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Three Peaks

About two hundred eager souls gathered on the warm June evening at Crewe railways station to take part in the annual Three Peaks by Rail challenge, organised by the Railway Children charity. Two teams from the Young Rail Professionals organisation were among those people and I was one of them.

Young Rail Professionals was founded in 2009 to promote the railway industry as a great place to work and to inspire and develop the next generation of railway talent. YRP bring together people from all aspects of industry, whether they are involved in engineering, asset management, train operations, strategic planning, maintenance, franchising, regulation, marketing or human relations.

This was my first time taking part in the challenge, which involves climbing three highest peaks in Wales, England and Scotland, often within 24 hours. Our challenge was slightly different though, all of the participants were from the railway industry so our mode of transport between the peaks was, of course, a train.

The goal of the challenge is to raise funds for the Railway Children charity that helps thousands of children across the UK, India and East Africa who run away or are forced to leave homes that have become unbearable through poverty, abuse, violence and neglect.

Each team of four is raising a minimum £3,500 and this year's challenge had total of 42 teams that raised a whooping £188,000 on the day of the challenge. The collection of funds for this challenge continues six weeks after the Peaks and you can still support our Young Rail Professionals teams here https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/PaulCase3

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The challenge started with a jolly train ride to the first Peak in Wales, a 1085 meter high Snowdon. Our first hike began at around 22:00 in pitch darkness and although this was the shortest hike, it was the steepest. Scrambling through the rock with only a head torch to guide you, hundreds of people formed a magical trail of flickering lights trailing all the way to the peak. The first hike was also the shortest, our Young Rail Professionals team finished it in three and a half hours.

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Once all the teams were back at the train at about 5am, we headed off for the second peak, the 978 meter high Scafell Pike in England.

All challenge participants had about 2-3 hours to sleep with a quick breakfast on board of the train as the next hike was about to start. By this point most of the walkers were sharing stories about which body parts ache the most, but we knew there were two more peaks to climb! This walk was quite uneventful right until the end, when after nearly four hours of walking the hope that the peak is just around the corner was shattered with each tired step. A cold windy fog engulfed the roof of Scafell Pike and the rocky terrain left you with an eerie feeling that you have been abandoned on some unfriendly planet and your only choice is to adapt. Teams going down kept saying that the summit is just "ten minutes away". At this point ten minutes felt like another year. But few more stiff hours later, we were back at the train station, waiting for the other teams to return. During this time a local woman that works at the railway station offered me and another girl from our team to use her shower and refresh. This felt like such a luxury! It made us remember why we are doing this challenge. To help the children who lost or never even had access to a soft bed, warm shower and a safe space.

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We were now on the way to the third and the highest peak, the 1345 meter Ben Nevis in Scotland. We had about six hours of sleep on the train before the last challenge.

Our last walk began 5am welcoming the sunrise and after two hours of solid uphill walking we were met with gusty winds and sideways rain. Everyone scrambled to get their waterproofs out and braved on. At this point some of the challenge participants started to give up as the pain and fatigue became too much to bare. Ben Nevis was not making it easy for us. We've entered the rocky and snowy terrain of an alien planet again. Chatter and laughter was long forgotten and the only thought was to just get to the summit and get back on the train. Our Young Rail Professionals team reached the summit soaking wet, stiff cold but happy and proud. After taking few shaky pictures we hastily headed back.

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In total our team has walked 15:50 hours and we are now planning our next challenge!

If you would like to contribute to the amazing work that the Railway Children charity is doing, please support us by contributing to our goal to raise the funds! https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/PaulCase3

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Metro Sepulveda Route web

USA: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority started consultations on Sepulveda Transit Corridor project connecting San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles International Airport.

Metro officials have presented six initial concepts for the future rail line, which were developed as part of an ongoing feasibility study for the project.

Four different types of rail are being studied - heavy rail, light rail, monorail and rubber-tire transit.

According to the Metro the emphasis at this time is to look at how a Sepulveda rail line could connect to other existing or planned transit lines, including the Orange and Expo Lines, the Purple Line Extension of the subway that is currently under construction and the future East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor line between Van Nuys and the San Fernando/Sylmar Metrolink station.

