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French Train Breaks Speed Record

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the zooom dept.

Science 612

Josh Fink writes "A French train on the TGV line has broken the wheeled train speed record - again. At a speed of 350 miles per hour, they came close to breaking the all time record of 361 miles per hour, held by a Japanese maglev train. It was last broken back in 1990. From the article: 'The TGV, short for "train a grande vitesse," as France's bullet trains are called, is made up of three double-decker cars between two engines. It has been equipped with larger wheels than the usual TGV to cover more ground with each rotation and a stronger, 25,000-horsepower engine, said Alain Cuccaroni, in charge of the technical aspects of testing.'"

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612 comments

FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18590819)

FIRST POST!!!!!!!

Winning (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18590823)

I was on the platform when this powerhouse went by.

I could still smell the body odor from all the frenchies on board.

And this means? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18590849)

Now they can run away quicker????

Slashdot fucking sucks. CmdrTaco is a fag (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18590889)

Nobody gives a shit. Fuck you all!!!!!!!fgfdhfd

Physics is a bitch isn't it (5, Interesting)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 7 years ago | (#18590903)

a stronger, 25,000-horsepower engine

25000hp and most of it is used to push air in front of, and around the train. I wonder how much it would cost to build a vaccuum tunnel to run very high speed train in at a fraction of the power required by the TGV...

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (5, Interesting)

Kranfer (620510) | about 7 years ago | (#18590993)

I saw something on ITunes... Maybe Extreme Engineering or Modern Marvels or something along those lines having to do with that for a tunnel going between NYC and London... Vacuum sealed and mag lev. They said the train could travel at close to 5000 mph IIRC... Its a very interesting idea. The episode is worth purchasing on ITunes.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (2, Interesting)

superpulpsicle (533373) | about 7 years ago | (#18591085)

We need these trains bad. Wouldn't it be nice to work in CA and go home to some farm out in the middle of nowhere. It's pretty obvious airlines are no longer reliable forms of transportation with poor service, delayed flights, lost luggages.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (3, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | about 7 years ago | (#18591151)

And driving's a joke.

At least someone's working on a project that's beneficial to growing metropolises (metropolii?)

France makes a train going 350mph. What does the US make as it's engineering masterpiece? The H3...

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (1)

Timesprout (579035) | about 7 years ago | (#18591155)

It's pretty obvious airlines are no longer reliable forms of transportation with poor service, delayed flights, lost luggages.
You have an interesting take on what constitues reliable when considering airtravel.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (3, Interesting)

Kranfer (620510) | about 7 years ago | (#18591163)

I hear you on airline woes... I tend to fly a lot... I have NEVER in the past 2 years left on time from my departure... or had accurate gate information, and even when I flew back to NY in December for Christmas, NWA told me I *HAD* to check my laptop bag... end result... smashed laptop screen, Wonderful huh? But these trains are the way of the future. I would love to be able to head on out to CA and be there in an hour and not have to worry about airline garbage.... Maglev and vacuum tunnels all the way man!

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (1)

thsths (31372) | about 7 years ago | (#18591333)

> I have NEVER in the past 2 years left on time from my departure...
> NWA told me I *HAD* to check my laptop bag...

This might have something to do with your choice of airline. I have flown with a number of airlines, and most of them are friendly, reliable and on time. Not NWA, though.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (2, Insightful)

Melkman (82959) | about 7 years ago | (#18591365)

The only problem with trains is that they take you from somewhere where you are not to somewhere you don't want to be. I want to get home from work. To use the train I first must get to the station and when I arrive I must get from the station to my home. In your example it will probably not be to difficult to get from work to a station in CA, but from a station to the middle of nowhere is gonna be a problem. A high speed train that stops every 10 miles isn't a high speed train anymore.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (1, Troll)

TheCarp (96830) | about 7 years ago | (#18591561)

Um no.... I would actually prefer to live in the city.

The countryside is a fine place to visit, even spend a week. However, live there? Grow up there? No fucking way!

I like the city. I like that there are things going on, and people around... bars to go drinking in, night clubs to go dancing, house parties, friends within a reasonable driving distance....

