Posts Tagged ‘High-speed rail’

Texas Central Chooses Environment Consultant

February 10, 2019

Texas Central has chosen a consultant to create an environmental protection plan for its proposed high-speed rail line.

It has hired Resource Environmental Solutions to provide ecological mitigation services and ensure that the rail line complies with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requirements to restore, enhance and preserve wetlands, streams and environmentally sensitive habitats along the train’s route between Houston and Dallas.

RES will select mitigation sites and designs that improve the ecological functions of such areas as the Trinity River, Navasota River, Spring Creek and Cypress Creek.

Texas Central said it also wants to be proactive in working with community leaders to determine opportunities for conservation.

In an unrelated development, some Texas lawmakers have introduced bills in the current session of the state legislature that are designed to halt development of the Texas Central project.

Many of those bills mirror legislation introduced in the last session when 20 bills were introduced seeking to kill the project. None of them became law.

One of the bills was filed by first-term legislator Cody Harris who wants to create a joint committee of House and Senate members to look at the future development of high-speed rail.

However, in a news release, Harris acknowledged that his bill’s purpose is to “put up more roadblocks on the HSR by evaluating the feasibility of creating a statewide high-speed rail initiative through a public-private partnership.”

The committee would meet between sessions to address the feasibility of creating a statewide high-speed rail initiative through a public-private partnership.

The legislation has been attacked by Texas rail advocates.

“Representative Harris is misinformed on the premise of wasting billions of taxpayer dollars since Texas Central is not accepting any funding from either state or federal agencies to build their high-speed line,” Texas Rail Advocates President and Rail Passengers Chairman Peter LeCody said.

“If this was a public project instead of a private-investor led initiative it would probably cost three times the amount to build and take years longer. Mr. Harris should also realize that Texas Central would be a taxpayer to help fund local schools. Letting private enterprise lead the way in Texas with this massive job-creating project to connect the two mega-powerhouse regions is the logical step. The state demographer says that over 80 percent of Texans now live on or east of the I-35 corridor. This rail project will help unite those regions and allow for more fluid movement in the future.”

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Metroliner Debuted 50 Years Ago

January 17, 2019

A former Metroliner turned cab car is ready to lead the Twilight Limited out of Pontiac, Michigan, on March 23, 1996.

This week marked the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Metroliner between New York and Washington, which has been described as the first high-speed rail service in the United States.

The equipment, which was built by the Budd Company, made a publicity run on Jan. 15, 1969, and started scheduled service the next day.

Operated by Penn Central, the Metroliner was in part the U.S. answer to Japan’s Shinkansen trains that had been introduced in 1964.

During the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, Congress in September 1965 adopted the High Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965.

The Metroliner was an outgrowth of that law, which set an ambitious goal of achieving 110 mph service by October 1967.

Eventually, the Metroliner was supposed to operate at a top speed of 150 mph.

The first of the 50 electric multiple unit cars were delivered by Budd until September 1967 but mechanical problems discovered during testing delayed the inauguration of service until early 1969.

Originally designed for the Pennsylvania Railroad, by the time the Metroliner debuted the PRR had merged with arch-rival New York Central to become Penn Central.

The initial schedule had just one roundtrip a day between New York and Washington.

The top speed of 120 mph was cut to 110 due to the condition of the track and overhead catenary.

Another roundtrip was added in February and as the Metroliner gained popularity. By October, there were six round trips per day.

On the day that Metroliner service began, a first class seat cost $19.90. The inaugural run arrived in Washington seven minutes late.

A New York Times account of that first trip reported that passengers enjoyed the fast running and the novelty of the train.

However, one passenger quoted by the Times said, “You still know you’re on a train,” in reference to “abrupt swaying motions.”

Another passenger interviewed by the reporter said, “The luxury is terrific. There’s no worry about stacking up on the airlines. The phones are terrific. I called my wife and made two business calls for appointments. I couldn’t believe it when they announced 110 mph. It didn’t feel like it.”

In theory, the Metroliner was a two-year demonstration project.

The Metroliner train sets cost $21.5 million. Penn Central spent $35 million to upgrade its Northeast Corridor for 110 mph operation and the federal government contributed $11.3 million toward the demonstration project’s cost.

The PRR and later PC may have thought that cooperating with this project would pay off in winning governmental approval to discontinue passenger trains elsewhere.

The Metroliner was not without its problems. On any given day a third of the fleet was often out of service.

The top speed had to be lowered to 100 mph due to deteriorating infrastructure.

Despite those things, the demonstration project never really ended. Amtrak continued to use the Metroliner equipment and brand name for several years after its 1971 startup.

Today the high-speed trains in the Northeast Corridor have been branded Acela Express, but even the rank and file NEC trains hit more than 100 miles per hour during their journey.

The Metroliner cars were the model for Amtrak’s Amfleet equipment, which was also built by Budd.

Amfleet had its roots in a 1973 order for 57 non-powered Metroliner coaches. Those eventually morphed into the Amfleet I fleet.

Most of the original Metroliner cars were retired and scrapped, but more than 25 were transformed into cab cars used on corridors outside the Northeast Corridor, including between Chicago and Detroit, Milwaukee and Springfield, Illinois.

On occasion the former Metroliner cab cars were used a standard coaches in the consist of Amfleet-equipped trains.

Although the Metroliner cab cars no longer operate in the Midwest, a few still see service in the Keystone Corridor and on trains going to Springfield, Massachusetts.

Texas Central Expects 2019 Groundbreaking

December 5, 2018

A Texas intercity rail firm expects to break ground late in 2019 for a route between Dallas and Houston.

Texas Central said the equipment to be used on the route is likely be an N700I model train, which is a modified version of the N700 bullet train that Central Japan Railways operates.

The letter T in the model designation denotes international use and intention for export.

The N700I is thought to be similar to the recently-released N700S, which is lighter and more efficient than the original N700.

However, the Texas trains will be eight cars rather than 16.

Texas Central plans to seek funding once its proposal has been approved by the Federal Railroad Administration.

It has said it already has plans to acquire a third of the property it needs and is in negotiations to obtain the remaining land that it needs.

FRA Issues New High-Speed Rail Rules

November 26, 2018

A final rule recent issued by the Federal Railroad Administration is expected to enable high-speed passenger trains to use existing railroad infrastructure.

The agency described the rule as seeking to promote safe and efficient operation of high-speed rail while also alleviating the cost of building new rail lines.

Under the rule, Tier III passenger trains can operate over the shared track at conventional speeds and as fast as 220 mph in areas with exclusive rights of way and without grade crossings.

The rule establishes minimum safety standards for Tier III trains, focusing on core, structural and critical system design criteria.

In a news release FRA officials said the rule will improve safety because of expected improvements made by the railroads to accommodate the operation of high-speed rail equipment in shared rights of way.

It is also expected to save more than $475 million in net regulatory costs.

“These new regulations were made possible by a wealth of FRA research, reinforcing our unwavering commitment to safety,” said FRA Administrator Ronald Batory. “FRA’s safety experts solicited input from industry stakeholders at numerous levels and took those ideas to develop standards supporting a new era in public transportation.”

Previous federal regulation gave U.S. rail companies limited procurement options or forced them to seek waivers from regulations to use newer technologies.

The FRA continues to define Tier I trains as those operating in shared rights-of-way at speeds up to 125 mph.

It also allows “state-of-the-art” alternative designs for equipment operating at those conventional speeds. Tier II trains are defined as those traveling 125-160 mph, an increase from the previous 150 mph limit.

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.

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.”