Posts Tagged ‘High-speed rail’

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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Money Pledged to Washington State High-Speed Rail Study

July 30, 2018

Three entities have pledged $750,000 toward paying for a study of high-speed rail service between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia.

They are the province of British Columbia, the Oregon Department of Transportation and Microsoft Corporation.

That funding would be in addition to $750,000 that the Washington State Department of Transportation is providing for the study, which seeks to expand upon a 2017 preliminary analysis of prospects for a 250 mph high-speed rail system in the Pacific Northwest.

The newest study will be an “in-depth business case evaluation that WSDOT will undertake over the next year,” the department officials said in a news release.

The goal of the service would be to provide one-hour trips between Seattle and Vancouver as well as promote economic growth in the region and encourage “greater collaboration, deeper economic ties and balanced growth for years to come.”

Sleek Acela

May 15, 2018

Amtrak’s Acela Express equipment doesn’t look anything like what used to operate in the Northeast Corridor.

That is by design. Acela more closely resembles the sleek, streamlined look of European or Japanese high-speed trains than it does the boxy Metroliner of the 1960s and beyond.

The equipment used in Acela service is not, relatively speaking, all that old.

Already Amtrak has plans to replace it and the trainset seen above cruising through the Newark Liberty International Airport station is slated to be replaced by early 2023.

Such are the priorities for Amtrak’s top “glamour” train in its most important corridor in terms of traffic.

FRA Releases Texas High-Speed Report

January 8, 2018

After a four-year process, the Federal Railroad Administration issued a draft environmental impact statement that identifies a preferred route for a Dallas-Houston high-speed rail line.

The line would be developed by Texas Central Partners, which will now be able to begin the process of land acquisition for construction of the line.

The proposed service would link the two cities in less than 90 minutes with trains traveling at better than 200 mph.

“This is the biggest milestone to date that we’ve crossed so far,” said Tim Keith, president of Texas Central Partners.

A public comment period on the draft statement period is open through February 20, 2018.

Comments received will be processed by the FRA before it releases a final environmental impact statement.

Negative comments are expected to be made pertaining to land acquisition, environmental health, and that Houston’s station would be too far north of the city for some.

HSR Could Draw 1.8M to Seattle Route, Consultant Says

November 7, 2017

A study has determined that high-speed rail service between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, could draw 1.8 million passengers in a few years.

Trains traveling between the two cities at 250 mph could make the trip in less than an hour.

Amtrak’s Cascades between those cities have a four-hour travel time.

The cost of implementing high-speed rail service is expected to be contained within the final final report when it is issued in December.

Washington state has budgeted $350,000 to study potential alignment, ridership, technology, costs and economic benefits of a high-speed rail line.

MHSRA Seeks Phased Network Approach

September 12, 2017

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association is calling for a “phased network approach” to implementing high-speed rail service in the United States, including the Midwest.

In a 50-page white paper, the group said a combination of high-speed trunk lines and upgraded feeder rail routes coupled with dedicated bus services can increase mobility.

Rather than focusing on a point-to-point fast train systems between major cities, the MHSRA plan would provide a blueprint for systems that serve multiple markets and as many constituencies as possible.

The report cited such existing networks in France, Germany and Japan that provide multiple connections from their main stems.

One example would be Chicago-Cincinnati corridor. The report said a combination of upgraded Metra Electric tracks from O’Hare International Airport through Chicago, a high-speed trunk connecting the Windy City with Indianapolis, and conventional feeders to other communities could reduce Chicago-Indianapolis rail travel times from five hours, ten minutes to 90 minutes.

Upgrading existing track to Cincinnati once used by New York Central’s James Whitcomb Riley could result in a three-hour Chicago-Cincinnati overall travel times.

The running time of the current Amtrak Cardinal is eight hours, thirty minutes.

“The core point is that rather than only trying to keep projects affordable, we should be figuring out how to put more people on trains,” said MHSRA Executive Director Rick Harnish. “We need a new ridership and revenue model that combines commuter, feeder, and intercity trips in a way suited to the geography and demographics to the Midwest.”

FRA Favors DC-Richmond Higher Speeds

September 12, 2017

The Federal Railroad Administration is calling for a higher-speed rail approach to upgrading the Washington- Richmond, Virginia, corridor.

In a draft environmental impact statement issued last week, the FRA said the preferred alternative is increasing maximum train speeds from 69 mph to 79 mph between Washington and Fredericksburg, Virginia, and to 90 mph between Fredericksburg and Richmond.

The report estimated this would cost $5 billion in 2025 dollars.

The FRA and Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation are accepting public comments on the report for the next 60 days.

Those comments will be incorporated into the final environmental impact statement.

The 123-mile Washington-Richmond is part of the larger 500-mile Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor that ends in Atlanta.

