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Pressure is growing for the nation’s railroads to install PTC technology swiftly in the wake of this week’s deadly commuter train accident in the Bronx.
The chief of the national public transit association called on Congress to step in with funding to help expedite implementation of positive train control systems. Industry experts, including the National Transportation Safety Board, have indicated that they think a properly installed PTC system would have kicked in to slow the train and prevent the accident on Metro-North Railroad’s line in the Bronx if the engineer failed to apply the brakes in a timely fashion.
“By every measure, commuting by rail is one of the safest ways to travel and the commuter rail industry is unequivocally committed to implementing innovative safety technologies. The commuter railroad industry is aggressively implementing Positive Train Control (PTC), a technology, which is still being developed and tested, that would prevent collisions between trains and derailments resulting from trains traveling too fast,” said American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “A PTC system would prevent trains from entering work zones as well as prevent the movement of trains through switches left in the wrong position.”
He noted that all commuter rail systems in the United States have developed PTC implementation plans and as of June 2013, have spent at least $458 million in installing PTC. “It is estimated that the cost of full implementation of PTC will be at least $2.75 billion. To date, Congress has only appropriated $50 million for PTC for this critical safety program,” he said.
“Appropriating $50 million does not begin to address the costs of PTC implementation. It is APTA’s long-standing position that Congress needs to authorize and appropriate funding for PTC implementation for commuter railroads that will cover 80 percent of the implementation costs,” he said. “Congress needs to do its part to make sure the PTC implementation can occur as soon as possible. Without additional funds, most commuter rail systems, which are all public agencies, will be constrained in their ability to proceed as quickly as possible.”
Lack of funding was one of several reasons that rail organizations, including APTA, sought an extension beyond the Dec. 31, 2015 deadline mandated in the Rail Safety Improvement Act (RSIA). Some of the technology required for PTC systems is still under development and has never been successfully tested in the commuter railroad environment with its unique operating characteristics where there are often multiple railroads sharing the same segment of track. Also, there are a limited number of vendors who have the expertise needed to produce and install the systems, the APTA chief said.
Additionally, PTC is a communications-intense technology that requires radio spectrum to transmit data between trains and communications towers. APTA has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide free radio spectrum for commuter railroads as a public safety priority. “There has been no action on this critical communications element, so APTA has called on Congress to direct the FCC to provide free radio spectrum,” he said.
“Despite the challenges, the commuter rail industry is dedicated to full development of PTC, and is working aggressively to implement it. Congress must urgently address this critical safety technology and make sure that this congressional mandate is properly funded.”
The Federal Railroad Administration is turning up the heat on Metro-North Railroad to improve its safety programs and focus. In a Dec. 3 letter to the chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, parent of Metro-North, FRA Administrator Joe Szabo voiced “serious concerns” about a recent series of accidents that resulted in five deaths and about 129 injuries to Metro-North employees and customers.
“The specific causes of each of these recent accidents may vary, but regardless of the reasons, 4 serious accidents in less than 7 months is simply unacceptable,” Szabo wrote. “Immediate corrective action is imperative.”
He said DOT and FRA strongly support New York Governor Cuomo’s directive that MTA hold a safety stand-down with all employees on its Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road properties. There are other actions that MTA and Metro-North can and should take to ensure the safety of their passengers and employees, according to the FRA. “While we plan to be in touch with you and your team continuously in the coming weeks, one additional action that we believe you can take immediately is the implementation of a confidential close call reporting system (C3RS) that Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road can use to identify precursors to significant safety issues,” Szabo said. “A C3RS is in place on other rail lines across the country, including Class I and commuter railroads, and has proven effective in identifying safety issues and lowering injury and accident exposure.”
“By this letter, USDOT and FRA formally direct MTA to update us on the progress of the safety stand-down, and immediately implement a C3RS program,” he added. Szabo directed MTA to respond by Dec. 6 and advise FRA of its safety progress.
Cummins and Siemens Rail Systems are partnering to bring a new diesel-electric locomotive to market in the United States. Cummins QSK95 diesel engines will be used in Siemens’ diesel-electric locomotives.
