01 January 2013

CBOSS Falls Behind

In October 2011, the Caltrain board of directors approved the first increment of a contract with Parsons Transportation Group to deploy the CBOSS train control system on the peninsula rail corridor.  The contract scope presented then was as follows:
  • $16.3M for the base contract, up through critical design (a government contracting buzzword with a very specific definition)
  • $35.3M for Option 1, for final design, factory acceptance testing, and the fiber communications backbone installation
  • $86.5M for Option 2, including procurement, installation, testing, training, certification, commissioning, final acceptance, and a one-year warranty.
The agenda for the January 3rd board of directors meeting shows that the goal posts have already been moved, and the criteria for whether to exercise Option 1 are as fuzzy as ever, namely "staff now deems it appropriate to exercise Option 1."

The work accomplished for $16.3 million includes:
  • Completed Project Execution Planning (PEP).
  • Obtained approval of Project PEP.
  • Obtained approval of Project Baseline Schedule.
  • Completed Project Contract Deliverable Requirements List.
  • Completed co-location of PTG project personnel at SF Caltrain Field Office.
  • Completed Project Preliminary Design & Approval.
  • Submitted Project PTC Development Plan to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
  • Commenced Back-up Central Control Facility Real Estate search.
  • Developed Caltrain Interoperability Coordination Plan for FRA and other railroads’ review and comments. Met with Union Pacific Railroad and other tenant railroads for establishing Interoperability coordination plan process and working groups.
  • Conducted monthly project reviews with California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA)-designated consultant.
  • Submitted deliverable packages as required by the JPB’s agreement with CHSRA. Met with FRA/CHSRA to discuss project status and addressed FRA comments in September 2012.
  • Commenced system and subsystem critical design.
The last item in this laundry list is the big one.  It was supposed to have been completed in September 2012 under the base contract, and "commenced" doesn't sound very done.  Passing a Critical Design Review is the milestone traditionally associated with completing critical design, and doing so successfully is certainly no picnic.  The latest project status briefing (2 months ago) shows this milestone in March of 2013, six months later than was planned just 14 months ago.

CBOSS is already late and over-budget.  Will anybody on the Caltrain board of directors notice as they vote unanimously to exercise Option 1?


  1. It's not too late to buy the same system Metrolink is buying - it's also freight compatible and HSR will have to be compatible with it since it will share track with Metrolink. This one is easy to get right. Let's hope someone does it.

  2. Well, that was predictable.

    Is there any way to get the overseers of Caltrain -- both the board, and more importantly those who appoint the board -- to notice that Metrolink has done a better job and has already finished said job? This is a networking problem.

  3. China’s new 300km/h north-south rail link from Beijing to Guangzhou uses Bombardier’s ERTMS technology

    Rail technology leader Bombardier Transportation’s European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) technology is operating on the latest very high speed rail line to open in China. The new line completes the world’s longest very high speed rail link, connecting the capital Beijing with the industrial centre of Guangzhou.

    Equipped with Bombardier INTERFLO 450 ERTMS Level 2 technology (called CTCS-3 in China), the final section of the 2,298 km long north-south, double-track link between Beijing and Zhengzhou started operation on December 26, 2012.


    Bombardier ERTMS technology is also installed in Croatia, Korea, Switzerland, Spain and Taiwan and first-in-market projects are being delivered in Algeria and Poland, in addition to extensive framework agreements in Sweden and Norway. Bombardier is at the heart of innovation, delivering the world’s first ERTMS Regional system, its INTERFLO 550 solution, on the Västerdal Line in Sweden.

    1. The ERTMS, while very nice, is NOT a good idea here as it would probably be the only installation of is kind in North America. No matter how much you and others may hate it, the fact is that all North American railroads are proceeding with I-ETMS and in the cases where there are higher speeds like the Chicago-St Louis and Chicago-Detroit corridors, are using ITCS overlays. If Caltrain were to use ERTMS it would never have interoperability with any other system in the country. The idea of using the system Metrolink is installing is actually a brilliant idea because, as stated elsewhere, HSR is going to have to be compatible with it already. This could save all the agencies involved millions, both now and down the line when it comes time for system upgrades as costs could be shared by Metrolink, Caltrain and HSR. Plus, this would most likely get warm support from UPRR since they are already using the SAME SYSTEM as Metrolink.

      Everyone keeps on talking about ERTMS as being off the shelf tech when the reality of it is by the time you work out the protocols and frequency use issues plus finding a replacement for the GSM-R (which is locked up tight here), the adaptation of ERTMS would probably cost more and take longer than starting from scratch and definitely longer than adapting North American systems like Amtrak's ITCS which is being used at speeds up to 110 in Michigan right now!

      Every mile of freight railroad mianline in the country, all 120,000+ miles of it is going to be using standardized I-ETMS (like Metrolink), why oh why, would you pick a European Standard developed out of a hodge-podge of British APWS, French TVM, German LZB,and Italian SCMT and under European Union law has to maintain backward compatibility with all of those systems! And of course, the European Railway Agency would never consider adapting future standards to include compatibility with the the North American continent-wide I-ETMS. So, let the Europeans have their safety by committee cell phone signal system and lets stick with the system that being implemented by 20 class I, passenger and commuter railroads on over 140,000 miles of track.

