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Posts from the ‘Locale is International’ Category

Commercial hybrid-electric aircraft, reduced carbon emissions

Science Daily, 25 March 2019

Although we’re still a long way from commercial airplanes powered by a combination of fossil fuel and batteries, a recent feasibility study at the University of Illinois explored fuel/battery configurations and the energy lifecycle to learn the tradeoffs needed to yield the greatest reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

“In the energy supply chain there’s a phrase, from ‘well to wake.’ That is, fuel production begins at the oil well and ends at the wake of the airplane. Tracking costs and environmental implications across this entire lifecycle is important, because the implications for fuel and energy production can be substantially different, depending on the source. In this study, we looked at how technologies need to improve to make a hybridized configuration feasible, where feasibility is assessed based on a need to meet a certain range requirement and feature a large reduction in carbon emissions. The net carbon emissions were calculated from a combination of fuel burn and the carbon impact associated with recharging the batteries,” said Phillip Ansell, assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering in the College of Engineering at the U of I.

According to Ansell, that second part has been ignored.

“You can get a fuel burn reduction, but if the cleanliness of the electrical grid that’s being used to charge the battery system is not included, you’re missing a significant part of the carbon emissions total,” he said.

The study compared the relative CO2 emissions produced per kilowatt-hour for each individual state across the United States. It includes a map of the U.S. with values of how much carbon is produced per unit of energy.

But, to be commercially acceptable, a hybrid-electric aircraft needs to be able to carry the same number of passengers and travel the same distances as current all-fossil fuel aircraft do, so the study used the parameters for a single-aisle airplane that can carry approximately 140 passengers as a model. They parametrically varied the proportion of power across the propulsion driveshaft that was electrically derived, using configurations where 12.5 percent, 25 percent, or 50 percent of the necessary power was produced by an electric motor. The study didn’t consider cost in dollars, but rather the cost in CO2 emissions — the environmental cost.

The most feasible configuration from the model was a propulsion system that uses a 50 percent electrical-power drivetrain and a battery specific energy density of 1,000 watt-hours per kilogram. This configuration was estimated to produce 49.6 percent less lifecycle CO2 emissions than a modern conventional aircraft with a maximum range equivalent to that of the average of all global flights, making it a viable option for environmentally responsible aviation. However, current battery technologies are quite far from being able to achieve this configuration. Despite this fact, Ansell did say that improvements in batteries will continue to provide gains in capabilities.

“Obviously, the 12.5 percent is the most near-term accessible configuration that was studied, because we’ll need less battery technology progress to get to that point. However, we also see a non-linear relationship between CO2 emissions produced and improvements in hybrid-electric propulsion concepts, where the most rapid proportional reductions in carbon emissions are produced across near-term improvements in technology,” Ansell said. “Achieving the technology improvements for a 50% hybrid system certainly has a very long timetable to get to market, by a long shot, because it’s entirely uncertain if or when that level of energy density of batteries will be manufactured. But at least in the interim, even small gains in component technologies can make a big difference.”

When will technology be able to manufacture a battery lightweight enough yet powerful enough to fly a commercial airplane?

Ansell speculated, “Perhaps in the next 10 years we’ll be able to have a battery that is 400 to 600 watt-hours per kilogram. If we project that out, the levels that we need for larger hybridization factors, or even fully electric commercial aircraft, might be within reach in the next 25 years.”

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190325130524.htm

Shipping Comes to Terms With $50 Billion Clean-Fuel Bill

The Wall Street Journal, 4 April 2019

A shift from heavy oil to lower-sulfur fuels next year will hit vessel operators and cargo owners, but preparations are finally taking shape

The introduction of low-sulfur fuels in oceangoing vessels next year to meet new emissions standards will mark the biggest change in ship propulsion since the maritime industry moved from coal to heavy oil early in the 20th century.

The emissions mandate taking effect at the start of 2020 will affect at least 60,000 vessels and cost the industry up to $50 billion, according to shipping executives’ estimates. The expected burden has triggered a noisy debate about the added costs, as well as warnings over the quality and availability of the new fuels—and calls to delay the rule.

With eight months to go, however, preparations are in full swing and the doomsday predictions are dissipating as more fuel providers set up depots and distribution sites. A consensus also is building in the shipping world that customers will have to bear the higher costs across supply chains, as long as carriers are clear and transparent about how much more they have to pay to keep ships moving.

Cargo owners expect a significant jump in freight rates, which over the past five years have been hovering below break-even levels for vessel operators as a result of a glut of ships in the water and vicious price wars.

Many of the world’s shipping companies have been unprofitable for much of the past decade, and the outlook through 2021 remains grim on the back of a slowing global economy and trade tensions among the U.S., China and the European Union.

“If the extra costs related to low-sulfur fuel go to shipping companies and end there, it would result in bankruptcies,” said Soren Skou, chief executive of A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, the world’s biggest container ship operator by capacity.

