Posts by Author: Sandy Smith

Houston Chooses Buses Instead of Light Rail, For Now

(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation developments worldwide.

Houston Turns to BRT to Expand Rapid Transit

Houstonians have been arguing loudly for several years over plans to expand the city’s light rail system. Now the local transit agency, Houston Metro, has decided to cast its lot mainly with faster buses as the way forward for long-range transit improvements, according to a Houston Chronicle news report.

The $3.32 billion package of transportation improvements Metro is readying for a public vote next year doesn’t give up on light rail extensions completely. However, even though the three proposed light rail extensions total only 12 miles — less than the length of extensions built between 2013 and 2017 — they account for nearly half of the proposal’s estimated price tag: $1.52 billion.

The remaining half will create 34 miles of bus rapid transit lines, using dedicated lanes on freeways and major arteries, serving mainly areas west of downtown. The plan also envisions additional two-way HOT lanes on major freeways.

One of the BRT routes would follow Interstate 10 west from downtown and connect with a planned Houston-Dallas high-speed rail line.

Houston Metro officials stress that the first step needed to get the plan ready for a vote is clear and open communication with communities that will be affected by the proposed expansions.

Carbon-Fiber Light Rail Vehicle Unveiled in China

People have been flying in airplanes made primarily of carbon-fiber composites since the Boeing 787 Dreamliner made its first commercial flight in 2011. Soon, they will be able to board lighter light rail vehicles made of carbon fiber as well.

China’s Xinhua news agency reports that the country’s largest railcar manufacturer, CRRC Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., Ltd., rolled out its new-generation carbon-fiber light rail vehicle at an exhibition in Changchun. The car should produce significant energy savings because it weighs 30 percent less than an LRV made of stainless steel. It also has better thermal and sound insulation, making it quieter and more comfortable when in operation.

The new railcars are designed to hold 386 passengers and operate at speeds up to 80 km/h (50 mph). It’s also designed to operate wirelessly, with a supercapacitor that can run the car for 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) on a single two-minute charge.

Frankfurt Tests Package Delivery by Tram

Some critics of spending on urban rail transit instead of highways point out that streetcars and subways can’t be used to deliver goods. That may be about to change.

Metro Report International reports that VGF, which operates the public transit network in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, announced on Sept. 17 that it is launching a pilot program to deliver packages using dedicated trams.

The package-delivery trams will carry no passengers and operate during periods of lower traffic on the tram lines. Some will be outfitted with cargo trailers. The trams will deliver parcels to “microdepots” being set up for the pilot program.

The project is being run in partnership with the package delivery service Hermes Germany. Other partners include the city of Frankfurt, the House of Logistics and Mobility, the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, IHK Frankfurt am Main and the Climate Alliance.

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Rebuilding of Ground Zero Transit Infrastructure Completed with Station Reopening

A downtown 1 train pulls into the newly-opened WTC Cortlandt subway station in New York on Saturday evening, Sept. 8, 2018. The old Cortlandt Street station on the subway system's No. 1 line was buried under the rubble of the World Trade Center's twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001. Construction of the new station was delayed until the rebuilding of the surrounding towers was well under way. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Cortlandt Street Reopens, Completing World Trade Center (WTC) Transit Reconstruction

Just in time for the 17th anniversary of the attack that destroyed it, the New York subway station directly beneath the Twin Towers reopened for service Sept. 8.

Known then simply as Cortlandt Street, the new station is named WTC Cortlandt to commemorate the site and connect the station to its restoration.

Global Rail News, in its report on the reopening, quotes New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chairperson Joseph Lhota as saying, “WTC Cortlandt is more than a new subway station. It is symbolic of New Yorkers’ resolve in restoring and substantially improving the entire World Trade Center site.”

The new station, which was constructed in a shell finished for the purpose when the MTA rebuilt the No. 1 subway line tunnel that passes through it, is decorated with passages from the Declaration of Independence and other celebrated documents that, when read vertically, reveal words emphasizing human rights and dignity.

The New York Times reported on the artwork when station reconstruction began in 2015. Its report on the reopening itself included some commentary on how infrastructure projects in New York can get hamstrung by the demands of multiple overlapping agencies. Even though the MTA reopened the subway tunnel in fairly short order, it could not begin rebuilding the station itself until the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the World Trade Center, finished work around the station site in 2015.

Metro Line to Connect Shanghai, Suzhou Systems

The metro systems in the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Suzhou will become one sometime around the start of 2024, when a new 41.3-kilometer (25.7-mile) subway line connecting the two opens.

Metro Report International reports that China’s National Development and Reform Commission gave the go-ahead for the line’s construction Sept. 6, after the city of Suzhou signed off on it Aug. 28. The line, dubbed Line S1, will have 28 stations, five of them interchanges, all of them underground. It will run from the eastern end of Suzhou’s under-construction Line 3 at Weiting southeast to the western terminus of Line 11 of the Shanghai metro at Huaqiao.

