Category Archives: Florida East Coast

Is hydrogen the answer?

RailEngineerRail Engineer

Rail Engineer’s feature on hydrogen trains in the January issue (issue 159) raised the possibility that, despite its good green credentials, the rail industry’s use of rail diesel traction could soon become unacceptable. A few weeks later, Transport Minister Jo Johnson said exactly this in a speech stating that he wished to see “all diesel-only trains off the track by 2040” and saw “alternative-fuel trains powered entirely by hydrogen” to be a prize on the horizon. His speech also called on the industry to provide a vision for how it plans to decarbonise and report back by the autumn.

That recent feature on hydrogen trains concluded that, in the long-term, the replacement of DMUs by HMUs is a realistic goal. Readers may also have gathered that Rail Engineer is a fan of hydrogen. Not only does it provide zero emissions and a possible zero-carbon means of transport but, as an energy vector, it also offers large-scale energy storage to absorb excess off-peak wind power generation.

The tiny Orkney island of Eday provides an interesting example. The island has installed a 0.5MW electrolysis plant to export its surplus wind power as hydrogen to Kirkwall, on Orkney’s mainland, where it is used to power the grid.

Part of the solution

For these reasons, hydrogen has got to be part of the solution, although it cannot be the only one. As with all technologies, it should only be used when appropriate. A limiting factor for hydrogen is its energy density of 2.7MJ/litre (at 350bar on Alstom’s hydrogen iLint train) which is less than a tenth that of diesel (35.8MJ/litre).

Alstom’s iLint hydrogen train is a hybrid unit that makes clever use of a 225kW traction battery to supplement the power of its 200kW fuel cell to give the same performance and range as a diesel multiple unit train.

For much of the time, the fuel cell keeps the batteries fully charged. When accelerating, the iLint is powered by both its traction battery and fuel cell to deliver a maximum power to weight ratio of 8kW /tonne, comparable with a diesel-powered Hitachi bi-mode.

Battery-powered trains also offer zero emissions at the point of use. However, they are limited by the low energy density of batteries which ranges from 0.56MJ/litre for lead acid to 2.63MJ/litre for lithium ion. Furthermore, unlike diesel trains, batteries cannot be instantly refuelled. For this reason, battery-powered trains are generally only suitable for journeys from an electric line onto a short non-electrified branch.

Such an IPEMU (independently power electric multiple unit) application was recently trialled on the Harwich branch where it ran for 50km under electric power and 30km powered solely by battery, as described in our “Batteries included” feature (issue 125, March 2015).

Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) offers lower fuel costs and reduced carbon and particulate emissions. There is significant interest in its use on North American freight railroads, which spend around $12 billion a year on diesel. Last year, the Florida East Coast Railway became the first US railway to operate its entire mainline fleet on LNG. The company claims that this results in an eighty per cent reduction in Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions. In Russia, LNG is used to power a fleet of gas turbine locomotives.

An extensive refuelling infrastructure is required for LNG-powered locomotives, which need a separate tender vehicle containing an insulated double-walled tank in which the fuel is kept refrigerated at -160°C. At 22MJ/litre, LNG’s energy density is two-thirds that of diesel and the performance of LNG trains could be comparable to diesel trains.

Alternative fuel limitations

LNG is unlikely to be a practical proposition for rail passenger units. If used to power locomotives, it would require the train to be lengthened by an extra vehicle to carry the LNG tank.

Hydrogen and battery technologies offer significant benefits, which will no doubt be developed further. However, their low energy densities will always be a significant constraint. For this reason, there is no prospect of self-powered rail traction using alternative fuels for high-power rail traction. Rail Freight Group executive director Maggie Simpson made this point in her response to Johnson’s statement. She noted that, whilst battery and hydrogen ‘may show promise for lightweight passenger trains, their application for heavy duty freight is at best unproven and setting an arbitrary deadline of 2040 could well therefore be counterproductive, damaging the case for investment’. She advised that RFG would like to see the “continued affordable electrification of the strategic freight network”.

Yet, in his call for the railway to decarbonise, Johnson expects that batteries and hydrogen will replace the diesel engines on bi-mode trains. His advisers would seem to be unaware of the fundamental constraints of these technologies. In his speech, Johnson also seemed to dismiss electrification by stating that it was “unlikely to be the most cost-effective way to secure these vital environmental benefits”.

Zero-carbon electrification

Although Johnson’s expectation that greener alternatives will replace diesel is not unreasonable for lightly used lines, this aspiration is unrealistic for busy core routes that require high-powered traction. For these, electrification is the only option that offers the prospective of zero-carbon rail traction as an increasing proportion of Britain’s electricity becomes generated by renewals. The use of wind turbines to provide all the power for electrified railways in the Netherlands shows what can be done.

Furthermore, busy electrified routes carry far more traffic than rural lines, and so offer far greater environmental benefits than alternative-fuelled self-powered vehicles.

