Light Rail Projects Surging Across the U.S. UNITED
STATES -- If there were any doubt that the Desire Named Streetcar was alive and well in America, the re-election of President Barack Obama has put that thought to rest. Since election day in November of 2012 literally scores of projects that were on the drawing board, and even under way, had been placed in a state of suspended animation by their proponents to await the counting of votes; unlike the private sector where multi-year commitments are made and kept, as a rule, the public sector for the most part must fund large projects over many years, since no one state legislature --- the source for finding matching local/state funds required by large Federal projects --- cannot, usually, commit a future legislature to spending money. While that is beginning to change as innovative public-private partnerships begin to emerge to build these multi-year, mega-million-dollar transit systems, nevertheless public transit spending, with no Trust Fund of its own and only a small slice of the existing Transportation (Highway) Trust Fund, has for decades waited upon the election returns, and so transit projects move in fits and starts, if they move at all. This time around the choices were stark, as the election very clearly pitted a pro-rail Democrat, Barack Obama, and his largely pro-rail Democratic Party, against the GOPs Mitt Romney who as a part of his move to the Tea Party right had vowed to kill Amtrak, a symbol of rail that has long been a target of the extreme right wing that has come to dominate the Republican Party. The list of transit projects springing back to life, and even nearing completion, has been compiled by the indefatigable Yonah Freemark, whose well-researched blog The Transport Politic has become a beacon of first-rate reporting in the industry. With the proviso that the latest Fiscal Cliff negotiations (this time over the National Debt Ceiling) could de-rail progress, here, then, is a part of
a recent post (find it all at http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/) by Yonah Freemark that tells an amazing tale of resurgence for a transportation mode laid waste by the National City Lines Conspiracy of the 1930s and 40s: Construction continues on rapid transit expansion projects around the country. This year, more than $64.3 billion worth of transit expansion projects will begin construction, continue construction, or enter into service in the United States. Its a huge investment, much of it the product of extensive state and local spending. What is evident is that certain cities are investing far more than others. Among American cities, Denver, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington stand out as regions that are
currently investing particularly dramatically. Toronto has the biggest investments under way in Canada. These metropolitan areas have invested billions of local dollars in interconnected transit projects that will aid in the creation of more livable, multimodal environments. Dynamic, growing cities require continuous investment in their transit systems. Yet the federal government also continues to sponsor a number of these investments, contributing half and sometimes more of many of the projects costs. Washingtons involvement should not be downplayed. Under the just-inked bipartisan compromise to head off the fiscal cliff, transportation funding will not be affected in the short term.* But an 8% reduction in federal discretionary spending (the sequester) a threat that has yet to be neutralized remains official policy and will be enforced on March 1st if no compromise is reached. That 8% cutback would reduce funding for the New Starts program, which funds most major new transit expansion projects, by $156 million in 2013 alone. Payments to the Transportation Trust Fund, which provides funding for transit maintenance programs and the purchase of new buses and trains (as well as money for highway projects), will decline by
$471 million in the same period. This is no phantom menace. Congressional Republicans in the U.S. House have demonstrated a deep-seeded desire to cut federal spending. The Obama Administration and Democrats in the Senate have shown themselves willing to compromise to a significant extent, and transportation is unlikely to be spared. The result could be significant cutbacks in funding cutbacks that states and cities are unlikely to make up with their own revenues. Investments from Washington make transit expansion possible. For now, though, the construction goes on. See below for the list of transit lines expected to open this year; projects beginning construction this year; and projects already under construction that will open after 2013, in that order. Not included are line renovations or intercity rail projects. * Fortunately, the deal did expand the transit commuter tax
make it equal to the parking benefit.
in 2015: Opening
in 2016: Opening
in 2017: Opening
in 2018: Opening
in 2019: Opening
In This Edition...
Following Re-Election of Pro-Rail Obama
High-Speed Rail Cash
Between Barcelona And France
Following Re-Election of Pro-Rail Obama
New Transit Capital Projects Opening in
New Construction Starts Planned for
Already Under Construction, Opening After
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Light Rail Projects Surging Across the U.S.
