Archive for the ‘Other News’ Category

Bombardier Miffed About Missing Out on VIA Order

December 15, 2018

A Canadian company is disgruntled about having been passed over for a new equipment order from VIA Rail Canada.

Alain Bellemare, the CEO of Montreal-based Bombardier, said it is “incomprehensible” that there is no requirement for local production to protect Canadian companies and jobs.

“We work in many countries around the world, and all countries require significant local content,” Bellemare said. “We see it in the U.S. It’s difficult to understand that here, we can’t find ways of protecting innovation, technology and jobs that are similar to all the other countries in the world.”

In announcing that it has chosen Siemens to be the builder of 32 new trainsets to be used for corridor service, VIA said on-time delivery was one reason why it bypassed Bombardier.

However, Bellemare said his company can fulfill orders on schedule despite it having missed some deadlines on a Toronto light rail project and delays on a New York subway contract.

“We’ve had a few production problems on some projects, which I began fixing in 2015, and we’re completely fixing them today in 2018,’’ he said. “So for me, this is really not a justification to decide for a C$1 billion project.”

The new equipment being built by Siemens will be assigned to the corridor between Quebec City and Windsor via Toronto.

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Report Links Public Transit and Lifestyles

December 15, 2018

The American Public Transportation Association said this week that nearly 80 percent of commuters surveyed view public transit as the “backbone” of a lifestyle that includes current and future modes of transportation and technologies.

The industry group said most commuters consider a range of conveyances as public transportation, including trains, buses, ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft, bike/car-share, autonomous vehicles and scooters.

A report issued by APTA said public transportation has been disrupted by new technology, data capabilities and business platforms, according to the report.

“Technological change and generational change will make people more likely to use multitransit options and will allow the transit industry to reach new users,” the report said. “For example, new technologies and travel options are expected to reduce the affinity for car ownership, particularly as younger travelers are more open to using multiple modes to commute.”

Taking aim at critics of public transportation, the report said these changes are unlikely to reduce the need for public transit but instead mean that transit agencies must adapt to become “mobility managers” for commuters.

Managing mobility will be critical for public transit agencies when commuters have the option to take a train, bus, bicycle, autonomous vehicle or any combination of modes to get to their destination, the report states.

“Public transportation can move more people efficiently in less space; as travel options continue to grow, consumers will need a way to make the various travel choices clear and routine; and as consumers recognize growing income inequality and shrinking data privacy, the need to protect the public interest and serve the vulnerable will grow, as well,” the report said.

The survey was used qualitative focus group and a quantitative nationwide survey with a strong focus on millennials. It was conducted by Anazalone Liszt Grove with additional data provided by the National Academy of Sciences and other data sources.

IDOT Survey to Ask About Amtrak Service

December 13, 2018

The Illinois Department of Transportation is conducting an online survey that will seek public views on various topics, including Amtrak service in the state.

IDOT funds Amtrak corridor trains linking Chicago with Milwaukee, St. Louis and the Illinois cities of Quincy and Carbondale.

Responses to the Illinois Traveler Opinion Survey are being accepted through Dec. 31 at http://www.idot.illinois.gov.

The survey is being conducted in a partnership with the University of Illinois Springfield and covered such other areas as road conditions, ice-and-snow removal, commuting habits and driving behaviors.

The survey has been conducted annually since 2001. A copy of the 2017 survey and results, along with data collected from past years, can be viewed at bit.ly/2Uu4DnF.

VIA Awards Contract for New Train Sets

December 13, 2018

Artists drawing of the new equipment being ordered from Siemens by VIA Rail Canada.

VIA Rail Canada has awarded a C$989 million ($741 million) contract to Siemens Canada to build 32 intercity train sets for use in the Quebec City–Toronto–Windsor corridor.

The new single-level equipment is expected to begin revenue service in 2022. It will be pulled by a locomotive based on the design of the Charger locomotives used by Amtrak.

VIA said in a news release that the new equipment will significantly increasing capacity to 9,100 seats.

VIA bases in Montreal and Toronto will maintain the equipment with support from Siemens under a 15-year Technical Services and Spares Supply Agreement.

The equipment will have LED lighting, USB ports, wide seats, quiet zones, bicycle storage racks, and flexible luggage space.

The fleet will exceed current accessibility standards for passengers with reduced mobility, including Braille seat numbering, companion seating, at-seat emergency call buttons, accessible toilets, and an integrated mobility device lift.

Siemens won the contract over bids submitted by Bombardier, Stadler and Talgo.

CSX Retains Rights on Line it is Selling

December 13, 2018

CSX plans to continue using a portion of the former route of Amtrak’s Sunset Limited in the Florida Panhandle even though it is selling the track to a short-line railroad.

