The National Corridors Initiative Logo

June 27, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 25

Copyright © 2016
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 16th Newsletter Year


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

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

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

  Expansion Lines…
North-South Rail Link Would Be An Investment
   In Core MBTA System, Dukakis Says
  Funding Lines…
IL Commits To Help Quad Cities Amtrak Service
State’s $758M Funding Will Boost Passenger Rail
Plans For A $40M Commuter Train Station
   In Pawtucket Hinges On U.S. Grant
  High-Speed Lines…
Dallas-Fort Worth High-Speed Rail Plan Draws
   Worldwide Interest
  Legal Lines…
FRA Issues Proposed Rules On Bidding-Out
   Long-Distance Amtrak Routes
Lac-Mégantic Will Not Pursue
   Canadian Pacific Railway
  Business Lines…
Crosbie Returns To Parsons
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
Driverless Trains Soon On Germany’s
   Conventional Rail Network?
Britain Votes To Leave Europe – What Now?
EU Urban Transit Demand Hits 14-Year High
  To The North…
Ontario Expanding GO Rail Service In
   Durham Region
  Environmental Lines…
Canada Proposing Locomotive Emissions Regs
  Off The Main Line…
A “Ghost Town” On The Railroad Celebrates
   Its Heritage
  Publication Notes …

EXPANSIONLINES... Expansion Lines...  

North-South Rail Link Would Be An Investment
In Core MBTA System, Dukakis Says

By Adam Vaccaro
Boston Globe

Gov. Charlie Baker says his top priority for the MBTA is to fix the existing system — not expand it. That priority has been seen as at-odds with new projects, like the North-South Rail Link, which would connect North and South stations.

“We’ll do the study [on the project]. We’ll see what it says. But I really want the investment to be in the core system,” Baker recently said of the proposal.

That’s a false dichotomy, argues former Gov. Michael Dukakis — one of two Baker predecessors who has been advocating for the project since last summer. In an interview Monday, Dukakis said building the North-South Rail Link would boost the rest of the T by allowing commuter rail trains from north of the city to continue south and vice versa.

“No project that we’re talking about would have a greater impact on the core system than this one,” Dukakis said. “For one thing, it will have a dramatic impact on getting cars off the road. And secondly, it will significantly reduce the number of people who today get off at North Station or South Station, have to make a change or two on the [subway]. And that’s a problem these days too — the congestion of the T. If that’s not helping the core system, I don’t know what is.”

So far, the Baker administration, which has made improving the core transit system a doctrine since 2015’s winter weather exposed major T issues just weeks into the start of the governor’s term, has agreed to conduct a feasibility study for the project at a cost of $2 million.

But Politico Massachusetts on Monday reported that advocates and the state Department of Transportation have yet to agree on what the study should encompass. Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack said advocates have asked for a study so broad that it would cost more than the state is ready to spend.

Dukakis said he’s open to a scaled-down study. “If [Pollack] thinks the scope is a little too — OK, fine, trim it down. We don’t want to keep sitting around here,” he told State House News Service Monday.

Advocates for the project last Monday held a public event at the State House, where they heard from representatives of Herrenknecht, a German company that makes tunneling machines. Two executives talked about the company’s projects in other parts of the world. Dukakis and other project backers have argued since resurrecting the rail link as a public policy idea last year that technology advancements have made tunneling cheaper, easier, and less disruptive.

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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

IL Commits To Help Quad Cities Amtrak Service

It’s A Project That’s Been In The Works Since 2010

Alice Kang
Quad Cities News

The state of Illinois has been battling budget issues for a while now.

But on Tuesday, the Quad Cities got some good news about the direct passenger rail service from the Quad Cities to Chicago.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner says once the state passes a budget, they’ll provide the $85 million to help with the project.

Quad City leaders say getting this Amtrak service up and running is a priority.

While Governor Rauner announced he is committed to the service, Quad City leaders say there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

“It’s a huge deal for the Quad Cities,” said Henry Marquard, Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce spokesperson.

It’s a project that’s been in the works since 2010.

Marquard says a passenger rail service from the Quad Cities to Chicago is a win for everyone.

There’s both state and federal funding tied to the project.

Last year, the project went off the tracks. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner froze the money authorized by the state after taking office.

“As we’ve seen that project getting held up it has been very, very, disappointing and very frustrating for the community,” said Marquard.

Congresswoman Cheri Bustos says there’s $177 million federal grant dollars at stake.

The deadline of that grant is June 30th of this year.

“If the Governor continued to sit on this and had we not literally dragged him across the finish line that money would had gone away,” said Rep. Bustos.

Bustos says it’s now time to work with the Federal Railroad Administration to make sure they extended the grant deadline.

Moline’s City Administrator Lew Steinbrecher says the Illinois budget impasse hasn’t stop them from working.

“The city has continued to work on the $10 million TIGER grant, the federal grant that we’ve received to build the station. We’re moving forward with that,” said Steinbrecher.

And while there’s still a chance the grant won’t be extended he remains hopeful.

“I think now it’s a matter of time, not if, but when,” said Steinbrecher.

Steinbrecher says they hope they have the multi-modal station up and running next year. He says there is no timeline on when the Amtrak service would be up and running. Steinbrecher says that all depends on when Illinois passes a budget.

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State’s $758M Funding Will
Boost Passenger Rail

By Nate Delesline III
Hampston Roads Business Journal

Under the Six Year Improvement Program recently approved by Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board, more than $758 million will be made available for passenger rail projects.

