GE Transportation adds new features to EdgeLINC platform

15 June 2018

GE Transportation has extended its device support, scalability and deployment options by adding new features to its EdgeLINC platform.

The recently added capabilities include a cloud support that would complement its on-premise offering, software development kits (SDK) to enhance device integration for non-native Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices and Android-based devices, and device collaboration and support for Kontron and MEN Micro devices.

These improvements will offer opportunities for organisations operating in the transportation industry to tap into the power of real-time device processing and optimisation.

GE Transportation chief digital officer Laurie Tolson said: “These robust new capabilities expand EdgeLINC’s core functionality and allow a broader ecosystem of developers and users to leverage the possibilities of edge-to-cloud connectivity and real-time event streaming.

“EdgeLINC has also been updated to include pre-packaged event streaming rules for freight train operations covering fuel management, excess idle, geo-zoning and customer notification systems, representing some of the industry’s most pressing business challenges.”

An additional support for Kontron and MEN Micro’s transportation devices has strengthened EdgeLINC’s device ecosystem.

With the combined strengths of these device manufacturers and cloud capabilities, customers will be able to achieve faster time to market by benefitting from EdgeLINC’s broad deployment options and user-friendly device interface and management features.

Other advantages include support for a wider range of connected devices through the new SDK and deployments with high reliability. Customers will also be able to attain quick time-to-business value by drawing leverage from EdgeLINC’s native SAS Event Stream Processing to develop rules and operational alerts.

Kontron America general manager Kevin Rhoads said: “At Kontron, we understand the increasing requirements of connected embedded transportation systems.

“That’s why we are committed to continued innovation of market-ready platforms that help customers such as GE Transportation focus on what they do best – complex edge-to-cloud device management.”

MEN Micro USA CEO Christian Zeiher said: “We are excited to offer our off-the-shelf, ready-to-ship standard ruggedized Box PCs and Rack mounted certified hardware to the customers of GE Transportation.

“MEN Micro has been fulfilling the most rigid requirements of our transportation, IIoT, and oil and gas customers since 1982. We look forward to doing the same for the EdgeLINC community.”

Currently deployed on over 1,000 locomotives, EdgeLINC will reportedly boost productivity through the consolidation of several devices and applications and drive operational efficiencies through real-time analytics of train crew performance.

Elon Musk’s Boring Company to develop Chicago Express Loop link

15 June 2018

Elon Musk’s Boring Company has secured a contract with Chicago, US, to develop a transportation link to the city’s airport.

The new Chicago Express Loop will connect downtown Chicago with O’Hare International Airport.

Once operational, the train will carry passengers in battery powered vehicles through tunnels.

Operating at a speed of up to 150 miles per hour, the Chicago Express Loop will have a journey time of 12 minutes, which is three to four times faster than the transportation options currently serving the airport.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said: “Bringing Chicago’s economic engines closer together will keep the city on the cutting edge of progress, create thousands of good-paying jobs and strengthen our great city for future generations.

“This transformative project will help Chicago write the next chapter in our legacy of innovation and invention.”

Construction costs and schedule have not been disclosed, though concerns have been raised by experts over the financial feasibility of Loop transportation systems, as well as the potential challenges they could raise from an environmental and legal perspective.

This project is expected to be 100% privately funded. Boring Company will “design, build, finance, operate and maintain” the Loop transportation system.

The firm is currently working on a similar Loop transportation system in Los Angeles.

The planned transportation system will feature electric skates, which are vehicles based on Tesla’s Model X SUV, capable of carrying eight to 16 passengers.

The electric skates will be confined to a concrete track within the tunnel and operate as per the safety requirements of federal and state bodies.

Amtrak and BNSF Railway to implement PTC train protection system

14 June 2018

Amtrak is partnering with BNSF Railway Co to deploy its Positive Train Control (PTC) system on several BNSF-owned subdivisions, marking the first activation on host-owned territory used by Amtrak.

The subdivisions serving Amtrak’s Southwest Chief and California Zephyr will initially introduce the new technology, while full activation on BNSF routes is scheduled to happen by the end of August this year.

Operating under the Amtrak name, The National Railroad Passenger Corporation is a passenger railroad service that offers medium and long-distance intercity service in the US and to three Canadian cities.

BNSF network control systems assistant vice president Chris Matthews said: “This is a great step for Amtrak. We have the infrastructure in place that allows them to operate on our network.

“We have partnered with them on the federal mandate and in some cases beyond the federal mandate to install PTC on subdivisions not required of BNSF. We look forward to continuing that partnership as they roll-out PTC along our routes.