Construction will begin late this year, with a projected completion date of late 2023 or early 2024. The project’s total estimated cost is 27.4 billion yuan (US$3.99 billion).

Ottawa Postpones Confederation Line Opening

Railway Track & Structures reports that officials in the city of Ottawa say they won’t be able to open the new Confederation Line light rail route on Nov. 30 as originally scheduled. At a Nov. 10 meeting of the city’s Finance and Economic Development Committee, staff announced that the line will most likely open in early 2019.

The delay comes at the request of the Rideau Transit Group, which is building the line. The company asked for carveouts in the agreement that called for the Nov. 30 completion date. The largest one concerns the underground Rideau Station, near the line’s midpoint. City staff told the committee that the station still needed significant construction and mechanical work.

Work on the rest of the 7.7-mile, 13-station light rail line is progressing as planned, according to the report. The delay will also allow for operational testing of the entire route.

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Driverless Tram Will Get Debut Spin in Berlin

Siemens' autonomous tram will get a run in Berlin this month. (Credit: Siemens AG, Munich/Berlin)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation stories worldwide.

Driverless Light Rail Vehicle to Make Demonstration Run in Potsdam This Month
Driverless rapid transit trains have been around for decades. But driverless streetcars, like driverless cars, remain a technology in development. And now, as has been taking place for a little while with driverless cars and buses, the technology has advanced to the point where it’s ready for some real-world testing.

The International Railway Journal reports that railcar manufacturer Siemens and the transit authority of Potsdam, Germany, will put an autonomous light rail vehicle (LRV) through its paces on a four-day demonstration run during InnoTrans, the biennial international transportation technology trade fair that takes place at the nearby Berlin ExpoCenter this year Sept. 18-21.

According to a Siemens press release, the vehicle is a Siemens Combino LRV that has been outfitted with multiple cameras, radar and lidar sensors that will deliver information about the vehicle’s surroundings to an onboard computer that functions as the vehicle’s “brain.” The computer performs complex algorithms that spot hazards in the vehicle’s path and determine the appropriate response, such as stopping for a wayside signal, stopping at a platform to pick up or discharge passengers, and braking for crossing pedestrians and vehicles.

The LRV will make its debut test runs in mixed traffic on a 6-km (3.73-mile) stretch of Potsdam’s tram network. A longer report on the trial on the news site Smart Cities Dive states that the vehicle, which was built solely for testing purposes, builds on existing autonomous train technology Siemens has developed. The longer reaction times and stopping distances trains require have slowed the development of autonomous vehicle technology on the rails, according to the report.

Crossrail Tunnel Opening Pushed into 2019
Parts of London’s future Elizabeth Line are now being run by Transport for London (TfL), but delays in outfitting and implementing software for the central Crossrail tunnel will push the line’s full opening date from December 2018 to the fall of 2019, according to a news item in Metro Report International.

London’s Crossrail tunnel "is one of the most complex and challenging infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the U.K.," says the exec leading the project. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

In announcing the delay on Aug. 31, Crossrail Ltd. said that full operations on the Elizabeth Line from Reading and Heathrow Airport in the west to Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east would begin “as soon after the central tunnels are open as possible.” TfL is currently operating service on the above-ground former mainline rail routes that will feed the central Crossrail tunnels from Paddington to Stratford and Woolwich. An additional underground spur will serve stations at Heathrow Airport.

“The Elizabeth Line is one of the most complex and challenging infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the U.K. and is now in its final stages,” Crossrail Chief Executive Simon Wright told Metro Report. “We are working around the clock with our supply chain and TfL to complete and commission the Elizabeth Line.”

New York City to Proceed with Brooklyn-Queens Streetcar
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Aug. 30 that the city will proceed with construction of the long-discussed Brooklyn-Queens Streetcar (BQX), Railway Age reports.

The decision to go ahead comes at the end of a two-year feasibility study. The 11-mile line, whose route has been revised since an earlier study was finished in 2016, will connect neighborhoods along the East River waterfront in Brooklyn and Queens that are far from the city’s subway system. The neighborhoods the line will serve on its run from Astoria in Queens to Gowanus in Brooklyn include Queensbridge, Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights and Red Hook.

The study concluded that existing wireless power supply technology could not support the amount of service the line is expected to provide, so 750-volt overhead DC catenary will be built instead. About 50,000 passengers are expected to use the line daily; trains will run at 5-minute headways during peak hours, 10-minute headways off-peak and on weekends, and 20-minute headways overnight starting at 11 p.m.

The project’s estimated price tag has risen from $2.5 billion to $2.73 billion, which includes $145 million for purchase of rolling stock. The city expects the federal government to pick up $1 billion of that tab. Construction will begin in 2024, and the line should open in 2029, five years later than originally planned.

