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Swiss complete digging of Alpine tunnel

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Quote:
GENEVA (AP) - With a final blast through mountain granite, Swiss engineers linked Europe's north and south by completing drilling Thursday for the world's longest overland tunnel - a cavernous shaft that burrows under the Swiss Alps and will shave about an hour off the travel time for skiers in Germany heading down to resorts near the Matterhorn.
The 21-mile Loetschberg tunnel is the latest in a string of engineering feats - from the Channel Tunnel linking France to England to a bridge spanning Sweden and Denmark - that are breaking down natural barriers in an increasingly borderless Europe.


Quote:
The Loetschberg tunnel will have the additional benefit of getting skiers to Swiss resorts more quickly. The trip from Bern, at the northern end of the tunnel, to Visp near ski regions like Switzerland's Zermatt and Italy's Courmayeur on the southern side of the tunnel, will be cut in half - to 55 minutes from 110.


It's a pretty astonishing feat of engineering;
Quote:
The final excavation for the tunnel occurred at the midpoint of the tunnel, some 5,900 feet beneath the 12,170-foot Balmhorn mountain. The breakthrough came 11 years after drilling began.

The two halves of the tunnel met almost perfectly: the center of the bore coming from the north was only 5 inches off the center of the bore coming from the south and their heights were fractions of an inch off.

full story

Better hurry up and make the most of those quiet Swiss resorts for the next few years before the Loestchberg opens to cars....
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Two years ago I used the Lotschberg rail tunnel and from North to South - It was slightly quaint driving on to a flat bed truck, being told to wind up your windows, and thunder off into the tunnel, on the back of a train. It was almost like a visit to Space Mountain in Disneyland, without the switchback part. The journey took 17 minutes transporting one from the Bernese Oberland down into Valais. I would have thought this would be good news for Valais in the Winter as the Furka and Grimsel Passes are shut, and Valais until now was a virtual cul-de-sac apart from the Simplon Pass into Italy. It's clearly a great bit of Swiss engineering!
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I see from the full story that the principal motivation for this 11 year long project is as follows:

the main selling-point is that they will move heavy European Union trucks off narrow highways and onto trains.

The Swiss leading the way again and paid for by the Swiss taxpayer.

When will we get British Freight back on to trains and off our country lanes?
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boredsurfin, I guess you would have to ask why freight migrated from rail to road in the first place, to figure if there could be a viable way of using rail to get things to people when and where they want them, at prices they're prepared to pay.
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boredsurfin, you have to bear in mind that the Swiss rail network covers a huge proportion of the country, ours thanks to Dr Beeching no longer does so, so for Switzerland where road transport is controlled by the geography the rail network has distinct advantages as a distribution network, for the UK where we concentrated heavily on roadbuilding that is no longer the case, also many goods sidings have been removed and the areas they once ocupied dug up often to be covered over by housing, just locally to myself at least 5 stations no longer have goods capacity and whilst it might be possible to reinstate such capacity at 3 of them the other 2 now no longer have the space. So sadly to answer your question I suspect the answer is never Sad
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It's worth noting that road freight is subsidised in this country - compared to cars. An 8-tonne lorry axle (on a 38-tonne truck) can do 65000's times the damage to the road than an average car axle. Each large truck is estimated to be subsidised by about £3,000+ a year compared to the road damage it create. The rail system is also heavily subsidised, especially now that it has been privatised - subsidies are about 5 times (in real terms) the amounts they were when it was nationalised - also some of that subsidy goes into the profits of the owning companies, many of whom are bus and coach companies. nIt's worth noting though that EWS is aiming to considerably increase its freight haulage, and as this will mainly affect long-distance freight, it could cut lorry mileage by as much as 40%.

Seems to me that in order to fix it, the whole transport system would need to be looked, and something like a 25 year plan to sort it all out would be needed - as opposed to piecemeal tinkering. In the UK when the government (said it would) look at starting it all again, they see some cost and pain for 10-20 years with no gain within the current (possibly next parliament) and so think it's too politically risky. The Swiss for example tend to have 15 year spending plans and stick to them, so (even with the cost overruns) they end up with a reasonably logical system. This has been politically acceptable because of the way their government is set-up, and because many improvements are directly voted for by the public (their rail 200 improvements for example). There have been some Swiss political analysts who think he shake-up at the last election may have set the country up down the road to eventual change of that, but we shall see.
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skanky wrote:
The rail system is also heavily subsidised, especially now that it has been privatised - subsidies are about 5 times (in real terms) the amounts they were when it was nationalised - also some of that subsidy goes into the profits of the owning companies, many of whom are bus and coach companies.

