Congressman wants new high-speed rail line shut down for safety review

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — A congressman whose district includes the Brightline passenger rail route called on the private company Thursday to shutter its rail line until flaws in safety are fixed.

On Wednesday, just hours after bicyclist Jeffrey King, 51, of Boynton Beach pedaled around crossing gates and tried to beat the high-speed train, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., asked federal Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to launch an investigation into the safety of higher-speed railroad crossings.

Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., approached his concerns from a different angle Thursday.

“Stop victim blaming and take responsibility for the fact that your trains are killing people,” Mast tweeted Thursday morning. “Trains should stop running until massive safety flaws are resolved.”

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Signal Towers on the New YorkCentral Electric Division

NK Tower. I can imagine that traffic was running heavy in one direction for the morning inbound commuters and just the opposite for the evening outbound running. It would be great to hear from former Train Dispatchers as to how often those sets of crossovers were used for flexibility during those commuter rushes in both directions.

I know we lost FH tower to a fire in 1960 or 61 and DV Tower took over the board after. Speaking of FH Tower. It seems funny that all of the other towers had been rebuilt in the 1920-30 time frame from wooden towers to the brick standard for the Electric Division except FH which remained a wooden tower.

It think NK tower was a singular case. I’ve made several thousand trips through that interlocking and can’t recall ever changing tracks.except when they were doing constructionat 125th Street. Prior to the 125th St rebuild, the tower seemed to exist solely for handling two kinds of exceptional cases.

For completely normal operations there was no need for the tower. The distance between the home signals at U (59th ST.) and MO (140th St) was close to exactly three miles. NK, about 100th St., was exactly in the middle. It was needed only for exception conditions, which included

– limiting out of service distance for track maintenace

– bypassing breakdowns

– reducing delay from construction projectsd.

Could that be said of any other tower in the U.S. ?

I have no knowledge of what has been done to the power transmission
system since even PC days. I left before the PC merger.

The duct runs may well be the same, but cables may have been replaced.
Proper maintenance includes repeat Meggering of the cable insulation and
keeping a record of the values obtained, which aids in predicting future
problems (failures) with the cable.

Given the redundancy available, there should not have been any
scheduling problems in getting a circuit shut down for testing, and it
would have been non-invasive, working from the breakers as access points.

Ultimately insulation degrades, and, FWIW, rats like the taste of lead
sheathing, so can do their own damage.

And, underground lines and manholes may be assumed to be wet, if not
flooded.

It would not surprise me if cables were not replaced occasionally.

I was not aware of the loss of the wayside transmission towers.

When you describe the power transmission lines on the steel towers,
please include the underground duct lines that carried more power circuits.

I was only indirectly involved with these, but as I recall, at least on
the Hudson Division, there were two pole circuits and two duct circuits.

Each substation tapped in one tower circuit and one duct circuit, which
ran in and went through circuit breakers to the sub. There were also
circuit breakers outside the station that could be closed to bypass a
substation and were not affected by events inside the sub.

This redundancy provided a high degree of reliability.

If the overhead lines went down (as down on the ground) the duct lines
carried the power. Same for the duct lines, backing up the tower lines.

Two duct circuits were never together in the same manhole, so a failure,
such as fire or explosion in a man hole, would not affect the other circuit.

Second person in less than a week killed by high-speed Brightline train in South Florida

A bicyclist was hit and killed Wednesday by a Brightline train on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks in Boynton Beach, police said.

It is the second death involving a Brightline train and third train fatality on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks within a week.

Wednesday’s incident occurred at east of downtown Boynton Beach, according to Boynton Beach police spokeswoman Stephanie Slater. Police are on the scene and continuing to investigate, she said.

Brightline passenger trains share the rail corridor with Florida East Coast Railway freight trains. Both are owned by Florida East Coast Industries.

On Jan. 10, Linda Short, 73, of Berea, Ohio, was killed at 7:40 p.m. after driving her car onto the Florida East Coast tracks in Delray Beach and into the path of an oncoming freight train, according to Delray Beach police.

Two days later, Melissa Lavell, 32, was killed after apparently trying to beat an oncoming Brightline passenger train after the guard rails were down, also in Boynton Beach, according to police.

There have been four Brightline fatalities since the high-speed passenger railroad began test runs this summer. The passenger railroad began limited passenger service, between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Saturday morning.

Brightline in a statement Wednesday said only: “Local authorities are on the scene, and we are engaged with them as they begin their investigation.”

Last week, following Lavell’s death, the railroad urged pedestrians and drivers to obey railroad safety rules.

