With urban density rising globally, it is expected that the total amount of urban kilometres travelled by passengers will triple by 2050. From the East to the West, countries are putting plans in place to transform their railways and meet increased demand. In the States, there is around 140,000 miles of track, meaning that rail infrastructure is a critical component of the country’s economic efficiency and growth. America is moving forward and taking strides in reinventing their systems. Recently there has been a massive push for investment in US rail infrastructure and things seem to be on the right track. Here’s everything you need to know about the latest developments.
Demand in the US
Growth in rail investment in the US has shot up rapidly in the last few years, so much so that we’ve opened an office in Chicago to manage client needs. We also have plans to open bases in Atlanta, and Los Angeles in the near future too. Right now, demand for tech-driven systems are high. In a survey conducted by the American Public Transportation Association, around 67% of respondents said that they would use high-speed rail if it were readily available. To meet projected future targets, it is estimated that the US rail industry will require an additional $200 billion in investments by 2035.
US rail infrastructure investment
So, what action has America taken to meet passengers’ demands? Recently, the US Department of Transportation agency, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), announced that it has approved more than $272m in grant funding to maintain railroad infrastructure.
The A-32 Bridge Replacement Project in Illinois will receive $17m, the South Station Expansion Tower 1 Early Action Project in Massachusetts will be provided with $41m, and Kalamazoo-Dearborn State of Good Repair Projects in Michigan will receive $23m.
The Piedmont Intercity Fleet and Infrastructure Investments Project in North Carolina will receive $76m, Newark Penn Station Platform D improvement works in New Jersey will get $18m, and Washington State Passenger Rail Car Replacement Project will be given $37m in funding.
Other projects to receive federal grants are located in the states of Louisiana ($3m), Pennsylvania (15m), Rhode Island ($12m) and Wisconsin ($25m).
The FRA’s Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program (SOGR Program) is devised to provide funding to refurbish or repair infrastructure in order to improve intercity passenger rail performance.
Skills shortage in US Rail
While the above investment is welcome news, we urge project managers to also invest time and money into building rail’s talent pool. It’s no secret that the US is suffering from a chronic shortage of railway engineers. In recent years in particular, the industry has been failing to attract the numbers it needs to replace the masses of workers who will be retiring in the near future. This dearth of talent threatens current and future project timescales and also puts pressure on the existing workforce. The US National Engineers Union says that some railroad operators are asking their staff to work six days a week because of the drought. Despite the American railroad sector having exciting projects in the pipeline, and working with emerging technologies to improve communications and safety, competition from other leading industries, particularly the energy arena, is hampering its ability to retain engineers.
How to address this problem
To ensure that American railways continue to thrive, we must address the skills shortage problem. While this certainly isn’t an overnight job, there are steps that we can take now to help encourage more people to consider a career in rail. For example, by making more noise about the investment going into US rail infrastructure, more people will be aware of the exciting roles available. As mentioned above, competition for talent is fierce, and as we all know, we’re living in a candidate-led market, so we must make opportunities as attractive as possible.
However, to truly make an impact and ensure that rail’s talent pools stay rich, we must inspire people early on, before they even begin thinking about their career choices. By entering schools, and educating children about the sector, rail can become a solid career of choice.
If you’d like to find out more about the work we do, get in touch today.