Railroad shipping/logistics technology: NS, GE partner up for rail IT innovation

Citing increased train speeds and productivity as its main drivers, a new IT application from GE Transportation, in conjunction with Norfolk Southern, vows to increase the average network speed of trains significantly.

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Citing increased train speeds and productivity as its main drivers, a new IT application from GE Transportation, in conjunction with Norfolk Southern, vows to increase the average network speed of trains significantly.

With this new software, entitled GE’s RailEdge Movement Planner, GE officials said it has the ability to increase the average network speeds of trains by 10-20 percent or two-to-four miles per hour. Company officials explained that one mile per hour in velocity improvements can save about $200 million annually in capital and expenses.

The strategic relationship between GE and NS goes back decades, with roughly 70 percent of current NS locomotives manufactured by GE, according to GE spokesman Stephan Koller.

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In an interview with LM, Koller explained that the need for this software is largely based on projected estimates that freight railroad volumes will double in the coming years. While it is not feasible to simply double the amount of tracking to meet that need, more needs to be done with the existing rail infrastructure.

“An innovative rail IT solution allows you to move more freight faster on an existing railroad infrastructure without laying any new track,” he said. “Norfolk Southern’s network is 21,000 route miles and runs roughly 2,500 locomotives per day. This [software] serves as a type of air traffic control system for the rails. We have been working on this with NS for about four years.”

Koller said that he expects NS to implement this software for all NS trains by the end of 2012. NS used the software on a 200-mile section of its railroad in Georgia, and Norfolk Southern is expanding the technology’s use to its entire 22-state rail network through 2012, according to company officials. In Georgia, this software has helped NS increase the average network speed train velocity of its trains by 10-20 percent, representing a significant opportunity for cost savings and train delay reductions.
In terms of how GE’s RailEdge Movement Planner functions, it integrates railroad logistics with traffic control systems and projects expected track usage based on train schedules, according to GE. It then produces an optimized plan for trains to move faster and more efficiently, as well as improve railroad crew management availability by maximizing existing railroad resources.

Benefits shippers can expect from this software include faster transit times, with train delays being cut by about half, said Koller. He also noted that GE is “in active discussions” with other railroads—both freight and passenger—in North America and international markets, regarding this software.

“With railroads, it’s about scale,” said Wick Moorman, CEO of Norfolk Southern, in a statement. “GE’s RailEdge supports incremental routing and speed improvements down to the individual train level. That will add up to sizeable efficiency gains on a 2,500-train per day, 21,000-route mile system like ours. When we make the best use of our existing transportation infrastructure, that’s a competitive advantage for our customers and for the country.”

 


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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