Measures R and M — Metro’s two most recent sales tax measures — provide about $9.8 billion for this project, which will be built in three phases. About $260 million will go toward construction of ExpressLanes on the 405 between the 10 and 101 freeways, with a scheduled opening in 2026. The next $5.7 billion is for the Valley to Westside rail segment scheduled to open in the early 2030s and the remaining $3.8 billion is for the Westside to LAX segment with a 2057 opening.

Metro is working with Elon Musk’s Boring Company to ensure their Loop tunnel project doesn’t interfere with any potential alignments for the Sepulveda project. The Boring Company plans to build a test tunnel beginning near the Expo Line’s Sepulveda Station that will run south to Culver City. 

Metro will continue evaluating these concepts and hopes to conclude the project’s feasibility study in 2019.

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Gatwick airport entrance 01

UK: Chief Executive Stewart Wingate has announced the new five-year Capital Investment Plan (CIP) for Gatwick Airport. The airport will spend £1.11 billion up to 2023, with £266 million planned for 2018/19 alone. 

Gatwick expects to continue growing its long-haul operation and predicts that passenger numbers will increase to nearly 53 million by 2023. 

According to the airport, work on developing the design of the railway station, led by Network Rail, is continuing, although it has taken longer to find an affordable solution and secure the necessary funding than originally envisaged. The CIP includes enabling works for Network Rail’s planned upgrade to the Gatwick station and it is now expected the works to be completed by late 2022. 

Another focus in the investment plan is to further develop the airport car parks to meet the forecast demand. Gatwick Airport will complete the South Terminal long stay car park decking project, providing an additional 1,200 car parking spaces for summer 2018. The airport is also investigating the use of robots for parking vehicles, offering efficient use of existing car park spaces through clos-space parking. According to the CIP, a pilot project at Lyon airport is being monitored for effectiveness and customer response.

London Gatwick takes five year investment plan includes exploring robotic car parking

 

UK: Chief Executive Stewart Wingate has announced the new five-year Capital Investment Plan (CIP) for Gatwick Airport. The airport will spend £1.11 billion up to 2023, with £266 million planned for 2018/19 alone.

 

Gatwick expects to continue growing its long-haul operation and predicts that passenger numbers will increase to nearly 53 million by 2023. 

 

According to the airport, work on developing the design of the railway station, led by Network Rail, is continuing, although it has taken longer to find an affordable solution and secure the necessary funding than originally envisaged. The CIP includes enabling works for Network Rail’s planned upgrade to the Gatwick station and it is now expected the works to be completed by late 2022.

 

Another focus in the investment plan is to further develop the airport car parks to meet the forecast demand. Gatwick Airport will complete the South Terminal long stay car park decking project, providing an additional 1,200 car parking spaces for summer 2018. The airport is also investigating the use of robots for parking vehicles, offering efficient use of existing car park spaces through clos-space parking. According to the CIP, a pilot project at Lyon airport is being monitored for effectiveness and customer response.

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Ohare Boring Company2

USA: The Boring Company has been selected by the Chicago Infrastructure Trust (CIT), on behalf of the City of Chicago, to design, build, finance, operate and maintain an O’Hare Express service. 

According to the Boring Company, the Chicago Express Loop will provide fast and convenient transportation between O’Hare Airport (Terminals 1-3) and Block 37 in downtown Chicago. 

Loop is a high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported on autonomous electric skates traveling at 125-150 miles per hour. Electric skates will carry between 8 and 16 passengers, or a single passenger vehicle. 

Electric skates are based on the Tesla Model X, the Chicago Express Loop's skates will be mechanically confined to a concrete track within the tunnel and operate under safety approvals issued by both federal and state agencies. The vehicles will be battery powered and zero-emissions. Each electric skate features a climate controlled cabin, luggage storage space, and Wi-Fi.

Electric skates will leave each station as frequently as every 30 seconds. The Chicago Express Loop will operate 20 hours per day, every day of the week.