Amtrak said it is working to achieve the installation and operation of PTC across the network it controls by the end of this year. The company is collaborating with partners throughout the industry to advance this system on host infrastructure.

All carriers will legally qualify for an alternative PTC implementation schedule where PTC is not implemented and operational.

Amtrak is performing risk analyses and developing strategies for the carriers and routes that are operating under an extension or under an FRA-approved exemption. It will enable the company to improve safety on a route-by-route basis and ensure that there is a single level of safety across the Amtrak network by 1 January 2019.

In the case of some limited routes, where a host may not be able to achieve another schedule by the end of the year, Amtrak said it will postpone service and try to find alternative modes of service until such routes come into compliance.

Amtrak is also collaborating with tenant railroads that operate over its infrastructure to ensure that they have sufficient PTC-commissioned rolling stock to operate normal services.

ORR urges Network Rail to increase renewals budget by £1bn

13 June 2018

UK rail regulator Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has urged Network Rail to invest an additional £1bn to replace its outdated railway tracks and assets over the next five years. The move would bring the total renewals budget across Britain to £18bn.

The call was made in response to Network Rail’s recently announced five-year plan, the Control Period 6 (CP6), which aims to spend more than £34bn by 2024.

In its assessment, ORR said that Network Rail should do more than propose to improve the reliability and safety of its railway for the benefit of both passengers and freight customers.

ORR also said that Network Rail should include an additional sum of £80m for a new safety-related expenditure.

The infrastructure manager was further recommended to reallocate £0.9bn of its £1.7bn funding destined for England and Wales.

Among other suggestions, ORR said that Network Rail should ensure it works effectively with all passenger train companies, and it should create a £10m performance innovation fund to support the testing and implementing of new ideas across the UK.

ORR chief executive Joanna Whittington said: “The entire rail industry, including passengers, freight customers and train operators, relies on Network Rail to deliver a high-quality service.

“ORR’s initial assessment of Network Rail’s five-year plans shows that the transition from a centrally run company to one structured round eight geographic routes has improved the quality of the plans but we want to see £1bn more spent on renewing the railway to improve reliability and boost safety.

“ORR will be monitoring and enforcing delivery by each of the routes so that passengers and freight customers will be able to rely on the railway for the essential service it provides.”

ORR is expected to publish its final determination on the CP6 by the end of October.

NYCT starts renovation works on Astoria Line stations

12 June 2018

MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) has started extensive structural improvement and repair works at its Broadway and 39 Av NW subway stations in Astoria.

The works will include the replacement of old station infrastructure, including steel beams and columns, staircases, open-air canopies and platforms.

The track and platform girders at the stations will be renovated, while new concrete slabs will be installed above mezzanines.

The stations will be also upgraded with new power service, lighting, new floors and ceilings and digital signage systems.

Other than improving passengers’ safety and comfort at the stations, the improvement programme is expected to boost the overall reliability of the Astoria Line.

NYC Transit president Andy Byford said: “These outdoor stations have deteriorated after more than a century of snowstorms, rain, sun, wind and daily foot traffic.

“We thank our customers for their patience while we make these repairs and improvements; once these projects are done, major defects will be fixed and these stations will be in a renewed state for the local community to use for decades to come.”

Both the stations will remain closed during the refurbishment works and are scheduled to reopen on 22 June.

Train operators mislead passengers over compensation rights

11 June 2018

One in four rail operators in the UK tends to mislead passengers over their compensation rights in cases of delays, a survey by consumer group Which? has revealed.

The company made a series of ‘mystery shop’ phone calls to 26 operators in a bid to find out how truthful customer helplines are when it comes to claiming redress to cover unexpected expenses as a result of delays. Staff at 12 out of the 26 operators was found to give wrong information on the matter.

With train operating company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR)currently involved in a major timetable overhaul, which is resulting in tens of cancellations and delays every day, an increasing number of affected travellers may ask for compensation under the Consumer Rights Act and common law. These allow passengers to claim for losses when a company fails to deliver services with reasonable care and skill.

According to the survey, the six worst-performing operators, namely Cross Country, Grand Central, Greater Anglia, Heathrow Express, ScotRail and Stansted Express, all wrongly told Which? secret shoppers they could not claim compensation on every call.

The company said the cases of Heathrow Express and Stansted express were particularly concerning since, despite having different terms and conditions to the National Rail Conditions of Travel, they are still subject to consumer law. Such behaviour was in particular contrast with Gatwick Express, which said that any reasonable claim for additional costs due to delays will be considered.

ScotRail, Greater Anglia, Stansted Express and Grand Central said they do cover compensation, suggesting that the results of the survey have to do with individual staff members, rather than company policy. Heathrow Express also announced plans to retrain its staff in light of the survey results.

