Tag Archives: Passenger service

Train derailment caused by track problem Metro knew about in July

Repost from Fox5 Washington DC

Metro knew about track problem in July

By Marina Marraco, Aug 13 2015 10:18AM EDT

The derailment of a non-passenger train outside the Smithsonian Metro station last Thursday was caused by a track defect that was discovered on July 9 but not fixed, Metro said.

The transit agency is again facing public scrutiny after the derailment happened as the morning commute got underway that day. A six-car train was leaving the rail yard and gearing up for service near the Smithsonian Metro station.

Metro interim general manager and CEO Jack Requa said the train’s wheels lost contact with the rail due to an infrastructure problem known as “wide gauge.” The rail had widen so much that it caused the wheels to lose grip from the tracks and the train’s eventual derailment.

“The one that was detected was a Code Black defect,” said Metro deputy general manager Rob Troup. “That track should have been taken out of service at that period of time.”

“I want to take this opportunity to again and again apologize to our customers,” Requa said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

He said he could not defend the transit agency’s failure to repair the issue prior to the derailment.

“This is totally unacceptable,” said Requa. “It is unacceptable to me and it should be unacceptable to everyone within the chain of command, all the way down to track laborers and track inspectors who are out on the lines on a first-line basis.”

Following the derailment, Requa ordered a system-wide inspection of every mile of track, which could take up to a month to complete. He said customers can expect delays in the coming days as possible additional track repairs are made.

Requa apologized to customers for Thursday’s derailment and delays caused by a power issue the following day.

BART can now buy clean energy from alternate suppliers

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle

BART gets go-ahead to buy clean energy directly

By Melody Gutierrez, August 7, 2015 6:44pm

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Friday that allows BART to purchase renewable energy directly from wholesale suppliers as the rail system looks to further reduce its carbon footprint.

SB502 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, eliminates a barrier the BART Board of Directors face when purchasing electricity, which is currently limited to a short list of approved suppliers, according to bill supporters.

Under the new law, BART officials would no longer have to go through a third party to buy renewable energy on their behalf and instead could purchase directly from facilities covered under California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard.

“BART is a vital regional transit system that is working to increase its use of clean energy, but current state law unnecessarily limits the agency from further decreasing its carbon footprint,” Leno said in a statement. “This bill supports state goals to combat climate change and enables BART to continue providing cost-effective transportation for the Bay Area while increasing the agency’s use of renewable energy.”

BART buys its electricity from the Northern California Power Agency and the Western Area Power Administration. The trains, which are 100 percent electric, derive half of their power from clean hydroelectric power and renewable sources.

“This legislation will allow us to seek out new sources of clean renewable energy and for suppliers to offer it to us at a good price,” BART board President Thomas Blalock said in a statement.

SB502 passed the Senate and Assembly unanimously.

Derailment fallout: suspended passenger service

Repost from Railway Age

Via Rail pondering alternative Ontario routing for suspended Canadian

By  David Thomas, Contributing Editor, March 20, 2015

After months of late arrivals due to track congestion on CN’s northern Ontario main line, compounded by slow orders arising from CN’s efforts to recover from two tar sands oil train explosions, Via Rail is examining an alternative routing for the Canadian, the continent’s last classic streamliner, originally Canadian Pacific’s premier luxury passenger train.

Via suspended Canadian service between Winnipeg and Toronto March 11, citing the impossibility of maintaining schedules as CN dealt with the oil train mishaps near Gogama.

One option is to shift to CP trackage between Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Sudbury, Ontario, something Via Rail CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano hinted at last November during an interview with Railway Age. The motive, he said then, would be to provide passengers with a more scenic route closer to the Great Lakes, while at the same time serving more communities.

The imperative now is simply to get the train running again before the summer tourism season.

A contract would have to be negotiated with CP, and Via’s engineers would need to be qualified on CP track and operations, something that could take up to two months. Via will consider next week whether it can restore northern Ontario service over CN tracks, either indefinitely or pending a move to CP.

CBS News: Kansas derailment raises vital rail safety questions

Repost from CBS News
[Editor: Apologies for the commercial ad in the otherwise excellent video.  – RS]

Kansas derailment raises vital rail safety questions

January 3, 2015

Rail safety is back in the spotlight after a new warning from federal regulators.

The National Transportation Safety Board is urging railroads to take immediate action following its investigation of a derailment in Kansas. No one was hurt in the derailment, but it raised new questions about whether America’s rail network — carrying cargo and passengers — is as safe as it could be, CBS News’ Mark Albert reports.

The collision in September between two Union Pacific freight trains in Galva, Kansas, may have come down, in part, to a light bulb.

In a news release Friday, the NTSB said a green LED light was so bright it out-shined the old-fashioned, incandescent red stoplight nearby. The engineer accelerated, plowing into an oncoming train.

The NTSB now wants all railroads to eliminate any lighting hazards nationwide. It’s the latest in a string of safety issues in the past 18 months on America’s 140,000 miles of rails.

“What we know is the regulators are behind the curve,” said former NTSB chair Deborah Hersman, who sounded the alarm about crude oil shipments in April. “We’re losing cars. We’re losing millions of gallons of petroleum, and we aren’t prepared.”

Eight days later, train cars carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire along the James River in Virginia.

In December 2013, a derailment in North Dakota caused a huge fireball. And in July 2013, 47 people died after a derailment in Quebec, Canada. The train was carrying oil from North Dakota’s booming Bakken oil region.

McClatchy correspondent Curtis Tate acknowledges that the government and the railroads are making strides to make rail travel safer.

“Absolutely, they are,” he said. “The problem is it was too late for 47 people in Quebec.”

Tate published an investigation this week that found gaps in rail oversight, including:

The government lets railroads do their own bridge inspections.
There is no federal database on those bridge conditions, like there is with roads.

New rules that make railroads tell states when large oil shipments pass through only apply to higher-risk Bakken crude — not other types of oil.

“I’d like to think that they’re doing the best they can,” Tate said. “But the question is, will that be enough?”

In a statement to CBS News, the Association of American Railroads said the industry spends half a billion dollars per week on safety.

The Department of Transportation is expected to issue new federal rules by spring that may include stronger tank cars, tighter speed restrictions and tougher braking requirements.