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Touting new trains, Amtrak CEO foresees riders heading back

Touting new trains, Amtrak CEO foresees riders heading back

DETROIT — Amtrak is betting big on a return of ridership.The nation’s passenger railroad wants to replace its nearly half-century-old fleet with state-of-the-art trains that can operate on electricity or diesel fuel. It plans to spend $7.3 billion to buy 83 trains made by Siemens, with options to buy more if ridership increases. Funding must still be approved by Congress, but William Flynn, Amtrak’s CEO, says he’s confident it will happen.If it doesn’t, then Amtrak will finance the trains and repay its debt with money from state train services and passenger fares.The more efficient trains, which will be built in California, are scheduled to start running in 2024. They will have more comfortable seating, better ventilation systems, power outlets and USB ports, Wi-Fi, and panoramic windows. Many can run on either diesel fuel or battery power when it’s needed.The Associated Press spoke recently with Flynn about the new trains, how Amtrak ridership is recovering from the pandemic and how infrastructure measures may boost intercity rail service.The interview was edited for clarity and length.———Q: How will these new trains help passengers?A: These are 125 mph operating speed trains. They’ll make some trips shorter because in some states we have to change locomotives from electric to diesel. The new trains are dual-mode. It will absolutely be a better passenger experience in the cabin itself. We’re very focused on our (Americans with Disabilities Act) riders and have worked with the ADA community to make sure we have incorporated attributes that are important to them. Certainly in some cases where track is reconstructed, speeds and trip times will improve.———Q: How fast can these trains go?A: 125 mph (201 kilometers per hour). The limiting factor in most cases is track construction, where we’re talking about 90 mph (145 kilometers per hour) and less, depending on the state and the condition of the track. We’re talking about track that, for the most part, is owned by freight railroads that we have access to.———Q: Will these 83 trains replace what you already have, or will you be able to expand service?A: It is more like-for-like replacement than expansion of capacity. We’re replacing 73, with a near-term option for 10. We have options on another 130 train sets. We’re replacing this 40-to-50-year-old fleet with a fairly similar amount of capacity. As we work to build out what we call our Amtrak Connects strategy, growing ridership by 20 million riders per year, going from 32 million to 52 million, we can buy additional trains.———Q: You’ve got about $200 million from a previous appropriation by Congress? How will you fund the balance?A: The rest would be contingent on direct funding to Amtrak, and states funding their share. There is broad support to replace the core 83 trains we’re talking about. So we expect we will have annual funding for our portion. The states ultimately will pay for the train sets they use. Amtrak owns the trains, so they will pay over a period of time. If there should be a moment when that money isn’t specifically available, we have the ability to finance the units.———Q: Are the Acela high-speed trains in the Northeast Corridor covered by this?A: Separate contract, separate manufacturer. The Acela is made by Alstom. It’s being fabricated in upstate New York.———Q: In 2019, before the pandemic, didn’t ridership hit records?A: Yes, it was 32.4 million passengers. I think our ability to recover, post-pandemic, looks very encouraging. We’re at about 62% or so of 2019 ridership, with strong bookings into the fall. A little bit ahead of what we expected. People have a desire to travel. We’re feeling that demand.———Q: Being in a confined space with others is still a concern. Do you see people getting past that once they’re vaccinated?A: I do. If you think about our trains, in our coach seating areas, it’s two-by-two, not three-by-three. There’s substantial leg room. Our coach seats feel much more like a domestic first-class (airplane) seat. We’ve worked with researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins. We wanted to make sure we really understood air flow, exchanging fresh air every four to five minutes. Our passengers are still required to wear masks under CDC guidelines, as is our crew.———Q: How close are you to resuming a normal schedule?A: Pre-COVID, we were operating around 300 to 310 trains per day. We’re operating around 210 today. Our long-distance trains are fully restored. We had congressional direction and funding to do that. Our Northeast Corridor is largely back in service. So the difference is really the state-supported network. As we head into September and October, our expectation is, we’ll be largely restored.———Q: Will these new trains reduce pollution?A: We’re really excited about the environmental and sustainable considerations here. Riding a train per seat mile is 83% more fuel-efficient in some cases than driving and less environmentally impactful than flying. We just can’t rest there. We’re buying trains for the long term. While we’re operating in diesel mode, our general reductions in emissions (from current trains) include an 85% reduction in volatile organic compounds, a 70% reduction in carbon monoxide, an 85% reduction in nitrogen oxide and a 95% reduction in particulate matter. We’re refining those numbers. It’s something our riders certainly ask about.———Q: How do the infrastructure proposals by President Joe Biden and Congress play into your plans?A: This would provide substantial funding for intercity passenger rail and substantial funding for Amtrak. It would allow us to make the necessary investment we need to fix infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor. We’ve got bridges and tunnels, stations to some extent from Washington to Boston. Our oldest tunnel was built in 1873. A 128-year-old tunnel across the Hudson River, 110- to 120-year-old key bridges. The other part is the expansion, introducing some 39 or 40 new routes, expanding service on another 20 routes outside the Northeast Corridor.