“Safety is Brightline’s highest priority, which is evident from the numerous additional infrastructure improvements that have been installed along the FEC Railway corridor to the educational and awareness campaigns currently underway,” a Brightline spokeswoman said in a statement.

“Education and enforcement are vital, and we implore the public to abide by the rules and laws in place designed to keep them safe around active railroads,” the statement said.

There have been at least 17 fatalities on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks over the last 12 months, and 74 over the last five years, according to data reported to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Autopilot for Refuse Collection Vehicles

Waste Management World

The Autonomous Refuse Collection Vehicle (RCV) is driven normally on
the highway, but having ‘learned’ the collection round (route) it is able to start and stop at the location of each waste container automatically, without the driver being in the cab. As is about to be demonstrated here in Brussels…

It works for aircraft. It works for harvesters in agriculture. So why shouldn’t refuse collection vehicles benefit from ‘autonomous technology’? Malcolm Bates got invited to a demonstration in the heart of Brussels where just such a question was posed.

This is surreal. I’m standing in a square in the heart of Brussels, Belgium. My day started out with what, to most people at my local railway station, would have been a commuter journey into the City of London. Instead, I transferred to a Eurostar train, arriving in Brussels just a couple of hours later.

But I’m not here to make representations to the European Parliament. Or to look at the admittedly rather grand architecture. I’m here to see a garbage truck that can drive itself. Seriously. And here it is, surrounded by a cordon of barriers – and some heavy-looking security guards wear- ing dark ‘shades’.

My first question? Are they here to stop the vehicle escaping? Or, more likely I guess, stop over-inquisitive passers-by getting too close? Not that any of them are looking inquisitively at a garbage truck – even one as advanced as this.

They mostly seem to be wondering why the square is covered in cones and barriers. And journalists. Clearly the organisers – Volvo Truck Corporation, together with compaction body manufacturer Geesink and the end- user, the waste contractor Renova, were keen the demonstration should go ahead without any hitch. Because aside from journalists from all over Europe, some very important people from the offices of various EU commissions and committees that might have a say in how road vehicles in the future might be operated and regulated, were also invited to the demonstration.

While I’m looking at the still stationary truck, I’m also wondering what happens if there was some interference, technical failure, or some other unforeseen set of circumstances. Would the autonomous refuse collection vehicle quite literally be able to drive itself off in the wrong direction? And if so, who could stop it?

Who would be legally responsible, in case of an accident? After all, it’s one thing for the technicians at Volvo to modify a truck to work ‘driverless’ in a mine, or quarry, or some other hostile environment. Any dangerous environment might endanger the life of the driver, so clearly, not having one is an advantage. But a garbage truck working in a typical subur- ban street containing parked cars, children playing and older people crossing the road at any time? That is surely a different scenario?

DESIGNED TO INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY

So is this a case of ‘technology gone mad’? Or are there some real advantages we all might have missed? Technicians at Volvo Truck Corporation, headed by Hayder Wokil, the director responsible for ‘Autonomous and Automated Driving’ development, have indeed already developed the technology to enable trucks (and agricultural and construction machinery) to operate more efficiently than would other- wise be possible by entirely manual control.

In Brazil, for example, ‘auto- pilot’ technology enables the trucks to follow in exactly the same tracks as the harvester in sugar cane fields, thus damaging less of the crop. In such a case, the driver is still in con- trol of speed – and braking – but the technology handles the steering in the fields.

In Sweden, Volvo trucks have indeed been modified to work totally autonomously in mines and quarries, where regular blasting requires a long safety period before sending in a manually driven truck. Because there is no driver in the cab, the fully autonomous vehicle is able to go into the work zone sooner, thus increasing productivity.

Autonomous technology can also offer advantages to operators of ve- hicles on the highway: computing the optimum engine revolutions, throttle input and braking can save a considerable amount of fuel, while reducing wear and tear on the truck’s brakes and driveline. The hard part is deciding how far this technology might – or should – go in the collection of waste and recy- clable materials.

READY TO GO REMOTE
The officials have arrived from a series of seminars now and we’re ready for the ‘live’ demonstration. To make full sense of the thinking employed by Volvo technicians, we need to remember that Sweden is a country of just 10 million people, many of whom live in rural areas. And because housing density out- side of the major cities is low, refuse collection vehicles (RCVs) tend to operate either with a driver and one crew member, or in many cases, just the driver. This is where the techno- logy is designed to help …

The demonstration represents what in real life would be a cul-de-sac of suburban houses, each requiring the driver to make a stop, collect the bin, then move a few more metres to the next.

