Also the ICE in Germany has a given max speed of 280 but is allowed to travel up to 308 km/h (if there are not slopes etc.)
Wow, that's something new. I'll have to ask my friend who is a train driver. Long ago I heard from other train driver that (at least some) engines had a safety "fuse", which will turn off the engine if speeding 15 km/h over the max allowed speed for that engine. Probably it would not apply brakes, just would stop accelerating further.

Offline Ters

  • Coder/patcher
  • Devotee
  • *
  • Posts: 5316
  • Languages: EN, NO
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #16 on: June 20, 2016, 05:45:29 AM »
According to the news, all trains in Norway stood still last night because of a technical fault in the communications system, which I assume means their dedicated cellphone system. Although trains are controlled regionally via signals, the telephone system is apparently not distributed. For safety reasons, trains on the national network are not allowed to move if either signals or the telephones are down. Which they are with disappointing regularity. Yet they keep working for more centralized systems.

Wow, that's something new. I'll have to ask my friend who is a train driver. Long ago I heard from other train driver that (at least some) engines had a safety "fuse", which will turn off the engine if speeding 15 km/h over the max allowed speed for that engine. Probably it would not apply brakes, just would stop accelerating further.

That probably depends on how you define maximum speed. If the train is capable of going 15 km/h faster, it clearly wasn't really moving at maximum possible, nor allowed, speed before that. It is not uncommon to define a safety margin below the absolute maximum speed, which creates a formal maximum speed that is the one to adhere to under normal circumstances. In addition to safety, speed above the formal maximum speed over longer periods may also cause excessive wear on the equipment. (A slightly tangential note is that the space shuttle had throttle settings above 100%. According to some, they figured out a new maximum, but found that recalibrating the scale was too complex. Others say that 100% simply means the setting at which the engine operates most optimally.)

Offline Vladki cz

  • Devotee
  • *
  • Posts: 2327
    • My addons, mostly roadsigns
  • Languages: EN, CS
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #17 on: June 20, 2016, 06:56:40 AM »
The max speed I referred to is the certified max speed which shall be obeyed at normal circumstances.15 km/h was apparrently a safety margin. The story behind is, that the guy was driving an engine cerified for 160 km/h and had to test a newly rebuilt stretch of track. He could not run faster than 174 km/h because of the speeding fuse. Although the engine seemed to be capable to run even faster.

Offline prissi

  • Developer
  • Administrator
  • *
  • Posts: 9238
  • Languages: De,EN,JP
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #18 on: June 20, 2016, 08:32:44 PM »
Electrical engines have a lot of spare power, but indeed, the brakes are the limit. The German 103 had a nominal power of 7400 kW, but could allow up to 12000 kW for 5 minutes. (Not possible with todays asynchronous motors though.) I also like the fact that one engine had an average speed over one month of 67 km/h (50251 km in 31 days ... )

Back on topic: It seems the allowance for 10% speeding was specific for that series of ICE trains. They have been built for higher specs, but for normal runs to reduce wear (and because the old series could not run as fast) were first rated for the same max speed. Other that that there seems a large fine for speeding.

Still, I have measured sometimes a train with up to 132 km/h here at a 75 mph (120 km/h) sign.

Offline Ters

  • Coder/patcher
  • Devotee
  • *
  • Posts: 5316
  • Languages: EN, NO
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #19 on: June 20, 2016, 09:13:29 PM »
On my recent flight to Rome and back, the departure was delayed both there and back. But both ways they managed to make in most of it in again, thanks to air traffic controllers giving them a straighter path. Makes me wonder how much latitude they have. (Unless this is just the standard excuse for why they were faster than advertised, if this indeed was the airline I mentioned above.)

I don't know which options train here have for making up for lost time, although they at least have some. As a passenger, it has sometimes felt like the train is giving a little more than usual. Helpful train dispatchers is something I've seen mentioned in a forum. Although I've also read complaints about the opposite as well. Mostly goods train drivers complaining that they suffer extra when passenger trains are prioritized, but also that some operators supposedly get prioritized over others.

Offline kierongreen

  • Dev Team, Coder/patcher
  • Devotee
  • *
  • Posts: 2256
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #20 on: June 21, 2016, 06:22:06 AM »
Speed limits on railways in Britain are pretty rigidly enforced I thought. Though timetables will have slack based on energy efficient ways of driving the train. This gives the potential for faster acceleration and sharper braking to make up time (more applicable for diesel trains).

Offline el_slapper

  • *
  • Posts: 210
  • Languages: FR, EN, DE
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #21 on: June 21, 2016, 09:16:52 AM »
On my recent flight to Rome and back, the departure was delayed both there and back. But both ways they managed to make in most of it in again, thanks to air traffic controllers giving them a straighter path. Makes me wonder how much latitude they have. (Unless this is just the standard excuse for why they were faster than advertised, if this indeed was the airline I mentioned above.)(.../...)

There is another constraint for planes : wind. It can change the travel time by one full hour on a Sao-Paulo Amsterdam. It's a lot less on short flights, but it adds to other elements for the randomness of time travel.

Offline Octavius

  • *
  • Posts: 43
  • Languages: EN,NL,DE
Re: Article in "The Guardian" about German Railways
« Reply #22 on: June 21, 2016, 12:22:08 PM »
I only once measured a train speeding. It was on the line Horst-Sevenum to Deurne in the Netherlands, where the train went 144 km/h average for two minutes where 140 is allowed. I timed it the old-fashioned way, using a watch and counting the overhead wire poles. But technically, it wasn't speeding, as the speed limit there is 160 km/h but has to be interpreted as 140 km/h, except when doing a test. The safety system allows speeding by a few km/h (I think 5 or 7 or so), but only relative to one of the limited number of speeds it recognises (40, 60, 80, 130, unlimited). I also remember an ETR 500 with a very sporty driving style to catch up lost time between Bologna and Milano.

I also heard (railway company gossip) that electric locos running light from Emmerich border station (in Germany) back to the actual border managed to speed considerably. Local speed limit is about 130 km/h, but no safety system was installed. The series 1600 locos are rated for 180 km/h, but on this stretch they went well over 200 km/h. There are some level crossings on that line. They must have slowed down for those, or they wouldn't close in time. Although I think German crossings close rather early.

Time tables have some tolerance to get back on schedule. Over here, the tolerance is at least 10%, but may be more to fit better in the traffic pattern. Stops may be extra long (more than 10 minutes occasionally, when only 2 is required for boarding/alighting). If not too inconvenient, halts may be skipped. And if the delay gets to much, the train simply turns around.