UNITED STATES -- If there were any doubt that the Desire Named Streetcar was alive and well in America, the re-election of President Barack Obama has put that thought to rest.
Since election day in November of 2012 literally scores of projects that were on the drawing board, and even under way, had been placed in a state of suspended animation by their proponents to await the counting of votes; unlike the private sector where multi-year commitments are made and kept, as a rule, the public sector for the most part must fund large projects over many years, since no one state legislature --- the source for finding matching local/state funds required by large Federal projects --- cannot, usually, commit a future legislature to spending money.
While that is beginning to change as innovative public-private partnerships begin to emerge to build these multi-year, mega-million-dollar transit systems, nevertheless public transit spending, with no Trust Fund of its own and only a small slice of the existing Transportation (Highway) Trust Fund, has for decades waited upon the election returns, and so transit projects move in fits and starts, if they move at all.
This time around the choices were stark, as the election very clearly pitted a pro-rail Democrat, Barack Obama, and his largely pro-rail Democratic Party, against the GOPs Mitt Romney who as a part of his move to the Tea Party right had vowed to kill Amtrak, a symbol of rail that has long been a target of the extreme right wing that has come to dominate the Republican Party.
The list of transit projects springing back to life, and even nearing completion, has been compiled by the indefatigable Yonah Freemark, whose well-researched blog The Transport Politic has become a beacon of first-rate reporting in the industry. With the proviso that the latest Fiscal Cliff negotiations (this time over the National Debt Ceiling) could de-rail progress, here, then, is a part of a recent post (find it all at http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/) by Yonah Freemark that tells an amazing tale of resurgence for a transportation mode laid waste by the National City Lines Conspiracy of the 1930s and 40s:
Construction continues on rapid transit expansion projects around the country.
This year, more than $64.3 billion worth of transit expansion projects will begin construction, continue construction, or enter into service in the United States. Its a huge investment, much of it the product of extensive state and local spending.
What is evident is that certain cities are investing far more than others. Among American cities, Denver, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington stand out as regions that are currently investing particularly dramatically. Toronto has the biggest investments under way in Canada. These metropolitan areas have invested billions of local dollars in interconnected transit projects that will aid in the creation of more livable, multimodal environments. Dynamic, growing cities require continuous investment in their transit systems.
Yet the federal government also continues to sponsor a number of these investments, contributing half and sometimes more of many of the projects costs. Washingtons involvement should not be downplayed.
Under the just-inked bipartisan compromise to head off the fiscal cliff, transportation funding will not be affected in the short term.* But an 8% reduction in federal discretionary spending (the sequester) a threat that has yet to be neutralized remains official policy and will be enforced on March 1st if no compromise is reached. That 8% cutback would reduce funding for the New Starts program, which funds most major new transit expansion projects, by $156 million in 2013 alone. Payments to the Transportation Trust Fund, which provides funding for transit maintenance programs and the purchase of new buses and trains (as well as money for highway projects), will decline by $471 million in the same period.
This is no phantom menace. Congressional Republicans in the U.S. House have demonstrated a deep-seeded desire to cut federal spending. The Obama Administration and Democrats in the Senate have shown themselves willing to compromise to a significant extent, and transportation is unlikely to be spared. The result could be significant cutbacks in funding cutbacks that states and cities are unlikely to make up with their own revenues. Investments from Washington make transit expansion possible.
For now, though, the construction goes on. See below for the list of transit lines expected to open this year; projects beginning construction this year; and projects already under construction that will open after 2013, in that order. Not included are line renovations or intercity rail projects.
* Fortunately, the deal did expand the transit commuter tax benefit to make it equal to the parking benefit.
Opening in 2014:
Opening in 2015:
Opening in 2016:
Opening in 2017:
Opening in 2018:
Opening in 2019:
Opening in 2020:
Amtrak Welcomes Two New Board Members
WASHINGTON - Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and Christopher Beall will soon accept their new responsibilities as members of the Amtrak Board of Directors. They were nominated by President Obama and recently confirmed by the United States Senate. Each will serve a five-year term.