Basically... all of the things the country doesn't have. Food delivery... open stores at odd hours. All night grocery shopping.

I mean maybe if I was (or even wanted to be) married with children or something. However, I don't want that either. Then even if I was... I would hate to isolate my children like that. The city is where I grew up and I couldn't imagine growing up anywhere else.

-Steve

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (5, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | about 7 years ago | (#18591179)

I'd sure want to ride it. Having traveled around Japan by train for three weeks, I've grown quite fond of rail travel. It's a nice way to get around. Especially those Shinkansen. Picture your typical airplane trip: you drive a good distance to the airport, drive around in it for a bit, get to some overpriced pay parking, check your baggage, go through security, wait (and hope you didn't miss your flight, because you'd have to reschedule because they're so infrequent), board, wait, taxi, wait, takeoff... now you can finally relax and use electronics in your cramped seat with the loud engines roaring. You land, wait, taxi, wait.. and if you have to change planes, repeat. And so on.

Here's how a shinkansen ride with a rail pass goes in Japan. You take a subway straight to the train station. You walk a very short distance. The trains arrive every few minutes. No security checkpoints -- you just wave your pass as you walk past the counter. You take any seat; they're all the equivalent of an airplane's business-class, or better. Use your electronics right away if you want. It pulls out of the station and accelerates quickly, quitely. You even get the pretty countryside scrolling right past you as you go. What's not to like?

Oh, and to the people (further down) who suggested that the trains would cause "smoke" -- at least in Japan, the bullet trains (and almost all trains, except those in very remote places) are electric -- "densha" (electric-car). Electric trains are so prevalent that even the few non-electric trains are still called densha.

And far less polluting (3, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | about 7 years ago | (#18591519)

I don't have the numbers on hand, but aircraft are hugely polluting and trains are a lot better. Worse still, planes dump their output at high altitudes where the blanketing effect is far greater.

High speed trains are definitely a better way to go on that score.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (4, Interesting)

Coryoth (254751) | about 7 years ago | (#18591651)

I'll put in another vote for the desirability of high speed rail. You do need a fairly densely populated rail corridor to really make it really worthwhile, but the east coast of the US would/should qualify. I'm now living in Canada and would kill for rail service through Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal that is even comparable to the "limited express" service in Japan (which still rattles along at a healthy 120-180kph). The passenger rail service here is terrible -- the tracks are owned by the freight rail company so you end up with the already far too slow passenger trains having to pull off for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to let freight trains past. You should be able to do Toronto to Montreal in about 2 hours with high speed trains, and even less time for Toronto to Ottawa. Instead the scheduled times take over 4 hours, and the trains are consistently anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour late. In all my travelling in Japan by rail I have once seen a train that was late, with the board announcing it would be arriving precisely 3 minutes behind schedule (which it duly did). The rest of the time you can (and in fact I did) set your watch by when the train pulls away from the station. I loved rail in Japan -- it was simple, efficient, comfortable, and took you city centre to city centre. I wish we had anything even vaguely comparable in North America.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (2, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 7 years ago | (#18591603)

5000 mph is 8046 km/h. Escape velocity is 11.2 km/s. This train would travel at 2.2 km/s. So, it wouldn't quite be able to launch itself into space, but if you put some rocket boosters on it to continue with this speed, then you could probably find a really cheap way to launch stuff into space. Point this tunnel towards the sky, and you would get pretty high up. Also, it would take less speed to get into orbit, as opposed to actually escaping the earth's gravity.

I'm just wondering about the acceleration of such a device. How long would it take to reach top speed? Accelerating at 1G, it would take 228 seconds (just over 3.5 minutes) to reach this speed. That would probably be a little uncomfortable for the riders though. It would probably be a lot better to take 10 minutes or more for full acceleration.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18591011)


25000hp and most of it is used to push air in front of, and around the train. I wonder how much it would cost to build a vaccuum tunnel to run very high speed train in at a fraction of the power required by the TGV...


