PERES Mission Reaches Pittsburgh

After completing the agenda in Cleveland, PERES pilot study mission moved to Pittsburgh, where it was welcomed by the Secretary for Economic Development of Pennsylvania State, Dennis M. Davin, on behalf of Governor Tom Wolf, and by the Mayor of Pittsburgh, William Peduto.

Following a high-level welcome, meetings were held with the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, the Allegheny Conference and the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, during which the European Delegation was presented with the economic overview of the region, opportunities for partnerships and investment opportunities in Pittsburgh.

Large part of the networking reception was dedicated to the fact that Pittsburgh managed to completely shift its economy from being centered around the steel industry to an innovation- and research-driven economy. This is largely assisted by 35 universities and colleges with their research centers, low cost of living, favorable tax policies and presence of major innovator companies.

Concerning railway network, Pennsylvania is also viewed favorably, with over 1,300 miles of railways, three major railway operators and three intermodal terminals.

PERES Team Meets Ohio’s Transport Innovators

As a final point of the agenda in Cleveland, members of the PERES study group met with the representatives of two companies involved in testing and deploying innovative technologies in transport.

In an interesting session, Mr. Andrew Bremer and Mr. Jason Stanford presented Drive Ohio, an agency that seeks to help establish new smart technologies in transport, as well as the project of 33 Smart Mobility Corridor, a proving ground for new technologies.

In a very interesting presentation, they explained the ways in which they seek to implement new technologies in transport, seeking more communication of vehicles and infrastructure, using drone technologies, sensor data and mobile and bluetooth-based applications.

Meeting With Railway Operators

While in Cleveland, PERES Team had an excellent opportunity to meet with the representatives of major railway operators and infrastructure managers in the US.

This included Mr. Michael Schipper, Deputy General Manager of Greater Cleveland Transport Authority, Cleveland’s state-funded public transport system. Mr. Schipper introduced the PERES team to the state of railway public transport in Cleveland, noting that the company’s rolling stock fleet will have to be replaced in five years. He also talked about new technologies his company is interested in – based on predictive maintenance, mobile ticketing systems and other innovations in customer service.

Mr. Paul Jeffers from Norfolk Southern, one of the largest freight operators in the US spoke of the importance of intermodal transport for his company, especially as the main source of revenue – coal – is seeing decline with renewable energy. He talked about his company’s investments in positive train control systems, and the company’s expectations for the implementation to conclude in 2020. Apart from plans and current situation he also spoke of challenges – the plans to retrofit DC locomotives to increase the number of AC-powered ones, the need to outsource spare parts and slowly outsourcing engineering with natural retirement. He stated that the company currently has to supplement all inhouse capabilities.

As a contrast to Norfolk Southern, Mr. Jerry Vest presented Genesse & Wyoming Inc, a group of independent small railway operators that came into existence by buying or leasing unprofitable lines from large companies. He presented G&W’s business model, the expansion to business operation in Australia and UK, and challenges the business model brings – namely, older fleets and lower profit margins compared to the major railway operators.

Institutional Roundtable on Ohio’s Rail and Transport

A high-level institutional roundtable was organized for the PERES study mission, with the support of Team NEO and JobsOhio, attracting representatives of institutions in charge of public transport in Ohio and Cleveland.

Matthew Dietrich, representative of the Ohio Rail Development Commission, a government agency in charge of non-legislative matters in railway transport presented the railway sector in Ohio in impressive number – being 4th in the US in railway network infrastructure, 3rd in intermodal transport, and with 2.8 billion USD turnover. He also suggested at a large opportunity, with Ohio having 5,800 level crossings in need of new technologies for management.

Lloyd McAdam from Ohio Department of Transportation also noted that Ohio’s has the 2nd state in the US by the number of bridges. While he openly admitted that there are no funds for expansion of the infrastructure, and that the funds are used for maintenance, he noted that this is also an opportunity as efficiency is one of the most sought-after items in the new technologies. He also listed a number of applications of new technologies that his institution is testing in transport management, focused on mobile technologies, sensor systems and data-based management systems.

