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Spain beats British Rail

So, we used to have the wrong kind of snow. Spain has the wrong size of trains:

Local politicians have now compared botched efforts to secure 31 new trains at an estimated cost of €258 million with the characters, after officials discovered that the tunnels were too small for the carriages. The trains were intended to run through the mountainous northern regions of Asturias and Cantabria.

Xavier Flores, a senior transport ministry official, said there had been “a problem related to the size of the trains”. He added that the regional railway line was “very special” and its tunnels were “smaller than usual”. He concluded that the railway “necessitates smaller trains or not the same type that we have”.

Well done, vry well done that man.

32 thoughts on “Spain beats British Rail”

  1. Not as uncommon as you may think and is known as being ‘Out of Gauge’. With so many variations on the different routes it is a regular occurence when new stock is introduced, possibly more so these days now that trains makers build to a standard base spec. rather than being designed to suit one specific line or company requirements.
    Speed restrictions can be imposed for certain stock over certain bits of line or some stock banned on going into certain platforms for instance.

    Ipswich Tunnel was closed from July to September 2004 while they lowered the track to accomodate 9’6″ containers.

  2. He added that the regional railway line was “very special” and its tunnels were “smaller than usual”

    Very special indeed if tunnels can shrink between ordering and delivering trains.

  3. No surprise in a country makes incompetence an art form. But how’s HS2 coming along for you? Last I heard, they’re going to carry on building it. Then not run trains on it. For incompetence you’re governments are world leaders. Even outclass the Spanish.

  4. Oh, I dunno. It is post-BR, but new stock drew more power than could be supplied on the line, EMI from the motors causing havoc with signalling, platform lengths and curve radius on the tracks. All late 90s, early 2000s, I think.

  5. BIS

    “Last I heard, they’re going to carry on building it. Then not run trains on it.”

    Trains will run on HS2. Just not very many. And probably not at that high speed, either. And maybe not close to where people want to go in London. But it will function to the level where a politician can say it’s happening. They’ve all realised it’s a bad idea, and more broadly, that rail is done (including Labour) but don’t want to be accused of being anti-Northerner or anti-green so it will exist to a level where it gets done in some form.

  6. Things are very different in China. They have built about 42,000 kilometres of High Speed Rail, from scratch, in about 15 years. Pretty sure their trains fit the tunnels.

  7. And to think that Brissie’s cross river rail project is only A$2 billion over budget and a year overdue.

    So far.

  8. @Bloke on Spain

    I think HS2 was part of some “euroroute” or other and as such it likely represents some “little part of europe” that the euro whores are emotionally attached to.

    As such, I think there is nothing short of an asteroid impact that will stop that money being wasted.

    It’s pennies compared to the costs we would have been lumbered with had the vote been stay.

  9. There’s a mystery about the Beeching cuts. Almost every report in the papers that harks back to them says that Beeching wrote his report at the behest of a Conservative government. True. Almost none report that the report was implemented – i.e. the “cuts” were imposed – by a Labour government (Wilson’s).

    This morning’s Telegraph repeated this familiar omission. Why? Why would you write anything historical about the railways post-WWII and not mention who executed the cuts?

    (I take it that most of the cuts were well merited but that’s a separate point.)

  10. dearime, for the same reason that no one mentions Labour closed more coal mines, Labour sold more ‘Right to Buy’ homes, Labour built fewer ‘affordable / social’ housing units, Labour set up more PFI contracts in the NHS, (cont. P94).

    I wonder what that reason could be?

  11. Addolff: At first, that didn’t make sense to me, because although I know Spain (mostly) runs on an unusual gauge, it’s a good nine inches broader than Standard. How can the tunnels be too small?

    But – aha! – it turns out there are nearly 800 miles of meter-gauge lines in the north, formerly operated by a state-owned company entirely separate to the national RENFE network, but – aha again! – partly merged into RENFE about ten years ago, and partly devolved to the regional governments. I haven’t read the full article ‘cos it’s behind a paywall, but obviously either of those could lead to some bureacratic berk ordering the wrong trains: RENFE mostly runs on Iberian gauge and isn’t involved with infrastructure any more (that’s now the purview of the Spanish version of Notwork Rail, ADIF… thank you, Brussels), and regional governments everywhere are run by third-rate morons.

  12. dearieme,

    “(I take it that most of the cuts were well merited but that’s a separate point.)”

    People like to claim Beeching cooked the books but my father travelled on some of the lines like the Oxford to Cambridge one and no-one was using it.

