Archive for October, 2009

The Borkum Kleinbahn & Inselbahn Langeoog – from U-Tube

October 31, 2009

Borkum’s steam train in 2008.

The Inselbahn Langeoog – note containers.

Getting Valley rail on track – From the Abby News

October 30, 2009


More positive news from the Fraser Valley Press.

Getting Valley rail on track

Published: October 28, 2009 2:00 PM

A regular train service arrives in downtown Abbotsford from Surrey and Langley, collecting passengers and transporting them to other areas of the city or as far east as Chilliwack.

It may sound like a long-term dream for rail enthusiasts, but according to a newly formed group pushing for the service, it could become a reality sooner rather than later.

The South of the Fraser Rail Task Force is currently looking for the backing of Valley municipalities in its push for rail connectivity.

Should that happen, it wants to see a “demonstration project” conducted on the old interurban line, to determine whether the track is a viable long-term option to help link communities.

The group has been put together by Langley Township Mayor Rick Green, and task force member Peter Holt was in Abbotsford on Monday to pitch the group’s case to mayor and council.

Holt said trains would start at Scott Road in Surrey and wind through the Valley to Chilliwack. They would cross various parts of Surrey, Langley, Gloucester Estates at the Langley and Abbotsford border, through Abbotsford towards Sumas (via the University of the Fraser Valley), and then across to Yarrow and Chilliwack.

“This will be a new mode of transit south of the Fraser, joining our own communities and not the communities into Vancouver,” he said. “The good thing is that we are sitting on billions of dollars worth of assets.”

A similar pitch is being made by the group to other communities, and has also been put to the Fraser Valley Regional District.

It is an initiative well-worth pursuing, according to local rail enthusiast John Vissers, who is also involved with the group.

“We believe the political will and the community desire is there – that’s been demonstrated over and over again,” Vissers told The News, describing Abbotsford as a “hub” for light rail in the Fraser Valley.

“We have a local bus system, but we have no way for people to get from community to community without buying expensive cars.”

The interurban line between Abbotsford and Chilliwack is currently only used twice a day by freight trains. Visser said that because the line is taxpayer-owned, public trains are allowed to use it 33 per cent of the time.

“There’s a cost involved, but it would create a culture that at the moment does not exist,” he said. “I think its a no-brainer. It’s something that’s long overdue.”

Abbotsord Coun. Lynne Harris believes the community to be “supportive” of a rail network that connects Abbotsford to nearby cities.

“These are tough economic times, but there’s infrastructure already there and that makes it potentially doable.”

Costs from $200M to $700M

While there is no study that estimates specific costs for the Interurban route between Surrey and Chilliwack, research commissioned by the City of Surrey in 2007 found that a basic Surrey to Langley service would cost approximately $200 million ($6 million per kilometre).

A similar TransLink study, which called for a more “deluxe” level of service between the two cities, puts costs closer to $700 million ($27 million per kilometre).

Ray Mufford, a director with the Valley Transportation Advisory Committee which is pushing for the interurban l ine, estimated that a basic half-hourly train service – running approximately 60 kilometres from Surrey to Chilliwack – would cost approximately $600 million.

That would include all track upgrades, he said, as well as trains, work at existing crossings, and new train stations.

Light rail proponents argue those numbers are just a fraction of what it costs to expand SkyTrain routes.

The German East Frisian Islands Railways – Interurbans all the same.

October 30, 2009

The small German East Frisian Islands of Borkum, Langeoog, Wangeroog, and Spiekeroog all operate narrow guage railways to help service tourist destinations on the almost car free ecologically sensitive islands. Even though the trains operated are steam or diesel hauled, they preform the function of an interurban, conveying passengers from ferry piers to the main villages. Having rail transport means that auto traffic on island roads roads are kept to the bare minimum or not at all, preserving the idyllic nature of the islands.

The Friesian island railways do provide a small lesson for Rail to the Valley as the proposed Fraser Valley Interurban will not only function as an alternative to the car for valley residents, but convey tourists from downtown Vancouver, up through the Fraser Valley with a transit mode that hasn’t been available in 60 years.


