The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) late Tuesday issued nine safety recommendations, six of which are “urgent,” to address concerns about the safety of train control systems that use audio frequency track circuits following results so far of NTSB's ongoing investigation into the collision between two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) trains in Washington, D.C., on June 22.
NTSB said it discovered that a failure occurred in which a spurious signal generated by a track circuit module transmitter mimicked a valid signal and bypassed the rails via an unintended signal path. The spurious signal was sensed by the module receiver, which resulted in the train not being detected when it stopped in the track circuit where the accident occurred.
NTSB made specific recommendations to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and to Alstom Signaling, Inc., the manufacturer of the track circuit modules at the Fort Totten station, where the accident occurred, to examine the WMATA track circuits and work together to eliminate adverse conditions that could affect the safe performance of these systems. NTSB also called upon WMATA to develop a program to periodically determine that the electronic components in its train control systems are performing within design tolerances.
Although NTSB stressed that the investigation is not yet complete and no determination of probable cause has been reached, it is concerned about the safety of train control system circuitry used in comparable rail and transit operations in other parts of the country. It has recommended that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) advise all rail transit operators and railroads that use audio frequency track circuits in their train control systems about these findings from the Fort Totten accident investigation.
NTSB also recommended that the FTA and FRA have transit operators and railroads that use audio frequency track circuits examine their track circuits and work with their signal equipment manufacturer(s) to eliminate adverse conditions that could affect the safe performance of these systems, and to develop programs to periodically determine that the electronic components in their train control systems are performing within design tolerances.
"After only three months, this complex investigation is far from complete, so we are not ready to determine the probable cause of the accident on WMATA," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "However, our findings so far indicate a pressing need to issue these recommendations to immediately address safety glitches we have found that could lead to another tragic accident on WMATA or another transit or rail system."
In accordance with NTSB protocol, the letters were addressed o the heads of each organization with a request for a response from each organization within 30 days on the urgent ecommendations, addressing the actions taken or planned in esponse to the Board's recommendations.
The safety recommendation letter to WMATA may be found at http://www.ntsb.gov/recs/letters/2009/R09_15_16.pdf.
The safety recommendation to Alstom Signaling, Inc., may be found at http://www.ntsb.gov/recs/letters/2009/R09_23.pdf.
The safety recommendations letter to FTA may be found at http://www.ntsb.gov/recs/letters/2009/R09_17_18_19.pdf.
The safety recommendation letter to the FRA may be found at http://www.ntsb.gov/recs/letters/2009/R09_20_21_22.pdf.
CN unveiled an upgraded on-line calculator Wednesday, accessible at www.cn.ca/ghg_calculator, that estimates total carbon emissions for shipments using more than one mode of transportation.
CN said the new calculator "generates carbon-emission estimates for shipments using a combination of vessel, rail and truck -- such as containers moving internationally from Asia to North American destinations along CN's network -- or domestic shipments using a combination of railand truck or a single mode of transportation.
Normand Pellerin, CN assistant vice-president, Environment, said: "Our enhanced GHG calculator is perfectly aligned with our transport products, giving manufacturers, importers, exporters, shippers, wholesalers, or retailers full understanding of the carbon footprint of shipments using single or multiple modes of transportation. And again, thecalculator makes clear the powerful green advantage of rail over truck."
CN also said that "rail has been shown to be up to six times more energy-efficient than heavy trucks, because rail consumes a fraction of the fuel to transport one [metric] ton of freight one kilometer. In fact, we can move one ton of freight 197 kilometers on just one liter of fuel."
Debate within Toronto's metropolitan area over the future of the Scarborough Line, simmering at low levels for years, is becoming more pronounced as the Toronto Transit Commission proceeds with its plans for expanding TTC’s light rail network in Canada’s largest metropolitan area. Some argue that the Scarborough Line, slated for rehabilitation in 2015, should be converted from Advanced Light Rail Transit (ALRT) to more conventional light rail operations to better mesh with TTC’s network.
Among those advocating conversion is Scarborough Centre Council member Michael Thompson, who says Scarborough council members agreed to support implementation of a new generation of technology, comparable to Vancouver's SkyTrain system, prior to the unveiling of Toronto's Transit City plan, which promises, eventually, a complete city-wide light rail network.
Thompson said it's not in Scarborough's interests to have a rapid-transit system including the current Scarborough Line technology, which doesn’t mesh with the rest of Toronto’s urban circulator system. “Scarborough is sick and tired of orphan technology," he said, addressing the Scarborough Community Council last week. "We know (the Scarborough) RT is having problems related to cold weather. The technical problems will not be solved (by the upgrade)," he argued.
Thompson acknowledged that construction time for an upgradeis an estimated eight months, compared to three years for any conversion to more conventional LRT. Nonetheless, Scarborough council members will ask the TTC and Ontario’s provincial agency, Metrolinx, for a report on LRT conversion.
Fulfilling an option it has steadfastly maintained as an option, the University of Minnesota Tuesday filed suit against regional planning agency Metropolitan Council to protect what it says is delicate scientific research equipment from vibrations or electromagnetic interference feared from the 11-mile Central Corridor light rail line in St. Paul.
Fulfilling an option it has steadfastly maintained as an option, the University of Minnesota Tuesday filed suit against regional planning agency Metropolitan Council to protect what it says is delicate scientific research equipment from vibrations or electr ...
