02 May 2018
The rail industry in the United States, which is regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), is dominated by freight railroads. In recent years developments in technology and new regulation have changed the shape of the sector. In her first column for Railway-News, Betsy Cantwell, Communications Director for GORAIL, tell us more about it:
New data released by the FRA in March 2018 verifies that the last several years have been the safest ever for America’s railroads. Among other achievements, the train accident rate has declined 44 percent since 2000.
Undergirding this news are advances in innovative rail technologies and how they’re being implemented across the 140,000-mile U.S. rail freight network. While railroads are the economic powerhouse that helped develop America, there is nothing old-fashioned about rail technology. From drones and big data to automation and mobile phone apps, U.S. freight railroads are innovating to improve safety. Here are six things you might not have realised about rail tech and innovation:
Trains have come a long way since the days of the Iron Horse. State-of-the-art technologies like big data, drones, and ultrasound technology are just a few of the innovations railroads use to advance rail safety. For example, while today’s inspection technology currently makes it possible for U.S. railroads to identify 90 percent of track defects before they lead to an incident, multidimensional ultrasonic technology, currently in testing, aims to identify the remaining 10 percent of track imperfections.
Big data is also helping to identify problems before they happen. Every day, rail data warehouses receive and store the vast amounts of data gathered from the wayside detectors and other monitors along the rail network. This data — hundreds of trillions of bytes — is used to identify critical risk factors. Railroads can then issue “composite rules”, or safety protocols, that address the piece of equipment at risk. The Association of American Railroads (AAR), for instance, used big data to issue a composite rule that sets industry-wide standards for wheels to ensure their safety and integrity.
In Pueblo, Colo., railroads jointly support the Transportation Technology Center, Inc., or TTCI, the world’s leading rail research and testing facility. Many new U.S. rail technologies — like the world’s first laser-based rail inspection system, or on-board computer systems that analyse track geometry — are developed and tested at the TTCI.
Also housed at the TTCI, the Security and Emergency Response Training Center (SERTC) trains thousands of first responders every year, through both hands-on programmes and free, web-based training for those who cannot attend in person.
The TTCI is a great example of how railroads partner with the U.S. government to tackle safety. The FRA contributes about a third of its annual research budget toward projects conducted at the TTCI. John Tunna, director of the FRA’s Office of Research & Development, describes the relationship: “It’s a very good example of the public-private partnership. One of the facilities at TTCI is the Positive Train Control test bed. This is a fully functional PTC system. It has both the freight implementation of PTC and Amtrak’s implementation. It has all the wayside units, the onboard units, radios and back office server. It means that people developing the system can come and test their component there and iron out the bugs before going out into railway service.”
Thousands of first responders around the U.S. have signed up for an innovative mobile app called AskRail. Launched in 2014 and recently updated with new features, the app is designed to prepare responders for a rail emergency in real time by providing immediate access to accurate, timely data about what type of hazardous materials a railcar is carrying.
Updates unveiled in 2017 include full integration of all North American Class I railroads, a map feature that provides isolation zones and points of interest and a French version. AskRail is included as part of standard emergency responder training from Class I railroads and can only be downloaded by qualified emergency responders who have completed rail emergency training. Railroads can also offer the app to known emergency responders along their routes.
Another example of freight rail innovation, positive train control, or PTC, is a set of advanced technologies designed to automatically stop a train before certain incidents occur and it will soon be installed across more than 54,000 miles of the U.S. rail network. Because much of the PTC technology did not exist when the U.S. Congress mandated its installation in 2008, railroads and their suppliers have had to develop many of its components from scratch.
Implementation requires the deployment of hundreds of thousands of technology pieces, the precise geo-mapping of tens of thousands of miles of railroad right-of-way, as well as extensive training and testing to ensure the system is interoperable between railroads. The industry has invested upwards of $8 billion so far and expects to spend more than $10 billion in total before the systems are fully operational.
