The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Feb. 6, 2017
Vol. 17 No. 5

Copyright © 2017
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Founded 1989
Our 17th Newsletter Year

 Destination:Freedom 

A Weekly North American Transportation Update For Transportation
Advocates, Professionals, Journalists, And Elected Or Appointed Officials,
At All Levels Of Government.

Publisher
James P. RePass, Sr.
Managing Editor / Webmaster
Dennis Kirkpatrick
Foreign Editor
David Beale
Contributing Editor
Molly N. McKay
 
 

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IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  Guest Opinion…
Decisive Railroading, An Enterprise Perspective
  Commuter Lines…
“Hoosier State” Transitions To Amtrak Equipment;
   “Cardinal” Picks Up Some Of The Slack
  Expansion Lines…
Sound Transit Selects Federal Way Extension Alignment
Testing Begins On Brightline
  Restoration Lines…
Officials Want To Add Long Island Railroad Service,
   Restore East End Shuttle
  Political Lines…
Chao Sworn In As Secretary Of Transportation
Lawmakers Consider Dissolving State’s Unfunded
   Rail Transit Authority
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Business Lines…
Amtrak Names Feidt CFO
  Across The Pond…
Baltic Railway Used By Graham Greene Nears
   $5 Billion Return
Test Trains Reach 352km/H On
   Bretagne-Pays De La Loire High-Speed Line
  To The North…
GO Transit Has Paid Riders Nearly $4 Million
   For Delays Over Three Years
  Publication Notes …


GUEST OPINION... Guest Opinion...  

Decisive Railroading, An Enterprise Perspective

By Ron Lindsey
Railway Age

Next Generation Train Control (NGTC) has been a popular subject for conferences for a number of years. However, judging by the attendees at past NGTC-related conferences, this is a subject of little interest to the U.S. freight railroads.

On the surface, this is to be expected, since the trackage of those railroads consists of 50% Centralized Traffic Control (CTC)—signaled—the other half being Dark Territory—non-signaled—even though one-third of that trackage is Absolute Block Signaling (ABS), a nested level of vitality.

However, there is an advanced level of NGTC, Virtual CTC (VCTC), which has tremendous opportunity for those roads, as well as across the globe. But, it will take suppliers and railroads that are willing to consider paradigm shifts in all four of the Core Technologies. I am referring to the advancements in Communications, Mobile IT Platforms, Positioning and IT Architecture that provide the opportunity to implement Decisive Railroading. This is an advanced level of railroading that can greatly reduce the capital investment and ongoing maintenance expenditures of conventional CTC operations and IT architectures, while improving the efficiency and safety of many freight and passenger railroads alike.

Advancing the safety and efficiency of railroads over the past decade has benefitted from the paradigm shifts in wireless voice to wireless data communications, mobile (on-board) IT processing, and the use of virtual positioning for non-vital systems that do not generate movement authorities. Specifically, some combinations of these three paradigm shifts have provided the means to deploy non-vital Positive Train Control (PTC) in the U.S. and vital European Train Control System (ETCS) on that continent.

However, paradigm shifts in virtual positioning for vital systems and IT Architecture have yet to be considered by most railroads across the globe, and yet they can have an unprecedented positive effect on capital investment and on-going maintenance expenditures. Unfortunately, the major challenge for each of these technologies is rejecting the sunk-cost argument of continuing with CTC and conventional IT architectures and then making the investment in advanced technologies based upon business cases that focus on increasing safety and efficiency, while reducing on-going maintenance costs of physical positioning.

To do so requires both a major shift in staunch perspectives of traditional railroad operations as well as establishing an enterprise perspective of the effectiveness of a railroad’s major departments.

Vital Positioning

The physical positioning of CTC vitality, i.e., track circuits and control points, is well established for railroads for the past century. And yet, virtual positioning, e.g., GPS, is well entrenched in what we do as individuals today. So! Why not use virtual positioning for the vitality of traffic control systems (i.e., determining block occupancy) and thereby eliminate the intensive capital investment and on-going maintenance costs of physical positioning? In fact, there is no reason in my opinion in that the availability of extremely accurate virtual positioning (e.g., augmented GPS) for a train’s front end in sync with end-of-train positioning is available now for at least the main line, if not interlockings, that can meet the accuracy requirement of physical positioning.