Yvonne and Chris strengthen the make up of the board with greater geographic representation, bring a wealth of experience and transportation knowledge as well as a strong commitment to the continued growth of Americas Railroad, said Chairman Thomas Carper. We welcome our newest members and know they will contribute to the current and future success of the nations intercity passenger rail provider and high-speed rail operator.
Amtrak is making sustained progress in many key areas and I am confident it will continue to do so in the coming years. Amtrak is a national railroad and it must remain so while it moves forward with its plans for next-generation high-speed rail, said Ms. Burke who currently serves as a member of the California Transportation Commission.
I believe that Amtrak is a critical component of national transportation infrastructure and that it plays a vital role connecting communities and providing passengers with convenient access to job centers, thus enhancing regional economies, said Mr. Beall, a partner at Highstar Capital, L.P., an infrastructure investment firm specializing in the transportation, environmental services, and energy sectors.
Chairman Carper noted that with the arrival of these new members, all nine director positions will be filled. They will join himself, Anthony R. Coscia, Bert DiClemente, Jeffrey R. Moreland, Nancy Naples, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray La Hood, and Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman on the Amtrak board.
Burke and Beall join Amtrak as it moves forward into a new year building on the successes from 2012 including setting the ninth ridership record in the last ten years.
Yvonne Brathwaite Burke
Ms. Burke, is from Los Angeles, California, and is currently a member of the California Transportation Commission. From 1992 to 2008, she served as a Los Angeles County Supervisor representing the 2nd District and was Chair three times. On December 1, 2008, she retired from the Board of Supervisors. She also served for 16 years on the Los Angeles Metro Board of Directors, serving as Chair for one term.
In 1973 she was elected to U.S. House of Representatives and was the first African-American woman to represent the West Coast in Congress. During her tenure in Congress, she served on the House Select Committee on Assassinations and the House Committee on Appropriations. While on the Appropriations Committee, she introduced an amendment to the Alaskan Pipeline legislation to establish a new precedent that provided for a set-aside for minority and women businesses to participate in Federal contracts.
In 1973, with the birth of her daughter Autumn, Burke became the first Congresswoman to give birth while in office and the first to be granted maternity leave by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. She did not seek re-election to Congress in 1978, but instead ran for Attorney General of California. She won the Democratic nomination, but was defeated in the general election.
She attended the University of California at Berkeley and the University of California at Los Angeles, where she received a Bachelors degree. She also received a Juris Doctorate from the University of Southern California Law School.
Mr. Beall joined Highstar Capital in 2004 and serves on Highstars Investment and Executive Committees.
Mr. Beall has over 12 years of experience in direct investments, investment banking and finance. He currently serves on the Boards of Directors of Star Atlantic and the Ports America Companies. Prior to joining Highstar, he worked in the Global Natural Resources Group at Lehman Brothers, Inc., and in operations and engineering at Koch Gateway Pipeline Company, a natural gas transmission pipeline owned by Koch Industries, Inc.
Mr. Beall received a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Oklahoma State University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
2012 Was A Good Year For New Starts
Despite the battles over MAP-21 and transit funding generally, 2012 was a good year for new Amtrak and rail transit starts. Seven rail transit systems expanded their mileage last year in the United States, and so did one in Canada. In addition, there were two new segments of Amtrak that began operation last fall. Except for the mid-west, all regions of the United States were represented.
The two new segments of Amtrak are Portland to Brunswick, Maine and Petersburg to Norfolk, Virginia. Until last fall, the newest addition to the Amtrak map occurred during the late 1990s, when the Carolinian began to run between New York and Charlotte, including new mileage between Raleigh and Greensboro, North Carolina. There are now three daily trains on that line in each direction, and the North Carolina Department of Transportation plans to add more service in the future.