Borkum is bordered to the west by the Westereems strait (which forms the border with the Netherlands), to the east by the Osterems strait, to the north by the North Sea, and to the south by the Wadden Sea. It is the largest and westernmost of the East Frisian Islands in the North Sea, due north of the Dutch province of Groningen.

The island is partially car-free. Off-season, driving by car is permitted everywhere, otherwise there are car-free zones. The only town on the island is also called Borkum. Passengers get a free train ride between the harbour and the town of Borkum.



Langeoog is one of the seven inhabited East Frisian Islands at the edge of the Lower Saxon Wadden Sea in the southern North Sea, located between Baltrum Island (west), and Spiekeroog (east). It is also a municipality in the district of Wittmund in Lower Saxony, Germany. The main ferry termainal and town are connected by a short railway.



Wangerooge is the eastern most and smallest of the inhabited East Frisian islands in this group (according to some other measurements, Baltrum is the smallest) and the only one that belonged to the historical district of Oldenburg between 1815 and 1947, whereas Borkum, Juist, Norderney, Baltrum, Langerooge and Spiekerooge always belonged to the county of Ostfriesland. As of the census of 2004, the island has 1,055 inhabitants. Especially in summer the island accommodates more than 7,000 visitors a day.

In order to guarantee recreation, cars are prohibited on the island. The island can be reached by ship from Harlesiel, or it can be reached by plane from Harlesiel, Bremen, or Hamburg. The ferries leave at different times every day according to the tide. As on most East Frisian Islands, a small narrow gauge railway line, the Wangerooge Island Railway, connects the harbor to the main village.

The single track Wangerooge Island Railway (Wangerooger Inselbahn) is an unelectrified narrow gauge railway with a rail gauge of 1,000 mm located on the East Frisian island of Wangerooge off the northwestern coast of Germany. It is the most important means of transport on the island and is the only narrow gauge railway operated today by the Deutsche Bahn.

1 Wangerooge_Bahnhof_Dorf


Spiekeroog is one of the smaller of the East Frisian Islands, off the North Sea coast of Germany. It is situated between Langeoog to its west, and Wangerooge to its east. The island belongs to the municipality of the district of Wittmund, in Lower Saxony in Germany. The only village on the island is also called Spiekeroog.

There is a quaint diesel rail service on the island and from April to September (depending on holiday times), a horse-driven railway operates between the old railway station and Westend.


STRASBOURG – Beautiful City – Beautiful Trams

October 29, 2009


The French city of Strasbourg ( population  276,867  in 2006), which its historic city centre was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, decided in the early 1990’s to build a modern tramway system, using the innovative and attractive ADTranz Eurotram rolling stock . In 1994 Line A opened, with a north-south route running from Hautpierre-Maillon (north-west) to the city center (where a tunnel section runs under Gare Centrale railway station) to the south, passing through the main hospital, the stadium, the university and Baggersee suburb). So successful was Strasburg’s initial light rail line that it was extended in 1998 from Baggersee to Illkirch Lixenbuhllatter and with more lines to come.

Line B-C started its operations in 2000; their track is articulated in 3 branches converging in the city center (Place de la Republique). Line B runs south (Lingolsheim terminal, opened in May 2008 after Elsau-Lingolsheim extension) – north (Hoenheim Gare), While Line C connects suoth-western (Elsau) to south-eastern (Rodolphe Reuss terminal, opened in August 2007 after Esplanade-Rodolphe Reuss extension) areas. Line B and C serves many important urban polarities, the tramway depot area (Elsau), the university (south-east), the congress center (north), the suburbs of Schlitigheim, Bischheim (north) and Ostwald, Lingolsheim (south).

Line E opened in 2007 running from Baggersee (south-east) to Robersau Boecklin (north-east), serving the European Parlament.

