CN Rail to invest $238.9m in Ontario rail infrastructure

13 July 2018

The Canadian National Railway Company (CN) is planning to invest C$315m ($238.9m) this year in an effort to strengthen the rail network across the province of Ontario.

The investment, which is part of the CN’s C$3.4bn ($2.58bn) capital programme for 2018, will be used to add a train passing siding in CN’s transcontinental corridor and expand intermodal rail yards to facilitate container movement across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Various replacement and maintenance works will also be undertaken across the province to enhance operational safety and efficiency.

CN Eastern Region vice president Michael Farkouh said: “We are investing for the long haul with these projects to boost capacity and network resiliency to meet growing demand across our economy.

“Our investments in track and intermodal yard capacity combined with new equipment will help us deliver superior service to our customers in Ontario and North America.

“Additionally, our substantial investments to renew our existing railway infrastructure underscores our commitment to operating safely.”

The expansion and maintenance projects planned with the investment include bolstering the capacity of a satellite intermodal facility near CN’s Brampton Intermodal Terminal and construction of a new train passing siding east of Sioux Lookout.

The scheme will also feature the replacement of 90 miles of rail, the installation of around 380,000 new railroad ties and maintenance work on multiple bridges, signal systems and other track infrastructure.

CN’s Ontario rail network includes 2,510 miles of railway route. It also hosts the MacMillan Yard and Brampton Intermodal Terminal, CN’s rail car classification and intermodal facilities respectively.

In the last five years, CN has invested more than C$1.2bn ($910m) in Ontario’s rail infrastructure.

Germany approves Alstom’s hydrogen train for passenger service

13 July 2018

The German Railway Office (EBA) has given the greenlight to Alstom’s hydrogen fuel cell passenger trainset for commercial operations on Germany’s railway networks.

Alstom’s Coradia iLint train is the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell passenger train that produces electrical power for traction. It has been specially designed to operate on non-electrified lines.

Following the approval, a set of two zero-emission train prototypes will be deployed for a pilot operation in the Elbe-Weser network, with the first passenger services scheduled for late summer.

The German Federal Government’s authorised delegate for rail transportation Enak Ferlemann said: “A world premiere in Germany: with the approval of the German Railway Office, we are sending the first passenger train with fuel cell technology onto the tracks.

“This is a strong sign of the mobility of the future. Hydrogen is a true low-emission and efficient alternative to diesel. Especially on secondary lines, where overhead lines are uneconomic or not yet available, these trains are a clean and environmentally friendly option. That is why we support and promote the technology, in order to bring it to the surface.”

Designed by Alstom’s teams in Salzgitter, Germany and Tarbes, France, the Coradia iLint received support from the German ministry of economy and mobility.

The company received €8m from the German Government as part of the National Innovation Program for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NIP).

Alstom R&D and innovation vice president Wolfram Schwab said: “This approval is a major milestone for the Coradia iLint and a decisive step towards clean and future-oriented mobility. Alstom is immensely proud of this hydrogen-powered regional train, a breakthrough in emission-free mobility and the fact that it will now go into regular passenger operation.”

In November last year, Alstom signed a contract with local transport authority Lower Saxony (LNVG) for the delivery of 14 hydrogen fuel cell trains. The contract also includes a provision of maintenance and energy supply for a period of 30 years.

Rail technology map project launches in Australia

12 July 2018

The Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) has partnered with the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) and Deakin University to develop a ‘Smart Rail Route Map’, a project that aims to identify a plan for technology in the rail industry for the next 30 years.

Valued at A$500,000, the project will be funded by the Rail Manufacturing CRC and ARA, which will provide A$200,000 in cash, while the remaining A$300,000 will come from in-kind contributions.

“The Smart Rail Route Map will help our industry realise the vision of a national approach to rail technology, bringing economies of scale and supporting interoperability,” said ARA CEO Danny Broad.

According to the partners, the map will be technology-neutral and communicate in a non-technical manner. The Australian rail industry will own the system’s outputs and use them to introduce new technologies and services.

Deakin’s Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation professor Douglas Creighton is leading the university project team that will work on mapping the system during the development and modelling of the project’s outputs.

He said: “The project team is collaborating directly with a newly established steering committee made up of representatives across the Australian rail industry, to define industry goals, map key challenges for the rail sector over the next 30 years relating to technology disruption and identify focus area objectives and initiatives.”

The committee has held meetings with several industry players to discuss the map’s main focus areas: Customer Service (Passenger), Customer Service (Freight), Traffic and Network Management, and High Performance Rail, with the aim to complete the project by the end of 2018.

Dr Stuart Thomson from Deakin University said: “The Smart Rail Route Map will translate ideas and data into a meaningful direction for how the Australian rail industry can leverage technology in the coming decades. The Rail Manufacturing CRC looks forward to working with the ARA and Deakin University to see tangible collaborative opportunities identified.”