The new formulation of low-sulfur fuel is supposed to replace bunker, which propels most of the world’s oceangoing vessels. The heavy-burning fuel has 3.5% sulfur content—far above what is allowed for automobile gasoline in the U.S.—and is the main reason the shipping industry contributes about 13% of world-wide sulfur-dioxide emissions, according to the International Maritime Organization, the global regulator managing the switch.

The new maritime fuel will have a 0.5% sulfur content. A 2016 study in Finland said that without the change in fuel, pollution from ships would contribute to more than 570,000 additional premature deaths globally between 2020 and 2025.

The actual cost of the low-sulfur fuel remains only a guess. Shipping executives expect to pay 25% to 40% more than they pay for bunker because of the higher cost for producing the fuel and setting up new distribution sites. Prices for the most common type of bunker have been running around $440 per metric ton so far this year.

Many cargo owners accept they will shoulder much of the bill, likely through shipping surcharges. Retailers are big users of container ships, and it will up to them and other shipping customers whether the costs then get passed long to consumers

“It is unclear at this point what kind of impact the fuel cost increases will have on consumer goods,” said Jon Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation. “I think this will really depend upon the retailer and what their strategy is to mitigate any potential cost increases.”

Fuel surcharges have become a common tool for passing along increases in operating costs following sharp swings in bunker costs early in the decade.

“The supply chains operated just fine in 2011-2014, and there is no reason why this should not be the case this time around either,” said Lars Jensen, chief executive of Copenhagen-based SeaIntelligence Consulting.

Some shippers complain of a lack of clarity on costs, saying they are often saddled with surcharges that are difficult to understand.

“There is uncertainty on what will happen and how freight rates will be affected,” said Jordi Espin, a maritime policy manager at the European Shippers’ Council, a trade body that represents 75,000 cargo owners in the EU.

“Rates are already pushed up by ‘climate costs’ or fuel bunker surcharges, with no clear picture on why these extra costs already apply,” Mr. Espin said. “The whole process lacks transparency and a customer-oriented approach.”

Much of the debate on the operating side has focused on scrubbers, a sulfur-trapping exhaust system that treats ship fumes before they are released in the atmosphere. Some carriers are relying on their use to reduce emissions and meet the new industry standard even while sticking with bunker fuel.

The devices cost $3 million to $10 million per ship, but those carriers using them are betting they can recover the cost in about two years by burning bunker instead of the new, more expensive low-sulfur fuel.

Scrubbers are controversial, however, with critics saying they essentially mask sulfur emissions without eliminating the environmental damage.

“There is a lot of talk about scrubbers, but at the end around 90% of the global fleet will use low-sulfur fuel,” said Rolf Habben Jansen, chief executive of German boxship major Hapag-Lloyd AG , which plans to install scrubbers on only 10 of its 227 ships.

Meanwhile, concerns that there will be too little low-sulfur fuel to power the global fleet are easing. Oil company BP PLC said last month there will be ample supply at major ports, echoing similar assurances by suppliers Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Exxon Mobil Corp.

The sulfur-reduction plan is the step in shipping’s quest to become friendlier to the environment. The industry has agreed to cut by half all greenhouse emissions by 2050, a far costlier exercise that will involve new hull designs and hybrid propulsion systems.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/shipping-comes-to-terms-with-50-billion-clean-fuel-bill-11554382800

Twenty times more English children could cycle to school with better transport planning

The Conversation, 18 March 2019

Only 2% of pupils in England cycle to school, even less than the 3% of adults who cycle to work. Similarly low rates can be found in other wealthy countries, like the US and Australia, although some European countries have much higher levels.

Hostile cycling environments, where riders are expected to mix with buses and other large vehicles, are off-putting enough for commuters, let alone for children (or more accurately, the adults deciding whether or not their children can cycle). Lack of provision for cycling may also help explain the comparatively low rates of cycling in England among women, who are more likely than men to be travelling with children.

Yet planning for school cycling barely exists. Most effort across the country goes into teaching children cycling skills, via the national Bikeability programme. While it’s important to ensure children can ride a bike, often little is done to ensure they have somewhere to ride. At school run times many neighbourhoods are traffic clogged, with drivers parked on double yellow lines and zig-zags, at times even driving on the pavement in the rush to drop off.

There hasn’t been much incentive for this to change. Transport planning has generally marginalised cycling, with planning tools and models focused on private motorised traffic. More broadly, commuters and to a lesser extent adults making other utility trips are prioritised over children’s mobility, independence, and well-being. These two factors have combined to mean that child cycling has not reached the mainstream transport planning agenda.

Cycling potential

Leadership and funding are crucial in changing the situation. But data and planning tools also matter. We saw an opportunity to use data to improve planning processes. Part of the problem is that we don’t know how many children might cycle to school. We don’t know which neighbourhoods could have high levels of child cycling, nor which routes within an area have the greatest potential.

