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CANADA: The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) and Metrolinx have announced that they will be working together to study potential connections for the Kitchener rail corridor to Toronto Pearson’s Regional Transit and Passenger Centre, in addition to other potential transit connections such as the Eglinton Crosstown West Light Rail Transit (LRT). This advancement of work to better integrate transit projects into Canada’s busiest airport will help connect the country’s second largest employment zone and reduce highway congestion.

This partnership follows Premier Kathleen Wynne's recent announcement that the Province is advancing High Speed Rail and Metrolinx is moving ahead with an Environmental Assessment for next steps for a separation of freight and passenger lines in the Northwest Greater Toronto Area (GTA). This is a major development, as that separation will allow for both frequent GO Train service as well as High Speed Rail between Waterloo Region and the GTA. As part of the Environmental Assessment phase, Ontario is working with the GTAA to explore options to connect two-way, all-day service on the Kitchener GO line to the planned Regional Transit and Passenger Centre, a multi-modal transportation hub and passenger facility to be located at Toronto Pearson.

The GTAA-Metrolinx partnership will study:

  • A potential connection of the Kitchener rail corridor to Toronto Pearson’s planned Regional Transit and Passenger Centre;
  • Potential connections from Eglinton Crosstown West LRT, Finch LRT, Mississauga’s Bus Rapid Transit, and various local and regional bus services into Toronto Pearson;
  • Improvements to ground transportation to/from the airport and the airport employment area; and
  • Phasing considerations related to the above.

“Toronto Pearson is Canada’s gateway to the world and a key driver of jobs, trade and tourism,” said Howard Eng, President and CEO of the GTAA. “The GTAA is committed to working with Metrolinx to improve transit. These studies will help to connect our region for the benefit of passengers, airport workers, local businesses and residents.”

“We are excited to be moving ahead with our partners to explore all options available. By strengthening connections among communities along the innovation corridor between Kitchener-Waterloo, Pearson Airport and Toronto, we will work to deliver faster, more frequent service for our customers” said Phil Verster, President and CEO of Metrolinx.

In 2017, the GTAA announced plans for a future transit and passenger centre at Toronto Pearson. There is an identified need to better connect the region and to serve the 49,000 workers who are based at Toronto Pearson and the 300,000 people who work in the airport employment zone, the second highest concentration of jobs in Canada.

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Brussels Airport Autonomous Shuttle

BELGIUM: The board of directors of De Lijn and the management committee of Brussels Airport Company have given the go-ahead for a pilot project with a self-driving electric bus on the airport. The vehicle that is being developed for this, will be one of the first to drive in Belgium in mixed traffic. 

After the summer of 2019, the constructor 2GetThere will begin tests without passengers in Utrecht. The shuttle bus will arrive at Brussels Airport in the beginning of 2020 for further tests.

Brussels Airport Company and De Lijn entered into a partnership of intent for deploying self-driving shuttles at the airport in 2015. After further study and the choice of the constructor, both companies gave full support to the pilot project for testing an autonomous shuttle on the airport grounds.

“As intermodal hub where various means of transport connect seamlessly with each other, Brussels Airport is constantly studying new possibilities for expanding this hub in a sustainable way. This technologically innovative project to have a self-driving electric bus operating a fixed route, also fits in with our environmental commitment to keep the impact on our surroundings as low as possible”, says Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport Company.

“Flanders is taking on the role of pioneer”, says Flemish Minister for Mobility Ben Weyts. “In other countries driverless vehicles are already operational, but that is often in a separate lane with a steward on board. Here, the aim is to have the self-driving shuttle drive autonomously on the public roads. This is cutting-edge technology that really appeals to the imagination. We are making an investment in the future, in greater efficiency and in a more attractive range of public transport.”

The Dutch constructor 2GetThere will start the project in the coming weeks. The contract is divided into two parts. The first part covers the development and thorough testing of the technology until the middle of 2020. In autumn 2019, the constructor will be holding the first vehicle tests at his own site in Utrecht. If everything works out well, the first self-driving bus will arrive at Brussels Airport in the beginning of 2020 for further test drives at the airport. The test route for this development stage is in the Brucargo business zone.

The first stage with tests and development of the self-driving bus will take two years. In this period, De Lijn and Brussels Airport Company can perform all necessary safety tests in various weather conditions and traffic situations. During the test period, no passengers, visitors or staff will be on board.

If the first stage is completed with a positive assessment, De Lijn and Brussels Airport Company will be able to decide to deploy the self-driving shuttle from 2021 onwards on the airport grounds for the transport of passengers, visitors and staff on the route between the terminal and Brucargo.

Brussels Airport Company and De Lijn are sharing the project costs. De Lijn is paying the costs of the follow-up project for people who travel by public transport (De Lijn, MIVB, NMBS) to the airport. The airport operator will foot the costs for the transport of persons who come to the airport by other means of transport (staff, visitors or passengers).

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UK: A ground-breaking ceremony on Tuesday 17 April marked the official start of works on the state-of-the-art £225m Luton DART fast transit system, linking London Luton Airport with Luton Airport Parkway railway station.

It will take passengers less than four minutes to connect from Luton Airport Parkway to the airport terminal via Luton DART, improving rail access from central London to UK's fifth biggest airport in 30 minutes by the fastest train.