One point that those in denial of virtual positioning for vital operations may state is that of broken rail protection. For those individuals I offer the following: 1) One-third of U.S. freight trackage does not have such protection (shades of Federal Railroad Administration hypocrisy); 2) signaling-grade track circuits are not the only means to provide such protection (e.g., acoustic sensing by fiber optic strands along the wayside); and 3) major railroads in Europe, at least, do not require such protection. There are both regulatory challenges and business case analyses that need to be addressed for rationally moving forward as to reducing costs and increasing safety.

With the consideration of virtual positioning, the next level of NGTC is VCTC as my consultancy, Strategic Rail LLC (SR), designed for the railroads of Egypt and Kazakhstan that provides for fixed, flexible, and virtual block operations with expanded PTC functionality. A version of VCTC is now in revenue service in Mozambique provided by a U.S. supplier. However, it is unlikely that most European traffic control suppliers will offer VCTC in the near term because it greatly decreases their revenues as to capital investment and on-going maintenance expenditures.

As a side point, I wish to note that providing PTC protection in freight yards and passenger terminals, e.g., NJ Transit’s Hoboken Terminal, is a straight-forward, no-cost addition to mainline PTC by using Geo-fencing. That is, once a train enters a geo-fenced area (e.g., a yard or terminal), and until it departs, then an increase in speed beyond a defined limit is immediately enforced without warning to the engineer. This addition to PTC requires no capital investment nor GPS reception within the yard or terminal.

It Architecture

Typically, a railroad’s IT Architecture, i.e., the primary systems and the flow of information between those systems, has been developed over time on a department-by-department basis. Hence, the resulting Silo-based IT Architecture (SITA) is likely to result in significant duplication in the generation, processing, storage and distribution of critical data that can have a substantial negative effect on both the efficiency and safety of a railroad’s operations. Instead, what is required is an Enterprise IT Architecture (EITA), as has been deployed by major passenger airline operations, based upon a Single Source of Truth (SSOT) design to address such inefficiencies by eliminating the duplication of data management of SITA.

SR designed an EITA for Kazakhstan’s railroad, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ), that can be applied to those railroads willing to make the business case to so deploy. For example, in KTZ’s situation, an excess of 1,000 generations/usages of data flows were identified that could be eliminated with an EITA. Last, from an U.S. freight rail industry perspective, an Industry IT Architecture (IITA) is an absolute requirement for railroads serious about scheduled operations, either individually or as an industry.

The bottom line is that Decisive Railroading is achievable with advanced levels of the core technologies that are now available. But, to do so requires the commitment by senior management of railroads and suppliers alike to provide the business cases so the proper individuals that can make such transitions.

From an article at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/ptc/decisive-railroading-an-enterprise-perspective.html


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

“Hoosier State” Transitions To Amtrak Equipment;
“Cardinal” Picks Up Some Of The Slack

Hoosier State Trains 850 And 851 Transitions To Amtrak Equipment

From An Amtrak Press Release

The Hoosier State, which operates four days per week between Indianapolis and Chicago, will transition to railcars, locomotives and on-board services supplied by Amtrak beginning Wednesday, March 1, 2017. No action is required from ticketed customers.

The Indiana Department of Transportation and communities along the route will continue to fund the service, which will include Wi-Fi and Business Class seating. Once contracts with Amtrak are amended, Amtrak will advise booked customers of available on-board services prior to their travel date. Indiana is one of 18 states that contract with Amtrak to provide short-distance, intercity passenger rail services.

Under the amended agreements, Amtrak will continue to provide train crews, ticketing and reservation services, and also coordinate with the private freight railroads that own the tracks over which the Hoosier State operates. Intermediate stops will continue to be Crawfordsville, Dyer, Lafayette and Rensselaer.

