Posts Tagged ‘passenger train’

Dick Durbin: Community has to make rail choice


During the last mayoral campaign, the candidates were often asked about the future of rail traffic in our hometown. Many things were said but a few important facts were left out of the debate. If the federal high-speed rail program ended tomorrow, Springfield would still face challenging decisions when it comes to the future of the railroads.

Conservative estimates tell us that economic development in the Midwest will lead, in the near term, to a substantial increase in the number of freight trains operated by Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern and Canadian National. This increase in traffic will happen with or without new Amtrak trains — it is not a product of high-speed rail, which only allows passenger trains to move faster. 


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A Step Closer to Getting High-Speed Rail in America?

The Atlantic

Some have thought that getting high-speed rail in the U.S. is impossible. But maybe not, now that the Chinese appear to be making a serious play for both California and Florida. This piece of news yesterday seems a significant first step:

General Electric Co. and CSR Corp., China’s largest maker of rail vehicles, plan to invest $50 million in their U.S.-based venture for supplying passenger trains for high-speed lines in California and Florida.

The initiative may “sustain or create” 250 jobs by 2012, potentially at GE Transportation factories in Erie and Grove City, Pennsylvania, the company said today. The partners also will form a business to work on medium-speed trains and on urban rail-transit systems, GE said in a statement.

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High-speed rail seminar set in Indianapolis

The Indiana High Speed Rail Association is joining the Hoosier Environmental Council and Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis in hosting a forum on high-speed rail from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at the IUPUI campus.

Community leaders and experts will discuss bringing high-speed passenger trains to central Indiana, which would include service to Chicago. The forum will explore the benefits of bringing high-speed rail service, including economic development, job creation, commuter mobility and energy savings.

The keynote speaker will be Federal Railway Administrator and former Riverdale Mayor Joseph Szabo.

Cost is $25, or $150 for a table of eight. Register at

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Word on Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail expected next week

Crain’s Detroit Business

Organizers of a Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter rail project expect to learn next week if $200 million in federal capital funding will be approved.

The Federal Rail Administration money (via the second round of funding set aside for high-speed rail projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) would be used to build new sidings, signals and make other corridor improvements, said Carmine Palombo, director of transportation planning for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments regional planning agency.

“It would eliminate the conflict between freight and passenger trains,” he said.

The 48-mile rail project, which would start with four daily round trips, is a joint effort by SEMCOG and the Michigan Department of Transportation and could be operational — if it gets the money — by the end of 2011, Palombo said.

“Probably the most optimistic scenario is the end of next year,” he said.

Amtrak will be contracted to operate the service.

Palombo gave backers an update on the project today.

A $12 million MDOT project to eliminate a bottleneck east of Dearborn where two tracks merge into one line is scheduled to begin in the spring, he said.

That’s expected to trim five to seven minutes off the trip, making it about 50 to 55 minutes. Stops will be at Detroit, Dearborn, near Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.

Work is under way on the federally required environmental assessment.

Three locomotives and nine passenger cars have been leased from Great Lakes Central Railroad, which is owned by Farmington Hills-based Federated Capital Corp., and are in the process of being refurbished and painted, Palombo said.

The lease and refurbishment work is about $2 million. The livery will be green, yellow and blue, and trains will be a locomotive with two cars.

SEMCOG previously wanted to have a demonstration service set up by this month for special events, such as University of Michigan football games and the Thanksgiving parade, but the organizing process didn’t allow that to happen.

The demonstration service could still happen this year if the funding is awarded and work on the cars is done soon, Palombo said.

When the regular service begins, fares could run $6 to $8 for the full trip between Detroit and Ann Arbor, or $1.50 to $2 between stations. Those numbers could change by the time the service begins, Palombo said.

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Amtrak on upswing

Delaware Online

Multitaskers find riding the train suits their lifestyle

Angela Jo Manieri and her cell phone helped set a record this year. 