“The Luton DART will benefit not only airport passengers but also the people and businesses of Luton in that it supports our ambitions to secure long-term economic growth and ensure local people have access to high-quality employment opportunities. We are all looking forward to the Luton DART opening in 2021," Coucillor
Hazel Simmons said.

LLAL awarded contracts in December for the civil works with VolkerFitzpatrick-Kier joint venture and for the transportation system with Doppelmayr Cable Car UK Ltd. The project has full planning permission from Luton and Central Bedfordshire councils, and is on track to be ready for operation by spring 2021. It will create 500 construction jobs over three years, 30 apprenticeships, and 17 permanent positions.

Councillor Andy Malcolm said: “The Luton DART will support ongoing growth to 18 million passengers per year by 2021, and make sure the passenger experience we provide is significantly enhanced.”

The Luton DART will be a double-shuttle, fully-automated people-mover (APM) based on latest system technology and design innovation, and capable of operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The cable-driven system is energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

The 2.1km route will run between two purpose-built stations at Bartlett Square and the airport terminal, crossing a new gateway bridge over Airport Way. In peak time, a service will leave each station every four minutes.

As a key delivery partner for the Luton Investment Framework, LLAL is also bringing forward significant commercial developments at New Century Park, Bartlett Square and, later, a revitalised Airport Business Park.

Nick Barton, Chief Executive Officer of London Luton Airport Operations Ltd (LLAOL), said: “The DART will play an important role in achieving our goal of being a bigger and better airport – one that creates easy and enjoyable experiences and makes sustainable travel an essential part of our growth. To maximise the DART’s benefits we need to make it better for more passengers to get here by train. That’s why we’re calling for an increase in rail services as part of the Department for Transport’s current consultation on the East Midlands franchise.”   

Sophie Dekkers, Director, UK market for easyJet, said: “easyJet welcomes the new direct rail link connecting Luton Airport Parkway train station with the airport for the enhanced passenger experience it promises to deliver. We already encourage our passengers to travel by rail and we hope the number of easyJet passengers who arrive by rail at London Luton Airport will increase with this new, faster and easier link."

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VW Autonomous Parking

GERMANY: The Volkswagen Group is testing autonomous parking at Hamburg Airport using Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche vehicles. The Group says that the technology will be available to order from 2020.

During the tests vehicles need to navigate their way to a parking space using simple pictorial markers installed in the multi-storey car park.

Johann Jungwirth, Chief Digital Officer of the Volkswagen Group, says: “Autonomous parking can make an important contribution to creating convenient, stress-free mobility for our customers. We therefore want to democratise the technology and make it accessible to as many people as possible.”

According to the Group, the autonomous parking function will be rolled out in two stages, in the first stage the vehicles will use exclusive traffic flow in separate areas of the car park not accessible to people. The next stage will be operation in mixed traffic where vehicles will park and move autonomously in the same areas of the car park as cars with drivers.

Three brands from the Volkswagen Group, City of Hamburg and Hamburg Airport are cooperating on the autonomous parking trials.

“Our clear objective is autonomously driving vehicles that facilitate mobility for everyone at the push of a button and that gives people back time and quality of life as well as greatly improving safety on the roads. Autonomous parking is a milestone on the way there,” Johann Jungwirth said.

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REM Montreal

CANADA: CDPQ Infra has started construction of the Réseau Express Métropolitain (REM) line, connecting Montreal Trudeau Airport with the city centre.

“Today, we have reached an important destination. With this groundbreaking, thousands of people will soon be on site to build one of the world’s largest automated transportation systems right here. With $4 billion in Québec content and the creation of 34,000 jobs during construction, the REM will generate significant economic benefits for the economies of Greater Montréal and Québec,” said Michael Sabia, President and Chief Executive Officer of Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.

In the last few weeks, the two selected consortia, NouvLR and Partenaires pour la mobilité des Montréalais (PMM), successfully aligned their respective proposals and schedules in order to start building the largest public transportation project in Greater Montréal in the last fifty years. Final construction costs of $6.3 billion have once again been confirmed. The operations and maintenance costs also confirmed the $0.72/passenger-km that will be billed to the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain.

“With our partners, NouvLR and PMM, we have achieved our objective of delivering the best project at the best price for our clients, the millions of Quebecers counting on us for their retirement, and the citizens of Greater Montréal, who will benefit from a brand-new 67-km, 26-station public transportation network that will make travelling easier,” said Macky Tall, President and Chief Executive Officer of CDPQ Infra.

The consolidated work schedule for the upcoming months will be released in the coming weeks in collaboration with Mobilité Montréal.

“The REM is a major project and we have a lot of work ahead of us. We will continue our ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders during construction to ensure that the REM integrates harmoniously in the various communities. The creation of a project management office to plan the work and coordinate with the partners, as well as the creation of a community relations office to communicate directly with citizens, attest to our commitment to listen and continuously improve our project,” continued Tall.

Preparatory work has already begun, and construction activities will ramp up in the coming weeks. After a testing period at the end of 2020, the first branch of the REM will be operational in summer 2021.

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USA: The Los Angeles City Council has unanimously voted to approve a 30-year $4.9B contract with LAX Integrated Express Solutions (LINXS) to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Automated People Mover (APM) train system at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

“Making LAX the most passenger-friendly airport in the world means giving travellers what they need and have been asking for — reliable, convenient transportation to and from the terminals,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “This historic investment will ensure that LAX is seamlessly connected with communities across the region.” 