Train 851 will continue to run north on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, with Train 850 operating south on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. On the other days, the communities along the route will be served by the Cardinal (Trains 50 and 51), which operates between New York City and Chicago. Together, the Hoosier State and the Cardinal provide daily Amtrak service between the important Midwestern cities of Indianapolis and Chicago.

We appreciate your patronage. For reservations and information, visit Amtrak.com, use our free mobile apps, speak with station personnel or call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).

From an Amtrak Press Release at:
https://www.amtrak.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=am/AM_Alert_C/Alerts_Popup&cid=1251647581793


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Sound Transit Selects Federal Way
Extension Alignment

From Rail, Track, And Structures

Sound Transit’s Board of Directors has chosen an alignment to bring light-rail service to Federal Way.

The route will travel along the west side of Interstate 5 between stations. Representatives say the alignment is intended to integrate with future transit-related developments expected near the stations.

“Identifying a route gives us a clear path forward for bringing light rail to Federal Way by 2024,” said Sound Transit Board member and King County Councilmember Peter von Reichbauer. “In just a few years’ time, the people of South King County will enjoy the convenience of light rail that thousands of other regional commuters already enjoy.”

The route spans nearly eight miles and will travel south from the Angle Lake Station in the city of SeaTac, cross State Route 99 and continue along the south edge of the future SR 509 highway to Interstate 5. The route will travel south from Interstate 5 along the west side of the I-5 freeway.

“South King County desperately needs more public transit to connect people to jobs and schools,” said Dave Upthegrove, Sound Transit Board member and King County Council member. “This is an exciting step forward.”

Sound Transit says its board chose the alignment and stations after aggregating public feedback on a Final Environmental Impact Statement released in November 2016. Sound Transit will now request a Record of Decision from the Federal Transit Administration, followed by procurement for a design-build contractor, with construction planned to begin in 2019.  

Sound Transit, King County Metro and the Federal Way School District also signed a Memorandum of Agreement to work toward establishing a transaction with King County Metro that could allow the school district to purchase the nearby Redondo Park-and-Ride property. The current elementary school property is in proximity to the new light-rail station at S. 272nd and could be transferred to King County Metro or Sound Transit for transit-focused development.

“This is a potential win-win-win for all parties involved. Mark Twain Elementary School will gain a better location for expansion; Sound Transit will avoid $30 million in additional cost to the taxpayer, and Federal Way residents will benefit from enhanced transit-oriented development,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “Extraordinary creativity and collaboration between the Federal Way Public School District, King County Metro and Sound Transit led to this very positive solution.”

A map of the alignment is available at:
http://www.soundtransit.org/Projects-and-Plans/Federal-Way-Link-Extension/Location-FWLE

From an article at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/passenger/sound-transit-selects-federal-way-extension-alignment.html?channel=


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Testing Begins On Brightline

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Rail, Track, And Structures

“BrightBlue,” the first trainset for Brightline, began a testing phase Jan. 20 along a nine-mile test track.

The tests will continue for several weeks and will cover three areas including dynamic testing of the rolling stock, system integration tests between the train and railway infrastructure and a series of tests required by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Brightline is scheduled to begin express intercity passenger rail service between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in the summer of 2017. The privately-funded system has future service plans that include Orlando.

Comprised of two locomotive and four coaches, the BrightBlue train is approximately 500 feet long. It will traverse the test track from Park Place in West Palm Beach to Central Boulevard in Lantana, periodically stopping between grade crossings (traffic impacts are not anticipated). During the testing, Brightline will utilize 45,000 pounds of sand to simulate passengers, baggage and supplies.

“The start of dynamic testing for our first trainset brings us another step closer to the launch of our express, inter-city service this summer,” said Michael Reininger, president of Brightline. “We expect this trainset, built with the most advanced equipment, will perform very well during the initial testing phase.

From an item at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/passenger/intercity/testing-begins-on-brightline.html


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RESTORATION LINES... Restoration Lines...  

