Monday, August 17, 2009

Concerns at Californian Electrification

Rail freight users believe unusable
Shipping News Feature

CALIFORNIA – Plans to convert California’s rail network between San Francisco and San Jose to an electric high-speed system have alarmed members of the local freight industry.

The Peninsula Freight Rail Users Group state that the plans would reduce the time available for freight trains to use the route from 15 to 5 hours daily. It would also prevent 40 percent of existing freight stock from using the track as these cars would be too high for the overhead wires.

The consequence of this would be greater reliance on road haulage, which in turn would increase costs, congestion and pollution, the group asserts. With an estimated 2 million tonnes of freight moved annually by the 24 companies that make up the association, the group claim that for their rail operations to remain viable they require access to the track for nine hours a day on weekdays and longer at weekends, and need the overhead specification raised from the proposed 17 feet to 22 and a half feet.

In a letter to Caltrain, the route operator, the group said that: “If passenger rail is expanded along the Peninsula at the expense of freight rail, it will be taking one step forward and two steps backward for the future of the economy and the environment of our region.”

Caltrain has said that they shall meet with freight representatives to discuss their needs and that the projects specifications are still under review.