The APM is the centrepiece of the Landside Access Modernization Program (LAMP), which also includes a Consolidated Rent-a-Car (ConRAC) facility, Intermodal Transportation Facility-West, and associated roadway improvements. The APM will reduce vehicle congestion in the terminal loop, provide a connection with L.A. Metro's regional transportation system, create new and convenient locations for passenger pick-up and drop-off outside of the terminal loop, reduce emissions, and provide reliable access to the terminals. 

The Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) Board of Airport Commissioners (BOAC) approved the contract at its April 5 meeting.

LINXS is comprised of Fluor, Balfour Beatty, ACS Infrastructure Development, Dragados USA, HOCHTIEF PPP Solutions, Flatiron, HDR and HNTB. Bombardier Transportation will provide the APM Operating System, including all vehicles. 

APM trains will arrive every two minutes, have wide doors for easy access with luggage, large windows for viewing, plenty of hand holds and seats for those in need. Station platforms are open air, light-filled and have escalators, elevators, and moving walkways for quick, convenient access to the terminals. Architectural features include a viewing platform of the iconic Theme Building, an Experience LA centre with an 800 sq./ft. LED programmable screen and an LED light band that accents the 2.25 mile guideway. LAWA anticipates that the APM will offer a maximum ridership capacity of 10,000 passengers per hour and up to 87.7 million passengers per year. The system will be operational in 2023. 

LINXS' proposal had the highest technical score and the lowest cost proposal of the three teams that participated in the procurement process. The contract includes milestone payments for the design and construction phases, as well as authorizes future payments for operating and maintaining the APM for the contract period. 

The APM will be built using a Public-Private Partnership (P3) contracting model. LINXS will be designing and constructing the system and will also be responsible for operating and maintaining the train and stations for a 30-year period. This incentivizes the construction and operating systems to be built to last. 

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AUSTRALIA: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has pledged $5 billion investment through a Commonwealth fund to build the Melbourne Airport Rail Link, connecting the CBD and the airport.

The investment will also help reduce the strain on the Tullamarine Freeway which is one of the busiest roads in Victoria, catering to up to 210,000 vehicles a day.

There are several proposed routes which involve above-ground, underground and combined solutions.

"We expect that the results of the business case process, which we initiated at the 2017-18 Budget, will soon provide a clearer picture on the best route, best mode of transport and cost of the project.
We are under no illusion that such a city-shaping project does not come cheap. That is why we are making such a significant commitment," Turnbull said.

"We want the Victorian Government to partner with us in a true 50:50 funding partnership to build and own this iconic piece of infrastructure. We also welcome the involvement of the private sector.
Melbourne is the nation’s second busiest airport with forecasts indicating a throughput of 60 million passengers by 2030."

  • Sydney and Brisbane airports are connected to the city by rail and in Perth, an airport rail link is under construction. According to the Prime Minister, a rail connection to Melbourne Airport will not only benefit airport users and employees, it also has the potential to provide significant additional benefits, depending upon the final route and design chosen, including;
  • Rail access to areas to the north and west of the airport, potentially allowing them to be opened
    up for housing release;
  • Improved connectivity to regional Victoria, particularly to the north and west of Melbourne;
  • New rail stations located between Melbourne and the airport; and 
  • Freeing up the Tullamarine and Calder freeways, presently used by airport traffic.

“It’s very welcome to see the Commonwealth and Victorian governments partnering on major new projects in the State,” said Infrastructure Partnerships Australia Chief Executive Officer Adrian Dwyer.

“Major rail projects like the connection to Melbourne Airport cannot be paid for by ticket charges alone, so the key detail will be how much hard dollar funding is allocated in May’s Federal Budget. The rail link will provide Victorians with some degree of certainty that their trip between the Airport and CBD will be 30 minutes, with a train every 10 minutes, taking pressure off the CityLink/Tulla corridor."

With this new investment, the Commonwealth now has $17.5 billion committed to transport infrastructure projects in Victoria - including the $3 billion put aside for the East West Link.

Melbourne Airport Rail Link Route Alignments

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CAMBODIA: On 10th of April the Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol has launched the 9.6km airport rail shuttle service from Phnom Penh Railway Station to Phnom Penh International Airport. 

The service is currently running on two utilized existing trains, three more trains build and ordered from Mexico will be added to the service shortly. Each wagon is equipped with air conditioning, 56 seats and can handle an additional 45 standing passengers.

The train service departs every 30 minutes, taking approximately 25 minutes on its one-way journey. In collaboration with the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, passengers can check in and send their belongings through secure checkpoints from the Phnom Penh Railway Station to the International Airport.

To celebrate the Khmer New Year, the service is free of charge from April 10 until the end of July, 2018.

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The Southern Cross Station (SCS) precinct is Australia's only privately operated transport precinct and delivers services to over 75 million patrons per year. The station precinct is Australia's largest transportation hub with the integrated hub of rail, bus, retail, commercial and public space and continues to evolve as Victoria's transport system grows. The precinct provides critical links to Victoria’s Metropolitan Rail Network, Regional Rail Network, Interstate Rail and Coach Services and Melbourne Airports.

“We are very happy to join the Global AirRail Alliance, and look forward to being able to both contribute to, and engage with, the GARA community. SCS, Australia’s largest transportation hub, is well placed to facilitate access to the Melbourne CBD and provide extensive regional connectivity as Government planning commences for the long-awaited Melbourne airport rail link. We look forward to the continued development of this project and the opportunity to share our experience with members”, Senior Associate of Infrastructure, Josh Norton said.