Making that invisible potential visible is the challenge. And one that we’ve met through developing a new modelling tool, part of the Department for Transport-funded Propensity to Cycle Tool (PCT). The analysis is based on the National School Census within which data on travel to school was last collected in 2011 for all state primary and secondary schools in England.

The analysis shows that if children in England cycled to school at the same rates as Dutch children do (for trips of the same distance and hilliness), more than two in five children would do so. The model uses data from the Dutch travel survey, which shows for instance that while around a third of Dutch primary school children might cycle 2-3km to school, these rates drop to one in nine when distance rises to 4km. Realising the “Dutch” potential would mean a 22-fold increase from the current levels of one in 50 children cycling to school.

Even today’s best performing areas would see growth. For example, in Cambridge (with the highest levels of cycling across the country), the amount of children cycling to school would rise from 30% to 53%. All areas see substantial increase, even rural and hillier places; and no English local authority would have fewer than 16% of trips to school cycled.

At present, child cyclists are almost absent from most of our streets, and this amount of child cycling is hard to imagine. To help planners visualise and plan for growth, the PCT maps cycling to school, along routes, in neighbourhoods, and for individual schools. Some roads might have as many as 500, 1,000 or more children pedalling along them, if we were able to create conditions that prioritise children over cars. “School streets” are one such policy, restricting car access at school times, leaving streets clear for children to walk, cycle, play, and socialise without fear of traffic injury.

Other options are to create more widespread interventions. For instance, London’s mini-Holland programme (in Enfield, Kingston, and Waltham Forest) involved closing some neighbourhoods to through motor traffic. Replacing rat runs with planters, play areas, and bike parking, the scheme is already resulting in an increase in walking and cycling.

Health and climate benefits

What might the benefits be of getting more children to ride to school? Many benefits can’t easily be quantified, such as the impacts of redressing long-term decline in children’s independent mobility. For children, available space has too often shrunk from whole neighbourhoods, to streets, to front or back yards – with the greatest impacts on children without access to private outdoor space.

But some impacts can be quantified. The PCT shows that if England achieved its school cycling potential, the benefits could be huge. The calculations suggest that achieving the scenario outlined above would increase physical activity from school travel among pupils by 57% and reduce transport-related carbon emissions by 81 kilotonnes per year.

These benefits vary by primary versus secondary school. Primary school children would see a 9% increase in physical activity from school travel (largely because many walk at present, with distances short). Secondary school children would see a 97% increase. Using World Health Organisation physical activity targets, the proportion of secondary school children getting at least half their recommended physical activity from active school travel would increase threefold, from 13.6% to 40.4%.

We’ve got a long way to go before cycling to school is normalised. If we get there, the benefits are great: improved health and well-being, cars off the road, greater child (and parental) mobility and independence. This will involve a shift in mindset, prioritising children’s health over adults’ car-driving convenience. The new PCT layer contributes to an emerging evidence base to help local policymakers plan for, and prioritise, child cycling.

https://theconversation.com/twenty-times-more-english-children-could-cycle-to-school-with-better-transport-planning-113082

Cycling now the most popular form of rush hour transport on London streets, report shows

Cycling Weekly, 19 February 2019

City of London report shows four-fold increase in cycling in City in last 19 years

Anyone in London will be able to tell you about the surge in cycling numbers in the capital in recent years, but the latest survey of transport modes in the capital has shown in stark detail just how popular cycling has become.

The City of London Corporation has been running its Traffic in the City study for the last 19 years, with its survey of traffic at 15 locations in the City of London showing loud and clear the huge uptake in cycling over those years.

Since 1999 all modes of above-ground transport have reduced by 25-50 per cent, with the exception of cycling, which is now four times as popular as it was 19 years ago.

What’s more, at peak times (between 08:00-10:00 and 17:00-19:00) the numbers of cyclists exceed the numbers of cars, taxis, buses, motorcycles, or goods vehicles.

However it’s not all good news when it comes to the level of cycling in the City of London, with the report pointing out that the increase in cycling numbers has slowed since 2012.

“While this is not a extrapolatory exercise”, the report states,” it does appear that the City counts have reached ‘peak cycle’ over the last five years, suggesting that significant changes in cycling infrastructure provision and/or travel behaviour may be needed to spur further growth in cycling on City streets.”

The report has also included pedestrian numbers for the first time, and points out how the large amount of space dedicated to private vehicles carries a relatively small number of people.

“Private vehicles – cars, taxis, and motorcycles/mopeds – utilised the most street space of any mode – over 53 per cent – while only carrying an estimated quarter of all people travelling on City streets,” the report continues.

“While buses only made up two percent of all counted vehicles, they carried an estimated 19 per cent of all people travelling on City streets (compared to 21 and 19 per cent for private vehicles respectively).

