Acela slow-down?

Sir-With public service of Amtrak's Acela now imminent, it was disheartening to read (RG 7.00 p408) that trains must slow down between New York and New Haven, adding 15min to the 3h estimate for the New York to Boston journey. If Amtrak and/or the FRA really has only just discovered that the position of 1913-vintage catenary masts and the track centres in the New Haven area will severely limit the degree of tilt (and therefore the speed), then this smacks more of 'Rupert engineering' than responsible planning and schedule-making.

Mention is made of the 'ancient 11 kV catenary, which is not tensioned to compensate for temperature variations,' but this pioneering installation, which served well for nearly a century, has been entirely replaced by variable-tensioned equipment. It is not easy to discern the planned Acela Express schedule between New York and New Haven, but over half a century ago timings of 1h 30min for the 120·9 km were common, including permanent speed restrictions as limiting as 25 km/h. Although the overall maximum was 113 km/h, the achievable average was just over 80 km/h. Some restrictions, such as those through the East River tunnels, still affect trains, tilting or otherwise.

Per-Erik Olsen reminds us (RG 7.00 p410) that the FRA, in connection with high-speed operation in the Northeast Corridor, 'launched one of the most advanced R&D projects in North America.' It would appear that this project failed to encompass determining clearances, track centres and, possibly, immutable speed restrictions.

Alan M Levitt

Fresh Meadows, New York, USA

Norway speed-up

Sir - Further to my letter in RG 12.99 p768, I can now confirm that Norway should be included in Table I of your world speed survey. The Oslo Sentral - Gardermoen airport shuttle trains are scheduled to cover the 47·8 km in 19min, thus averaging 150·9 km/h - rather better than the 89 km/h quoted in the article (RG 10.99 p659). But this is not NSB's best timing. The Signatur inter-city variant of the airport train is timetabled to average 151·2 km/h over the 30·24 km between Lillestrøm and Gardermoen, thus propelling Norway into 10th position in the world speed stakes - quite an improvement!

Erik Hardeng

Meditron AS, Norway

World speed survey

Our compiler Dr Colin Taylor is now collecting information for the first World Speed Survey of the 21st century, and would be pleased to hear from anyone with details of notable timetabled high-speed runs that may have escaped his notice, particularly any on unusual routes or in less-obvious locations.

From the 2001 survey, the base limit for inclusion in Table I - fastest start-to-stop runs - will be raised from 120 to 150 km/h. Data should be sent to the Railway Gazette editorial office (address on p691). Look out for the results in autumn 2001.