2023 Midwest Rail Conference explores conference theme “Optimizing Rail Investment”

August 18th, 2023

Andreas Hoffrichter, Head of the Center for Net Zero Transformation in Rail and Transit, shared the latest insights on decarbonization at the Midwest Rail Conference in Toledo, Ohio on August 15th.


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The third Midwest Rail Conference (MRC) took place as an in-person event with over 150 participants and 30 professional industry speakers from August 14-16, 2023, the University of Toledo. Under the chairmanship of Nick Little and Tom Burns, the MRC welcomed a series of decision-makers and experts, including Keynote Speaker, Administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration, Amit Bose, and diverse voices from regional public and private entities.

This year’s conference focused on “Optimizing Rail Investment”. The Midwest is home to an extensive rail network with Chicago as the national rail hub for freight and expansive rail passenger service. Class I railroads, short lines, and passenger routes spread across states like Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin. With increasing demand for freight traffic and new federal funding to expand passenger services, issues such as congestion, safety, and investment dominate dialogue in the rail industry. The conference provided a platform for presentations and panel discussions on relevant topics around “Optimizing Rail Investment” such as “Passenger and Freight projects” to “planning efforts” to “decarbonization”.

Customized decarbonization solutions must be tailored to meet the specific needs of organizations

Andreas Hoffrichter and Paul Lewis, Principal, at the conference.

Andreas Hoffrichter, Head of the Center for Net Zero Transformation in Rail and Transit, shared the latest insights and strategies on decarbonization for the rail industry, alongside industry experts Marcin Taraszkiewicz, Rail and Transit Vehicle Technology Lead for HDR Consulting, Jamie Helmer, Director of Fuel Efficiency Norfolk Southern, and Melissa Shurland, Program Manager  Federal Railroad Administration. Moderated by Nick Little, Director of Railway Education Michigan State University, the panel highlighted the latest advancements in zero-emissions rail.

His presentation on decarbonization highlighted the complex landscape of zero-emissions power solutions available for the rail sector. Andreas stressed that decarbonization solutions must be tailored to meet the specific needs of organizations. He also discussed the use of batteries, hydrogen, and wayside electrification to reach zero emissions at point-of-use. Andreas stressed that based on existing limitations, there is no one-size-fits-all solution currently available. Full wayside electrification is the only solution that can provide the same operational performance as diesel with zero point-of-use emissions, while also offering the potential for very high-density service and/or high-speed rail. If electrification is not feasible, hydrogen fuel cell solutions are the closest in terms of operational range to diesel. Batteries can also be very effective in reducing and eliminating point-of-use emissions, though they require shorter operating ranges and specific schedules, such as traditional commuter operations.

Andreas also underscored other available technologies, such as renewable diesel, that offer substantial greenhouse gas reduction potential while utilizing existing rail equipment. Renewable diesel, for example, can be implemented quickly without any change in operations or service, and minimal impact to operating costs.

Net Zero Emission Center

At DB E.C.O. North America our net zero center guides rail and transit agencies and businesses across North America as they transition to net-zero mobility. Through our comprehensive support, clients achieve success in all major transition phases, including emissions modeling, techno-economic appraisals, fleet procurements, renewable electricity, and net-zero stations and facilities solutions. If you are interested in learning more about our work please contact Chris Beringer, christopher.beringer@db-eco.us

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