The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Nov 21, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 47

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...

Where Can “Wick” Moorman Take Amtrak?
  Funding Lines…
APTA Calls For Additional Funds To Help
   Commuter Railroads Implement PTC
Metra Board Votes To Increase Fares By
   5.8 Percent In 2017
  Expansion Lines…
Sen. Murphy To Get Update On Construction Of
   New Haven-Hartford Rail Line
  High-Speed Lines…
Not Made In America? California Bullet Train
   Officials Seek Exemption To Buy Foreign Parts
  Safety Lines…
NTSB Unveils Two-Year Most Wanted List
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Builders Lines…
The Avelia Liberty: Transforming The
   Northeast Corridor
  Maintenance Lines…
MBTA Awards $17.9 Million Contract To Upgrade
   Red And Orange Line Infrastructure
  Across The Pond…
HS2 Phase 2 Plans Are A ‘Shot In The Arm’
   For UK Economy
UK Government Defers Four Great Western
   Electrification Projects
  To The North…
Ministries Collecting Input For Multimodal
   Transportation Strategy For Northern Ontario
  Publication Notes …

COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Where Can “Wick” Moorman Take Amtrak?

By David Peter Alan
Contributing Editor
Destination: Freedom

It has now been almost three months since Charles W. “Wick” Moorman became President of Amtrak, succeeding Joseph Boardman.  This writer had been looking forward to new leadership at Amtrak, and it appears that others in the rider-advocacy community felt the same way.  Now that Moorman is getting settled into the job, we are looking for some positive changes at “America’s Railroad.”

It seems at first blush that Moorman’s greatest contribution could be a change in Amtrak’s corporate culture.  It appears that morale was very low among at least some Amtrak employees toward the end of the Boardman Administration.  Moorman is an experienced “railroad man” who knows what is happening on the railroad and is familiar with operations.  He has made some changes to the management structure at Amtrak, and time will tell whether or not they make a significant difference.  Boardman had received low marks for removing managers who were popular with advocates and other Amtrak employees.  If Moorman is perceived as recognizing employees who perform well, rather than merely for their personal loyalty, it should help employee morale.  

Moorman had long experience at Norfolk Southern (NS), a Class I freight-carrying railroad that hosts several Amtrak trains.  He brings the perspective of a freight-railroad executive to Amtrak.  In theory, that should help improve relations between Amtrak and the host railroads.  In practice, that may not happen.  The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has promulgated on-time-performance (OTP) standards that measure OTP at intermediate stops; not only at the final terminal for a train.  It also considers a train “late” if it runs behind its scheduled time by more than fifteen minutes.  The tolerance was previously thirty minutes.  The host railroads have fought this standard vigorously, because they are penalized if they prevent Amtrak trains from achieving acceptable OTP.  The host railroads are appealing in court against the new rules, hoping that the courts will block their implementation.  Union Pacific (UP) filed in the Eighth Circuit Court, while others have filed actions in the D.C. Circuit court. It appears unlikely that Moorman can forge improved relations between Amtrak and the host railroads while they are adversaries in litigation.  Still, maybe he can do that after the case is over.

It may help politically that Moorman came from a private-sector railroad, rather than a public-sector railroad or transportation department.  Democrats are usually friendly to Amtrak, but many of them represent districts in the Northeast and other places where Amtrak is popular and operates corridors with several daily trains.  Republicans are usually less friendly to Amtrak, and they represent areas where there is only one Amtrak train per day or, worse, no trains at all.  Amtrak does not have many friends where it does not run many trains, so arguments about social equity, transportation alternatives, or Amtrak’s increasing ridership are not particularly persuasive.  If Moorman can use his private-sector experience to argue that Amtrak is good for business and brings more money into the nation’s coffers than it costs the government, Republicans and Democrats alike might listen.  This could be true both in Congress and in some state legislatures.

These are not the issues that riders notice, and riders have been complaining lately.  Amtrak has cut amenities and services, to the point that more overnight trains are running east of Chicago and New Orleans without dining cars than with them.  Other amenities, like pillows for coach passengers and wine and cheese for sleeping car passengers, disappeared under Boardman.  If Moorman can improve the Amtrak experience for customers, he will also improve the railroad’s revenue.  Such an outcome will please not only the customers, but managers, other employees and elected leaders, too.

The Rail Users’ Network (RUN) has called on Moorman to exercise a customer-focused leadership at Amtrak, and it appears reasonable that other advocates would agree.  Along the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and in other places, Amtrak trains are part of the overall transportation mix.  Trains constitute a  means for getting form one place to another, and Amtrak riders tend to be loyal to their trains.  The long-distance trains, which connect the Amtrak corridors, are different.  They only run once each day or less, and different people use them for different reasons.  Some take relatively-short rides to the nearest city and appreciate the train because it is the most comfortable transportation mode, or the only mode, that can take them there.  Others are vacationers, looking to enjoy the ride and see the scenery.  There are almost as many reasons for riding as there are riders.  It is Moorman’s job to show them that Amtrak appreciates their business.