The largest portion of that funding, $660 million, is set aside for the Hampton Roads-Richmond-Northern Virginia rail corridor, according to advocacy group Virginians for High Speed Rail. The $758 million is in addition to $438 million in passenger rail projects built during the past decade, the group said.

The funds will support service expansions and infrastructure improvements that benefit the continued operation of Amtrak’s five Virginia-based regional trains, which operate from Norfolk, Newport News and Richmond.

The funding also will pay for triple or quadruple tracking for the Northern Virginia-to-Richmond portion of the corridor, which will improve reliability, capacity and service. The funding for this corridor also will support construction of a new multimodal transportation center in Newport News.

“The commonwealth has continued to make larger and larger investments in rail, I think, as the realization that they’re not always going to be able to pave their way out of traffic” kicks in, Danny Plaugher, executive director of VHSR, said in a phone interview.

While the funding will translate to more trains and more frequent service in Hampton Roads, the most significant corridor improvements will address rail congestion in Northern Virginia. Specifically, Plaugher said, some of the investment will support the expansion of the Long Bridge, which crosses the Potomac River, linking Arlington and Washington. The present two-track railroad bridge at that location is owned by CSX and serves freight, Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express traffic, according to a project website.

“A lot of the issues with expanding service or adding even more trains to Hampton Roads in both Newport News and Norfolk is this congestion up in Northern Virginia crossing the Potomac,” Plaugher said.

Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne acknowledged that the rail funding is the largest investment of its kind in years and said the money will facilitate improvements in on-time performance and expanded service.

“We know we want additional trains to lots of parts of the state and that includes Hampton Roads, and that will be driven by demand,” Layne said, adding that better service and on-time performance drives demand.

Layne said state-supported investments in freight rail along the Interstate 95 corridor also have resulted in improved passenger service. Triple or quadruple tracks along a rail corridor mean faster trains with passengers aboard can pass slow-moving freight trains.

The transportation board’s June 14 vote on the six-year plan was unanimous, Layne said.

In Virginia, developing improvements in railroad service and infrastructure involves collaboration between multiple entities, said Chris Smith, director of policy, communication and legislative affairs for the state Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

Amtrak runs the service as operator and provider, while Norfolk Southern and CSX are the other operators on what he described as “shared-use corridors” through the partnerships. “It’s in everyone’s interest not only to provide passenger service for passenger riders but to enhance and improve the freight service those companies provide to their customers,” Smith said.

“We applaud all efforts to increase investment in intercity passenger and high-speed rail services,” Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said in an email in response to a request for comment. “Amtrak delivers nationwide benefits, provides vital transportation services, advances America’s economy and demonstrates the value and convenience of the national passenger rail network.”

“We receive funding from Virginia and, along with other state-supported services, are vital links in the Amtrak national network,” Wood said. “The power of increasing demand for passenger rail is recognized through state investments to improve service, speed and safety. In addition, states and communities recognize stations served by Amtrak are anchors for economic development, catalysts for historic preservation and tourism growth, sites for commercial and cultural uses, and points of civic pride.”

Plaugher echoed that sentiment.

“Every additional train we can get in benefits the commonwealth,” he said. “Adding more service to Culpeper also builds up demand in those localities and those regions from those citizens to support trains. So it adds to the grassroots support across the state for passenger rail.”

As part of that support, Plaugher said that corridor might one day include an east-to-west train route that would run from Hampton Roads, through Richmond and on to Roanoke.

“There’s a huge push for that now with all these expansions,” Plaugher said. The east-west link is in the state’s long-term transportation plan and probably won’t come to fruition until 2030 or 2040, “but it’s one of those things, if the demand is there, if the citizens are asking for it, it could be sooner.”

But for now, Smith said, the numbers don’t quite support a full-service east-west route just yet. “Really, our market data is showing us and our ridership is showing us that the demand for both freight and passenger traffic is north-south,” Smith said.

From an article at:

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Plans For A $40M Commuter Train Station
In Pawtucket Hinges On U.S. Grant

The General Assembly Did Not Pass A Bill That Would Have Awarded The Project $10m In State Funds

By Patrick Anderson
Providence Journal

Rhode Island’s recent history with new train stations, like the sparsely used Wickford Junction station in North Kingstown, casts a shadow over arguments for a new commuter rail station in Pawtucket.

The Pawtucket station’s $40-million estimated cost nearly matches the $44 million price of Wickford Junction, even though the Pawtucket project, unlike Wickford Junction, does not include a parking garage. Add in bus facilities and the Pawtucket project’s price tag rises to $48 million.

“We have the most beautiful empty building in Wickford Junction,” said Rep. Antonio Giarrusso, R-West Greenwich, at a House Finance Committee hearing on a bill that, had it passed, would have financed the Pawtucket station. “That seemed like a good idea at the time.”

The free-market Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity has put the station plan in its cross-hairs, adding the funding bill to its “five worst” list for the year and saying it aligns with a “submissive philosophy” that Rhode Island should be considered a suburb of Boston.

“Pawtucket and Central Falls are under much more scrutiny after Wickford Junction,” Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien acknowledged at the House Finance Committee hearing.


An artist’s rendering of a new train station in Pawtucket, RI

Although the bill to spend $10 million in state funds, sponsored by Rep. Carlos Tobon, D-Pawtucket, did not clear the General Assembly, the long-planned station is not dead.

In April, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation applied for a $14.5 million federal grant to finance the project. The U.S. Department of Transportation typically awards those grants each fall.

Questions about the cost of the Pawtucket station go beyond Wickford Junction or the also-underused station at T.F. Green Airport.

In Boston, Massachusetts built three new urban MBTA stations on the Fairmount Line between 2012 and 2015 that cost between $8.2 million and $19.1 million.

