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KCS Improving Rail Line through Missouri and Illinois

July 1st, 2015

The Kansas City Southern Railway Company (KCSR), a subsidiary of Kansas City Southern (KCS), will invest approximately $20.9 million in 2015 on projects to improve the rail line between Clark, Mo., and Roodhouse, Ill., on the Mexico and Roodhouse Subdivisions. The improvements will help grow capacity and maintain and enhance safety on KCS’ cross-border network.

“KCS, through its U.S. and Mexican subsidiaries, continues to invest in capital projects to expand network capacity, keep maintenance in a regular and healthy cycle, and enhance the safety of our operation,” said KCS CEO David L. Starling. “These investments also help us be an economic growth partner to our customers and the communities through which we operate.”

Projects will include improvements to more than 60 road crossings and replacement of four miles of rail and 132,000 cross ties. The work will take place through the Missouri communities of Clark, Centralia, Mexico, Laddonia, Farber, Vandalia, Curryville, Bowling Green and Louisiana, and through the Illinois communities of Pleasant Hill, Nebo, Pearl, Hillview and Roodhouse. The work begins on July 14 and will continue through the end of September.

In Missouri, KCSR owns and operates 396 miles of railroad and provides service to the river ports of St. Louis and Kansas City, six transload facilities, and an intermodal facility in Kansas City. In Illinois, KCSR owns and operates 239 miles of railroad and serves three transload facilities.

Tennessee Transit Agencies Appoint Birdsong COO

July 1st, 2015

The Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and the Regional Transportation Authority of Middle Tennessee (RTA) have appointed India Birdsong as the new chief operating officer for the transit agencies, effective June 24.

MTA/RTA CEO Steve Bland stated, “We met with several impressive candidates; however, India’s experience and enthusiasm made her the perfect individual to assist us with the improvements and tough decisions that are needed in order to build a more robust transit system in Nashville and the region.”

Birdsong recently worked for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) where she served as senior manager of bus supervision and instruction for the central region. During her time at CTA, she also held positions leading operations for a CTA operating division, bus operator instruction, and special events planning and also served as an operations planner.

“I am delighted to join the MTA team, and look forward to serving the community,” Birdsong said. “It is my pleasure to live in such a vibrant, growing city such as Nashville while working to advance the region’s public transportation options.”

“Recognizing the significance of connecting communities and local stakeholders is imperative to moving us forward. As such, I look forward to continuing the mantra of good business via safe operations, technological innovation, and attention to customers’ needs,” added Birdsong.

Birdsong earned a bachelor’s degree from Temple University in Philadelphia and a master’s degree from the University of Illinois in Chicago. She is a member of the American Public Transportation Association, Transit Cooperative Research Program, and Conference of Minority Transportation Officials.

PTC Launched on Southern California’s Metrolink

July 1st, 2015

Metrolink, the commuter rail system serving Southern California, has announced that Positive Train Control (PTC) has launched in Revenue Service Demonstration (RDS) across the entire 341-mile network.

Metrolink began operating PTC with passengers on-board (RSD) on the last of Metrolink’s hosted rail system on June 14, 2015, following approval of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). With initiating the PTC system, Metrolink stands to be the first passenger rail system in the nation to have a fully operational, interoperable, and certified PTC system in place.

“This is a time for us to pause, acknowledge how far we’ve come, and then double our efforts,” said Shawn Nelson, chair of the Metrolink Board of Directors and Orange County supervisor. “From the beginning, our agency was committed to have our entire system fully operable with PTC before the December 2015 federal deadline.”

Nelson also noted that the Metrolink Board of Directors was committed to enhancing the safety of passengers by embracing PTC and becoming an early implementer of the technology, along with inward-facing cameras and collision energy management.

Metrolink CEO Art Leahy stated, “I am so proud of the efforts of the Metrolink Board and our staff to make this milestone happen. The collaborative effort to make PTC a reality in Southern California is a tremendous undertaking. It is only with the support and diligence of our member agencies and our delegation advocating tirelessly on our behalf that we have reached this point.”

Metrolink operates its PTC RSD using Wabtec’s Interoperable Electronic Train Management System (I-ETMS)®. Parsons Transportation Group, Inc. is the primary contractor managing Metrolink’s PTC program.

The current cost for developing, installing and deploying PTC on the Metrolink system is $216.4 million. The funding comes from a combination of federal, state and local sources.