The Newark woman, who rides Amtrak up and down its Northeast Corridor as a sales trainer for an organic skin-care company, contributed to record ridership and ticket revenue for the nation’s taxpayer-supported passenger train service.

In the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, Amtrak served more than 28.7 million riders, an increase of 5.7 percent from 2009, according to the company. Ticket revenue grew 9 percent, to $1.7 billion.

Manieri said the ability to stay connected by phone and Internet while traveling is just one reason she prefers taking the train over flying or driving.

“You can make phone calls, and you don’t have to turn your laptop on and off,” said Manieri, adding she also avoided the airport’s long security lines and the highway’s congestion.

Amtrak has benefited from the “remarkable lifestyle shift” caused by smart phones, laptops and iPads that let travelers work and communicate almost everywhere, said Joseph P. Schwieterman, a transportation professor at DePaul University in Chicago.

“It’s kind of a ‘have iPhone, will travel’ kind of thing,” Schwieterman said.

Young adults especially view trains and city buses as extensions of the public transportation system, he said. They can hop on board without ever disconnecting from the rest of the world, he said.

Tynetta Brown, of Wilmington, was taking Amtrak’s high-speed Acela to New York City on business Monday morning. She is a fundraiser for the American College of Cardiology.

“This is a multitasking society, and it’s great for multitasking,” Brown said.

Brown said she commutes to Washington about three days a week by driving to Perryville, Md., and then taking a Maryland Area Regional Commuter train to the capital. The MARC train costs about $11 each way, compared to $83 to take Amtrak from Wilmington.

“It beats I-95 any day,” Brown said. “I’d take it all the time if it were more reasonably priced.”

Brown would like to see a less-expensive commuter service between Newark and Perryville. She is among those who call it the missing link that would connect the Philadelphia and New York rail systems with the Maryland and Washington systems.


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China High Speed Rail to Develop Fast

China’s high-speed rail in just a few years, the development by leaps and bounds, out of a railway with Chinese characteristics independent innovation, has been by the “catch-up” became the world’s railway “leader.” Moreover, China’s “iron hot” are driving abroad the door. Just a few years that high-speed railway network into the world’s largest demonstration effect of success, and the construction of China’s low cost, has attracted global attention, a considerable number of countries began to seek cooperation with China, building high-speed rail. In this regard, Europe and the United States and the world largest manufacturer of passenger trains are not without worries.

Uddin in Düsseldorf, Germany near the root, the train manufacturer Siemens engineers with 3D glasses, look at the detailed design of the train company’s latest projection. Such devices allow engineers to turn the train and parts of the multi-dimensional imaging to understand the ease of maintenance, driver comfort, and various other details.

Erie, Pennsylvania in the U.S. market, General Electric, the main locomotive works equally impressive. General Electric, the plant is committed to reducing fuel consumption, the development of hybrid energy-saving technologies.

As a leading force in the field of diesel locomotives, passenger train maker in the world — the three Siemens, Alstom and Bombardier of Canada, as well as General Electric and Caterpillar already identified the Department of motor vehicles, advanced technology will allow them in the world’s most high-end rail supply market. All of these companies some of their technology to a Chinese partner, largely because they believed that their design will not be abused in the development of other products.

They all said that although their products may be higher than the price of the products in emerging economies, but considering the advanced technology, these products are actually cheaper and more reliable.

But the European Railway Industry Association released the latest report shows that the railway market, cheaper Chinese products is likely to crowd out the large manufacturer’s market share.

Produced reports for the Boston Consulting Group partner that large manufacturers in rich countries no longer a question in the China market positioning, “but outside China market choice or competition with China.”

Siemens has already encountered this dilemma — it was originally an independent bid for Saudi Arabia’s first high speed train project (from Mecca to Medina) and the supply of high-speed train, but then decided to join in the capital-led consortium.