A perfect vacuum would be quite expensive, but we could lower the pressure significantly by running the train at a higher elevation. Now, 5 mile high tracks are going to be a problem, so we are going to have to find a way to get the train up there without having to build an elevated track.

Perhaps if we put "wings" on the sides, when the train worked up enough speed, it might lift itself up to an elevation with lower pressure.

That just might work.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (2, Funny)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | about 7 years ago | (#18591081)

> 5 mile high tracks are going to be a problem

Just suspend them from a geostationary orbital platform with buckytubes.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (1)

El Cabri (13930) | about 7 years ago | (#18591653)

But the drag on your "wings" might just ruin your effort towards efficiency. Also, the critical speed needed to generate the appropriate lift on the forementionned "wings" being quite higher than a train's speed, and the aerodynamic drag evolving with the square of the speed, you might definitely have a not so efficient means of transportation. Oh and you have to carry your own fuel too... not good.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 7 years ago | (#18591665)

Running at 0.2 atm (like an airliner, but at ground level) is not out of the question, is quite feasible actually.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 7 years ago | (#18591047)

My understanding is that you don't really need a vaccuum tunnell, as long as you don't start/stop. Once you start pushing the air, it keeps going.

They could try merely an enclosed tunnell, it keeps the moving air in front of you, instead of having it shoot off in all directions.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18591205)

Two problems:
  • Kinetic Energy = 1/2*m*v^2, and the mass of all the air in a long tunnel is quite a lot.
  • Unless you're moving the walls too, boundary conditions at the walls will cause the air flow to slow down.


Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (1)

TigerNut (718742) | about 7 years ago | (#18591253)

Ummm... your understanding is kinda flawed on a number of counts. Do a thought experiment: If you're traveling in an enclosed tunnel, even a virtual one, how much air is there in front of you that you have to push? Is it finite or does it just keep on increasing as you travel forward? How much inertia does all that air have? Now consider that behind you, there's a similar volume of air that you need to pull along. In front, where does the air that you're pushing go - and behind you, what happens to the air you're pulling along? Does it leave a vacuum behind it? Would the vacuum suck on the air that you're pulling, and thereby increase the load on the engine?

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (1)

TheMadcapZ (868196) | about 7 years ago | (#18591317)

Actually if you start pushing the air in front of you it begins to pile up creating more pressure for the train to press through. Your idea glazes over some fundamental basics of fluid dynamics.

The vacuum tunnel is the only way to remove air pressure from the equation completely, otherwise you are just pushing through it and that is what eats up the horsepower.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18591419)

in the words of the all-knowing Morbo...

PHYSICS DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18591131)

I read (in French), that a good driver can drive 100km without using the power once the train in running... so, you should question your physics' intuition !

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (0)

mobby_6kl (668092) | about 7 years ago | (#18591143)

Not to mention that 25,000 hp is way too much. There's no need for a train that goes more than 70 mph. Trains should be limited to 500 hp engines, anyone riding in a train with more power than that is obviously compensating for something.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (1)

InterGuru (50986) | about 7 years ago | (#18591159)

This has been proposed often. See http://www.popsci.com/popsci/science/5e610b4511b84 010vgnvcm1000004eecbccdrcrd.html [popsci.com].

There is still a limitation on speed. As the train approaches earth orbital velocity (abut 7.75 km/sec ), the centripedal force approaches the force of gravity (excuse my sloppy language), the passengers become weightless, and some will get "space-sick" ans start barfing all over the place.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (1)

cojsl (694820) | about 7 years ago | (#18591207)

There are proposals for a submarine train system that travels at very high speeds through a vacuum (filled?) tube between the US and Europe.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | about 7 years ago | (#18591299)

a href="http://faculty.washington.edu/jbs/itrans/sup pes.htm">According to this paper about US$10MM/mi for his plan, US$17.9MM for regular-sized maglev trains with bi-directional guideway. That's at 0.2 atm, similar to jetliner flight pressure.

25000 hp sustained is a lot (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | about 7 years ago | (#18591315)

25,000 hp sustained is a ton! I wonder how they keep it from melting. Top fuel drag cars are getting in the neighborhood of 8000 hp now, but the engines start to melt after just a few seconds. The transmission actually welds itself together and has to be "rebuilt" after every 1/4-mile run. However, this train probably doesn't do a 1/4 mile in 4.4 seconds.