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Huge Suburban Belt Metro Proposed for Melbourne

(Photo by Bahnfrend)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

A Huge Belt Metro for Melbourne Is Placed on the Table

Melbourne’s century-old regional rail system and its city loop subway are straining under the weight of growing ridership. And as work continues on a new center city relief subway tunnel, yet another suburban extension opens, and plans advance for regional rail service to the city’s airport, the parties vying for control of the Victoria state government are placing plans for even more new and improved rail infrastructure on the table in the runup to November’s election.

The biggest of these comes from the governing Labor Party, which has pledged to build an all-underground suburban belt line that would connect with all of the main lines that emanate from the city center if it is re-elected. Global Rail News’ report on the proposal states that Australian planners call the “Suburban Rail Loop” proposal “the biggest transformation of public transport in Australian history.”

The proposed belt line would have up to 12 new stations, including one at the airport. The government says that the line would eliminate the need for residents of Melbourne’s outer suburbs to travel into the city to reach other outlying destinations, remove up to 200,000 cars from the roads daily and take thousands of passengers off of existing lines.

Labor’s announcement comes on the heels of its pledge to commit A$5 billion (US$3.65 billion) to the Melbourne Airport Rail Link if re-elected.

Its immediate promise is to spend A$300 million (US$218.88 million) to build the business case for the line and conduct design and pre-construction work. If the project is greenlighted, work on its first section could begin in 2022.

The official opposition Liberal Party (Australia’s conservative party) did not oppose the proposal outright but said that Infrastructure Victoria should do a proper cost assessment of the entire project first.

The Victoria Green Party, which votes with Labor on many issues, put forth its own A$5 billion plan to improve what it called Melbourne’s “inadequate” regional rail network this past spring. Its proposal, however, was noncommittal on the airport rail link and called for improvements elsewhere on the system before the center-city Metro Tunnel opens.

Aarhus Letbane’s “Tram-Train” Line Opens

Quietly, without fanfare, and on schedule, Aarhus Letbane placed its second light rail line in service Aug. 25, Metro Report International reports.

This line, known as a “tram-train,” runs 29 kilometers (18 miles) from Aarhus H to Odder, with 16 stations. It uses an existing mainline rail line connecting the two points, which closed in 2016 for upgrading and electrification.

On the same day, a 3-kilometer (1.86-mile) extension of the initial tram line opened between Universitetshospitalet and Lisbjergskolen.

Future extensions will take the tram-train line, which is worked by three-section Stadtler Tango cars, through the city center northward to Grenaa via another mainline railway and the tram line from Lisbjergskolen to a connection with the tram-train line at Lystrup, north of the city.

San Francisco’s Twin Peaks Tunnel Returns to Service

The oldest subway tunnel on the American West Coast took a vacation this summer when the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency closed the 101-year-old Twin Peaks Tunnel on June 25 for a two-month, top-to-bottom rehab job.

Railway Track & Structures reports that the agency took the wraps off the rebuilt tunnel Aug. 25, when service through it resumed on the Muni Metro K-Ingleside, L-Taraval and M-Ocean View lines. Service on the NX-Judah Express line resumed the following Monday, Aug. 27.

The project completely rebuilt the walls, tracks and drainage systems in the tunnel, allowing a speed restriction that had been placed on trains operating through it to be lifted. It also installed four new track crossovers that will improve operating flexibility and allow trains to pass one another when delays develop. It also made seismic and fire safety improvements.

The tunnel and the Muni Metro tunnel through Castro and Church stations will close overnight on two weekends this fall for additional upgrades.

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The Really Boring Part of the Sydney Metro Project Is about to Begin

(Photo by David Edwards)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

First of 5 Tunnel Boring Machines Arrives in Sydney for the Heavy Digging on the Metro

The Sydney Metro will begin operating next year, ferrying riders from the city’s northwestern suburbs almost all the way into central Sydney.

But it won’t take them into central Sydney yet. Work on that part of the Metro will begin before the year’s out, though. Global Rail News reports that New South Wales Transport Minister Andrew Constance confirmed the first of five tunnel boring machines arrived at the Sydney Metro project staging site in Marrickville.

Each of the machines is arriving in eight shipping containers, as well as 23 pieces too big to fit into a container to be delivered on huge specialized 68-wheel flatbed trucks. Each of the machines is 150 meters (492.1 feet) long — the length of two Airbus A380 super-jumbo jets placed nose to tail.

The 1,100-metric-ton (1,213-US-ton) machine that arrived last week is one of two that will dig the 8.1-kilometer (5-mile) tunnels that carry Sydney Metro trains beneath the city center, with intermediate stations at Waterloo, Central, Pitt Street and Martin Place and a terminus at Barangaroo station in Sydenham.