GE Transportation rolls out first locomotive for Ukrainian Railways

12 July 2018

GE Transportation has unveiled its first GE Evolution Series locomotive destined for Ukrainian Railways and built under a $1bn agreement signed in February this year.

The agreement involves the delivery of 30 TE33A locomotives to Ukrainian Railways, as well as additional locomotive kits and maintenance services.
Ukrainian Railways management board acting chairman Yevgen Kravtsov said: “This locomotive represents the next step in Ukraine’s long working relationship with GE.

“Our partnership will not only upgrade our fleet but modernise Ukraine’s transportation infrastructure and further cement our country’s position as a key transit hub between Europe and Asia and ensure Ukraine’s export potential.”

To be developed in the US, all the locomotives will be transferred to Ukraine for final assembly and other associated works.

GE Transportation Equipment vice president Yuvbir Singh said: “Our partnership will transform Ukraine’s rail network and foster growth for our customer and the country.

“This locomotive is the ideal solution for Ukrainian Railways to achieve those goals in a competitive market.”

Equipped with a 12-cylinder, 4,500-horsepower Evolution Series engine, the TE33A locomotive is designed to provide high power output, additional flexibility and reduce lifecycle costs.

The introduction of these vehicles is also expected to significantly reduce harmful emissions and lower fuel costs.

Once they are inducted into service, the locomotives are expected to be used to haul bulk agricultural goods and metals products to the market.

Thailand’s high-speed rail project enjoys popularity among bidders

11 July 2018

The Thai Government has announced it has received over 30 bids from local and international companies to build the country’s first high-speed railway linking three major airports.

State-owned railway operator the State Railway of Thailand (SRT), which is currently overseeing the bidding process, has seen 31 companies put forward proposals for the project in less than a month.

The country is planning to build a 220km rail line linking Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and U-Tapao airports in what has been described as the first large infrastructure project to be built in the Eastern Economic Corridor investment zone. The project is estimated to cost 225bn baht ($7.07bn) and will help to reduce the travel time between Bangkok and the corridor to under an hour.

As part of the project, the government also plans to expand the ports of Laem Chabang and Map Ta Phut, develop U-Tapao Airport and collaborate with Airbus and Thai Airways International to build maintenance facilities around the facility.

According to a statement from the SRT, 14 local companies are considering bidding for the high-speed project, competing with seven Chinese companies, four Japanese, two French, two Malaysian, one Italian and a South Korean consortium. Among them are multinational corporations including Japan’s Hitachi, French state-owned railway operator SNCF, China Resources and China Railway.

The local bidders include food processor Charoen Pokphand Group and BTS Group Holdings, which operates Bangkok’s Skytrain elevated railway. German railway giant Siemens and Canada’s Bombardier are also thought to have shown interest earlier this year.

Thailand’s deputy minister for transport Pairin Chuchotethavorn said: “This shows that the high-speed train project is much-awaited … [and] has interested many Thai and foreign companies. I am surprised there are some Asian companies joining the bidding, particularly from South Korea and Malaysia.”

The SRT said it will meet with officials from the Eastern Economic Corridor and representatives from the 31 bidders on 24 July for a briefing, which will be followed by a tour of the construction sites. The deadline for submitting bids is 12 November 2018.

According to Nikkei Asian Review, sources close to the government said the Transport Ministry expects fewer bidders to submit their documents: “We expect some firms will join together and set up joint ventures or corporations to make it easier, in terms of financial structure, to bid for the project.”

The government is planning to announce the winner in December and kick off construction works at the beginning of 2019.

Earlier in February, the Thai National Legislative Assembly approved a set of rules that put the interested zone under civilian law in a bid to reassure foreign investors that the corridor spanning the eastern provinces of Chonburi, Rayong and Chachoengsao will remain, even if the junta led by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha is replaced.

Thailand is currently holding final talks with Cambodia to build a cross-border railway link that will help boost trading relations between the two countries.

The junta also recently gave the go-ahead for the construction of a high-speed railway connecting Thailand with China.

Rail bosses postpone timetable changes to avoid further chaos

10 July 2018

UK train operators have decided to scale back their next timetable overhaul, which was planned for December 2018, to avoid a repeat of the rail disruption that took place in May following the introduction of a new schedule.

Train timetables are usually rescheduled twice a year – in the summer and in the winter –to improve punctuality and boost capacity. However, what was labelled at the biggest ever rail timetable overhaul turned out to be more damaging than helpful.

Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern are among the eight franchises that encountered the most problems during the overhaul, which led to dozens of train cancellations and delays every day. Both operators have therefore opted to postpone their new overhaul to 2019.

