The International Light Rail Magazine
+44 1733 367610
Geoff@lrtap.com
Phoenix light rail takes flight again

Phoenix light rail takes flight again

TAUT was present at the December 2008 opening of Valley Metro Rail. The initial 32km (20-mile) LRT starter line that connects three cities – Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa – opened with great fanfare, proudly proclaiming the beginning of a planned 106km (66-mile) high-capacity transit system. Then the reality of the global recession kicked in and these plans were curtailed, until 2015 when the first 5km (3.1-mile) extension opened taking the system further eastwards to downtown Mesa. Now regrouped, and with a second extension having opened in 2016 taking riders further north-west in Phoenix, it is all systems go. Major projects are underway that will realise those initial dreams of a network; plans that include the addition of a low-floor modern streetcar in the city of Tempe that will connect to the regional light rail system. A little background Phoenix is the state capital and the largest city in Arizona, located in the south-west of the USA and bordering California, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico. The Mexican International boundary forms its southern edge. The state also touches Colorado in the north-east corner, the only point in the US where four states meet, known internationally as the Four Corners. Phoenix is also the major metropolis in Maricopa County, which covers nearly 24 000km2 (9230 square miles), with a rapidly growing population that in 2015 reached nearly four million residents. Valley Metro is responsible for co-ordination of regional transit services in the county and acts more like a British Passenger Transport Executive or German Verkehrsverbund rather than merely as an operator. Buses are owned generally by the cities in which they operate...
Chemnitz: The model matures

Chemnitz: The model matures

By this summer, tram-train operations should reach the little Saxon market town of Hainichen, to add to those that already serve Burgstädt and Mittweida from the eastern German city of Chemnitz – but much more is to come. Bringing line C15 alongside the existing C13 and C14 is part of a long-term project to better connect the German industrial centre and its tramway to its rural hinterland. This is a decades-long scheme, and it is also taking slightly longer than originally hoped – for maintaining a stable timetable using the electro-diesel Citylink vehicles that are key to the project on lines C13 and C14 has been prioritised over quicker expansion onto the third line. The tram-train vehicles are expected to take over C15 during a timetable change planned for June. Precise timing details aside, Chemnitz is now ever more seeing the benefits of the concept of a tram-train network that was agreed in the 1990s. The pilot phase – known as stage zero – was opened in 2002. That physically connected the city’s tramway to the heavy rail network at Altchemnitz and, coupled with electrification, brought operation using Variobahn vehicles to the town of Stollberg south of the city. Recent milestones Among various more recent milestones, October 2016 brought perhaps the most significant: the formal inauguration of ‘stage one’, with the through-running of Citylink vehicles from outlying areas onto the Chemnitzer Verkehrs-AG (CVAG) tramway at Chemnitz Hbf, and over the city’s network as far as Zentralhaltestelle (central stop). The tram-trains had already been used since April over the heavy rail system as far as the Hbf – but not...
Ticketing’s crucial role in the passenger experience

Ticketing’s crucial role in the passenger experience

Technology has transformed the way we communicate, purchase goods and services, and access information. Although the transit sector has not always been lauded for its agility, our collective commitment to maximising new technologies for the benefit of its passengers has never been greater. Many transit deployments across the world have switched from paper or magnetic stripe to smartcard-based ticketing, creating many benefits for both operators and passengers. Greater convenience when accessing travel, lower costs through issuance of reusable travel cards and the ability to collect data on how people actually use transit systems are just a few of the reasons for introducing ‘smart’ systems. We live in an increasingly connected world where the smartphone has become ubiquitous, and this presents a huge opportunity to create a frictionless ticketing experience for passengers as well as an untapped opportunity to grow new revenue streams for transit operators. Adopting mobile-based ticketing is a natural evolution as it reduces the need (and cost) associated with issuing and managing physical travel cards; Host Card Emulation (HCE) technology offers a solution that transforms the mobile ticketing market by bringing together the benefits of secure smartcard-based ticketing with the greater convenience of using a mobile device. HCE enables a virtual smartcard to be placed on a mobile device which can then store secure tickets. As an already widely-used technology, HCE ticketing can work with existing smart infrastructure as well – allowing operators who have already made an investment in smart technology to easily integrate rather than replace. Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, Scotland’s largest regional transportation authority, has already announced it will utilise HCE-based mobile ticketing for...
Automatic for the people (part two)