Two more machines will dig 6.2-kilometer (3.9-mile) tunnels from Chatswood, where the metro service set to launch next year will terminate, to the edge of Sydney Harbor. The fifth will dig both of the 1-kilometer (.62-mile) tunnels under the harbor itself.

Each of the machines is expected to dig through the sandstone beneath Sydney at an average of 120 meters (393.7 feet) per week.

Service on the central section of the Sydney Metro should begin in 2024.

Los Angeles Moves to Put Long-Delayed Downtown Streetcar on Fast Forward, But There’s a Catch

By now, Angelenos were supposed to be riding around downtown on a modern streetcar. Lack of funding for the project, among other issues, kept that from happening. Curbed LA reports that the Los Angeles City Council took steps intended to get the project out of the starting gate on Aug. 15 by approving a funding package that would cover the line’s construction cost, now estimated at $291 million.

The funding plan Council approved, however, relies on two contingencies. One of them is that the Federal Transit Administration approve $100 million in grant funding for the project. The other is that the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority okay the release of $200 million in proceeds from Measure M, a sales tax that raises funds for transportation construction projects in the county. The funds in question are earmarked for the streetcar but not scheduled to be released to the city until 2053.

The LACMTA’s own rules for doling out Measure M money is that accelerated funding for specific projects can be approved only if it “does not delay or otherwise negatively impact other projects.”

City Council member Jose Huizar, whose district includes the downtown area the streetcar will serve, says that even without the Federal grant, the project has $590 million in “committed funding” to cover the cost of building, operating and maintaining the line over the next 30 years. The other $390 million, Curbed reports, will come from proceeds from Measure R, an earlier sales tax for transportation that will merge into Measure M when it reaches its time limit, and from a tax on downtown properties located along or close to the proposed streetcar route.

Santo Domingo Cuts Ribbon on New Metro Extension

The International Railway Journal reports that the Santo Domingo Metro, the second subway in the Caribbean, now extends to the municipality of Santo Domingo Este with the opening of a 3.6-kilometer (2.2-mile) extension of Line 2 on Aug. 8. The four-station extension from Eduardo Brito to Concepción Bona will have a capacity of 150,000 daily riders. Alstom supplied six new three-car Metropolis trainsets to augment the existing Line 2 fleet for service on the new extension, dubbed Line 2b.

The Santo Domingo Metro was conceived by current Dominican President Danilo Medina’s predecessor, Leonel Fernández, both as a means of dealing with the Dominican capital’s notorious traffic congestion and as an emblem of national pride. Stations on the metro are named not for cross streets or public landmarks on the surface but for notable figures from Dominican history. The metro is also intended to improve the quality and efficiency of Santo Domingo’s public transportation network.

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NJ Transit Makes Deposit on Its Future While Digging Itself Out of Hole

A New Jersey Transit train travels across a portal bridge in Kearny, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

New Jersey Transit Allocates Money for Future While Cleaning Up Present Mess

The nation’s third-largest mass transit agency finds itself in a deep hole years in the making. A recent report in The Record of North Jersey chronicles how New Jersey Transit Corporation, widely considered the best-run transit system in the United States in the 1990s, gradually sank into a state of crisis as elected officials deferred needed maintenance and investment and experienced personnel headed for the exits over the last decade and a half.

But even as canceled trains have made commuting hell in North Jersey this summer, and as South Jersey prepares to go for months without regional rail service so personnel and equipment can be used elsewhere for other purposes, the agency has managed to set aside some seed money for future rail expansion.

Metro Report International reports that New Jersey Transit’s $3.8 billion operating and capital budget for the coming fiscal year includes a $39 million down payment on the expansion of its rail network. The funds will go toward two planned extensions of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line in the northern part of the state — one that would extend the line’s northern end into Bergen County and another that would extend its southern end to State Route 440 in Bayonne.

A report in Metro Report’s sister publication, Railway Gazette International, notes that the top priority for the $1.5 billion capital portion of the budget is the installation of positive train control, a system designed to prevent train crashes. The federal government has set a year-end deadline for installation of PTC, and like almost every other railroad in the country, New Jersey Transit is currently not on track to meet it. An incident in which a regional rail train crashed through an end-of-track barrier at Hoboken Terminal two years ago brought the deterioration of the system and the need for PTC into stark highlight.

Sydney Metro Trains Begin Testing at High Speed

The International Railway Journal reports that trains are now zipping along the first phase of the Sydney metro as high-speed testing has begun.

The tests of the Alstom Metropolis trainsets are being conducted to check the trains’ braking, reliability and stability. Tests are currently taking place on the surface and elevated segments of the line, with trains regularly reaching 100 km/h (62.1 mph) during daylight tests. One test train reached 110 km/h (68.4 mph) on the elevated section between Rouse Hill and Kellyville.

