Five firms join HS2’s Innovation Accelerator initiative

14 September 2020

Austria’s ÖBB launches hydrogen train passenger trial

14 September 2020

Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) has launched a three-month-long passenger trial of a hydrogen train as it seeks to explore technological alternatives to reduce transport emissions.

In the passenger trial, the company is using Alstom-built Coradia iLint, which runs on a hydrogen fuel cell.

ÖBB is expected to test the vehicle on regional railway lines in the southern part of Austria to assess its effectiveness as a potential replacement of diesel trains.

ÖBB-Holding CEO Andreas Matthä said: “We clearly see ourselves as pioneers in testing hydrogen technology on rail. As the largest climate protection company in Austria, we are actively shaping the mobility of the future with technological alternatives.”

This comes after Coradia iLint underwent test operations in northern Germany between 2018 and this year.

The Coradia iLint uses onboard fuel cells to convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. Designed specifically for use on non-electrified lines, the emission-free train only discharges steam and water.

Alstom Germany and Austria CEO Dr Jörg Nikutta said: “With its use in regular passenger operations for ÖBB, our innovation train Coradia iLint has reached the next milestone.

“The train’s emission-free drive technology offers a climate-friendly alternative to conventional diesel trains, especially on non-electrified lines.

“I am particularly pleased that ÖBB, a strong and long-term partner in the European mobility market, is convinced of our technology and its advantages.”

Overall, Alstom sold 41 of these hydrogen-powered trains in Germany. Several other countries have also expressed interest in this emission-free technology.

Earlier this year, Alstom carried out tests of the Coradia iLint train on a 65km line in the Netherlands.

Stonehaven: Report calls for improving resilience to climate change

11 September 2020

An interim report by the UK’s Network Rail has said that adverse weather events due to climate change have accelerated the deterioration of earthworks and drainage systems, putting railway infrastructure at risk.

As a result, the report noted that it is imperative to implement devised plans and increase the usage of technology to improve resilience to climate change.

The report states: “Climate change considerations are being embedded in our standards and planning, and the government’s Committee on Climate Change recognises our resilience planning for climate change adaptation is well advanced.

“But it is clear from the impact of severe weather events experienced in recent years that this is an area that is accelerating faster than our assumptions, and as a result, it has become even more important to implement these plans.”

This comes after a train derailment in Stonehaven killed three people last month. This was the first train accident in the UK since 2007 that involved fatalities.

The train had hit washed-out rocks on the track, causing the derailment.

Following the accident, Network Rail identified 584 sites that share similar characteristics to the Stonehaven line and conducted inspections for significant defects.

Around 1% of the identified sites require sooner intervention than originally planned.

This month, industry rules for reporting and reacting to heavy rainfall was revised. The new standard calls for using real-time rainfall data and application of extreme weather action teleconferences.

The technology usage will be expanded for predicting and warning potential failures and weather events to enable decisions at a local level.

Local route managers and signallers now gain more authority to stop trains during significant weather events.

Network Rail has also formed two task forces understanding of severe weather events and improve earthworks management.

The report was commissioned by the UK Department for Transport following the Stonehaven accident.

Earlier this week, Network Rail started removing train carriages from the site.

New York’s MTA to carry out improvement works on DNR Lines

11 September 2020

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York, US, is set to carry out improvement works on D, N and R rapid transit services next month.

The scope of works will include the replacement of track switches, track repairs and drain cleaning to improve services on the lines in Brooklyn, The Bronx, Manhattan and Queens.

The replacement of the ageing track switches will enable the trains to switch between the local and express tracks. It is also expected to help in reducing delays and improving operational flexibility.

Inspections on the Manhattan Bridge are also part of the work programme.

As planned, the work will be conducted on three weekends starting from 9 October.

This comes when the daily ridership on the lines are low due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The DNR lines are currently carrying around 44,000 and 65,000 passengers, which represents 33% to 50% of pre-pandemic weekend ridership.

MTA construction and development president Janno Lieber said: “Building on the success of the recently completed Union Square track project, we are again taking advantage of this period of low ridership to get work done and make sure the system is upgraded.

“Completing this track work now will benefit New Yorkers returning to the system in the coming months.”

New York City Transit interim president Sarah Feinberg said: “Despite the challenges the MTA is facing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, our crews are still completing projects that improve the reliability, performance and safety of our system.