Whilst electrification’s high initial capital cost gives it a poor business case for rural routes, this is not the case for busy main lines. The economic case for electrification is recognised by many countries that have a high percentage of their rail network electrified. These include Netherlands (76 per cent), Italy (71 per cent) and Spain (61 per cent). In the UK, just 42 per cent of the network is electrified.

Electrification offers improved passenger benefits with its greater acceleration and speed. For example, a bi-mode class 800/2 has a power to weight ratio of 11.2kW/tonne in electric mode and 6.9kW/tonne in diesel mode.

Electrification also offers enormous operational cost savings. A recent report by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) on rolling stock costs showed that, whilst the Virgin Trains fleet portfolio includes only 15 per cent diesel rolling stock, diesel accounts for 40 per cent of its total energy costs, making it around four times the cost of electric traction. One reason for this is that, unlike diesels, electric trains can absorb the huge amount of energy required to brake a train and regenerate it back into the grid.

The high maintenance and capital cost of diesel trains is illustrated in a National Audit Office report that considered the procurement of Hitachi IEP bi-mode trains, which includes a 28-year maintenance contract. This showed that the Great Western IEPs, which frequently operate under diesel power, cost £4 million more per vehicle than the mostly all-electric East Coast IEPs.

Unnecessarily high electrification costs

The Government, not unreasonably, considers the current high cost of electrification to be unacceptable and has cut back electrification schemes as a result. The recent feature “Electrification as it used to be” (issue 158, December 2017) showed that, at today’s prices, the cost of electrifying the Great Western main line is seven times the track-mile-cost of British Rail’s East coast electrification. Whilst this is not a totally fair comparison, given changes to standards and the increase in traffic since the days of BR, it does show the need to understand why Great Western electrification cost so much.

In its report ‘A breath of fresh air: new solutions to reduce transport emissions’, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers recommended that the “DfT instructs Network Rail to develop an appropriate specification for railway electrification, which will achieve an affordable business case for a rolling programme to complete the electrification of main lines between Britain’s principal cities and ports, and of urban rail networks through our major city centres.” In making this recommendation, the Institution believes it should be possible to drive down electrification costs and is also suggesting that having a rolling programme, as is the case in Scotland, is one way of doing this.

Jo Johnson is right to suggest that hydrogen and batteries can decarbonise rail traction. However, for very real engineering reasons, they can only be part of the solution.

The politics of electrification are such that the Government is forced to make misleading statements to justify its cutbacks. For example, Chris Grayling’s recent statement that, with bi-mode trains, “we no longer need to electrify every line to achieve the same significant improvements to journeys”, ignores the laws of physics – improved journey times requires more powerful trains. An electrically powered bi-mode is almost fifty percent more powerful than a diesel bi-mode.

The industry’s response to Johnson’s call for decarbonisation solutions must focus on engineering issues. If so, it can only reach the same conclusion that the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has, which is that cost-effective electrification is the only way to deliver significant carbon and emission reductions.

This article was written by David Shirres.


Video shows gates down as bicyclist tries to beat Brightline train and is fatally struck

Boynton Beach Police Department via BRIGHTLINE

See Video:

Sorry for not “imbedding” video. Beyond our technology. Thanks to Miami Herald we have it!

Surveillance video from the front of the Brightline train shows the crossing gates were down when the train struck and killed a Boynton Beach man as he rode his bicycle across tracks in Boynton Beach on January 19, 2018. Boynton Beach Police Department.

Video released this week by Boynton Beach police confirmed what law enforcement officials said from the beginning: The man fatally struck by the Brightline train last week crossed the tracks even though the gates were down.

The video, which was taken from a camera mounted to the train, shows the train speeding along as the bicycle comes into its path. Brightline is capable of speeds up to 79 mph.

On Jan 17, Jeffrey King, 51, was the second person killed by South Florida’s high-speed commuter line since launching the service to the public on Jan. 13.

Melissa Lavell, 31, was killed Jan. 12 — the commuter line’s VIP opening day — when she, too, tried to cross the tracks after the gates went down, Boynton Beach police said. The Boynton Beach woman was hit not far from where King was struck.

Guess it too a few days to send film to get developed!

Be careful watching video. Next video is alligator getting caught.

Guess know Brightline can move on successfullyat 79 mph!

NEW: Brightline adds safety features at crossings

Brightline has placed electronic signs at some of the intersections of the FEC tracks. This sign on Lucerne in Lake Worth warns pedestrians to “stay off train tracks” and that there are “more & faster trains.”

Brightline has positioned large electronic signs at several busy rail crossings along its route to warn the public that its new express trains move faster than other rail traffic and to urge people to stay off the tracks when the guard gates go down.

Brightline officials said they plan to put 20 signs at crossings between the company’s two stations in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Those signs will be periodically moved to other crossings along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks as part of a new safety awareness campaign launched by Brightline on Friday following two recent deaths involving the private rail venture’s trains.

