Karolian High-Speed

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Karolian High-Speed is the brand name for the fastest class of express train the republic of Karolia, operated by the state railway company RVK-KSF. The name also appears in the vernacular language as Karolias Kiiraudteeliined but the branding is intentionally in English to highlight the 'international' class of the services.

History

Inception

In the late 1970s and early 1980s a feasibility study was conducted by the government of the time into building a nationwide network of fast passenger lines in order to manage the increasing numbers of road vehicles in the country (in conjunction with a period of motorway building), to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to increase business between states as well as provide growth. After the first study, the main criteria for the project were established:

  • Train services should be run at a minimum of one per hour per direction on all stopping points.
  • Trains would use dedicated high-speed tracks where possible to minimise conflict with other services
  • Target operating speeds would be 250-300km/h and a target capacity of 400 passengers per train
  • The level of passenger service and journey times would be competitive with airlines on comparable routes.
  • Environmental impact would be less than the equivalent road or air journey
  • The fares would be integrated into the structure already existing and there would be no supplement for use of the services
  • Provision for future expansion would be built in to the first construction stage

The primary routes for the project were:

Draft plans had called for standard-gauge track to be used, but it was subsequent decided to utilise the Karolian broad gauge of 1521mm to allow running over existing lines and commonality of stock. Electrification would also use the 25Kv DC overhead lines found in the rest of the country.

Initial construction, 1983-1987

The project was approved with a 87% majority in the Riikskogu in 1981 and the first stage of the project was scheduled to be a new line serving the Santjana-Paliiso corridor, with upgrades to the Majos valley line to allow running to Kanton when the project had achieved sufficient progress. After acquiring land, the first new track was laid just outside the city boundary of Santjana on 12 August 1984, and by the start of 1987 the railway was nearly complete. Work had also started to upgrade the Majos section of the route, reducing the curve radius of several corners, electrifying the line and adding passing places to allow the HS trains to overtake slower services. It was decided to commence operations over the old line for the time being and switch the trains to new sections when complete.

First operations, 1987-1989

The railway opened on September 1st, 1987 with the first service being the 08:00 from Säntjana Sudtjaam to Känton Kastjaam. Although technically in 'revenue service' no tickets were actually sold; the train was occupied by politicians, journalists, business leaders and members of the public who had entered a ballot for seats. The service worked as smoothly as hoped and the train arrived at its destination just eighty-three seconds late. Services to Paliiso began the same day.

At the same time, work was progressing on the second high speed line to Fontjäna and Samacja. This involved a greater proportion of new track building, but fewer land purchases as there was room to build the new lines alongside the existing railway in many places.

By 1989 the rest of the upgraded Majos Valley line was open and reduced journey times by 15 minutes, also allowing more frequent services on the old tracks.

Second and third phases, 1993

By 1993 the second HS line to Fontjäna was open for passenger service, and on January 4th 1994 the extension to Samacja saw its first service. Immediately the HS project turned to three of more challenging phases of the plan: the line over the marshlands and more mountainous terrain to reach Vasireii; the 120km section along the south coast to reach Lapise, and most of all, building a bypass to the north of Samacja and rebuilding the town's north and south stations into a pair of termini.

The Vasireii line was started first, as the need to connect the country's second largest city to the network was greatest.

Routes

Train numbers are prefixed with the service number with even numbers those travelling away from Santjana and from the east, so the third train of the day from Kyor to Säntjana would be HS805. Shortened routes are also used with four-digit codes, so the equivalent train from Kyor terminating at Paliiso would be HS8805.

List of routes currently operating on KHS (2014)
Service series Start Intermediate stops Terminus Notes
HS1 Säntjana Sudtjaam Säntjana Kastjaam, Säntjana Tougu, Täärei, Känton Kastjaam, Riispere Gorjee K
HS2 Anola-Fiore A Osmila K, Säntjana K, Säntmila HS, Osu K, Paliiso K, Majoslinna, Känton Kastjaam Vasireii Kastjaam
HS3 Säntjana Kastjaam Täärei, Säntmila HS, Osu K, Paliiso K, Paliiso A, Pataari, Lapise A Lapise Kastjaam/Maratimajaam Train reverses at Paliiso
HS4 Säntjana Sudtjaam Säntjana K, Tougu A, Fontjäna K Samacja Sudtjaam
HS5 Anola-Fiore A Osmila K, Säntjana K, Tougu A, Fontjäna K Gorjee K
HS6 Gorjee Kastjaam Vasantan K, Potlac, Känton K, Kasmila, Liiva, Kyor K
HS7 Lapise K Batosji, Kyor K, Mor, Nyeri Vasireii K
HS8 Säntjana K/Paliiso K Pataari, Sebee Kyor K
HS9 Samacja Sudtjaam Vasantan, Potlac, Känton K, Vasireii K Masbar-Porte
HS10 Lapise M Lake Hotakope, Gilagonas, Dream, Mascara, Fort Royal Phoenix Northern Station (Mecyna) Used standard-gauge rolling stock. Jointly operated with Mecynan Rail.

