IRJ Blogs continued

THE deployment of the ETCS train control element of ERTMS in Europe has been painfully slow, with only 4500km of lines either equipped or in the process of being installed, and virtually no cross-border lines equipped at all. Conversely, the uptake of ETCS has been much greater outside Europe.

THIS month we report on a flurry of activity in the high-speed rail sector where three projects are coming to fruition in France, and French National Railways (SNCF) is starting to rebrand its iconic TGV. Across the Channel in Britain, construction is about to start on Britain’s second high-speed line, while in the Baltic states the three countries are putting aside their differences to push ahead with the Rail Baltica high-speed project. In Asia, the Kuala Lumpur - Singapore high-speed project is gaining momentum.

US president Donald Trump’s appalling decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord has rightly been met by a chorus of condemnation from all key European leaders, and a collective commitment to continue working towards the goals of this crucial international agreement. But while Trump’s proclamation dominated the headlines, another climate story on the other side of the Atlantic went almost unnoticed.

THE railway industry faces a serious skills shortage for three main reasons: a high proportion of employees, particularly among operators, are approaching retirement age, the current level of investment which calls for large number of skilled engineers to implement projects, and rapid changes in technology requiring new skill sets.

WITH many of the world’s leading rolling stock suppliers poised to promote their expertise and products this month at the Railtex exhibition in Britain and the International Association of Public Transport’s global summit in Montreal, it is apposite to assess the current state of the market.

TOP management changes at two of the world’s major railways, CSX in the United States and German Rail (DB), were announced in March. While the circumstances around the new appointments could not be more different both are likely to herald a change of direction.

THE rail industry is at a crossroads. On the one hand, the continuing increase in global population and the shift from rural areas to the cities is boosting demand for rail services, but on the other hand the unprecedented speed of technical development and the digital revolution threatens to leave rail behind if it is does not adapt and embrace change quickly enough.

THERE is little doubt that the introduction of autonomous vehicles (AV) will have a profound effect on land transport when driverless cars, buses and trucks become commercially available, but the big question is how will their introduction affect not only road transport but also rail, and what the implications will be for public transport operators and railways.

DURING the past year, several major policy initiatives such as global agreements on climate change and sustainability, and Europe’s Fourth Railway Package, have been concluded. We also saw the completion of the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland, continuing rail and metro expansion in China, the completion of several metro projects in India, and the approval of high-speed lines in Britain, Russia, and Malaysia/Singapore. The Shift2Rail research programme in Europe is also now in full swing. These are all positive developments which should strengthen rail’s market position, but only if railways can seize these opportunities.

WHILE Republicans across the United States were popping champagne corks in jubilation as their party won the presidential election and secured majorities in both houses of Congress on the night of November 8, the election also proved a major boon for proposed transit projects across the country.

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