Line F should will open in 2010, as the urban section of a new tram-train line connectin the railway station to Entzheim airport and to Vallee de la Bruche (Gresswiller, Mutzig) and Piemont des Vosges (Obernai, Barr) agglomerations; LRT and tram vehicles will share the existing TER Alsace railway tracks by 2014. Line F will connect Gare (with a new tramway surface stop) to Robersau Boecklin (serving the European Parlament) and Vauban, running along part of Line B-C (Homme de Fer-Republique section) and Line E (Republique-Wacken) tracks.


Country France
Line Line A, Line B, Line C, Line D, Line E
Inhabitants City 270.000, District 610.000
Date opening 1994
Future development: Line F (urban section of a future tram-train line connecting the airport to the city center)
Length (km) 53.7
Track sections Linea A: 12.6 km; Linea B: 15.1 km; Linea C: 9.9 km; Linea D: 5.5 km; Linea E: 10.6 km
ground level, with the exception of a tunnel section under Gare Centrale
Stops 59, average distance m 550
Platform doors
General characteristics
n. of vehicles Bombardier: 53; Alstom: 41
n. of cars per vehicle Bombardier:3-4; Alstom: 7
Type steel wheels, bi-directional
Vehicle dimensions (m) Bombardier: lenght: 33.10 (3 cars), 43.10 (4 cars), width 2.4
Alstom: length: 45.06, width 2.4
Vehicle capacity (pax) Bombardier: 285 (86 seated) 3 cars; 370 (92 seated) 4 cars
Alstom: 288
Frequency 3’/15′
Current/Voltage 750 V DC overhead
Type of guide/gauge standard gauge rails (1435 mm)
Speed Km/h Comm 20, Max 60
Accel./Decel. (m/sec2)
System capacity 6.000 pphpd
Total cost 20 M Euro/km CAD $31.7M/km.
Model Bombardier: Eurotram; Alstom: Citadis 403


Alaskan Way Viaduct – Earthquake Simulation – from U-Tube. Could this be deja vu for SkyTrain?

October 28, 2009

The following video from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), showing the effects of a 7.0 earthquake in Seattle is telling and is very much worth a watch. Even though Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct is long past its prime and not designed for catastrophic earthquakes, it’s collapse plus the failure of other aged infrastructure is chilling.

The late transit expert, Des Turner, was always concerned about the effects of a large earthquake and on the mostly elevated Expo and Millennium light-metro lines. In theory, the SkyTrain viaducts should survive an earthquake measuring 6 on the Richter Scale with minimal damage, with few exceptions, such as if a support column fails due to local soil liquefaction or earth movement.

Unlike at-street/at-grade light rail, failure on any section of viaduct would mean several months of disrupted service on the metro until new columns and guide-ways could be rebuilt and emplaced. Large scale failure of the SkyTrain viaduct may even lead to line abandonment.

In summer 1995, a letter from a US engineer specializing in earthquake resistant design to Mr. Turner, expressed a worry that if a 7+ earthquake were to hit Vancouver, the elevated SkyTrain guide-way would fail in several sections, just like what happened in Kobe Japan in 1995, where once thought earthquake resistant viaduct design failed, with devastating consequences.

3 kobe

Vancouver doesn’t have 60 year old decaying elevated double-deck highway viaduct to worry about, but it does have a large elevated light-metro network, which some sections are now approaching some 30 years old and one wonders that TransLink has an earthquake plan, if and when the unthinkable happens.

Let’s ride on the Clermont-Ferrand TransLohr GLT -Courtesy of U-Tube

October 27, 2009

This is an interesting U-Tube of the TransLohr GLT or guided bus. The centre rail is for guidance only as the tram like bus is propelled by standard rubber tires.

Fraser Valley Interurban map

October 26, 2009

We now have an excellent overview map of the Interurban route in the Fraser Valley, courtesy of Paul Gieselman. (The map shows a terminus at Scott Rd. Skytrain station, but of course a service could extend over the rail bridge into Vancouver.)