Officials Want To Add Long Island
Railroad Service, Restore East End Shuttle

By Rachelle Blidner
Newsday

Local efforts to restore a commuter shuttle to the South Fork (NY), increase train service to the North Fork and explore improving infrastructure “could be accommodated” by the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. announced Monday.

Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) said that at a Jan. 26 meeting with officials from the LIRR and East End communities, the parties began discussions to reinstitute the South Fork Commuter Connection, a line that would run locally between Speonk and Montauk [Long Island] four times a day between 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

“It’s important to be investing in our infrastructure,” said East Hampton Town Deputy Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc. “We’re experiencing economic loss by virtue of the fact there’s a lot of lost time and cost to workers to reach our communities.”

To help boost fishing industry tourism, the LIRR proposed turning a 5 a.m. eastbound equipment train into a “Fishermen Train” that each weekday would pick up passengers between Ronkonkoma and Greenport during the fishing season, Thiele said.

The South Fork commuter shuttle — which operated in 2007 and 2008 while the main thoroughfare in the Hamptons, County Road 39, was undergoing repair — would likely start running in early 2018, Thiele said. Additional North Fork service could operate by the end of this year, he added.

LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan said railroad officials “look forward to further discussions and further refinements of these ideas.”

East End officials will have to review and approve LIRR-proposed train schedules and processes. South Fork towns must also create transit service between train stations and employment centers, Thiele said, adding that he hopes to get the state to pay for half the cost of bus service to and from train stations.

Donovan said he did not have cost estimates for the projects “at this stage.”

“Everyone at the railroad felt it was a productive meeting and furthered dialogue that we had been holding with the community,” he said.

Found at:
http://www.newsday.com/long-island/transportation/officials-want-to-add-lirr-service-restore-east-end-shuttle-1.13037786


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Chao Sworn In As Secretary Of Transportation

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Rail, Track, And Structures

Elaine Chao has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate and sworn in to serve as the 18th Secretary of Transportation.

Chao is one of the least controversial cabinet appointments by President Trump, receiving 93 Senate votes for confirmation, and her role at the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) will be to navigate the department and public policy during, what could be, a transformative time for transportation with the push toward automation, the current political climate to reduce regulation and the promise of the current administration to invest significantly in infrastructure.

In her first tweet in her new role, Secretary Chao said, “It is an honor to rejoin the extraordinary people of @USDOT and begin working to rebuild America’s infrastructure.”

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, said “Elaine Chao has the experience, ability, and now the bipartisan backing of the Senate to address our nation’s transportation and infrastructure challenges. Her unwavering commitment to public service will be an asset to the Department of Transportation and the new administration.”

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said of Secretary Chao’s confirmation, “We have a tremendous opportunity to improve our transportation systems, reduce regulatory burdens, encourage innovation and private-public partnerships, strengthen our competitiveness and build a 21st century infrastructure for America.”

Secretary Chao is a former Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush and also served as deputy secretary at USDOT.

A USDOT blog post detailing Secretary Chao’s background called her a “popular speaker on jobs, the economy and America’s global competitiveness” and noted that as Secretary of Labor, she achieved record results in workplace safety and health.

Image

Photo:  USDO

Elaine Chao is sworn in as Secretary of Transportation by Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 31, 2017. Chao’s father, Dr. James S.C. Chao, and her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), accompany her

Reaction from the rail industry was encouraging as various associations expressed their willingness to work with USDOT in the future.

Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), said, “With her previous experience as DOT deputy secretary, Ms. Chao has a deep appreciation of critical surface transportation issues. This includes the important role the rail industry plays in this country and the working relationship it has with DOT agencies that oversee the industry, so, together, we can continue to move America’s commerce safely and efficiently.

“The rail industry is also encouraged with statements by Secretary Chao in which she has indicated regulations should be focused and based on data, something the AAR supports, as America’s freight rail industry believes new rules should be empirically driven, supported by cost-benefit analysis and geared towards today’s innovation economy.”