The locomotives will be designed for a smoother and more energy-efficient ride and will deploy a new engine after treatment system that will deliver better air quality and reduced emission rates. The lighter weight of these locomotives allows them to operate safely and efficiently at speeds of up to 125 mph.
Michael Cahill, president of Siemens Rail Systems in the U.S., remarked, “Today’s announcement acknowledges a new type of diesel-electric offering, one that is built with the passenger in mind. Our goal is to provide high ride-quality with smooth, safe and efficient performance – for both the locomotive engineers and the passengers – with cost savings for the operators and maintainers.”
“Our engines are the perfect answer for today’s diesel electric needs: they’re more efficient, lighter and cleaner than engines of this output in the past,” stated Ed Pence, vice president and general manager – Cummins High-Horsepower Engine Business. “We believe that our high-speed QSK95 engines will not just bring cleaner operation, but will achieve higher performance and lower operating costs than any system utilizing traditional medium-speed powered locomotives.”
The first QSK95-powered freight locomotive will be field tested with the Indiana Rail Road Company in mid-2014. The locomotive will include Siemens AC traction equipment and traction control and will meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier 4 ultra-low emissions regulations.
The locomotives will be built and assembled in Sacramento, Calif. The diesel QSK95 engines will be made in Seymour, Ind.
Scott McKelvie has been named vice president of sales at TPSC, Transportation Products Sales Company. In his new role, which took effect on Dec. 1, McKelvie manages a team of account executives, AVP’s of business development, and other sales staff.
McKelvie has served more than two years with TPSC, and prior to that spent 23 years in sales management roles, including posts in the rail and telecom industries.
“We are excited to have Scott in this role. His sales management experience makes him well-suited to lead our growing sales team,” said Sid Bakker, president of TPSC.
TPSC has offices in 11 locations, but is based near St. Louis. It serves customers across North America, providing solutions for PTC, locomotives, signals and telecommunications. The products represented by the TPSC group are manufactured by partner companies to meet the standards and rugged requirements of the railroad industry.
Terrence G. Heidkamp has been appointed vice president – government and industry affairs at GATX Corporation. Heidkamp’s responsibilities in his new position will include representing GATX in regulatory agencies and in the North American rail industry.
Heidkamp had served as vice president of operations for FreightCar America. Prior to working for FreightCar America, he spent 21 years with GATX in operations, government affairs and finance leadership roles. He holds an MBA from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame.
Thomas A. Ellman, executive vice president and president of Rail North America, said “We are pleased to welcome Terry back to GATX. His extensive industry experience makes him well-suited to represent and promote GATX’s interests.”
Ian Jefferies, a senior transportation policy advisor to Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller, IV (W.Va.), is joining the Association of American Railroads as Senior Vice President of its Government Affairs department. Jefferies, whose move takes effect on Dec. 11, 2013, succeeds Laurie Knight, who returned to lead the Government Affairs group at the National Beer Wholesalers Association.
“Ian brings to AAR an invaluable understanding of transportation issues, and we look forward to him utilizing his legislative talents and insights while representing the rail industry,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. “In a time when transportation infrastructure, rail safety and truck size and weight issues promise to dominate the legislative landscape, we are pleased to have someone of Ian’s stature and know-how on board.”
Prior to joining the AAR, Jefferies spent about four years with the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. He also worked for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Government Accountability Office before working on Capitol Hill. Jefferies earned a B.S. in Economics from the University of Kentucky and a Master’s of Science in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.
Vossloh Fastening Systems has been awarded a contract, worth around €30 million, to supply fastening systems to a new Saudi Arabian high-speed line. Vossloh Fastening Systems, part of Vossloh Group, said the first fasteners should ship before the end of 2013.
The CEO of Vossloh AG, Werner Andree said, “This demanding project constitutes another reference in one of the strongest-growing rail markets in the world. Moreover, it gives us the opportunity to prove the high quality and reliability of our systems on the world’s first high-speed line across the desert.”
The all-electrified rail line will travel over 450 km and will run at speeds of up to 320 km/h. The rail line will include stops in Mecca, Medina and the port city of Jeddah.