Automatic for the people (part two)

Making the case for conversion Conversion from manual to full driverless operation, especially on intensively-used systems that form the backbone of cities, is a hugely complex project that requires careful planning and optimum timing to ensure technical and financial viability. Existing signalling and control systems have to be upgraded, track protection systems (either platform screen doors or track detection) and rolling stock either needs to be replaced or extensively modified. Correlating the right time to make the switch to match asset life expiry is key to maximising the return on investment, which can be as little as ten years – but the human factor cannot be ignored during this process. Lessons can be learned from Nürnberg, the first German city to implement such a conversion with upgrades to U-Bahn lines 2 and 3. Driving staff were retrained with customer service qualifications and are now stationed along the two automated lines; this offers the added benefit of giving passengers more points of contact on the system, but these staff also have the technical knowledge to address issues at stations, such as escalator or ticket machine failures – and of course driving in the event of a failure. While much is often made by labour unions of the implementation of automation, in reality the effect of removing driver operations is usually a positive one with a broadening of the skills base by bringing together previously separate job roles and increasing job satisfaction. The move to driverless operation in Nürnberg was driven by reducing operating costs; taking the opportunity to automate while re-equipping with higher capacity rolling stock and the facility to...
New tramways for 2017

New tramways for 2017

The surge in new tramway openings, which we have recorded annually for the last seven years, is a worldwide trend; the issues of urban congestion and pollution have run alongside the need for investment in fixed infrastructure to drive growth following the global economic recession at the start of the decade. Indeed, this surge is bringing new systems to areas of the world that have traditionally relied on buses to provide city transit, but now realise that for economic and environmental reasons tramways are the mode for the future. Of course there are large cities where extreme population growth and the resulting passenger flows are such that only a full metro will cope, but the huge cost of tunnelling makes a reserved track surface tramway offering substantial capacity, at a lower price, very attractive for many smaller urban areas. A year ago, looking ahead at 2016, we predicted several new openings that were not achieved by 31 December. There is no doubt that while the construction of infrastructure and the delivery of rolling stock can be achieved using international experience, bringing the two together to produce a passenger-carrying system offers up challenges that are as much to do with local bureaucracy as for technical reasons. From Algeria to China these challenges have delayed openings by some months, but success is now likely to be achieved in 2017. Other systems remain on the list that have been delayed even longer, largely due to constrained national and local finances – it is hoped that systems such as those in Cádiz and Granada can finally serve passengers in the next 12 months....
Automatic for the people (part one)

Automatic for the people (part one)

It is 50 years this year since the world’s first full-scale automated rail operations began on the London Underground’s Victoria line. But from this pioneering metro development (tested as early as 1963), the technology has developed significantly for systems such as the Dubai Metro where Kinki Sharyo trains power themselves up at a pre-determined time each morning, run through pre-operation checks and then make their way out onto the network. At the end of each working day they return to the depot, run through another set of diagnostics and power themselves down to conserve energy. The increase of urban rail automation has doubled with each passing decade since UTO (Unattended Train Operation) service began with the rubber-tyred VAL system in the French city of Lille in 1983 – an exponential growth that is set to quadruple in the coming decade. Over the same 30 years, UTO metros have proven that they are both reliable and safe, with no recorded fatalities. Urban mass transit leads the world’s main line railways in automation: driverless systems deliver a more predictable network, maximise capacity through increased train frequencies (sometimes with reduced fleet sizes and the associated smaller requirement for spares) and remove much of the element of human-error to enhance safety and security. With computers controlling operations (and increasingly maintenance tasks as well), it is easier to replicate optimum operational profiles for any given route; this reduces energy consumption and maximises energy recovery. Additionally, reactive maintenance costs are reduced considerably. Yet alongside the numerous advantages come new challenges. In the first instance, more complex infrastructure, such as platform and track protection systems and...