In Brazil, Vietnam and South Africa are considering the development of high-speed rail projects in emerging markets, Chinese manufacturers are expected to train in the infrastructure and supply challenge. Chinese companies are building in Africa, many of the railway construction or modernization, the Chinese motorcycle manufacturer of the supply of diesel cars could become the natural choice.

Ulrich said the market may think these developments, cutting-edge products in Europe and North America can not meet their needs.

But China suppliers face uncertainty. Although China has made many of their own high-speed trains, but all current models are based on European or Japanese technology. According to technology transfer agreements, China’s exports of motorcycles must be new models, not based on technology from Europe and Japan.

Suppliers in Europe and North America are expected to maintain the technology over time lead.

Director-General of the European railway industry association Szoko said: “For the European suppliers and some of the products, we have already developed a product maintainability and reliability. China is still a gap.”

General Electric Transportation director Zotti hope that all suppliers could have a market for development. GE supplier in China set up several joint ventures, but also in other areas to compete with them.

However, Ullrich’s report is expected from now to 2015, the Asian railway market, the average annual growth will slow to just 2.5%. This may cause the supply of high-speed network of factories in China’s spare capacity.

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Talgo trains to sport Badger colors, traditional locomotives

Wisconsin transportation officials have chosen a bright, white-and-red color scheme for the exterior of its new high-speed train sets, but the modern, cutting-edge passenger cars will be pulled, for the time being, by existing Amtrak locomotives.

The new Series 8 passenger train sets being manufactured for Wisconsin’s Hiawatha Service by Talgo will feature airtight doors, ice-free windows, handicap accessibility and Wi-Fi capability. There will also be a bistro car, which will serve hot and cold sandwiches and beverages.

But the front of the new trains will look more familiar than futuristic, leading with P42 Amtrak Empire Builder locomotives. There aren’t any immediate plans to paint the locomotives to match, either, unlike Amtrak’s Cascades route in the Pacific Northwest, which uses Talgo Series 6 train cars pulled by Amtrak locomotives.

Talgo has a $47 million state contract to build two sets of trains to replace cars on the Hiawatha line, with a state option to purchase two more trains later.

The state’s no-bid contract with Talgo has come under fire from Republicans, but officials from Gov. Jim Doyle’s administration said the contract was effective because it allowed the state to require Talgo to assemble the trains in Wisconsin. Talgo will assemble the trains at the former Tower Automotive site in Milwaukee, creating up to 125 jobs in the process.

The Talgo trains, to be painted bright white with a red stripe, will replace the gray railcars dating from the 1970s and ’80s on the existing Hiawatha Service between Milwaukee and Chicago. The new trains are also slated to be used for planned high-speed rail segments between Milwaukee and Madison, and from Madison to the Twin Cities.

A source from Talgo says the Bucky Badger logo could appear on the trains, but the state Department of Transportation downplayed that possibility.

University of Wisconsin spokesman John Lucas said the university would prefer a formal agreement to use the Bucky Badger or “W” logos. “To date, we’re not aware of an application, but we would welcome contact from the DOT. It’s not something we would be opposed to,” he said.

WisDOT officials say they hope to one day purchase Talgo locomotives to go with the new train cars. In the meantime, they say the new passenger cars will be far more comfortable and attractive than current Hiawatha cars.

“You know how when you get a new car, you have that new-car smell? That’s what you’re going to get: brand new equipment,” said Joshua Coran, director of operations for Talgo.

“This stuff tilts when it goes around curves, and therefore can go around curves faster than conventional equipment without having everybody end up on one side of the car or another,” he said. “We can make better time on the road, on curvy track.”

The side doors will be “plug doors,” a feature that Talgo says is common in Europe, but almost unheard-of here. “When the train is running, the outside of the thing is totally flush. There’s no wind noise; it’s better-sealed for the weather,” said Coran.

Walking between cars will be cleaner and easier, said Coran. “With conventional cars, the cars move relative to each other going into and out of a curve, and you have to let the ends move sideways and you end up with rain leaks, noise and dirt,” he said. With an almost total seal, “the cars won’t have this offset as they enter into curves, so it’s a much safer, quieter access from car to car, which is important because with a food service car, people will be wanting to walk through the train,” he said.