Why would a Pawtucket station be expensive in comparison?


NCI File Photo

The Pawtucket station today. The new station would be a few blocks from here. It has been deemed too expensive to rehabilitate the current station structure.

The simplest answer, according to Charles St. Martin, spokesman for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, is that unlike both the Fairmount Line and Wickford Junction, the Pawtucket station would be situated on the busy Northeast Corridor rail line.

Of the RIDOT’s $40-million estimate, $14.7 million would be for work related to the rails themselves, including two new tracks, so trains can stop without blocking others behind them, according to a project cost breakdown requested by The Providence Journal. The project also includes work on signals and overhead electrical lines.

Construction of the station itself, including two new platforms, stairs, ramps, a pedestrian bridge and a parking lot, are estimated to cost $13.8 million.

Wickford Junction only required one new set of tracks and a single platform.

Because the Fairmount Line does not host Amtrak trains, the new stations on it did not require new tracks or sidings.

St. Martin added that the Pawtucket cost estimates also include $4.5 million for design work, $1.6 million to acquire land, and $2 million to employ workers to de-energize the overhead electrical lines so work can proceed.

Those costs do not appear to be factors in the Boston station projects.

While construction costs may be similar, Rhode Island officials note that Pawtucket should be less expensive than Wickford Junction over the long term because Rhode Island will not have to pay the MBTA to send trains there.

Rhode Island owes the MBTA at least $8.3 million (the exact amount is the subject of an ongoing dispute) for operating trains south of Providence and spends $5 million annually on the service in track rentals, insurance and station maintenance.

Although MBTA spokesman Jason Johnson declined to comment on the proposed Pawtucket station, Bay State officials appear to support it.

In a May 18 letter provided by the Rhode Island DOT, Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said, “while studies still need to be done to determine the project’s impact on MBTA service and scheduling,” the station “could help relieve crowding at the MBTA’s South Attleboro and Attleboro stations.”

Opposition to the station has focused on the poor performance of Wickford Junction, where trains often carry only a dozen riders. The Rhode Island DOT projects that a Pawtucket station would only draw an additional 89 passengers who had previously used other forms of transportation.

However, the DOT estimates that the station will see 519 “boardings” when it first opens, mostly from people now using other stations, such as South Attleboro, which is about 4 miles away. Those estimates are based on 13 Boston-bound trains and 15 Providence-bound trains daily.

“Because [South Attleboro] is at capacity, this would alleviate congestion,” said Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, a station supporter.

And those estimates do not include growth from the development that officials hope will occur in Pawtucket and Central Falls with the arrival of the station.

“This area would flourish,” said Tobon. “Wickford was trying to create a population. Our population is already here.”

From an item at:

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HIGH-SPEED LINES... High-Speed Lines...  

Dallas-Fort Worth High-Speed Rail Plan
Draws Worldwide Interest

By Gordon Dickson

High-speed rail is a touchy subject in much of Texas, where some politicians and landowners are concerned about train tracks cutting across private property.

But local leaders in Dallas-Fort Worth, where traffic congestion is a near-universal concern among many of the region’s roughly 7 million residents, want the world’s biggest passenger rail operators to know that if they’re willing to build the super-fast trains in North Texas they will find a more-than-receptive audience.

“You are not trying to sell yourself to us today. We are trying to sell our region to you,” Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, told officials from both French and Chinese railroad companies Monday during a meeting in Arlington. “Regardless of what our national government does, we are reaching out to the congressional delegation to fund high-speed rail.”

Those French and Chinese officials were among several dozen people who attended a high-speed forum hosted by the Texas Commission on High-Speed Rail in the Dallas-Fort Worth Region. The commission was put together more than two years ago, with former Fort Worth councilman Bill Meadows as its chairman, to explore ways to build a rail system with trains capable of going up to 220 mph.

Texas Central Partners, a private company armed with technology from Japan’s largest rail provider, has already proposed building a high-speed line from Dallas to Houston. That project, which could cost $10 billion or more but would be privately funded, is on course to be completed in 2022 — although it is opposed by many elected leaders. Last week, state Rep. Bryon Cook, R-Corsicana, asked the attorney general’s office to rule on whether Texas Central Partners would have the power of eminent domain, to take land needed for the bullet trains.

Meadows’ commission is working on expanding the system beyond Dallas and Houston, to also include stops in Arlington and Fort Worth and eventually Austin, San Antonio and possibly cities in adjacent states. So far, there has been little or no vocal opposition to the concept of high-speed rail in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.

Of course, money is the key concern, as any high-speed rail project connecting downtown Dallas to Arlington’s entertainment district and downtown Fort Worth would likely cost billions of dollars.

But North Texas officials, including Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams, said Monday they are looking for private-sector partners to bring their own dollars to the project and bring down the public’s cost.

“The private sector has a great opportunity here to move this ahead and make a lot of money and make a real difference in our community,” Williams told the foreign guests. Williams said high-speed rail is important for bringing visitors to his city for events not only at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium but also at a new $1 billion ballpark planned for the Texas Rangers baseball club.

Texas needs trains that can fill a void left by airlines, who are putting more emphasis on international and other long-distance flights and less emphasis on intrastate travel, Williams said.

Global Interests

Officials from Texas Central Partners who are planning the Dallas-Houston route also attended the two-hour meeting, as did officials from the Lone Star Rail District which is working on a proposed rail line from Austin to San Antonio.

