February 16, 2009
Meeting the Challenges Facing Rail Operators
By ALBERT SCALA
The pressures of volatile energy costs, operating efficiency, and global climate change increasingly challenge rail operations. Energy consumption and efficiency have become the top issues and priorities for our industry as we endeavor to reduce both our carbon footprint and our energy use.
To meet these challenges, the public transit industry should lead the way to help our rail operators achieve economical, sustainable mobility now and into the future. They can only accomplish this by making reductions in energy usage and our carbon footprint a key strategic aim for our industry.
Many operators outside the U.S., including both the European Union and Nordic Railways, allow contracting entities to include criteria linked with environmental concerns in rail vehicle procurements. They believe action at the community level encourages the investments required for the manufacture of more energy-efficient and less polluting vehicles. Further, the resulting increased demand for energy-efficient vehicles would create markets of sufficient size and the necessary economies of scale to broaden industrial production to large series.
Europe promotes the market’s introduction of clean and energy-efficient vehicles, reducing fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions and thereby improving air quality. To accomplish this, operational lifetime costs of energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and pollutant emissions are included as award criteria for all procurements of road transport vehicles by public agencies.
We can see examples of this working today. Bombardier Transportation recently launched an innovative portfolio of technologies, products, and solutions that maximize energy-efficient operation and total train performance. In Japan, the design of the latest N700 series next-generation bullet trains not only makes the vehicles faster and more comfortable, but also eco-friendly and 19 percent more energy-efficient.
In the U.S. market, the potential for energy efficiency in railways has been largely untapped. While some research efforts have been made in this area, on a national level, the APTA Rolling Stock Technical Forum believes there has not been a major examination of this potential. The complex and multi-faceted issue of energy efficiency in railways and the wide range of innovative technical solutions presents a strong case for carrying out a more comprehensive and coordinated investigation in the near future.
Efforts of the Rolling Stock Technical Forum
The APTA Rolling Stock Technical Forum for 2009 will address energy efficiency, investigating and validating solutions ranging from the introduction of innovative traction technologies, components, and layouts to the development of energy-efficient rolling stock, operation, and infrastructure management strategies. The forum also will generate new validation standards for the energy performance of those products. As an APTA entity, we believe we are in a key position to address societal needs for more efficient and less costly rail transportation.
The question facing the forum is whether the public transit industry should set environmental standards for rolling stock. Specifically, should we even consider developing guidelines or a manual regarding environmental requirements for rolling stock?
The positive goals for these guideline standards are threefold:
* Environmental protection and contributions to sustainable mobility;
* Establishment of new environmental standards for the procurement of rolling stock; and
* Dialogue and cooperation with railway suppliers and agencies.
If APTA and forum members concur with this approach, the guidelines will develop through involvement with various user groups within the railway industry. Collaboration is essential to bring together all stakeholders involved in the purchasing of new rolling stock and make it work. These stakeholders will help specify the performance requirements before issuing the invitation to bid or request for proposal (IFB/RFP). The process must be organized and include agency, consultant, supplier, and sub-supplier personnel.
All participants agree on the benefits of a long-term environmental strategy. The environmental requirements for an IFB/RFP account for a single step in a long process that includes adjusting general environmental requirements to fit a specific IFB/RFP, environmental evaluation of the offers, cooperation with the chosen supplier(s), and evaluation of environmental performance after delivery of the rolling stock.
These guidelines are intended both to help agencies choose the level of environmental performance of their future trains and as an instrument to:
* Comply with mandated environmental requirements;
* Guide the relevant departments towards more environmentally adapted specifications; and
* Help agencies strengthen their environmental profile.
The guidelines will identify the environmental requirements and recommendations including general/policy requirements, energy consumption, exhaust emissions, energy sources, noise, vibrations, restricted materials, and resource management covering production, maintenance, recycling, and waste.
The guidelines will apply a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method to allow evaluation of all important aspects as the total environmental load from the train, e.g. maintenance and energy consumption during operation. The guidelines also specify procedures for appropriate environmental adapted reuse and scrapping after the operation phase.
We understand that there is no simple and unique solution to address these challenges, and that this effort may face resistance at various levels. Additionally, introducing technologies with better performance is often accompanied by high initial cost and, therefore, insufficient customer demand. Manufacturers are also unlikely to produce special vehicle series to respond to incentives aimed at improving energy efficiency or reducing pollutant emissions.
However, in the long term, these guidelines are expected to result eventually in lower costs of clean and energy-efficient vehicles through economies of scale, wider deployment of these technologies, and a general improvement in the environmental performance of the whole fleet.