Just after Hurricane Sandy finished pounding New York and New Jersey, new Amtrak mileage opened for service in Maine. The Downeaster corridor, which originally ran between Boston and Portland, was extended further northeast to Brunswick on November 1st. There are two new stops: Brunswick, which is the home of Bowdoin College, and Freeport, which is the home of retailer L.L. Bean. This segment is the only one that was planned as part of the Obama Administrations HSIPR (High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail) program and has opened for service. New lines planned for Ohio and Wisconsin will not be built, because the governors of those states rejected the funding for them. The Brunswick service is not as frequent as planners and advocates had hoped. Of the five trains between Boston and Portland, only two will run through to Brunswick. Community pressure has prevented the construction of a lay-up yard in Brunswick, so every train set must be kept in Portland. That means the first train to Brunswick in the morning and the last to leave at the end of the day can only go to or from Portland, not all the way to Boston. Advocates in Maine hope that the Maine Eastern Railroads seasonal train between Brunswick and Rockland will be rescheduled to connect with the Boston train at Brunswick.
At the other end of the Northeast region, there is a new train between New York and Norfolk, Virginia, which began operating on December 12th. It is scheduled for a business day in Washington, D.C., leaving Norfolk at 4:50 a.m. on weekdays and 6:05 a.m. on weekends. It leaves Washington in the late afternoon and is scheduled to arrive in Norfolk about 8:45 p.m. on weekdays and Sundays, and about 11:30 on Saturdays. The Norfolk station is located near the Tide light rail, operated by Hampton Roads Transit, but the train is scheduled for too early a departure to allow a connection from the light rail line. The new line does not affect existing service to or from Newport News, which has a bus connection to Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
On the local transit scene, most of the new starts came to the West Coast: Seattle, Portland, Sacramento and Los Angeles. There were also two in Dallas, one in Miami and one in Pittsburgh. The new starts in Portland, Los Angeles and Dallas were the most substantial. All except two were new light rail lines or extensions of existing lines.
There was one commuter rail extension, on Sounder Rail in Seattle, operated by Sound Transit. Five of the seven peak-hour trains to and from Tacoma were extended for an additional 13 minutes of riding time, to Lakewood, with an additional new stop at South Tacoma. Sounder trains only run to Seattle in morning peak and back during late-afternoon peak commuting time. The Sound Transit #594 bus provides full-time service between Lakewood and Seattle for travel at other times.
The new service in Portland is more substantial. On September 22d, the Eastside Streetcar started service between the original streetcar line at 10th and Lovejoy Streets and a terminal near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), in the southeastern corner of the city. The route goes through the Pearl District, Lloyd Center and the Central Eastside. Local planners and advocates expect that the line will spur transit-oriented development in those parts of town. The 3.3-mile (5.3 km) line connects with the original Portland Streetcar, and with MAX light rail lines downtown. There are plans to extend the line in 2015. One of the cars on the line is a prototype made by United Streetcar, a local manufacturer. The others were made by Skoda in the Czech Republic.
Sacramento Regional Transit (SacRT) began running its new Green Line on June 17th, with a new segment from 8th and H Streets downtown, to a single new stop at 7th and Richards/Township 9. There are plans to extend the line through the Natomas neighborhood to the airport. For the present time, most of the line serves as a downtown circulator, and a single car provides all of the service. This writer was present for the first day of service, and was counted as the tenth revenue passenger to ride the line.
Los Angeles has been busy expanding its rail transit, and the Expo Line of Los Angeles Countys Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) opened for service on an 8.7-mile (13.9 km) stretch between 7th St./Metro Center downtown and Culver City, mostly along Exposition Boulevard. Plans call for another 6.6 miles (10.6 km) extension to downtown Santa Monica, to open in 2016.
Dallas had the largest expansion, with an entire new line, as well as an extension of an existing line. DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) opened its new Orange Line in two segments. The first 5.4 miles (8.6 km) from Bachmann Station on DARTs Green Line opened on July 30th, and the other 3.9 miles (6.2 km) to Beltline Station near DFW Airport opened on December 3d. The Blue Line was also extended another 4.5 miles (7.2 km) from Garland to Rowlett on the same day. The entire system is now 85 miles (126 km) long, with 61 stations. The next planned expansion will take the Orange Line to DFW Airport, with service scheduled to begin in 2014.
