Friday, December 22, 2017

New Safety Systems for Freight Trains Ordered Whilst EU Blasts Inefficiencies in Track Borne Cargo

US Crash Turns Spotlight on Driver Warnings and Autonomous Controls
Shipping News Feature
EUROPE – UK – As the row rages in the US over Amtrak and Sound Transit failing to switch on new mandatory train safety systems which would have prevented the horror crash last week which killed three and injured many more, so Network Rail has awarded a new contract to Siemens Rail Automation to install its Trainguard 200 ETCS solution on-board freight locomotives operating across the country. The European Train Control System has the power to override the driver when travelling too fast on a particular stretch of track, precisely the apparent cause of the Washington State crash on December 18.

The new system is specifically targeted at freight locomotives and, whilst work will commence ‘immediately’ says Network Rail, overhauling the entire fleet will not begin until 2022. The 750 locomotives on the fleet will also be fitted with Siemens Trainguard Level 2, Baseline 3 system which harmonises with Network Rail plans to ensure the entire rail network has ETCS installed.

The new contract is with both the infrastructure manager and six train operating companies and the equipment is compatible with a range of freight classes. Siemens Rail Automation managing director Rob Morris commented:

“We are delighted to be working closely with Network Rail and the Freight Operating Companies (FOCs) on this landmark digital railway project, which will ultimately be one of the largest ETCS on-board retrofit programmes in the UK.

The new deal is a part of Britain’s £450 million digital railway programme and the system includes an Automatic Warning System (AWS) and Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS), as well as the ETCS driver display. Network Rail freight managing director Paul McMahon observed:

“This is a significant investment and underlines our commitment to the freight sector. It will assure long-term competitiveness through increased performance and is a key part of a cohesive portfolio of freight investment for CP6 and beyond.”

Europe’s rail infrastructure managers and operators took a sideswipe earlier this month from EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc in a speech at a rail freight conference in Vienna. She pointed out that rail freight takes up 73% of the transport industry’s public funding whilst holding just 12% of the market. She lambasted those responsible for neglecting to oversee and instigate growth.

Lobbyists such as Rail Freight Group (RFG) chairman and European Rail Freight Association (ERFA) board member Tony Berkeley backed up the Commissioner's comments saying that problems such as those caused by the Rastatt collapse were an illustration of how weak the European system is.

Lord Berkeley pointed out that overall performance of rail, at just 60-70% average on time deliveries, lagged far behind road haulage services and that his sector's share was sinking steadily. He continued to illustrate the frustrations caused by the latest incident and his views on the disharmony which currently exists, saying :

"We do not yet know how many have abandoned rail for good, but who can blame them when, on this heaviest trafficked of all corridors, there were no suitable diversion routes available, where there were continuing stupid arguments about whether French or German language should be used at frontiers, where there were no suitable diversion routes, no drivers with the necessary route knowledge, and where the infrastructure managers appeared less than fully concerned and willing even to cut the odd corner to keep the trains running.

“The European Commission has done its best to create a program of liberalisation but has been held back on numerous occasions by member states listening too hard to the railways they own and preventing change, whilst at the same time, paying more and more into the inefficient bottomless pits that are these massive monopolies.”