A National Transportation Safety Board investigator says it appears that the operator of a San Francisco Municipal Railwa (MUNI) light rail car switched fromautomatic to manual control just prior to a crash injuring 48 passengers. The train operator also was injured; none of the injuries was considered life-threatening.
The accident occurred July 18 as a westbound L train struck a K train that was sitting at a boarding platform in the West Portal Station, the western end of MUNI’s busy, underground LRT conduit running beneath the city’s Market Street. Investigators have found that the L-Taraval outbound train was switched from automatic to manual mode while still inside the tunnel approaching the platform. Normal MUNI procedure is to wait until the train enters the station to switch to manual.
The MUNI operator reportedly told investigators he blacked out shortly before the accident.
This incident is the latest of several rail accidentsoccurring in recent weeks, including an accident May 9 involving two Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Green Line light rail transit trains that injured 49, and the deadly crash June 22 on Washington’s Metro RedLine, resulting in nine fatalities.
In the MBTA incident, the operator was suspected of text messaging against regulations, similar to the suspected actions of a Metrolink engineer last September, among the dead after his train ran a red signal and crashed into a Union Pacific freight train in Chatsworth, Calif.
A flaw in the automatic train control system, not operator error, appears the likely cause of the Washington MetroRail crash.
Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman described to the National Governors Association on Saturday how public-private partnerships “can create additional capacity in our rail transportation network, with public benefits of jobs creation, less highway congestion, lower environmental emissions, and fuel savings.”
Addressing a meeting of the association at Biloxi, Miss., Moorman (pictured at left) cited two public-private ventures – the Heartland Corridor between the Port of Virginia and Columbus, Ohio, and Chicago, and the Crescent Corridor linking New Jersey to New Orleans and Memphis, Tenn. – as examples.
He said the Crescent Corridor alone will create 41,000 “green jobs over the next decade and shift more than a million trucks a year off the highways and onto rails, saving more than 150 million gallons of fuel annually as well as reducing carbon emissions by nearly two million tons a year.”
It will take more strategic initiatives like these, Moorman suggested, to prepare the railroads to handle their share of freight volumes that transportation economists predict will grow 86% by 2035.
“Our nation’s transportation network is a complex, interdependent system that demands our combined creative efforts to operate it most efficiently,” Moorman said. “Our experience at Norfolk Southern has shown that by working together in public-private partnerships, we can achieve far more in far less time and with far greater public benefits than any of us can by working alone.”
The state of Wisconsin will purchase two 14-car train sets from Las Rozas, Spain-based Patentes Talgo SA to replace current equipment used in Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service between Milwaukee and Chicago. The agreement includes an option to buy two more trains if the state gets federal stimulus money to extend rail service from Milwaukee to Madison, the state capital.
An inaugural shuttle train will depart New Jersey Transit’s Hoboken Terminal July 20 bound for a new station at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, N.J. Dignataries, including Gov. Jon Corzine and NJ Transit Executive Director Richard Sarles, are scheduled to be joined by Robert Wood Johnson IV, owner of the New York Jets, and counterpart New York Giants owner John K. Mara, on the inaugural run.
The train will travel on existing NJ Transit right-of-way from Hoboken to NJT’s Pascack Valley Line in Bergen County, diverging onto a new 2.3-mile J-shape spur looping back to the sports complex and terminating at the new Meadowlands Rail Station, where a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held.
Denver's Regional Transportation District and BNSF have reached agreement for RTD to acquire part of BNSF's Denver-Cheyenne, Wyo., route for regional passenger rail use. The segment stretches from Denver Union Station to 72nd Street in Westminster, Colo.
RTD will pay $93.7 million for the acquisition, plus roughly $32 million in relocation expenses; BNSF will be required to relocate a yard and some tracks.
RTD will use the route for its Northwest Rail Corridor and for the Gold Line along BNSF's Front Range Subdivision. The purchase is part of RTD's FasTracks transit expansion program implementing regional rail service, and expanding light rail operations, in the Denver area, using Denver Union Station as a hub.