Essentially, there are three Amtraks: the NEC, the state-supported corridors and trains in other places, and the long-distance trains.  The services Amtrak offers and the funding arrangements differ, sometimes from one train to another.  Still, customers are customers, and they all want to know that they will have a positive experience on the Amtrak train which they ride.  Moorman has plenty of experience pleasing freight shippers, so he should also know how to please Amtrak’s passengers.

Moorman has structured his pay so his compensation will be based on a performance bonus for improving Amtrak, rather than a salary.  If that is not an incentive for him to do his job well, it is difficult to imagine what is.  Riders want better trains than they have now, and many riders and their advocates want the Amtrak network to expand.  Amtrak does not have enough equipment to add new services, with the possible exception of running the Cardinal every day, which requires only one additional set of equipment.  There are baggage cars in service, but the passenger cars ordered for the long-distance trains that run to and from New York are long-overdue.  Maybe Moorman can succeed in speeding up the production of those cars, where Boardman failed.  This writer is not alone in avoiding Amtrak food, which has gotten significantly worse since pre-prepared food replaced meals prepared on board, back in 2005.  This writer has heard a report that Moorman tried Amtrak food and did not like it, so maybe he will take the necessary steps to improve it.  

There is also Amtrak’s role in providing and financing its trains.  The states must now pay the entire cost of running state-supported trains, and local rail operations along the Northeast Corridor (NEC) must now pay more for the use of Amtrak’s railroad, as well.  Moorman must convince these states and local railroads, essentially all of which are cash-strapped, that Amtrak trains and the use of Amtrak’s track are good investments.  Regarding the NEC itself, Moorman must give strong consideration to how Amtrak will be able to keep the NEC in a state of good repair, especially considering the cost of doing so.  There are other proposals under discussion, such as the AIRNet21 plan, which would establish a separate Infrastructure Management Organization (IMO) to own and maintain the railroad.  Under that plan, Amtrak, local railroads in the Northeast (such as NJ Transit and SEPTA) and other potential service providers would rent trackage rights from the IMO.

There are a number of rumors circulating around the advocacy community, which this writer has heard, although rumors are very different from official announcements.  It appears that the new dining cars that Amtrak has ordered will be delivered soon, so dining service might return to the Silver Star, a thirty-hour trip between New York and Miami.  There is also a rumor that Brian Rosenwald, a manager who Boardman forced into retirement, may come back.  Rosenwald established a strong positive reputation with advocates and advocacy organizations like the Rail Users’ Network (RUN) and the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP).  If Moorman invites him to resume his career at Amtrak, that would constitute a major step toward declaring loyalty to Amtrak’s customers.

This writer recently visited the Franklin D. Roosevelt Museum in Hyde Park, New York, a site administered by the National Park Service and accessible by train and shuttle bus from New York City (see report on the Roosevelt Ride bus in the October 31st issue of D:F).  Roosevelt took office in 1933, at the depth of the Great Depression, when a large segment of the population was out of work and public morale was at its lowest point since the Civil War, seventy years earlier.  Roosevelt established himself as a leader by taking dramatic steps to demonstrate that he was now in charge of the country, and that he was prepared to take action on many fronts.  The sheer amount of action that he took during his first 100 days in office became legendary in American history.

Rumors abound, but official announcements from Amtrak do not.  It is now almost three months since Wick Moorman started his job at Amtrak.  It is time for him to take some dramatic action to show the riding public and their advocates that he is in charge at Amtrak, and that he will make changes that will benefit Amtrak’s riders.  Time is growing short.  This writer has heard that, since Moorman came to Amtrak, flowers have returned to the tables in the dining cars.  That is an improvement, but a very minor one.  We need much more, and we are looking forward to it.

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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

APTA Calls For Additional Funds To Help
Commuter Railroads Implement PTC

By Kyra Senese
Rail, Track, And Structures

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is calling on Congress to appropriate funds toward the commuter rail industry’s positive train control (PTC) implementation initiatives in light of the progress the association says the industry has made in these efforts so far.

APTA’s updated analyses of the commuter rail industry show the market is making major progress in implementing PTC and is on track to meet the congressional deadlines.

APTA’s latest analyses revealed the following:

“The commuter rail industry has made great strides in implementing [PTC],” said APTA Acting President and CEO Richard A. White. “This progress on this complex safety technology demonstrates our ongoing commitment to our number one priority of safety.”

APTA says because PTC delivery is highly complicated, the industry requires the development of safety critical software; installations on 3,150 miles of track; 3,400 locomotives; 1,000 radio towers; and training more than 13,000 employees.

“The installation of PTC is a heavy lift for the commuter rail industry. From a technical standpoint, PTC was not a mature technology when Congress mandated it in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008,” White explained. “A number of challenges had to be addressed, not just from the technology aspect, but in costs, scarce qualified resources, and adequate access to track and locomotives for installation and testing.”