Testing will begin soon in the 15-km (9.3-mile) twin-bore tunnel between Bella Vista and Epping. Service on the initial routes from Rouse Hill to Epping and Chatsworth is set to begin in the second quarter of 2019.

“The Grand Central Terminal of the West” Opens in San Francisco

Over the weekend, San Franciscans came out to celebrate the opening of a new transit terminal that locals hope will one day serve as the hub for trains and buses headed into the city.

But for now, as former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom said in a San Francisco Chronicle report on the new facility, the new Salesforce Transit Center is merely “a $2 billion bus station.”

Make that a $2.16 billion bus station. When the new Transbay Terminal, which bears the Salesforce name thanks to a naming rights agreement, lives up to its advance billing as “the Grand Central Terminal of the West” remains an open question, for the terminal’s lower levels – designed to accommodate high-speed trains from Southern California and Caltrain service from San Jose – will likely not see trains entering them until 2029, if then, according to another Chronicle story.

But that $2.16 billion has already purchased more than a bus station. One of the new facility’s prime features is a green roof that doubles as a huge park. Besides saving energy and helping manage stormwater, the park functions as a civic amenity for the city’s financial district. Many of the skyscrapers that have sprouted around the new terminal have direct connections to the facility, and according to a report on the structure in Architectural Record, finding one’s way to the rooftop park from the building’s ground floor is intuitive thanks to some of the building’s central design elements.

The Record report compares the rooftop park to New York’s High Line, and that may turn out to be its most notable feature in the near term. So many people tried to access the roof on opening day that the building’s owner, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, had to turn off the up escalators leading to it, thus adding another chapter to a San Francisco meta-story – that of transit facilities where the escalators don’t work.

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Tunneling Complete for Greece’s Second Metro

Musicians of Thessaloniki's State Symphony Orchestra perform during a concert at a metro station construction site in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Nikolas Giakoumidis)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Tunneling Work Complete on Thessaloniki Metro

Greece’s second city and the capital of Greece’s Macedonia region, Thessaloniki is considered by some to be the country’s cultural capital thanks to its vibrant street life and active calendar of arts events. Global Rail News reports this week that the company that built and runs Greece’s first metro has reached a major milestone on the road to completing its second.

Attiko Metro announced that with the arrival of the tunnel boring machine “Frixos” at 25is Martiou station on the Kalamaria extension’s second tube July 31, all of the tunneling work for the Thessaloniki Metro has been completed. Work remains to be done on fitting out the tunnels with tracks, electrical and signal systems, and the stations themselves still need to be completed. Attiko Metro says that civil works are 80 percent complete on the Base Line and 60 percent complete on the Kalamaria extension.

“The connection of the tunnels at the Kalamaria extension line with the Base line of Thessaloniki Metro coincides with the completion of the most difficult in technical terms, due to geological difficulties, the most time-consuming and the most expensive part of a metro project, which is the boring of underground tunnels,” Attiko Metro Chair Yannis Myopolous told GRN.

“I would like to express my sincere thanks to all Attiko Metro employees and to the personnel of the contracting company Aktor for the great joint effort we have all made during the last two and a half years to revive a major project and make a dream come true for the city of Thessaloniki.”

Proposals to build a metro in Thessaloniki stretch back to the early 1920s, when the city was being not just rebuilt but redesigned after an unattended kitchen fire spread, Chicago 1871-style, and wiped out the city center in 1917. An earlier attempt to build a metro in the city faltered in the 1980s for lack of funds; work on the current lines began in 2006. Archaeological discoveries along the route have delayed progress on several occasions. The two lines being built as part of the initial work will total 9.6 km (6 miles) in length and have 13 stations between them. Total cost for the project now stands at €1.1 billion (US$1.28 billion). Service is slated to start on the Base Line in 2020 and on the Kalamaria extension the following year.

Bogota Gets Bidders Ready to Bid on First Metro Line

Metro Report International reports that Metro de Bogotá began the process of prequalifying bidders to submit proposals for building and running the Colombian capital’s first metro line on Aug. 6 after signing financing agreements with three international lenders.

The loans from the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank Group’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank will provide a total of $1.68 billion towards the project’s total cost. The initial installment of $196 million - $70 million each from the IADB and IBRD and $56 million from the EIB - should cover project costs through 2020. The total cost of the 15-station elevated line is projected to be $4.4 billion, $2.6 billion of which is to come from Metro Bogotá.

The 24-km (14.9-mile) line will have 15 stations and run between Avenida Caracas and Calle 78.

Interested bidders must submit applications to prequalify by the end of 2018; Metro Bogotá expects to award a design-finance-build-operate-maintain-transfer contract for in August 2019. The winning contractor will be expected to kick in $1.1 billion towards the project, an amount that will be recouped over the first 20 years of operations. The line should enter service in 2024.