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Groupe ADP Navya

FRANCE: Groupe ADP has just launched a trial of two fully electric, driverless shuttles – the first at a French airport. Located in the heart of the airport's business district, Roissypôle, they connect the suburban train station (RER) to the Environmental and Sustainable Development Resource Centre and Groupe ADP's headquarters.

Keolis, the operator, has joined forces with Navya, the French autonomous shuttle designer, to carry out the pilot project until July 2018. This initial trial represents an important milestone in Groupe ADP’s strategy to become a key player in the autonomous vehicle ecosystem. The aim of the pilot is to test how the automated vehicles will behave on a high-traffic roadway, as well as how they merge and pass within an extremely dense environment that includes many pedestrians.

An intelligent road infrastructure system that uses traffic signals to communicate dynamically with the shuttles has been set up in order to optimise the crossing of the road in complete safety. Feedback from users (employees and passengers) is also one of the trial's determining factors.

According to Groupe ADP, the new autonomous mobility solutions are a strategic concern for the development and competitiveness for airports, as they help enhance service quality and the reliability of the various transportation modes used, in addition to improving road network flow around major hubs. This initial step will allow Groupe ADP to subsequently roll out this technology on other sites and with other applications, within a multifaceted area like the airport city.

“Autonomous transport services will play a key role in our aim to create a new generation of connected airports. With this first trial, Groupe ADP is paving the way for developing this technology within our airport networks in France and abroad. In these constrained environments, autonomous technology is a lever for optimizing infrastructures for of a new mobility offer. Our airports' mobility needs are quite considerable – between the various terminals, car parks and departure areas, or even airside – and could lead us to develop an autonomous vehicle fleet in the future. Within the framework of our Innovation Hub programme, the future of mobility is being built in the heart of the airport city", stated Edward Arkwright, Deputy CEO of Groupe ADP.

The two shuttles, accessible to persons with reduced mobility, can carry up to 11 seated and 4 standing passengers. Each can reach 25 km/h on a 700-metre-long track. The service operates from 07:30 am to 08:00 pm and is free. An on-demand shuttle service is available by scanning a QR code with a smartphone.

“Keolis and the ADP Group have been working closely for several years now in order to develop mobility services adapted to the airport zones of the Paris region. Keolis is proud to be supporting the ADP Group in their new autonomous vehicle trial, which enhances the range of services that we already provide them with, including the management of the Roissypôle bus station, the shuttle buses for Orly Airport, as well as our partnership with Le Bus Direct, a premium coach service between Paris and Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports. This is Keolis’ second autonomous shuttle project in the Greater Paris region, following the launch of a first trial in Paris’ La Defense business district in July 2017, with the local transport authority, Ile-de-France Mobilités,”said Youenn Dupuis, Keolis’ Deputy CEO for Greater Paris region.

"NAVYA is delighted to be marking out the airport of the future together with Groupe ADP and Keolis. The airport of the future is based on smart and specially adapted mobility solutions that are able to communicate with the infrastructure that we have set up at Roissypôle with Groupe ADP. Airports are areas where the traffic is extremely concentrated and so it is really important to manage and optimise the flow. The aim of this trial is from now on, to provide a service that takes into account future deployments," states NAVYA CEO Christophe Sapet.

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Gatwick airport entrance 01

UK: Network Rail, in partnership with Gatwick Airport Ltd, Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership and the Department for Transport, has submitted proposals to reduce congestion and improve passenger experience at the station, which serves 19m passengers a year – up from 7.5m 20 years ago.

The proposals submitted to Crawley Borough Council aim to reduce crowding at the station, improve passenger flow and provide better connections between the railway station, airport terminals and onward travel destinations.

Proposed improvements include:

  • Almost doubling the size of the rail station concourse
  • Eight new escalators, five new lifts and four new stairways to improve accessibility and passenger flow
  • Widening platforms 5 and 6 to reduce overcrowding
  • Better connections to the south terminal with improved passenger information
  • An attractive new roof structure
  • The proposals will accommodate forecast rail growth up to 2036.

John Halsall, Network Rail manager director for the South East route, said: “The proposals will transform passenger experience, support airport growth and, along with other upgrades of the Brighton Main Line – the £300m reliability fund and our proposals for Croydon – improve journeys and provide a boost to the local, regional and national economy.”

Guy Stephenson, Chief Commercial Officer, Gatwick Airport, said: “The new Gatwick station is set to reduce congestion and give passengers a much improved experience, including a more seamless transition between airport and station. The new station also complements the transformation of train services at Gatwick. Later this year trains will start leaving Gatwick for London with tube-like frequency – every three minutes – and new direct services will start to Cambridge and Peterborough for the first time ever.”

Stephen Maccallaugh, GTR's Head of Gatwick Express, said: "The growing popularity of Gatwick and its increasing passenger numbers is a real positive for the airport and the station. This news highlights plans to significantly enhance the customer experience and ensure the station meets the changing demands of the airport and its customers, and it will be greatly welcomed by our passengers and our teams that work at the station and airport."

Indicative project timeline:

  • Crawley Borough Council will determine the planning application in spring 2018
  • Funding parties will make a final decision on the project in autumn 2018
  • Construction begins in 2019
  • Project completion in 2022

The project is subject to planning permission and a final decision by all funding parties.