Elliott Appointed to Second Term as STB Chairman

June 30th, 2015
STB Chairman Daniel R. Elliott III

Daniel R. Elliott III

Daniel R. Elliott III was sworn in as the chairman of the Surface Transportation Board last week, beginning his second term. He was nominated to the board by President Barack Obama on January 13, 2015, for a four year term expiring December 31, 2018, and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 22, 2015. Elliott previously served as chairman of the agency from August 13, 2009 to December 31, 2014.

“I would like to thank President Obama for honoring me with this second appointment,” Elliott said. “I am so pleased to return to the Board to continue work to make sure the Board’s processes are fair, efficient and accessible for all stakeholders. I look forward to working with my fellow Board Members and Board staff to continue the progress that we have made.”

In May of this year, Elliott stated at his confirmation hearing before a Senate committee that he would continue the reforms that he had begun during his first term to increase STB transparency and efficiency, promote a reliable rail network, and bring more accessibility to the Board’s processes.

Prior to his service as chairman of the STB, Elliott was the associate general counsel to the United Transportation Union for 16 years, and practiced at law firms in Washington and Cleveland. He earned a degree in political science from the University of Michigan and a law degree from Ohio State College of Law.

CARS Appoints New Officers & Directors

June 30th, 2015

The Canadian Association of Railway Suppliers (CARS) has announced the election of Paul Nimigon as president, Mario Peloquin and Doug Reece as vice presidents, and the election of three new appointees to its Board of Directors.

Nimigon joined MMM Group Ltd. as a partner in July 2005 and currently serves as the company’s vice president Rail Transportation. He has more than 39 years of experience with Canadian Pacific Railway, CANAC Inc. and MMM Group.

Peloquin is vice president transformation for Thales Canada Transportation Solutions. He has worked for more than 30 years in the transit and rail industry.

Reece, the director of marketing and business development at Procor Limited, also brings more than 30 years of rail industry experience to his position at CARS.

CARS also appointed Paul Brum, Gord Strilchuk and Scott Diercks to its Board of Directors.

Brum, the president and CEO of Universal Rail Systems, has 30 years of experience in the rail industry. His team has worked on a cross section of Canada’s most prominent railway construction projects.

Strilchuk is senior vice president and chief technical officer signals and communications division for PNR RailWorks, a provider of railway signals and communication equipment across Canada.

Diercks is director of marketing and business development at Loram Maintenance of Way. He has more than 20 years of progressively responsible experience in the rail industry.

“We are extremely pleased to have such a great balance of transit and freight representation on our board. The expertise that these directors will bring to the association is invaluable and will contribute to the unprecedented and ongoing growth of CARS,” said Sylvia Newell, executive director of CARS.

Seattle’s Sound Transit Completes First Phase of University Link Light Rail Testing

June 30th, 2015

Sound Transit, the transportation authority for the Seattle area, completed the first phase of testing for the University Link light rail signal and power systems as part of the plan to open the extension in early 2016.

“University Link will be a game changer for commuters by connecting downtown Seattle and UW,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “The work that’s wrapping up is clearing the way for an 8-minute trip, completely bypassing some of the worst traffic in the region.”

Contractors have installed and tested new power, safety, train control and communications systems for most of the 3.1 miles of tunnels between Westlake Station in downtown Seattle and the University of Washington. The work included the installation and testing of new light rail control and safety systems for the entire light rail line and energizing the new overhead train power lines in the University Link tunnels.

Sound Transit has released a video that shows the view from the cab of a light rail train during testing as it made a run from Capitol Hill Station to the University of Washington Station.

Over the next months, contractors will remove the temporary wall and doors between the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) and the University Link tunnels and install the last 600′ of power and communication lines in that section.

During the final phases of testing that begins this fall, all trains that operate during normal service hours will continue on to Capitol Hill and UW Station before returning south. All northbound passengers will still have to deboard at Westlake Station, which will remain the first southbound station until the extension opens for service. This “pre-revenue service testing” familiarizes operators with the new stations and ensure all systems are performing well.

The $1.8 billion University Link light rail extension includes new stations at Capitol Hill and the University of Washington. The line is entirely underground,  and it is currently $150 million under budget and six to nine months ahead of schedule.

Stephens Joins Parsons Brinckerhoff

June 29th, 2015
Phillip Stephens

Philip Stephens

Parsons Brinckerhoff has appointed Philip Stephens a senior principal technical specialist in the company’s Chicago office, where he will act as quality task lead for the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) Chicago to St. Louis high-speed rail program. In his new role, Stephens will provide oversight/direction and audits of all program management sub-consultants and contractors that must implement quality assurance programs to meet federally mandated requirements.

