High-speed service proposed Calgary-Banff

Nonprofit organization proposes Calgary-Banff high-speed line

HSBanff, a private nonprofit corporation, recently announced plans to build and operate a high-speed rail line from Calgary, Alberta to Banff National Park. Trains would operate at speeds up to 250 mph.

The system would enable passengers arriving at Calgary International Airport to transfer to the train and seamlessly complete their trip. The organization plans to provide a single air-rail ticket aimed at international travelers visiting Banff.

HSBanff expects to use “crowdfunding,” or financing from project backers, to obtain the initial funds required to complete feasibility and environmental studies before the design and construction phases begin.

Here’s HSBanff’s website.

All Dutch trains to be wind-powered

All traction power for the Dutch railway network will come from wind turbines under a new energy contract signed on May 15 between power company Eneco and Vivens, an energy procurement joint venture which includes Netherlands Railways (NS), Veolia, Arriva, Connexxion and railfreight operators.

Under the contract, which runs from 2015 to 2025, wind will provide 100% of traction power on the ProRail 1.5kV dc electrified network from 2018 onwards, compared with around 50% today. The contract forbids the sourcing of electricity from the existing energy market, meaning only new-build wind farms can be used to meet the 100% target. It is estimated that after 2018 about half of the electricity demand will need to be covered to be covered by foreign, wind farms.

The total consumption of electricity on the Dutch rail network is about 1.4 terawatt hours (TWh) per year, and NS reportedly consumes 1.2TWh of this.

International Railway Journal

Senate’s proposed transportation bill disappoints, but there’s more to come

The future of national transportation policy is pretty much like the present of national transportation policy, if the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has its way: underfunded and highway-centric.

The bill released by Senator Barbara Boxer’s EPW Committee yesterday… rejects pretty much everything the Obama administration put forth in its bill, including permanent funding for TIGER and the elimination of red tape that prevents states from tolling interstates. The administration called for spending $302 billion over four years, while the EPW bill envisions a $265 billion budget over six years — although that figure does not include transit or rail.

And that’s part of the problem. The administration put forward a comprehensive, multi-modal transportation bill proposal. But in the Senate, the process is shepherded by EPW, and EPW only writes the highway component of the bill, then hands it over to the Banking Committee for the transit piece and the Commerce Committee for the rail and safety piece. And of course, nothing at all will happen unless the Senate Finance Committee can find a way to pay for it.


Maglev construction to begin this year in Japan

JAPAN: Construction of JR Central’s Chuo Shinkansen between Tokyo Shinagawa and Nagoya using superconducting maglev technology is expected to start towards the end of this year, possibly in October or November….

Work is expected to start at several sites, with construction teams likely to commence with the major tunnels because of the long lead times; a high proportion of the alignment will run in tunnel….

The 286 km line is due to be open in 2027, but there is pressure to complete another 5 km segment linking the priority section to the site of the planned station at Kofu in time for the 2020 Olympics. This would allow JR Central to demonstrate its superconducting maglev technology to large numbers of visitors.

Railway Gazette

African countries sign deal for new rail links

To Americans who say that we can’t afford new infrastructure, this news from some of Africa’s poorest countries.

China Railway to Link Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan

East African leaders have agreed a deal with China to construct a $3.8bn railway connecting Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan to replace a century-old British colonial rail track.

The first stage of the project will connect the Kenyan cities of Mombasa and Nairobi. It will be 90% funded by the Exim Bank of China. The rest of the money will come from the Kenyan government.

Construction of the first section is expected to take three and a half years before it is extended to Kampala (Uganda), Kigali (Rwanda), Bujumbura (Burundi) and Juba (South Sudan).

Passenger trains will be able to travel at a top speed of 120km/h (75mph) – significantly boosting transport efficiency and local economies.

Baltimore Sun editorial: Our view: Century-old infrastructure can’t continue to support passenger rail

Amtrak’s vulnerability [Editorial]
Our view: Century-old infrastructure can’t continue to support passenger rail service in Baltimore and the rest of the populous Northeast corridor

No doubt there were some lumps in throats at Amtrak headquarters last month when they heard the words “collapse” and “rail line” in Baltimore. As it happens, it was a CSX freight line that was affected by the loss of a 120-year-old retaining wall in Charles Village that sent tons of dirt, pavement and cars spilling onto the tracks below.

