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Topic: What's Going on in Europe (Read 212067 times)

What's Going on in Europe
Portugal is weeping, Geert Wilders Says Netherlands Would Be Better Off if It Left 28-Nation Bloc, France can't compete with Germany, Merkel is pissed at Obama, Belgium is ousting Afgans. Is anybody happy?

  • ersi
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Re: What's Going on in Europe
Reply #1300
Meanwhile, how's Oslo-Stockholm high-speed railway coming along? What's your vision on that one?

  • jax
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Re: What's Going on in Europe
Reply #1301
If the Estonian government doesn't want to fund a fairly small and cheap upgrade to the Pärnu branch, that indicates that they don't value it highly, not that they have been bamboozled by the EU.
No, it is not a fairly small and cheap upgrade. The technical parameters say:
 - speed 249 km/h for passenger trains
 - gauge 1435 mm

We don't have a high-speed rail here and our local gauge is different (same as in Russia), so the change is quite notable. Nothing in the current tracks permits high speed or is heading in the wanted direction, so new land needs to be appropriated to straighten the railways to fit the planned route. The current railway network in the Baltic countries reflects the fact that it is derived from Czarist era, looking like tentacles from Russia.

In Estonia there was a long debate whether the line should pass through Tartu (second largest city where also about half of parliament and government politicians are from) or Pärnu (the summer capital, i.e. the rail would properly serve tourism and it is also the straightest line, giving hope for high speed). Eventually Pärnu "won" but then the existing rail line was killed off under the pretence of building Rail Baltica.

As I said previously, the problem with the Rail Baltica project is that the three governments treat it in rather different ways. Estonia appears to take it seriously, promising a straight high-speed train to Berlin, nothing of which has been built, yet the existing Pärnu railway has already been abandoned in favour of something that probably will not get done.

Lithuania takes it completely unseriously, using the funds to upgrade the rails between Kaunas and Vilnius, which is geographically perpendicular to the Rail Baltica. Kaunas-Vilnius passage has already been upgraded with the Rail Baltica funds, but just to improve the existing traffic at existing parameters. Lithuanians are calmly keeping their existing railways and inserting rails inside rails, as if implementing the new gauge (and receiving funding for it) while ensuring that none of the Rail Baltica trains will be able to use it.

Latvia has recently started to clear way for the station complex at Riga airport which, again, would be an offshoot or even at cross purposes to the entire idea of highspeed rail line. In your world, is an airport mover (tram, rail shuttle or whatever you call it) the same thing as a high-speed long-distance train?

The branch line to Pärnu needed an upgrade, Wikipedia says 17 MEUR. That is small change for a rail project (1/500th of Rail Baltica), even when Estonia would have to pay for it out of its own pocket. That indicates to me that something of this was true:

  • The government didn't like rail
  • The branch was not profitable/well-used
  • The government wanted a clean break with Russian past and Finno-Russian gauge lines
  • Most of the traffic was Tallinn-Pärnu anyway

There is no requirement to shut down existing lines when a new line is built. Often they are used for local rail or freight. That is the case in e.g. Spain. Their high-speed network is standard gauge, but the rest of their network is not.

It took some negotiation skills to get Vilnius in as a branch to Rail Baltica, but they succeeded. Initially they demanded that the line should pass Vilnius, the capital, so they won this compromise to make this line reasonably fast. Estonia could have tried to include Tartu that way, or Latvia Daugavpils, but they didn't. And frankly Lithuania had a much better case. They are the only ones without their capital on the line. 

Connecting rail and airports is both smart and common. When the airport isn't strictly on the line, a parallel airport branch is often the solution. That is the case with the Swedish East Link project, or rather was, as the airport branch is cut to save costs (and to local protest). 

Also, so that you don't complain about this project 5 years from now, when the line is supposed to be finished, this is not a high-speed rail project in EU terminology. "High speed" means 250+ km/h, but the physical standards and signalling is more demanding, and expensive. The East Link above was originally intended to be high speed, but the planners dropped that to save costs. Also, I don't think European high-speed lines allow mixed traffic, and freight is an important part of the motivation for this line. 

Which speed the actual trains will run at will be up to the operators, but I guess 100-120 km/h for freight, and 160-200 km/h for passengers. 

