Category Archives: News Current

France aims to have ‘driverless’ high-speed TGV trains by 2023

SNCF will begin testing ‘drone train’ in 2019, though conductors will still be onboard to handle emergencies

from “TheVerge

France’s national railway operator aims to have autonomous high-speed TGV trains running by 2023, according to a report from FranceInfo. The train operator, known by the French acronym SNCF, will begin testing a prototype of its so-called “drone train” in 2019, FranceInfo reports.

 The new TGV train would be equipped with sensors that would allow it to detect obstacles and automatically brake, if necessary. The TGV, which reaches speeds of nearly 200mph, could be remotely piloted, though conductors will remain onboard in the short term to handle emergencies or unexpected events. SNCF President Guillaume Pepy tells Le Figaro that if the project is successful, SNCF would be the first operator in the world to run automated high-speed trains.

In an interview with FranceInfo, Matthieu Chabanel, the adjoint director of SNCF, compared the autonomous train to autopilot systems used in commercial flight. “In airplanes, you always have a driver, fortunately, but you have an automatic steering system,” Chabanel said.

The aim, according to the SNCF, is to increase the speed and frequency of TGV journeys, particularly around Paris, where TGV lines intersect with various local and regional rail lines. The operator believes that the automated system would increase the number of trips between Paris and Lyon by 25 percent.

The SNCF recently announced plans to rebrand its iconic TGV line as “inOui,” in a move that drew widespread criticism and mockery online.

Looking for work? Brightline begins hiring for passenger train service

All Aboard Florida’s Brightline is accepting applications for roughly 200 positions it plans to fill as part of its plan to launch passenger train servicebetween West Palm Beach and Miami this summer along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.

The company plans to hire 90 employees in the West Palm Beach area, Dave Howard, the company’s chief executive officer said Friday. Jobs include security officers, train attendants and guest service agents.

Those interested in applying should visit the company’s website, gobrightline.com/careers, to view a current list of openings, he added.

RELATED: Brightline to start service in July between WPB and Ft. Lauderdale

Howard, an executive from the sports and entertainment industry who joined Brightline’s team in March, said the company is focused on customer service and creating a “culture of care” for its passengers.

“Hospitality has not met train travel,” Howard said. “It will here.”

Brightline has said it will start “pre-season” service between West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale in late July. Service between West Palm Beach and Miami is expected to begin in August.

A grand opening of the rail project is planned for mid-September, the company has said.

The company has yet to release its ticket prices, but a Brightline official told members of the county’s Metropolitan Planning Organization last week that the rates will be “competitive to the cost of driving your car.”

Brightline plans to eventually extend the service to Orlando.

Track work for the second phase of the project, which runs between West Palm Beach and Orlando, has not yet begun. Treasure Coast leaders are challenging that stretch of the project, and have filed a federal lawsuit to block bonds that the company had planned to use to pay for the construction.

Brightline officials have said it will take about 2 years from the start of construction for the company to complete the West Palm Beach to Orlando leg.

In South Florida, work on Brightline stations in West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale is nearly complete. Construction crews are expected to turn over the properties to Brightline officials within the next week or two, Howard said.

Testing on the company’s first two trains is underway. Two more trains are expected to arrive in West Palm Beach in the coming weeks.

RELATED: Two more Brightline trains expected to arrive in WPB together

Meanwhile, Brightline officials said work continues on a plan to implement a “quiet zone” to silence train horns along the FEC tracks.

Brightline officials have said the first phase of the quiet zone will be installed along an 11-mile stretch of track that runs from West Palm Beach to Lantana. The company has been testing its first train, called BrightBlue because of the color of its passenger cars, along that section of rail.

Brightline officials said Friday the quiet zone is expected to be in place between West Palm Beach and Boca at the time the company begins service this summer.

Work to install a quiet zone from West Palm Beach north to the county line won’t start until Brightline begins construction on its second phase, which will extend the passenger service to Orlando.

Brightline this month launched a safety campaign designed to warn students and those living near the FEC corridor about the dangers of walking along train tracks.

The company has asked cities along the route to help promote the campaign, part of a national program called Operation Lifesaver, which is designed to reduce collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail crossings and prevent trespassing on or near railroad tracks.

Brightline’s safety and security team is also planning to hold a meeting with local police and fire officials in the coming weeks.

