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.