The company also plans to deploy a team of “safety ambassadors” to key intersections in the coming days to remind pedestrians and motorists to stay off the tracks when a train is approaching. During the weekend, officials said the ambassadors visited a number of grocery stores, community events and other gathering places to pass out safety information.

Since Jan. 12, the day before the company began shuttling paying passengers, Brightline’s trains have hit three people. In all three incidents, police said those struck did not heed warning lights and crossing gates positioned at the intersections.

On Friday, a pedestrian was hit by the train after attempting to cross the train tracks at Northeast Third Avenue and North Flagler Drive in Fort Lauderdale when the gates were down. The person’s injuries were not life-threatening, police said.

The accident occurred just hours after Brightline’s President and Chief Operating Officer Patrick Goddard, during a press conference to announce new safety and public education initiatives, urged the public to stay off the tracks.

It is illegal to go around railroad guard gates or to stop a car on the train tracks.

Drivers who maneuver around railroad barriers could be fined $166 and receive three points on their license. Pedestrians who ignore railroad warning signals can be fined $64.50, regardless of their age or whether they have a license.

It is also illegal to walk along the railroad tracks. Those who do can be charged with a misdemeanor for trespassing.

Messages placed on Brightline’s signs during the weekend warned the public that there are “more & faster trains” along the Florida East Coast Railway line and urge drivers and motorists to “stay off train tracks.”

During the week,Brightline runs 10 round-trip trains a day between its stations in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. There are nine round-trip trains on the weekends.

The company’s trains operate at speeds up to 79 mph on the FEC tracks, much faster than the freight locomotives that travel on the same line.

In the coming months, Brightline plans to extend its service to downtown Miami.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

Woman struck and killed by Brightline train during preview run

A woman was struck and killed by a Brightline train in Boynton Beach during an introductory run, according to the Boynton Beach Police Department.

The woman was identified Saturday as Melissa Lavell, 31, of Boynton Beach. Lavell was crossing the tracks after the guard rails were in the down position, in an attempt to make it across the tracks before the train approached, according to a post on the Boynton Beach police department’s Facebook page.

Friday’s accident was the third fatality for Brightline, which launched introductory passenger rail service Saturday morning. A woman was struck in July in Boca Raton in a case that was investigated as a suicide, and another woman was hit on the tracks in Deerfield Beach in November.

The railroad has been testing its trains for several months.

Brightline described the most recent fatality as a “tragic” incident.

“Brightline’s team is cooperating with local authorities,” the railroad said in a written statement. “This is a tragic incident, and our thoughts and prayers are with those affected. We continue to stress safety and the adherence to the rules and laws in place around active railroads.”

Brightline’s first ride between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale took off on time at 8 a.m. Saturday morning.

Brightline to begin passenger rail service Saturday between West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale

After nearly six years of anticipation, the first paying customers will board Brightline’s fleet of colorful passenger trains Saturday for the short trip between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

Brightline on Thursday announced its long-awaited start date, schedules and ticket prices for limited, introductory service.

The $3.1 billion railroad plans to expand service to Miami later this year, and by 2020, to run up to 16 daily round trips through the Treasure and Space coasts on their route between Miami and Orlando International Airport.

Brightline said it would begin construction on that second phase of the project as early as this month.

Introductory fares for the 35-minute trip service between West Palm and Fort Lauderdale will be $10 each way for Smart Service, Brightline’s coach class, and $15 for Select Service, Brightline’s business class, the company said. Seniors, active military and veterans will receive a 10 percent discount, and children younger than 12 will ride for half price as part of discounted introductory fares.

Brightline on Thursday afternoon tweeted that its new ticketing website was experiencing delays and “booking glitches” as a result of “overwhelming excitement.

Year in Review: Transit tech, projects that caught OBJ readers’ attention in 2017

Orlando BizJournal Com

A necessary component for any major city is transportation, and for Orlando — which attracts 68 million annual visitors — it’s especially important.

The theme park capital of the world already boasts of a world-class airport, award-winning restaurants and company headquarters — which is why road projects and more transit options are important in allowing an easier commute for both residents and visitors.

Those major transit projects include the $2.3 billion I-4 Ultimate project, which includes revamping 21 miles of Interstate; the $1.3 billion SunRail commuter rail that’s expanding; and the $3.5 billion Orlando-to-Miami Brightline train that will connect at Orlando International Airport.

It’s probably no surprise that these projects and others are among the seven most-read transportation stories we shared in 2017. Here’s a breakdown of the top seven:

Brightline starts site work for $2B Orlando connection: The nearly $2 billion second phase of the project — which is expected to create 6,600 metro Orlando jobs and offer a boost to our local tourism market — includes an extension of the rail system from West Palm Beach to Orlando International Airport’s $682 million Intermodal Terminal Facility.