Last Thursday, Caltrain's board authorized the award of the first phase of a $138,135,673 contract to Parsons Transportation Group to design, procure and install the Caltrain-specified CBOSS train control system (see staff presentation). This Parsons contract forms the lion's share of a total project budget variously reported as $231 million to $251 million, or a whopping $5 million per route-mile. According to a project schedule, the final acceptance of the system is planned for February of 2016 (52 months from now), but that assumed contract award at the May board meeting (5 months ago).
Viewed in the framework of the U.S. transportation industrial complex, where public agencies such as Caltrain transfer huge sums of taxpayer dollars to large private corporations that thrive on custom-engineering, re-engineering and over-engineering everything, this contract is business as usual, and Caltrain will probably end up, years late and millions over budget, with a partially functional PTC system. That sets the stage for more years and millions spent to make it work with high-speed rail.
Meanwhile, in Rio...
SuperVia, a commuter rail operator in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. SuperVia is one busy system, even busier than BART. Here's a quick comparison between Caltrain and SuperVia:
|Trains||about 25||about 160|
Like Caltrain, SuperVia is modernizing. Among other improvements, SuperVia is installing a sophisticated positive train control system to enforce speed limits, prevent collisions, and reduce the headways between trains. Unlike Caltrain, SuperVia chose to adapt their requirements to what suppliers already had on the shelf, and is procuring an ERTMS Level 1 overlay system from Bombardier Transportation through a contract worth 125 million Real, or about US $70 million. (Note that the unknown scope of this contract makes it difficult to compare directly to CBOSS; for example, Bombardier's contract is unlikely to include the train-borne components.) ERTMS, to remind everyone, is a train control standard that is quickly catching on worldwide, except here in the protected U.S. signaling market.
ERTMS Level 1 is exactly the sort of standardized train control system that would be transparently compatible with high-speed rail, which will most likely operate on its own dedicated high-speed trackage using ERTMS Level 2, a much more sophisticated version of the standard that does away with wayside signals.
The kicker? Bombardier promises to put this new overlay signaling system into service on SuperVia's various lines from November 2012 to July 2013. Here's how that stacks up against Caltrain's CBOSS:
|Caltrain CBOSS||SuperVia ERTMS|
|Contract award||October 2011||May 2011|
|Initial service entry||October 2015||November 2012|
|Final delivery||February 2016||July 2013|
|Time from award to initial service||48 months||18 months|
|Time from award to final delivery||52 months||26 months|
It's too late now to do anything about CBOSS, but it sure will be interesting to see what PTG and Bombardier will deliver for each respective rail system. Can PTG and Caltrain come up with an ersatz-ERTMS by 2015 for the promised sum?