APTA based its analyses on surveys of its members and assessments of the quarterly reports submitted to the FRA. The association also showed that given the priority of PTC, significant investment backlog remains for use toward state of good repair and expansion projects, such as upgrades and replacements of track, bridges, rolling stock and facilities.

PTC implementation is anticipated to cost the commuter rail industry more than $3.5 billion, a figure that includes more than $16 million in spectrum acquisition, as well as an annual $100 million in additional maintenance fees. As of October 2016, APTA says spending by the commuter railroads is estimated at more than $1.5 billion.

Funding remains a critical concern for the commuter rail agencies, all of which are publicly funded. The association says $75 million has been awarded to commuter rail agencies thus far through federal grants intended specifically for PTC implementation.  Congress authorized an additional $199 million, but APTA says those funds have yet to be appropriated. A $967 million loan from the U.S. Department of Transportation was also made available to New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority in April 2015 to allow for PTC installation on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad.

“It is urgent that Congress appropriate additional dollars so the commuter rail industry has the resources to continue their aggressive actions to meet this congressional deadline,” White added.

From an item at:

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Metra Board Votes To Increase Fares
By 5.8 Percent In 2017

By Mary Wisniewski
Chicago Tribune

Metra’s board last Friday voted to approve its third rate increase in three years, which would raise fares in 2017 by $11.75 for a monthly pass.

Under a $1.06 billion budget for 2017 approved by the board, fares for the commuter rail service’s 150,000 daily commuters will increase by an average of 5.8 percent, starting Feb. 1. This follows a 2 percent increase approved for this year and an 11 percent increase that went into effect in 2015.

The increase is part of a 10-year, $2.4 billion modernization plan put forward in 2014 that will raise fares annually to help pay for modernizing the agency’s rail fleet. The entire budget for 2017 approved Friday is $781.2 million for operating costs and $279.5 million in capital costs.

The 9-1 vote — board member Martin Oberman cast the sole “no” vote — came despite nearly 200 comments from commuters complaining about another increase.

“No one likes to pay higher fares, but unfortunately we can’t ignore our need for more money to invest in our system,” Metra executive director and CEO Don Orseno said in a news release. “We hope our customers understand that we are trying to address a serious capital funding shortfall as best we can.”

The fare increase would generate an additional $16.1 million for Metra’s capital program, a tiny portion of what Metra says are $11.7 billion in capital needs. The agency has been waiting for the state to enact a capital budget, and is behind in terms of ongoing maintenance and the purchase of new equipment.

The fare increase would mean a 25-cent jump in adult one-way tickets, a $2.75 increase for 10 rides and an $11.75 increase on monthly passes, which are used for most of the trips on the system. Reduced-fare riders will pay an extra 25 cents for one-way tickets, $1.50 more on 10-ride passes and $7.50 more on monthly passes.

Hardest hit will be commuters within the city and inner-ring suburbs in zones A through D. They will see pass prices increase 7.4 percent to 12.3 percent.

The Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) proposed 2017 budget, released late last month, does not contain a fare increase for the coming fiscal year.

Some board members questioned why attendance was so low at public hearings Nov. 2 and 3 throughout the region. Most comments came online.

Vice chair Romayne Brown wondered if the final World Series game Nov. 2 might have been a factor in turnout, but Oberman noted that attendance has always been low.

“For the previous 107 years, no one came to our hearings either,” Oberman said jokingly, referring to the Chicago Cubs’ long championship drought, finally broken with the recent World Series win.

The 2017 operating budget increases costs by $21.4 million, due in part to increases in employee health care costs and an average 3 percent wage boost.

From an article at:

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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Sen. Murphy To Get Update On Construction
Of New Haven-Hartford Rail Line

By Brandon Stokes
News 8 Producer (CT)

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)  will receive an update on the progress of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail line on Monday.

Sen. Murphy will see the “track construction machine,” which is currently building a second track parallel to the existing single track that is used by Amtrak trains.  

This double-tracking will allow more frequent train service and make for easier commuter rail service between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield.

Construction is scheduled to be completed and service is expected to launch in January 2018.

Found at:

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

Not Made In America? California Bullet Train
Officials Seek Exemption To Buy Foreign Parts

By Ralph Vartabedian
San Diego Union-Tribune

The California bullet train agency has begun a legal effort to import a significant amount of foreign equipment for its future Los Angeles-to-San Francisco system, a move that could prove politically controversial.

The Federal Railroad Administration disclosed last week that the state’s High-Speed Rail Authority was seeking exemptions from the Buy American Act on more than a dozen critical train parts —  including motors, gearboxes, axles, wheels, brakes, derailment mitigation devices, undercarriages and even the entire aluminum car body shells.

The rail authority’s 2016 business plan estimated the trains would cost about $3.4 billion, making them one of the most expensive parts of the system.