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kitchener map web

CANADA: Ontario Government has committed more than $11 billion in the 2018 Budget to support construction of Phase One of Canada's first high speed rail line. The line will connect Toronto's Union Station, Pearson International Airport, Guelph, Kitchener and London as early as 2025. Electric powered trains moving at up to 250 km/h will cut the travel times to an estimated 48 minutes between Kitchener and Toronto Union Station.

As part of the environmental assessment phase, Ontario is now working with the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA) to explore options to connect two-way, all-day service on the Kitchener GO line to the proposed multimodal transit hub at Toronto Pearson International Airport. The major transit hub the GTAA is proposing to build at Pearson will offer seamless connections between trains, buses, airplanes, light rail vehicles and high speed rail along the Toronto-Windsor corridor.

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AAIF2018 Home Banner

EVENTS: The second Airport Access Ideas Forum will take place on Wednesday 27th of June in London. The Forum is an event designed to highlight the key challenges airports, city planners and ground transport operators need to prepare for when planning airport access for future users.
 
Our attendees discuss the latest innovations in passenger mobility and their effect on airport access, including infrastructure planning, revenue and passenger experience. Through interactive discussions the Forum participants look at how new technologies and the sharing economy is changing road access and car parking businesses at airports, as well as the opportunities public transport can deliver for airport operators in terms of non-aeronautical revenue, improved customer experience and business development.
 
Airport Access Ideas Forum '18 is co-hosted by Katten Muchin Rosenman UK LLP, a full service law firm offering comprehensive and practical legal assistance to a cross section of industries including aviation, transportation construction and engineering sectors. Katten’s attorneys are often sought out for their expertise in aviation, technology and infrastructure, and pride themselves on providing timely advice on a range of issues facing their clients.
 
The Forum will focus on Autonomous Vehicles Technologies and Mobility as a Service looking into how it will impact the future of airport infrastructure design, non-aeronautical revenues, public transport access mode share and urban development.
 
"The Airport Access Ideas Forum gives the opportunity for transport professionals to challenge themselves and each other with forward thinking discussions. Carefully selected short and thought provoking presentations will highlight the future of automated and subscription based transport technologies and look at how it will impact airport access for passengers and employees," Director of the Global AirRail Alliance, Milda Manomaityte said.
 
“We are thrilled to be hosting this year’s Airport Access Ideas Forum. Having worked with clients to discover solutions to some of the issues they face in relation to the topics being covered at the Forum, we are looking forward to hearing the views of the attendees on their vision of the future of transportation and associated industries,” said Alan Meneghetti, a partner in Katten’s London office and who is also the vice-chair of the Worldwide Airport Lawyers Association.

Call for Speakers

We are now calling for companies and airports to submit proposals for presentations and discussions. If you are interested in joining the event, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Gatwick Oxbotica 2

UK: Gatwick airport is preparing to trial electric-powered autonomous vehicles to shuttle staff across the airfield this summer.

This trial is thought to be the first of its kind for any airport in the world and, if successful, this could be the first step toward widespread use of autonomous vehicles on airfields across the world and could reduce vehicle numbers, emissions and costs.

Currently Gatwick's 300 airside vehicles are stationary 90% of the time - as staff attend to aircraft and passengers.

“If this trial proves successful then in the future we could have an Uber-like service operating across the airfield which staff can hail as and when they need to travel. This trial is just the start and much more research will be needed, but ultimately this could be the beginning of the widespread use of autonomous vehicles on airfields across the world. The new technology is a more efficient way to manage vehicles and could lead to a reduction in the number of vehicles required, emissions and associated costs,” Cathal Corcoran, Chief Information Officer, Gatwick Airport, said.

No passengers or aircraft will be involved in this trial, which will be limited to airside roads between the airport’s North and South terminals.

The trial will be run in partnership with Oxbotica – a company that develops software that enables vehicles to run autonomously without reliance on GPS or any other technology outside the vehicle. Oxbotica vehicles are also currently involved in other trials on UK roads and are currently developing a fleet of autonomous vehicles that will soon be running between Oxford and London. 

“Airports offer an incredibly interesting domain for our autonomous driving software.  There is a huge diversity of vehicles, each with a very specific mission.  The challenge of choreographing all of the activity around an individual plane, or in support of airport operations is immense and we look forward to working closely with Gatwick on this initial pilot that will demonstrate our self-driving technology carrying staff around the airfield,” Dr Graeme Smith, CEO of Oxbotica said.

Data collected from the Gatwick pilot study will demonstrate that autonomous vehicles can work safely on an airfield, which is a complex environment with a wide range of different vehicle types moving in many directions both on and off road systems.

The data will be used in dialogue with the Department of Transport, Civil Aviation Authority and others.  XL Catlin – a global insurance company - is also interested in being part of trial to learn more on autonomous airfield vehicles from an insurance perspective.

"As Oxbotica’s Insurance Partner, XL Catlin are dedicated to enabling the widest possible adoption of this exciting technology by developing and providing the right insurance solutions. This is a great initiative by Gatwick Airport and we are delighted to be part of it," Jason Harris Chief Executive, International, XL Catlin said.

If the trial proves the technology fit for purpose for an airport, then additional uses can be explored.  IATA – the trade body for the world’s airlines – advocates more than 40 use cases for autonomous vehicles including push back tugs, passenger load bridges, baggage vehicles etc.