With a driver and one crew member, this would be an easy task, but for council (commune) collections in rural areas, or for commer- cial waste operations where only the driver is employed, it would involve the driver entering and exiting the cab in between every binlifting op- eration. Or requiring the driver to walk between each house, leaving the vehicle unattended. Or – and here’s a key safety issue – when under pres- sure, perhaps forget to engage the handbrake, after each stop. Or make a rash reversing manoeuvre, without checking it is safe to do so.

With the autonomous techno- logy, the RCV follows the driver from house to house without the need to get in and out of the cab between each lift. In Sweden and other cold climates, there is an added safety advantage in that each cab entry/ exit operation is a potential slip-up which might result in injury. So any- thing to reduce that number could potentially reduce the risk.

LEARNING THE ROUTE
But what about injury to pedestri- ans? What stops the vehicle running them over? Or the vehicle ending-up on a suburban lawn? And how does the vehicle ‘drive’ without the driver being in the cab? The answer is a combination of things. Firstly, this otherwise entirely standard-looking Volvo ‘FM330’ RCV chassis is fitted with four sensors located at each cor- ner.

These are capable of detecting anything that might be getting too close for comfort – like a parked car. Or small child. Secondly, the driver – who is likely to be walking from one bin to the next – has a small con- sole which contains a manual over- ride control to stop the vehicle in an emergency. But the really clever as- pect of the Volvo Autonomous RCV is that is already knows where it is going and what manoeuvre it needs to undertake next.

How? By the com- bination of GPS technology and route software – plus the fact that it is able to ‘learn’ the right sequence of events in any given collection round (route) from a manually controlled run with the driver in charge. It then replicates the same stops where each bin is located on subsequent visits.

To watch the vehicle following the driver at a slow walking pace between each bin, or container, helps make the point about reducing the risk to the driver from slipping on the cab steps due to icy conditions in northern climates like Norway or Sweden. But what about in the rest of the world?

According to Hayder Wokil, one of the other key areas of concern in respect of safety – and one with a wider global appeal – relates to damage to the vehicle and/or incidents involving the vehicle and pedestrians when reversing. Of course where a crew is employed, the rule should be that the driver only reverses while under the direction of a ‘banksman’ – a crew member tasked with the job of ensuring that it is safe for the vehicle to reverse.

Tragically, however, in spite of many modern RCVs having reversing radar warning systems and multi-camera CCTV systems (which automatically switch the driver’s screen to view the rear camera when reverse gear is engaged), injuries and even fatalities continue to occur. Hayder Wokil, who made a presentation in Brussels, points out that as the ‘driver’ is able to walk around the autonomous RCV as it reverses, it is possible to see any potential danger far sooner.

Andy Byford, MTA’s head of subways, buses, reports for 1st day on the job

The MTA’s new head of subways and buses promised to shake things up at the beleaguered transit agency as he began his first day on the job Tuesday.

Andy Byford, the MTA’s recently hired transit president, said he would give equal focus to four key pillars of his job — subway, bus, paratransit and employee morale — during a brief interview with reporters that touched on the agency’s ancient subway infrastructure; funding and cost reforms; 24-hour train service and the politics at play as subway delays soar and bus ridership plummets.

“I’ve certainly not come here to hold the fort or to maintain the status quo. My job is to drive up the level of service and thereby customer satisfaction for all New Yorkers,” Byford told reporters awaiting him outside MTA headquarters at the Bowling Green subway station.

The former CEO of the Toronto Transit Commission, who has never owned a car, rode into work just after 7 a.m. on a downtown 4 train from Grand Central. He said he plans to rely on subways and buses to get to work each day. He had prepared for a “packed” first day of meetings with his new colleagues and higher ups, including his boss Veronique Hakim, the MTA’s managing director, and Phil Eng, the agency’s COO.

Byford, a UK native who began his transit career as a station foreman in the London Underground, said his first priority on the subways is to “maximize the capability” of the MTA’s current signal system, which relies on technology dating back nearly a century, and improve maintenance of the MTA’s fleet of trains.

“The short term is getting the existing system to work reliably,” Byford said. “Doors typically are the Achilles’ heel of trains — particularly aging trains. You’ve got to maintain your doors, you’ve got to maintain your signal equipment.”

Upgrading the MTA’s signals will allow the agency to add more trains to lines throughout the day because trains could run tighter together. The MTA in the past has estimated that such an endeavor would cost tens of billions of dollars and take nearly a half-century. Round-the-clock service — in some form — might have to be sacrificed, Byford said.