While advanced bullet trains currently cannot be made in the U.S., the exemption could make it less likely that the country ever develops such an industry, according to academic experts and trade groups.

Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said the train exemptions would fall into the same “dynamic” as California’s decision to use imported Chinese steel components for the Bay Bridge — a decision that caused engineering problems, delays and cost increases.

“If this waiver is granted, it virtually guarantees that there will be no chance for a domestic high-speed rail industry to take root in this country,” Paul said. “California could be a nationwide leader in this industry.”

According to the group, a collaboration of U.S. manufacturing companies and labor unions, the original intent of the federal government investing billions of dollars into the state’s high-speed rail program was to develop a domestic industry in the first place.

Importing something as important as the trains could further jeopardize any chance of additional federal funding, Paul said. “I find it hard to believe that the Trump administration would fund a project that would be made in China,” he said. “Why not make it here?”

In a Sept. 16  letter to Sarah Feinberg, chief of the Federal Railroad Administration, the rail authority said that the needed train equipment was not being manufactured in the U.S., that safety was at issue and trying to build the components here would increase the cost of each train.

The authority asked for a separate exemption for rail car bogies, the massive undercarriages that connect the wheels and axles to the car body. The request indicates that the rail authority plans eventually to assemble undercarriages in the U.S. with foreign-made parts. The exemption application for other parts does not make that explicit commitment.

“The authority has always stated that this high-speed rail project and the Buy America provision will make it worthwhile for high-speed train manufacturers to transfer knowledge and be located in the U.S., create jobs and deliver 21st century, state-of-the-art trainsets,” spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alley said in an email.

The exemption request for high-speed electric train parts was the second one to land at the agency, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Officials granted Amtrak a waiver last year to purchase equipment to be used on its Acela line along the East Coast. The California authority cited the Amtrak exemption as a basis for its request. Amtrak had claimed setting up a domestic factory for the components would add $2 million to the cost of each train it purchased.

The authority said a “review of potential risks and hazards associated with an imperfect transfer of technology” could result in errors, arguing that the work should be conducted at existing facilities of foreign vendors.

Matthew Lehner, a spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration, said a panel of experts on safety, policy and legal matters would review the request. Even if the exemption were granted, the trains will still have to be assembled in the U.S., he said.

Lehner said the waiver “represents likely less than 20%” of the cost of each train.

The  review includes a public comment period that closes Nov. 28, and federal officials could take months to reach a decision. That timing leaves it unclear whether the Obama administration will act on the request or leave it to the incoming Trump administration.

Richard Tolmach, president of the California Rail Foundation, said the 20% figure seemed low for the size of exemption request. He noted that the exemption granted to Amtrak, which was intended to hold down the cost of trains, “failed miserably, because they will be the most expensive passenger trains ever built.”

Siemens, a German conglomerate, has been seeking the California rail car business for years and said it would expand its existing plant in Sacramento. Tolmach said Siemens should be able to get close to complying with the Buy American Act.

The Bay Bridge often is held up as an example of a poor decision to use foreign suppliers for U.S. infrastructure projects.

Under a carefully crafted political deal, the bridge was divided into two separate projects — one under federal jurisdiction close to Oakland and a central span that the state would pay for. The move bypassed the Buy American Act for the central span and allowed the bridge sections to be outsourced to China. The attempt to save money backfired and contributed to a tripling of the cost to more than $6 billion.

Foreign nations often are more forceful in requiring U.S. companies to share their technology in exchange for supply contracts. Many experts say the U.S. should have even greater leverage, given the size of its economy.

A 2015 study led by Robert Pollin, a University of Massachusetts-Amherst economics professor, concluded that the Buy American Act could be a significant catalyst for strengthening U.S. manufacturing, including a rail car industry.

“Of course, we can build high-speed rail trains,” Pollin said. “We have massive manufacturing capacity.”

Obama administration officials have acknowledged that too many waivers had been granted in the past and that they intended to tighten the practice, Pollin said, adding he had found little documentation to show that that was happening. In general, state and local agencies want the waivers in order to get lowball bids on projects, he said.

“The law should be seen as an opportunity to advance U.S manufacturing,” he said.

Found at:

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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

NTSB Unveils Two-Year Most Wanted List

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Rail, Track, And Structures

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) unveiled its 2017-2018 Most Wanted List, implementing a new two-year cycle as opposed to the annual one previously used.

NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart explained the two-year cycle will help the board focus its “advocacy efforts on sustained progress.”

“We will take stock at the one-year mark, note what progress has been made and decide what additional improvements are needed,” said Chairman Hart.

Chairman Hart noted that 2017 will mark NTSB’s 50th anniversary and while much progress has been made in transportation safety, he cited increased highway fatalities as one statistic that served as a reminder that “safety is not a destination, but a continuing journey, and our efforts to improve safety must never stop.”