“Buses and private vehicles carried approximately the same number of people in the City while making up an estimated nine and 53 per cent of total street space usage respectively.”

Why Trains Are So Much Greener Than Cars or Airplanes

Citylab, 1 April 2019

Whether moving freight or people, rail is far more energy efficient and less polluting than other transportation modes. And it could get even cleaner.

Transportation represents a large portion—about 29 percent—of U.S. emissions, and the share has been rising in recent years. Rail proponents often argue that investment in trains and public transportation is a key part of making transportation cleaner, and indeed, the Green New Deal calls for greatly expanding high-speed rail.

I’m a scholar of rail, and it’s clear to me that the quickest way to decrease greenhouse gases from transportation is to travel by train and move goods by rail instead of on the road or by air.

To explain why, it’s worth comparing rail to other modes of transportation on energy consumption and emissions, and to look at some of the developments that can make rail more widely used in the U.S. and less reliant on fossil fuels.

Energy and emissions profiles

Data show that rail has a significantly lower energy footprint than trucks and passenger cars. Rail transport, with hard steel wheels on steel rail, has lower resistance to motion than road transportation. And the convoy formation of individual rail cars into trains also adds to its better energy and environmental performance.

A common measure for transportation capacity is ton-miles for freight and passenger-miles for passengers to indicate that a ton of freight is moved for one mile and for passenger systems that a passenger is moved for one mile.

Freight rail accounts for about one-third of the ton-miles and consumes only about 2 percent of the transportation energy in the U.S. The higher efficiency can be illustrated this way: On average, freight railroads move a ton of cargo for around 479 miles on a gallon of fuel, which is about 11 times more energy-efficient than trucks on a ton-mile basis.

Passenger rail is around three times more efficient than a car on a passenger-mile basis at current occupancy levels. The lower energy consumption leads to lower greenhouse emissions.

How U.S. and European rail differ

Often there is the perception that the U.S. lags behind other countries when it comes to rail, but in many cases that is not true. The country has, arguably, the best freight rail system in the world, which is owned, operated, and financed by private companies. Passenger service in specific corridors is comparable with the European counterparts: for example, in the Northeast. On long-distance routes and in less densely populated areas, however, there are often empty seats on Amtrak trains.

The primary difference between Europe and North America could be summarized like this: In America there is a freight rail system with some passenger, while in Europe there is a passenger rail system with some freight—the emphasis is different.

A further difference is that the rail network is private in the U.S. and operated to yield a profit, while in most other countries the rail infrastructure is owned by the government (similar to the freeway system in the U.S.) and heavily subsidized.

To compete with air for passenger transportation

Running passenger and freight trains on the same lines is possible but poses many challenges, as the characteristics of the two train types are very different; freight trains tend to be long, heavy, and comparatively slow, while passenger trains are short, fast, and comparatively light. If there are not too many trains on a line, this mixed traffic can be managed, but if there are a lot of trains, then separate infrastructure is the way forward.

When journey times are less than four hours, people usually prefer to travel by train instead of alternative options, such as air or road. For many corridors in the U.S. it would be necessary to upgrade existing lines or to build new infrastructure to achieve competitive journey times.

For the high-speed rail projects in California, which the state recently decided to scale back, and Texas, where trains would be able to travel at speeds of 200 miles per hour or more, those states are building new infrastructure. Higher-speed options often allow existing rail tracks to be upgraded to accommodate speeds of around 110 miles per hour to around 125 miles per hour, and such projects are being implemented in Florida and the Midwest.

Routes to better environmental performance

The majority of trains in the U.S. are diesel-electric, where a diesel engine runs a generator, supplying electric traction motors that turn the wheels. However, electricity can also be supplied by the grid to trains via wayside infrastructure, and this option accounts for about 4.5 percent of rail energy, more than for any other mode, with the majority being used in transit and commuter operation, and some intercity rail. Therefore, when the electricity generation mix becomes less greenhouse gas-intensive, those rail systems automatically follow.

For the lines where wayside electrification is not economically feasible—imagine routes that are long, such as Chicago to Los Angeles—or where traffic is relatively low, rail will continue to rely on on-board electric power generation.

Rail is developing options to reduce emissions for lines without wayside electrification too, with advanced diesel engine technologies, and exploration of less polluting energy options, including natural gas. Florida East Coast Railway has converted the majority of their locomotives to liquefied natural gas.

Having batteries to supply power to trains can significantly reduce or fully avoid conventional wayside electrification, decreasing cost and visual impact as no overhead wires are necessary on the right-of-way. These are suitable for relatively short distances and where power demand is low, such as light rail and streetcars. Detroit’s QLine, for example, operates 60 percent on battery power, or “off-wire.”