Despite the complexities and challenges of implementing PTC, freight railroads are on track to meet the deadline set out by Congress in 2015. By the end of 2018, America’s Class I freight railroads will have all hardware installed, all spectrum in place, all employees trained and at least 80 percent of PTC-required route miles in operation.
The new FRA stats also include a 55 percent decrease since 2000 in the track-caused accident rate, as well as a 42 percent decrease in the derailment rate in the same time frame. These gains are not anomalies, but examples of how steady rail investment pays safety dividends. U.S. freight railroads, which are privately owned, have collectively spent over $100 billion on their network and operations in the last four years alone.
“Investments in technology and employee training to advance safety in recent years have yielded significant gains that make railroading in America safer and more reliable than ever.”
said AAR President and CEO Edward Hamberger.
The first test tram on the Trafford Park Line, the new extension to the Metrolink network in Manchester, took place overnight Sunday.
Rail Baltica has announced its tender for the Riga Airport station and associated works. Candidate selection will occur in January 2020.
UWC will supply 100 gondola freight cars to National Railways of Zimbabwe for cross-border operations. They will run on 1067mm gauge track.
As part of its knowledge transfer strategy Talgo UK has gifted a Rodal to the National College for Advanced Transport & Infrastructure.
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Crossrail Ltd says the central section of the Elizabeth line now will not open in 2020. The previous window suggested Oct 2020–Mar 2021.
Von der Leyden has picked her candidate for Transport Commissioner, Romanian politician Adina-Ioana Valean. Her hearing is on 14 November.
MECX Medical Drug & Alcohol Testing Programs are straightforward, simple and backed by a rapid results turnaround service.
The Deutsche Bahn supervisory board has agreed a €100m investment in 30 new trains. Dr Sigrid Nikutta, head of BVB, will join DB in 2020.
The Berlin Wall came down 30 years ago, on 9 November 1989. After German Unity, the government implemented major transport projects.
Serbia: the EBRD is loaning 100 million euros to the Serbian state railway company Srbija Voz for the acquisition of up to 18 trains.
CAF Signalling has won a contract for the Ferrocarril Central project, Uruguay, expanding the CAF Group subsidiary's international operations.
Alstom and MMRC revealed a mock up of the train for the Aqua Line in Mumbai. Alstom is supplying 31 8-car units as part of a 2018 contract.
The electrication works on the Gail Valley Railway in Austria have entered their final phase. The OLE will go live on 11 November for testing.
Alstom and FS Italiane have reconfirmed their partnership with Bologna University. A four-week course will equip students with vital skills.
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Alstom is set to test the new Coradia iLint in the Netherlands. This is due to a signage between Alstom, Engie, Arriva and ProRail.
FreiLacke is the only company to supply both powder coatings and wet coatings in a combined system to the advanced TrainLab.
The British rail operators have jointly published a report outlining investments in rolling stock and infrastructure for 2020 and beyond.
Talgo has signed a framework agreement with Transport Scotland and Scottish Enterprise for a manufacturing base in Longannet, Fife.
Gazpromtans have signed another contract with UWC, this time for 120 tank cars in order to transport molten sulphur for parent Gazprom.
Deutsche Bahn is transforming its rail network with digital signal boxes. The first regulating a long-distance route has entered service.
Vivarail has announced expansion plans with a move to Southam. It has out-grown its premised at Long Marston thanks to a growing order book.
WESTbahn has purchased 17 Stadler KISS trains. The TOC is selling its existing fleet to DB. The new trains will enter service in 2021.
Alstom is celebrating a milestone for its Hanoi Metro contract signed in 2017. The first trainset will be complete by the end of the month.
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Transport for Wales is continuing its station improvement vision by investing 280,000 GBP in enhancing 13 Borderlands Line stations.
Network Rail is choosing to use augemented reality to showcase its three new footbridge designs to the public via the ARki app.