This installment of the Most Wanted List includes 10 action items NTSB will focus on in 2017 and 2018:

With the exception of “Prevent Loss of Control in Flight in General Aviation,” the rail industry is concerned in all other NTSB action items. The list includes a call to implement Positive Train Control, ensure the safe movement of hazardous materials via rail, increase monitoring and oversight of rail transit safety, eliminate operator distractions, expand the use of data recorders and strengthen occupant protection.

Additionally, a trio of action items focuses on worker health including an item that calls for policies to ensure personnel are medically fit for duty, making sure personnel receive adequate rest to reduce fatigue-related accidents and an end to alcohol and other drug impairments in transportation.

The new list is substantially similar to the 2016 list, but where NTSB had separated collision avoidance technology implementation in highway and rail applications as two items in 2015, they are combined into a single item in the new list. “Ensure the Safe Shipment of Hazardous Materials,” was added to the list this year.

From an article at:

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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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BUILDERS LINES... Builders Lines...  

The Avelia Liberty: Transforming
The Northeast Corridor

Alstom Has Announced That It Will Design And Build 28 New Trains For Amtrak,
To Run On The Northeast Corridor. But, The $2bn Deal Is Just One Part
Of A Wider Plan To Transform This Vital Stretch Of The Route.

By Gary Peters
Railway Technology

The US Northeast Corridor (NEC) stretches across approximately 457 miles, linking the economic heartlands of Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Its importance is growing; Amtrak’s Acela service has witnessed an increase from 2.4 million passengers in 2002 to 3.5 million in 2014, while annual ridership on the NEC as a whole – including other commuter services – is 750,000 daily and 260 million trips annually.

“The north eastern US is one of the largest economic generators [in the country],” says Amtrak’s senior vice president of strategic rail initiatives, Mark Yachmetz. “The importance of the railroads is in connecting the major cities.”

The growth poses some important questions: how do you keep up with demand? And, how to ensure the service is fit for the future? Enter Alstom’s new Avelia Liberty high speed train, as well as Amtrak’s overall NEC transformation project.

Amtrak’s current service uses the Acela trains, but the Liberty will, says Alstom, carry up to 33% more passengers, once they enter revenue service in 2021. “[It also has} 20% less energy consumption, 30% reduction in train weight resulting in less wear and tear on the infrastructure, and the ability to reach speeds up to 186 mph in its current configuration,” says Alstom’s North American vice president for marketing and strategy, Scott Sherin. However, the train will initially operate at 160 mph.


Image via Railway Technology

Designer’s Concept image:  The Avelia Liberty trainset

A Train Fit For The Future?

One of the Liberty’s key selling points is its ability to change to fit the times. The speed can be increased to 350 km/h, although that is dependent on the infrastructure on which it is running.

However, what both companies are pushing is “anticipative active tilting”, or, in other words, traversing curves at higher speeds than is currently possible. For the NEC, that is paramount.

“We operate on a 19th century alignment,” explains Yachmetz. “The cities of the northeast grew around our railroad, which was created, quite frankly, when a high speed train was 50-60mph, not 200mph.

“So, we have a significant amount of curvature on the route, which means that being able to operate relatively fast in that kind of environment is really a challenge.” Some of the infrastructure is up to 100 years old, adds Yachmetz, “so we need to accommodate that and also the ongoing challenge of operating in a very dense rail environment”.

The Liberty will tilt up to seven degrees, helping Amtrak solve the question of “how do you fit the new service into those challenges?”, adds Yachmetz.

This jump in technology, from the Acela model, will also mean a new training program for Amtrak, including engineers, drivers and maintenance staff, supported by an agreement with Alstom for technical support and spare components.

Sherin says: “With journey time reduction and an increased number of seats, the Liberty will drive [a further] increase in ridership on the NEC. This will reduce the number of flights between cities like Washington, D.C, New York City and Boston, and reduce the traffic on Interstate 95 that connects those cities.”

For Amtrak, it is very much about understanding how the Liberty will run over the whole of its 30-year life, not just the immediate changes it will provide when it takes to the tracks in a few years.

The NEC’s Transformation

Yachmetz says they are “hopeful” that during these thirty years, “we will have stretches of track that we can rebuild to operate at the top speed and reduce the journey times between those three major markets”, which is key to Amtrak’s vision for how the NEC will look and feel decades from now.

Between 1976 and 1998, $4bn was invested in the route, but it’s testament to how quickly the sector is growing and passenger demands are changing that in 2010, Amtrak unveiled a “master plan” for high speed rail. A 2012 Amtrak report listed infrastructure age and condition as “major considerations”, as well as taking into account that a large percentage of the Northeast population lives within 25 miles of the railway, further underlining its importance to the regional economy and communities it serves.

“The ultimate vision, to have a high speed railroad, [will have to sit alongside] our [other] services, because it’s too important to the regional economy, so we have to maintain the services,” Yachmetz adds.