Linda Bauer Darr, president of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, echoed Hamberger’s support of regulations based on sound science and praised Chao’s call for finding innovative strategies and incentivizing private investment in any infrastructure plan.

“Shortlines embrace this type of initiative already being delivered by the 45G tax credit. Since its inception, shortlines have invested nearly $2 billion back into rail and bridge maintenance and upgrades, providing a safer, more efficient freight rail network,” said Darr.

Amtrak Chairman Tony Coscia and President and CEO Wick Moorman also offered congratulatory words.

“We welcome Secretary Chao to the Amtrak Board of Directors where we look forward to working with her as we continue to strengthen Amtrak,” said Coscia.

“As a former deputy secretary of transportation, Secretary Chao understands the importance of mobility and high-quality infrastructure to the American people and our economy. We are eager to work with Secretary Chao and the department on ways to advance these goals,” said Moorman.

Found at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/track-maintenance/off-track-maintenance/chao-sworn-in-as-secretary-of-transportation.html?channel=


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Lawmakers Consider Dissolving State’s
Unfunded Rail Transit Authority

By Emily Corwin
NH Public Radio

Should lawmakers dissolve the unfunded, volunteer-run New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority? That was the question at a House Transportation Committee public hearing Wednesday.

Last spring, lawmakers voted not to pursue preliminary steps to connect rail line from Boston to southern NH. Now, Republican House member Neal Kurk of Weare told the House Transportation Committee he wants to eradicate the unfunded group of volunteers tasked by lawmakers with overseeing rail development in New Hampshire.

“As we get autonomous cars and whatever else might be coming along,” Kurk said, “this agency really is redundant, this is the 21st century, we don’t need to return to the 19th.”

Dozens showed up to testify against Kurk’s bill, saying commuter rail would be a boon to New Hampshire’s economic future, by attracting young families, workers, and tourists to the state.

Although one 2015 poll had three quarters of NH residents supporting the expansion of commuter rail, Governor Chris Sununu made clear during his campaign that he does not support it.

Found at:
http://nhpr.org/post/lawmakers-consider-dissolving-states-unfunded-rail-transit-authority#stream/0


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STOCKS...    Selected Rail Stocks...
BRKB – Burlington Northern Santa Fe

CNI – Canadian National

CP –  Canadian Pacific

CSX – CSX Corp

GWR – Genessee & Wyoming

KSU – Kansas City-Southern

NSC – Norfolk Southern

PWX – Providence & Worcester

UNP – Union Pacific


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BUSINESS LINES... Business Lines...  

Amtrak Names Feidt CFO

William N. Feidt Will Join Amtrak As Executive Vice President
And Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Effective Feb. 6, 2017

From Rail, Track, And Structures

Feidt will report to Wick Moorman, Amtrak president and chief executive officer, and will oversee the passenger railroad’s finance, treasury, accounting and control operations.

Feidt most recently served as senior vice president of financial operations at Cable & Wireless Communications, a global telecommunications company based in Miami, Fla. In his prior role, he managed capital planning, procurement and finance support for the company’s central operations, representatives say.

“Bill is an experienced and operationally-oriented financial executive with a strong technology background,” Moorman said. “He will be joining Amtrak’s executive team as we look to continue to improve our finance capabilities and lay the foundation for continued growth.”

Gerald Sokol, Amtrak’s current CFO, will depart from the company in mid-February following the completion of a brief transition period with Feidt.

“Amtrak is fortunate to have had someone of Jerry’s ability these past few years,” Moorman added. “Under his leadership, the company set multiple records in ridership and revenue, reported its lowest operating loss and undertook major financial transactions that benefited Amtrak. He has been a valued asset to the board of directors and management team, and we sincerely thank him for his commitment to Amtrak.”

From an item at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/passenger/amtrak-names-feidt-cfo.html


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ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...  

Baltic Railway Used By Graham Greene
Nears $5 Billion Return

By Ott Ummelas And Aaron Eglitis
Bloomberg

A railroad traversed by Graham Greene as he conceived one of his best-selling novels is edging closer to a 5 billion-euro ($5.4 billion) revival, decades after war and Soviet central planners crippled it.

