China Mobile and Huawei to launch 5G network in Shanghai station

19 February 2019

Telecommunications equipment supplier Huawei has partnered with China Mobile’s Shanghai unit to launch the 5G Digital Indoor System in the city’s Hongqiao Railway Station.

The digital indoor system, expected to be deployed by the end of the year, will offer fast 5G network services to all passengers.

The 5G network involves high-bandwidth, low-latency and massive connections. However, it utilises high-frequencies where signalling becomes weaker while penetrating buildings, which poses a challenge when offering next-generation connectivity in indoor locations with a large number of users.

Accordingly, China Mobile Shanghai will install Huawei’s 5G digital indoor system (DIS), a commercially available solution offering 5G indoor coverage.

The 5G DIS will provide network coverage across the Hongqiao station, enabling thousands of people to use the network simultaneously for the internet or for making phone calls.

Huawei Wireless Solution CMO Peter Zhou said: “The 5G DIS was built using Huawei chips, integrated designs and high-performance antennas.

“It leads the industry in terms of performance, specification and technologies.”

During the launch event, the 5G DIS offered a 1.2Gbps peak rate, which will enable a passenger using the system to download a 2GB high-definition film in less than 20 seconds.

Additionally, it will offer high-speed connectivity, 4K HD video calling and multi-way ultra-HD video uploading services while they are at the station.

One of Asia’s biggest traffic hubs, Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station manages more than 60 million passengers annually.

Zhou added: “5G will also provide a big boost to Cloud services. The railway stations of the future may be more intelligent than we can possibly imagine.”

RDIF and Siemens sign deal for $4.5bn high-speed rail link in Russia

18 February 2019

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) has signed an agreement with Germany’s Siemens Mobility to develop the RUR300bn ($4.5bn) Ural High-Speed Rail project.

The project involves constructing a 220km-long double-track high-speed rail link connecting the cities of Chelyabinsk and Yekaterinburg in Russia.

It also includes building four railway stations (Balandino and Koltsovo airports, Snezhinsk and Sysert), ten intermediate stations and station complexes, as well as a high-speed rolling stock depot.

Building four traction substations and a control building for Ural High-Speed Rail are also part of the overall project works.

RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev said: “The project to build a high-speed railway linking Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk, each with a population of more than one million, is of strategic importance not only for these regions but also for the whole country.

“It will help create the third largest urban area in Russia with a population of four million people.”

Construction for the project is scheduled to begin in 2021, with commissioning expected in 2025. Once operational, trains will run on the high-speed line at a speed of 300km/h.

As a step to develop the rail link, a special purpose vehicle called Economic Partnership Ural High-Speed Rail (EP UHSR) was established in March 2016.

The EP UHSR is responsible for the preparation of the project, including procuring necessary funds and devising a strategy for implementation.

It currently comprises six participants, comprising Chelyabinsk region, Development Corporation of Middle Ural, RWM Capital Investment Group, Chelyabinsk Pipe-Rolling Plant, Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel Works, and Russian Copper Company.

India’s first semi-high speed train begins commercial operations

18 February 2019

India has started commercial operations of its first semi high-speed train called ‘Train 18’.

The inaugural run of the train, rechristened as Vande Bharat Express, was flagged off by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the New Delhi Railway Station.

Capable of running at a maximum speed of 160km/h, the semi high-speed train will operate on the New Delhi-Kanpur-Allahabad-Varanasi route.

It will cover the full distance between New Delhi and Varanasi in eight hours and run five days a week.

Equipped with 16 air-conditioned coaches, the Vande Bharat Express has a total seating capacity of 1,128 passengers.

All coaches feature comfortable seating, automatic doors, GPS based audio-visual passenger information system, dual mode lighting and onboard hotspot Wi-Fi services.

Additionally, they have a pantry car to serve meals to the passengers.

The train also has a regenerative braking system, which can save 30% of electrical energy, and insulation protection to reduce heat and noise levels to provide additional passenger comfort.

The Vande Bharat Express has been developed at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), a railway production unit in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The unit was designed and built over a span of 18 months.

During the inauguration, Prime Minister Modi was quoted by the news agency PTI as saying: “I am grateful to designers and engineers behind the Vande Bharat Express, which will take its first trip from Delhi to Varanasi today.

“With our sincerity and hard work in the last four-and-half years, we have tried to improve railways.”

California plans to scale back $77.3bn high-speed rail project

15 February 2019

The US state of California is set to significantly reduce the scope of its $77.3bn high-speed rail project due to spiralling costs, delays and lack of transparency.

The scale back plans were announced by California Governor Gavin Newsom in his first State of the State Address.

According to the revised plan, the under-construction 119-mile (191km) rail link between Merced and Bakersfield within the state’s Central Valley region will be completed, while the larger project connecting San Francisco with Los Angeles (LA) will be dropped.

Governor Newsom said: “The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency.

“Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to LA. I wish there were.

“However, we do have the capacity to complete a high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield.”

Initially, California planned to construct a 520-mile (826.8km) high-speed rail system between Los Angeles and San Francisco in a step to mitigate traffic congestion.

Commercial operations were due to begin by 2033 with trains travelling at a speed of 354kph, reported Reuters. In 2008, the California voters approved around $10bn in bond proceeds to build the project. It was followed by $3.5bn of funding from the federal government in 2010.

Last year, the state announced that project costs have increased to more than $77bn and may again soar to up to $98.1bn. According to the latest plan, building the Merced-Bakersfield section is expected to cost $10.6bn.

BNSF to invest $3.57bn on railway networks this year

15 February 2019

US-based freight railroad operator BNSF Railway Company is set to invest $3.57bn on railway networks this year.