It will take 12-minutes to travel from O’Hare to downtown. The Chicago Express Loop will be three to four times faster than existing transportation systems between O’Hare Airport and downtown Chicago.

The Boring Company will fully finance the project.

Ohare Boring Company

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London Luton Airport Vision

UK: The Department for Transport issued the Invitation to Tender for the East Midlands rail franchise, connecting East Midlands and London Luton Airports.

The franchise set outs goals to deliver brand new fleet of trains, more seats for passengers, reduced peak journey times between Nottingham, Sheffield and London and a dedicated, high quality, express service between Corby and London. Other improvements include better compensation for delays, smart ticketing, high quality wi-fi connection, more frequent and increased capacity on local services and services that start earlier and finish later.

The Invitation to Tender specifically mention that bidders for the franchise should include initiatives that will improve rail's modal share for surface access to and from East Midlands Airport and London Luton Airport, in particular by operating appropriate earlier and later services to and from those airports.

London Luton Airport (LLA) has been calling for more fast trains to stop at the airport under the new franchise and is pleased that the ITT included those specification.
 
LLA currently has the lowest modal share of passengers using rail transport of any London airport and increasing the number of trains serving the airport will help address this, without the need for additional capital expenditure. It will also help LLA reach its full capacity, easing the capacity crisis in the South East.

Nick Barton, CEO of London Luton Airport, said: “It’s great to see the DfT has recognised the importance of improving rail’s modal share to London Luton and East Midlands airports. Improving air rail links is essential to overcoming the capacity crisis. LLA currently has the lowest modal share of any London airport, which is a limiting factor on our ability to meet the ever growing demand for air travel in the South East.
 
“The most efficient and cost-effective way of increasing modal share is to increase the frequency of trains which stop at Luton Airport Parkway to four per hour. This can be achieved at no additional cost, yet the benefits which it will bring to London and the UK are huge. This new franchise is a once-in-a-decade opportunity to improve rail services for passengers and address the UK’s aviation capacity crunch. I urge all the bidders to make the most of it.”

 

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UK: Network Rail is seeking views on their proposals to build a 6.5km rail link between the Great Western Main Line and London Heathrow Airport.

The new link – most of which would be underground – would speed up journeys by allowing passengers to travel to Britain’s busiest international airport from the South Coast, South West, South Wales and West Midlands without going into London Paddington.

The public consultation is open until 22 June 2018. Visit networkrail.co.uk/heathrow to have your say.

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USA: Metrolink has opened a new North Train Station on the Antelope Valley Line at Burbank International Airport on 14th of May. The new station will allow Santa Clarita residents a direct route to Hollywood-Burbank Airport, as well as a connection to downtown Los Angeles. 

“Many of our residents work outside of the Santa Clarita Valley and will greatly benefit from Metrolink providing this much-needed alternative mode of transportation. This new, convenient daily connection will also allow the rest of Southern California easier access to Santa Clarita,” said Mayor Pro Tem McLean.

Santa Clarita is one of seven incorporated cities along Metrolink’s Antelope Valley Line, which allows riders to travel from Los Angeles’ Union Station all the way to Lancaster. The new Burbank Airport – North Station allows air travellers to access Hollywood-Burbank Airport via a free shuttle. The station is also within walking distance of the airport.

The new station adds to already existing rail links serving Burbank Airport, the South Train Station sits on the Metrolink Ventura Line linking Ventura and Los Angeles Union Station.

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Qixxit app

GERMANY: A new digital travel planner app Qixxit was launched, combining several different means of transportation into one trip. Long distance bus, train and air travel can now be compared in one single search query and then combined to create one connected journey.

According to Qixxit, layovers and check-in times are fully considered in the combined journey plan.

The travel platform app can now be downloaded from the iOS and Android stores and can also be accessed at www.qixxit.com.

“We’ve been continuing to work on the development of the app over the past few months, and our main focus has been on the needs of travellers. We’ve integrated the results of our various user tests, as well as feedback from beta users, into the software development and platform design. We’re truly indebted to everyone who’s supported us throughout this crucial phase,” says Stefan Kellner, CEO at Qixxit.