Cross Country, Great Western Railway, London Overground, South Western Railway (SWR), TransPennine Express and West Midlands Trains also announced they will not amend their timetables this winter, while other operators will introduce only minor changes.

Infrastructure manager Network Rail labelled the recent problems as ‘painful lessons’, which, however, are yet to be learnt as operators continue to struggle with new service schedules.

Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy said that the majority of changes will be introduced gradually over the next few overhauls in a bid to make services more reliable. He added: “The railway industry has taken a long, hard look at its plans for the next timetable change in December and, taking into account recent painful lessons, the industry has scaled back its ambition and tempered it with a more cautious, phased approach to introducing the new timetable.

“The railway is too vital for the health and wealth of our country to risk a repeat of the mistakes of May, and this more balanced approach of ambition and caution is absolutely the right thing to do for the millions who rely on our railway every day.”

Industry body The Rail Delivery Group welcomed the decision and the franchises’ wish to take a more cautious approach to the overhaul. Chief executive Paul Plummer said: “In parts of the country, many people have suffered unacceptable disruption following the introduction of the new timetable in May for which we are sincerely sorry. The industry is determined to learn the lessons from what went wrong.”

South Western Railway expressed its disappointment at the decision, as its previously planned timetable change in December would have led to increased capacity.

Transport Focus chief executive Anthony Smith said that the announcement will help maintain a more dependable service, though claimed that “long-suffering passengers who have put up with much inconvenience … will be disappointed that promised improvements may be delivered more slowly”.

Cambodia and Thailand complete cross-border rail link

9 July 2018

Cambodia and Thailand have reached an agreement on the transportation of goods and people by train across their shared border in a bid to boost trading relations between the two countries.

Local media reported that negotiations were concluded last week and that Cambodian officials are now waiting for the Thai Government to hold internal discussions ahead of signing a new agreement.

Construction works along sections of the western rail line, which stretches from Phnom Penh in Thailand to Poipet in Cambodia, ended last week. The move is expected to bring particular benefits to the freight industry, with trade between the two countries thought to be worth about $6m last year and Cambodian exports to its neighbour valued at $900m.

“Today we completed discussion on the three unresolved points. Thus negotiations have ended,” said Cambodia Minister of Transportation Sun Chanthol after meeting with his Thai counterpart Arkhom Termpittayapaisith last Friday.

Chanthol said at a press conference that a group comprised of officials from both countries has been established to carry out negotiations on the remaining details, which include procedures to follow when transporting goods across the border and the amount of cargo allowed to enter each country every day.

Termpittayapaisith further confirmed the decision by claiming that a signing ceremony is expected to take place in the next few months.

“Connecting our railway systems will boost trade in a wide range of products, including oil,” he said. “It will enhance trade and investment between the two countries, and foment travelling from one country to the other.”

According to Chanthol, Cambodia will receive three carriages and a train engine from Thailand as a donation ahead of the inauguration of the railway link. He added that while the link between Cambodia and Thailand has been finished, the operating schedule will be revealed after the two parties meet on Friday.

Cambodia Ministry of Public Works and Transportation spokesman Vasim Sorya told The Post that the two countries will soon negotiate plans to further reconstruct and expand joint train stations. “The discussions could be called the last stage before the trains can inter-operate as the connection is already complete,” he added.

China to fight growing smog threat by boosting rail freight by 30%

6 July 2018

China is planning to increase its rail freight capacity by raising the volume of goods delivered by train by 30%, an environment minister has announced.

The plan, which the country aims to achieve by 2020, is the government’s latest strategy to tackle growing vehicle pollution, and was announced by Ding Yan, vice-director of the vehicle emissions control centre at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment.

In a statement published on Thursday, Ding explained that trucks produce 13 times more pollution per unit of cargo than trains, adding: “Motor vehicles have become the primary source of pollution in many large and medium-sized cities.”

According to Ding, the number of vehicles on China’s roads reached 310 million last year, with figures showing that car ownership rises by around 20 million per year, making vehicles responsible for approximately 45% of the smog surrounding the Chinese capital of Beijing.

The government has previously attempted to discourage road freight, especially in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, where it recorded the highest levels of pollution. However, road freight still accounts of 76.8% of total cargo deliveries in the past year.

Ding claimed that, despite the government’s efforts to restrict the transportation of coal by road, rail’s share in total freight volumes only grew by 0.1% to 7.7% in 2017. For this reason, the government is aiming to boost rail freight by 30% by the end of the decade. In a bid to discourage road deliveries, Ding said that higher fees will be introduced and stronger monitoring procedures will come into place.

The Chinese Government is also planning to crack down on fraudulent emissions inspection agencies, as well as raise fuel standards, especially for diesel. A document setting out new National VI fuel standards – similar to the Euro VI that was introduced in Europe in 2014 – is to be rolled out at the start of 2019.