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heathrow 175812078276772

UK: Heathrow Express (HEx) rail service has been preserved to at least 2028 under a new agreement announced today. This agreement, which confirms fast, non-stop rail connections for Heathrow passengers over the next decade, has been approved by the Department for Transport and will see Heathrow Airport retaining the commercial aspects including marketing, ticket pricing and revenue, while FirstGroup’s Great Western Railway (GWR) subsidiary will run the operational aspects of the Heathrow Express service under a management contract from later this year.

As a result of this agreement, a new Heathrow Express Langley depot will no longer be needed. The depot would have been required to service trains because the HS2 building schedule requires HEx to vacate the Old Oak Common depot by the end of 2019.

Heathrow Airport will continue to own the HEx service, and will be responsible for managing rail stations at the airport. Passengers will also benefit from new ticket readers at Heathrow and Paddington, which will allow users of Heathrow Express and TfL Rail (soon to be Elizabeth line) to use pay as you go Oyster or a contactless device.

GWR will manage the introduction of a new, dedicated fleet of trains for the Heathrow Express service, which will be specially converted by December 2019 to provide first class carriages, high speed Wi-Fi, additional luggage racks and on-board entertainment. Until that time the HEx service will continue to be provided by the existing fleet of trains.

Building an integrated transport hub and ensuring at least 50% of Heathrow’s air passengers travel by public transport by 2030 is a priority for Heathrow.

This May, the initial phase of Heathrow Crossrail services will be introduced. From December 2019, and the full opening of the Elizabeth line, rail services to Heathrow will increase from 18 trains per hour today to at least 22 trains per hour. A train will depart Central London to Heathrow on average every two-and-a-half minutes, including:

  • 12 Piccadilly Line trains per hour – 6 trains serving Terminals 2, 3 and 4 and 6 trains serving Terminals 2, 3 and 5
  • 6 Elizabeth line trains per hour – 4 trains serving Terminals 2, 3 and 4 and 2 trains serving Terminals 2, 3 and 5
  • 4 Heathrow Express trains per hour – all trains serving Terminals 2, 3 and 5

Heathrow, the DfT, TfL and Network Rail are also conducting a joint feasibility study into increasing the frequency of the Elizabeth line service to 8 trains an hour by the mid-2020s.

As part of the arrangements, the Department for Transport will progress the development of the proposed new western and southern rail links to Heathrow. These new links would make it quicker and easier for people from the across the south and west of England, and south Wales, to get to the airport.

Rail Minister Jo Johnson said:
“We are investing in the biggest modernisation of the UK rail network since Victorian times and improving the provision and frequency of rail services to Heathrow is crucial to our plans. New western and southern rail links to Heathrow would make getting to the airport quicker and easier for holidaymakers and business travellers across the south west, south Wales and south of England, as well as helping connect UK exporters to new international markets.”

Heathrow Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye said:
“This agreement secures convenient and reliable public transport journeys to Heathrow in this decade and beyond. We have ambitious plans to transform rail journeys into the airport, and our passengers will reap the benefits of having Heathrow at the heart of an integrated, sustainable transport network.”

FirstGroup Chief Executive Tim O'Toole said:
“Today’s agreement demonstrates the transport industry working in partnership for the benefit of passengers, allowing fast and convenient connections to continue on this crucial airport link. We are an experienced rail operator with a strong track record in delivering customer improvements, and through this management contract we look forward to building on this operational expertise, as we work with Heathrow to bring in a dedicated fleet of high-specification trains that will help keep people moving and communities prospering in the future.”

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MetroLink Dublin Route Map

IREALAND: National Transport Authority (NTA) and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) have announced details of the Emerging Preferred Route for MetroLink, the metro service that will serve Dublin Airport and the City Centre.

Public consultation on the project in now under way with MetroLink scheduled to be operational in 2027.

The Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area (2016-2035) envisaged a rail link from the south city centre to Swords. It also envisaged the upgrading of Luas Green Line to metro standard, which would link up to the metro services running north to the airport and beyond, to provide Dublin with “a high capacity, high-frequency cross-city rail corridor”.

Under the National Development Plan 2018-2027, Metro North and Metro South will now proceed as one project known as MetroLink.

National Transport Authority CEO Anne Graham said: “Thanks to MetroLink, there will finally be a rail link to Dublin Airport, and with easy interchange with other modes including bus, Dart and commuter rail. There will be 25 stations in total, 15 of them brand new."

“We have modelled future passenger numbers and we predict that capacity for 15,000 passengers per direction per hour during the busiest peak times will be required along this corridor. We don’t believe that a bus system or a standard Luas line would be able to accommodate that number of passengers and that is why MetroLink makes so much sense."

According to Anne Graham, MetroLink will have the capacity for 30 trains per hour in each direction.

Transport Infrastructure Ireland CEO Michael Nolan said: “What we are publishing here is the Emerging Preferred Route, rather than the final route. Having examined in detail the various alignments and options, the EPR is the one that we feel is the best fit for the project. But we remain open to looking at other proposals, and if people or communities feel there are better ways of doing it, we will of course be happy to consider any alternatives put forward.”