Re:Physics is a bitch isn't it (1)

Gruuk (18480) | about 7 years ago | (#18591359)

There is this old article on Popular science:
Trans-Atlantic Maglev [popsci.com].

They mention speeds up to 4000mph, in a tunnel 150 to 300ft under the surface of the Atlantic. Horribly expensive (at least $25 million per mile), however.

these trains are amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18590917)

One evening I was driving through france, way faster than the allowed limit and the TGV passed
me on the rails about 100 m to the west of the road.

For a second I thought that I was standing still, a very strange feeling at that speed.

http://www.zataka.com/ [zataka.com]

Re:these trains are amazing (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 7 years ago | (#18590961)

One evening I was driving through france, way faster than the allowed limit and the TGV passed
me on the rails about 100 m to the west of the road. For a second I thought that I was standing still, a very strange feeling at that speed.


Was that before or after you slammed into a tree?

Re:these trains are amazing (1)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | about 7 years ago | (#18591285)

One evening I was driving through france, way faster than the allowed limit and the TGV passed me on the rails about 100 m to the west of the road.

Been there, done that.

A stretch of the A1 autoroute parallels the LGV Nord line (Paris to Lille, Brussels and the Channel Tunnel). The speed limit is 130 km/h, and in favourable conditions the cops tolerate 160. And even at that speed, I've been passed by Porsches and things.

The TGVs go by at 300. It really does feel like you're standing still.

The trains themselves are perfectly smooth, except that a lot of the mechanical noises are higher in pitch than you might expect. It doesn't feel that fast until you look out the window.

These things really are amazing. I've often thought the best rail system in the world would use French trains and German management.

...laura

Re:these trains are amazing (1)

SecondHand (883047) | about 7 years ago | (#18591643)

The speed limit is 130 km/h, and in favourable conditions the cops tolerate 160.

Watch out for the radar at milepost 130. Dunno about cops that tolerate 160.

Been there, done that, and payed a lot.

And yet (2, Informative)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 7 years ago | (#18590941)

Even in France, 9 in 10 passenger miles are not by rail.

 

Re:And yet (2, Insightful)

thsths (31372) | about 7 years ago | (#18591255)

> Even in France, 9 in 10 passenger miles are not by rail.

Yep, and especially in France, 50% of the time of a journey is spent getting to the station, waiting for the train, waiting for a connection, waiting for the industrial action to be over etc...

The speed of the train (just like the speed of a car) is just one piece of the puzzle. What people want is fast and easy door to door travel.

So it's true what they say about the French... (0)

Peter Trepan (572016) | about 7 years ago | (#18590981)

...that you can tell where they've been by the trail of smoke they leave behind.

Time for some speed holes (4, Funny)

Lev13than (581686) | about 7 years ago | (#18590985)

It has been equipped with larger wheels than the usual TGV to cover more ground with each rotation and a stronger, 25,000-horsepower engine

And they would have beat the overall record, except that at the last second they decided to add an aftermarket spoiler, a 40,000 watt subwoofer and ground effects.

Re:Time for some speed holes (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 7 years ago | (#18591297)

The TGV already has ground effects*, you insensitive clod!

(*Unlike a ricer's, however, the TGV's ground effects actually work.)

Re:Time for some speed holes (1)

XSforMe (446716) | about 7 years ago | (#18591507)

"they decided to add an aftermarket spoiler, a 40,000 watt subwoofer and ground effects."

Yea, but they also added a "VTec" and "Type-R" stickers, so that should compensate for the exra load. =)

Watch the Video (4, Interesting)

StaticEngine (135635) | about 7 years ago | (#18591057)

I watched it this morning, and right around 1:35, there's a shot of the train passing under a bridge. It was really difficult for me to comprehend just how fast 350MPH is until I saw this particular shot. Man, that thing is fast!

