View of a series of underground tunnels under construction below New York City for the new Long Island Railroad to Queens, NY MTA Eastside Access Project (Click Image To Enlarge)
A LITTLE REMINDER OF WHAT’S GOING ON UNDERNEATH THAT GRAY’S PAPAYA.
It’s easy to take the subway for granted. Just like other subterranean marvels of engineering, it’s a system that’s deliberately hidden from view--you descend into a station, plunge into darkness, and arrive at your destination. In fact, you might forget you’re actually underground the whole time. But you are, and these new photos from the MTA serve as a nice reminder of how much work it takes to put you there.
New tunnels will be constructed from the LIRR Mainline tracks in Queens, under Amtrak'sSunnyside Yard and LIRR's Existing Rail Yard, connecting to the existing 63rd Street Tunnel just beyond Northern Blvd. In Manhattan, new tunnels will be bored from the existing bellmouth structure at Second Avenue and 63rd Street, west and then south, under Park Avenue and Metro-North Railroad's four-track right of way. (Click Image To Enlarge)
The pictures show the current progress of the MTA’s East Side Access project, one which doesn’t actually involve a subway but rather will connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal for the first time. It’s currently expected to open in 2019. It involves a lot of digging.
The MTA Eastside Access Project uses a variety of heavy-duty machines, including massive 200-ton boring machines that will be left in place after construction is completed (Click Image To Enlarge)
Workers busy working on the MTA Eastside Access Project underground tunnel construction (Click Image To Enlarge)
Undergrund subway escalator leading to the boarding platform for the new Long Island Rail Road line running from Grand Central Terminal to Queens, N.Y. (Click Image To Enlarge)
View of a still unfinished undergrund subway tube boredd through solid rock for the new Long Island Rail Road line running from Grand Central Terminal to Queens, N.Y.
Thankfully, we’re not just sending people down there with shovels. These types of tunnels are excavated using a variety of heavy-duty machines, including massive 200-ton drills that are so big, and so unwieldy, that in some cases it’s actually far less expensive to just leave them down there after they’re done working--which is exactly what they did with one such machine involved in the East Side Access project last year.
Underground tennel workers removing rock from new bored subway tunnels for the MTA Eastside Access Project running from Grand Central Station to Queens N.Y. (Click Image To Enlarge)
Slated for completion in 2019, it will eventually connect the Long Island Rail Road lines to Grand Central Terminal (Click Image To Enlarge)
Incredible view of a huge underground chamber bored from solid rock under the streets of New York for the new MTA Eastside Access Project (Click Image To Enlarge)
The photos serve as a nice reminder that when you’re taking the subway or traveling out of Grand Central, you really are underground (Click Image To Enlarge)
COMMENTARY: Now that's what I call a massive underground project. It's quite impressive to see the massive size of the underground tunnels and chambers bored using humongous boring machines and heavy drilling equipment. Can hardly wait to see the new Long Island Railroad extension from Grand Central Terminal to Queens, N.Y. when it is finally completed in 2019.
The MTA Capital Program provides the critical infrastructure investments that keep New York's transit system moving. In this video, you'll learn about the Capital Program's three major projects to extend the network for the first time in two generations: the Second Avenue Subway, East Side Access, and the 7 Subway Extension.
East Side Access Facts
$8.24 Billion Project
New 8 Track LIRR Terminal at Grand Central Terminal
22,000 square feet of new retail space
46 escalators and 13 elevators
Revenue service to begin August 2019
When completed, MTA's East Side Access project will bring Long Island Rail Road trains into Grand Central Terminal. Here's a one-minute explanation of the project.
What is the MTA EastSide Access Project (Click To View A Video)
SHANGHAI—China celebrated its bullet trains as the home-grown pride of a nation: a rail system faster and more advanced than any other, showcasing superior Chinese technology.
