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Thursday, March 15, 2018

$2 billion on trains that are too wide for the tunnels

Well, what do you know? California isn't the worst governed state in the universe after all. We self-centered Americans think we have the market cornered on incompetence. Hah!

Meet our friends in New South Wales, Australia. They just spent $2 billion on railcars that are too wide for their tunnels.

They came up with an interesting solution.

They will just lower their safety standards.

No problem.

Here is how it works. The old cars were 2.9 meters wide. The new ones are 3.1 meters wide. That is an eight-inch difference,

"Transport for NSW (TfNSW), the Government body that manages the state’s rail system, has come up with a cunning plan. It has proposed simply relaxing current safety standards. In addition, 10 tunnels built in the 1900s will be partially modified to allow the new trains to run," Australian News reported.

No muss. No fuss. No one gets fired. The South Korean company building these too-wide-for-the-tunnels cars gets paid.

A win, win situation, except for the part where a train scrapes the mountain.

Opposition leader Luke Foley said, "It takes a special type of incompetence to buy trains that don’t fit through the tunnels."

Democratic Governor Jerry Brown of California should hang his head in shame.

He has been out-dumbed by Australians.

The newspaper neglected to state what the cost of widening 10 tunnels will be, perhaps out of embarrassment if it exceeds the $2.3 billion the railcars cost.


  1. Similar thing happened in France. New rail cars were too wide for many existing stations. As usual, the solution for incompetent government is more government.

    1. And less money in the pockets of taxpayers as a result! --BJ54

  2. Ahh...the incompetence of the modern world as we frog march our way into oblivion.

    On a 2 billion deal, one would have 'thunk' that the coach manufacturer would have sent a company man out to check the details.

    Isambard Brunel is in his grave,shaking his head.


  3. Simple solution: Put shoehorns at each end of the tunnels and coat them with petroleum jelly. - Elric

  4. Given time, I am sure California's bullet train fiasco will top this.

  5. Are you suggesting that California is going to reroute their train through the mountains so that they can dig a tunnel which would be too small?

    For what they are paying for it, they'll probably make it too long.

    1. The train is already routed through the mountains around LA and tunnels will have to be dug. The bullet train is already $10 billion over budget and I'm sure that will only increase. They are also counting on federal funds which they won't get as long as Trump is president. - GOC

  6. This isn't complicated. No engineer is this stupid. The contract was awarded on the basis of the size of the kickback rather than the size of the rail cars.

  7. "They will just lower their safety standards."

    Or reduce the speed of the trains through the tunnels in order to reduce the amount of sway. With appropriate scheduling, it may be possible to avoid having two trains pass by each other as they go through the tunnels in opposite directions, so that currently there might also be enough clearance between the parallel tracks that the distance between them could be reduced by moving the tracks within the tunnels the additional 10cm required on the inside rail.

  8. When I first went to Australia back in '73, I was surprised to find that when going from one state to another, one had to change trains at the border.

    The reason was that each state there had its own standard for rail, so that the train in one state wouldn't fit on the rails of another.

    Now that's taking "state's rights" to an extreme!

    But at least each state's trains would fit in that state's tunnels!

    1. The different rail gauges were a hangover from the pre-Federation era, when all the states were separately governed colonies. In effect, separate countries.
      Not a lot has changed... when I moved to Western Australia from the east in 1990 I heard the story several times of WA's attempt to secede. People told the story as if it was recent history. In fact, it had happened in the 1930s.

  9. Of course the tunnel clearances have to be tighter.

    It’s all part of the cunning Australian plan to improve velocity and accuracy by rifling the tunnels.

  10. IIRC this happened years ago in Boston on their Green Line subway under downtown. New cars to replace the old couldn't make various sharp turns. They were eventually scrapped. Good investment!

    Hey, here's a Wikipedia article - - also note their later "modern fleet" has problems too. But, you know, Boston. So, it isn't a question of choosing between incompetence and graft. It's BOTH!

  11. I live in NSW. The state government has made some missteps lately, yes. Add to the width issue they have announced that new intercity trains won't have reversible seating. I'll have to spend 2 hours travelling backwards to Sydney if I get the wrong seat at my local station.

    Then there's the plan to knock down two fairly new stadia and rebuild them smaller. Presumably with toilets for all 57 genders or something.

    Having said this the state government has been vastly better than Mr Foley's opposition Labor Party when they were last in power. That tenure was notable for vile corruption and chaos. Several Labor Party MPs have been jailed. Many have gotten off.

    So sorry, I am disinclined to listen to anything Mr Foley says.

  12. It's going to be a tight fit, but just bring plenty of lube.