The “vision” includes two overlapping programs: upgrades to existing infrastructure – financed in part by a $2.45bn loan from the Federal Railroad Administration’s railroad rehabilitation and improvement financing initiative – and the high-speed rail program, which is expected to cost $151bn and could be completed by 2040.

Infrastructure work is already underway, including at Washington Union Station, where the concourse is getting an overhaul.

Yachmetz is confident of making significant progress next year; at the moment Amtrak is waiting on the completion of federal environmental studies, although they are “nearly complete”. It’s also important, he adds, that both major political parties in the US are committed to investing in infrastructure.

“We’re doing station work at some of our key sites in Washington and New York,” Yachmetz explains, “and we are also going to look for reliability improvements, [including] upgrading tracks and building new train platforms, as the growth in commuter traffic is starting to impact the reliability of our inter-city trains.”

For now, there’s plenty to keep minds occupied. For the Liberty train, as well as station upgrades, Yachmetz and his team are confirming final design specs. “We’re all moving towards a goal of everything being in place by 2020,” he says, “when we being the revenue service of the Avelia Liberty. That’s a pretty aggressive schedule.”
In many ways, the NEC is similar to other ageing routes across the globe; growth in passenger numbers and no sign of demand slowing down. It’s another example of how rail is living in an age of renewal.

From an item at:

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MAINTENANCE LINES... Maintenance Lines...  

MBTA Awards $17.9 Million Contract To
Upgrade Red And Orange Line Infrastructure

From A MassDOT/MBTA Press Release

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Fiscal and Management Control Board  has awarded a $17.9 million construction contract to J.F. White Contracting Co. to fund infrastructure improvements on the Red Line and Orange Line.

The contract with J.F. White, who was the low bidder, will cover improved and expanded infrastructure at the T’s Wellington maintenance and storage yard in Medford. Workers will replace train tracks, modify track turnouts and improve traction power and signal infrastructure. The work is being done to handle the delivery of new Orange and Red Line cars that are to be built in Springfield.

The track work will provide additional vehicle storage to support the expanded fleet of Orange and Red Line vehicles.

The work at Wellington includes:

The new Orange and Red Line vehicles are needed to replace the MBTA’s 32-year-old Orange Line cars, and 44-year-old Red Line cars. A new factory under construction in Springfield, MA. will deliver a total of 284 subway cars: 132 for the Red Line, and 152 for the Orange Line. The first cars are scheduled to be delivered in March 2018.

These additional vehicles will increase line capacity and decrease passenger wait times, cutting the intervals between trains from 5-6 minutes to 4 minutes during rush hours.

The T’s new vehicle procurement program is part of a wider effort that includes infrastructure improvements, signal upgrades and continued state of good repair projects. The MBTA is also continuing efforts to accelerate the pace of MBTA spending on state of good repair and other capital projects to improve the safety, reliability and performance of the system.

For additional information contact the  MassDOT Press Office at: 857-368-8500

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ACROSSTHEPOND... Across The Pond...  

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

HS2 Phase 2 Plans Are A ‘Shot In The Arm’
For UK Economy

Planning For Britain’s First New High Speed Rail Corridor
In Two Decades Begin To Firm Up

Via Railnews UK

The UK Government has set out its plans for Phase 2 of the HS2 high speed rail corridor project, which will enable high speed trains operation between West Midlands and Crewe by 2027 and then to Manchester, East Midlands, South Yorkshire and Leeds, England by 2033.  UK government-owned developer HS2 Ltd has also awarded contracts worth a total of £ 900 million (US $1.1 billion) to several consortia so that construction of Phase 1 between London and the West Midlands can begin next year.  The news has been greeted by the TUC (Trade Unions Council, a pro-labor / pro-worker organization) as a ‘much-needed shot in the arm for the British economy’, while opponents to the scheme have repeated their claims that the project is unnecessary and destructive.


Image: Lok Report

Potential route of all new HS2 Phase 2A and Phase 2B high speed rail lines in central and northern England.

HS2 is an ambitious multi-decade project to construct a Y-shaped high speed rail corridor from central London to northern England with Manchester on the western side of the “Y” and Leeds on the eastern side or branch of the “Y”.  HS2 Phase One is the part of the project to build the lower or southern branch of the “Y” of the rail corridor from London to Birmingham, Phase 2a is the phase for the eastern branch from Birmingham to Manchester and Phase 2b for the western branch to Sheffield, Leeds and eventually to Newcastle.  The proposed HS2 high speed rail corridor will be connected to the existing HS1 corridor, which runs between central London and Folkerstone, where the Channel Tunnel to France begins, and to the existing “East Coast” and “West Coast” main line corridors to Newcastle and Manchester respectively.  The entire HS2 rail corridor will be electrified with overhead catenary using 25 kV at 50 Hz AC, which is the existing 50 year-old electrification standard in Great Britain on various other rail lines with overhead catenary and the preferred rail electrification standard across Europe and in a number of other countries such as Turkey, Iran, China and a number of other countries and regions.  