Coran said Wisconsin’s trains will also have a feature that’s unique in North America: a “floating floor” that keeps noise from being transmitted from the car body into the floor and into the passenger compartment.

Alyssa Macy of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation said each of the two new train sets will feature 14 cars, excluding the locomotive, consisting of five ADA-accessible coach cars with restrooms; six ADA-accessible cars without restrooms, the bistro car, an end car, which will have a bicycle rack that can hold up to eight bikes, and a cab, or power car. The trains will be 681 feet long, including the locomotive. The coach cars will have reclining seats, two on each side of the aisle, with places to plug in laptops, cell phones and other items. Total capacity will be 397 passengers.

Every car will have a wheelchair lift, and the regular entryways will be easier to climb.

“A lot of elderly people don’t like climbing those steps (on older model trains),” said Coran. “It’s a big step up and it’s a steep set of stairs, and if you’re carrying a bag or something, it’s not easy. Our cars have a much lower floor, it’s about 20 inches lower than the standard height so it’s much easier access, even for people who are not in wheelchairs.”

Talgo project manager Jeff Hart said improvements less obvious to passengers will include the train’s aluminum-bodied design and back-up power generators that will provide heat, air conditioning and lights in the event of a power failure in the locomotive.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the high-speed rail line will likely retain the Hiawatha name that was introduced in 1947 by the former Milwaukee Road, which dubbed its “speedliner” service to Washington State the “Olympian Hiawatha.” Wisconsin could decide otherwise, however, he said.

So far, Wisconsin’s Talgo passenger cars have no names, unlike the Pullman cars of railroad lore, which were given fanciful names, sometimes after places or famous people. One Pullman car was even named after a porter, Oscar J. Daniels, who gave his life to save passengers when fire swept his train in 1925, according to historian Stewart H. Holbrook, author of “The Story of American Railroads.”

There have been conversations about that and about naming proposed high-speed rail stations, but no formal discussions have occurred, said Macy.

“We’re working on getting a project built right now,” she said.

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MDOT wants public input on rail plan

You can weigh in on the state rail plan by attending an upcoming meeting with MDOT to discuss the issue.

Where is rail transportation headed in Michigan? What role does rail freight play in our state’s economy? When and how will high-speed rail become a viable option for passenger travel in Michigan?

The public can weigh in on these and other questions at any of four Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT)-sponsored public meetings held to discuss the development of the Michigan State Rail Plan.

The meetings will be held in Negaunee (near Marquette), Traverse City, Detroit and Grand Rapids. People can learn about and comment on the rail plan by attending a meeting or by visiting the State Rail Plan Web site.

Required as a part of the federal government’s passage of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008, the rail plan is expected to create a vision for how the state of Michigan manages and invests in rail infrastructure.

The plan will provide a framework for state freight and passenger rail transportation policy development. Federally required components of the plan include an inventory of the rail transportation system, services, and facilities; a long-range investment program for freight and passenger rail infrastructure; a review of major passenger and freight intermodal connections and facilities; and an evaluation of passenger rail services.

In addition, MDOT will evaluate such things as trends in industry and freight shipping patterns that affect rail transportation, and identify essential rail corridors and bottlenecks, to name a few.


All public meetings will be held from 4 to 7:30 p.m. at the following locations:

Tuesday, Sept. 21 
Michigan Iron Industry Museum
73 Forge Road (off US-41)
Negaunee (west of Marquette)

Wednesday, Sept. 22
Michigan Works! Service Center
1209 South Garfield Ave.
Traverse City

Tuesday, Sept. 28
Michigan State University Detroit Center Building
3408 Woodward Ave.

Wednesday, Sept. 29
Grand Rapids Transportation Service Center
2660 Leonard St., NE
Grand Rapids  

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