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TRANSPORTATION – Cut fuel costs for rail

NEW YORK - Iron ore and coal producers who ship their products long distances by rail know how quickly costs can es...


NEW YORK – Iron ore and coal producers who ship their products long distances by rail know how quickly costs can escalate. Now NEW YORK AIR BRAKE (NYAB) has developed a control technology to cut fuel costs and improve train capacity. Its LEADER (locomotive engineer assist display and event recorder) system is currently being used in the United States and proving its worth.

LEADER provides engineers with real-time information about a trains operating conditions and prompts them to apply throttle and brake for best fuel economy, minimum in-train forces, and best on-time performance. It captures information about the locomotive and cars, operating conditions, and the railroads operating priorities, and places these against the known characteristics of the particular run, to calculate and display the optimum speed at which to operate the train.

In 2003, Norfolk Southern installed LEADER in the cabs of its trains running a twisting, hilly 170-km route through Virginia and North Carolina. The first years data were collected as a baseline. When the data were used to identify opportunities for improvement, LEADER predicted a 29% increase in fuel economy.

The first live runs using LEADERs driver-assist prompts, conducted earlier this year, achieved 22% fuel savings. The prompts were optimized for best fuel efficiency; however, these results were achieved without affecting on-time performance. Meantime, in-train forces were reduced, lessening wear and tear on draft gear.

In January 2007, Union Pacific chose LEADER as part of its US$20-million program to boost productivity and cut operating costs on routes in Washington, Idaho, Nebraska and Wyoming. Fuel reduction of between 6-8% are forecast, an annual savings of between US$150 million and US$250 million.

A downloadable brochure with details of the LEADER system is available at www.NYAB.com/products/leader.htm.


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