Qixxit’s travel planning includes access to train connections with Deutsche Bahn and other railway companies. This includes FlixTrain, as well as German and European FlixBus connections. Air travel options are integrated through Qixxit’s partner Skyscanner. While Deutsche Bahn train tickets can be booked directly through Qixxit, other bookings are carried out through travel service providers or travel agents.

Qixxit was founded in 2012 by Deutsche Bahn and sits under the DB Digital Ventures group, which
finances and develops new data-based business models.

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RUSSIA: Aeroexpress launched an Artificial Intelligence (AI) bot named Andrey to provide primary support online for customers using frequently asked questions service.

The bot has been developed by the Russian company Just AI, a part of the i-Free Group, which specialises in artificial intelligence technologies.

Without any assistance from an operator, Andrey provides comprehensive answers to frequently asked questions, thereby taking care of 72% of inquiries. The bot advises passengers about how to buy train tickets in order to travel to the airport, the time of the nearest train service, and the conditions of carriage. It can explain where the required terminal is situated and how long a ride with Aeroexpress will take.

Andrey understands the natural speech rather than offers to select menu items. For example, if asked “How long does it take for a ticket to be delivered to the email?” the bot will figure out that an e-ticket is meant and will reply that it is usually sent within a few seconds. It will also understand if a customer is interested in some special fares or baggage transportation conditions. All of this is possible thanks to artificial intelligence. Just AI in close cooperation with Aeroexpress specialists working with inquiries, continues improving it by teaching the bot questions based on information generally contained in enquiries. Even now, according to users’ feedback and estimates, the answers provided by the virtual consultant are complete and useful over 60% of the time.

The online consultant was launched in November 2017, making it possible to significantly decrease the call centre load and increase the speed of serving Aeroexpress passengers. Hotline costs have been reduced by 17%. Since being put into operation, Andrey has already handled 21,000 inquiries, and this number keeps growing month by month.

In March, approximately 9,000 website users directed their questions to the bot, which is double the amount compared to the first month of service.

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RUSSIA: Russian Railways have officially opened the new suburbian rail link to Volgograd Airport on 17th May 2018.

The project is part of the preparation work for the FIFA 2018 Football World Cup, which will allow guests and residents of Volgograd to quickly reach the airport from the city centre. 

The journey from the airport to the city centre will take 40 minutes, the single ticket fare is 40 rubbles (0.54 euro).

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Tirane Railway

ALBANIA: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Union (EU) and its partners are stepping up their support for strategic transport links in Albania. The Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) has made available up to €35.5 million in grants to complement an EBRD loan of up to €36.9 million.

The funds will serve to modernise more than 34 km of the existing railway line between Tirana and Durres on the Adriatic coast. Durres is the country’s largest port and an important regional hub for international trade. Furthermore, the finance will help to construct a new 7.4km rail link, which will connect both cities to Rinas International Airport. 

The state-owned Albanian Railways is already inviting pre-qualification bids for the two projects. The closing date for submitting applications is May 31 and the construction works must be completed in 30 months from start.

This strategic infrastructure project in Albania is expected to make a tangible difference both to people and businesses across the region. It improves people’s everyday lives by offering a shorter, safer journey on a key route, while also unlocking new trade opportunities for local businesses. Lastly, it promotes a shift from road services to lower-carbon rail services, thereby supporting the long-term goal of building green, sustainable and integrated economies in the Western Balkans.

The railway upgrade in Albania is part of a larger initiative that aims to support connectivity in the region. The EBRD announced in December 2017 that it had committed €190.5 million in loans for major railway improvements in the Western Balkans. The EU is providing over €120 million in grants to ensure these projects can be carried out.

To date, the EBRD has invested almost €1 billion in some 80 projects in Albania.

 

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New Metro North Map and Key Facts 1 e14495753249811

IRELAND: Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has appointed Jacobs Engineering Group and Idom to develop and implement Ireland's first metro system connecting Dublin Airport to south city centre.

The new 19km high frequency, high capacity metro service envisages some 11km of tunnel through the city, with 10 underground stations and five above-ground stations. It will integrate other transport options across the city to maximize user capacity and functionality. Running from Swords, via Dublin Airport to Dublin's south city centre, the scheme will also look to upgrade the existing LUAS green line to Sandford to increase capacity and fully integrate with the new metro.