The final panelist, Mr. Moussa Kassis from Ohio’s Small Business Center spoke of the programs his organization provides to assist the development of SMEs in Ohio.

PERES Study Mission Meets With Ohio’s Top Research Institutes

As a part of the pilot study trip to USA, PERES team met with the representatives of Ohio Aerospace Institute and NASA Glenn Research Center, two main research centers in Ohio.

During the exhaustive presentations of the two institutions, the attendees had an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the capacities of these institutions, the research fields they are currently involved in and their applicability to the railway sector. These two meetings and contacts with these institutions provided new opportunities to the support transfer of technology and new value chains for the Rail Supply SMEs.

US Study Mission Visits Molded Fiberglass Companies

PERES study mission had an opportunity to visit and get introduced to Molded Fiberglass Companies (MFC), one of the leading manufacturers in the field of fiberglass materials.

The study mission was welcomed by Andy Juhola, Senior Vice President of the company, who introduced them to the company history, and its manufacturing program, focused mainly on automotive industry, as well as its activities in the railway sector. The mission had an opportunity to do a tour of company manufacturing facilities, and get acquainted with the technology, production process and receive information on the possibilities for cooperation.

Meeting Team NEO and JobsOhio

Moving to Cleveland, Ohio, PERES mission met with representatives of Team NEO and JobsOhio, two organizations operating in the area of business development and attracting new businesses and business partners to Ohio’s thriving economy.

At the preliminary evening meeting, hosted by the representatives of two Ohio-based organizations, members of the PERES study mission had an opportunity to receive general information on the state of Ohio, its economy, tax system and financial incentives in case they decide to expand their business activities into this US state.

PERES Meets With Metra, Chicago’s Largest Passenger Transport Operator

On the study visit to the USA, PERES team met with the top management of Metra, a railway operator that performs passenger transport in a wider Chicago metropolitan area. With 242 stations on 11 lines, Metra is the fourth-largest commuter railway system in the United States, and the busiest railway system outside of the New York metropolitan area.

In an open conversation with the top management of the company, PERES team was presented with the scope of Metra’s operation, its resources and the condition of its fleet. Metra’s management expressed a high interest in innovative technologies and openly stated issues that they are facing that could be solved by new solutions – their need to upgrade infrastructure such as bridges, signalling and telecommunication and desire to implement smart railway crossings in the future. With 866 gate crossings on their railways, they are looking for new ways of upgrading the security and safety.

Other important issues discussed were the need for technologies that would extend the life of rolling stock in view of Illinois climate conditions, but also new passenger information systems relying on mobile apps, as well as looking into an automated ticketing system that can function efficiently with Illinois legislation on train fares and ways to reduce fair evasion.

With certain designs of equipment are almost 70 years old, Metra representatives stressed they are aware of the need to innovate and update, and expressed an openness for new technologies.

The visit was concluded by a trip to Metra’s maintenance facility to familiarize with the design of Metra’s rolling stock and observe the refurbishment process.

PERES Team Visiting EMD

As a part of its study visit to the US, PERES team visited Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD), part of the Progress Rail, a Catepillar company, leading US manufacturer of diesel-electric locomotives based in Illinois.

During the meeting with the representatives of Progress Rail, PERES team were presented with the new trends and developments in the US railway industry, including the new focus on the modernization of locomotives, and the switch of DC to AC drive locomotives. They were also presented the developments in the company itself, chief among them the switch from a manufacturing and sales company, to rolling stock and locomotives leasing as the leasing became a trend in the US in the past years.

PERES team was also shown the areas in which company is focusing its research, such as data analytics, asset tracking of rolling stocks and locating defects as a part of predictive maintenance. Also, USA’s Automatic Train Operation (ATO) technologies were discussed and how they are integrated in the locomotives.

Special attention was given to the fields in which Progress Rail is open to innovations and collaboration with outside companies – fuel savings, application of drone technology, driver monitoring – especially facial recognition technologies to detect fatigue and distraction and train automation.