NJ Transit service changes after train gets stuck in tunnel near Penn Station

From AM New York (via California Rail News)

Northeast Corridor train #3850 from Trenton came to a stop in the south tube of the Hudson Tunnel around 3:30 p.m., NJ Transit and Amtrak officials said. Amtrak said the passenger count was 400, but a NJ Transit spokeswoman disputed that number.
Brian Scheckner, who claimed to be on the disabled train, said he and fellow passengers were stuck for nearly three hours. Without power for air conditioning, the temperature had steadily risen and passengers got antsy, he said…
Amtrak, which is responsible for the maintenance of the tracks and equipment in and around Penn Station, said the train was disabled due to an overhead power problem.

 

The locomotive legacy of U.S. Sugar

A piece of Florida locomotive history has come home to the sunshine state after being away for nearly half a century. Steam Engine No. 148 arrived in Clewiston late last year, although not under its own power. The engine and its tender (fuel and water car) arrived from Colorado strapped to two railroad flat cars. Well, most of it arrived by rail.

“We were able to gather and collect most of the pieces that were already removed from the locomotive,” said Ted Dobrie, chief mechanical officer for U.S. Sugar, “and we crated and cataloged all that equipment and shipped all that back by truck. We’re just missing a couple of minor pieces that we’re going to have to track down.”

So, what does a 97-year-old steam locomotive engine have to do with a company in the business of growing and refining sugarcane? Quite a bit, actually. Founded in 1931, U.S. Sugar needed a way to transport sugarcane from about 187,000 acres of fields to its sugar mills.

“When we were started back in the early ’30s, rail transportation was how freight was moved, and there were very few roads of any sort out here,” said Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar. “There certainly wasn’t a reliable network for moving sugarcane from the fields to the mill, so our company made a decision at the beginning to put in an industrial private railroad that linked our fields and mill.”

Faced with the same transportation problem that challenged cypress logging companies in Florida, U.S. Sugar pursued the same solution. The company installed about 120 miles of rail across its fields for its internal rail line. Then, to transport its products out as well as haul agricultural equipment and supplies in, the company began operating a short-line freight railroad called the South Central Florida Express, which connects with commercial freight railroads CSX Transportation at Sebring and the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) at Fort Pierce.

Between the internal and external lines, the company currently operates nearly 300 miles of rail. A decision originally made for expediency, the rail transportation infrastructure has turned out to provide efficiency for U.S. Sugar’s operations.

“Our trains are one of the things that set U.S. Sugar apart from our colleagues and competitors in the sugar business in the United States,” Sanchez said. “It’s been a transportation method, but over the years it’s become more a transportation advantage because we’re not having to put all that cane into tractor-trailers and haul it out on public roads. It’s much more efficient as well since you can haul up to 100 boxcars of cane behind a locomotive, and that one locomotive is the only part of the train using fuel.”

u-s-sugar-team-locomotives-1930s

“Our CEO is a history buff,” Sanchez said. “He has a love of machinery and of anything historical, so to him it’s fascinating.”

The search eventually led to Monte Vista, Colorado, where No. 148 had been taken for repairs with the intention of operating it, once again, for tourist excursions. However, the 2008 economic downturn stalled the entire tourist railway project and work on the partly disassembled steam engine stopped. U.S. Sugar purchased the legacy locomotive and brought it back to its Clewiston shop for its own locomotive team to restore, using historical diagrams and photos from Bramson. Dobrie said some parts of the project will also require help from engineering consultants who specialize in steam engines.

Dobrie said the restoration could take up to a year and a half. After restoration, Sanchez said U.S. Sugar intends to obtain some period passenger cars and offer excursion rides to draw tourists to Clewiston.

“It’s going to be not only an amazing project, but it’s going to attract marvelous goodwill and bring national attention to United States Sugar,” Bramson said. “Not only do you attract thousands of people out to see the steam engine, but you generate an enormous amount of positive publicity for your company. What they’re doing is for very positive reasons, being most of all a major contribution to the incredible history of United States Sugar, Florida East Coast Railway and the state of Florida itself.”

Cuomo orders higher security measures on mass transit

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week signed an executive order that gives New Jersey and Connecticut law enforcement jurisdiction on New York’s public transportation services and facilities.

The order is aimed at allowing security and counterterrorism officials in both states to assist New York in ensuring public safety at locations traditionally targeted by terrorists, according to a press release issued by Cuomo’s office.

“With the busy holiday season in full swing, we are taking every precaution necessary to mitigate potential terrorist threats and keep people safe,” Cuomo said. “This order gives our partners in New Jersey and Connecticut greater ability to help patrol and protect our mass transit networks. Together we will continue to remain vigilant, and I urge all travelers to stay alert and safe throughout the holidays.”