Hydrogen fuel cell applications to rail, often referred to as hydrail, enable long range with a lower environmental footprint than diesel, and such trains for regional passenger service are already in operation in Germany. In the U.S., the technology is being investigated by some passenger and transit railways, including in North Carolina, and its use for freight rail is being explored as well.

Even without these advances, rail is already more environmentally friendly than road or air. Dramatically expanding rail use, particularly passenger service, will require government investment in more frequent service on existing lines, starting service to areas that don’t have access to rail currently, reducing journey times and building out a larger passenger rail network.

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2019/04/rail-transportation-carbon-emissions-green-new-deal/586240/

Melbourne airport rail link accord

Railway Gazette, 14 March, 2019

AUSTRALIA: Development of the long-planned rail link to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport is set to move forward following the signing of Heads of Agreement between the federal government and the state of Victoria on March 13.

Announced jointly by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews, the agreement sets out strategic objectives for the project, along with the governance arrangements and information sharing processes.

Pointing out that ‘Melbourne is truly a global city that deserves world-class infrastructure’, Morrison said the people of Melbourne and Victoria ‘had been waiting far too long for the rail link to become a reality’. He reiterated that the government had committed its A$5bn share of the investment as part of the last federal budget. This has been matched by a similar commitment from the state.

The Melbourne Airport Rail Link is provisionally costed at between A$8bn and A$13bn. Construction is expected to start in 2022 and take around nine years. The new line would run southwest from the airport to join the existing suburban network near Sunshine, where interchange will be provided with regional services to Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo. The Airport line would then continue via Footscray to enter the city from the northwest, connecting with the cross-city Metro Tunnel now under construction. It would also be linked to the planned orbital Suburban Rail Loop, providing access to the city’s northern, eastern and southeastern suburbs.

Detailed planning and development is currently underway, and a project team is to be established to develop the business case, which is due to be finalised next year. Rail Projects Victoria has already engaged technical and commercial advisors and commissioned geotechnical investigations.

According to Victoria’s Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan, early market engagement attracted more than 100 submissions, and further market sounding will be undertaken to assess the potential for private-sector involvement, including equity partners and other financing arrangements.

With Melbourne’s population growing rapidly, traffic through the airport is projected to increase from 35 million passengers in 2016-17 to more than 67 million by 2038. Construction of MARL would help to relieve the Tullamarine Freeway and increase transport capacity for the northwestern suburbs, explained federal Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure & Population Alan Tudge.

https://www.railwaygazette.com/news/infrastructure/single-view/view/melbourne-airport-rail-link-accord.html

Crossrail project likely to open in 2021 and cost more

International Railway Journal, April 3, 2019

COMPLETION of London’s Crossrail project is likely to be further delayed until 2021 and cost even more according to a scathing report by the British parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published on April 3.

The 21km core underground section of Crossrail through central London from Paddington to Stratford and Abbey Wood was due to open in December 2018 but has been delayed indefinitely, while costs are steadily escalating. The Department for Transport (DfT) agreed to provide an additional £590m in July 2018, followed by a further £2.15bn in December 2018. This increased the total cost of the project by 19% from the £14.8bn agreed in 2010 to £17.6bn. However, Crossrail has been unable to provide a new opening date for the scheme.

“We are not satisfied by the DfT’s vague response to our questioning on how it protected taxpayers’ money when overseeing delivery of the programme,” says the PAC report. “We are not convinced that new services will start to run in 2020 as now hoped, nor that the additional £2.8bn of funding provided will be enough.”

“It is clear that the delivery deadline of December 2018 had been unrealistic for some time,” says the PAC chair, Ms Meg Hillier. “But the DfT, Transport for London (TfL) and Crossrail Ltd continued to put a positive face on the programme long after mounting evidence should have prompted changes. Wishful thinking is no basis for spending public money and there remain serious risks to delivering this programme, with a revised schedule and costings for completing the work still to be agreed.

“It is unacceptable that parliament and the public still do not know the root causes of the failures that beset this project. Nor will we accept the DfT and Crossrail Ltd’s description of these serious problems as systems failures.”

Key findings

The PAC lists six key findings and actions it wants the DfT to take regarding Crossrail:

Finding 1: the DfT, TfL and Crossrail’s fixation on a delivery deadline of December 2018 led to warning signs that the programme was in trouble being missed or ignored.

Action: explain within six months the steps the DfT is taking to encourage a culture of openness and transparency and how it will ensure that project teams reconsider completion dates for major programmes at key points through the programme.

Finding 2: it is unacceptable that the DfT and Crossrail are unable to identify the root causes of the programme unravelling so quickly and so disastrously.

Action: consider the root causes of cost increases and delays and set out by June 2019 lessons learned and their impact on the DfT’s approach to the project.

Finding 3: the unacceptably laissez-faire attitude by the DfT and Crossrail to costs potentially rising by nearly £3bn.

Action: the DfT should set out how it considered the value for money for taxpayers when it agreed to increased funding in 2018.