Delhi Metro Pink Line Extension Enters Service

Indian government officials and foreign dignitaries officially cut the ribbon to open the latest extension of the Delhi Metro Pink Line to enter service Aug. 6, according to a report in the International Railway Journal.

The 8.1-km (5-mile), 5-station extension from Durgabai Deshmukh South Campus to Lajpat Nagar brings the total length of the Pink Line to 29.6 km (18.4 miles). The new stations include interchange stations with the Yellow Line at INA and the Violet Line at Lajpat Nagar. The initial 21.6-km (13.4-mile) segment from Majlis Park to Durgabhai Deshmukh South Campus opened on March 16. Two more extensions are set to open within the next year: the 13.4-km (8.3-mile) outer segment from Trilokpuri to Shiv Vihar is slated to open late in August, and the 15-km (9.3-mile) connecting segment between Lajpat Nagar and Trilokpuri should open in September.

This current extension brings the total extent of Delhi’s metro system to 296 km (183.9 miles) and the total station count to 214.

Swedes Get Into Swim When Storm Floods Train Station

“Into each life, some rain must fall.” When enough rain fell to flood an underground train station concourse in the Swedish city of Uppsala, however, some fun-loving Swedish commuters decided to get into the swim of things.

A YouTube video posted on the Global Rail News site shows several Uppsalans, decked out with floats, flippers, umbrellas and squirt guns, having a blast as they float and wade through the temporary swimming pool in the Uppsala Central station concourse. Some confusion over responsibility kept the pool filled for a while, according to local news reports, but the concourse was eventually drained and returned to its normal use. While no one can vouch for the cleanliness of the water they swam in, it appears no one came down with any maladies from their frolic in the flood.

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Metro Line in Mecca Gets Ready for Its Annual One-Week Run

Traffic stopped for mid-day prayers during the Hajj in Arafat, Saudi Arabia 

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Hajj Metro Prepares for its Annual Run in Mecca

Metro Report International reports that crews from Malaysia are now in Mecca, performing the tests and inspections needed to get the world’s biggest special-event metro service ready for its one-week operating run.

Crews from Express Rail Link, which operates the airport shuttles in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, are currently performing the inspections and test runs to make sure the Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro in Mecca is ready to transport more than half a million pilgrims each day of the Hajj, the week-long pilgrimage season that takes place each summer. All Muslims are expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lives; this year, the Hajj takes place from Aug. 19 through Aug. 24.

The Hajj metro opened for its initial run in 2010 and was built to help ease the total gridlock the arrival of millions of pilgrims in Mecca each summer produces. Traveling to the holy sites in Arafat and Mina can take up to eight hours by bus or car on the region’s congested roads; by contrast, the 18-km (11.2-mile) metro moves up to 72,000 passengers per hour among the sites in just one hour.

“This intense demand for mass transportation does not exist in any other parts of the world,” Express Rail Link Chief Executive Officer Noormah Mohd Noor told MRI. “Every single pilgrim must be transported and vacated from Arafat within six to eight hours.”

The Malaysian firm has provided the operating staff, which itself must be Muslim, for the Hajj metro since 2012. From 2010 to 2014, and again this year, China Railway Construction Corp. held the contract to run the metro; for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons, Malaysia’s public transport operator, Prasarana, held the contract.

Planning Work Begins on Germany’s Longest Tram Line

The International Railway Journal reports that the regional organization formed to build a light rail line connecting Nuremberg with the nearby cities of Erlangen and Herzogenaurach awarded a planning contract for what will be Germany’s longest tram line in late June.

Zweckverband Stadt-Umland-Bahn, the organization formed to build the line, awarded the contract to a consortium of consulting firms consisting of Gauff Rail Engineering, Rambøll and Obermeyer Planen & Beraten. The contract covers work necessary for the line to receive final planning approval in 2021.

The 25-kilometer (15.5-mile) line will extend Line 4 of the existing Nuremberg tram line westward to serve Erlangen and Herzogenaurach. A companion extension to the east from Nuremberg got dropped when residents of the area it was to serve voted against funding it in 2015.

If final planning approval is granted in 2021, actual construction could begin in 2023 and the line would enter service in 2027. Estimated price tag: €300 million (US$350.8 million).

Fantasy Transit Map Gets Tongues Wagging in Columbus

Train geeks and rail buffs all over the world devote time and effort to producing fantasy maps of the transit systems they think their home cities (or others) ought to have. One such map, from a graphic designer from Columbus, Ohio, has gotten people in the Ohio capital talking about what it might mean for the city if it or something like it became reality, according to a Columbus Dispatch feature on the daydream.

The reason? As its creator, Columbus-born graphic designer Michael Tyznik notes on his site, Columbus is now the largest city in the United States without rail transit of any kind. He has been toying with the idea of a light-rail rapid transit system for the city for a few years now; the map he posted on a Reddit discussion board July 22 was his fourth revision (and his first in seven years) and took into account a new bus rapid transit line the Central Ohio Transportation Authority has already placed in service.