Dublin Airport rail link moves forward

  • 2018 – Consultation on Emerging Preferred Route.
  • 2019 – Application for a Railway Order.
  • 2020 – Granting of Railway Order
  • 2021 – Construction commences
  • 2027 – MetroLink becomes operable

Posted on in News

USA: City of Chicago has announced the selection of two teams to proceed with competing to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the O'Hare Express rail link.

The Boring Company and O’Hare Xpress LLC are now eligible to respond to a Request for Proposals (RFP). The project aims to deliver express service from downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in 20 minutes or less, cutting more than 50 percent off current travel times.

“Strengthening connections between Chicago’s economic engines will drive our economy into the future, build on the city’s legacy of innovation and pay dividends for generations to come," Mayor Emanuel said. “Today, we have two teams that have the ability to get the job done and create an express connection between downtown Chicago and O’Hare Airport without a taxpayer subsidy."

The Chicago Infrastructure Trust, on behalf of the City of Chicago, selected the two respondents to proceed to the next phase of the procurement process based on their qualifications and ability to deliver the critical project with no public subsidy. The Boring Company and O’Hare Xpress LLC (Meridiam, Antarctica Capital, JLC Infrastructure, Mott MacDonald and First Transit) are two of the four entities that responded to a Request for Qualification (RFQ) that was issued late last year. Responses to the RFP will be due on May 18, 2018.

“Of the submissions received, these two teams represent the best potential partners to deliver this express service, which will be a key part of Chicago’s continued economic growth,” Chicago Treasurer and CIT Chair Kurt Summers said. “The CIT’s role as a specialized resource to the City focused on infrastructure financing and development involvement makes it the clear choice to take a lead as we seek a partner for this truly transformative and historic project.”

The RFP specifies that the O'Hare Express Service should include a downtown station, an ORD station as well as maintenance facilities. Travel corridors may be above or below ground. Service level goals are travel times of 20 minutes or less with service frequency of at least every 15 minutes for the majority of the day. Premium service fares must be reasonable and less than the cost of current taxi and ride-share services. Any proposal must also address how potential impacts on existing transportation systems and the environment would be avoided or minimized.

Although cost estimates for the project are not yet known, the RFQ and RFP clearly stipulate that the O'Hare Express Service will be funded solely by project-specific revenues (like fares or advertising) and financed entirely by the developer.

Posted on in News

UK: The Department fro Transport (DfT) has issued a call for ideas on market-led proposals to deliver a new southern rail link to Heathrow Airport.

The link will be one of the first projects under government plans to invite third parties - such as local authorities and private sector companies - to invest in the rail network, over and above the £47 billion the government is already planning for the next five years.

There are already a number of consortia looking to construct the southern link to Heathrow.

Proposed schemes would need to make commercial sense, build on the government’s significant investment in rail infrastructure and have the needs of passengers at their heart, without the over-arching need for government support.

"We are investing in the most significant modernisation of the UK rail network since Victorian times, and I want the knowledge and expertise of investors and local partners to contribute to delivering new connections, more services and better journeys for passengers," Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said.

Posted on in News

Rail Baltica

LATVIA: Eiropas Dzelzcela līnijas (EDZL), the project implementer in Latvia, has awarded the first Rail Baltica construction, design and supervision contract to the PROSIV consortium.

The consortium is made up of three companies - Sintagma from Italy, Prodex from Slovakia and Vektors T from Latvia. The total amount of the contract is 4.5 million euro.

The contract includes the construction of a 4.4km rail spur to Riga Airport as well as the design and construction of the airport station. It is planned to have the station on the same level as the airport terminal check-in hall. A 400 meter platform will serve international and regional trains.

„It will be the first construction project of the railway viaduct and 1435mm standard railway line in Latvia, as well since 1937 – the first construction project of a new passenger station," Andris Linužs, Member of the Management Board of EDZL said. "When implementing the project the continuity of the airport infrastructure and business within its territory will be ensured. It shall require a careful planning of construction works as international airport Riga will simultaneously carry out a number of ambitious projects: along with the construction of Rail Baltica station, the 6th round of the expansion of the airport terminal and the construction of a new air traffic control tower is also planned.”

Ilona Līce, the Chairman of the Management Board of International airport Riga: „A modern and up-to-date airport is not imaginable without a connection to a railway system. The construction of Rail Baltica is in line with the long-term development of the airport as it will strengthen the role of Riga airport as the main transport hub of the Baltics and will improve Latvia's interconnectivity with other European Union countries, will expand the range of potential passengers of Riga Airport both towards Lithuania and Estonia, and will provide additional facilities for passengers to get from the airport to the city.”

Rail Baltica is a railway transport project, which aims to integrate the Baltic States within the European railway network, and at present it covers four European Union countries - Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. It is envisaged to build in the Baltic states new 870 km long European gauge (1435 mm) railway line with a maximum speed of 240 km/h.

Posted on in Events News

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EVENTS: Following Virgin Hyperloop One’s latest project updates at the 2018 Middle East Rail conference, Leanne Wheeler, Senior Consultant for North Star Consultancy, shares with airrail NEWS how we must learn to look past the hype of hyperloop in order to be ready for the day when it changes everything.

Last year’s Middle East Rail conference saw Virgin Hyperloop One make some big promises to a technically minded and expertly sceptical rail audience. Slick, beautifully created marketing presentations envisaged a futuristic landscape where pods would zoom at speeds in excess of 1000km/h (671 mph) through perfectly straight metal tubes, providing seamless, point-to-point travel between neighbouring cities at record speeds in order to redefine regions.

