Fast Trains

I find fast trains fascinating. Hence this little item caught my attention.

A Japanese magnetic levitation train has broken its own world speed record, hitting 603km/h (374mph) in a test run near Mount Fuji. The train beat the 590km/h speed it had set last week in another test.

Maglev trains use electrically charged magnets to lift and move carriages above the rail tracks.
Central Japan Railway (JR Central), which owns the trains, wants to introduce the service between Tokyo and the central city of Nagoya by 2027. The 280km journey would take only about 40 minutes, less than half the current time. [BBC. April 2015.]

fast trains

japan maglev

I find it interesting that the BBC did not explicitly mention the French TGV in the list of fast trains. The “Eurostar” category subsumes the TGV trains. Anyway, the TGV are the only fast trains I have had the pleasure of traveling in. Here are a few facts about the TGV:

  • The LGV opened to the public between Paris and Lyon on 27 September 1981.
  • The TGV holds the world speed record for conventional trains. On 3 April 2007 a modified TGV POS train reached 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph) under test conditions on the LGV Est between Paris and Strasbourg.
  • The TGV has carried over 1.6 billion passengers.
  • In almost three decades of high-speed operation, the TGV has not recorded a single fatality due to accident while running at high speed.

China’s Proposed Transcontinental Rail Project

The Chinese leadership knows how to think big — which is more than what one can say about the Indian leadership, which one must remember has been mainly from the Congress party led by the Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty. One case in point is how big the Chinese leaders think about railways. Continue reading

Make No Little Plans — Revisited

One of the consistent themes of this blog has been that India should think big. My favorite quote in this context is from Daniel Burnham, the fabled Chicago architect who said that we should think big:

Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.

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Reinventing America’s Cities

Nicolai Ouroussoff writes that “We long for a bold urban vision” in his NY Times piece “Reinventing America’s Cities: The Time Is Now.” Below the fold are some selected excerpts.

India too needs a bold urban vision, as I have been arguing for a while. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) for India, most of India does not live in cities. India does not have to reinvent its cities — it has to build new ones. Fortunately though, the world has learned a lot about building livable cities and India does not have to go about reinventing the wheel: India has to be smart enough to learn from the mistakes the others have made. India can — and must — build efficient cities. That’s the only way out for the hundreds of millions trapped in villages in rural India.
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The Transantiago Story

This story comes from the other end of the world but has lessons for any part of the world. It is “a parable about the combustible combination of optimism and ignorance.” Go read “Planning Order, Causing Chaos: Transantiago” by Michael Munger in the Library of Economics and Liberty.

Below the fold I have quoted the last part of the essay. If you wish to skip the article, do read the last bit.
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The French AGV

Imagine getting to New Delhi from Mumbai by train in less than 4 hours instead of the 18 hours it currently takes?

France unveiled the successor to the TGV, the AGV — Automotrice Grande Vitesse, or “self-propelled high-speed” train. It’s top cruise speed will be 360 km/hr. The TGV has two engines, one at each end of the train. The AGV has motors under each carriage and is lighter and more energy efficient. The TGV holds the speed record for conventional rail when it touched 575 km/hr last year in April. The current batch of TGV have a top cruising speed of 320 km/hr.

I love trains and particularly like the TGV. Years ago when I was traveling around in Europe, I traveled quite a bit on the TGV and it was far more exciting than flying. There is something romantic about trains.

All this is very exciting for me. I look forward to boarding the AGV one of these days. But it is also a bit sad. India will never have anything that exciting. India just does not have the imagination. We are quite happy with our trains that do an average of 25 km/hr and our top speed trains average around 80 km/hr. It’s strange that passenger train service began in India over 150 years ago. We are a slow moving people.

[Related post: An Integrated Rail Transportation System.]

The Tata Nano

In the image above, you see Ratan Tata in the Tata Nano. What a priceless shot. Notice that it says “Peoples’ Car” and not “People’s Car” — it is a car meant not just some people but for a varied group of people. It is a car for the various peoples of the world. I am not sure that that is what those who put up that sign meant. Maybe it is just a mistake. But that mistake speaks to a larger truth.

I also think it is interesting that “The People’s Car” translates to “Volkswagen” in German. The Volkswagen Beetle was built upon the express dictate of Adolf Hitler. Curious that we have Mr Ratan Tata as the promoter of India’s people’s car. In any event, Tata Motors is making a game-changing move and I am proud that an Indian corporation is doing so. Way to go, Mr Ratan Tata. May you succeed beyond your wildest dreams.

[For follow up to this post and its comments, see “Tata Nano — Part 2“.]

The Rs 1 Lakh car from the Tatas

I have been reading about the Rs 1 Lakh (about US$2,500) car that Tata Motors is planning on selling soon.

It scares me witless. These days, oil is selling for around US$85 a barrel. India imports most of its fossil fuel requirements. It is a poor country and cannot afford high priced oil — and oil is going to become increasingly costly because demand will continue to rise and supply will continue to fall. That is Econ101. India is also a very small country relative to its population. With 17 percent of the world’s population and 2 percent of the world’s land area, land is at a premium in India unlike say in the US (where the population density is a tenth of what it is in India.) You cannot just have cars: you need fuel and you need space to use the cars in. It is insane to not do basic arithmetic (“Those who refuse to do arithmetic are doomed to speak nonsense”) and realize that cars are not the solution to India’s predicament regarding transportation within its cities.
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