Also attending were four officials from China Railway Corp. Wing Chun, a spokesman for the group and president of the US-China Chamber of Commerce Dallas, confirmed that the group was interested in possibly bidding for the Dallas-Arlington-Fort Worth rail line, but first wanted to compile information on what kind of rail project the region wants.

Another company that has consistently shown interest during the past two years in possibly building the Dallas-Arlington-Fort Worth line is SNCF, France’s state-owned railway. However, Alain Leray, president of SNCF America, said after Monday’s meeting he is concerned that if Texas officials allow Texas Central Partners to build the Dallas-Houston line using the same technology found on trains in Japan then Texas’ system won’t be compatible with trains built by other companies.

Rail companies in other countries use “neutral” technology that can be used by competing companies, but the Japanese technology isn’t compatible, he said.

“If Texas goes with the Japanese technology, it will create a monopoly in the process,” Leray said. “Anytime you need to replace train sets, you will have only one supplier, and that will drive up the price for Texans.”

Texas Central Partners officials have said they are open to building other rail lines in Texas, but for now are focused almost entirely upon getting the Dallas-Houston component built.

Proposed Routes

In North Texas, the high-speed rail line would connect at a proposed new station either just south of Interstate 30 or perhaps straddling the freeway on the southeast end of downtown Dallas. From there, the proposal believed to have the most support calls for high-speed rail lines to follow the Trinity Railway Express route to near CentrePort Station just south of DFW Airport.

Then the high-speed rail trains would extend south, either along the Dorothy Spur freight railroad tracks or the Texas 360 highway corridor to Arlington’s entertainment district, where the bullet trains would then continue along the I-30 corridor to downtown Fort Worth.

There are other proposals for alternate high-speed rail routes, including one option to follow the TRE line from Dallas to Fort Worth, although that option is not believed to be popular because it would bypass Arlington.

Another option would be to run the entire high-speed rail line in the median of I-30, although that option would be tricky because I-30 is packed into a tight right-of-way space in Dallas County.

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LEGAL LINES... Legal Lines...  

FRA Issues Proposed Rules On Bidding-Out
Long-Distance Amtrak Routes

By Kevin P. Keefe

Amtrak’s 45-year near monopoly on overnight passenger trains could end based on a proposal announced today by the Federal Railroad Administration to introduce a pilot program allowing independent entities to run long-distance trains on as many as three routes.

Citing its rule-making authority, the FRA says its proposal is a response to the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act, of 2015, in which the Department of Transportation is directed to implement a program “for selection of eligible petitioners in lieu of Amtrak to operate not more than three long-distance routes.”

Among the key elements of the proposal are:

The docket filed today offers no information about likely long-distance routes of interest to outside parties. It does say that Amtrak would be allowed to bid to continue operating certain trains “if Amtrak chose to do so.” It also opens the field to a wide range of potential bidders, from Class I railroads to short lines to state-sponsored consortia.

Bidders will be required to describe how they would assume the new service, including an operating plan, a financial plan, details of agreements for operating on track they do not own, as well as “ancillary” activities not directly tied to operating trains and providing on-board services.

Under the proposal, FRA would establish a process for the DOT secretary to review bids and select winners. The agency is accepting written comments about the proposal until August 22, and says it has no plans for public hearings unless specifically requested by July 22. Based on various deadlines outlined in the docket, it could take more than a year to decide on winning bids.

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Lac-Mégantic Will Not Pursue
Canadian Pacific Railway

Mayor Jean-Guy Cloutier Says Costs, Risks Of Legal Action Are Too High For Community

CBC News

The town council of Lac-Mégantic [Quebec, Canada] has adopted a resolution to not take legal action against Canadian Pacific Railway for the 2013 train disaster that killed 47 people.

In a statement released by the town after the meeting last Tuesday night, Mayor Jean-Guy Cloutier said the community would have to undertake significant costs and that there were too many risks involved to pursue the company.

“We would be obligated to take on considerable fees for experts over several years,” Cloutier said. “And we have absolutely no guarantee that we will receive reparations.”

The burden of a lawsuit cannot fall on the shoulders of Lac-Mégantic residents, Cloutier said.

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BUSINESS LINES... Business Lines...  

Crosbie Returns To Parsons

By William C. Vantuono, Editor-In-Chief
Railway Age Magazine

William “Bill” Crosbie has rejoined Parsons Corp. as Senior Vice President and Business Development Director for its Transport Division, which provides full-service engineering and management services in rail transit, ports and harbors, and aviation.

In this position, Crosbie will develop and implement strategies to grow the division globally while ensuring customer satisfaction and project excellence.

Crosbie has more than 30 years of experience in transportation engineering, business development and management, including a seven-year tenure as Chief Operating Officer of Amtrak in Washington, D.C. and previous service as Parsons’ Railroad Program Vice President. Following his first stint at Parsons, he was President of SYSTRA USA.

Parsons describes Crosbie as “an expert in cyber-security and rail infrastructure protection as well as alternative project delivery.”

Crosbie is a registered professional engineer and holds a master’s degree in security studies from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. He is on the Board of Directors for Homeland Security Community and an advisory board member of the Masters of Arts Program in Management for Public Safety and Homeland Security Professions at Pace University in New York City, N.Y. In addition, he has served on the advisory boards of two U.S. Navy and Coast Guard contractors, as well as the board of directors for Washington Union Station Redevelopment Corp. and Chicago Union Station.

“Our current and potential customers can have the utmost confidence that Bill will understand their unique needs and bring them the best solutions,” said Michael Johnson, Parsons Group President. “That’s because he’s been in their shoes and knows the responsibilities, concerns, and challenges they face with infrastructure project planning, design, and delivery, as well as operations and maintenance. We’re glad to have him on our team once again.”