The prime ministers of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia signed an agreement Tuesdayto build Rail Baltica, a high-speed connection between the three countries and Poland. Donald Tusk, president of the European Union, which is supplying as much as 85 percent of the financing, attended the signing in Tallinn. The Estonian capital helped inspire Greene to write “Our Man in Havana” as he hopped on a train to Berlin in 1934.

The project would be the biggestBaltic infrastructure investment since the region broke free from communist rule a quarter-century ago. It would also further cement the European status of the three countries, which are already EU, NATO and euro-area members. First proposed in the mid-1990s, the plan has been held up by deep recessions and squabbling over the route. Pitfalls remain, particularly over the EU’s budget once the U.K. leaves.

“The Baltics was originally the window on the West for Russia, but it’s increasingly becoming a connection for all of Eurasia,” said James Oates, chief executive officer of Tallinn-based investment adviser Cicero Capital. “The biggest issue at the moment really is the political will to actually make it happen.”

The project envisages 700 kilometers (440 miles) of tracks stitching together the three nations’ capitals and the Lithuanian city of Kaunas before heading on to the Polish border. The rail network will revert to standard gauge (1435 mm) from the Russian broad gauge used at present in the Baltic region. The Soviets had previously geared the railroad toward connections with Moscow rather than central Europe.

Trains traveling as fast as 240 kilometers an hour should slash the journey time from Tallinn to Berlin to 10-12 hours from 60 hours at present and 27 hours before World WarII. Lines should start work by 2026, reaching Warsaw by 2030, and eventually carrying 2 million passengers and 12.9 million tons of cargo a year, including electronics and clothes.

Economic Benefit

Freight traffic on the line would benefit Baltic nations’ ports and potentially become part of Europe’s trade with Asia, according to the project’s website. That would provide an economic boost after trade suffered from Russia’s ban on EU food imports and other geopolitical tensions.

But Tuesday’s signing won’t guarantee Rail Baltica’s completion. Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas last week left a back door open to quit the agreement, saying his cabinet must review a final feasibility study in April before sending the deal to parliament for ratification. Lawmakers in Lithuania and Latvia must also give final approval. EU funding levels are also in question.

“One thing indeed remains open at this point -- what EU financingwill be in the next period,” Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas told lawmakersJan. 25 in Tallinn. About 800 million Euros of financing has already been agreed with the European Commission, mainly for planning works, while Lithuania has built some stretches of track near the Polish border.

“We can definitely view this meeting as historic,” Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis told Tuesday reporters in Tallinn. “This will be a new symbol for all three countries’ independence.”

From an article appearing at:
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-02/why-italians-might-be-outright-economic-losers-in-era-of-euro


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Test Trains Reach 352km/H On Bretagne-Pays
De La Loire High-Speed Line

By Keith Barrow
International Railway Journal

The Bretagne-Pays de la Loire high-speed line moved another step closer to the start of operations at the end of January, when TGVs reached the maximum testing speed of 352 km/h (219 mph).

The test program requires validation of safe operation at 352km/h, 10% above the maximum commercial operating speed of 320km/h (199 mph) . Testing began in November 2016 and speeds have been incrementally increased over the last two months.

During February testing will be carried out on the connections to the conventional network at Connerré, Sablé-sur-Sarthe, La Milesse and Laval.

The 182 km (113 mi) high-speed line from Le Mans to Rennes is due to open on July 2, reducing the fastest Paris Montparnasse - Rennes journey time from 2h 4min to 1h 25min.

From an item at:
http://www.railjournal.com/index.php/high-speed/test-trains-reach-352km-h-on-bretagne-pays-de-la-loire-high-speed-line.html


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

GO Transit Has Paid Riders Nearly $4 Million
For Delays Over Three Years

Under Policy Enacted In 2012, Customers Are Entitled To A Refund
If Their Trains Are Delayed By 15 Minutes Or More.