Bombardier is celebrating 25 years of its APM system running in Germany. Frankfurt Airport got the INNOVIA 100 sytem in 1994.
Wabtec has announced 2 milestones for its India operations at IREE 2019. For example, its Indian factory has been operating for a year now.
Spanish train manufacturer Talgo has established Talgo UK with Jon Veitch as its new MD. It aims to build an 'all Britain' supply chain.
Crossrail has published a new plan that will see 120 key milestones being tracked, with a scheduled opening of October 2020–March 2021.
France's Grand Est region has ordered 39 Alstom Coradia Polyvalent trains for both cross-border and domestic operations.
BLS Cargo has announced it is buying 25 Siemens Vectron multi-system locomotives to operate in Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy.
Infrastructure Ontario and Metrolinx have awarded the contract to design, build, maintain, operate and finance the Hurontario LRT.
Network Rail and Arup have published a report entitled Tomorrow's Living Station to investigate how Britain's stations might evolve.
Avignon's first tram line opened to the public on 19 October with Alstom Citadis X05 trams. A second line is scheduled to open in 2023.
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Stadler has signed the contract with ADIF for 22 rescue locomotives following the company's announcement on 31 July that it won the tender.
Alstom Ubunye has opened its rail factory in Ekurhuleni. It will supply components to Gibela Rail where the PRASA trains are being built.
The Vienna-Bratislava line is seeing upgrade works to make it a faster, electrified railway. 1 of 14 level crossings has now been eliminated.
Germany will cut VAT on long-distance rail journeys to 7%, down from the current 19%. It will also increase taxes on air passengers.
The EU says that it is seeking applications for funding for transport projects worth up to 1.4 billion euros. 50 million are for ERTMS.
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Stadler and NAH.SH have signed the contract for 55 FLIRT Akku trains that will enter service in Schleswig-Holstein in 2022 and beyond.
Stadler has won its first major rolling stock contract in the Pacific region, with the Taiwan Railways Authority ordering 34 locomotives.
The ninth edition of EXPO Ferroviaria, Italy’s showcase for railway technologies, products and systems, closed at Rho Fiera Milano.
Skoda Transportation has won a contract to supply trains for the Warsaw metro. The Czech company will deliver the first unit within 2 years.
Corinna Salander has been appointed the head of the German Centre for Rail Transport Research – DZSF. She will start on 1 January 2020.
RB Rail AS, which is delivering Rail Baltica, has announced a tender for a Notified Body service provider to assess EU TSI conformity.
The first Stadler train for Merseyrail has been transported to Germany where it will undergo dynamic testing before entering service in 2020.
Engineering company Salini Impregilo has won a contract with Bane NOR to upgrade 13.6km of railway track on the Vestfold Line.
Matt Byrne is the new president for the UK region of Bombardier Transportation and the Chair of Bombardier Transportation UK Ltd.
Leo Express has received its first Sirius EMU from CRRC. It is Velim for the necessary certification tests so it can enter passenger service.
Henrik Hololei spoke at Digital Transport Days to hail the successes and goals of Shift2Rail to address climate change and other focuses.
Alstom is to supply 42 Metropolis trainsets for Barcelona. Barcelona currently runs Metropolis trains on Lines 9 and 10 of its metro.
CAF has won a contract to supply 21 Urbos 3 trams for Birmingham. Just like the city's existing Urbos fleet, they can run without catenaries.
The Engadine Line infrastructure works between Scuol-Tarasp and Susch are almost complete. RhB had closed the section completely on 11 March.
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One major complaint of rail passengers in Wales has been capacity. In response, TfW is introducing 6500 extra spaces per week from December.
The Singapore LTA is getting OEMs to open local facilities as part of their contracts to reduce train maintenance and repair times.
UK rail franchise operator GTR has completed a 5-year transformation programme that has seen the introduction of 1,500 new carriages.
The NCHSR rebrands to reflect its broader remit. It will now be known as the National College for Advanced Transport & Infrastructure.