“You cannot upgrade signals effectively … unless you give crews access to the track and that does mean that we will have to find a way of doing that,” Byford said. “I do appreciate that this is a 24/7 city. New Yorkers rightfully hold the (24-hour) subway dear to their hearts. But equally, they expect me to provide more reliable service. If we’re to do that, there is no gain without some pain.”

While Byford said there will need to be a larger investment in the MTA to turn around service, he also admitted that costs are unusually high. Building out the first leg of the second Avenue subway was the most expensive subway project on Earth at $4.5 billion.

“We should be looking to be as efficient as possible in everything that we do so that we can maximize scarce tax dollars,” Byford said.

The MTA, which is effectively controlled by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, has experienced a roughly 200 percent increase in subway delays since 2012. While ridership on the rails has begun to plateau and drop, bus ridership has declined much faster, dropping 100 million passenger trips over the past eight years. Meanwhile, Cuomo has tried to pass some responsibility of the subways to the city and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Both the mayor and the governor have agreed that the MTA needs more funding, though each has their own dueling proposals.

Byford said that he hopes he’s “allowed the time and the space to do what I need to do.” Over the past 10 years, Transit presidents have typically stayed on the job for a little over two years, on average.

“At the end of the day the MTA is a state-run authority,” Byford said. “So it’s the governor’s prerogative to have a view. I think it would be perverse if the governor wasn’t interested in transit or in the subway because, at the end of the day, he’s an elected official and I think all elected officials should be concerned about making sure this city’s transit system runs effectively.”

As Byford trekked downtown, trains were still running smoothly in the early hours of the morning rush. He used a word to describe his commute that not many New Yorkers would associate with the subway: “flawless.”

But, just about an hour after he entered MTA headquarters, the MTA reported delays or service changes on B, D, 2, 3, 6 and 7 trains and the morning commute looked more familiar.

Two Netherlands’ airports are planned to be linked by Hyperloop One

beam.land

Hyperloop One, a California-based company is seeking to make the concept of aircraft-speed ground transportation a commercial reality. A hyperloop track would link Amsterdam Schiphol and Lelystad airports to result the two facilities effectively becoming one integrated aerodrome within five years, according to FlightGlobal.

Hyperloop One senior vice-president global field operations Nick Earle said the company was in “significant discussions with the Dutch government around the concept of creating extra capacity at «Schiphol» by building a hyperloop link to Lelystad. If the concept becomes a reality, Earle says the 50 kilometers journey between Schiphol and Lelystad would take just 4 minutes, creating what he describes as “a single, integrated airport” at a “fraction of the cost” of building an additional runway.

Hyperloop One has built a 500 meters test track in Nevada for its version of the hyperloop technology that was originally conceived by Tesla founder Elon Musk. Other firms are also attempting to commercialise the concept.

The idea is to build a ground transportation system in which passengers and cargo are loaded into pods that accelerate gradually through a low-pressure tube using electric propulsion. The pods are then lifted off the track by magnetic levitation, the aim being for them to glide at speeds of up to 1,046 km/h.

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson in last October announced a partnership with Hyperloop One under which his company will invest an undisclosed sum in the firm. Branson will join the board of directors and the company will later be rebranded as Virgin Hyperloop One. On announcing the investment, Branson said: “After visiting Hyperloop One’s test site in Nevada and meeting its leadership team this past summer, I am convinced this ground-breaking technology will change transportation as we know it and dramatically cut journey times.”

Schiphol Airport

Meanwhile Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport added 4.8 million passengers last year with the help of a six-runway setup that’s unique in Europe, putting it almost level with Paris Charles de Gaulle as the region’s second-busiest hub, reports Bloomberg.

Schiphol attracted 68.4 million travelers, consolidating its lead over Frankfurt and putting it within 1 million of the total at Charles de Gaulle. London Heathrow remained Europe’s leading airport despite the constraints of only two runways as airlines turned to bigger planes to boost capacity.

While Schiphol plans to open a third terminal in 2023, when Frankfurt will also add a new building, its advance could be stymied by a cap on flights at 500,000 a year aimed at curbing noise and pollution. The Dutch hub had almost 497,000 plane movements in 2017, 22,000 more than at Heathrow, aided not only by its multiple runways but the ability to operate 24 hours a day — a freedom many of its European rivals are denied.

Brightline in the limelight as game-changing railway launches in the US

Global Rail News

A bright day for Florida and an even brighter one for rail transport in the United States.