  • jax
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Re: What's Going on in Europe
Reply #1302
Meanwhile, how's Oslo-Stockholm high-speed railway coming along? What's your vision on that one?


My guesstimate, based on experience with Swedish and Norwegian planners, is: probably not in our lifetimes. It could happen in parts, the border line is atrocious. Improving that would make a great difference. But I don't see the impetus for the whole thing to happen. And the EU wouldn't sweeten this deal either.


  • Belfrager
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Re: What's Going on in Europe
Reply #1303
TGV (High-speed trains) seems to affect people's brain. The connection Lisbon-Madrid has been a never ending tragic-comedy for many years that is now announced to be ready (nothing is already done) by 2023 but Lisbon has already demanded that or Lisbon- Porto is also build or we don't accept the Madrid connection.

No one cares anymore about it, people have already realized that, if ever constructed, it will be some solution that will serve nobody.
Worst than the TGV novel only Lisbon's new airport.
A matter of attitude.

  • ersi
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Re: What's Going on in Europe
Reply #1304
The branch line to Pärnu needed an upgrade, Wikipedia says 17 MEUR.
It all needs an upgrade. That's not the question. The question is what to upgrade it *to* and how. And what to do while things are being upgraded.
That is small change for a rail project (1/500th of Rail Baltica), even when Estonia would have to pay for it out of its own pocket. That indicates to me that something of this was true:
  • The government didn't like rail
  • The branch was not profitable/well-used
  • The government wanted a clean break with Russian past and Finno-Russian gauge lines
All this is true. And some additional points matter: - Estonia's rail network as a whole and each and every part of it is unprofitable - The government hates rail,[1] yet it is pushing the Rail Baltica project[2]
There is no requirement to shut down existing lines when a new line is built.
I know. At the same time, under cover of the new line, the old one was shut down with the message: EU demands this! This fact cannot be changed.
It took some negotiation skills to get Vilnius in as a branch to Rail Baltica, but they succeeded. Initially they demanded that the line should pass Vilnius, the capital, so they won this compromise to make this line reasonably fast. Estonia could have tried to include Tartu that way, or Latvia Daugavpils, but they didn't. And frankly Lithuania had a much better case. They are the only ones without their capital on the line. Connecting rail and airports is both smart and common. When the airport isn't strictly on the line, a parallel airport branch is often the solution. That is the case with the Swedish East Link project, or rather was, as the airport branch is cut to save costs (and to local protest).
Yes, both Latvia and Lithuania successfully presented their case, but cases like this undermine the entire point of the project. Once you make it an S-Bahn or a tram instead of a highspeed rail, what's the point of it? It does not make the EU look good funding a tram project under the name of highspeed rail. It makes the EU look like a total moron.
Also, so that you don't complain about this project 5 years from now, when the line is supposed to be finished, this is not a high-speed rail project in EU terminology. "High speed" means 250+ km/h...
This remains my top complaint because high speed - to Berlin within the same day - was the main selling point of the project in the beginning. The fact that this will not be so means that the entire project has been a lie all along. With EU funding, it is the EU lie. This is how dissenting countries like Poland and Hungary get born. The EU is dismal at integration and integrity. Moreover, I predict that in five years the project will be where it is now - nowhere.And this would be the best case scenario. In real life I am a rail enthusiast, so it is seriously frustrating to see the EU and the local governments cooperate to mess all this up as profoundly as they possibly can. It is an elaborate air-selling money-laundering project. It better fade away sooner rather than later.
As exemplified by idiotically privatising the country's entire rail network, then buying it back (luckily only) three times more expensively. The government has also demolished the final section of Haapsalu line as if there were no people living in that direction. By now it has turned out that people actually live there and needed the rail line all long and plans are emerging to reinstate the rail line.
I can think of a few reasons why, while hating railways, the government likes the Rail Baltica project. First, EU funding. Second, Rail Baltica will not serve the country's own people. The only projected station besides the starting point (Tallinn) is Pärnu, so it is just a single station. No stops on the way there and the parameters make the new railway completely disconnected from the existing network, i.e. the outcome cannot serve own countrymen in any way and this makes the whole plan absolutely delicious for the government. Third, long and extending term, big and growing budget, and uncertain end result of the project. These are strong positives for our government. And I am not being sarcastic at all. It's normal behaviour of the government.
  • Last Edit: 2021-05-17, 12:42:09 by ersi

  • jax
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Re: What's Going on in Europe
Reply #1305



This remains my top complaint because high speed - to Berlin within the same day - was the main selling point of the project in the beginning. The fact that this will not be so means that the entire project has been a lie all along.