The holiday season tends to be a time of heightened alert and risk of terror attacks as hundreds of thousands of commuters travel between New York, New Jersey and Connecticut each day via mass transit systems, including inter-state rail, bus and ferry systems.

Increased manpower and overall law enforcement presence will allow governments throughout the region to protect public safety and provide an additional reassurance to commuters, Cuomo’s press release said.

The order was issued on Dec. 8 and will remain in effect for 30 days.

Obama Takes On Guns and Racism in Emotional Eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney

President Obama on Friday delivered an impassioned call for America to confront gun violence and racism during his eulogy of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of nine victims of a massacre at an African-American church.

In a personal address that touched on a number of social policies, Obama concluded with the cadence of a preacher — and surprised the 5,500 mourners at TD Arena in Charleston, S.C., by breaking into song, leading the congregation in a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

After Obama finished, clergymen in the arena called him “Reverend Obama.”

The president memorialized each of the nine victims of the shooting but also called the incident a wake-up call for the nation to address not only gun violence, but racial inequality and a broken criminal justice system.

He called Pinckney, a personal friend and supporter of Obama’s, a “good man” who “lived by faith” and believed that actions, and not just words, were needed to better his community.

“It would be a betrayal to everything Rev. Pinckney stood for if we allow ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again,” Obama told the crowd of mourners.

“To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change, that’s how we lose our way again,” he added.

The president also waded into the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag, calling it a symbol of “systemic oppression and racial subjugation.”

“For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens,” Obama said. “By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.”

Obama praised South Carolina’s Republican leaders for seeking to remove the flag from state grounds, but said there was much more that needs to be done to heal the nation’s racial wounds.

He called on Americans to recognize racial prejudices in their everyday lives, not just overt expressions of racial hatred.

“So that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal,” Obama said.

With nearly 50 members of Congress, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), looking on, Obama reiterated his call for stricter gun laws, saying the nation has “been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.”

“Sporadically, our eyes are open,” during mass killings, Obama said, listing mass shootings in Newtown, Conn.; Aurora, Colo.; and Charleston. “But I hope we also see that 30 precious lives are cut short by gun violence every single day.”

Friday’s funeral service marked the seventh time in his presidency Obama has traveled to a community shaken by gun violence.

People stood for hours in long lines to get into the arena. Obama, who traveled to Charleston along with first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, and Dr. Jill Biden, was scheduled to meet with the families of victims and survivors of the shooting.

Obama said Charleston had risen above the motives of the accused shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year old white man who allegedly told police he intended to start a race war.

“It was an act … that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination, violence and suspicion, an act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin,” Obama said.

“Oh, but God works in mysterious ways,” he added. “God has different ideas. He didn’t know he was being used by God.”

The speech capped a pivotal week for Obama’s presidency. The White House was triumphant in celebrating a major victory in Congress on trade and two Supreme Court decisions that upheld the president’s healthcare law and legalized same-sex marriage across the country.

The mood was different earlier on Friday, when Obama stood in the Rose Garden and declared that justice had arrived “like a thunderbolt” for same-sex couples.

“Today, we can say in no uncertain terms that we have made our union a little more perfect,” Obama said.

“It’s been a significant morning, it’s been a significant couple of days, and it’s certainly been a significant month for not only the president and the administration, but for the country,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force One.

But the elation was tempered by the tragedy in South Carolina. Obama acknowledged the slow progress when it comes to guns and race, but called the tragedy in Charleston an opportunity to push for broader change.

“We don’t earn grace. We’re all sinners. We don’t deserve it,” the president said. “But God gives it to us anyway. And we choose how to receive it. It’s our decision how to honor it.”

A Big Year For General Electric Shareowners: GE Store, New Focus, Great Ideas

PenneyVanderbilt

The LEAP engine, which took its maiden flight last fall, has 3D printed parts and components made from next-generation materials called ceramic composites.

GE’s industrial shift also brings benefits like the GE Store. “It means that every business in GE can share and access the same technology, markets, structure and intellect,” Immelt writes. “The value of the GE Store is captured by faster growth and higher margins; it makes the totality of GE more competitive than the parts.”

The GE Store allows the company to take FAA-certified alternators from its jet engines and use them to build better oil pumps. It can also use medical imaging technology to inspect subsea pipelines. “No other company has the ability to transfer intellect and technology as GE can through the Store,” Immelt writes.

GEPowersTheWorld

A group of analysts who recently visited GE’s research headquarters in Schenectady, N.Y., seem to get the point…

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