“This work is crucial in moving towards a modernised system that results in as few disruptions as possible for our riders.”

Last month, MTA announced that it will conduct critical track replacement works in Queens. The works will be completed in two phases starting this month.

Indian Railways to redesign sleeper and general coaches with AC

10 September 2020

Indian Railways is planning to redesign three-tier sleeper class and unreserved general class coaches as air-conditioned (AC) carriages to improve the passenger travel experience.

According to The Indian Express report, the Rail Coach Factory in Kapurthala will build the prototype of the upgraded sleeper class coach. The carriage will feature 83 berths instead of the usual 72.

The upgraded variant will be known as AC three-tier Tourist Class, an official told the publication.

In the first phase, 230 such coaches will be manufactured with each costing around Rs30m ($408,543).

The cost is around 10% more than the manufacturing cost of the current AC three-tier Class coach.

However, the railways expect that additional berths on AC three-tier Tourist Class and demand will fetch more earnings.

The unreserved general class coaches will also be reconfigured as a 100-seater AC Class. The design of the coach is currently being finalised.

Both the upgraded versions will be developed on the Linke Hofmann Busch platform as Indian Railways is gradually phasing out the older ICF variant.

The plan to upgrade the sleeper and general coaches is part of the government’s plan to switch to an all-AC model. However, a formal decision has not been taken.

National High-Speed Rail, the entity entrusted to develop a bullet train project in India, recently issued a tender for the proposed high-speed rail corridor between Mumbai and Nagpur.

The tender floated is for survey works, identification of overhead, overground, underground utilities, and power sourcing options for substations.

DB Cargo signs agreement with Siemens to procure up to 400 locomotives

9 September 2020

Malaysia plans to reroute $10.7bn East Coast Rail Link

9 September 2020

Malaysia is planning to realign the $10.7bn East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), a key project being built under China’s Belt and Road initiative.

According to a Reuters report, the Malaysian Government plans to revert to the original route with minor changes. The proposed changes include some realignment around the south of Kuala Lumpur.

As a result, the government will reassess the cost and schedule of the project to enable the rerouting.

In the parliament, Malaysian Deputy Transport Minister Hasbi Habibollah was quoted by the news agency as saying: “The government will renegotiate with the Chinese Government and the main contractor of the project to ascertain the cost implication and project implementation schedule.”

He added that the outcome of the renegotiation will be placed before the government for approval.

Last year, Malaysia revived the ECRL project after suspending works on the rail link in 2018 due to high costs. However, the scope and cost of the project were significantly reduced to lighten the financial burden.

Estimated to complete in 2026, the 640km-long ECRL will connect Peninsular Malaysia’s eastern coast to states near Kuala Lumpur.

The Malaysian unit of China Communications Construction is contracted to build the rail line.

Once complete, the ECRL is expected to benefit the shipping and logistical industries, as well as support industry growth in the region.

Minister Hasbi said that rerouting will have a negligible impact on the current cost of the project.

China to complete key rail project in Tibet amid tensions with India

7 September 2020

China is reportedly planning to complete a key railway project in Tibet amid ongoing border tensions with India.

Construction work to complete the middle section of the Sichuan-Tibet railway link will begin in the upcoming weeks.

This comes after Xinhua news agency quoted Chinese President Xi Jinping as saying in a meeting with local officials that major infrastructure projects in Tibet will be completed to strengthen unity in the region.

The CNY270bn ($39.5bn) project involves connecting Tibetan capital of Lhasa with Chengdu. The contractors are anticipated to face construction challenges due to the rough terrain of the region.

Besides the Sichuan-Tibet railway link, the construction plans include building the proposed railway line between Nepal and Tibet. In July, it was reported that China commenced ground works for the project.

Reuters reported that the government also plans to develop a dry port in the Tibet Autonomous Region, citing sources familiar with the matter.

India and China have been engaged in a military standoff along the border for several months. The standoff resulted in occasional skirmishes with both countries incurring casualties.

The tensions recently fuelled again following more military action.

China aims to build high-speed rail network in Tibet for improved connectivity and accessibility.

Last month, China State Railway Group unveiled a plan that aims to expand the rail network to around 200,000km by the end of 2035.