As fears about climate grow, Siemens CEO sees opportunities

As fears about climate grow, Siemens CEO sees opportunities

Roland Busch, the CEO of Siemens AG, says his company is well-positioned to help manage the challenges as the world increasingly focuses attention on climate changeBy TOM KRISHER AP Business WriterJuly 12, 2021, 4:32 PM• 5 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleDETROIT — As the world increasingly focuses attention on climate change, Roland Busch, the CEO of Siemens AG, says his company is well-positioned to help manage the challenges.Munich-based Siemens specializes in making buildings, factories and railroads more efficient through digitalization and automation. And its medical unit includes technology that could lead to faster treatments for stroke patients.Siemens has predicted 5% to 7% annual revenue growth for the next three to five years, based largely on its expectation that demand for its products involved in energy efficiency will steadily increase. Siemens’ stock is up roughly 14% this year. And 13 of 21 industry analysts who follow it give the company a buy rating, according to FactSet.Busch, who became CEO in February, has been with Siemens for more than a quarter-century.The Associated Press spoke recently with him about energy savings, manufacturing efficiencies, medical imaging and the the future of rail travel. The interview was edited for clarity and length.———Q: The United States and other countries are emphasizing efficient buildings as one way to fight climate change. Is that what’s fueling much of your growth predictions?A: We talked about our core markets, 440 billion euros, growing 4% or 5%. These are already markets driven by sustainability as well as automation and digitalization, which is, I think, where all the stimulus money goes. Why would you invest in old stuff when you really can stimulate the new? Your new administration has clear targets to expand or defend technology leadership against others, eventually China. We can contribute. We have very strong software business in the United States. A very strong footprint in building technologies.———Q: How would a consumer benefit from factory automation?A: Let me start with the automotive industry. If you are building a combustion engine and a hybrid-electric battery vehicle at the same factory, you have to manage all the variants as products are personalized. We help with either the software of the automation or the personalization (with many combinations of options). A second example is what we do in terms of pharmaceutical. We help them bring the vaccinations to market in shorter time, but also ramp up faster. A new mutant comes, a new kind of vaccination is needed, to make it fast. One day you produce a vaccination for COVID, another one for whatever kind of disease you want to fight.———Q: How does Siemens help make vaccines faster?A: You create a digital twin of your products. You’re simulating what your products look like. GSK is a pharmaceutical company that provides raw material to vaccination providers. They have to do a lot of tests and different mixes. We simulated that with them, so they could really shorten time to market by 20% or even more. We make a different twin of your manufacturing and look at how to get rid of bottlenecks in assembly lines, how to automate manufacturing. Once you simulate it, you don’t need to try it and change it again. You do it right the first time, wrap up your manufacturing fast.———Q: How does Siemens make a building more efficient?A: Something like 70 percent of the energy consumption is still in buildings. Heat goes through the roof. If you cover your roof properly, most of the job is done. You have automation technology, which is using every device that you have in a smarter way. The next big thing is the decentralized energy system. You combine it with rooftop photovoltaic (solar cells), eventually a (natural) gas engine, which provides energy for a campus with a lower energy footprint. Battery storage, fitting the whole thing with renewables. It’s meaningless to cool a building if there’s nobody in it. We have a software company which is managing buildings. You just gear it for the needs of the people who are currently in the room or who are going to be in the room.———Q: You make high-speed rail and transit system rail cars. Do you see growth, given decreased mass transit ridership due to the coronavirus?A: Operators who run public transport see this whole thing coming back as life gets normal. It’s a problem currently but that will fade away. Any large city without public transport, it will not function. We discussed whether we would put money into the next generation of high-speed trains. We have prototypes running. This may be one of the finest trains Siemens has ever built. It runs about 300 kilometers (186 mph) an hour. It has the highest efficiency. It has an aerodynamic profile. It works with different propulsion systems, is lightweight. Eventually you will see less and less national cities connected by flights. Wherever you have a good one-to-one connection with a high speed train, you can eliminate flights totally. We have a good business, globally. I do believe that has a good future.———Q: You’ve said you can use medical imaging to cut stroke treatment costs in half. How would you do that?A: There are some cities where if you have a stroke, you’re better off. A person has a stroke, so an ambulance comes, brings you to a hospital. You get a scan. Then you need a specialist for surgery. Very often the person doesn’t sit at the hospital closest to where the person has a stroke. So you either put the person in a helicopter or you fly the surgeon to the hospital. This takes another half an hour, hour. If every second counts, that’s a problem. A startup we acquired is doing high-precision surgery by joystick. One hundred miles apart, you have the best surgeon working with good equipment, which also ensures that you have a very precision movement. That cuts the time substantially. I think they are working on getting an approval for some of the procedures. It will take a couple of years.