At Ferroviaria 2019 Stadler and FNM have presented a mock-up of the new FLIRT diesel-electric multiple unit for the Lombardy region.
The Mayor of Manchester has published his vision for rail for the city, to double passenger numbers to 200,000 by 2040 and other goals.
Stadtwerke Augsburg has signed a contract with Stadler for the supply of 11 metre-gauge TRAMLINK trams, to enter service in 2022.
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Rail Baltica has produced a study to assess the potential impact of climate change on the project and to develop mitigation measures.
The Rail Delivery Group has published proposals for rail fare reforms following the largest-ever passenger survey in the country.
Copenhagen's new metro line, Cityringen, will open on 29 September 2019. It has been under construction for 8 years and features 17 stations.
Alstom has been awarded the contract to retrofit 17 ICE 3 trains with its Atlas ETCS solution in a contract worth more than 30 million euros.
NEWAG has signed a contract with the ROSCO Rail Capital Partners for the delivery of 5 electric Dragon 2 locomotives for delivery in 2020.
Brigitte Zypries has joined the supervisory board of Bombardier Transportation. She was previously a member of the supervisory board at DB.
Following a successful six-month trial ScotRail is now rolling out the use of GSM-R to give passengers more detailed real-time information.
The Northern refurbishment works are now two thirds complete. As part of its franchise agreement Northern is refurbishing 243 trains.
Ground-breaking events for the new 26-mile Silver Line took place at six locations in the Dallas Area Rapid Transit region on 19 September.
The Paris-Lyon high-speed line is to get the Atlas ERTMS Level 2 solution to increase capacity on what is Europe's busiest route.
Deutsche Bahn is experimenting with white rails to reduce the temperature of the steel, thereby avoiding stress on the rails in extreme heat.
The private Swiss rail operator BLS is halting the introduction of a new resource planning system. BLS has aborted the roll-out of the new software, which would...
Changzhou Metro Line 1 began passenger operations on 21 September 2019. It is the first metro line in the Chinese city, with 5 more planned.
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The MBTA has ordered 80 double-decker coaches from Hyundai-Rotem to add capacity to its commuter rail services and replace ageing vehicles.
Deutsche Bahn has established Digitale Schiene Deutschland GmbH to drive forward the digital transformation in the rail industry.
Metronet has made public a tender for the construction of an assembly and maintenance depot for railcars in Bellevue, Western Australia.
Eurotunnel is one of the eight freight carriers chosen by the UK government to be a preferred carrier of vital goods following Brexit.
Stadler has signed a joint venture with PT INKA in Indonesia, which marks the Swiss company's entry into the southeast Asian market.
The British rail regulator, the ORR, has implemented a new measure to record train punctuality: the 'On Time' punctuality measure.
Transport for Wales has published its Station Improvement Vision stating that it will invest £194 in modernising all 247 stations in Wales.
SNCF Mobilités has chosen CAF as preferred bidder to deliver 28 trains to enter service in 2023. The order is worth ca. 700 million euros.
Balfour Beatty VINCI SYSTRA joint venture wins construction management contract for HS2's Old Oak Common station worth 1 billion GBP.
Deutsche Bahn is investing in hybrid technology for its maintenance fleets and shunting locomotives to reduce its environmental impact.
On 16 September Shanghai Keolis opened the Pudong International Airport metro, connecting the terminals to the new satellite halls.
Alstom will deliver 4 additional Coradia Lint trains for Denmark. The operator, Nordjyske Jernbaner, will receive the units by mid-2021.
RegioJet has introduced double-decker coaches in Slovakia, purchased from DB Regio. They are hauled by Siemens Eurorunner locomotives.
Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004 triggered mass economic investment, including in the country’s railway infrastructure and rolling stock.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, this week Eurostar has unveiled a picture gallery celebrating travellers’ memorable images.
The 13th TRAKO will be taking place in Poland. TRAKO is a international event with pavilions for Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and the UK.
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