Tram on Tires – Guided Light Transit (GLT), the ultimate BRT

October 26, 2009


Guided Light Transit or GLT is a hybrid bus/tram system, where rubber tired vehicles are guided by a single rail and the TransLohr GLT falls into this category. It has been long realized that for a bus to obtain higher performances to compete against LRT, it must be guided. The Achilles heel of BRT in busways is that the kinetic envelope needed for BRT operation is much greater than LRT, thus the land take for a busway was much more expensive than for light rail. The Ottawa busway cost more to build than for originally planned for LRT! To reduce the kinetic envelope for buses, they must be guided and the German O-Bahn addresses this problem by side wheels running on a cement guide-way. Visually ugly, the guide-ways have not proven popular and are almost impossible to locate in city centres, which means the O-Bahn operates just as a bus in the city. In Germany, this problem has been some what overcome by O-Bahn track-sharing with LRT on reserved rights-of-ways and in tunnel; though problems still persist.

By guiding a bus by a single rail (monorail?), flush with the street (like a tram), enables the GLT to safely operate in city centres, within its kinetic envelope thus providing the bus with most of the benefits associated with light rail- but at a cost as GLT became only a little cheaper than LRT, but with a much more limited capacity than light-rail and limited productivity as GLT buses can’t operate in multiple unit. In Paris, GLT is more expensive to build than tram!

The new Paris tram-on-tire or GLT line Saint Denis-Sarcelles (6.6 km) will serve some popular destinations, as well trying to revitalize strategical urban areas. Many modal interchange points will be located along the route: Marche de Saint-Denis (T1 tramway line), Saint-Denis Basilique (metro Line 13), Garges-Sarcelles (RER local railways Line D), besides many other bus interchange stops.

A further standard tram line (steel wheels) will also serve Seine-Saint-Denis department, connecting Saint-Denis, Epinay-sur-Seine, Villetaneuse and serving Universitè de Paris XIII-Villetaneuse. It will interchange with metro L13 (Saint-Denis Porte de Paris stop) and tram T1 (Gare de Saint-Denis stop), but not directly with Saint Denis-Sarcelles line.
RATP (official site)

What is interesting to see is the cost of  Paris’s new GLT, CAD $52.7 million/km is much higher than Le Man’s new LRT line costing $31.2 million/km. or Paris’s tramway T-3 cost of $42.5 million/km! It seems the TransLohr GLT or tram on tires is very expensive for what it does and like SkyTrain, be built in very numbers.

It is important to note, when provincial politicians espouse the notion of Bus Rapid Transit as an alternative to LRT, Rail for the Valley must expose this nonsense as both BRT and GLT could be more expensive to install than light rail and certainly GLT/BRT will cost more to operate than LRT.

Country France
Line Saint Denis-Sarcelles
Inhabitants District 11.175.000
Date opening 2011
Future development:
Length (km) 6.6
Track sections
Stops 16, average distance 400 m
Platform doors
General characteristics
n. of vehicles 15
n. of cars per vehicle 3
Type rubber tyres bi-directional
Vehicle dimensions (m) length 30, width 2.2
Vehicle capacity (pax) 127
Frequency 5’/
Type of guide/gauge central rail
Speed Km/h Comm. 18, Max —
Accel./Decel. (m/sec2)
System capacity
Ridership 30.000 pax/day
Total cost 33 M Euro/km
System builder LOHR
Model Translohr STE3

Mobilien: Paris Version of Bus Rapid Transit. But could LRT do a better job?

October 25, 2009

The following  U-Tube presentation of Paris’s Mobilien BRT is interesting and shows what buses can do in congested cities, such as Paris. The observation can be made:  “that for a few dollars or Euros more, would not the modern tram bring more benefits to both the city and transit customers on these routes?” The articulated diesel buses used by Paris’s Mobilien, pollutes the air and spews diesel particulate a proven carcinogen, while LRT, run by electricity, is very environmental friendly. If electric buses were to have been used, then the cost difference between BRT and LRT would greatly decrease.  The higher commercial speeds for Mobilien are achieved by using dedicated rights-of-ways and preemptive signaling, which by strange coincidence is more basic that a trams, yet there is no howls of protest that BRT will cause accidents at every street corner as we constantly hear from the anti-LRT crowed.

