IBM figures rail transit is going to get faster and cleaner

IBM figures rail transit is going to get faster and cleaner

Summary: High speed rail transit is happening in many lands. IBM is part of the action.

TOPICS: IBM, China, India

I recently spoke with IBM's Ken Donnelly, the company's world-wide industry leader for transportation. IBM is busily working with major rail systems all over the globe: China, India, Taiwan, South Africa, Brazil, even in the U.S. IBM's smart transit services are suited for metro area rail lines and bus lines as well. IBM's system offers asset management, real-time monitoring of conditions of trains, signals and rails.

It's exciting to hear about the state-of-engineering rail lines. Taiwan's new end-to-end system transects the island on a north/south axis. It can travel at 300 KM per hour. With thirty minutes for stops the train goes end to end in Taiwan in 90 minutes. And their on time record: over 99%.

What's on-time in Taiwanese? Here in the willy-nilly world of U.S. rail a train within two or even three minutes of its scheduled time is considered "on time." However, in Taiwan the leeway is exactly six SECONDS. Taiwan high speed train. Courtesy IBM.

The IBM management system used on the Taiwan high-speed rail system monitors the cars, the rails, the signal system and measures the crucial vibration effects along the route. Taiwan, like California, is prone to earthquakes which can threaten rail system safety.

Speaking of California, it is estimated a north-south high speed rail system there will cost over $50 billion. The current stimulus plan has eight billion to spread around the U.S. Meanwhile, the Chinese government is going to spend a quarter of a trillion dollars on their high speed rail system. Donnelly says the technology for high speed rail now exists, and like the highway system the U.S. began building in the 1950s, high speed rail will bring great economic rewards if it is built.

Most large nations are investing heavily in rail services. Russia. India. In Brazil they're preparing for the summer Olympics in 2016. They hope to have a high speed rail service connecting Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro when the Olympics come to town. Earlier I blogged about the new consortium doing rail research and planning, in a center based in China.

All the new technology of high-speed rail is electric-powered, said Donnelly. In many areas railroads run their own power-generation plants and electricity is carried on overhead lines or ground-level third rails. The trains, rails, bridges, signals are all metered and data is constantly fed into the IBM management system that then sechedules maintenance and replacement, measures wear on parts, watches for failures of equipment and manages the necessary invrestory of new parts. Donnelly said the efficiency of rail systems is crucial if they are going to attract and maintain heavy daily use or replace air travel for medium distance travel. In Taiwan you can go 300 KM in 90 minutes, faster than you can get checked onto an airplane in most airports. At that level of service, you take the train and avoid the plane. Trains are far more fuel-efficient than trucks, cars, planes.

Topics: IBM, China, India

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  • Ride those Rails!

    Thanks for this great article on the future of rail travel. It's the most obvious thing - can't wait for US to catch on and catch up. Energy-wise, trains win hands down. And the technology is going strong. Great blog.
  • The only problem with rails . . .

    The only problem with rails . . . is that you usually
    end up nowhere near your destination, and may make
    many stops along the way, making trips longer. Hence
    the real reason people still like cars.

    They may be decent at competing with local airports,
    though - if we can get back to cross-country passenger
    railroads. We haven't had such an extensive passenger
    system since what, the 1800s? Early 1900s? Today it's
    mostly freight, and people like to drive or fly.

    If my history books are right, we used to have
    passenger trains all over the USA. But unfortunately
    convenience rules, and cars and planes are very

    But planes are frankly becoming very inconvenient and

    So interest in trains may rise.

    BUT - interest does not equal action. And in order for
    trains to become a reality again, we'd have to build infrastructure. We'd have to update a whole bunch of
    tracks designed for freight to handle passengers, and
    if we want high speed, the costs skyrocket.

    "Speaking of California, it is estimated a north-south
    high speed rail system there will cost over $50

    Speaking of California - have you checked their
    finances recently? Heck, have you paid attention to
    [b]any[/b] of the news recently? Our nation isn't
    exactly in a good situation for big spending right
    now. And frankly, the news is only gonna get worse
    when that health care bill gets going.

    Geez, why can't we get a president that really
    [b]CARES[/b] about the economy? Why is it that neither
    the Republicans nor the Democrats seem to have even a
    grade school understanding of economics?

    And trust me - if we are to be serious about trains
    again, it had better be cross continent, not just
    north-south. A lot of people would love to be able to
    travel across the country in a way that's convenient.
    • Rails to outerspace

      OK, So I am not a world economy expert so if my implied assumption is off then so be it. But, I have to ask, how much is Taiwan spending on trying to figure out if there was ever water on the Moon or on Mars? How much has the US spent on trying to figure this out? I think you all get my point.

      Convenient automobiles. What that means is that we can stop at Starbucks on our way to work, show up 20 minutes late because there was a long line. Leave for 45 minutes on our ? hour lunch break to do some banking and then leave early because little Johnny had a sniffle while at day care. Nope, can?t do all of that if you took the train to work.

      Why are all of these other countries surpassing the US in so many areas???
  • Shock: Global temperatures driven by US Postal Charges

    "The rise in global temperatures since 1880 closely correlates
    with increases in postal charges, sparking alarm that CO2 has
    been usurped as the main driver of climate change."
    Richard Flude