Miami-Dade Transit has built a 2.4-mile (3.8 km) extension of its Metrorail line (a metropolitan-style heavy rail elevated line) from Earlington Heights to the new Miami Central Station at Miami International Airport. Service began on July 28th, and airport trains from Dadeland South are designated the Orange Line while the pre-existing line between Okeechobee and Dadeland South is the Green Line. A new monorail, the MIA Mover, takes riders from the Miami Central Station to the airport terminal itself. Plans call for Tri-Rail, the regions commuter rail line, to connect with Metrorail at Miami Central Station in the near future.
The only extension outside western or southern perimeter of the country was in Pittsburgh. Light rail service operated by the Port Authority of Allegheny County (Port Authority Transit or PAT), was extended from downtown to the new North Side and Allegheny Stations on March 25th. Planners hope that the extension will bring more people to the ball park and residential neighborhoods on Pittsburghs North Side. Despite the transit systems constant financial problems (drastic service cuts were averted last September, but still loom for next August), the two new stations are part of a downtown zone where rides are free.
There was one Canadian city where light rail was extended last year. In Calgary, Alberta, the C-Train system was extended twice: to Martindale and Saddletowne Stations on the citys northeast side, on August 27th, and a six-station westward expansion along Seventh Avenue, to 69th Street, which opened on December 10th. Calgary is the only city in Canada that has rail transit, but it is not served by intercity trains on VIA Rail.
Despite constant funding battles and many transit authorities preference for building busways instead of new rail lines, there are a few new starts scheduled for 2013. The new streetcar line along Loyola Avenue in New Orleans, from the Union Passenger Terminal to Canal Street, should open soon. There are other new streetcar starts planned for Atlanta, Tucson, Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C. There are new light rail lines scheduled to begin service in Denver and Salt Lake City, and part of the new Silver Line on Washington, D.C.s Metro Rail is supposed to open, as well. Plans also call for one new start in Canada, a new commuter line form Mascouche to Montreal, to be operated with dual-mode locomotives from Bombardier, the same units now in use on New Jersey Transit.
We will have further reports on these new starts after they open for service.
David Peter Alan has ridden the new lines in Portland, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Miami and Pittsburgh. He hopes to ride the others in the United States, along with some of the next few to open, during 2013.
Sacramentos Blue Line Gets Green Light From Feds
A popular light rail line in Sacramento, California, first constructed in 1987 and extended multiple times since then (see History) will again be expanded to link with Cosumnes River College in South Sacramento.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood participated in a signing ceremony at the college where he announced the governments commitment of $135 million for the 4.3 mile extension. Late last year, the Federal Transit Administration finalized a funding agreement with Sacramento Regional Transit District, allowing the project to move forward.
Image: USDOT - Artist concept drawing of new Morrison Creek station.
The first light rail line of the RT opened March 12, 1987. Initial service commenced between Watt/I-80 and 8th & O stations only for the first six months, at which time it was extended to Butterfield. In all, it was an 18.3-mile (29.5 km) route between Watt/I-80 station in North Sacramento, through downtown, and continuing east on Folsom Blvd. to Butterfield Way station. It was built at a cost of $176 million USD (1987), including the cost of vehicles and maintenance and storage facilities.
Much of the line was single-tracked at first, though improvements over the 1990s allowed much of the original system to be double-tracked. It used a railroad right-of-way, coupled with use of structures of an abandoned freeway project. Part of the system runs on streets in downtown Sacramento.
The line became more popular than anticipatedin fact, so popular that further extensions and new stations were built in 1995, 1998, 2003, and 2004.
Following a June 2005 reconfiguration of the light rail lines where an older line was merged with the new, there was a re-designation of names: Blue Line for the new section and Gold Line for the original portion.
The $270 million project extends the Blue Line from the current terminus at Meadowview Road to Cosumnes River College and adds four new stations at Morrison Creek, Franklin Boulevard, Center Parkway and the college and a 2,000-space parking garage. It will offer an alternative to congested Highway 99, and brings transit service to the college, a major employer in the Sacramento region.
The FTA is funding 50 percent of the $270 million cost. The United States Department of Transportation provided an additional $7.1 million. The remaining cost will be covered by state and local funding.
