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Rail Roundup: Green initiatives, Windy City rehab

Partnerships to further rail abound among companies, public and private entities

A Union Pacific train. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Union Pacific, Shell sign agreement on green initiatives

Union Pacific and energy producer Shell have signed a memorandum of understanding that could help both companies reduce greenhouse gas emissions and eventually reach a 2050 goal of net-zero emissions.

UP (NYSE: UNP) also says it is seeking to reduce GHG emissions by 26% by 2030. 

The areas that the two companies plan to work together on include:

  • Increasing biofuel blends and renewable fuel blends in locomotives.
  • Examining renewable energy use in fleet vehicles and facilities. 
  • Recycling used rail ties into biofeedstocks.
  • Investigating alternative locomotive propulsion systems.
  • Exploring energy efficiency through a pilot of Shell’s remote sense oil performance monitoring technology.

“We’re thrilled to kick off an exciting new phase in our relationship, one that explores research and development, and pushes us to try things that could have a meaningful impact on Union Pacific’s efforts to further reduce GHG emissions,” said Beth Whited, UP executive vice president for sustainability and strategy in a statement. “While rail is already one of the most environmentally responsible ways to move freight, locomotive technology needs to evolve and we need partners, like Shell, who can help the entire industry think about the future in new ways.”

Carlos Maurer, Shell’s (NYSE: SHEL) executive vice president for sectors and decarbonization.  said, “This new relationship with Union Pacific has potential to unlock some unique synergies in low-carbon product development. We are excited to see what new solutions emerge that could decarbonize the railroad sector.” 

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Chicago rail bridge rehabilitation project gets $70M in federal funding

A 2-mile stretch of railroad track in Chicago will be modernized to facilitate the flow of freight rail through the region, thanks to a $70 million federal grant.

Administering the project is the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Chicago Region Environment and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) program, a public-private partnership among the six Class I railroads, passenger rail and state and local governments.

The project entails modernizing the Westside Gateway, Ogden Junction, which is also known as WA1. The project will involve repairing, replacing or eliminating 16 railroad bridges, many of which are more than 100 years old, according to CREATE.

These bridges are located on Union Pacific’s Rockwell line, which runs along Rockwell Avenue between Fulton and 16th streets. The viaducts below the bridges, which are roughly the same age as the bridges, will also be repaired and repainted, CREATE said. Some viaducts will also be raised in height.

Federal funding came from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant program, known popularly as the INFRA grant program.

The Chicago region is significant for freight rail because it serves as a major interchange point between the eastern and western U.S. railroads. The region historically has been prone to delays, due in part to seasonal weather conditions, the amount of traffic coming through the region and limited land resources available to handle the traffic.

The project to replace the bridges is part of a wider CREATE project that will also involve replacing, rehabilitating, removing or upgrading signaling along the 2-mile stretch, as well as building 10,000 feet of new track. The overall cost for the project is $170 million. 

The signaling upgrade entails the installation of a bidirectional computerized traffic control system on the 2-mile stretch, as well as the conversion of seven hand-thrown switches to power switches. New control points within the area will also enable simultaneous movements among UP (NYSE: UNP), CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) and Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) while allowing for more efficient and safer operating speeds, CREATE said. 

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Railway Supply Institute and Canadian and European counterparts form pact

U.S.-based Railway Supply Institute (RSI) has signed an MOU with Canadian and European counterparts to facilitate collaboration between railway supply industry organizations.

The Canadian Association of Railway Suppliers (CARS) and the European Rail Supply Industry Association are the organizations joining RSI.

A joint release from this week says the MOU will enable the three entities to cooperate across several areas, including public procurement, global standards and skills. The collaboration will help foster the health and future of the industry, they said. 

“The railway supply industry in Canada, the United States and Europe are strategic manufacturing sectors. Currently, significant investment in rail projects is occurring on both sides of the Atlantic. This MOU further solidifies the recognition that rail is the greenest and safest means of moving both people and freight,” said CARS President Sylvia Newell in a news release. 

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Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.