Thursday, September 11, 2014

All Aboard Florida goes with HST solution

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today it was announced that Siemens has been selected to build the locomotives and passenger coaches for the All Aboard Florida passenger rail project that will connect South and Central Florida. All Aboard Florida and Siemens have been working together extensively on the development and design of the passenger rail cars that will transport millions of tourists, leisure and business travelers along Florida’s east coast.
This will be the first privately-owned, operated and maintained passenger rail system in the United States. When completed, it will also be one of the highest speed train routes running in the country today, operating at maximum speeds up to 125 mph. Importantly these trains, both the locomotives and the passenger coaches, will be “Made in America” at Siemens’ solar-powered rail manufacturing hub in Sacramento.
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The initial five trainset purchase to serve the Miami to West Palm Beach segment will consist of two diesel-electric locomotives, one on each end of four passenger coaches. These diesel-electric locomotives will meet the highest emissions standards set by the federal government. All Aboard Florida and Siemens plan to expand the initial trainsets to seven coaches, and purchase an additional five trainsets, concurrent with environmental approvals and additional financing for the segment from West Palm Beach to the Orlando International Airport.
The stainless steel passenger coaches, the first to be manufactured by Siemens in the United States, will be state-of-the-art, ADA compliant and designed for comfort, featuring special ergonomic seating and Wi-Fi. The trainsets will also be level boarding, which allows for the ease of boarding without steps and provides easier access for bikes, walkers, strollers and wheelchairs. The locomotives will meet the latest federal rail safety regulations, including enhanced carbody structure safety with crash energy management components.
Charger locomotive fact sheet
Intercity passenger coach fact sheet

While in a sense it is disappointing that All Aboard Florida is going for locomotives and coach cars, they'll have an impressively high power to weight ratio that should make up for it. Assuming that the coaches are similar to Siemen's Viaggio coaches, it should have a power to weight ratio of 13 horsepower per short ton. This compares favorably with the British High Speed Train (IC125) which in a similar 2+7 has a power to weight ratio of 9.1 hp/ton and even with the Class 221 Voyager DMU's 12 hp/ton (though the Class 220 has one of 14.7 hp/ton). There should be no issues with accelerating up to speed even with the added weight penalties of FRA compliance.

Where this does fall short is in passenger capacity, which is just abysmal, with Siemens quoting 50 in first class and 66 in economy class. The Viaggio Comfort is supposed to hold 60-88 and the Amfleet I holds 62 in business class and 72 in coach (previously with up to 84 seats). As I strongly suspect that Siemens is attempting to position themselves for the future Amfleet replacement order, possibly building these at cost or even a loss in order to secure the contract, it's quite odd that the quoted capacities would be so low. The likely answer is that All Aboard Florida is going with a 2+1 seating as the base level with a large amount of leg room in first class. Personally I'm not overly fond of this as I think capacity should be second only to frequency, but the agreements with Tri-Rail which have required quite high short distance fares may have resulted in a base fare level so high that it doesn't make sense to do otherwise.

On another note, with this order, and especially if Siemens wins additional orders for the Charger and these coaches from Amtrak, Sacramento is clearly becoming a center of passenger rail manufacturing in the United States. It's a position that I don't think anyone would have predicted until possibly a few years ago and is quite an enjoyable finger in the eye of those who constantly claim that California's taxes and regulations are hostile to business. It will be quite interesting to see if Siemens attempts to move into the freight market once they've established themselves in American passenger railroading, bringing a large chunk of the Midwest's heavy industry to California with it.

2 comments:

  1. If you think about it, AAF doesn't really know how long to make its trains. Locos and coaches are a natural way to go under those circumstances. EMUs would be better, but unfortunately AAF isn't planning electrification. DMUs are not reasonable when trains are longer than a certain amount.

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  2. How high are "quite high short distance fares"? Tri-Rail is up to $6.90 and about 2 hours between Miami and West Palm Beach, whereas AAF ought to be able to make that journey in an hour flat, not to mention I honestly feel that unless Tri-Rail is servicing coastal link, they're serving completely different markets, since tri rail serves a completely different area in Maimi (nearly 10 miles) and Fort Lauderdale (over 2), it's closest in WPB (about .5 miles), honestly how much of Tri-Rail usage is from people travelling between those three stops?

    So how much higher does AAF need to set their fares than Tri-Rail?

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