Covid-19: VIA Rail Canada suspends several rail services

16 March 2020

Network Rail resumes services on Southend rail line

16 March 2020

The UK’s Network Rail has announced that services on the Southend rail line will resume from 16 Monday after the speed restriction at Maryland was removed.

In light of the disruption, Network Rail changed the phasing of the track upgrade programme to ensure that the trains on the rail line are able to operate at a higher speed.

This also permits the trains to run according to their usual schedule in the morning and evening peak hours.

The rail operator put in the speed restrictions under a critical track replacement programme at London Liverpool Street.

After completion, this programme is expected to decrease delays and cancellations due to faulty tracks.

Network Rail Anglia route director Ellie Burrows said: “I’m sorry that passengers on the Southend line have bared the brunt of this speed restriction and that coupled with the closures for the weekend works to upgrade the overhead wires, they are dealing with a lot of disruption.

“For that reason, we’ve rephased the works so that we could safely lift the speed restriction two weeks earlier than planned so a full service can run. I have begun a full review into this to minimise the impact of our work in the future.”

The track at Maryland is expected to be replaced by 30 March while follow-up works will be carried out on 18 and 19 April.

As a part of its £46m investment, Network Rail has commenced the work to replace the overhead wires on the rail track from Shenfield to Southend Victoria.

Earlier this month, Network Rail announced £113m worth of investment projects to be carried out across the UK during the Easter period to improve the reliability of rail infrastructure.

Covid-19: New York City Subway ridership plummets

13 March 2020

The New York City Subway in the US has witnessed a steep decrease in daily ridership amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

The total subway ridership dropped 18.5% on 11 March, compared with the same day a year ago.

New York City Subway is operated by New York City Transit Authority, a part of Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

The city’s commuter rail services Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road also witnessed sharp fall in footfalls, reported New York Post citing an MTA spokesperson.

The data comes at a time when MTA announced to increase the frequency of sanitising procedures across New York City Transit, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North.

Under the revised plan, the stations will be disinfected twice daily while rolling stock will be cleaned daily with a full fleet of train cars and buses completed every 72 hours or less.

In addition, frequently touched surfaces in stations such as ticket vending machines and handrails are now being sanitised twice every day.

MTA chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye said: “Our top priority is to ensure we are doing all we can to make the system as safe as possible for customers and employees.

“We are investigating new advanced disinfectant methods to build on the round-the-clock efforts our hard-working employees are undertaking to sanitise the system.”

In a separate development, US-based passenger railroad service Amtrak also announced it would increase cleaning services on trains and at stations.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases in the US has crossed 1,700. The global figure stands at 133,889, with the death toll nearing 5,000.

Turkey’s Cengiz Insaat wins €322m deal to upgrade Croatian rail line

13 March 2020

Turkish firm Cengiz Insaat Sanayi ve Ticaret has secured an HRK2.42bn (€322m) contract to rehabilitate a 42.6km rail line in Croatia.

Awarded by Croatian state-run company HZ Infrastruktura, the contract was signed in the presence of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.

The project involves the reconstruction and upgrade of a part of the Croatian segment of the Mediterranean corridor, stretching from Krizevci to the Croatia-Hungary border via Koprivnica.

The scope of works includes double-tracking of the line with two viaducts, 21 railway overpasses and underpasses, as well as other associated improvements. Additionally, nine stations along the route will be modernised.

Once complete, the project will enable trains to operate at speeds of up to 160km/h on the line.

Project works are slated to begin next month and expected to complete in October 2023.

At the contract signing ceremony, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that this project is co-financed with HRK1.8bn (€237.5) in funding from the European Union’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).

HZ Infrastruktura is the railway infrastructure division of Croatian Railways.

Last month, passenger transport division HŽPP signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with SŽ Passenger Transport of Slovenia to improve cross-border rail connectivity.

As part of the CONNECT2CE project, the agreement will enable both entities to ensure better service on trains between Zagreb and Ljubljana, the capital cities of Croatia and Slovenia respectively.