Reaction to the post on Reddit was swift and enthusiastic; 600 people upvoted it and 200 commented on it. A subsequent Tweet of the map got more than 320 retweets and 1,200 likes.

Tyznik himself, who lives in New York now, points out that his map doesn’t reflect what’s actually needed or feasible for the city to undertake; he produced it mainly out of his interest in graphic design. But, he added, “I do think it’s cool that it gets people excited about transit.”

Jennifer Noll, a planner with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, agreed with Tyznik that the response to the map showed a deep interest among Columbus residents in their city’s transportation future. “That’s always a good thing,” she says. As for what the map depicts, she said that it was too early to tell whether it’s actually feasible. (Tyznik himself said it wasn’t meant to be submitted for official consideration.) The MORPC is currently conducting a year-long study on the region’s future transportation needs.

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Amsterdam’s North-South Metro Line Finally Opens

Construction of the foundation under Central Station, Amsterdam is shown Friday, May 25, 2007. Construction of the city's new "North-South" metro line began in 2003. The line finally opened last week. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Amsterdam’s North-South Metro Line Finally Opens

It took long enough, but it’s finally here: on July 21, Femke Halsema, Amsterdam’s first woman mayor, cut the ribbon on the first metro line to link together the Dutch capital’s two halves.

Global Rail News reports that Amsterdam Transport Minister Sharon Dijksma was also on hand for the formal opening of the North-South metro line, also known as Line M52. The 10-km (6.2-mile) line crosses the IJ river to connect Amsterdam’s north half with its south half. Most of it is underground, though the termini at Nord and Zuid stations are on the surface, as is the other station north of the river, Noorderpark.

First conceived in the 1960s, work on Line M52 began in earnest in 2003. Its opening date, however, was pushed back repeatedly when the project encountered difficulties in tunneling and suffered two ground collapses, according to a report in Metro Report International.

A spokesperson for Benthem Crouwel Architects, which designed the line’s seven stations, told GRN, “The task of engineering an underground metro 25m deep in the soggy soil of historical Amsterdam, built on long wooden stilts around 1300, was not an easy one. Thanks to a new tunnel drilling technique that was developed in the 1990s it became possible to create tunnels — at certain levels even 30 meters [98.4 feet] deep — in Amsterdam’s wet and unstable ground, without affecting the city too much.”

That method involved freezing the ground around the tunnel to stabilize it before excavating the tunnel using tunnel-boring machines. The section beneath Amsterdam’s historic Centraal railway station and the river itself runs through submerged box tunnels.

The delays and setbacks pushed the cost of the line from €1.4 billion (US$1.64 billion) to roughly €3.1 billion (US$3.63 billion). But the result transforms Amsterdam, as Mayor Halsema put it, from “a city on the IJ” to “a city around the IJ.”

Tunneling Begins Beneath Historic Building in Central Auckland

Meanwhile, down under, excavation work has begun on a sensitive section of Auckland’s City Rail Link, a downtown subway tunnel for the city’s regional rail network that has been proposed and rejected on several occasions since the 1920s.

The International Railway Journal reports that the work involves digging a trench 14 meters (45.9 feet) deep that will hold two one-track tunnels extending from Britomart Station, the current underground in-city terminus for most of Auckland’s rail transit network, under Lower Queen Street. To prepare for the tunneling, contractor Downer-Soletanche Bachy Joint Venture spent two years stabilizing the ground beneath the station’s historic Chief Post Office (CPO) building so that tunneling beneath it could proceed. The weight of the 106-year-old building itself is being transferred to underpinning frames while the trenches are dug and box tunnels built; after the tunnels are complete, the CPO will be placed atop a new basement and ground floor.

Construction of the tunnel itself is set to begin by year’s end and end in mid-2019. The entire 3.45-kilometer (2.14-mile), four-station underground loop line is set to open in 2024.

With 1.6 million residents, Auckland is far and away New Zealand’s largest city. Successive city administrations have championed a downtown subway since one was first proposed in the 1920s only to have the proposals rejected mainly on cost grounds. In the 1950s, the New Zealand government decided not to build the rail portion of a proposed rail-and-freeway network to serve the city center, opting to build only the freeways instead. The City Rail Link project comes against a backdrop of rising ridership on Auckland’s rail transit system as improvements and electrification over recent years has reversed a decades-long decline.

Tel Aviv Seeks Planners for Its Metro

Tel Aviv hasn’t even broken ground on its light rail system yet, and already the local transit authority is thinking about adding a heavy one.

The Israeli business website Globes reports that the NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System sent a request for proposals for planning work on a proposed three-line metro system for Tel Aviv on July 19, one week after it opened bidding for construction of the light rail network.