The Florida Gulf & Atlantic Railroad plans to begin operations on the line between Jacksonville and Pensacola on Jan. 6, 2019.

However, a filing with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board indicates that CSX will retain trackage and haulage rights on the route.

The Sunset Limited operated over the line until August 2005 when portions of its were severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Despite numerous efforts by southern rail passenger agencies, Amtrak has not reinstated service east of New Orleans.

CSX, though, said it has no plans to regularly operate trains on the line and sought the trackage rights as an insurance policy to provide it with operational flexibility.

The FF&A is a subsidiary of RailUSA and is based in Boca Raton, Florida.

NS to Relocate HQ to Atlanta

December 13, 2018

Norfolk Southern will relocate its corporate headquarters to Atlanta from Norfolk, Virginia.

The Class 1 carrier earlier this year opened a new operations center in Atlanta from which all nine of its divisions are dispatched.

NS plans to build a $575 million headquarter complex that will be paid for in part by a $600 million dollar bond issue.

It said it is negotiating with Cousins Properties to purchase a site at 650 West Peachtree St. NW, where it will build the 750,000-square-foot headquarters in Midtown Atlanta.

Cousins will manage development of the site about which NS said more information will be released early next year.

Metra, BNSF Ripped at Public Hearing

December 12, 2018

A Chicago congressman has accused commuter rail agency Metra and host railroad BNSF of having “failed all to often” to provide reliable service.

The charge was made by U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Illinois, during a public hearing that he described as an effort to force Metra and BNSF to improve service.

“We all understand that problems can occur, but this year the Metra BNSF line has failed all too often. There have been repeated delays, cancellations, broken air conditioners, and other problems,” Lipinski said during the hearing in Western Springs. “I’ve told Metra and BNSF that this is unacceptable and the problems must end.”

Metra CEO James Derwinski and BNSF Vice President for passenger operations D.J. Mitchell told the audience of 80 that their organizations would do their best to address problems on the line.

The BNSF Line between Chicago Union Station and Aurora, Illinois, is the busiest of Metra’s 11 lines, carrying 64,000 riders a day.

The line is also used by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, California Zephyr, Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg trains.

Metra operates 94 trains on weekdays while BNSF has up to 60 trains a day.

Holiday Train Planned to SPUD

December 12, 2018

Twin Cities commuter rail operator Northstar will operate a holiday special to St. Paul Union Depot on Dec. 15.

The train will operate from Big Lake, Minnesota, to SPUD and will offer free rides on a first-come, first-served basis.

Northstar trains normally operate between Big Lake and Minneapolis on BNSF tracks.

There will be a two-hour layover at SPUD, which will feature shopping, holiday entertainment with carolers and Santa Claus, arts and crafts, coloring and other activities.

This will be the second time for the holiday train has operated to SPUD, which is also used by Amtrak’s Empire Builder.

NS Implements Central Dispatching

December 12, 2018

Norfolk Southern has opened a new network operations center in Atlanta that contains dispatching desks for the entire network.

The center began operations on Oct. 26 with dispatching operations of all nine of the carrier’s divisions expected to be moved there by late November.

Dispatchers and their supervisors work in cubicle-like pods equipped with multiple screen displays.

Larger screens have been placed around the room and display the condition of every active train on the network with the display being refreshed every two minutes.

NS was one of the last Class 1 railroads to embrace regional dispatching centers. CSX moved to centralized dispatching after it adopted the precision scheduled railroading operations model.

The NS dispatching center uses GE Transportation’s Movement Planner System, a portion of which NS had implemented in 2004.

The computerized system automates train routing, switch control and signals, and sends dispatch commands directly to locomotives.

“It’s the brains of automated dispatching, with GE’s AutoRouter as the execution tool,” said Charlie Turnipseed, NS system manager dispatch operations.

NS now uses movement planner on 60 percent of its network. The other 40 percent, most of it former Southern Railway lines, is dark territory dispatched by track warrants.

Train schedules are placed into the movement planner to create a master operations plan.

In creating the operations plan, the software take into account crews, train priority, dwell time and train type.

The software codifies data and algorithms to factor in grades, curves, restrictions, horsepower to tonnage, topography, crew on duty times, consist, and length of trains.

Virginia Amtrak Extension Stalls

December 10, 2018

A proposal to extend Amtrak service west of Roanoke, Virginia, has stalled due to the noncooperation of Norfolk Southern.

NS has withdrawn from the study, citing a need to untangle service issues in its network, particularly in Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is conducting the $350,000 study of the feasibility to extend one Northeast Regional train to Christiansburg, which is located 28 miles southwest of Roanoke.

“They have told us that they are reluctant to talk to us now about extending passenger rail,” said Michael McLaughlin, the department’s chief of rail transportation.