But it might have been the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel, Amtrak’s only passage through West Baltimore. It’s 140 years old and can’t accommodate more than two tracks, double-stacked trains or speeds above 30 miles per hour. The renovation of B&P, as it’s commonly known, is overdue, a $1.5 billion project that’s on the drawing board but not yet funded.

And that’s not even the biggest headache along Amtrak’s vital Northeast Corridor. Last week, Amtrak’s CEO reminded an audience in New York that the century-old rail tunnels beneath the Hudson River have less than 20 years of service left. That’s particularly worrisome, considering it would take “seven to nine years” to build new ones, Amtrak’s Joseph Boardman said, “if we all decided today that we could do it.”…

Amtrak has a new proposal with a 2030 completion date but currently doesn’t have the financing to move forward with it.

Congress and the Northeastern states can’t continue to ignore the region’s aging rail infrastructure, particularly tunnels and bridges that date back a century or more. …

Yet last week, House Republicans unveiled a budget for next year that would cut Amtrak’s capital construction allowance below this year’s amount. As current spending levels have already contributed to long-term neglect, it’s easy to see the proverbial track ahead — more landslide-like events and other catastrophes involving rail lines followed by finger-pointing and “you should have warned us” pronouncements.

Of course, Congress can always allow Amtrak to gradually shrivel up and die (indeed, conservatives have already called for it to be zero funded), but as the Northeast from Richmond, Va. to Boston, Mass. remains the nation’s economic powerhouse, that strategy could prove costly. Home to 50 million people and a $2.6 trillion economy, the Northeast is this country’s most densely populated region and the most dependent on rail service to keep going….

The bottom line is that there’s really not much choice. Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor must be sustained if only because the region lacks alternatives. And the sooner Washington replaces rail infrastructure that dates back a century or more, the sooner commuters can rest easy that a landslide isn’t waiting around the next bend….

We certainly don’t expect the B&P Tunnel to come crashing down any time soon, and perhaps the Hudson River tunnels have many years left — as might the aging bridges over the Susquehanna, Bush and Gunpower rivers in Maryland that are also slated for repairs. But it just seems foolish to risk so much by continuing a strategy of neglect along the Northeast Corridor, financing small projects like new signals here or catenary there, when so many major challenges are ignored at the public’s eventual peril.

Longview, TX opens renovated depot

City dedicates renovated depot, looks forward

Those gathered Saturday for the dedication of Longview’s historic train depot agreed it was the start of a new era for the city.
“If we all could come back here in 20 years, I guarantee you it would be a very different venue that you would be looking at. Because I believe this is the first step in the economic redevelopment of South Longview. This is how it starts. It doesn’t all happen in one fell swoop,” Joe McHugh, Amtrak’s vice president of government affairs, told about 250 people gathered for Saturday’s event.
The dedication ceremony marked the completion of a $2.2 million renovation at the depot off Mobberly Avenue.
The event was held in conjunction with National Train Day and included events across downtown, such as an antique car show and vintage movie screenings at the Longview Public Library.
At the depot, a part of the Longview Transportation Center, visitors participated in tours of the facility, an Amtrak exhibit train and a Greyhound Model Bus.

Canada to fund repairs to New Brunswick Via Rail link

The federal government is preparing to finance repairs to a 70-kilometre stretch of New Brunswick railway between Miramichi and Bathurst that is used by Via Rail, Radio-Canada has learned.

The section is owned by Canadian National Railway, which is discontinuing service in the area and put it up for sale.

Via Rail uses the stretch as part of its passenger service between Halifax and Montreal. Via has said it will not buy or maintain the section, and has warned it would end service in the Maritimes if the link was abandoned.

CBC News 

Senators want to rename D.C.’s train hub


Ronald Reagan’s name is already on a Washington area airport, so why not also name the train station for a former president?

That’s what Missouri Sens. Claire McCaskill (D) and Roy Blunt (R) proposed Thursday in a bill that would rename Washington’s Union Station for former president Harry S. Truman, who would have marked his 130th birthday on Thursday.

Naming the District’s train hub for an out-of-towner might give pause among locals, but Union Station, like many other large buildings in the city, is owned by the federal government, so Congress has naming rights. McCaskill and Blunt serve on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which has jurisdiction over such proposals.