In France, exhaustive studies done between bus and tram and a few interesting points have been made. To be competitive with a tram BRT must be guided, like the O-Bahn or the various proprietary GLT systems. Unguided BRT has a poor record in attracting new ridership has transit customers just think it is a bus and is the main reason that GLT vehicles (buses) look like trams! LRT lines cost about 30% more to build than GLT, but with the higher price for light-rail, one gets higher productivity, higher capacities, and higher commercial speeds and is for those reasons, many towns have opted (most by public vote) to build with light rail.

One interesting aspect of France’s LRT program is that one third of the cost of tramway is set aside for landscaping, etc. but with BRT the subsidies must be used for road layout or other measures which facilitate bus services, such as dedicated bus lanes, studies to give buses priority at intersections and can’t be used for landscaping or public amenities, which in France, is an important concern when one is planning for rapid transit.

From the Guardian.Co.UK. – London transit executives may head to New York to consult on subway

October 24, 2009

 The recent visit by Janette Sadik-Khan serving as the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, seemed to create a blog frenzy about how New York was today’s transit nirvana, but with a population of over 8 million (or about the same population as BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan combined), the city does have the population to sustain a large metro network. But not all is well with New York’s subway and the following article from the Guardian shows some of the finical dilemma’s facing the operators of large metro systems.

London’s transportation agencies have followed the 21st century operating philosophy that: “Public transit is seen by the public as a product and if the customer (public) do not think they are getting good value for the product or do not like the product, they will not buy the product.”

One wishes TransLink would enter the 21st century and offer quality transit products, instead of forcing vast amounts of bus riders onto SkyTrain or RAV and pretend all is well.


London transit executives may head to New York to consult on subway

The battle between two of the world’s great urban train systems enters a new chapter

Ed Pilkington in New York  Friday 23 October 2009

The perennial rivalry between two of the world’s great underground railways, the New York subway and the London tube, has erupted once more after the subway announced that it plans to fly over Transport for London executives to advise it on how to modernise its systems.

The apparent admission of inferiority on the part of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority towards its equivalent public body across the pond has been greeted with predictable anguished cries. The New York Times carried the news under the headline Will Subway Riders Start Calling It the Tube?

Under the plan, pending MTA board approval at a meeting on Wednesday, some $500,000 (£350,000) would be spent jetting in senior Transport for London staff to act as consultants to the subway. They would be paid up to $200 an hour, have their travel and hotel expenses covered, and stay for two to four weeks at a stretch.

As an added twist, the plan is the brainchild of the subway’s new chief, Jay Walder, who until 2006 worked for Transport for London. He took over as chairman of the MTA earlier this month, and brought with him from London Charles Monheim, his chief operating officer.

Together, they plan to introduce to New York some of the innovations that Walder has been credited with successfully implementing in London — notably the Oyster card automatic payment system, and electronic boards informing passengers how long they will have to wait for the next train. Studies have shown that riders are three times more anxious about waiting when they have no idea how long the delay will be.

In comparison with the tube, the New York network is starting to look distinctly antiquated: it long ago removed the graffiti that clung to its carriages, but it lacks the digital convenience that Londoners have come to expect. New York’s attempts to introduce electronic boards have been beset with problems and currently only exists on one subway line and on bus stops in one midtown street.

A Transport for London spokesperson confirmed today that talks were under way: “We are in discussions with the MTA on a proposed cooperation agreement under which we might work together, at no cost to London’s fare payers or taxpayers, on areas of mutual interest.  We will ensure that this arrangement financially benefits London, as well as providing New York with the benefit of London’s experience in Oyster technology and the provision of customer information. The details have yet to be finalised.”

If this sounds like the ultimate victory for the London tube over the New York subway, think again.

Walder is himself a native of the New York borough of Queens, who cut his teeth on the subway and taught at Harvard before leaving America to become planning and finance director of Transport for London in 2000.

So it could be argued that it took an American to spruce up the London tube, and having taught the British how to do it he is now bringing the trophy back home. “This is truly a homecoming for me,” he said recently.

“I’m a kid from Queens. I grew up riding the subway.”


1 2 tube