Rolling stock

Another stipulation of the project from its early days was the acquisition of completely new trains which would be dedicated to the service. These would have to seat at least 350 passengers per 10-car train in three classes, fit existing loading gauges where standard lines had to be used, include a restaurant car, disabled access, passenger TV, and be compatible with the network's new signalling system. A variety of designs were submitted by various international companies to meet the criteria and eventually the winner was awarded the contract for an initial production run of 24 trainsets, increasing to 68 as the network expanded. The new trains were bespoke to RVK/KSF, but where based on designs already tried and tested on other networks. Maximum operating speeds from the lines' inception averaged at 270 km/h.

RK-2000-T (HS1)

The first generation of trainsets were designed to have a power car at each end hauling 10 coaches. They were delivered from 1987.

RK-5000-S (HS2)

In 2006 many of the the original trains were nearly 20 years old and in need of refurbishment. It was decided to cascade a proportion to the second level of express train and at the same time, an order was placed for a new class of high-speed train that would be capable of up to 340 km/h on the dedicated lines, although this is limited to 310 km/h in regular service. The new trains were delivered from 2010 and have the ability to be rebuilt to achieve speeds of up to 400 km/h should this be mandated in future. Most are 10-car with a holding order to lengthen to 12-car in future.

Delivery commenced in late 2009. The trains differ from the original stock in having only one power car; the other end of the train contains a control cab but powered axles only and so can seat passengers. The systems are designed to be compatible with previous stock, so that a HS1 power unit could pull a train if needed.

VS-3000D (HS3)

The shorter VS3000 stock were delivered from 2012 and are designed to run over lines that are not yet electrified, and so are powered by turbo diesel engines. They consist of either six or eight cars with powered axles and a cab at each end and can reach 200 km/h in normal service. A variant with only two passenger classes was also ordered for the IC service lines.

VS-3000M

Four electric trainsets almost identical to the VS3000, but built to standard track and loading gauge and with dual-voltage electric power units to allow through running into Mecyna on route 10. The control cars can be replaced with Mecynan diesel or electric locomotives as the passenger carriages share power systems.

BV230T

KHS also owns ten diesel locomotives to be used for emergency rescue in the event of power failure, stock movements and as backup traction.

On board

KSH trains contain three accommodation classes: Standard Class, First Class and Premier Class, imitating a premium airline. All trainsets contain a buffet/bar car in the centre which serves drinks and meals.

Standard Class

Standard class passengers have 2+2 aisle seating, luggage compartments, and the use of the buffet car and WIFI.

First Class

First Class offers a greater seat pitch than Standard in a 2+1 arrangement, audio channels, television with catch-up and DVD library (extra cost), at-seat drinks service and a free newspaper and hot drink. Passengers can also use the First Class lounges at main stations.

Premier Class

Premier Class carriages have extra soundproofing, larger seats with privacy screens and curtains, mini-desk, television and audio services, at-seat meal service, free newspaper, drink and snack and use of Premier lounges at main stations.

Buffet car

All trains have a buffet car which comprises a bar area with stool seating, and on long-distance routes a restaurant area with tables of 4 and 2 either side of the aisle (shorter distance trains have standard seating in this area). The table seating is generally used by Standard Class passengers as the other two classes offer at-seat catering service. On routes of more than 1.5 hours duration the bar will serve a menu of hot meals and/or breakfast in the early morning. The menu is devised by starred chef Marco di Krasja and rotates between spring, summer and winter selections.

Ticketing

KHS is integrated into the ticketing structure used for the rest of the country's rail services. Tickets can be purchased from any sales point in the country, online and via a smartphone app which uses a barcode system. A stated aim of the service is that there is no extra cost to travel on the services compared to slower trains (as on some routes there is no alternative) but there an additional cost is charged to make a seat reservation. Additionally, the level of reduction given with discount cards is reduced when compared to other services.

Anyone making the same journey ten times on KHS can claim a 50% reduction on an first class ticket for the eleventh, when booked online (to verify identify).

Controversies

Competition with airline services

The expansion of the network has been criticised by several airlines operating in Karolia, who point to the level of public subsidies spent on the services through the state-owned operator. Henriik Vaas, chairman of the South Archantan Air Operators Association, stated in 2005 that it was simply 'not on' that 'airlines have to compete on the same routes with a company that receives millions of Korone of public money in subsidies whatever their passenger numbers or level of service. We have to answer to shareholders, pay corporation taxes, pay all our costs and balance the books without anybody bailing us out.' The Karolian government responded by stating that rail operations as a whole generated a net profit which was invested in public services, and that the airline industry had also received public loans and investment in infrastructure. North Air subsequently cut several routes and concentrated on those where the train had longer journey times.

Protests over routes

A number of local groups and environmental organisations raised concerns about the routing of some lines through sensitive areas, the construction of bridges, or requiring the acquisition of land. In some cases sit-in protests took place on areas in the path of the lines. The situation was worsened when the Minister for Rail was secretly recorded in a meeting in 1989 describing the objectors as 'self-interested' and a 'nuisance' whose protestations should be 'thrown out as soon as possible'. The Minister later apologised, stating that residents and environmental groups were right to raise concerns about the areas affected and that the government was taking them seriously. The government has since revised the consultation process for construction of new lines.

Other protests focused on the fact that the lines would bypass most settlements and the upheaval would not result in any direct benefit to their community. Proponents of the railway have argued that the railway reduces emissions from road traffic and brings economic benefits to the country as a whole.