Caltrain wins federal OK to run state-of-the-art electric trains
- Published Friday, May 28, 2010, by Caltrain
Caltrain Passes Key Milestone in Modernization Effort
Caltrain's plan to electrify and modernize Peninsula commuter rail service received a critical and historic approval from the federal government yesterday -- clearance to run the most modern equipment available in the world.
The Federal Railroad Administration issued a waiver of longstanding rules that prohibit what is known as "mixed traffic" -- operating standard American trains and lighter rail equipment on the same tracks.
Sean Elsbernd, Caltrain board chair and San Francisco supervisor, said, "This landmark ruling clears the way for American railroads to enter the 21st century using modern railroad technology in common use throughout Europe and Asia."
Caltrain's success in achieving the waiver provides a blueprint for high-speed rail systems around the country.
The Caltrain waiver effort, led by 35-year veteran of the rail industry Robert Doty, director of the Peninsula Rail Program and former director of rail operations for Caltrain, focused on the enhanced safety features that are central to Caltrain's electrification and modernization program.
To avoid collisions, Caltrain will use an enhanced signal system that includes federally mandated Positive Train Control. The signal system is designed to prevent trains from colliding with each other, with other vehicles or with fixed objects.
In addition, the program calls for equipment that uses the latest Crash Energy Management technology. Like the crumple zones on modern automobiles, lighter CEM equipment safely distributes or "manages" the energy from a collision, protecting the passengers onboard the train.
Of this new, enhanced approach to safety, the FRA said, "collision avoidance ... is the first line of defense in assuring passenger rail safety, and that collision management, achieved through the operation of vehicles designed with CEM, is the second line of defense that effectively reduces the severity of an incident, should it occur."
The waiver is critical to Caltrain's transition from its current diesel equipment to a fully-electrified system:
* Caltrain's current signal system would be enhanced with federally-mandated Positive Train Control.
* Caltrain could begin replacing its diesel-based rolling stock with electrified locomotives and passenger cars, a transition that will take years and require the simultaneous operation of both kinds of equipment.
An electrified Caltrain offers many advantages over diesel trains -- they are cleaner and less expensive to operate. And, because electric trains can stop and start more quickly, Caltrain will be able to stop at more stations, making the trip between San Jose and San Francisco in about the same time as the current Baby Bullet express service. The service is expected to attract more riders, which will reduce traffic congestion in the entire region.
Train operations on the San Francisco Peninsula began in 1863. Today, 90 weekday trains operate on the 55-mile corridor, serving 37,000 trips. Six trains provide weekday commute service to Gilroy. The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, the agency's governing body, is made up of the representatives from the city and county of San Francisco, the San Mateo County Transit District and the San Clara Valley Transportation Authority.
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Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo: "This decision reinforces the unique opportunity for future rail service on the Peninsula that is financially and environmentally sustainable. It's exciting news for those of us looking forward to the transformation of the Caltrain corridor into one that provides safer, faster, more reliable service."
Congresswoman Jackie Speier: "This is a vote of confidence in Caltrain and great news for commuters. These new electric trains will be more efficient, cheaper to operate and require less distance to stop than the equipment now in use. "
Assembly Member Jerry Hill: "As a former board member, I am thrilled to see Caltrain pass this important milestone. The Bay Area has a history of leading the way and it is only fitting that Caltrain set the standard for modern American railroads."
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom: "Caltrain is upholding our region's reputation for innovative transportation solutions. The fact that we will feature the first system in the country to use this technology is validation that we are on the right track when it comes to transforming the passenger rail corridor that will eventually connect San Francisco to the rest of the State."
For comment or further background, please contact:
Sean Elsbernd, chair, Caltrain Board of Directors 415.554.6516
Christine Dunn, public information officer, Caltrain 650.508.6238
[BATN: See also:
FRA OK's Caltrain waiver to use high-performance Euro-style EMUs
Caltrain HSR Compatibility Blog: Caltrain Waiver Details
Electrified Caltrain with HSR will be faster by using all 4 tracks
Caltrain CEO: electrification will ease "deep financial trouble"
LA Metrolink unveils new Korean cars with crash-absorbing impact zones
Caltrain on track to bankruptcy without electrification and HSR
Caltrain electrification EIR OK delayed for NIMBYs. PCL attorney
Caltrain set to approve $1.23b SF-SJ electrification plan
Caltrain JPB set to certify electrification FEIR (25 Mar 10)
Final EIR for Caltrain electrification receives clearance
$1.5b Caltrain electrification includes new high-performance trains
Caltrain electrification using fast Euro-style EMUs to cost $1.5b