The CONNECT2CE project aims to improve accessibility between the regional areas of central Europe and the main transport networks and hubs.

US allocates $248.5m to fund railroad infrastructure projects

13 March 2020

The US has allocated $248.5m in grants to fund several state and local railroad infrastructure projects.

Allocated under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program, the funds will be used to support 32 projects across 27 states.

Of these projects, 15 are situated in Opportunity Zones, which were created to strengthen underdeveloped communities using private investments.

US Transportation Secretary Elaine L Chao said: “This $248.5m federal investment will upgrade rail infrastructure and enhance safety on the tracks and at railroad crossings in rural and urban communities across America.”

Some of the projects that will receive funding include a rural freight rail project in Kansas and Oklahoma. The project will receive up to $27m in funding to support track upgrades, rail replacement, bridges, rail ties and grade crossings among others.

The Windsor Locks Station improvement works in Connecticut will receive up to $17.49m. Works include building a new ADA-compliant intercity passenger rail station with level boarding platform along with associated track and road works.

The government also allocated up to $21.45m for the rehabilitation of the Merchants Bridge in Missouri and up to $26.6m for the Muskego Yard Bypass project in Wisconsin.

FRA administrator Ronald Batory said: “These grants support the economic vitality of our nation’s rural and urban communities all around the country.”

In October 2019, FRA made $396m in grant funding available for rail capital projects. The programme was devised to support rehabilitation of eligible rail projects.

Covid-19: Japan’s bullet train ridership plummets by 56% amid outbreak

12 March 2020

MTR Corp deploys VHP Robot for deep cleaning of trains

12 March 2020

Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation has deployed an automated Vapourised Hydrogen Peroxide Robot (VHP Robot) to carry out deep cleaning and decontamination in train compartments and stations.

This is expected to boost hygiene and health protection for passengers and staff amid the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

A co-invention arising from a joint project of MTR and Hong Kong-based biotechnology firm Avalon Biomedical (Management), the VHP Robot automatically sprays a hydrogen peroxide solution that is atomised to a specific concentration.

The robot ensures that disinfectants get into even small gaps that are otherwise difficult to reach during the regular cleaning process. This process can eliminate viruses and bacteria, including staphylococcus aureus, E.coli and so on.

VHP Robot has passed through relevant tests and is claimed to have achieved the required results.

In the event disinfection is to be carried out, the operator can preset the VHP Robot to operate automatically by pre-setting the floorplan of the required area. The operator can also remotely control the robot manually with a mobile device within a distance of 20m.

It usually consumes about four hours to complete the cleaning of an eight-car train in automatic mode. However, under a special situation such as a passenger vomiting on a train, MTR employees can deploy VHP Robot to carry out deep cleaning in addition to the regular cleaning with diluted bleach water.

The VHP Robot was recently deployed to disinfect the back-of-house area at Mong Kok East Station after a staff member was diagnosed with Covid-19.

MTR Corporation operations director Dr Tony Lee said: “We fully understand our passengers’ concerns about hygiene in their travelling environment, especially amid the current Covid-19 outbreak.

“While MTR has comprehensively strengthened cleaning and disinfection work in the railway network, we have also continued to actively explore feasible enhancements.

“We plan to deploy a total of 20 VHP robots for train cleaning in depots and hope this helps to ensure the comfort of passengers’ journeys by providing ever-greater health protection for our colleagues and our customers alike. We are very happy to be collaborating with Avalon and are very encouraged by the results.”

One dead and several injured in Mexico underground metro crash

11 March 2020

At least one person was killed and more than 40 injured after two underground metro trains collided in Mexico City.

The accident took place at approximately 11:30pm local time (5:30am GMT) at Tacubaya metro station in the west of the city, the BBC reported.

Television footage showed the force of the crash left one of the trains lying on top of the other at the station.

Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum was quoted by the BBC as saying that 25 people were taken to hospital but none of them had serious injuries.

The Mexico City Metro serves nearly 1.6 billion passengers annually. It has 12 lines and 195 stations.

The Mexico City fire brigade rushed to the spot, along with the Red Cross and Civil Protection Service.