French need fast trains (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18591071)

The French have to make sure they have fast trains, since it will make
it easier to flee the next time they are invaded.
Go ahead and run, you can always write a law to make it illegal to talk about.

socialist horsewash (5, Funny)

hildi (868839) | about 7 years ago | (#18591137)

in the united states, we do not need to waste taxpayers hard earned money on useless, socialist, centralized, bureaucratic monstrosities like supersonic trains.

in america, each person is an individual, with their own car. or preferably, SUV, since cars tend to get smashed. also SUVs can go 'offroading', an enjoyable diversion that reddens the blood coursing through the veins of every freedom loving american, alone on the frontier, conquering nature for the benefit of human civilizaton.

enough of these cheese eating wine sipping communards and their piffle trains. let them all get tuberculosis in the over crowded rat cans called 'passenger cars' and wallow in their dying economy as it goes down a black hole to overspent big-government ruin and waste.

au revoir, les suckers!

And their own iPod (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18591171)

where we can listen to DRM music and think it's cool.

Just buy a mac !!!

Self-paying roads... (1)

Dobeln (853794) | about 7 years ago | (#18591589)

Yea, beacause we all know that roads and highways are 100% funded by private inves... erm, never mind...

Which is why it's a bit silly to expect, say, AMTRAK to be entirely self-funded. Hard to compete with a form of transportation that's subsidized if you don't get your own subsidies.

Alright, lets get this out of the way... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18591147)

A French train on the TGV line has broken the wheeled train speed record - again.
It wont be log before the surrender the record - again.

Retreat! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18591161)

It was loaded with French troops and pointed away from all known enemies.

Magnets versus Wheels (2, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | about 7 years ago | (#18591173)

So apparently maglev has little or no speed advantage over old-fashioned wheeled trains. I assume there's still an energy savings, but currently that doesn't seem to outweigh the extra cost of maglev infrastructure. Perhaps when energy costs rise a tad more...

One little detail has me curious: TGVs, though electric, still use locomotives to push and/or pull the train, a design feature that's been around since the first steam trains in 1833. I seem to recall "futurists" like Arthur Clarke claiming that the train of the future would use lots of small motors connected to each wheel instead of one big one in a locomotive. Not practical?

Re:Magnets versus Wheels (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18591241)

More moving parts, I'd wager.

Re:Magnets versus Wheels (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18591321)

The futurist design you're talking about will be used on the next generation of TGV (see here [wikipedia.org]). I think today's record was made using a hybrid configuration (one of the cars was an automotive one)

Re:Magnets versus Wheels (1)

Nexus7 (2919) | about 7 years ago | (#18591413)

Most if not all transit rail systems do "use lots of small motors connected to each wheel instead of one big one in a locomotive." They're either EMU (electric multiple units) or DMU (diesel). It allows them to get a big horsepower number that scales with however long you want to make the train - more coaches at rush hour, fewer at other times. Since most of them are electric, and the diesels too are clean (in terms of emissions/mile/passenger) they are very clean compared to the steam engines. So the future described is here.

Except that it turns out that solution isn't practical for every use. And so we have locomotives too.

Re:Magnets versus Wheels (1)

lagfest (959022) | about 7 years ago | (#18591415)

One little detail has me curious: TGVs, though electric, still use locomotives to push and/or pull the train, a design feature that's been around since the first steam trains in 1833. I seem to recall "futurists" like Arthur Clarke claiming that the train of the future would use lots of small motors connected to each wheel instead of one big one in a locomotive. Not practical?
They're called Multiple Unit [wikipedia.org], and are widely used.

Re:Magnets versus Wheels (1)

imsabbel (611519) | about 7 years ago | (#18591477)

Well, high speed trains USE underfloor engines already. (i.e. all new ICE trains)
Even the next TGV will abandon the locomotive principle.

The top of the wheels should make a sonic boom (1)

goombah99 (560566) | about 7 years ago | (#18591479)

speed of sound at sea level = 761.207051 miles per hour
the top of the wheels go twice the speed of the train, and even faster if there is any slippage. Since the train wheels actually dip below the level to f the track the top of the train wheel is actually going even faster than twice the train velocity.
  so at 350MPH the tops are going faster than 700 mph.