Raymond A. Atkins, former general counsel of the Surface Transportation Board (STB), has joined the Washington, D.C., law firm of Sidley Austin LLP. The firm is a legal adviser for global businesses and financial institutions. Atkins is a partner and member of Sidley Austin’s transportation practice.
“I am excited to be joining Sidley, and look forward to growing the transportation practice both in Washington and throughout the firm. The move to Sidley presents an excellent opportunity to collaborate with some of the best transportation lawyers in the country and to sustain and expand the firm’s nationally recognized practice,” said Atkins.
The chair of the firm’s transportation practice, G. Paul Moates, stated, “We are delighted to add Ray to our team. He is highly respected among transportation industry leaders and brings a wealth of knowledge on the myriad issues facing our clients.”
Atkins’ role as general counsel to the STB included representing the agency in legal matters and defending the agency in appeals. He also counseled members of the STB on all transportation regulatory matters, and provided legal and economic advice to the agency for rulemaking, adjudication, licensing, and ratemaking proceedings. Atkins’ prior positions at STB included chief of staff to STB’s chairman and associate general counsel and appellate lawyer.
Before joining the STB, Atkins worked as a law firm associate and law clerk for the Honorable Dolores Sloviter on the Third Circuit. He holds a Ph.D. in economics and was an adjunct professor of regulated industries at the George Mason University School of Law.
Canadian National Railway Company (CN) has announced a C$10 million program to acquire additional monitoring equipment to enhance the technology of both its inspection system and its early detection of defects.
The program will include the following enhancements: 30 new wayside equipment system units that detect hot bearings, hot wheels and dragging equipment; a new track geometry test car to monitor the position, curvature and alignment of track; an optical track inspection system that uses imaging to identify defects; more than 30 new brittle bar detectors that identify and flag derailed equipment to train crews; and controlled signaling on certain key rail sidings in their most heavily used corridors to alert crews and dispatchers to broken rail incidents.
“We’re stepping up our inspection and detection capabilities,” said Jim Vena, CN executive vice president and chief operating officer. “We’ve had a major push in recent years to increase the number and quality of track, wheel and bearings inspections that help prevent accidents. This has positioned us well in the rail industry. With this program, we intend to go further when it comes to safe rail operations.”
“The application of new detection equipment and modern safety technologies will improve the coverage of our network,” continued Vena. “The technology we’re deploying will keep us ahead of the industry in this field and strengthen our solid safety performance even further. Advanced technology, rigorous safety process and the continued strengthening of our safety culture are the key foundations of our unwavering commitment to safety.”
Over the past five years, CN said it has increased its wayside detection technology capability by 30 percent and increased the frequency of its ultrasonic rail flaw inspection by 70 percent.
Bart Demosky has been appointed Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Canadian Pacific (CP). Demosky’s new position will become effective on Dec. 28, 2013. CP’s present Senior Vice President and CFO, Brian Grassby,will be retiring at the end of the year.
Demosky’s responsibilities in his new position will include financial planning, reporting and accounting systems as well as pension, treasury and tax. He will also be involved in helping to plan the long-term strategic direction of the company.
E. Hunter Harrison, CP’s Chief Executive Officer, stated, “Our search for a new CFO began when Brian informed us of his decision to retire at the end of the year. This was the most comprehensive North American CFO search process in my career, as management and the board recognized the importance of bringing in someone with the breadth of business experience and financial talent required to help lead this organization forward. In Bart Demosky, we believe we have found that individual. Bart is arguably one of the top CFO’s in Canadian business and we are thrilled that he will be joining our team.”
“I would also like to thank Brian for his years of dedicated service to CP and wish him all the best in retirement,” said Harrison.
Demosky has over 25 years of financial, strategic, operations and risk management experience. He held several positions at Suncor Energy, including vice president and treasurer, and vice president of business services and treasurer. Demonsky also served as CFO of Suncor Energy for four years prior to joining CP. He attended the University of Calgary where he received a bachelor’s degree in economics. He is also an honors graduate from the University of Calgary’s Management Development Program.