    It’s like they re-opened the Dartmoor line in a glorious display of Reversing Beeching, but it gets 20 passengers per train. So, Beeching was right, actually. 20 people is what you put on a bus for, not a train with multiple carriages

    And it should have continued. There’s a whole lot of empty services in rural areas that no-one uses.

  13. Things are very different in China. They have built about 42,000 kilometres of High Speed Rail, from scratch, in about 15 years.

    In ten or fifteen years they won’t be able to maintain them so at best there will be shorter stretches of slow speed rail.

  14. To be fair, BonM4, they can run unmanned stations and whatnot these days, which keeps the costs down a bit. I don’t think it’s inconceivable that conditions which Beeching considered uneconomic might be workable today.

    Whether they actually are is another matter, because yes, in general, unless you’re trying to shift a lot of people around quickly, rail is rarely the right technology for passenger transport. Even the Yanks couldn’t make it pay by the late ’60s.

  15. It was the WRONG sort of socialism

    “Things are very different in China. They have built about 42,000 kilometres of High Speed Rail, from scratch, in about 15 years.”

    I remember in old USSR days telling my Commissar how in Engineering Unit number 7, we had built 30,000 miles of rail track in 10 weeks. How silly of me! It was of course 50,000 miles in 2 weeks.

    How I laughed at my stupidity as I dug the fields with my bare hands in Education Camp number 12.

  16. DMcD

    It was HS1 that had power problems, or rather the non HS stretches of it.
    The Hitachi Javelins were designed for fast and seldom stopping routes. Unfortunately they were used on traditional lines around the coast too. Theyy drew too much current and had to switch the aircon off when setting off. They also started to wear out due to stopping too often at stations and signals.

    The Hastings line is/was a constant headache because it has much narrower tunnels than the rest of the lines out of London. Not sure if they ever solved that issue.

  17. IIRC the Hastings line was being built to standard loading gauge, but they decided the tunnels needed strengthening, so they laid an extra course of bricks on the inside, making them non-standard. You used to see Hastings line trains at Charging Cross, standing next to the same model built to standard loading gauge, and they looked like they’d been on a very restrictive diet!

    The tunnels have now all been single-tracked so standard trains can run on them.

    As for the Spanish – €258 million? Amateurs! Our Rolls-Royce civil service can blow £100++ billion on a pointless line to nowhere. (5 gets you 10 no HS2 train will ever run to Euston – any takers?) Still, as long as the right folk get to dip their beaks, who cares? It’s only other people’s (taxpayers’) money.

  18. You just have to see the solution that has been designed to get HS2 through and over the complex marshes between Rickmansworth and Denham to see where the money is going. Basically a long, curving concrete bridge over the water meadows. What used to be a place for wildlife, anglers, barge people and the nutters who enjoy water-skiing in Herts is now a home for all the JCBs in the country. Future generations will see the supports surrounded by willows, reeds and nettles and wonder what it was all about. Our equivalent of Stonehenge

  19. Chris M

    Thanks, long time since I took the Hastings train, I used to travel that route a lot.

    Euston Station is a huge building site thanks to HS2, making it even more hateful than ever. Which of course begs the question of why it is there at all, instead of St P, where HS1 and Eurostar terminate. That decision alone should have stopped the project in its non existent tracks.

  20. Bloke in North Dorset


    A story that’s featured a number of times an still nobody has faced the drop.

    “ A 77-year-old woman’s conviction for falsifying accounts at her Post Office branch is to be quashed.
    Patricia Fagan, from Forkhill, County Armagh, was convicted on two counts of false accounting and given a nine-month suspended prison sentence in 2017.
    She was prosecuted over an alleged financial shortfall of up to £6,500.
    Lawyers for Mrs Fagan successfully argued that failures related to the Horizon IT scandal resulted in an abuse of process.
    Her name was cleared after it emerged that flaws in the accounting system had not been properly disclosed.”

  21. As for railways built by the heathen Chinee, my favourite is the Tanzam line.

    Built during Mao’s reign, I understand the Tanzanians still haven’t paid for it. I’ve heard that just lately, the Danes have refurbished it.

  22. Jim in the Antipodes

    For those with questions about the Chinese High Speed Trains…..I was last in China about three years ago (been going there for many years, as I married into a Chinese family) and took the train from Shanghai to Hangzhou, a distance of 200k. Trip took 1 hour, as it was the “slow” train, stopping at several stations on the way. Fast train is 45 minutes. Fare about $A25. Line took 20 months to build. Hangzhou population over 10,000,000.

  23. One of the reasons China is able to build quickly, is that they do not have NIMBYs or Extinction Rebellion idiots performing their tricks.

  24. johnd2008 @ 1.28, another is that if anyone in China does try getting in the way of a building project they quickly become part of the building project.

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