I think you forgot to mention that the subsidies have increased heavily since Bozo Byers renationalised the infrastructure (at below the share price when he forced Railtrack into administration). As usual with the taxpayers money New Labour throws around, it hasn't actually resulted in any discernible improvements - whereas Railtrack had a good record in increasing rail usage.

As you say, a rational long range transport plan would clearly be a good idea. I can't see how the railways can ever match the flexibilty of the roads however. Railways met the demands of primary industries pretty well, and of mass production up to a point, but don't really fit with today's world of "mass-customisation" and just-in-time inventory management. They can never be as flexible as roads, which is how come road transport came to be so popular in the first place.

Interesting point about relative damage caused by lorries and cars.
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'completing drilling Thursday for the world's longest overland tunnel'

'overland tunnel' Puzzled Sounds like American speak for a 'bridge' to me. snowHead
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Yes, and its not just the physical damage to the road surface and bridges that HGVs cause either. What about the additional noise and intrusion they cause to the amenity of our towns and countryside ?

How many times do you hear about serious road accidents that don't involve an HGV ?

40% less lorry traffic would be a fantastic contribution to our quality of life and would probably rule out the need for any further road improvement given the contribution they make to road congestion and travel delays.

Swiss achievement makes Britain look like a third world country. Crying or Very sad
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[edit - reply refers to Laundryman's post as I took ages writing it]

Not sure that you're correct in the relative performance of the two - railtrack vs network rail - though the latter is an improved rail (as opposed to financial) organisation. Railtrack was initially run more as a management or financial organisation. It had no in house maintenance and so had to cope with a cartel of contractors who helped costs to spiral upwards out of control. When it was set-up it basically forced out all the people who knew how to run a railway. When it finally added a technical department, it appointed an operations director who had no idea how to run a railway and therefore completely messed up the post-Hatfield situation. The whole privatised structure had a ridiculously complicated regulatory structure that Railtrack had far too mant conflicting controls. It was entirely driven to make a profit, yet the only way Railtrack could make money was by cutting back on maintenance or charging the franchises higher charges - both of which were against the best interests of the railway and its passengers. Therefore it kept coming back to the government for ever increasing amounts of subsidy. After Hatfield, it had just lost over £500m and had just obtained an increased funding of £1.5bn - and still payed out a dividend to its shareholders. It was asking for £1.2bn extra subsidy when it went bust. The company had been reliant on a more or less continuous supply of government money and the amounts just got too much - esp. for a supposedly profit-making company. When it died it owed about £7bn.

When Railtrack was put into administration, it was not renationalised - that would have cost the government £8 a share (average price per share over the previous three years), instead of the £2.80 a share that was the current value at the time (the shareholdres actually got £2.50). The new company Network rail is effectively state-owned so the manner in which it was done was deceitful. However, the railways were sold off cheaply anyway, though anyone buying in in the years running up to the end could justifiably feel hard done by - but they obviously hadn't done much research into the company.

The new company is effectively a nationalised company in all but name and control. It is financed by the treasury (and uses that "guranteed" finance to supposedly raise more onvestment), but is controlled by the regulator. This halfway house means that there is no real control over spending and so the company has recieved far more funding than Railtrack did over an equivalent period. This is leading to improvements in maintenance and engineering and it is making good progress in reaching its infrastructure delays targets and that side of things is improving. The company is likely to underspend this year, but then that was after much largesse anyway. The Railtrack model was ridiculous and the Network Rail model is the worst of both worlds. It would be much better to remove the regulator from the equation and have Network Rail funded by a *guaranteed* (rolling) funding agreement, directly from the treasury. This would allow better planning, tighter financial control and give everyone a clearer idea over what can be aimed for. This was something BR never had and desperately needed and would have made a huge difference in its performance - as it was victim of many short-term funding decision changes as well as a blatant bias towards roads.

The reason why subsidies went up so much though was that the network was self-subsidising. The more profitable routes used to have their profits used to subsidise the unprofitable services and routes. Now because they are different companies, the profits are taken out of the system so local transport subsidies have to be made in full. It is also worth noting that the one franchise that has reduced its subsidy in recent years (Connex/SE trains) and at the same time has improved its performance (though it's not unique in the latter), was the one that was run by the government. One reason is that there has been no removal of profits outside the system in the shape of share dividends or group profits.

