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9/22/2003



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

International Rail Planning Conference: Economies would reap benefits of worldwide shift to scheduled rail operations, CPR says


The railway industry is so interconnected that it's time for roads around the world to adopt a uniform international system for planning and executing railway operations, Canadian Pacific Railway's head of operations told Sept 22 attendees of the inaugural International Rail Planning Conference. Held at The Fairmont Palliser Hotel in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the event is sponsored by Canadian Pacific Railway, MultiModal Applied Systems and Progressive Railroading.

The international railway community needs to shift to integrated scheduled railway operations, from the tonnage-based method of operating that has been used for decades, said Neal Foot, CPR's senior vice president of operations, during a presentation.

"We need to present ourselves to our customers as one integrated system," Foot said. "By building a coordinated, integrated and scheduled freight railway system, we as an industry will enhance rail's already inherent qualities of speed, safety, and energy and labor efficiency."

Shippers and the general public would benefit from a scheduled rail industry that is more productive and a stronger competitor for business — "history shows that, in North America, railways pass their productivity gains directly on to shippers in the form of lower rates," Foot added.

Under a scheduled operating model, a schedule is created for trains as well as individual shipments within trains. Railways use computer technology to map out interconnections of equipment, facilities, track and crews; they determine the best way to route shipments using algorithmic blocks, search out block bypass opportunities to minimize rail-car handling, calculate freight yard workloads to avoid creating congestion, and generate time-distance diagrams to examine line capacity.

CPR began a wholesale shift to fully integrated scheduled operations in the late 1990s. The Class I's model includes scheduling into an overall operating plan all other facets of rail operations such as assigning train crews, maintaining locomotives and freight cars and carrying out work on the tracks.

Tonnage-based rail operations, which previously served as standard practice, require holding trains until enough freight cars and tonnage have been accumulated to make the trip as economical as possible.

Designed to help freight railroads worldwide learn and share information on the current state of service planning and railway operating strategies, the inaugural International Rail Planning Conference runs from Sept. 21 to Sept. 24. The conference agenda features guest speakers, presentations, panel discussions and roundtables that cover a range of service design and operations planning issues.




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