Archive for the ‘Other News’ Category

Texas Central Taps Renfe

October 11, 2018

Spanish company Renfe has been chosen to help operate a Texas high-speed rail service under development.

Texas Central said it has established a partnership with Renfe to operate the proposed service between Dallas and Houston.

Renfe will provide technical advice on design and construction and help Texas Central with operation and maintenance plans.

Another Spanish company, Adif, will help Renfe maintain equipment and signals, and oversee ticketing.

Renfe operates 5,000 trains daily on 7,500 miles of track in Spain.

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Study Recommends Chicago-St. Paul Train

September 24, 2018

A second passenger train between Chicago and Twin Cities is a viable concept, a Minnesota Department of Transportation study has found.

A second train on the route should operate four to six hours later than the eastbound Empire Builder, which currently is scheduled to leave St. Paul at 8 a.m.

The second westbound train would operate six hours apart from the Empire Builder, which is scheduled to arrive into St. Paul at 10:03 p.m.

The cost of the service would range between $137 million and $169 million. However, no funding source for the service has materialized.

A previous Amtrak study found 155,000 passengers would ride the second train and recommended the proposal proceed with an environmental review and public outreach efforts that would make the project eligible for federal funding.

“The bottom line is local government has been carrying the water for the last couple of years on this issue,” said Rafael Ortega, Regional Railroad Authority chairman. “We need to push this at the state legislature.”

The Empire Builder operates daily between Chicago and Seattle/Portland.

PennDOT to Study Pittsburgh-Altoona Train

September 24, 2018

A feasibility study will be conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation of a Pittsburgh-Altoona passenger train.

PennDOT will review several studies on the Keystone West Corridor; and gather information about the existing right of way, current and projected freight-rail activity on the line.

The study will also develop cost estimates of the proposed service as well as three potential service plans, a travel-demand marketing assessment and ridership estimates.

The service would supplement the existing Amtrak Pennsylvanian, which operates between Pittsburgh and New York and is funded by PennDOT.

The route between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg is owned by Norfolk Southern.

Pennsylvania has commissioned previous studies of additional Amtrak service between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh but thus far nothing has materialized.

Brightline Acquires Xpress

September 20, 2018

Florida-based Brightline is eyeing expanding in the West after it agreed to acquire XpressWest, a proposed high-speed rail project that had hoped to link Southern California and Las Vegas.

Brightline will take over the development, construction and operation of the project, which initially will operate between Las Vegas and Victorville, California.

In a news release, Brightline said service will be extended to Los Angeles at a later date.

The corridor’s first phase is expected to be built on right of way within and adjacent to Interstate 15, traversing 185 miles with no grade or pedestrian crossings.

Construction is expected to begin next year with service starting in 2022.

The carrier is acquiring 38 acres adjacent to the Las Vegas strip for construction of the Las Vegas rail station and mixed-use development.

Planning is underway for additional stations, as well as for potential connections to Metrolink and California’s future high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Brightline currently operates daily intercity rail service on Florida East Coast Railway track between Miami and West Palm Beach, Florida.

The company is planning to expand to Orlando International Airport in 2021 and, potentially, to Tampa.

“Brightline is changing transportation in our country by connecting heavily trafficked corridors that are too long to drive and too short to fly,” said Wes Edens, co-founder and co-chief executive officer of Fortress Investment Group, which owns All Aboard Florida, Brightline’s parent. “Our experience in Florida is proving that private-sector investment has a meaningful role to play in developing transportation infrastructure.”

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Florida City Considers Becoming Brightline Stop

September 17, 2018

Officials in Stuart, Florida, are eyeing development of a station for Brightline service.

Stuart is one of four cities that Brightline is considering adding to its network.

However, some Stuart officials are either opposed to or lukewarm about the Brightline station proposal, including Interim City Manager Dave Dyess who said the city continues to oppose the train

Mayor Kelli Glass Leighton said that the city will gauge public opinion before making a decision.

Stuart might have to compete with nearby Fort Pierce for Brightline stop. Also being considered for a stop are Sebastian and Vero Beach, but neither of those cities is seen as likely to submit a proposal.

Point Defiance PTC Testing Begins

September 17, 2018

Testing began last weekend of the positive train control system on the Point Defiance Bypass in Washington State.