The whole distribution system in this country with (inc. JIT inventory management) is messed up IMHO. You have Scottish water trucked south while Malvern water's trucked north, you have breweries shipping beer to the pub 1 mile down the road via a distribution depot 100 miles away - and those are just two that I know for sure happen. There's a trade-off between organisation and social efficiency that's been going on. Take for instance buses. Remove the conductor and you have company efficiency improvements, but the bus is staionary for longer (though new payment methods are finally improving that), so you get a decrease in efficiency within general road use. The water shipment above is a similar point.

With road, rail and water borne distribution, one should never replace the others, but the current proportions are certainly not correct. It will be interesting to see how things re-adjust if oil prices continue to rise (there was a recent drop, but the medium-term trend is still up).
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Quote:

40% less lorry traffic would be a fantastic contribution to our quality

I have listened to some of this debate with interest. How does the freight get to the rail terminal. How does the freight get from the rail terminal I live within 600 yrds of a freight line and let me tell you they are noisey.
Get the cars of the roads, get the passengers onto public transport and leave the lorries to the roads. I do like the swiss system of piggybacking where the truck drives onto the rail wagon.

if you want to save the planet look at why we have to transport goods so frequently and over such distances.

The life of a truck driver is total cr@p. Congested roads, and everybody hates you. Disgusting, pathetic, overpopulated and rare, overnight facilities. plod and VOSA wanting to crucify you for every little error. I would love to see some of the "armchair" drivers on this forum do the job of a truck driver. Due to the European WTD that has been implemented in the UK, but ignored elsewhere we are now usinsing thousands of immigrant drivers to combat the chronic driver shortage in the UK. Sorry I am rambling and ranting, but speak to anyone employed in the industry and they will tell you the same.
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Frosty the Snowman, the 40% would be in lorry miles. E.g. reducing the amount of long-distance road routes you remove more mileage. I don't doubt that a truck driver's job is a crap one (i wouldn't want to be one) - maybe that's an argument to get more freight off the roads then? By reducing the distances it needs to travel and by moving more of it by other methods and keeping trucks to the shorter routes.

Actually we could piggy back trucks those long distnaces here - not sure if the cost of hauling the extra weight justifies the savings in loading/unloading. Would be worth a check, but it is a good compromise.


Last edited by And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports. on Fri 29-04-05 14:53; edited 1 time in total
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Frosty the Snowman, 100% behind you. I've accompanied a number of our hgv drivers on the south of France/UK run in years gone by, and it takes some doing, believe me. And the lot of the EU driver gets worse as non-EU Eastern European drivers paid half as much as the French for example, are taken on to double-man trucks for the price of one.

They are battered between pillar and post. Increasingly tight regulations on the one hand, commercial pressures to survive on incredibly low net profit margins on the other. One week off the road and you're in the red in many cases. When the volatile oil prices soar, do customers pay more to compensate? Rarely. Clients still want tip top service, but are no longer prepared to pay for it. It's a tough industry.
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That's one problem with all of this - people don't want to pay the true cost of goods (taking all factors in account) and so various people get squeezed - and often not those who can afford it.
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skanky, For bulk deliveries to ports, container depots etc then rail can work. 85% of coal for power production goes by rail, 50% of our steel production is exported and most of that goes by rail. However for multidrop work rail does not work. Big tucks are effiicient trucks. The bigger the truck the lesser the weight of the triuck is as a percentage of the Gross Vehicle Weight. Which would you rather have: a one big artic doing 9mpg with a Euro 4 engine that is Sooooo clean for emissions, or 26 transit vans doing 20 mpg each belching out alsorts of rubbish.

The modern truck is a wonder of engineering. Haulage is like packaging; we could easily get away with 50% less. Life would be much better if Mohammed lived next door to the molehill
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Frosty the Snowman, I'm not talking about getting rid of big trucks (though that's a simplified answer to your simplification of my points). In the same way that you're not talking about getting rid of all transit vans and replacing them with big lorries. I have no idea how many are multi-drop-offs (I do know that they can be possible by train - though are normally better by lorry) so have no idea what proprtions that affects. It's also worth noting that your big trucks also cause less damage to the loads as they have more axles - but I'd rather have a transit down my street.