Rail entusiasts always do that, trying to sell in some edge case as the main selling point. Same here: with upgrades to the Swedish rail network you could take the train from Stockholm to Amsterdam. Well, yes, I guess you could, but would you? (I have travelled with Interrail, and Amsterdam was surprisingly inconvenient to get to from Scandinavia, and later surprisingly convenient from Prague.)

The goal has never been daytrips to Berlin, but to connect the three Baltic states -- that are usually grouped together, but are hard to travel between -- with each other, and with North-Eastern Poland, and possibly one day with Finland. This suggested time schedule does not seem unrealistic, and it is good.


Less than two hours from Tallinn to Riga, less than two hours from Riga to Vilnius, That's good. And 4/5/7 hours to Warsaw is tolerable too. Another 6 hours to Berlin, so technically you can go by rail to Berlin within a day, with some hours to spare (that is kind of useless). 

No, it is not 350 km/h like the Beijing-Shanghai train, but the city district where I used to live in Beijing had a bigger population than Estonia and Latvia put together. Given that the Baltic states are practically depopulated by blue banana standards, you are getting top notch infrastructure basically for free. Six million people elsewhere in Europe wouldn't get this largesse. 

The reason is of course strategic.  It is in the interest of the EU, and the Baltic states, to have the Eastern bank of the Baltic Sea well-connected. 


Not only Russia's Near Abroad. The Baltic Sea is kind of the EU Mare Nostrum.





  • ersi
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Re: What's Going on in Europe
Reply #1306
This remains my top complaint because high speed - to Berlin within the same day - was the main selling point of the project in the beginning. The fact that this will not be so means that the entire project has been a lie all along.
Rail entusiasts always do that, trying to sell in some edge case as the main selling point.
It was the government doing the selling. To Berlin in a day was the government promise. Rail enthusiasts were the buyers and they only try to keep the government to its own promise. The majority of the people were against the project for various reasons. I am normally a rail enthusiast but I quickly spotted the lie.

Edit: According to a poll in 2018, slightly above half of the polled people were in favour of Rail Baltica project. Reasons: Connection with Europe, speed and comfort. So, as you understand, the support was based on misconceptions about the project.

Already next year, a far more thorough polling was conducted after more revelations about the project, such as that the new infrastructure would not connect to anything currently existing and the new infrastructure would tear up a new corridor through the country, only 22% were in favour, compared to 38% who would support the project if it used the existing infrastructure and 18% wanted to abandon the project.

Same here: with upgrades to the Swedish rail network you could take the train from Stockholm to Amsterdam. Well, yes, I guess you could, but would you?
If your government promised it and the EU is currently funding it, then it is the same, yes. But nobody has promised anything and is doing anything in terms of a railway between Stockholm and Amsterdam, so it is not the same.

Given that the Baltic states are practically depopulated by blue banana standards, you are getting top notch infrastructure basically for free. Six million people elsewhere in Europe wouldn't get this largesse.
Top notch infrastructure that has no chance of being used because it is built on terms to ensure that it will be useless. Well, clearly it will not be completed for another ten years, so there is not even anything to talk about. The country who has gotten most praise from the EU for being most active with the project is Lithuania - actually the country who has sabotaged it most. Their achievement is rails within rails! What a top notch infrastructure!

The reason is of course strategic.  It is in the interest of the EU, and the Baltic states, to have the Eastern bank of the Baltic Sea well-connected.
Well-connected :lol: The thing will not connect us to anything. Poland is between Lithuania and Germany and there is no sensible rail connection between Poland and Lithuania foreseeable. Buses are faster. Unless that's fixed - not part of the current Rail Baltica project - we will remain disconnected.

  • Last Edit: 2021-05-17, 18:53:13 by ersi

  • jax
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Re: What's Going on in Europe
Reply #1307

  • Belfrager
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Re: What's Going on in Europe
Reply #1308
Forbidding any Belavia airplane landing in EU airports should be already in effect.
Nato also has to take action. A soft action.
A matter of attitude.