Production of next-generation Acela Express fleet underway
Stadler unveils TEX Rail Flirt DMU
Siemens invests in remote monitoring specialist Wi-Tronix
DB consortium selected for California high speed rail
Judge puts the skids on state’s proposed rail trail
Amtrak's CEO shares his vision for rail's future
Flight Rail: a new type of train?
America’s short lines play the long game
New York rail operator bolsters security after London bombing
The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus, a pandemic, and the U.S. has declared a National Emergency. The global railway industry has been responding. Following is a staff report from the editors at Railway Age, Railway Track & Structures and International Railway Journal that will be continuously updated with the latest developments, the most significant posted up top.
U.S. and CANADIAN DEVELOPMENTS
“Recognizing the industry’s responsibility to both the nation and their [employees], railroads maintain and routinely review their pandemic response plans that have addressed other events, including the  H1N1 outbreak,” AAR said. “Since news of COVID-19’s spread in early January 2020, railroads and their Chief Medical Officers have been working together to update and adapt their plans to specifically address the need to contain, mitigate and respond to the coronavirus outbreak in line with most recent recommendations coming out of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“The industry holds daily calls among cross-functional teams to share information and best practices to keep their railroad employees and their families — as well as the larger community — safe. Railroads are also in constant communication with the federal partners at the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security and the White House as well as state and local officials on evolving public health developments and efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
“Freight railroads are taking significant precautions to protect the health and well-being of their employees. These efforts include providing employees with timely and accurate information on protecting themselves and their families through effective hygiene practices; directing employees to stay home if they are sick; communicating with employees and facility partners about workplace spatial distancing and mitigation strategies recommended by the CDC; expanding the frequency of cleaning and sanitation in railroad headquarters, maintenance facilities, dispatch and operations centers as well as on locomotives and rail equipment; and restricting domestic and international employee air travel.
“To increase [social] distance between employees, railroads are doing the following to limit potential exposure to the virus: Transitioning employees not directly involved in train operations to telework arrangements in order to reduce density at work locations, especially at highly populated headquarters; restricting access to mission-critical locations such as operations and dispatching centers to only essential staff who must be present to perform their duties; and activating secondary dispatch and operation locations to expand social distancing efforts and maintain vital functions.”
NRC (National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association): On March 19, the Department of Homeland Security CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) issued a memorandum, “Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce,” on the identification of such workers during COVID-19 response. “The list in this link identifies workers who conduct a range of operations and services that are essential to continued critical infrastructure viability, including staffing operations centers, maintaining and repairing critical infrastructure, operating call centers, working construction, and performing management functions, among others,” noted NRC President Ashley Wieland. “As it pertains to NRC members, the list includes workers responsible for operating dispatching passenger, commuter and freight trains and maintaining rail infrastructure and equipment; and employees who repair and maintain vehicles, aircraft, rail equipment, marine vessels, and the equipment and infrastructure that enables operations that encompass movement of cargo and passengers.”
NEW JERSEY TRANSIT: At the agency’s most recent board meeting, it was reported that ridership had declined by 20%. Railway Age Contributing Editor David Peter Alan, a daily user of NJT services, reports: “Observations over the past week showed historically light ridership on NJT trains, and unofficial reports said that counts on some