Transport Problems in the EU
by Olav Næss, 2007-2013
Here are some comments to serious transport problems addressed in the white papers European transport policy for 2010 (from 2001) and Keep Europe moving (from 2006).
A central problem here was that the European Union is threatened with apoplexy (congestion) at the centre and paralysis at the extremities. I will recommend the beamway, a lightweight railway, (see picture below) as the solution to this double problem. It is also a more energy saving means of transport, and I will now point out various other benefits of this new technology.
It replaces the old single-level ground transport paradigm with a new multilevel paradigm. This can reduce the apoplexy (congestion) in central areas. In peripheral areas, the beamway goes above a quite undisturbed nature and agriculture areas. Conventional heavy rail will block and raze the nature 100 times more. More in the article The Beamway.
It is suitable for person and light cargo transport. Heavy transport will still be left to the old solutions like conventional trains, but these will now be able to devote themselves to the transport types most suitable for them.
Why should the capacity of the heavy rail be wasted on wagons carrying 70 passengers – weighting perhaps 7 tons – when a wagon could take at least 100 tons off the road instead? And why should the traditional 100 ton concept be chosen for high-speed passenger transport, when wagons are to carry just 7 tons?
When a railway tries to combine cargo and passenger transport, the heavy transport will obstruct and slow down the fast passenger transport.
Some possible lines in various countries.
Left: Two beamway trains. Right: Cross-section of 2C-beam with rubber wheels. Also air-cushion drive may be used for high speeds.
This beamway (lightweight rail) is needed when:
the ground is uneven, and it is environmentally brutal and/or expensive to level it
snow would be problematic for ground-based traffic
the railway should not constitute a barrier
the railway should be derail-proof – important in (submerged floating) tunnels
a line should be temporary or reroutable
station structures would be inconvenient or too expensive, and wheelchairs still should be accommodated
it would be impractical to have separate rail systems for rural and urban use – like when a long-distance line should have an end loop in a city
cabins should be exchanged with other vehicles or boats
the railway should go all the way into special places like factories, hospitals, airports, ship decks, stadiums...
the railway should go over water or in places threatened by snow masses, deluge or avalanche
small boats are to be transported between storage and water
cars are to be transported safely and without air pollution through submerged tunnels
the line should also collect solar energy
the need for skilled (ground surface) drivers is problematic
there isn't room for a conventional railway line in addition to a road: narrow valleys, road bridges, city streets, dams, dikes...
various operations at various places should be done automatically: agriculture, firefighting, dike repair...
safety, energy economy and CO2 emission are to be improved
A paradigm shift must now come for ground traffic: Single-level traffic layout must be replaced by multilevel thinking, and the high-level parts of the ground traffic should not be heavy ground traffic on bridges, but be elevated lightweight rail.
The depicted beamway can go above conventional ground traffic, even in the undisturbed streets of an old city. And thanks to the elevator in the train/tram/bus, station buildings are not required. This is especially important in old cities.
The beamway can, of course, also go in underground tunnels, and can more easily be placed there than conventional railways can, because it is easier to reroute a beamway.
Special events, like olympic games, can get temporary beamway lines which can afterwards be removed without leaving a trace.
Conventional railways are not a good solution for cross-country traffic either, because they require brutal ground levelling, and the tracks constitute a barrier, unless either expensive or dangerous crossings are used. The beamway, however, leaves the nature, farmlands etc. quite undisturbed, thus saving both money and the nature. It tolerates the natural unevenness, being able to compensate for several meters of height variations by just varying the length of its poles.
Such a railway can simply follow existing roads, also over their bridges, but be able to take many shortcuts. It could be built through existing road tunnels, in which the train would behave like a bus. Or it could get its own tunnels next to the road tunnels – which now have got free escape routes. If the beam is held by racks standing upon the ground, the whole railway can be displaced to the side in case of new tunnels or other rerouting causes.
When traffic needs a long tunnel – perhaps a submerged floating tunnel – it will be expensive to make this for cars in peripheral areas with little traffic, because cars need a wide and well ventilated tunnel. The beamway, however, can transport the cars through a (<4 meter diameter) tunnel or tube without creating pollution there. And it can do this in a much safer, well coordinated manner, without the need for complicated rescue operations in case of an accident.
Boats in remote districts are expensive to replace with railways or roads, but can become less awkward if passenger cabins are transferred between them and beamway trains.
Low-traffic remote lines can still be economic when they can run automatically (without a driver/conductor) like an elevator. (The suspended monorails in Dortmund and Düsseldorf are running automatically, without a driver.) It is important for small towns that they can do without skilled train drivers, and that they needn't struggle with removing snow from railway lines.
Expensive road traffic infrastructure in sparsely populated areas needn't be duplicated for railways, but can simply get an additional use.
What is new?
Similar suspended monorails are in use for short-distance lines various places in Germany and Japan, but I am suggesting many improvements on my website on-nor.net. Five improvements are particularly important:
The proposed elevator in the middle of the train permits passengers to enter and leave wherever the train stops. No station structures are required. This is equally valuable in city streets and rural areas. And the elevator is wheelchair-friendly.
The traditional monolithic steel beam (like SIPEM), which must be lifted in place by two heavy cranes, is replaced by two C-shaped half-beams which permit the beamway to extent itself without beam lift help from heavy machinery on the ground. These unique C-half-beams simplify manufacture, construction logistics and maintenance. They can be bent somewhat sideways (and/or twisted) for optimal curvature adjustments, and they can be turned upside down if they sag downwards, or if the track is worn or damaged.
Air-cushion hovering, applied fully or partially, can give high speeds, also with quite small wheels.
The beamway train may (optionally) have exchangeable passenger cabins which can rapidly be transferred to a boat deck, a “bus trailer” or a conventional train freight wagon. This is possible because the beamway can deliver a cabin to a position just centimeters above such vehicles. This gives intermodality not only to light cargo transport, but also to passenger transport.
The same beamway technology can be used for both urban and rural lines, so that a rural line can continue into a city and serve as a metropolitan line there – although shorter wagons will probably be used there, at least if the turns are sharp.
There is no need to commit to a full infrastructure change. Beamway development may be justified by merely one or a few of the above-mentioned application areas.