"With a forecast of economic and population growth, the new metro service will play a vital role in improving Dublin's mobility, unlocking much-needed transit capacity and improving air quality at the same time," said Jacobs Buildings and Infrastructure Europe Senior Vice President and General Manager Donald Morrison. "Continuing our long history in supporting TII with major infrastructure implementation across Ireland, we look forward to working with Idom to bring a global team and depth of metro experience from both organizations to this potentially transformative project."

MetroLink is scheduled to be operational in 2027.

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Montreal Train Station

CANADA: Aéroports de Montréal (ADM) President and CEO Philippe Rainville has announced major infrastructure works to meet the growing passenger demands.

Over the next eight years there are plans to rebuild the multilevel parking garage across from the terminal and the passenger drop off area. Planning of these projects will also include the connection to the REM light rail network. According to Rainville, starting next year the work will begin to add the underground station 35 meters below the multilevel parking.

"Montréal will at last join the ranks of world metropolises that have fast, efficient transit links with their international airports," Rainville said. "At the current rate, Montréal–Trudeau airport will see traffic growth of more than 7% in 2018, and this after posting record growth in passenger numbers of 9.5% in 2017."

The plans also include airside improvement works. In total the projects will require investment of at least $2.5 billion over the next five years.

Montreal Curbside

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Birmingham International Station Tracks 780x390

UK: Plans to transform Birmingham International Station into a fully integrated transport exchange, linked to the new HS2 Interchange Station in Solihull, were given a major boost after £9.27m was secured to progress the design process.

The Urban Growth Company (UGC) – set up by Solihull Council to maximise the benefits of HS2’s arrival – secured the Devolution Deal funding from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

The funding will allow the UGC to appoint consultants to progress the technical design of the station, and design and build contractors to undertake the physical delivery of the project.

The UGC’s plan is to transform the existing station into a multi-modal transport exchange bringing together existing rail, future high speed rail, air, trams, buses, rapid transit, private vehicles, taxis, bicycles and an automated people mover, through seamless connections to Birmingham Airport and the HS2 Interchange Station by 2025.

The plans form a major part of the ambitions for the UK Central Hub which is the area of land in Solihull near the M42 comprising Birmingham Airport, the NEC, Jaguar Land Rover, Birmingham Business Park and Arden Cross, which will be home to the HS2 Interchange Station from 2026.

The UGC has predicted that The Hub has the potential to create up to 77,500 new jobs, 775,000 sq m of commercial space, 4,000 new homes and £4.1bn GVA each year.

Nick Brown, Chairman of the Urban Growth Company, said:

“This project is strategically important because of its role in unlocking major growth and development, as well as improving accessibility and connectivity. It also means that Birmingham International Station, which is set to become one of the busiest stations in the UK, will become an iconic gateway to the region with greater capacity and a much-improved passenger experience.”

The estimated cost of the entire Birmingham International Station project is £286m and the UGC will continue working with regional and central government to secure funding to deliver the project by December 2025.

 

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linha 13 jade novo trem

BRAZIL: Sao Paulo Metro Line 13, connecting the city to the Airport, will start daily test operations between 10am and 3pm from 30th of April. The line has been running on assisted operations schedule on Saturdays and Sundays only since the 31st of March.

During the four test weekends the CPTM Line 13 Jade carried almost 120 thousand people, most of them using it as a tour to learn about the route and its integration with Guarulhos International Airport (GRU Airport).

The company is looking to complete all the tests in May and make the necessary adjustments for the beginning of the commercial operations scheduled for June, when the trains will run from 4am to midnight.

Line 13 Jade is the first rail link with the Guarulhos region and a new transport connection to access the international airport.

With a total of 12.2 km, Line 13-Jade has three stations: Aeroporto-Guarulhos, Guarulhos-Cecap (new) and Engineer Goulart (rebuilt), which integrates with Line 12-Sapira (Brás-Calmon Viana), in the city of São Paulo.

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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.