Finding 4: the programme is at risk from further cost increases and delays.

Action: after reaching agreement with Crossrail, the DfT must outline how it has assured itself that the revised schedule and cost to completion are robust; the DfT should also detail how the £2.8bn of extra funding will be allocated.

Finding 5: weak governance by the DfT and Crossrail characterised by a catalogue of failures to adequately oversee performance.

Action: the DfT must explain by July 2019 how it has changed its contractual relationship with Crossrail so that it can properly exercise oversight and hold Crossrail to account for its performance managing the programme to completion.

Finding 6: the DfT and Crossrail have been unwilling to accept their responsibilities for the significant delays and cost overruns.

Action: the DfT should clearly articulate by the end of April 2019 what it, TfL and Crossrail are responsible and accountable for and what the consequences have been for those senior officials in positions of accountability and responsibility for failures on the programme.

Trains in store

A few of the class 345 Aventra EMUs supplied by Bombardier that will be deployed on the Elizabeth Line are already in service on the surface sections between Liverpool Street and Shenfield, and Paddington and Hayes & Harlington. Limited testing is underway on the central section, but most of the fleet is in store.

Crossrail project likely to open in 2021 and cost more

Can rail investment act as an economic growth driver?

International Railway Journal

ONE of the most interesting observations to emerge from the first International Railway Congress, staged jointly in Vienna on March 18-19 by Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) and Russian Railways (RZD), was made by Dr Stefan Buske, owner of Buske Law, who pointed out that the World Bank estimates a $US 50 trillion investment gap in all types of infrastructure including rail up to 2040.

“We must close the investment gap to prevent us from economic downturn,” Buske told delegates. Buske says there needs to be a focus on private investors because of limited public funding. “The good news is that we have outstanding prospects for infrastructure financing and for rolling stock in particular,” he continued. In addition to scarce government resources, Buske says the need for private investment is being driven by further liberalisation, such as Europe’s Fourth Railway Package, and an enhanced regulatory framework such as the expansion of the Luxembourg rail protocol, which aims to encourage private investment.

China is continuing to invest in infrastructure in order to spur economic expansion. As we report this month, China has decided to ramp up expansion of its already colossal high-speed network to help prevent a further reduction in the rate of economic growth. Having already built a 29,000km high-speed rail network – by far the world’s largest – its original plan to reach 30,000km will be achieved shortly and it now intends build another 8000km by 2025 and to reach 45,000km by 2030.

China is not alone in expanding its rail network. Russia plans to construct 20,730km of new lines by 2030, particularly in the far east. Apart from the Moscow – Kazan high-speed line, most of the new lines are for freight. Unlike China, where new lines are funded by the state leading to serious concerns about the level of debt, Russia intends to use a mixture of public and private finance.

Russia also plans to invest around €2.7bn in rolling stock and €1.3bn to acquire 23,000 locomotives. Buske says around 25% will be funded privately.

Investment in new railways should be based on a sound business plan to develop the infrastructure when it is completed. Yet some of the Chinese lines are being built in the sparsely-populated western part of the country for strategic rather than commercial reasons, unless the plan is to use them for freight to reduce transit times for container traffic between China and Europe as part of the ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure programme.

Unfortunately, the new standard-gauge railways in east Africa are being built with little thought to how they might operate commercially. Faced with a severe lack of freight traffic, the Kenyan government has tried to force shippers to use the new railway between the port of Mombasa and Nairobi rather than sending their goods by road. This is hardly the best way to attract new customers.

Returning to Asia, a lot of effort has been put into reducing rail transit times between China and Europe to make rail more attractive, but it was only when China started to subsidise rail freight that traffic started to grow. The big question is how long will the Chinese continue to subsidise the traffic? More effort needs to be made to remove bottlenecks between China and Europe to make the rail offer more compelling.

This point was illustrated by Mr Oleg Belozerov, RZD’s CEO: “We cover 4000km in five days, but we need to stop at the borders for two days, which kills all the time saving achieved. We must put more effort to speeding up border crossings.” Belozorev says there was a 9.7% increase in transit volume last year to 23.7 million tonnes, and 34% increase in container traffic to 553,000 TEUs. “We want to achieve 3 million containers a year,” he says.

Mr Vladimir Morozov, head of Belarussian Railways, acknowledged that despite a lot of effort to streamline freight operations on the China – Kazakhstan – Russia – Belarus corridor, there are still problems to solve. “Since 2013, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan have been cooperating, and work has stepped up to create a high-quality product with high standards of service for customers, while technical standardisation has much improved,” Morozov told delegates. “We have concluded contracts with more than 50 companies which has led to a shortage of wagons. Trains are often stopped at Brest [on the border with Poland where the gauge changes from 1520mm to standard]. The waiting times are too long, not only at Brest but at other border stations, which needs to be solved. In one month, we will inaugurate another border station.”