However, China's high-speed rail network was in fact built with imported components—including signaling-system parts designed to prevent train collisions—that local engineers couldn't fully understand, according to a review of corporate documents and interviews with more than a dozen rail executives inside and outside China.During a late July lightning storm, two of China's bullet trains collided in the eastern city of Wenzhou, killing 40 people and injuring nearly 200 in one of the world's worst high-speed passenger-rail accidents. China's government initially blamed flawed signaling and human error. It recently postponed public release of its crash findings.
The precise cause of the disaster remains uncertain, so there is no way to know what role, if any, the signaling assembly may have played.
An examination of China's use of foreign technology in its bullet-train signal systems highlights deep international distrust over China's industrial model, including weak intellectual-property protections, which can complicate efforts to acquire state-of-the-art technology.
Key signaling systems were assembled by Beijing-based Hollysys Automation Technologies Ltd., one of the few companies China's Ministry of Railways tapped to handle such work. In some cases of the signal systems it supplied, technology branded as proprietary to Hollysys contained circuitry tailor-made by Hitachi Ltd. of Japan to Hollysys specifications, according to people familiar with the situation.
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The problem, these people say, is that Hitachi—fearful that Chinese technicians might reverse-engineer and steal the technology—sold components with the inner workings concealed from Hollysys. Hitachi executives say this "black box" design makes gear harder to copy, and also harder to understand, for instance during testing.
A senior Hitachi executive said.
"It's still generally a mystery how a company like Hollysys could integrate our equipment into a broader safety-signaling system without intimate knowledge of our know-how."
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A rail signaling system is a complex assemblage of dozens of devices, circuits and software that helps train drivers and dispatchers keep everything running safely. As trains pass beacons along a route, known as "balise modules," information about location and speed are fed into the train-control network. According to Hollysys statements, it supplied key parts of the system including the onboard brain, the Automatic Train Protection, or ATP. Hitachi supplied Hollysys with a primary part of the ATP, according to Hitachi executives.
Hollysys didn't respond to requests for comment. Two days after the crash in July, Hollysys issued a statement confirming its ATP components were installed on both trains. Hollysys said its components "functioned normally and well."
A separate state-owned Chinese signaling company, which also works with foreign firms and supplies most of the gear to bullet-train projects, issued a statement around the same time expressing "sorrow" and pledging to accept its responsibility.
China's high-speed railway, budgeted at close to $300 billion, already challenges the travel time of jetliners between cities like Beijing and Shanghai, which are roughly as far apart as Philadelphia and Atlanta. The trains, with advertised cruising speeds on the fastest lines topping 215 miles per hour, are said to "fly on land," demonstrating a future where China is a recognized peer of the U.S., EU and Japan in big-ticket ingenuity. China is designing airliners to compete with Boeing Co. and nuclear reactors to challenge Toshiba Corp.'s Westinghouse Electric Co. It already exports high-speed rail equipment: This month it reached a deal to supply locomotives to the nation of Georgia.
In less than seven years, China has built a bullet-train network larger than the ones Japan and Germany took decades to construct. China is only about halfway through a 15-year plan to build a total of nearly 10,000 miles of high-speed track connecting 24 major cities.
Former Railways Minister Liu Zhijun declared four years ago.
"We aim at the world's top-notch technologies."
A few months before the July crash, Mr. Liu was fired after China's Communist Party accused him and other top officials of unspecified corruption. Mr. Liu couldn't be located for comment.
July's rail tragedy—in which two bullet trains collided during a storm, sending some cars plunging 65 feet from elevated tracks—is tarnishing China's effort to portray the project as technologically advanced and safety-minded. Among other things, the Ministry of Railways chose not to install lightning rods and surge protectors on some high-speed rail lines even as an industry association recommended doing so on major infrastructure projects, He Jinliang, director of China's National Lightning Protection Technology Standard Committee, said in July.
The Ministry of Railways didn't respond to requests for comment. Through state media and on its website, the ministry has stressed its attention to safety. A Sept. 5 statement said, "Our cadres should be leading the work, changing their style, going to the grass-roots level and trying to solve problems."
Last week, Chinese authorities reiterated their safety pledge after two subway trains in collided in Shanghai, injuring more than 280 people, in an accident blamed on errors after a power snafu knocked out signals, according to the subway operator.