LaHood was joined at the ceremony by Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, Congresswoman Doris Matsui, city of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and other state and local officials.
The Obama administration is committed to helping the Sacramento area create a modern, efficient transportation network to spur new economic development and reduce congestion in the region, LaHood said in a news release. Across America, were investing in projects like this one that are built to last and keep our economy moving forward.
Ridership on Sacramentos existing light-rail system rose by 7.4 percent between fiscal year 2011 and fiscal 2012. According to Sacramento RT, which operates the line, the project will generate 1,000 jobs or more over the next two years.
Californias capital region needs robust transportation choices to ensure that current and future generations have ready and affordable access to jobs, education, medical appointments and more, Rogoff added. The Blue Line light-rail extension will help thousands of Cosumnes students spend less at the pump, and will spur retail and residential development at the new Morrison Creek Station and beyond.
The project is expected to be completed by September 2015 and is projected to generate 2,210 new transit trips on an average weekday.
LaHood: California Will Get Federal
High-Speed Rail Cash
Ray LaHood isnt a man willing to concede much ground on the future of high-speed rail in the Golden State, states the ABC article. At the Sacramento light rail announcement last week, (described above) LaHood reiterated his and President Barack Obamas commitment to high-speed rail. Theres no stopping high-speed rail in California, he said. So as Congress continues to collectively shrug its shoulders about the billions the state will need for the countrys first true high-speed rail project, the administration stands firm.
It will take a lot more cash from Washington to meet the expectations of Californias long debated and anticipated 520 mile long bullet train, a proposal whose $68 billion price tag assumes almost $39 billion more from the federal government by the time the project is complete in 2029.
Secretary LaHood, a former GOP congressman from Illinois, recounted in an interview last week that the states plans came up in the very first conversation he had with the president after the November 6 election.
The one thing the president mentioned to me was we need to get high-speed rail, not only really on good footing in California, but we need to get it done, said LaHood.
Although the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to block any new cash for the California project, state rail officials remain optimistic, given that their plans dont call for additional DC cash until 2015.
LaHood, while not directly saying so, suggested that the Obama administration wont put any of the other projects around the country - in the Midwest or the northeastern U.S. - ahead of California, if Congress eventually forces a prioritization of who gets money... and who doesnt.
Well, we have prioritized, said the secretary. Californias gotten the largest amount of money.
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Spain Inaugurates High-Speed Rail Service
Figueres, Spain On the 9th of January celebrations were held in Barcelona and Figueres, Spain to mark the start of operations on the newly completed 131 km (81 mile) section of the Madrid Barcelona Figueres Parpignan (France) standard-gauge high-speed rail route. The new standard-gauge high-speed line between Barcelona and Figueres parallels a relatively new mixed-use standard gauge line used by freight trains, conventional passenger trains and some freight trains heading into or coming from France. With the completion of the Barcelona Figueres segment, the high-speed rail line between Madrid and the French border reaches 804 km (500 miles) total length.
Spains high-speed rail network is built with 1435 mm standard-gauge track, now slightly over 3000 km in total length with this latest addition, second only to Chinas rapidly expanding high-speed rail network. Spains classic rail network uses Iberian broad gauge track (1668 mm). A substantial amount of Spanish rolling stock is equipped with variable gauge wheel trucks and automated gauge changers are installed at a number of locations where Iberian broad gauge and standard-gauge rail lines meet. A few rail lines are equipped with three-rail tracks, which allow for both broad-gauge and standard-gauge trains to use the same rail line.
Photo: 20minutos e-magazineGerman high-speed in Spain: AVE class 103 (Siemens Velaro E) train sets will serve the Madrid Barcelona Parpignan, France route. The Velaro E is a derivative of the German ICE-3 high-speed train-set series, and has been in operation in Spain for nearly six years. There are also several other train set models and designs used on the Spanish AVE high-speed network.