Again, I've also made the point that we are shipping far too much stuff around that doesn't need to be shipped around. My whole argument is that people often take this as a bunch of discrete issues whereas I'm saying it should be stopped and looked at as a whole. That will never happen as it is longer-term than one or two parliaments.

As for emissions well nothing we use at the moment is clean (all comparisons are relative) and they are pretty much all currently dependant upon a finite resource that is also being wasted in other ways (e.g. on packaging as you say). It may not affect us in our lifetimes but things will need to be sorted out before production of it does fall off. And yes I don't know that timescale.

Finally I must make a correction: the 40% figure was for Scotland. My mistake, sorry about that.
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skanky, Simplifying, your simplification of my simplification, I summarise that we both want the same thing. Less freight journeys!
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Frosty the Snowman, simply speaking, yes. snowHead

I'm just nipping back into the party, do you want a beer?
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skanky, gagging mate, gagging
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skanky, on the rail industry: I think a fair summary of your post (that I can agree with) is that successive governments have utterly b@llsed up the organisation of the railways. Like many things they touch.

On the general question of freight:
Quote:
You have Scottish water trucked south while Malvern water's trucked north

My water comes out of the nearest tap...
Quote:
you have breweries shipping beer to the pub 1 mile down the road via a distribution depot 100 miles away

...and so should beer! snowHead
Seriously though, although I have a preference for local products, and am prepared to be presented with the full cost for a product from the other side of the planet, I don't want anyone deciding for me what I can and cannot procure.
Quote:
people don't want to pay the true cost of goods (taking all factors in account)

I'd be happy to remove explicit and implicit subsidies across the board, so that people are confronted with more realistic prices (and have more take home pay to meet them).
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Quote:
I'd be happy to remove explicit and implicit subsidies across the board, so that people are confronted with more realistic prices (and have more take home pay to meet them).
Another angle - the cyclical effect of market forces often means prices are maintained by squeezing suppliers during a downturn, but for lengthy periods the effect isn't simply the removal of overcapacity through supply and demand, but shoddy service and in this case (haulage industry) the breaking of laws and poorly maintained equipment, plus increased debt, while powerful companies are able to ride out the storm both by achieving certain economies of scale and/or by working at a loss...

Yes increased quality control is a "solution", but that's been tried and doesn't always work. There are ways and means to circumvent the rules, and so much time is spent on paperwork that it sometimes even has a negative effect on standards.

The end result is that "realistic" prices rarely get through to the supplier, the world will eventually be ruled by mega-companies, and in the meantime the likes of the big supermarket chains rake it in through downturn and upturn irrespective.
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PG, yes: we need to be vigilant against monopolies and cartels - much more so than at present - one of Karl Marx's better ideas!
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Quote:
Seriously though, although I have a preference for local products, and am prepared to be presented with the full cost for a product from the other side of the planet, I don't want anyone deciding for me what I can and cannot procure.
Quote:
people don't want to pay the true cost of goods (taking all factors in account)

I'd be happy to remove explicit and implicit subsidies across the board, so that people are confronted with more realistic prices (and have more take home pay to meet them).


I'm sure you are but many aren't. Also, oes that take into account pollution costs?
Do you make sure that you don't procure stuff that is sourced by paying below subsistence level wages, etc.?
There will be some factors that reduce cost as well.
Does the fact that a supermarket forcing local suppliers out of business (as in my town) mean that they are deciding what I can and cannot procure?
In removing subsidies does that mean that all methods of transport should be entirely self-financing (e.g. 100% toll roads, etc.)?
How do we ensure safety of product or do we let customer deaths affect market forces? (okay a tad extreme but food poisoning kills over 5000 people in the US every year)

There's probably plenty of other things to be taken into account as well.
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skanky wrote:
I'm sure you are but many aren't. Also, oes that take into account pollution costs?

Could do - via selling, and creating a market in, pollution permits.
Quote:
Do you make sure that you don't procure stuff that is sourced by paying below subsistence level wages, etc.?

I would certainly draw the line at slave or bonded labour, if it were brought to my attention. Otherwise, I'm happy to pay the market rate for wages to free people. Usual caveats about monopolies and cartels apply.
Quote:
There will be some factors that reduce cost as well.
Does the fact that a supermarket forcing local suppliers out of business (as in my town) mean that they are deciding what I can and cannot procure?