Parsons Brinckerhoff is serving as program manager of the $1.6 billion corridor improvement project for the 284-mile route from Chicago to St. Louis. The project will reduce total trip time approximately one hour by allowing passenger rail service to operate at speeds up to 110 mph.

Stephens joins Parsons with more than 20 years of management experience in the application of quality standards for design and construction of large transportation infrastructure projects. He was formerly employed with a Chicago construction engineering firm, where he was also involved with quality assurance activities for the Chicago to St. Louis high-speed rail project. He also worked as a construction quality assurance manager for a construction management company which provided quality assurance services for Chicago Transit Authority projects.

Stephens attended the University of Dublin, Trinity College, Ireland, where he received post-graduate diplomas in project management and highway engineering and geotechnics. He also earned a BSc degree in engineering surveying from the Dublin Institute of Technology. He is affiliated with the U.S. Green Building Council, is an LEED accredited professional, and a member of the Registrar Accreditation Board. Stephens has been a certified principal QMS auditor since 1999.

FRA’s Feinberg Speaks on PTC Implementation Before House Committee

June 29th, 2015

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg recently spoke before a House Committee about the state of positive train control (PTC) implementation in the United States, saying that despite FRA’s financial support, technical assistance and repeated warnings to Congress, many railroads have stated publicly they will not meet the December 31, 2015, deadline for PTC implementation.

Feinberg pointed out to the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials that the initial analysis of recent information from 32 of the 38 railroads the FRA is currently tracking for enforcement purposes has found that Class I railroads have:

  • Completed or partially completed installations of approximately 50 percent of the locomotives that require PTC equipment;
  • Deployed approximately 50 percent of wayside units;
  • Replaced approximately 50 percent of signals that need replacement; and
  • Completed most of the required mapping for PTC tracks.

“As I have stated to this committee before: safety is the Federal Railroad Administration’s top priority,” said Feinberg. “The rail system is not as safe as it could be without the full implementation of PTC. A safe rail system requires the full implementation of Positive Train Control. And that’s why FRA will enforce the Dec. 31, 2015 deadline for implementation, just as Congress mandated.”

Feinberg noted that, following passage of the PTC mandate in 2008, railroads submitted their PTC Implementation Plans in 2010 that laid out a path that would allow each railroad to meet the deadline.

“For several years, FRA has been sounding the alarm that most railroads have not made sufficient progress in implementing PTC. In the 7 years since passage of the PTC mandate, FRA has dedicated significant resources and worked closely with the railroad industry in order to assist and guide implementation,” she said.

Feinberg noted that the FRA has hired extra staff to assist with the issue, worked with the Federal Communications Commission to resolve spectrum issues and improve the approval process related to PTC communication towers, built a PTC system test bed at its Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colo., and provided funding of approximately $650 million in grants funds to support PTC.

“I have also established a new PTC Task Force Team within FRA – that team is aggressively managing and monitoring each individual railroads’ progress, tracking data, ensuring we have the most accurate and up-to-date information, and reporting in to me multiple times per week,” said Feinberg. “This team is working in close collaboration with the many individuals at FRA, based here in Washington and in offices around the country, already working on this challenge.”

Feinberg informed the committee that, according to the American Public Transportation Association, (APTA), 29 percent of commuter railroads are planning to complete installation of PTC equipment by the end of 2015, with full implementation of PTC for all commuter lines expected by 2020. She also said that the Association of American Railroads (AAR) projects that the following will completed by the end of 2015:

  • 39 percent of locomotives will be fully equipped;
  • 76 percent of wayside interface units will be installed;
  • 67 percent of base station radios will be installed; and
  • 34 percent of required employees will be trained.

Starting on January 1, 2016, FRA will impose penalties on railroads that have not fully implemented PTC.

“Fines will be based on FRA’s PTC penalty guidelines, which establish different penalties depending on the violation,” she explained. “The penalties may be assessed per violation, per day and may be raised or lowered depending on mitigating or aggravating factors. The total amount of penalty each railroad faces will depend upon the amount of implementation progress the railroad has made.”

“FRA will also use additional, appropriate enforcement tools to ensure railroads implement PTC on the fastest schedule possible – be it emergency orders, compliance orders, compliance agreements, additional civil penalties, or any other tools at our disposal,” Feinberg said.

She said that the FRA asked Congress to provide them with additional authorities in order to review, approve, and require interim safety measures for individual railroads between January 1, 2016 and each railroad’s full PTC implementation.