The Canadian government and VIA Rail Canada have launched a C$20 million (US$18.7 million) program to “renew and improve two key components of its nationwide locomotive and rolling stock fleet,” including 78 passenger cars and 21 P-42 diesel electric locomotives. The program will be funded from the federal government’s C$407 million (US$381 million) Economic Action Plan.
The renovation and upgrade of 78 HEP 1 longhaul passenger cars will primarily benefit VIA’s world-renowned Toronto-Vancouver Canadian service. By contrast, the P-42 locomotives will primarily cover VIA’s Quebec-Windsor Corridor.
Said Hon. Rob Merrifield, Minister of State (Transport), “Combined with the other capital projects announced recently, it will give Canadians a more efficient, reliable and comfortable passenger rail network.”
“Equally satisfying for all of us at VIA is the fact that this program will create and maintain skilled employment, contributing to the government’s strategy of employment and economic stimulus,” said VIA Chief Operating Officer, John Marginson. “This initiative is creating 58 positions at VIA’s Montreal Maintenance Centre (MMC): 51 positions for the HEP 1 project and seven positions for the P-42 locomotives.
“When coupled with our other fleet renewal programs, it adds up to the largest investment ever in Canadian passenger rail equipment,” added Marginson.
Geneva, Ill.-based Miner Enterprises, Inc. Tuesday announced its new DuraShield™ covered hopper car hatch cover, which it says combines lightweight, high durability, low profile design with a high performance seal.
The company says it developed the hatch cover to outfit hopper cars from the bottom up, and claims the covers are lighter than similar aluminum products and more durable than fiberglass ones. They are available in all standard lengths to accommodate most 24-in. troughs with round or square ends.
"We looked at available covers on the market and decided that customers should not have to trade off qualities such as long life for light weight. In the DuraShield, our engineers have combined the advantages of both fiberglass and aluminum covers while avoiding their drawbacks," said Miner Vice President of Sales Ric Biehl. "And, they've been able to incorporate a superior gasket seal in the bargain."
The DuraShield design incorporates a patent pending aluminum and steel boxed frame with a composite skin. Extended support straps help hold the cover's shape and afford hinge stiffness in a low profile configuration. Superior stiffness allows the gasket to be uniformly clamped to the hatch coaming.
Miner says this develops a seal that exceeds the Association of American Railroads (AAR) requirement by one-and-a-half to two times. An improved adhesive secures the gasket to the cover so that its attachment exceeds the AAR specification by almost three times, the company says.
FreightCar America Inc. reported a profit larger than anticipated for its second quarter, with earnings of $7 million, or 59 cents per share, compared with a loss of 3 cents a share, or $368,000, in the comparable 2008 quarter. Consensus analyst estimates anticipated a profit of 10 cents per share.
Revenue declined 26% to $104.3 million, close to the company’s July forecast of $104 million, and more optimistic than analyst expectations.
FreightCar America President and CEO Chris Ragot said the company has controlled spending and expects to reduce expenses by 20% this year.
The company said orders for new railcars rose 39% from a year earlier, and more than doubled from the moribund levels of the first quarter. Deliveries were 48% lower than the comparable 2008 quarter but also rose from the first quarter of 2009, up 24%. FreightCar America’s backlog declined to 1,472 units.
SteelEye Technology, Inc. announced Monday that Alstom Transport had selected the company to deploy SteelEye® LifeKeeper® for Linux to protect mission-critical applications of the maintenance system services for Beijing Metro Line 2. The deployment will “control and manage high availability and potential faults to ensure the continuous availability of maintenance services for the Chinese capital’s two essential metro lines,” the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company said.
Track installation finally has begun for Washington, D.C.'s first new streetcar line, Anacostia Streetcar, in the district’s Southeast quadrant, following years of delays and still with no firm assurance that the line will operate.
The $55 million project has held three Inekon streetcars in storage in the Czech Republic for nearly three years while it struggles with numerous issues. Besides controversy over exact routes, station locations, schedule times, and environmental issues, the District Department of Transportation also has struggled to comply with federal rules prohibiting overhead wire in the Capitol Zone.
"The tracks are actually going in," said DDOTchief Gabe Klein. "As people see that, they'll realize we're getting closer than we've ever been." Klein said the District might have some part of the Anacostia line running before fall 2012.
Revised several times, the initial route at present would connect with MetroRail’s Anacostia station on the Green Line and would also serve the new Department of Homeland Security headquarters, scheduled to be built on the current campus of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.
DDOT hopes eventually to extend the line across the new 11th Street bridges when they are built and along H Street in the district’s Northeast quadrant.
Signal Peak Energy, an expanded coal mining operation near Roundup, Mont., with a new 35-mile link to the BNSF Railway mainline, has confirmed reports that it will send an undetermined number of coal cargoes to China on a trial basis by the end of this year.
It has been unofficially reported that two Panamax cargoes, 60,000 to 70,000 deadweight tons, and a Capesize cargo, 125,000 tons, could move through Vancouver, B.C., by year-end.
Don Drabant, president of the marketing company Global Coal Sales Group, which represents Signal Peak, said discussions were under way with South American markets as well as Asian rim countries.
Signal Peak, formerly the Bull Mountain coal mine, expects to increase production from few hundred thousand tons a year to around 14 million tons a year by 2011.
The new operation is owned by the joint venture of Ohio utility First Energy Corp. and Boich Companies. The mine produces 10,300 Btu bituminous coal with 0.55% sulfur content that is said to combine the advantages of eastern U.S. coal and low-sulfur Powder River Basin coal.