Anderson Talks Amtrak on NPR

September 7, 2017

Amtrak co-CEO Richard Anderson has been making the rounds of national broadcast outlets this week to talk about the rail passenger carrier that he joined earlier this year.

Richard Anderson

He appeared on a CBS news program and also on National Public Radio where he was interviewed by Robert Siegel, a co-host of the afternoon program All Things Considered.

As he did at CBS, Anderson told Siegel that updating aging infrastructure is a top priority at Amtrak.

At the same time, he contended that Amtrak is not broken. “It provides very reliable service to over 30 million people a year,”

Anderson said the United States has made a choice not to pursue high-speed rail except in a few areas. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t take the infrastructure that we have and improve our track speeds, where we offer a product that’s competitive with cars and buses because that’s really, in some sense, what we compete against.”

In response to a question by Siegel as to whether the “real, long-range intercity train travel is finished,” Anderson said that to Amtrak long-distance means more than 750 miles.

“And where we see the most growth over the last couple of decades has been in routes under 750 miles, like Milwaukee to Chicago, Detroit to Chicago, San Francisco to Los Angeles down the coast,” he said. “When you think about infrastructure in the U.S., we have become a very urbanized society – less reliance on automobiles, more reliance on public transportation. There’s an important role for Amtrak to play. And that’s actually been one of the fastest-growing parts of this business and represents over half of Amtrak’s passenger traffic annually.”

FRA Updates Progress on High-Speed Train Rules

November 27, 2016

The Federal Railroad Administration this week issued an update on its proposed safety standards for high-speed passenger trains.

FRAThe regulations have been the subject of nearly 10 years of work by the agency’s passenger-rail division.

The FRA is expected to establish a new category of passenger equipment — Tier III — for trains traveling up to 220 mph.

The updated standards would offer an alternative method for evaluating how well passengers and crews are protected in an accident, often called crashworthiness.

The public, railroad industry, railroad labor, manufacturers and other stakeholders will have an opportunity to provide feedback and comment on the proposed rule during the next 60 days.

Under the proposed rules, crashworthiness would be evaluated based on equipment meeting an equivalent level of safety achieved through crash energy management technology or other innovative engineering methods.

Although Tier III trains will be required to have exclusive track to operate at speeds above 125 mph, the new standards will allow Tier III trains to safely share track with current Tier I and Tier II commuter, intercity and Acela trains.

Compatibility between equipment types is a key strategy to allow trains to share existing corridors to reach downtown stations, FRA officials said in a news release.

Ramsey County Nudges Study of 2nd Chicago-Twin Cities Train by Putting up $300,000

February 11, 2016

The Ramsey (Minnesota) County Board of Commissions has approved spending $300,000 to begin an environmental assessment of adding a second train between Chicago and the Twin Cities of Minnesapolis-St. Paul.

A feasibility study conducted by Amtrak nine months ago said the train is expected to need $6.6 million in annual in operating subsidies. That Minnesotamoney would need to come from sources in Minnesota, Wisconsin and/or other parties.

Currently the Twin Cities and Chicago are linked by Amtrak’s Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder, which serves 100,000 passengers a year.

The Amtrak study estimated that another train between Chicago and St. Paul could draw 155,000 passengers annually.

“The second daily train is to grow the market, provide greater reliability at conventional speed of 79 miles per hour,” said Dan Krom, director of the Passenger Rail Office of the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

MnDOT is expected to form a partnership with Ramsey County in conducting the environmental study. The first phase of that study is expected to be finished by late 2017 and will produce cost figures for construction, capital needs and operating costs.

The environmental study is expected to cost $600,000 with the expense split among MnDOT, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Minnesota High Speed Rail Commission.

“We’re finalizing the contracts right now and will have a consultant on board within a month,” Krom said. “If everything lined up with funding, we could have trains running in three or four years. But a lot of things would have to line up between now and then.”

Ramsey County officials said they acted to put up Minnesota’s share of the money for the environmental study because MnDOT lacks the funds to do so.

The Amtrak study of a second Chicago-St. Paul train did not assume that Amtrak would operate the service or that it would use the exact route of the Empire Builder in the Twin Cities region.

“There’s been no determination of who would be offering the service. It’s way early for that,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

Four potential routes in Minnesota were identified in the Amtrak study, including stops and/or terminal points in St. Paul, Minneapolis, Fridley and St. Cloud.

The study said that the existing infrastructure at St. Paul Union Depot favored it being the terminus for the route because it would be the least expensive option and the quickest to implement.

Some other station options would involve sharing stations with the Northstar commuter rail line, which could result in scheduling conflicts. The Empire Builder route through Wisconsin would likely be used.

The second Chicago-Twin Cities train is seen by some as a step toward developing high-speed rail between Chicago and the Twin Cities.

MnDOT is also studying the Northern Lights Express corridor from Minneapolis to Duluth, but has put on hold a study of developing high-speed rail between the Twin Cities and Rochester, Minnesota.