Prior to returning to Parsons, Crosbie had accepted the position of Executive Director of New Jersey Transit. He changed his mind several days later.

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

Driverless Trains Soon On Germany’s
Conventional Rail Network?

Driverless trains are no longer a new concept – but so far are limited to relatively simple
routes on various urban metro / subway lines in a few cities in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Are conventional long distance, mixed use rail lines the next frontier for driverless trains?

Via FAZ Newspaper And DPA

Frankfurt – Reports in the German news media last week (12th – 19th June) indicated that Deutsche Bahn – German Railways – is seriously studying deploying trains without a driver (engineer or train operator in the USA) sitting on board at the controls on the conventional rail network in Germany. Currently driverless trains in Europe can only be found in a number of urban mass transit metro / subway lines, including in Copenhagen, Paris and Nuremberg (Nürnberg), typically on a rail transit route, which is a single line without complex interchanges to branch lines, as well as a few isolated freight rail lines in mining or quarry operations in simple back-and-forth shuttle service.


Photo: David Beale

Driver Optional?” A new five-car long Stadler KISS electric multiple unit (EMU) multi-level train set (covered in graffiti) makes a stop in Haste Germany on the 19th of June 2016 on a regional train service from Bielefeld to Braunschweig via Hannover. Industry observers in Germany have said that such commuter and regional passenger train services are perhaps the most likely to go “driverless” in some years in the future, followed later by long distance / intercity trains, including high speed ICE trains.

However use of driverless trains on a complex and diverse conventional rail network such as Germany’s has not yet been realized. Deutsche Bahn is, according to several press reports, looking at introducing driverless trains in the next five to seven years. “I estimate that by 2021, 2022, 2023 or so, we will be able to have a portion of our network that drive completely automatically,” Deutsche Bahn (DB) chairman Dr. Rüdiger Grube told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) newspaper back on the 16th of June. .

In a related news development Dutch rail infrastructure management company Prorail confirmed at this week's TEN-T Days conference in Rotterdam that it is planning to test automated operation of freight trains on the Betuweroute dedicated freight rail line, which links Rotterdam with the German border near Emmerich. The trials, which have been requested by German Rail (DB) rail freight subsidiary DB Cargo, are due to begin next year and a risk assessment is already underway. Trains will operate with a driver on board during the tests.

The relatively new Betuweroute freight-only rail line is equipped with ETCS Level 2 and there is no interaction with passenger traffic, making it an ideal environment for such tests.

“Automatic driving on a complex rail system where there are fast and slow passenger trains as well as cargo trains is harder than on an U-Bahn [urban subway / metro train system] - but it is possible,” stated Dr. Grube to the newspaper.

The first pilot project for the self-driving trains has already begun in a test field built in the Ore Mountains, near the border with the Czech Republic. DB has also started preparing its workers for the fact that their trains will no longer need them in the future, saying they’ve begun talks with labor representatives and unions. “The employee organizations and unions recognize that the digitalization of the world is changing things,” Dr. Grube said.

The German government as well as top German car-makers like Audi and BMW have already been putting self-driving technology to the test for cars. The German Transport Ministry last year set up a section of am Autobahn (expressway) to test out driver-less vehicles. Modern airliners in both passenger and freight operations, including all recent Boeing aircraft as well as the Airbus A320, A330, A340, A350 and A380 families are already capable of take-off, cruise flight and landing automatically, although two pilots are still required in the cockpit to provide inputs to the autopilot and navigation systems and assume control if and when the autopilot system disconnects or goes off-line for some reason during flight.

The DB train boss said that if the rail industry wants to stay competitive with what’s happening on the Autobahn, they cannot simply sit by and watch. “Otherwise we will fall increasingly behind in productivity. But we want to inspire our customers with modern technology.” Dr. Grube added.

Another aspect of the digitalization of the industry, which DB wants to pursue is to better use the data they already collect via ticket sales and fare card readers and to work with startups on things like digital transport cards and e-commerce via the concepts of “Big Data” and “the internet of things.”

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Britain Votes To Leave Europe – What Now?

Brexit wins – will the UK’s railways pay a price?

By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

UK Voters narrowly approved a proposal yesterday, the 23rd of June, to take the United Kingdom completely out of the European Union. The UK’s membership in the EU dates back to the early 1970s, back when EU was not yet the EU, but rather the European Community (EC), which was an association of nations under a rather comprehensive if not complex set of trade regulations for member countries. At that time provided for tariff-free trade within the member countries with simplification or even elimination of a number of customs procedures and regulations affecting trade of goods and materials between member states – a sort of a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for western Europe long before NAFTA came into existence in North America.

As the years went by members of the then EC felt the need to increase control and oversight of a number of industries related to trade within Europe, including the banking and financial services industries, product safety regulations, labor rules and worker safety conditions, environmental regulations, and transportation. The goal of this increasing oversight and regulation within the EC was to maintain a “level playing field” among member states as well as to intervene directly when a member state attempted to manipulate certain factors – for example highway safety regulations or user fees– to give companies based in that state an unfair advantage over the European states. Similar regulations have appeared in the European rail industry.

By the late 1980s amendments and expansions to the original treaties came into effect, which transformed the EC into the EU. New treaties, which were created at the time, gave the new central government more powers to intervene in various aspects of commerce and transportation, including rail transit. As the Channel Tunnel (or Chunnel) was being bored under the sea floor between France and England, the young EU central government began to flex its power over European railways, including to some extent over those in the UK, with various directives regarding technical standards and competition. During this era the EU started directives to harmonize signal and train control standards across Europe, thus laying the groundwork for today’s ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System), ETCS (European Train Control System) and GSM-R, a wireless digital voice and text communications system based on the GSM cell phone system in wide use with the general public, to replace analog HF and VHF two-way radios and radio-telephones in rail transit operations. The conventional rail network in the UK has in the meantime begun implementing ETCS and GSM-R for train operations on a large scale, as have a number of other EU countries.