January 13 marked the long-awaited launch of Brightline, the country’s first privately-owned passenger train service since the 1980s.

Initially the line will connect passengers from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach in around 40 minutes, making use of the existing Florida East Coast Railway. Tickets cost either $10 for a smart service ticket or $15 for a select service ticket – which comes with seats that are two inches wider, complimentary drinks and snacks and access to a premium station lounge.

But connecting the two cities quicker than a journey by car isn’t the main selling point for what Brightline president, Patrick Goddard, describes as a “game-changing” service.

Free wi-fi, charging points, reclining seats, e-tickets, spacious aisles, leather seats, retractable gap fillers and baggage attendants. Brightline promises to set a “new benchmark” for train travel by concentrating on comfort and convenience to encourage motorists to ditch their cars for a mode of transport which currently plays a limited role in the nation’s transport network.

Its plans are big and bold – a stretch to Miami is due to open in 2018 and plans are well underway for an extension to Orlando – and so is Brightline’s brand with an eye-catching fleet of pink, red, orange, green and blue carriages and showcase partners such as Pepsi and the NBA’s Miami Heat.

GE breakup is likely and could come as soon as this spring: what a shame

what a shame

GE seen as likely to embrace major company break-up, sources tell CNBC’s David Faber.
GE breakup could come as soon as this spring, the sources said.
“We are looking aggressively at the best structure or structures for our portfolio to maximize the potential of our businesses,” CEO John Flannery said on an investor call.

ay after a review of its GE Capital insurance portfolio that it will take a $6.2 billion after-tax charge for the fourth quarter of 2017.

On the call with investors explaining the charge, CEO John Flannery seemed to imply he is ready to make significant changes to the company.

“Today, I am more convinced than ever, that we have substantial underlying strengths and value that have been suppressed in the current context. As a result, we are looking aggressively at the best structure or structures for our portfolio to maximize the potential of our businesses, continue to deliver outstanding products and services to our customers, enhance our ability to provide attractive opportunities for our employees, while maximizing value for our shareholders,” Flannery said on an investor call Tuesday.

“Our results over the past several years including 2017 and the insurance charge only further my belief that we need to continue to move with purpose to reshape GE. We will continue to rigorously review our alternatives to deliver shareholder value, and report out to you as we make progress this spring.”

General Electric shares significantly underperformed the market in the past year. The stock declined 40 percent through Friday in the past 12 months versus the S&P 500’s 22.5 percent return.

One Wall Street analyst is surprised at the size of the insurance portfolio charge and reserve numbers.

“After an analysis of the GE long term care exposure, we had thought an outsized charge was likely, but have to admit the $15B of additional capital ultimately being required was far in excess of our adverse case expectations, and is a negative read across for other insurers with sizeable long term care blocks in our view,” Evercore ISI analyst Thomas Gallagher wrote Tuesday.

The company reduced its dividend and unveiled a restructuring plan during its November investor day. It was the company’s first investor day under Flannery, who succeeded Jeff Immelt in August.

GE shares traded down 3.8 percent Tuesday.

good bye SKYPE

We have been a consumer/patron of SKYPE for a long time.

Now the vicious jaws of Wonderful MICROSOFT have killed it as far as we are
concerned. TOO BAD!

They try so hard to integrate it into the MicroSoft network that they completely screw it up beyoNd belief.

If you used to communicate with us by SKYPE, forget it.

USE our ORANGE EMAIL INSTEAD

too bad

Florida East Coast Railway names Asplund president, CEO

Nate Asplund has succeeded James Hertwig as president and chief executive officer of Florida East Coast Railway.

Asplund, who assumed his new role on Jan. 8, most recently served as president and CEO of the Red River Valley and Western Railroad (RRVW), a regional railroad serving North Dakota and Minnesota, FEC Railway officials said in a post on the company’s website.

During Asplund’s tenure at RRVW, the regional railroad achieved record volume for rail transportation and car repair, sited three additional grain shuttle facilities, built a wind project distribution terminal and attracted customer investments approaching $90 million.

Nate Asplund has succeeded James Hertwig as president and chief executive officer of Florida East Coast Railway.

Asplund, who assumed his new role on Jan. 8, most recently served as president and CEO of the Red River Valley and Western Railroad (RRVW), a regional railroad serving North Dakota and Minnesota, FEC Railway officials said in a post on the company’s website.

During Asplund’s tenure at RRVW, the regional railroad achieved record volume for rail transportation and car repair, sited three additional grain shuttle facilities, built a wind project distribution terminal and attracted customer investments approaching $90 million.

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