By Ben Spurr
Toronto Star

GO Transit has given its customers almost $4 million worth of refunds for delayed trains over the past three years, the Star has learned.

And while the transit agency cut down on the amount it paid out in 2016 compared to the year before, GO issued about $300,000 more in rebates last year than it did in 2014.

The numbers were provided by Metrolinx, the provincial agency that oversees GO Transit.

According to Metrolinx Chief Operating Officer Greg Percy, it’s uncommon for transit agencies to offer a money-back guarantee, and the agency likely wouldn’t have proposed the idea if the government of former premier Dalton McGuinty hadn’t imposed it on the organization.

But he asserted that since its adoption in late 2012, the service guarantee policy has become an important part of the mandate of the agency, which carries more than 215,000 rail passengers every weekday.

Image

Three Images/Graphs Metrolinx

“It does keep us to a high bar, and it is part of servicing our passenger charter, which we take extremely seriously,” Percy said.

He stated that Metrolinx is always working to reduce delays, by taking steps like upgrading its signals and switches and buying new vehicles. “I’m never happy with our on-time performance,” he said. “It’s like chasing a carrot. We’re always trying to improve.”

Michael Harris, the MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga and the Ontario PC party’s transportation critic, said he doesn’t oppose the refund policy, but he believes the number of delays is unacceptable.

“I think taxpayers are going to have difficulty accepting that they’re actually being hit, having to pay for millions of dollars a year in what may be avoidable late fees for failure to deliver on really GO’s basic responsibility,” he said.

Under the policy customers are entitled to a credit equal to their fare if their train is delayed by 15 minutes or more for reasons within GO’s control, such as equipment problems, construction, or train traffic.

Image

Factors that GO considers outside its control include police investigations, trespassing incidents, pedestrian collisions, and extreme weather.

In 2016, GO issued $1.3 million in credits. That was less than the $1.7 million issued in 2015, but more than the $972,000 refunded in 2014.

In terms of delay time and number of trips affected, 2015 was the worst of the past three years, with 880 hours of delays and 4,383 journeys suffering. Percy blamed the problems that year on a harsh winter followed by a sweltering summer.

Measured by number of affected trips and hours of delay, 2016 was not as bad as 2015, but worse than 2014. However, 2016 had the highest number of cancelled trips of the past three years, at 473. That was up from 317 cancelled trips in 2014.

Image

The incidents that caused the most delay hours last year were weather-related track and signal problems, followed by external issues like police investigations and vandalism, and general equipment failures.

Deaths on the tracks caused 94 hours of delay, while trespassers were responsible for 54.

In addition to routine delays, service was thrown into chaos last June, when two platforms at Union Station were closed to accommodate work on the building’s roof.

Metrolinx was forced to run GO trains closer together in order to fit them onto fewer platforms. Train operators and dispatchers had difficulty adjusting to the compacted schedules, and to make matters worse the network suffered multiple IT issues, engine failures, and defective signals and crossings.

Percy called it “the month from hell.” On-time performance dipped to the “embarrassing” level of 90 per cent, although it has since rebounded to 94 per cent, which is the agency’s target.

Cindy Smith was trapped in one of GO’s worst delays last year. In September, she and hundreds of others were stuck on a train on the Lakeshore East line for three hours when its locomotive broke down. For safety reasons they weren’t allowed to leave, even after the power and air conditioning died.

Smith, who writes about GO commuting on her blog This Crazy Train, described the situation as a “hostage taking,” which was made more frustrating because the train was only meters from the Ajax GO station platform.

In that case, GO went beyond its regular delay policy and gave stranded riders $100 credit and a letter of apology.

Smith said it was “a very nice gesture” but more than anything she wants a guarantee that it won’t happen again.

“That’s wonderful, but I’m still waiting on the report on what they’re going to do in the event of another catastrophic engine failure.”

From a story found at:
https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/02/02/go-transit-has-paid-riders-nearly-4-million-for-delays-over-three-years.html


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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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