Which? found inconsistencies in how the issue was dealt by Arriva Wales, Chiltern, Southeastern, Thameslink/Great Northern, Virgin West Coast and West Midlands. Although these six franchises did not always give inaccurate advice, staff members were often inconsistent and incapable of explaining the available options properly.

The research also focused on rail operator websites, with 18 out of 26 found unable to provide useful information to customers about their compensation rights.

Which? managing director of public markets Alex Hayman said: “This is the latest in a catalogue of examples of train companies treating their passengers with breath-taking disregard. They have been warned time and again about their duties to ensure their passengers are getting the money they are owed when they fail to deliver, yet they fail to act until forced.

“The regulator must now start showing some teeth and take immediate enforcement action or the government has no choice but to step in and stand up for passengers and their rights.”

France’s Senate approves controversial SNCF reform bill

8 June 2018

The French Senate has voted by a large majority to support President Emmanuel Macron’s railway bill aimed at reforming the country’s state-owned Société nationale des chemins de fer (SNCF).

France’s National Assembly adopted the bill in April, sparking a wave of discontent and national strikes led by railway unions.

Macron’s plan is to unify SNCF under a fully state-owned body with two subsidiaries: SNCF Mobility, which will work as the operator, and SNCF Network, the new infrastructure manager. Under the bill, the government will also gradually absorb €35bn of the company’s €47bn debt.

Further changes to be applied include open-access passenger operation and the end of SNCF’s right to recruit staff with special privileges, which guarantees a job for life and early retirement.

French Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne called for every player in the industry to take responsibility for the upcoming reform.

She said: “During the Senate review, we were able to both confirm the main principles of the reform – openness to competition, the new organisation of SNCF, and ending status recruitment – and enrich the text through dialogue, particularly through discussions that I conducted in recent weeks with the trade unions.

“The next step will be early next week at the meeting of the joint committee. The reform is coming to an end in the coming days. Everything is now settled: a bill will be finally adopted; unprecedented financial commitments made by the government, and a course drawn for branch and company negotiations.”

As part of the reform, every region in France will be responsible for handling the local TER services from December 2019. Regions will also be allowed to take over rolling stock and workshops required for the operation of services.

President Macron’s bill has been largely criticised by rail unions, which recently rejected the proposal by voting in an internal ballot. The results saw an almost total majority of workers express their disappointment towards the plan.

Although the government often reiterated that the changes would not affect the status of existing employees, labour unions scheduled a wave of strikes taking place for two days out of every five in June.

Despite the protests, Macron seems unlikely to back down and, having just obtained the Senate’s approval, he seems more determined than ever to pursue his plan.

Canadian National Railway to invest $262.5m in BC’s rail network

8 June 2018

The Canadian National Railway Company (CN) has announced plans to invest approximately C$340m ($262.55m) into the expansion and improvement of its rail network across British Columbia (BC).

The move comes as part of CN’s C$3.4bn ($2.62bn) capital programme for 2018 and focuses on key track expansion projects that will enable CN to better serve growing intermodal, forest products, grain and industrial customers.

Other projects under the programme include the replacement, upgrade and maintenance of key track infrastructure to improve overall safety and efficiency.

CN Western Region vice president Doug Ryhorchuk said: “We are investing for the long haul with these projects to boost capacity and network resiliency to meet growing traffic on our corridors to and from the West Coast and across BC.

“Our investments in infrastructure, equipment and people will help us deliver superior service to our customers across the province and North America. Additionally, our substantial investments to renew our existing railway infrastructure underscore our commitment to operating safely.”

The planned expansion projects include the construction of four new train passing sidings between Prince Rupert and Jasper, Alberta, in addition to the extension of three existing passing sidings in the same area.

A siding extension is also planned north of Kamloops on CN’s Vancouver to Edmonton corridor.

The maintenance programme will involve the replacement of nearly 115 miles of rail, installation of over 335,000 new crossties and reconstruction of about 50 road-crossing surfaces.

Maintenance will also be carried out on bridges as part of CN’s multi-year maintenance project on the Fraser River Bridge. Similar works will be undertaken on culverts, signal systems and additional track infrastructure.

British Columbia Delta Member of Parliament Carla Qualtrough said: “CN’s infrastructure investments this year throughout BC will help strengthen local economies, support good middle-class jobs and further solidify BC’s economic advantage as Canada’s Pacific Gateway.”

CN’s rail network in BC serves the West Coast gateways of Vancouver and Prince Rupert, as well as key inland terminals in Surrey, Prince George, Kamloops and Fort Nelson.