      Having lived in Europe for 4 years, some simple facts to consider who is really should be setting the new world standard for train control:

      Share of freight moved by rail in the US 42%. Share moved by rail in Europe 11%
      Size of the Rail network: US 155,757 miles, Europe 121,205 miles.
      Amount hauled by the entire European rail network (the entire EU-27) in ton-miles?
      238 billion
      Amount hauled by just US class I's?
      1.8 trillion (almost 9 times)
      And while Europe is always held as the standard for passenger rail we should strive to, the fact is all Rail travel in Europe (HSR, intercity, LRT, subway, streetcar, cableway, tram) still only accounts for 7% of total passenger-miles in Europe while 84% of travel in Europe is DONE BY CAR!

      Oh, and I NOW live in Korea and we DO NOT USE ERTMS!

    2. The CHRSA has already chosen ERTMS.

      As far as I know, ERTMS is not required to be backward-compatible with anything except itself. On the contrary, it was intended as a clean break with the hodge-podge of incompatible national standards. Under EU law, all new signalling projects must use ERTMS, and rail companies therefore have to fit their rolling stock for ERTMS as well as national systems until all the legacy standards have been phased out.

      And, by the way, ERTMS is indeed used on some lines in South Korea.

    3. Wendtsc,

      There's no need for Caltrain signalling to be compatible with freight, or with Amtrak, or with anything else. (And God only knows CBOSS is plumbing the depths of "anything else".)

      That's a "requirement" that Caltrain's corrupt consultants and staff invented all by themselves in order to justify spending $250 million tax dollars on themselves. Nothing more, nothing less.

      It's simple and outright rent-seeking fraud.

      As for your argument "the only installation of is kind in North America" -- you make it sound like that's a bad thing. Like being the only level-boarding, low-floor, HSR-compatible, UIC-compliant, non-FRA, takt-scheduled, ETCS-signalled, POP-ticked, one-person-operated, schedule-adhering, low-spares-ratio, efficiently-maintained passenger railway in North America.

      It's nice that you're pleased by how much coal is moved by US railroads (so that it can be incinerated in a holocaust that is destroying the entire planet.) But freight rail is 97% irrelevant to Caltrain and the SF Peninsula and is 100% irrelevant to Caltrain signalling.

    4. let the Europeans have their safety by committee cell phone signal system

      Paul, a comment like that indicates that you don't know much about ERTMS and that your mind isn't about to be changed by rational argument.

  4. @Winston

    Actually, HSR is not going to share tracks with MetroLink. The Authority plans to build dedicated tracks from Palmdale to LAUS.

    The CBOSS project is an abortion that should not happen, but it is steaming along quite nicely since the CalTrain board did unanimously approve the next funding stream.

  5. This is only tangentially related... Clem, I was wondering what your opinion was on the proposed developments on top of the SF rail yard, and the Mayor's proposal to shorten 280 by half a mile? The official line is that this would somehow help get the Transbay connection built faster, but I am not sure how building on the rail yard would improve operational flexibility.

    1. It's intriguing. I'll have more to say on it. It leads more and more to something like this, which is just about the best that can be done given the circumstances.

  6. A Bay Area Twitter follower asked Caltrain about CBOSS-HSR incompatibility. The response from the official Caltrain Twitter account: @jirfy @ttpolitic @theoverheadwire @enf @alon_levy Its not incompatible HSR wouldnt have given us the funding for cboss if it was

    Richard is too nice to those people.

    1. Never let facts stand in the way of spending a nine-figure amount.

    2. This is old, old news. A Caltrain staffer said that in a public meeting middle of last year.
      (I seem to recall Richard mentioning it, in fact.)

  7. CPUC CBOSS update:

    “Dispatchers at Metrolink and Caltrain are experiencing problems with incorrect signal indications and intermittent train positioning and directional issues on their dispatching displays”

    “Caltrain, North County Transit District, and Altamont Commuter Express are still in the start-up phases.”

    “Caltrain is working with the FRA on their Request for Amendments document, revised PTC implementation plan, and PTC development plan document. Caltrain has not submitted a field test request as required by Subpart I, Section 236.1035 of the CFR.”


    1. Interesting comment about MetroLink on page 16 "Computer Aided Dispatch and Back Office Server are still under development and issues still need to be worked out before switching to the new ARINC system from the existing dispatch system".

      This 6-month delay is what eventually led MetroLink to fire ARINC and signing a $6.8M CAD contract with Wabtec, the lowest bidder for CBOSS (http://articles.latimes.com/2014/jan/24/local/la-me-ln-new-metrolink-contract-20140124)...

      Where does that leave Caltrain? Answer: in potentially extremely serious doo-doo because they have already switched their ROCS/PADS system to ARINC which, without fail, announces every southbound train as “3 minutes late” approximately 1 minute before the train hits the San Carlos platform ON TIME…

      BTW, did anyone notice item #10 on the December Board meeting agenda “Award a sole source contract with ARINC, Inc. in the amount of $1,993,468 for an estimated two-year term to modify the Rail Operations Control System (ROCS) to include the CBOSS PTC functions and to provide an additional one-year warranty”? (http://www.caltrain.com/Assets/__Agendas+and+Minutes/JPB/Board+of+Directors/Agendas/2013/12-5-13+JPB+Agenda.pdf)

      Why it is “sole-source”? Because ARINC does not have an API, so we will have to pay them ransom money every time we need to change a line of code in the CAD CBOSS interface. Ka-ching!