“These interim safety requirements would be to ensure railroads are forced to raise the bar on safety if they miss the PTC deadline – but will not and cannot be used to replace or extend the deadline,” said Feinberg.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 requires that, by December 31, 2015, PTC be fully implemented on Class I railroad main lines where any toxic hazardous materials are transported and on main lines where regularly scheduled intercity or commuter rail passenger service is conducted.

Alstom Delivers New H3 Hybrid Locomotive to Volkswagen

June 29th, 2015
Alstom's H3 Hybrid Locomotive. Photo: © ALSTOM Transport/TOMA – V. Baillais.

Alstom's H3 Hybrid Locomotive. Photo: © ALSTOM Transport/TOMA – V. Baillais.

Alstom delivered a new zero-emissions H3 hybrid locomotive to Volkswagen (VW) at a ceremony held in Scaxony-Anhalt, Germany, at Alstom’s Stendal site where the locomotive was built. VW will use the hybrid shunting locomotive at its Wolfsburg plant for freight transport. Alstom has agreed to a 10 year maintenance contract on the locomotive.

Kristina Mennecke, head of industrial railroads of Volkswagen AG, stated, “Volkswagen is reducing CO2 emissions on the roads and, with the new hybrid locomotive, on the railways too. We anticipate savings of 45 percent of fuel and 25 tons of CO2 emissions. The new hybrid loco contributes to from Volkswagen’s sustainability objective; to achieve a 25% reduction of the environmental impact in the manufacturing area by 2018. Thanks to its frequent operation in battery mode, the level of noise is also significantly reduced.”

Alstom’s new H3 shunting locomotive has 50 percent less CO2 emissions, a 70 percent reduction of overall pollutant emissions and a significantly reduced noise emission. The 350 kW diesel generator meets the most recent European exhaust gas standard requirements and has been designed with future exhaust gas standards in mind.

“Alstom is pleased to hand over the third new H3 shunting locomotive to Volkswagen today after receiving orders of eight more from Audi, DB Regio Franken and Mitteldeutsche Eisenbahn Gesellschaft,” said Ralf Materzok, managing director of Alstom Lokomotiven Service GmbH. “Alstom is now ready for in-series production to address the needs of companies wishing to opt for zero-emission freight transport.”

The shunting locomotive will spend between 50 to 75 percent of its service time in battery mode depending on its use. This makes it possible to achieve zero-emission rail transport in urban areas or production halls. The locomotive reaches maximum speeds of 100 km/h and, once approved by the German Federal Railway Authority, can be integrated in main line traffic.

“With this environmentally friendly hybrid concept, Alstom’s Stendal site has proven its innovative prowess once again,” said Klaus Schmotz, Stendal’s lord mayor. “Zero-emission freight transport will play an increasingly important role in sustainable CO2 reduction worldwide. I offer my congratulations for this unique and robust vehicle and wish Alstom many successful projects on the German and international markets.”

Volkswagen and Alstom are already connected in a long-lasting technology-partnership on the area of hybrid shunting locomotives. In a pilot project, Volkswagen used retrofitted shunters with hybrid drive from Alstom, which helped in the development of the new H3 platform.

UP Hosts Tank Car Safety Training

June 29th, 2015

Union Pacific Railroad (UP) hosted 26 emergency response personnel from 11 states at the Association of American Railroad’s (AAR) Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colo., for advanced tank car safety training. UP paid for all attendees’ expenses, with no cost to communities or organizations.

The five-day course, which was held at the Security and Emergency Response Training Center facility from June 8 – 12, covered a variety of safety topics, including identifying tank car types, tank car construction features and the fittings and safety appliances on tank cars.

“Our advanced tank car safety programs are an important feature of our ongoing commitment to educating first responders in the communities we serve,” said Mark Maday, UP’s manager hazardous materials training. “These five-day courses offer important information and more hands-on experience than our basic five-day course that responders can use in the unlikely event of a rail-related hazardous material incident.”

The emergency responders received hands-on experience in assessing tank car damage, making repairs, controlling the release of hazardous materials from damaged rail cars and using proper protective clothing. They also participated in a simulated hazardous material incident that helps students learn how to safely respond to such an event and how to effectively work with UP if such an incident occurs.

Union Pacific has sponsored four five-day advanced training programs and 53 five-day training programs at the Transportation Technology Center since 1986. The company regularly reaches out to fire departments as well as other emergency responders along its routes to offer the training to communities where the railroad operates. UP annually trains approximately 2,500 local, state and federal first responders on ways to minimize the impact of a potential derailment.