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The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has released a report which demonstrates the extent to which advances in technology have improved the safety, reliability and efficiency of the rail network in the United States. In the last decade the industry has witnessed a 32% reduction in mainline accidents.
The innovations which have become part of the infrastructure on US railroads include trackside detectors which use infrared lights and lasers to identify even microscopic flaws in trains which pass these devices. Other methods and devices for the real-time assessment of infrastructure and equipment on the network have also facilitated proactive maintenance. In addition to this, sophisticated software is deployed by companies to analyse train and crew schedules, speed restrictions and other operations to assist dispatchers in managing operations.
These advances have occurred in response to the consistent growth of freight rail shipments in the previous decade, and expectations by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) of a 41% increase by 2040. Edward R. Hamberger, outgoing President and CEO of the AAR, said:
“America is home to the greatest freight rail network in the world, and we are putting technology to work to keep it that way. Next-generation innovations like drones, lasers and automated technologies are revolutionizing how we run a railroad.”
In addition to safety, reliability and efficiency, the sustainability of rail, already regarded as the most environmentally friendly mode of land transportation, has also improved. In-cab fuel management systems have improved the efficiency of it by up to 14% and the introduction of Tier 4 locomotives, which are being phased into fleets across the country, have also reduced diesel emissions by up to 90%. In 2017, on average, a single ton of freight was moved 479 miles for every gallon of fuel used by trains on the US network.
The release of the report coincided with the RailxTech event in Washington DC on 15 May 2018, which is organised by the AAR. The event stages demonstrations of new technology which might become part of the industry in the future.
“This 200-year-old industry is poised to meet the challenges of tomorrow,” added Hamberger. “Building on the technology of today, such as Positive Train Control and Big Data analytics, the industry will continue to do what it has always done for the American economy – deliver.”
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