Ironically, a major policy change made by the British government to its own rail system, namely the decision made by the Conservative governments of Margret Thatcher and John Major in the early to mid 1990s has now become an EU trend. The Thatcher / Major policy decision to break-up state owned British Rail (BR) and privatize train operations in Britain has over the years become EU policy, albeit heavily modified and under a much slower and paced transition than the sudden and chaotic break-up of BR in the mid to late 1990s. The poorly planned and badly executed break-up of BR ushered in a nearly decade-long era in the UK of shoddy train service, shady passenger train “franchise” companies, several deadly and high profile train accidents, and the eventual bankruptcy of the privatized rail infrastructure company called “Railtrack.” Today in the EU, member states are very strongly discouraged to keep government ownership in rail companies and to allow independent train companies open access to their country’s rail network, something which Britain paved the way for over two decades ago, albeit with a very flawed start to what has become “open access” on Europe’s rail network. The gradual policy shift in the EU rail industry has so far avoided the utter mayhem, which dominated the British rail system in the years following the break-up of BR and opening of the British rail network to competition between train operators.

Also during this era in recent European history, members of the EU developed and negotiated the Shengen treaty, which is the historic agreement that abolished the traditional passport and customs control check points between member states across Europe, thus greatly simplifying movement of passengers and goods by air, road, ship and trains in a large part of Europe. Great Britain decided at the time not to sign the Shengen treaty, a decision which the country has stood by through present day. Therefore the usual passport and customs controls at numerous gateways between the UK and the EU simply remained in-place as before, and were included from day one of operations of passenger and freight trains through the Channel Tunnel, when the Channel Tunnel opened between France and the UK in the early 1990s.

The other major development during this era in Europe was implementation of a common currency, now known as the Euro, to replace local currencies in a number of European countries. In January 1999 the Euro currency became the official currency of eleven EU countries, literally overnight, including France, Germany, Austria, Holland, Belgium, and even the UK’s island neighbor to the west, Ireland. As with Shengen, the UK did not participate in the Euro currency, and has kept the British Pound. The Euro currency affected rail transit by making comparisons of costs and prices of both passenger and freight charges far more transparent to users and customers and making currency transactions for cross border rail operators in the EU somewhat less complex and risky.

Britain’s now impending full exit from the EU will not have any short term effects on day-to-day train operations in either the UK or the EU. Aside from the special case of the Channel Tunnel and the directly connected high speed rail line, known as HS1, from the Tunnel portals near Dover to central London, the rail network in the UK has little interaction with the rail networks in France, Belgium and elsewhere in continental Europe. There are some rail freight hauled between continental Europe and Britain on freight trains, which must consist of wagons built to the more narrow cross section of clearance envelope required for the smaller vertical and horizontal clearances along UK’s railways. But the end of Britain’s EU membership is not expected to dramatically impact traffic volumes on these freight trains.

Likewise, there will be no short or medium effects on passenger train operations with Eurostar, the primary passenger train operator operation between the UK and continental Europe via the Channel Tunnel. If there are effects from “Brexit” out of the EU, they are likely to be long term in nature, but very difficult to predict at this point. The financial implications of Brexit for train operators in both the UK and in Europe will be tied mostly to how trade and the currency markets handle the consequences of decades of free trade between the UK and the rest of Europe coming to a sudden end, and how UK-EU trade develops post Brexit. For train operators, train builders, suppliers, and perhaps even customers and passengers in the long term, there seems to be almost no upside but risks aplenty, especially for EU-UK rail freight, due to UK’s pending exit out of the EU.

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EU Urban Transit Demand Hits 14-Year High

By Dan Templeton
International Railway Journal

A total of 57.9 billion urban public transport journeys were made in the European Union (EU) in 2014 according to a study released by the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) on June 20, its highest level since 2000.

2014 saw the first distinct growth in demand for urban public transport since the start of the economic crisis in 2008.

Bus accounts for 55.8% of the 57.9 billion public transport journeys, while 16.1% were by metro, 14.5% by tram and 13.6% by suburban rail.

While 17 countries reported higher ridership in 2014 than in 2010, only seven of them had sustained growth: Austria, France, Germany, Lithuania, Malta, Sweden and Britain.


EU Rail Trends

Spain, Ireland and Italy, all of which were severely impacted by the crisis, saw a return to growth in 2014 but Bulgaria’s ridership has dropped every year since 2000.

Demand per capita is more than twice as high in capital cities than the national average, with Brussels having the largest average annual percentage growth in demand out of all EU capital cities between 2010 and 2014.

From an item at:

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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Ontario Expanding GO Rail Service
In Durham Regio

Extension From Oshawa To Bowmanville Will Create Jobs And Drive Economic Growth

Office Of The Premier

Ontario is extending GO Transit’s Lakeshore East rail corridor to offer new GO train service from Oshawa to Bowmanville. Extending the GO train network by nearly 20 kilometers and building four new stations will give people in Durham more transit options and help drive economic growth and job creation.

Premier Kathleen Wynne was in Bowmanville today to make the announcement. Through Metrolinx, the province’s regional transportation authority for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), Ontario is working with CP Rail on infrastructure and service planning for the extension, a portion of which will use CP Rail’s existing corridor north of Highway 401.