There is still some uncertainty about the route of HS2 Phase 2b, mainly through South Yorkshire. The first proposal was to build a new station at Meadowhall in Sheffield, which is outside the city centre. This has since been replaced by a revised plan to divert the High Speed line east of Sheffield itself and serve the city by a spur which would take HS2 trains over the existing railway to the city’s main station. A decision on this proposal, which came from HS2 chairman David Higgins, is expected next year. There is opposition to the idea, partly because it could mean the loss of part of a new housing estate in the Doncaster area.

A ‘route refinement consultation’ has been launched on the 15th of November 2016 about the South Yorkshire proposals and another six relatively minor changes elsewhere. These include replacing a proposed tunnel under East Midlands Airport with a surface diversion, moving the previously proposed depot at Golborne to a site north of Crewe and adjusting the approach to Manchester Piccadilly up to 370 meters eastwards to avoid directly affecting residential properties and a school.

The UK Government said HS2 will ‘significantly increase capacity on our congested railways’, generate jobs, skills and growth and carry more than 100 million passengers a year. More than 1,400 million passengers are carried annually on National Rail at the moment.  Some of the detailed benefits are said to be the creation of around 25,000 jobs during construction as well as 2,000 apprenticeships.  It will also support growth in the wider economy, worth an additional 100,000 jobs.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “Our railways owe much to the Victorian engineers who pioneered them, but we cannot rest on their legacy when we face overcrowding and capacity problems.  HS2 is an ambitious and exciting project and the government is seizing the opportunity it offers to build a transport network fit for the 21st century; one that works for all and makes clear to the world that Britain remains open for business.  The full HS2 route will be a game-changer for the country that will slash journey times and perhaps most importantly give rail passengers on the existing network thousands of extra seats every day. They represent the greatest upgrade to our railway in living memory.”

Mr. Grayling added: “But while it will bring significant benefits, I recognize the difficulties faced by communities along the route.  They will be treated with fairness, compassion and respect and, as with Phase One, we intend to introduce further compensation which goes over and above what is required by law.”

The UK Department for Transport has issued safeguarding directions for the preferred Phase 2b route between the West Midlands and Leeds and also Phase 2a between Crewe and Manchester. This protects the preferred route from conflicting development and also means that those people who are most affected by the plans can now apply to the government to buy their homes.

This assurance has failed to convince opponents to the scheme. Penny Gaines, the chair of Stop HS2, claimed the railway would not benefit the economies of the Midlands or the North of England. She also warned: “Anywhere where there are gaps in the line is continued uncertainty for people affected. Phase 2 was announced in early 2013, and these people have been living in limbo for nearly four years.”

However, the announcement about Phase 2 has been welcomed by others, including the TUC. General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “HS2 is a much-needed shot in the arm for the British economy. Extra capacity and modern rail infrastructure will help companies outside of London to compete globally.  Today’s announcement is not only good news for rail workers, but for companies throughout the UK supply chain too.  Britain’s steel workers stand ready to provide the steel needed for HS2 – all they need is for the government to commit to buying British.”

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UK Government Defers Four Great Western
Electrification Projects

Via European Railway Review

London –– Rail Minister Paul Maynard, Member of Parliament, has confirmed four Great Western electrification projects are being deferred following outcomes of the Hendy review.  The move follows re-planning of work as a consequence of the publication of a review into Network Rail’s delivery plan by Sir Peter Hendy.  The phrase “Great Western” refers to a number of rail lines in southern and southwestern England and in Wales which were built by the Great Western Railway Company of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  The rail network includes rail lines in the western side of the greater London area originating from London’s famous Paddington Station rail terminal.  The Great Western Railway Company became part of state-owned British Rail during the nationalization of Britain’s numerous railways during World War 2.  


Photo: New Civil Engineer magazine

Workin’ over the Railroad – Construction workers finishing work on newly installed electric conductor rails mounted on the ceiling of the 130 year-old Severn railway tunnel near the England – Wales border and under the River Severn in summer 2016.  The famous railway tunnel has since returned to full operation with the overhead electrification energized at 25 kVAC.

In the written statement Mr. Maynard said, “As a result of this scrutiny from the Hendy review I have decided to defer four electrification projects that are part of the program of work along the Great Western route.” Great Western electrification projects to be delayed:

The Minister believes benefits can be achieved through “newer trains with more capacity – without requiring costly and disruptive electrification works.” As a consequence savings of between £ 146 million to £ 165 million are now available during this spending period.  According to the Rail Minister, investments will be focused on improvements that will deliver additional benefits to passengers. “We remain committed to modernizing the Great Western mainline and ensuring that passenger benefits are achieved,” said Mr. Maynard.