The EUR 3.7 billion (US$ 4.8 billion) project involved the construction of 30 tunnels totaling 34.3 km, including a 5.8 km tunnel under the center of Barcelona between Sants station and La Sagrera, and 60 bridges / viaducts with a total length of 12.6 km. The line is equipped with ETCS signaling and positive train control and GSM-R digital cellular railway telecommunications management and electrified at 25 kVAC 50 Hz power. Funding from the EU government and European Investment Bank covered more than 95% of the investment costs in the new Barcelona Figueres HSR segment.
Commercial services began on the 9th of January, when Spanish rail operator REFNE extended eight Madrid Zaragoza Barcelona services to Girona, and Figueras, with one additional train operating only between Figueres and Barcelona. The fastest Madrid Girona journey time is now 3 hours 32 minutes, while Barcelona Girona has been reduced from 1 1/2 hours to 37 minutes and Barcelona Figueres will speed up from 2 hours to 53 minutes. Two of the trains from Madrid are timed to connect at Figueres with French National Railways (SNCF) TGV services to Paris, replacing the conventional connecting services running from Barcelona to Figueres. Starting in April, direct high-speed services will be launched between Barcelona and Paris.
Berlins New BER Airport Opening
As D:F reported last week, the new Berlin-Brandenburg Airport / BER has sunken further into chaos as the official opening date in October 2013 was canceled (the fourth time the official opening date has been canceled) and moved into 2014. A firm date in 2014 has not been announced. The airport wound up in both news headlines and in the comedy monologs of several German late-night TV comedy shows yet again this past week, after the management board concluded that the new terminal complex at BER has too many problems and unfinished construction work to meet the previously fixed opening date in October 2013.
In related news, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit survived earlier this week an airport-related vote of no-confidence in the Berlin Senate, the legislature of the city-state, which is overwhelmingly dominated by his party, the Social Democrats (SPD). The no-confidence vote was co-sponsored by members of the opposition Green and Pirate political parties in the Berlin Senate. He resigned at the beginning of the week from the BER airport management board in reaction to the latest opening delay fiasco.
The announcement of the additional delay in the airport opening came as a serious blow to Air Berlin, which had been counting on the start of operations at the new airport to consolidate and streamline its network. Air Berlin has been struggling for nearly four years with profitability and costs, and two years ago made former Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) chief Hartmut Mehdorn interim CEO with the primary goal of cutting costs and returning Germanys number two airline to profitability. This past week Air Berlin announced that Mr. Mehdorn will leave the company and will be replaced by Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, who previously held executive management positions at BMI / British Midland Airways, Jet Airways India and Austrian Airlines.
150 Years Of The Tube
London, England These days the word tube to people born from perhaps 1950 onwards and living in English speaking countries beyond the shores of Great Britain, means You Tube and other similarly titled video websites in cyberspace, and two or three decades earlier it meant the Television, back when televisions still were built with cathode ray tubes. But long before You Tube there was The Tube, the timeless nickname for Londons extensive subway / metro system, now one of the largest and most heavily used urban rail networks in the world. On the 9th of January 2013 The Tube turned 150 years old.
On the 9th of January 1863 the worlds first underground train pulled out of Paddington station to make the first passenger journey - 3 1/2 miles under the streets of London from Paddington to Farringdon and into the record books. The original Underground line was built and financed by the Metropolitan Railway, a private company which had been formed in 1854 to undertake the project to link the mainline railroad stations at Paddington, Euston and Kings Cross with the City center business district to the east.
Photo: London Transport MuseumNew Tube: a photo of the Turnpike Lane station on the Piccadilly Line just before station began full operations in 1932.
Traveling on the new railway was a novelty that thousands of Londoners were eager to experience and on the first day of public service long queues formed at every station. The line was a huge success with 26,000 passengers using the railway each day in the first six months.
Today traveling on Londons Underground is routine for the vast majority of its 3.3 million daily riders on its 11 lines and 402 km (250 miles) of track. Londons Underground metro network is today the third largest in Europe after the metro systems in Paris and Moscow. The name Tube came into use after several lines were built deep underground using tunnel boring methods, resulting in a nearly perfect circular tube-like tunnel cross section, which the train cars were built to conform with, including semi-circular roof cross section. London Underground later adopted the image of a tube into its logo.