Four firms will be chosen to do statutory planning for the proposed subway, whose estimated cost of 150 billion new Israeli shekels (US$41.05 billion) has yet to be budgeted by the Israeli government. Initial feasibility and design studies are now underway and should wrap up by year’s end. After that, the statutory planning process should begin; when that concludes two or more years later, actual construction of the lines can begin.

The metro is intended to serve a larger territory than the light rail system. The three lines would total 130 km (80.8 miles) in length and have 100 stations among them. Line M1 would run north-south for 73 kilometers (45.4 miles), line M2 would extend 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from east to west, and the 32-kilometer(19.9-mile) line M3 would run in a semicircle, connecting with the other two lines. NTA projected 500 million trips would be taken on the system each year once it enters service.

Uber Steps In to Fill a Last-Mile Gap in Nice

The French Mediterranean resort city of Nice has a problem: Its tram line T1 operates until 2:30 a.m., but some of the bus lines connecting it to outlying districts shut down around 8 p.m. Metro Report International reports that transit operator Lignes d’Azur is turning to ride-sharing operator Uber to fill the last-mile hole.

Under a one-year pilot project, riders will be able to take Uber from any of six Line T1 stations to any destination with a pre-defined zone for a flat fare of €6 (US$7.02). The flat-fare service will be available from the time the last bus departs the station until the time the last tram arrives at it. The six stations involved are Henri Sappia, Borriglione, Gare Thiers, Garibaldi, Palais des Expositions and Hôpital Pasteur. More than 50,000 Lignes d’Azur users over the age of 18 who registered for the service will be able to access it using the Uber app on their smartphones.

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Light Rail Launches in Nigerian Capital

Nigerians will soon have more options for transportation around the country, forecasted to surpass the United States as the world's third most populous by 2050. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

First Light Rail Line Opens in Abuja

Nigeria moved its national capital from Lagos to Abuja, a new city begun in the 1980s and located near the country’s center, almost three decades ago. Its rapid growth since then — its metro population of nearly six million is second only to that of Lagos in the country — has outstripped the ability of its infrastructure to move people through the city. On July 12, Nigerian government officials celebrated the opening of a key move to fix that problem: the Abuja Light Rail metro system, whose first two lines entered service that day.

The International Railway Journal reports that the initial segment of the system consists of two lines and 12 stations totaling 45.2 km (28.1 miles) in length. The two initial lines connect the city center of Abuja with its airport, currently the principal means of access to the city from the coastal metropolises including Lagos, and with the national rail system — which is also building a line connecting Lagos with Abuja via the historic university city of Ibadan, now Nigeria’s third-largest metropolis.

China’s Xinhua news agency also ran a major report on the opening, which was appropriate, as the Chinese government is both building the entire 290-km (180.2-mile) light metro system in six phases and covering 60 percent of the $824 million construction cost through loans from the Export-Import Bank of China.

“Our commitment to the vision for a modern, integrated rail system for Nigeria is total,” Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said, according to the report from International Railway Journal. “The second phase of the Abuja light rail will connect more parts of the city, while our standard-gauge national railway is also taking shape, with the Lagos-Ibadan leg currently under construction. A modern rail service will greatly boost the Federal Capital Territory economy and enhance social life.”

Florence Extends Its First Tram Line

Metro Report International reports that Florence, Italy, opened a 4.1-kilometer (2.5-mile) extension of its initial tram line on July 16. The segment, which was referred to as line T3 while it was under construction, is being operated as part of initial line T1.

The extension runs north from line T1’s original eastern terminus at Alamanni-Stazione to Careggi-Ospedale. Seven new trams from Hitachi Italy will augment the 17 currently in service.

A second line, T2, is slated to open in October. It will connect the city center with the airport to its northwest via a high-speed rail station currently under construction.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Trains Make Debut in Germany

The future of non-electrified rail transport is ready for its closeup in the German state of Lower Saxony. That’s where the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell-powered trains will operate now that the German government has given them the go-ahead, according to a report in Global Railway Review.

The Coradia iLint passenger train, developed by Alstom at facilities in both Germany and France, is notable for its quiet operation and eco-friendly propulsion system. Hydrogen fuel cells power electric generators whose output is stored in batteries. The exhaust consists only of steam and condensed water. The train is specifically designed to operate on non-electrified lines.

Alstom signed a contract with the regional transit authority of Lower Saxony to supply 14 of the trains last November. The French rail technology firm will also maintain and supply fuel for the trains for 30 years under the terms of the agreement.

Enak Ferlemann, the German federal government’s authorized delegate for rail transportation, told Global Railway Review, “Hydrogen is a true low-emission and efficient alternative to diesel. Especially on secondary lines, where overhead lines are not yet available, these trains are a clean and environmentally friendly option. That is why we support and promote the technology, in order to bring it to the surface.”

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