Expanded rail service will provide Durham Region with more direct connections to the larger GO transit network, helping to reduce congestion in the GTHA and connecting people to jobs. This will also help minimize greenhouse gas pollution by reducing car trips and improve travel times.

Ontario is making the largest investment in public infrastructure in the province’s history -- about $160 billion over 12 years. This is supporting 110,000 jobs every year across the province, with projects such as roads, bridges, transit systems, schools and hospitals. In 2015, the province announced support for more than 325 projects that will keep people and goods moving, connect communities and improve quality of life.

Investing in priority transit infrastructure is part of the government’s economic plan to build Ontario up and deliver on its number-one priority to grow the economy and create jobs. The four-part plan includes investing in talent and skills, including helping more people get and create the jobs of the future by expanding access to high-quality college and university education. The plan is making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario’s history and investing in a low-carbon economy driven by innovative, high-growth, export-oriented businesses. The plan is also helping working Ontarians achieve a more secure retirement.

Quick Facts

Found at:

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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES... Environmental Lines...  

Canada Proposing Locomotive Emissions Regs

By Ben Vient, Managing Editor
Railway Age Magazine

For the first time, the Government of Canada is attempting to regulate air pollutant emissions from locomotives. The proposed regulations are being developed under the Railway Safety Act, with a focus on health and the environment.

Transport Canada, the Canadian government’s transportation department, estimates the proposed rail regulations will cost C$162.3 million over 10 years and reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 9.3% and particulate matter (PM) emissions by 8%, creating an estimated savings to healthcare and the environment of more than C$245 million.

“Aligning locomotive emission standards with the U.S. will provide regulatory certainty for the rail industry and improve the efficiency of the North American transportation system,” said Marc Garneau, Canada’s Minister of Transport. “Most important, these regulations will lead to environmental benefits that protect the health of Canadians and advance green technologies.”

The proposed changes would limit harmful air pollutant emissions, also known as “criteria air contaminants,” from locomotives operated by railway companies under federal jurisdiction through increasingly stringent emission standards and reduced idling. The emission standards set out in these proposed regulations will also align with those of the U.S., which “will improve the efficiency of the transportation system and advance green technologies.”

The Government of Canada has already taken action to reduce emissions from light- and heavy-duty vehicles. Canada has also moved forward with regulations to implement the North American Emission Control Area, which will reduce emissions of key air pollutants from ships, and the adoption of more stringent NOx emission standards for aircraft.

The proposed regulations support the Government of Canada’s efforts to transition to a greener transportation sector. Canada and the U.S. are also working together on approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from locomotives under the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council.

Transport Canada invites public comments to these proposed regulations until September 15, 2016.

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OFF THE MAIN LINE... Off The Main Line...  

A “Ghost Town” On The Railroad
Celebrates Its Heritage

By David Peter Alan

During the first two decades of the 1900s, Thurmond, West Virginia was a classic boomtown. With the huge amounts of coal brought in from area mines, it had the largest revenue on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. Having many coal barons among its patrons, Thurmond’s banks were the richest in the state. Fifteen passenger trains a day came through town -- its depot serving as many as 95,000 passengers a year. The town’s stores and saloons did a remarkable business, and its hotels and boarding houses were constantlyoverflowing.

This is a description on the National Park Service (NPS) website,, of the town of Thurmond, West Virginia. The Park Service owns much of what is left of the town, whose population reached a peak of 462 in 1930, but is now down to five. It is considered a “nominally-inhabited ghost town” which was once a busy railroad division point. Many of its residents worked for the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Railroad, which carried coal from the surrounding towns to ports for shipment. At one time, several passenger trains in each direction stopped at Thurmond. Today, Amtrak’s Cardinal still stops there on its ramble along the New River on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays; at least if anybody wants to get on or off there.

The NPS web site continues its description of Thurmond this way:

Today, the town of Thurmond remains surprisingly untouched by modern development. It is a link to our past, and a town with many stories to tell. New River Gorge National River invites visitors to experience the impact of the industrial revolution, and the mission of the National Park Service to preserve our nation’s heritage.

The train station, known as the Thurmond Depot, is now a visitors’ center and a museum about Thurmond, and life in the town as it was when the C&O was a busy coal-carrying railroad.

Although Thurmond is technically on the main line of the former C&O Railroad, now owned by CSX, it is not normally a destination for tourists. The fact that an Amtrak train still stops there is an accident of history. Amtrak eliminated several stops when it took over operation of the train from the C&O in 1971, but Thurmond was not one of them.

The town does not have sidewalks. The railroad was its “main street”; now memorialized by three brick commercial buildings that are stabilized, yet stand empty. Park rangers lead walking tours, in which they pass by the old buildings, the last functioning store and post office in town (which closed in 1995), and the abandoned tower that was used to load coal onto rail cars for shipment. There are houses in town, located on winding streets on the side of a mountain above the railroad and the riverfront. Most of these are stabilized but empty; a few are still used by the town’s few remaining “official” residents or Park Service employees who are temporarily assigned there.


Brian M. Powell via Wikipedia

Thurmond Depot. The station is now a visitor center and rail museum,

The town has a storied past. Guides from the C&O Railway Historical Society, based in Clifton Forge, ride the Cardinal and tell other riders stories about the region and the history of the railroad. It was built by Collis P. Huntington, who had previously built the Central Pacific from Sacramento, California eastward as part of the first transcontinental rail line. According to local legend, coal miners in the area used to say: “There is no law west of Hinton and no God west of Thurmond.” There is also a legend that the Dun Glen Hotel across the river from Thurmond, which burned down in 1930, hosted a poker game which ran continuously from 1916 until 1927.