They are damn close to the speed of sound, and presumably the peak speed was higher than the average speed.

Moreover as they go up in altitude the speed of sound gets slower. so when they cross the alps they will be above the speed of sound for sure.

Maglev, won't have that problem since there's no wheels going at twice the the speed of sound.

Re:Magnets versus Wheels (2, Informative)

will66 (1083681) | about 7 years ago | (#18591535)

The Shinkansen in Japan use lots of small motors distributed among the cars. This gives them excellent acceleration (important when stations are close together), but results in higher maintenance costs. Another problem is that it requires high voltage electricity (25KV) at every car; the Shinkansen solved this by putting a pantograph ( the spring-loaded contact bar that touches the overhead wire ) on every two cars -- and this increased the wear rates on the wire. French engineers considered these extra costs when the developed the TGV. Most subways use motors per car as well, but wear is less of an issue when contacting a third rail, and the 600volts used is much easier to handle.

Re:Magnets versus Wheels (1)

Known Nutter (988758) | about 7 years ago | (#18591545)

Think of commuter trains such as BART in the SF Bay Area... each car is individually powered by several electric motors. Maybe we met Arthur Clarke half-way.

Re:Magnets versus Wheels (3, Interesting)

Malc (1751) | about 7 years ago | (#18591567)

I've been on the ICE in Germany at 350km/h and the Maglev in Shanghai (German engineering!) at 430km/h. A third faster, but the ride was surprisingly not very smooth. The Maglev shakes and jolts. I could only tell the ICE was so fast because 1) it has a display that says that; 2) I've never seen telegraph poles zip by so quickly; 3) the cars we were passing on the autobahn looked they were parked, and you know how fast they can go in Germany! It doesn't seem to me that Maglevs are good value for money, especially considering how much the Chinese government has admitted to spending on that 30km link.

Re:Magnets versus Wheels (1)

AdamInParadise (257888) | about 7 years ago | (#18591645)

One little detail has me curious: TGVs, though electric, still use locomotives to push and/or pull the train, a design feature that's been around since the first steam trains in 1833. I seem to recall "futurists" like Arthur Clarke claiming that the train of the future would use lots of small motors connected to each wheel instead of one big one in a locomotive.
Actually, this train uses two AGVTM ("high speed trainset with distributed propulsion") in addition to front and back locomotives. Just google "AGVTM".

That will get you to... (1)

sycodon (149926) | about 7 years ago | (#18591187)

Quickie Mart in a hurry.

Re:That will get you to... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18591257)

With this train the French can pull their soldiers away from the front faster than ever!

(if anyone wants to extend unfair American stereotypes about the French)

More rail development is needed (4, Insightful)

starseeker (141897) | about 7 years ago | (#18591229)

Rail done correctly is by far a better solution for high density traffic than automobiles. No parking problems, accidents, traffic conjestion, or road rage to worry about. No endless stream of internal combustion engines with associated CO2 emissions and other nastyness.

The major problem is being crammed in with a lot of other people, some of whom may not be at all polite or tolerable. Security on such trains needs to be well maintained, and probably different cars with a people density/cost tradeoff. The Dallas light rail system (DART) which opened up a few years ago started on a good note - the major problem was too many people wanting to ride it from too far out. In theory, this might be handled with running more lines in parallel as the rail system gets closer to the center of the city - it's an interesting problem. (Of course, the expense of putting a rail system through a city not designed to accomidate it is non-trivial...)

Regardless, I think the more efficient resource utilization of trains makes them a no-brainer for long term development. The US is lamentably far behind - Amtrack is stuck playing second fiddle to freight trains and has abysmal performance (I'm probably biased as I was once 17 hours late on a train...). Freight rail and passenger rail need different tracks and independent scheduling - freight can move more slowly over rougher tracks, but passenger rail needs to be rapid.