As Virgin Hyperloop One continued its worldwide sales mission throughout 2017, the plaudits came thick and fast. “London to Edinburgh in just 50 minutes!” claimed The Telegraph. “No two GCC cities more than one hour apart!” boasted Gulf News.

Yet the audience at the rail conference that day was left partly enthralled, partly bemused and entirely ready to challenge. Was Virgin Hyperloop One in danger of selling nothing more than hype itself?

Assessing the Present Reality
Since last year’s conference Virgin Hyperloop One has made significant strides in terms of real, tangible progress. The proof of concept was established in May with the world’s first successful test run in a fully constructed loop located in the Nevada desert. The organisation received a large boost when Sir Richard Branson invested in the company and became Chairman of its Board. As the firm seeks further investment to develop its technology, the weight of Branson and the Virgin brand can only help move the commercialisation agenda forward.

That said, no one can deny that concerns over the safety and feasibility of hyperloop still exist. How can we predict if hyperloop is still set to achieve the aim of offering a transformative new travel mode that will redefine the boundaries of cities and regions as we know them? The answer lies in drawing lessons from the past and specifically the launch of commercial air travel, which developed enormously over the course of a series of technological leaps throughout the 20th century that nobody could have foreseen.

Ultimately, through recognising that we do not yet have all the answers and being careful to set realistic expectations in spite of the hype, we can in fact lend ourselves more easily to believing the long-term vision. The technology has been proven; it simply needs time.

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Drawing Lessons from the Past
The world’s first scheduled commercial airline flight occurred on January 1st, 1914 when a Benoist Type XIV biplane piloted by Antony H Jannus carried former St. Petersburg Mayor A. C. Phiel for a short hop across Old Tampa Bay in Florida. The flight lasted 23 minutes, with a maximum airspeed of 64 mph and flew at a height of just 50 feet. Whilst we would scoff at this in terms of today’s aviation, it was ground-breaking at the time.

35 years later, at the end of World War 2, the Jet Age was born. A British de Havilland Comet became the first commercial jet engine to fly in 1952. Boeing developed its 707 airliner and completed the first transatlantic flight in 1958 and the world’s first jumbo jet (the Boeing 747) revolutionised air travel once more in 1970. Without even considering other technological leaps such as supersonic jets regularly exceeding speeds of Mach 2 and man’s rocket-fuelled adventures into space, it is clear with hindsight that that one short flight across the Old Tampa Bay in 1914 paved the way for incredible progress.

Compare this to hyperloop successfully reaching speeds of 374 km/h (250mph) on its very first test run. Who could possibly foresee how hyperloop technologies could develop over a similar timespan of 100 years?

Whilst it is easy for technical experts to dismiss hyperloop entirely and point out its seemingly many challenges, it must be remembered that there are no greater gifts than hindsight and time. Let us not forget for example, that former President of the Royal Society and esteemed physicist Lord Kelvin himself declared in 1895 that “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible”. At the time, such a leading expert in the field of science would scarcely have been challenged. Yet, we now know how wrong he was. The success of air travel has been phenomenal, arguably transforming the world as we know it.

Realistically Planning for the Future
The current focus on hyperloop must therefore, not be on questioning whether 1000km/h+ speeds are indeed possible or whether we will one day be able to nip to New York for a Yankees match and be back in London for breakfast. We cannot let the dream cloud the reality. It must be on developing the technology to operate safely at sub-optimal speeds and implementing hyperloops in places where real benefit can be gained by the technology as it operates in its current form. All we really need to know right now is the best base from which to make the next leap forward.

An excellent example of an answer to this conundrum comes courtesy of the Mumbai – Pune corridor in India, where Virgin Hyperloop One recently announced that is has signed a binding agreement with the State of Maharashtra to develop a hyperloop between the two cities within the next five - seven years. Not only is the route planned to operate at slower speeds but crucially, the route map contains curves! It could be said that this represents an admission on the part of Virgin Hyperloop One that its marketing maps filled with straight shiny lines between A-B are unrealistic. If this is the case, then this provides a reassuring hint of actual, tangible progress.

Hyperloop mumbai pune

Virgin Hyperloop One and other companies developing hyperloop technologies would do well to focus their efforts in countries similar to India, where saturated cities are separated by vast expanses of relatively flat terrain. This will afford the opportunity to build and refine the required infrastructure at reduced cost in comparison to heavily built-up cities (compare this to the London – Birmingham HS2 route, for example, where the infrastructure and tunnelling costs would be entirely prohibitive).

Towards the Next Giant Leap for Mankind
One of the key difficulties facing Virgin Hyperloop One and its competitors is that they must drive private investment in hyperloop by creating excitement, without risking a loss of confidence in their products by making claims that seem at best, too futuristic, or at worst, technically impossible.

For all the buzz that the shiny marketing presentations, promises of 1000+ km/h and idealistic journey time calculators based on straight lines create, we must learn to readjust our expectations and support the gradual development of hyperloop through incremental steps. Otherwise there is a real risk that hyperloop will, for a long time, exist in the realm of extreme and super-futuristic sci-fi, only to be believed by the devoted few and left to be derided by the pessimistic (and some may say realistic) many.

The certain truth is that hyperloop technologies are developing as we speak. Now that the technology has been proven, it can only get better, faster, safer and cheaper.