Thurmond is considerably more sedate today but, like the mythical Brigadoon, it comes alive once a year; on the second Sunday of August for the Thurmond Reunion. This writer attended the festivities last summer; one of the few people at the event who did not have ties to the town. Four other people joined this writer in getting off the train at Thurmond that morning, but they were not going to the event. A local resident met this writer at the train and mentioned that 12:00 would be a good time to show up for the picnic and meet some other attendees before lunch began at 1:00. The train was late; it arrived about 11:00, instead of the scheduled time at 9:40. A park ranger was starting a walking tour form the station at that time, and the tour provided an opportunity to get the flavor of what Thurmond looked like in its more-active days. Except for a short newly-constructed brick walkway, there are no sidewalks in town, and the railroad itself is “Main Street” in Thurmond. For the event, the Thurmond Bank building was open for exploration. The bank itself closed in 1931, a victim of the Depression.

The reunion was held in a picnic ground on the other side of the New River, on the site of the old Dun Glen Hotel. Coffee and lemonade were available before lunch time, and so was an opportunity to meet some former residents of Thurmond, as they swapped stories about the town. They talked about the coal miners they knew and the railroad men who were based at the C&O Depot. They remembered the dances on Saturday nights and the stores along the tracks.

The Thurmond Reunion drew people from long distances; not only in terms of geography, but also in terms of time. Bob Kelly had left Thurmond in 1936, but came back for the Reunion. Larry Richmond, a retired police officer, is a regular attendee. He told this writer: “When we started 34 years ago, we had hundreds of people attending.” He continued: “Many have passed on” and added that now, their kids come to visit. Richmond left Thurmond to attend college on the G.I. Bill, had a career with the National Security Agency, and now lives in Maryland. He has not forgotten Thurmond, and told this writer: “There isn’t a lot here, but you were never bored. Everybody took care of everybody else. You couldn’t have asked for a better place to grow up.” One of Richmond’s favorite memories from his youth in the 1960s was a favorite “kissing spot” by the river. Walter Ashby, a veteran of the Vietnam War, reminisced about playing “Tag” during his childhood in Thurmond. “It” would run “clear out of town” he said. Virgil Berry, who now lives elsewhere in West Virginia, said: “we had reunions before the NPS came – we still have our camaraderie.”

About 80 people attended the event, which evoked another era, when the railroad presided over a rural lifestyle that the residents enjoyed. The food was set out on long tables, as attendees anticipated the feast which they would soon enjoy. There was one rule that seemed unusual at first: no fried chicken allowed. According to one of the organizers of the event, everybody who brought fried chicken had the commercial variety and, because it was not homemade, people did not eat it. In the Southern tradition, lunch began with a Christian prayer. After that, it was time to grab a plate and fill it up. The ham, baked beans, salads and other Southern culinary delights were homemade, and everybody enjoyed them. The same was true for the desserts. There were some commercial desserts and commercial fried chicken from people who violated the rule, but these items were not popular.

After lunch, historians from the National Park Service led a tour, as part of an oral history project. They used a van, previously owned by the Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs (a high-end resort formerly owned by the C&O and best-known for its championship-level golf course), and now owned by the community. The van wound its way up the side of the hill and around the houses in town, while former residents told stories of the times they had when they lived in those houses.

Park Ranger Leah Perkowski-Sisk led the tour and photographed former residents as they told stories about their days in Thurmond. “It’s not a ghost town” she said, and continued: “What we want to do is bring it back to life, so people can relate to what it was like when people lived here.”

By 4:00, the event was winding down. It was time for people to say good-bye to their old friends from Thurmond and make plans to come back next year. This writer had a little more time to spend in the old yellow Depot (the original color, although the C&O had later painted it “battleship gray”), learning about life in a railroad town in days gone by. A few attendees from the picnic were still swapping stories as late as 5:00, but they left shortly thereafter. At 5:20, the Park Service rangers locked up the Depot and went home, after pointing out a bench by the bridge, where riders sit and wait for the train.

For the next two hours, there was not another person to be seen, and only an occasional automobile on the single motor-vehicle lane; an outrigger which had been added to the railroad bridge, apparently retrofitted many years after the original construction. The train arrived at 7:24, after two hours of eerie silence. This writer was then on the way to Chicago. Thurmond had completed its day, and there is another scheduled for August 13th of this year.

A few people still live in Thurmond, and many more remember it. Larry Richmond said: “This isn’t a place you left and never looked back.” Missy Dragan, one of the town’s five “official” residents, told this writer: “We keep busy all the time” and extended an invitation to visit another time and see how busy the people of Thurmond are. It might be interesting to take her up on that someday.

Although few people live in Thurmond today, the town has a web site: The site contains pictures of the town, and mentions two other annual summer events: Railroad Day (held in July) and the Thurmond Triathlon (biking, swimming and running; held the first Sunday in August, the Sunday before the Thurmond Reunion).

There is more information about Thurmond on the National Park Service web site, Thurmond is part of the NPS New River Gorge unit. The NPS site contains information about Thurmond’s history, historic and recent pictures of the town, information about exploring the New River Gorge and a lesson plan, developed as part of the “Teaching with Historic Places” series.

From time to time through the summer, we will bring you “Off the Main Line” features about destinations that are not accessible by rail or intercity buses. Without an automobile, these places are only accessible on community transportation. These trips require diligent and careful planning, but the reward is the opportunity to visit a place with history and local color, located “off the beaten path.”

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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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