Industry Reaction

Responding to the announcement, Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, said: “We are very disappointed by this announcement. In uncertain times for the economy we need investment in infrastructure and delays or cancellations are not helpful. It’s not fair to tell passengers to expect big improvements in services and then at the last minute decide you’re not going to deliver them. The Government should set out how and when services on the lines affected are now going to be improved to cope with growing demand. More generally, passengers need reassurance from the Government and Network Rail that there are no more skeletons in the closet and that budgeting is genuinely now under control.  It’s not fair to tell passengers to expect big improvements in services and then at the last minute decide you’re not going to deliver them”

Paul Plummer, Chief Executive of the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators and Network Rail, said: “Everyone who uses the railway will benefit hugely from the step-change in new trains on the Great Western Main Line from next year, part of the wider Railway Upgrade Plan of over £ 50 billion (US $62 billion) . Across Britain, over 5,500 new carriages (rail cars) will be introduced between now and 2021 in deals worth at least £ 11.6 billion – the largest sustained investment in new trains for over 50 years.  While some parts of the Great Western Electrification Program have been deferred to a later date, rail companies continue to work hard to deliver the high-performing railway that Britain deserves as decades of under-investment are reversed.”

Electrifying Britain

Installation of overhead AC electrification infrastructure was recently completed inside the historic rail tunnel under the River Severn on the London – Cardiff corridor of the Great Western rail network.  Electrification of a number rail lines on the Great Western railway network and on other rail lines elsewhere in Great Britain has proven to be more expensive than originally estimated, due primarily to the decision to install overhead AC electrification on the rail lines while they continue daily operations on the tracks under and next to the catenary supports, pylons and other new infrastructure.  

The UK started a large scale and ambitious project back in the late 1990s under former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s administration to install electrification on a number of busy rail lines around the country, including the mostly non-electrified rail lines of the former the Great Western Railway Company including London – Bristol – Cardiff rail lines.  Many UK rail lines have in the meantime been converted to electric operation in the past decade.  Prior to the launch of this huge project less than 40 percent of Great Britain’s rail system was electrified, and a large part of those rail lines with electrification (prior to the start of the program) have non-standard third rail 700 VDC traction power, which is acceptable for regional passenger rail using EMU rolling stock with speeds of 90 mph or less, but not practical for electric locomotives hauling freight trains nor for high speed passenger trains operating at 160 km/h (100 mph) or faster.  

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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Ministries Collecting Input For Multimodal
Transportation Strategy For Northern Ontario

By PJ Wilson
The Nugget (Canada)

Bring back passenger rail service.

That was the message visitors delivered Tuesday to the provincial ministries of Transportation and Northern Development and Mines as they sought public input on a multimodal transportation strategy for Northern Ontario.

“That’s my major issue,” June Kingshott said as she filled in a comment card.

“We’re all interested in having the Ontario Northland back,” Kingshott, a member of a small contingent from Muskoka, said.

“The (passenger) rail service was replaced with the bus . . . But you can’t get up and walk around on the bus. People with mobility issues really can’t use the bus.”

Jim McCuaig agrees. He has to travel to Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto annually, and visits specialists in Toronto, as well.

“We need good, reliable service for that, something that is not restricted by weather conditions.”

“Or construction,” Linda Acton-Riddle added.

“Or construction,” McCuaig agreed.

“The train is also more environmentally friendly than the bus, and it meets the special needs of travelers.”

Passenger rail service was cut in northeastern Ontario in 2012 and replaced with additional buses.

“The rail gives us some options,” Acton-Riddle said. “If the road is closed because of weather, the train can still get through.

“As you age, you need other options. Some people are motion sensitive. They can’t use the bus. But they seem to be all right on the train.”

“On a train, you can sit quiet on your own or you can sit with a group,” McCuaig added. “On a bus, all the seats face the same direction.”

Ontario Northland president and CEO Corina Moore said an ONTC contingent was on hand to provide technical information. It was important, she said, for people involved to show up to the meeting – the last one to be held in North Bay – because of the role Ontario Northland plays.

Intermodal transportation, she said, has to also look at passenger rail service.

“You can’t look at it without looking at passenger rail,” she said.

“The North is different from the south. It has a different climate, larger distances. And so all modes must meet the needs of Northern Ontarians.”

Elspeth Atkinson also pointed at passenger rail service as important to the region.

“I went on the Survival Express to Toronto” to try to keep passenger rail service alive, she said.

But most of the province’s emphasis, she points out, is centered on southern Ontario.

“There’s nothing about Northern Ontario” from the provincial government, she said. “It’s all about southern Ontario.”

Atkinson said she misses riding by train.

“They can bring it back.  The tracks are still there.”

The open house will move to Sudbury tonight, and further public sessions will be held in Thunder Bay, Timmins, Kenora and Sault Ste. Marie.

Input from the sessions will be collected and presented in a draft report to the province, expected to be completed in the spring, with a final report expected by the end of 2017.

Anyone who wishes to provide input can check out the discussion paper at   as well as submitting ideas on Twitter and tagging @OnMinTransport and #NorthONtransport.

Submissions can also be e-mailed to:  or leaving a comment online at:

From an item at:

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