Yes it does, and I disapprove: see my response to PG.
Quote:
In removing subsidies does that mean that all methods of transport should be entirely self-financing (e.g. 100% toll roads, etc.)?

A combination of judiciously set fuel and vehicle taxes ought to be able to approximate the cost, without going to the expense of universal tolling.
Quote:
How do we ensure safety of product or do we let customer deaths affect market forces? (okay a tad extreme but food poisoning kills over 5000 people in the US every year)

I should think market forces and civil and criminal penalties work quite well in the case of customer deaths. 3rd party deaths is a different matter however, for which some kind of regulation is required in many fields. I don't see why companies shouldn't pay for that in full.
Quote:
There's probably plenty of other things to be taken into account as well.

I'm sure you're right!
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Well Smile I started something there didnt I ! My original comment was 'fuelled' by being stuck behind a Polish artic. doing 20-25 mph on the A338 near Salisbury for about 5 miles in the morning rush. The truck then went into Salisbury city centre and proceeded to cause gridlock on our ancient market square by getting stuck on a right hand turn! Mad
( Before any one jumps on ex eastern bloc drivers, the last time this happened on the same corner it was a large UK furniture removal truck. (May have come from Yorkshire) Toofy Grin

Any way I am off to Thruxton to watch the Motor Racing, now where did I put my carbon pollution permits...................................................
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boredsurfin, Thats the beauty of the UK. Each uraban area has lots of pull ins where the driver can look at street maps and local information to formulate a "least disruptive" plan of action
Quote:

the last time this happened on the same corner it was a large UK furniture removal truck. (May have come from Yorkshire)
if itwas red and white then you have made my day Twisted Evil
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Frosty the Snowman,
I think it was green and white, Agree on the pull ins with maps and areas large enough for 40ft trailers. Huh! Those medieval street planners knew nothing...............
That big pull in just past Stonehenge, a great example of Stone age planning, but now English Heritage want to get rid of it and the road by putting it in a tunnel Very Happy
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boredsurfin, Sorry for the previous sarcasm, but planners and people alike do not realise how much easier life for everyon could be with a little thought. As a rule pull ins like that do not exisit. Everything you buy has travelled on several trucks in its life. The reason that truck was blocking your path in Salisbury is bad planning on several peoples part, but its the driver who gets it in the neck.

Regarding the slow truck; Well trucks are either too slow or too fast. Trucks over 7.5 tonne GVW are limited to 40 mph on single carraigway roads. This is a fatally slow speed for some car drivers who are allowed to go 50% faster. Evebn a traffic cop wouldnt answer my question at a meeting if 50mph was safer than 40mph on these roads.
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Frosty the Snowman,
I agree and sympathise, but the irony of our country is immense. The army have a purpose built rail head for loading trucks tanks etc onto trains do they use it .....well sometimes. Instead we (the taxpayer) lease at huge expense American built (and operated in the UK by KBR / Haliburton of the USA subsidiary Fast Trax) tank transporters so that they can travel by road!


Last edited by You know it makes sense. on Sun 1-05-05 11:05; edited 1 time in total
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boredsurfin, Yeh but they what a fab bit of kit the Oshkosh is. Sat in one at Catterick open day. The army even managed to drop a Warrior off the rail transporter, now that is an acheivment
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Better still was seeing a Challenger 2 fall of the Osh Kosh trailer in front of the press!
BTW I understand you can rent an Osh Kosh rig and drivers when the MOD dont need them, just contact Fastrax Ltd. at Bulford Baracks nr. Salisbury! but at the moment they seem to be a bit busy hauling fuel tanks(which bolt onto the std. trailers).
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Wondered what the bang was Very Happy
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Hah you want irony ? the Abrams tank when it first came out was heavier than the maximum loading that the mobile bridging units could take, so all you needed to stop one was a suitably sized ditch !
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D G Orf, You have to realise, as Tom Lehrer once said, that The Army do not discriminate on the grounds of creed, race, religion, or ability.
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D G Orf,
and the new army radio system 'Bowman' (Better Of With Map And Nokia) is too heavy to go in the new spec Land Rovers! http://www.tmhbs.com/comment_04_Bowman.htm
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In Vietnam the US found its F4 Phantoms too unmanoeuvrable to dogfiight with MiG17s and 21s. Also its conception as a missile platform meant that its lack of a gun allowed N.Vietnamese pilots to do cheeky fly-bys impervious, once all its missiles had been expended.
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