RZD believes that extending the 1520mm-gauge network from Kosice in eastern Slovakia around 400km west to Bratislava and Vienna, would be one way to accelerate traffic from Asia to Europe. RZD forecasts the extension could carry 22.9 million tonnes of freight by 2050. “We must give maximum attention to this project so that it can be implemented,” Belozerov urged delegates.

The challenge is to convince the Slovakians that building the line, the majority of which would be on their territory, will be to their advantage. RZD plans to stage three more annual International Railway Congresses in Vienna, as it is deadly serious about building this line. But this should not divert attention away from the need for other improvements to the Eurasian landbridge.

Can rail investment act as an economic growth driver?

Free public transport is an attractive idea. But would it solve our traffic woes?

ABC, 18 March, 2019

The promise of free public transport is an enticing one: fewer cars, less congestion, less pollution.

And a greater sense of community, says Judith Dellheim from Berlin’s Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. “It could make the cities more human and more attractive,” she says. Dr Dellheim sees free public transport as a human right, not just a public good. “This is a valid democratic issue because public transport brings people of very different social groups together, it improves the social climate,” she says.

But do the promises stack up? And would free fares really persuade people to embrace public transport?

All eyes on Luxembourg

While most cities offer various concessions for public transport, no major urban centre has opted to do away with ticketing. The exception is Luxembourg, which will abolish all fares from next month.

The European city-state is tiny, with just over 600,000 residents, but its decision has drawn huge international interest.

“It’s possibly the first example of an entire region, in this case a city-state, making public transport universally free,” says public transport advocate Tony Morton. “There have been experiments in the past where various cities have introduced free public transport in their central areas. They’ve introduced systems where maybe the city buses are free, but the trains aren’t. “Or they’ve made public transport free for registered residents, but not necessarily for visitors. Luxembourg is the first example at scale.”

The Estonian experience

How successful the policy change will be won’t be known for at least a couple of years, but it is possible to make an assessment based on the experience of others.

In 2013, the Estonian capital Tallinn opted to abolish transport fares for all registered city inhabitants, but not for tourists and other non-residents. The move was politically popular but the results were mixed, according to Oded Cats from the Delft University of Technology.

Dr Cats, who spent several years evaluating the initiative, says there was only a moderate lift in public transport patronage, with no corresponding decrease in car use or traffic congestion. “People that already used public transport used it more frequently, as well as people shifting from walking and cycling to using public transport for short trips, which is, of course, not a desirable effect,” he says.

While the policy has been socially beneficial for the unemployed and people on low incomes, Dr Cats says the same level of assistance could have been provided through targeted concessions. And he predicts Luxembourg’s transport authorities will have a hard time persuading people to give up their private vehicles. “About half the people working in Luxembourg commute from neighbouring countries. Many people will have to still use legs of a trip which extend beyond Luxembourg, meaning that the trip is not completely free,” he says. Existing workplace incentives, like employer-guaranteed parking spaces, will also make eliminating private vehicle use difficult, he says.

Service trumps price for transport users

Mr Morton, who is the president of Melbourne’s Public Transport Users Association, is also sceptical about the Luxembourg experiment, and about the broader notion that ticket pricing is the main barrier to increased public transport usage.

“We’ve tended to argue that public transport needs to be cheap, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be free,” he says.He says scrapping fares won’t persuade people to embrace a service which they experience as deficient or poorly run. “We haven’t really made public transport a viable, attractive mode of travel for people living in the suburbs of our capital cities,” he says. “The question of how much it costs to get on the bus or on the train is not even relevant because that bus or train service doesn’t exist where they are.”

Transport economist Ansgar Wohlschlegel warns the introduction of free public transport could have perverse results if it isn’t paired with complementary measures aimed at driving down car ownership.”Once people start moving from car driving to using public transport, then the roads get less congested, therefore car driving becomes more attractive again, and therefore new people may start using the car to drive into the city because now the roads are clearer,” he says.

And that, says Dr Wohlschlegel, could ultimately result in the worst of all outcomes: increased public transport demand, coupled with an eventual increase in car traffic.

Dr Cats agrees. What’s most important, he says, is making car use more expensive during those parts of the day associated with congestion. “That has to do with parking fees; in city centres it has to do with congestion charging, with fuel taxes — unpopular measures, of course, but those are the most effective measures for reducing congestion,” he explains. “Secondly, improving the quality of public transport, specifically at those times of the day in those areas, and building very strong, high-capacity urban rail systems.”

Adjusting for the peaks and spreading demand

For international transport consultant Jarrett Walker, demand-responsive pricing is fundamental to the efficient movement of commuters in already congested cities. “Public transport agencies need to encourage people to travel outside rush hour if they can, because service at rush hour is very expensive, and outside of rush hour you have surplus capacity,” he says.