RTD recently concluded a similar agreement with Union Pacific, acquiring part of a UP route to form the planned North Central Corridor line.
“This agreement represents yet another significant milestonefor FasTracks,” said RTD General Manager Cal Marsella.
“BNSF is pleased to have concluded thisMemorandum of Understanding with RTD, and we look forward to reaching a formalpurchase and related agreements with RTD as it continues to develop FasTracks,”said Jeff Wright, BNSF’s region vice president, Central Operations.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo announced Thursday proposed rules designed to prevent train collisions through the use of Positive Train Control (PTC). The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) prescribes how railroads must use PTC systems to prevent train-to-train collisions.
DOT and FRA noted that under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, major freight railroads and intercity and regional rail operators must submit their plans for PTC to FRA for approval by April, 16, 2010. PTC systems must befully in place by the end of 2015. The proposed rules will specify how the technically complex PTC systems must function and indicate how FRA will assess a railroad’s PTC plan before it can become operational.
“These proposed rules give railroads the framework to use this life-saving technology,” said LaHood (at right). “We believe this is an important step toward making freight, intercity and commuter rail lines safer for the benefit of communities across the country.”
“FRA is setting the bar high interms of design, construction, and oversight of PTC technologies among different railroads,” said FRA Administrator Szabo. “FRA will continue to advocate for ways to strengthen safety standards in the railroad industry.”
FRA is coordinating efforts with the Federal Communications Commission to make a sufficient amount of radio frequency spectrum available, which it said is essential for PTC technology to function properly. DOT and FRA said this development will allow PTC technology to send and receive a constant stream of wireless signals regarding the location and speed of passenger and freight trains moving along rail lines.
The Association of American Railroads Thursday reported that rail traffic remains down year over year for the week ended July 11, 2009. Carloadings were at their highest level in 14 weeks. U.S. railroads originated 262,210 cars, down 17.9% compared with the same week in 2008.
Intermodal volume of 176,887 trailers or containers was down 23.7% from the same week last year. Total for the week ending July 11 was estimated at 28 billion ton-miles, off 16.9% from last year.
Canadian railroads reported volume of 58,741 cars for the week, down 24.6% from last year, and 39,945 trailers or containers, down 21.4%.
Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 11,430 cars, down 12.5% from last year, and 4,725 trailers or containers, off 23.7%.
A key indictor of transit railcar reliability is Mean Distance Between Failures (MBDF), and by this measure the car fleet of MTA NewYork City Transit has made solid progress in the last decade.
In a statement Wednesday, the agency said that while spot problems continue, "it should be noted that the entire fleet's Mean Distance Between Failures (MDBF) 12-month average now stands at nearly 140,000 miles, compared to less than 90,000 miles in 1999. The improvement is due in part to the new R160 subway cars, which are now replacing the oldest cars in the fleet, and in part to enhanced maintenance of the existing fleet. Our passenger surveys show marked improvement in customer satisfaction on lines where these new cars have been deployed."
MTA was responding to a report of poor car reliability on the system's C line. Acknowledging that this line is still waiting for an older fleet of cars to be replaced, the agency cited improvement in the performance of the subway fleet as a whole, which numbers around 6,500 cars.
Russian Railways (RZD) CEO Vladimir Yakunin and Deutsche Bahn Chairman Ruediger Grube Thursday signed a general agreement on the creation of an educational and research center for international logistics andsupply chain management.
The agreement, signed in Munich, was witnessed by Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel during the current round of high-level Russian-German inter-governmental consultations.
The center will be based both at the Higher School of Management at St. Petersburg State University and the St. Petersburg State Railway University, in Russia; in Germany, the center will be located at the European School of Management’s Berlin campus. The center is scheduled to open this fall.
“Russian Railways and Deutsche Bahn have been working together on staff training for several years now. But this is the first time the two companies have signed a document on developing a joint syllabus covering both training and skills enhancement. In addition to this, we will also be working together on scientific research projects,” said RZD CEO Yakunin in a statement.