The latest plan includes a maintenance budget of nearly $2.47bn, which will be used to maintain the company’s core network and associated assets.

The maintenance projects to be carried out this year include replacement and upgrading rail and track infrastructures such as ballast and rail ties. Overall, it will include around 12,000 miles of track surfacing and/or undercutting work, as well as replacing 535 miles of rail and nearly 2.3 million rail ties.

A portion of the budget will also be used to refurbish its rolling stock.

Additionally, around $760m has been allocated for expansion and efficiency projects. Most of BASF’s planned expansion projects are on the Northern and Southern Transcon routes.

The expansion projects include connecting Southern California with Chicago and the Pacific Northwest to Upper Midwest. The remaining $340m of this year’s investment will be used to procure freight cars, locomotives and other rail equipment.

BASF president and CEO Carl Ice said: “Our rail network is in excellent shape and its condition is a direct result of our continued capital investments.

“We work tirelessly to provide the level of service our customers expect and to position ourselves well for future growth opportunities.”

Since 2000, BASF has invested around $65bn in its network. Last year, the company announced an investment programme of $3.3bn. As one of the largest freight transportation companies in North America, BNSF operates around 32,500 route miles across 28 US states. It also operates in three Canadian provinces.

Report states that Turin-Lyon high-speed rail will not be profitable

14 February 2019

A report commissioned by the Italian Government has stated that the planned Turin-Lyon high-speed rail will not be profitable and will have a ‘strongly negative’ financial return.

The 270km route is scheduled to connect the Italian city of Turin with Lyon in France, linking the high-speed rail networks of the two countries. The core section of the project includes construction of a tunnel through the Alps mountain range between Susa valley in Italy and Maurienne in France.

According to the report, the project would result in a loss of around €7bn by 2059, taking into account overalls costs and the estimated return.

The report added that the Turin-Lyon high-speed rail will procure €1.3bn through passenger traffic. However, it will not be enough to recover the costs.

The project has been a major cause of contention between the two parties of the ruling coalition in Italy. The League party has been a proponent of the rail link, while its partner 5-Star Movement wants the project to be scrapped.

Scheduled to be completed in 2025, the line is expected to reduce travel time between Milan and Paris from around seven hours to nearly four hours.

Furthermore, the proponents of the project advocate that the high-speed rail line will help in removing millions of trucks from the road, reducing greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

The European Union, which has invested in the project, said that it may ask for reimbursement if the project is suspended, reported AFP.

Siemens secures Singapore metro lines electrification contract

13 February 2019

Siemens Mobility has secured a nearly €70m contract to carry out electrification works of the Circle Line Stage 6 and North East Line extension (NELe) in Singapore.

Commissioned by Land Transport Authority (LTA) in Singapore, the contract includes the delivery of a direct and alternating current rail electrification system and overhead power lines for the NELe.

Siemens Mobility CEO Michael Peter said: “The extension of the Circle Line and the North East Line will expand the mobility options for millions of commuters in Singapore.

“With the electrification of the two lines, we will be making an important contribution toward decisively improving the availability of public transport in the city-state.”

The metro lines will be upgraded to the Siemens Catenary System Standard Rigid (Sicat SR) aluminium overhead busbar system. The Sicat SR system has a lower installation height and a low voltage drop compared to traditional overhead power lines.

Additionally, it has a high current-carrying capacity, short-circuit resistance and reduced contact wire wear.

In March 2018, Siemens was contracted to deliver the signalling system for the Downtown Line 3 extension in Singapore. It also received the order to supply a Rail Enterprise Asset Management System in September 2018.

Earlier this month, Siemens received a contract to supply 14 S70 light-rail vehicles to Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (Metro) in the US.

These vehicles will be manufactured at Siemens’ Sacramento facility in California and will strengthen Metro’s S70 fleet to 51 vehicles.

UK rail passengers call for transparency on how trains are powered

11 February 2019

A study has found that 43% of frequent train passengers in the UK prefer to know how each train is being powered so that they can make a more environmentally-conscious decision. 

This study was undertaken by pan-European train comparison and booking platform Loco2 on 5 November in anticipation of the hydrogen trains coming to the UK in the early 2020s.  

Loco2 asked 1,025 regular train passengers living in the UK if they would like to know how trains are powered. 

A petition has been created urging the Department for Transport and the Rail Delivery Group to make it mandatory for all rail operators to be transparent about what fuel powers their trains.

This transparency will enable consumers to have the information they require to select the train they prefer to travel on in the interest of the environment.

The Department for Transport’s Rail Review Team has received the request for consideration before the company releases its white paper next Autumn.

Commenting on the campaign, Loco2 executive Cristina Astorri said: “We know that rail operators have the fuel data we are asking for readily available, but it’s not in their interest to share it, especially those who aren’t prioritising the planet over making profit.

“The only barrier to train operators sharing this information some might say is that hybrid trains will run part of the journey using one power source and will switch to another, but this shouldn’t make any real difference because they know when the power source switches. Typically, an electric train emits 20-35% less carbon emissions than a diesel train, it’s a massive difference. ”

This campaign is not only expected to make rail operators share the data, but will enable consumers to vote with their feet by choosing to take cleaner energy trains over the older, polluting ones.

Astorri added: “If this shift in consumer behaviour is great enough, train operators will be forced to improve the way they power their trains in order to appeal to existing and new customers.”

Environmental charity Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett said: “A shift from air to rail is important to fight climate change, but more can be done to make train travel sustainable. It means making trains zero emissions and decarbonising the network.

“Giving people more information about the journeys they take means they can make greener choices about their travel too. This campaign is forward-thinking in calling for change before the new hydrogen trains, which could have a role to play alongside electrification, if fossil fuels aren’t used for production, are introduced into the UK.”