Siemens announced Monday that it is bringing a full-sized mockup of the Siemens Velaro high speed trainet to Florida to show Americans what the future may hold for them. After its Oct. 8 debut in Tampa, th eSiemens "Future of Florida High-Speed Rail Tour" will continue to Orlando, Miami, Tallahassee, and other cities.
“Visitors to the exhibit in each city will not only hav ethe chance to see the Velaro, the fastest passenger train in the world, but also the opportunity to have their questions answered by high-speed rail experts,” Siemens claimed.
“We'd like to congratulate Florida on leading the charge for high speed rail in America,” said Eric Spiegel, president and CEO of Siemens Corp. “Not since the early days of the space program has there been such potential for growth as there is in Florida right now.”
“We want to give Floridians a taste of what a true high speed rail trainset looks and feels like,” added Oliver Hauck, president o fSiemens Mobility in the U.S. “Siemens Velaro trainsets are successfully running on some of the fastest and most important routes in the world today.”
The Velaro tour recalls an earlier, more-ambitious HSR demonstration program: Seventeen years ago, when Amtrak was evaluating high speed trainset technology for the Northeast Corridor, Siemens and Deutsche Bahn (German Rail), in cooperation with Amtrak, brought a specially modified, fully operational ICE (Intercity Express) trainset to the U.S. It operated on the NEC in revenue service for several months and also toured the country. The ICE demonstration followed a similar program with an X2000 trainset involving Amtrak, ABB Traction, and Swedish State Railways. Amtrak eventually awarded the NEC high speed trainset contract to a Bombardier/Alstom consortium; the Acela Express equipment entered revenue service on the NEC in 2000.
Norfolk Southern Train 236, one of the first double-stackedtrains to transit the railroad's new Heartland Corridor, rolledthrough Prichard, W. Va. at 11 a.m. Monday, pulling containers on their way fromChicago to Norfolk, Va.
It was greeted at Prichard, the site of a planned intermodalterminal, by NS CEO Wick Moorman along with corridor partners, designers,builders, and other NS officers and employees.
“For morethan one hundred years, we’ve been your partner in moving America’s most plentiful and dependable energy source fromthe Pocahontas coal fields. Now, working together, we have improved ourcorridor through West Virginia so that it has more capacity, speed, andreliability not just for coal trains but for the container trains that carry theproducts required for international commerce and consumerdemand,” said Moorman (pictured at left).
Also on hand was U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia,vice chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and akey supporter of the Heartland Corridor project, who said: “Now this isthe engine to pull jobs America’s way. Our economic strength, and WestVirginia’s future, depend on the vitality of a national transportation system. Railis an increasingly critical cornerstone of commerce for thiscountry. Government must invest and partner where it makes sense with privateindustry, so we can compete globally. At the same time, by strengthening ourtransportation network, we anchor our national security.”
Warren Buffett said Monday that Berkshire Hathaway companies, including BNSF Railway, are doing well and “I see our businesses coming back almost across the board.”
Buffett told the Montana Economic Development Summit: “I am a huge bull on this country. We will not have a double-dip recession at all ... I don’t see that in our businesses. I see we’re employing more people than a month ago, two months ago.”
“It’s night and day from a year, year-and-a-half ago,” said the billionaire investor via a video connection. “I know Wells Fargo, they would love to have $50 billion more of loans now. Go in and talk to the banker.” Berkshire Hathaway is Wells Fargo's biggest shareholder.
Fairport, N.Y.-based RailComm said Monday it has been selected to provide a wireless remote control derail system at Amtrak’s Maintenance Facility in Hialeah, Fla., outside Miami.
Two customized Local Control Panels, located within the maintenance building, will provide wireless remote control to the derails. The panels include a keypad for advanced security and logging. The user is required to input a unique pass-code (PIN #) to operate the derail machines.
All control panel operations are recorded and stored on a wirelessly linked PC work station. The data entries contain the name and trade of the operator, the nature of the operation, and the date and time. The work station allows supervisors, managers, and other authorized personnel to review the operation logs and manage the system security.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in Shanghai Monday that California will seek China's help in building its estimated $44 billion high speed rail system.
So far, the federal government has pledged $2.25 billion of the funding through the high speed rail stimulus plan; state voters in 2008 approved another $9.95 billion in debt financing to launch the project. To help fill the huge remaining gap, Schwarzenegger said California would seek funding from China as well as construction bids from Chinese companies.
“We look to China to build our high speed rail, to be part of the bidding process that we are going to go through,” Schwarzenegger told a U.S. trade mission. Noting that “many countries will be bidding to build our high speed rail,” he said California would also seek Chinese funding.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in Seattle last week that federally financed Americans trains should built in the U.S. There has long been strong “Buy America” requirements for federally-aided transit equipment, and a number of foreign firms have established construction plants in the U.S. The Federal Railroad Administration’s curent requirements for HSR projects call for 100% U.S. content—in the opinion of some, an unrealistic provision.
The Federal Railroad Administration Monday said Amtrak has joined FRA’s Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS), a safety pilot project that permits rail employees to voluntarily and anonymously report “close call” incidents that could have resulted in an accident or injury but did not.
Amtrak is the fourth railroad to join the C3RS program, following Canadian Pacific, Union Pacific, and New Jersey Transit. Under the program, employees can report “close call” incidents that did not result in an accident without fear of sanction or penalty from the railroad or the federal government.
“This pilot program has the potential to transform safety and has already prevented injuries and saved lives where it’s being used,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Once evaluated, we hope to make this reporting system a permanent part of our national safety strategy involving railroads across the country.”
“Amtrak’s national reach gives us the last piece we need to make this pilot program complete,” said FRA Deputy Administrator Karen Rae.
FRA currently requires all railroads to routinely report a wide range of accidents and incidents. While “close call” events are not required to be routinely reported, they could be potentially serious. Understanding these events will help railroads and FRA take appropriate steps to ensure accidents don’t actually occur by helping develop and institute mitigation strategies, countermeasures, and best practices, FRA said.
The cumulative results of confidential close call reporting are being analyzed by the Department’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) to determine areas of potential risk and to develop solutions to prevent and minimize their occurrence in the future. Preliminary analysis by RITA of Union Pacific’s close call reporting project at its railyard in North Platte, Neb., have already shown a significant reduction in human factor-related incidents, making it first in safety in the Union Pacific system.
In order to participate, Amtrak, the United Transportation Union, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen each ratified an agreement with the FRA to allow employees to make confidential reports of close calls.
The agreement covers Amtrak employees in yards and terminals in the Northeast Corridor, and also in the Chicago, Miami, Seattle, and Los Angeles areas. Amtrak anticipates adding its mainline routes to the C3RS program in the future, thus covering the entire Amtrak national system.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is assisting FRA on this research effort using its authority to protect the confidentiality of the data, as it currently does with the airline industry and Veterans Administration Hospitals.
New Jersey Transit has suspended further work on two new Hudson River commuter rail tunnels for least 30 days at it re-examines prospects for funding the $8.7 billion project. The Federal Transit Administration, through which federal funds flow, is reportedly concerned by the prospect of cost overruns.
In a written statement, New Jersey Transit Executive Director James Weinstein said: “The governor has made it clear to me that the project must stay on time and on budget. Anything short of that is unacceptable.”
The project has not won universal applause among transportation economists. But project advocates claim that it would come close to doubling trans-Hudson commuter rail capacity.