The route is used by commuter trains serving Seattle-Tacoma and is expected to be used by Amtrak starting next spring.

Amtrak began using the line last December but on the first day of operation a southbound Cascades train derailed near DuPont, Washington, killing three passengers.

Investigators have said the train was speeding as it entered a curve.

Amtrak officials subsequently said the carrier would use its original route between Tacoma and Nisqually, Washington, until the PTC system had been placed in service.

Texas Central Secures $300M Loan

September 17, 2018

The developers of a Texas high-speed rail passenger system have secured a $300 million loan.

Texas Central Partners will use the money to work toward getting permits for the rail line as well as engineering work.

A Dallas newspaper said the loan is being backed by financiers in Japan.

The 240-mile rail line would link Dallas and Houston and become the first privately owned high-speed train in the United States.

Texas Central has said it plans to use Japanese Shinkansen technology for the train.

“This is a loan to be paid back with interest,” the company said in a statement. “It does not change the train’s majority-Texan ownership.”

Texas Central has also received funding from investors living in Texas. The project is expected to cost between $12 billion to $15 billion.

House Committee Warns About PTC Deadline

September 17, 2018

Members of a Congressional committee spent part of a hearing last week rattling their sabers about the implementation of positive train control, saying that railroads that failed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline will face fines.

Forty railroads are required to meet the PTC deadline, which is specified by federal law. But the Federal Railroad Administration has said that nine railroads are at risk of missing the deadline or even qualifying for an extension.

“Patience is growing thin on PTC implementation,” said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-California, chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Massachusetts, the ranking minority member of the subcommittee, said he had no sympathy for the commuter lines that were at greatest risk.

“I don’t think you’re going to find too many open minds on this side of the table,” if railroad officials offer excuses for not complying with the law, Capuano said.

“If people are not complying, you change the business calculation,” by forcing companies to factor in financial sanctions, said Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Connecticut.

Committee members did, though, heap praise on railroads that are poised to meet the deadline and/or qualify for an extension of time to fully implement PTC.

FRA Administrator Ronald Batory said fining non-compliant railroads is a possibility, but said it would be one of many actions the FRA might take. The fines could be as much as $27,904 per day.

“I’d like not to have to use that tool. But if that’s the one you have to use in combination with everything else that we’ve invoked, I think we should do nothing less,” he said.

Batory said the FRA has begun enforcement actions against 13 railroads that had not met hardware installation deadlines set down at the end of 2017.

He said that it is important for the FRA to focus on a “concentrated, concise, collaborative communication” process to help expedite each railroad’s progress toward compliance.

Agency Says Downeaster Will Continue Operating

August 30, 2018

The agency overseeing Amtrak’s Downeaster service said rail service will continue even though a portion of the train is exempt from a federal law mandating that passenger routes have a positive train control system in place by the end of the year.

“Amtrak has gone through a review of all lines, even those that aren’t required to have [positive train control], and conducted safety assessments and there are no risks associated with the Downeaster line,” said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. “The route is not in jeopardy at all.”

Amtrak operates the Downeaster line, which links Boston and Brunswick, Maine.

Quinn said segments of the line received an exemption from the Federal Railroad Administration because the line sees fewer than 12 trips per day.

“For those carriers and routes operating under an extension or under an [Federal Rail Authority]-approved exemption, Amtrak is performing risk analyses and developing strategies for enhancing safety on a route-byroute basis to ensure that there is a single level of safety across the Amtrak network,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

Quinn said the New England rail authority is “not considering” installing the technology at this time.

N.M. Agency Gets PTC Grant From FRA

August 27, 2018

The Federal Railroad Administration has awarded a $30 million grant to the Rio Metro Regional Transit District to be used to install positive train control.

The agency operates the New Mexico Rail Runner Express over 96 miles that line the cities of Belen, Albuquerque, Los Lunas and Santa Fe.

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief uses a portion of this route network.

Officials said without the funding, rail passenger service would likely have ended because the agency lacks the money to final installing PTC equipment.

Lack of PTC has been one of the reasons given by Amtrak for its idea to operate a bus service between Albuquerque and Dodge City, Kansas, in lieu of a train.

The U.S. Senate has approved $2.5 billion for intercity passenger rail service in the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2019, and directed Amtrak to preserve service on the Southwest Chief corridor.