The London Transport Museum is hosting a number of special events and exhibits through the year to mark the 150th anniversary of The Tube. D:F Readers are encouraged to get further information about the history of the London Underground by going to the website of the London Transport Museum: www.ltmuseum.co.uk or if traveling to London in 2013 to visit the museum in person at Covent Garden Plaza, London WC2E 7BB, within walking distance of the Covent Garden station on the Piccadilly line of The Tube.
Never Judge A Coach By Its Cover
BOSTON - Boston area press erupted last week when it was announced that a $190 million dollar order for new commuter rail coaches was once again in jeopardy of being canceled by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).
According to the Boston Globe, a letter written by the MBTA to Hyundai-Rotem manufacturing in December 2012 was obtained by them, in which the MBTA has expressed serious frustration with the continued delays, and citing poor workmanship on test units delivered this past fall for evaluation.
The test units consisted of three bilevel standard passenger coaches and one bilevel control-cab coach (used to operate the train in reverse.)
NCI Stock Photo: Steve Annear via http://bostinno.comLovely to look at but not so delightful to know, the first 4 test units delivered to the MBTA by Hyundai-Rotem were seen last fall in the North side yards in Somerville, MA, but on the inside it was a different story. For a while the units were seen tacked on to one of the new MP36 locomotives for test purposes. The MP36 is similar to locomotive units now on order from Motive Power.
The letter details a laundry list of problems, including faulty chassis parts and wires damaged by off-mark drilling found in the first test units. The letter continues to find that the order has reached a point of crisis.
The text, attributed to then-acting general manager Jonathan Davis said, I am writing this letter to you to convey my profound disappointment for Hyundai-Rotems seemingly lack of commitment to improve its chronically unsatisfactory performance. The letter went on to cite a host of problems including material shortages and workmanship issues at its assembly plants.
Various press stories have tracked the progress of Hyundai-Rotem during its assembly of similar coaches for the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) which Hyundai-Rotem is still in process of completing, and which was also plagued with similar problems.
Late in 2012, the MBTAs Jonathan Davis traveled to South Korea to press the company to get the first units delivered for testing. The order placed several years ago, called for 75 coaches to be in service by the end of 2012. The companys leadership assured Davis they would deliver and the first test units were received in Boston for evaluation a short time later.
In an e-mail response to the Boston Globe, the MBTAs press spokesperson Joe Pesaturo offered, While some progress has been made, certain areas of concern remain Its important that [Hyundai Rotems] leadership team not only understand the procurements ongoing issues, but also take the corrective actions necessary to address the shortfalls.
Andy Hyer, a spokesman for Hyundai-Rotem in the USA stated, They need their cars, and we want to give them to them. [But] its been a challenge to get them out quicker.
Hyer said the company is addressing material shortages and is poised to hits its stride, with 24 Korean-built shells now being outfitted and finished for the T at their final assembly plan in Philadelphia. Four more empty shells should arrive next week, he said.
Under the Buy America act, Hyundai-Rotem is allowed to manufacture a percentage of the coaches in their country but the final assembly must be performed on US soil with US workers.
If the talks fail and Hyundai-Rotem cannot deliver, it is possible that the MBTA could cut its losses and cancel the order, seek damages, and begin the bid process all over again.
The Globe further reported that Jim LaRusch, chief counsel and a vice president for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) could not comment on the MBTA contract but noted that equipment purchases such as these are expensive and time-consuming.
They start with technical specifications that incorporate federal standards and guidelines for safety and accessibility, as well as the unique needs of that transit agency, with its existing rolling stock, types of stations, etc.
At present the MBTA has standing orders for 75 bilevel coaches from Hyundai-Rotem, and at least 25 new locomotives from Motive Power of Idaho. The orders are necessary to replace aging and failing commuter rail equipment that has reached and surpassed the expected life span, and which has a growing reputation of delays due to equipment failures.
For a full story by Eric Moskowitz, see: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2013/01/10/mbta-threatens-cancel-deal-for-rail-cars/PVa86CM0EWA4PL5a0gZuTP/story.html
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