Fares, he says, are a simple and effective means of limiting rush-hour movements. But he argues for greater flexibility in non-peak times. Mr Walker says making travel free during those periods could help spread demand more evenly and have a positive social impact, particularly for those on low incomes. “They are more likely to be travelling all over the clock, and they are least likely to be travelling into the city in the morning and out of the city in the afternoon,” he says. “It’s the difference between having a job in a bank and having a job at Hungry Jack’s or at McDonald’s, or something like that, where you are coming and going all over the clock.”

When a technology ‘cure’ becomes part of the problem

Mr Walker is also sceptical about the role ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft can play in dealing with urban congestion. App-based car-hire companies often market themselves as an answer to traffic congestion and as a complement to public transport. But Mr Walker says the full picture is far less optimistic. “If a new ride-sharing solution gets two or three people in a little vehicle, that’s better than those three people driving cars. But it’s worse than those three people riding the bus or train.”

And new research from the University of Kentucky suggests a correlation between the rise of ride-hailing services and a decline in public transport patronage in the United States.

Transport engineer Gregory Erhardt surveyed publicly available transport data in 22 metropolitan areas. “There have been theoretical arguments saying that Uber and Lyft bring people to and from the rail stations,” he says.
“That perhaps they are concentrated at night, bringing people home from bars when transit doesn’t operate, and so forth. “What we found is that that’s not the case. In fact, they are operating often in the peak periods, they are operating in places where they are concentrated in the city centres, in the exact same places where public transit is viable.”

He estimates the effect on public transit has been significant. Over a six-year period, companies like Lyft and Uber, he says, can reduce heavy rail ridership in a city by as much as 7.5 per cent, and bus ridership by almost 10 per cent. And that means more, rather than less traffic. “But there is a clear benefit to the person in the car: they have this door-to-door experience that you don’t get in public transit,” Mr Erhardt adds.

Looking forward, Mr Morton argues we need a more realistic conversation about the cost of investing in better public transport, balanced against the enormous amounts of public money spent enlarging and extending road networks. “The stated motivation for not wanting to expand public transport and to boost its use is that public transport is a drain on public funds, whereas it is thought that roads somehow pay for themselves,” he says. “Now, roads do not pay for themselves. There’s actually quite a substantial public subsidy for the road transport system as well.”

For Dr Dellheim it all comes back to one thing. “When the whole of society is fixed on cars, then of course the whole life of the society, the whole economy of the society, is oriented on the car industry and car use,” she says. “So, it means that it’s necessary to rebuild the whole life of the society, to show the people that there are different possibilities, and then you see that there is a real desire to change the mode of life of the society.”

But whether free public transport is one way of doing that remains an arguable point.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-18/free-public-transport-do-promises-stack-up/10893288

Call that an EV? This is an EV… Volvo rolls out self-driving electric bus

Ecogeneration, 7 march 2019

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and Volvo Buses have launched the world’s first full size, autonomous electric bus, a single-decker that can take close to 80 passengers. The bus is the first of two that have undergone preliminary rounds of testing at the Centre of Excellence for Testing and Research of Autonomous vehicles at NTU.

The bus requires 80% less energy than an equivalent-sized diesel bus and issues zero emissions, the company says. It will be tested on the NTU Smart Campus.

The NTU and Volvo partnership is part of the collaboration between the University and LTA under NTU’s living lab platform. The platform assesses technology maturity and road-worthiness, including the certification of technologies for deployment on public roads.

The bus comes with a Volvo Autonomous Research Platform software that is connected to key controls such as its navigation system, as well as multiple sensors.

This includes light detection and ranging sensors (LIDARS), stereo-vision cameras that capture images in 3D, and an advanced global navigation satellite system that uses real-time kinematics. This is like any global positioning system (GPS), but uses multiple data sources to give pin-point location accuracy of up to one centimetre.

The system is also hooked up to an “inertial management unit”, which acts like a two-in-one gyroscope and accelerometer, measuring the lateral and angular rate of the bus. This will improve its navigation when going over uneven terrain and around sharp bends, ensuring a smoother ride.

These sensors and GPS platforms will be managed by a comprehensive AI system that was developed by NTU researchers. It not only operates the various sensors and GPS systems on the bus, but also enables it to navigate autonomously through dense traffic and tropical weather conditions.

ABB will develop a smart fast-charging solution based on its OppCharge concept.

Offering a charge power of 300kW via a pantograph mounted on the infrastructure, the fast chargers will recharge a battery in just three to six minutes. This will enable charging during the layover times at the end of the bus route, without impacting normal operations.

“ABB is committed to pioneering technological innovations for a sustainable future. We are extremely excited to collaborate on such a landmark project which marks a positive step toward the electrification of public transport across the region and beyond,” said ABB president of electrification products Tarak Mehta.

Call that an EV? This is an EV… Volvo rolls out self-driving electric bus

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