I have always wondered if a properly designed and implemented rail system across the US would be cheaper than air travel (and not all THAT much slower, for bullet trains, particularly given delays airports can introduce...) I guess it's the old bootstrap problem - no money to lay down tracks because there is no guarantee of return on investment, while air travel already has massive inertia behind it and a lot of financial clout to use on the political system.

I hope someday we can muster the political will to build a rail infrastructure the way we have built a highway infrastructure, because there may well come a time when raw materials are too expensive to make building massive car fleets and replacing them every few years economically viable. It would be nice to have a fast, inexpensive way to travel that is actually able to provide reliability.

AmTrak (2, Informative)

Usquebaugh (230216) | about 7 years ago | (#18591233)

I keep thinking that Amtrak could do a 150mph goods service. Link 10 cities or so in each state to each other by rail corridors e.g. San Diego, L.A., San Francisco, Sacramento, Bakersfield. Transport containerized goods only. Drive down costs through streamlining the process.

Throw out everything that is not needed to move the containers, computerize everything e.g. no driver. Automatic marshaling yards. etc. etc. Could we get a 40ton container coast to coast for less than $100 in less than 24hrs?

But I guess we'll have to let China do that as we have to much political inertia to try something that radical.

Wings (1)

dlhm (739554) | about 7 years ago | (#18591263)

Why don't they just put wings on it so it can fly..? Is it really more fuel effecient with it's 25000 HP motor than a airplane? I'm not flambaiting, but If I'm travelling that fast I would rather be in the sky where the biggest thing my vehicle hits is a bird. Imagine the death that would occur if this thing crashed, and there is probably a lot more poetential for such a thing to happen than an airplane. I don't think you will save much time in security checkins, will you? Will security be less for the people and cargo on this as compared to an airplane? How about securing miles and miles of track from sabatage?

Re:Wings (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18591527)

After more than 1.5 billions of passengers transported, not a single dead.
Why just instill fear where there is only success?

For other terrorist plots, remember that the last that sabotaged one train/subway in France was just killed like a dog, terminated by special forces.
No court for mass killers.

Re:Wings (1)

TigerNut (718742) | about 7 years ago | (#18591619)

It says here [aerospaceweb.org] that a 747 requires about 87000 HP to fly at cruising speed and altitude (Mach 0.9, 40,000ft). It's moving about 350 passengers. They don't provide handy numbers and I'm too lazy to look it up, but if you were to find numbers for short-haul aircraft, which would be the main competition for the TGV, you'd probably find that the ratio of power required per passenger was even higher. So, aircraft are not more fuel efficient than trains, and if you look at the safety record for high speed railways (as a function of miles covered, passengers carried, and fatalities) you'd probably find it comparable or safer than air travel. A train crash involves sliding along the ground at high speed. An aircraft crash has that, plus a high speed impact with the ground.

Credit for this goes to the Germans... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18591309)

I wonder how many Germans were chasing them, in order for them to be able to break this record...

357.2 mph, not 350 (1)

proxima (165692) | about 7 years ago | (#18591323)

First paragraph of TFA says that it was 357.2 mph, not 350. So it's less than 4 mph slower than the maglev record.

What'd they do? Finally run it in reverse? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18591423)

Cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

What's the environmental impact of these machines? (4, Interesting)

mi (197448) | about 7 years ago | (#18591457)

A passenger jet, supposedly, harms the environment as much per passenger, as five passenger cars would over the same distance — if you ignore the impact of building and maintaining the roads.

What's the impact of these trains — including the building and maintaining of the suitable tracks?

One must also note, that the overall (door-to-door) speed advantage, these machines seem to have over airplanes at short and medium distances, is due to the much simpler security/registration procedures, the passengers have to go through to board them. It is not the technology, that requires us to come to the airport 2 hours prior to departure...

What upsets me, is that American "Acela" train can also run pretty fast (even if not as fast as these bullet-trains) — but is not, because the tracks aren't suitable for higher speeds. The moron-run Amtrak has purchased these wonder-trains without improving the tracks, so most of the speed you buy on Acela is due to it simply making less stops between, say, New York and Boston, rather than due to it running appreciably faster.

The french military could make heavy use of this.. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18591489)

...to retreat even faster :p
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