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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Mineta institute report: Workforce, training and research inadequate to meet the needs of California’s HSR system construction

Building California’s high-speed rail system will open up a need for a large workforce, but current educational and training institutes are ill-suited to prepare future workers, according to a report issued last week by the Mineta Transportation Institute.

“Estimating Workforce Development Needs for High-Speed Rail in California” examines various gaps in technology, information and knowledge needs, with a focus on the training/education requirements during the project’s design, construction and operation.

According to the report, university systems and training networks could be challenged in the following areas:
• increases in the need to understand noise and vibration, and increases in the capability and capacity to design technologies to mitigate such emissions;
• demand for advanced train control/signaling/collision prevention, and positive train control systems that have not been deployed previously in the United States;
• need for technology and understanding of acceleration and deceleration characteristics of high-speed rail trains, especially in the efficient management of energy throughout the system;
• increased need for the design of a comprehensive communications network/monitoring system, which has not yet been deployed with 220 mph capability in the United States;
• expanded need for the design and implementation of sensory-based intrusion prevention and detection and natural disaster detection technologies; and
• increased knowledge and technology needed for the maintenance of systems and rolling stock for high-speed rail systems.

The Mineta Transportation Institute estimates the total workforce demand for the high-speed rail system will be 256,092 direct jobs over the life of the project. The period between 2013 and 2016 — the height of the construction and construction management phases — will have the highest workforce need.

Despite the anticipated demand for a more skilled rail workforce, no institution is altering its instruction, or research and development offerings to focus on high-speed rail, and “very few” railway engineering courses are offered for those seeking a civil engineering degree, the report states. And while there has been collaboration and cooperation among professors and international research institutions, and regional research cooperation, “very little” has been high-speed rail specific, according to the report. Collaboration within the industry hasn’t focused specifically on high-speed rail, either, the report states.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/19/2012