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:

Central congestion

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.

Peripheral traffic

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 Five improvements are particularly important:

Technology development

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.