From the initial days of the high-speed railway program, Beijing turned to local firms, including Hollysys, rather than foreign expertise. Hollysys says it is one of just two companies eligible to supply certain signaling technology for China's fastest trains. Ministry of Railways rules effectively forbid foreign companies from bidding.
Though new to high-speed rail, Hollysys became a central supplier of the signaling systems, circuits and software that are supposed to prevent the kind of accident that happened near Wenzhou by automatically stopping trains if trouble is detected.
Integrating signaling components is a challenge, particularly at the pace that China was expanding its rail network, train executives say.
Marc Antoni, technological innovation director at SNCF, the French national railway operator, which runs the high-speed TGV said.
"The problem is to put all these pieces of the puzzle into a coherent system."
Originally part of China's Ministry of Electronics, Hollysys in the 1990s became a privately owned business focused on "controls"—the technology that keeps factory assembly lines humming smoothly. In a Hollysys timeline of its railway achievements, the company says it won its first noteworthy high-speed-rail signaling contracts in 2005, about when China began construction.
A year later, in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Hollysys played down the importance of high-speed-rail signaling by describing it as "adjacent" to core operations in industrial controls. The sector was mentioned just once in a 300-plus page SEC filing in 2006, part of a successful effort by Hollysys to list its shares on Nasdaq through a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, a practice that involves adoption of a current listing by another company.
By late 2008 Beijing was speeding construction of its bullet trains in part to help power the Chinese economy through the global economic slump. Hollysys described itself in regulatory filings as one of just two companies that possessed "the capability" to supply the Ministry of Railways with signals on its fastest lines.
Hollysys became a tech darling and in September 2009 its chief financial officer, Peter Li, speaking to analysts, credited the Ministry of Railways' "very clear mandate of localizing the product." When an analyst asked whether he feared competition, Mr. Li said,
"Basically, foreign players are not allowed to bid independently for high-speed-rail projects."
The Ministry of Railways awarded Hollysys more than $100 million of high-speed-signaling contracts in 2010 alone, according to company statements. For the fiscal year ended this past June, Hollysys reported total revenue of $262.84 million.
The ministry also played matchmaker for Hollysys. When a leading Italian signaling company, Ansaldo STS, sought a business foothold in China, the Ministry of Railways indicated that it should be in the form of a partnership with Hollysys, according to Ansaldo spokesman Roberto Alatri.
A $97 million contract followed in July 2008 for a Hollysys-Ansaldo consortium to design, build and maintain signal-control systems on China's then-fastest train line, a 459-kilometer section linking the central China cities of Zhengzhou and Xian. The Hollysys portion was $22 million.
Hollysys had a longer relationship with Hitachi, which supplied the Chinese company components for high-speed rail signaling starting in 2005, the year Hollysys says it got its start in the business. The main cooperation was on the onboard ATP system, which Hollysys documents describe as components in the nose and tail of trains that act as its "last line of defense in safety."
The Hitachi-made ATP components came with a catch. Two Hitachi executives familiar with the matter said the company adopts what the industry refers to as "black box" security to conceal design secrets by withholding technical blueprints known in Japanese as zumen.
Black boxes make it tough to reverse-engineer the equipment. They can also make it more difficult to troubleshoot the gear, according to executives of several companies familiar with the practice in China.
A senior Hitachi executive said,
"Providing zumen means…we completely trust the buyer of our technology, with the understanding that the buyer would not become a competitive threat in other markets."
Hitachi doesn't always withhold its design secrets. When working with companies elsewhere on a common project, the senior executive said, it will provide the zumen, or blueprints, in some cases.
Hitachi executives say the arrangement with Hollysys wasn't a technology-transfer deal—in which it would be expected to share technical details—but rather a contractual arrangement to manufacture parts to specifications provided by Hollysys. Hitachi says it did provide "limited" technical support that is typical of contracts of this type.
A spokesman at Hitachi's headquarters in Tokyo, Atsushi Konno, said the company
"Hitachi has no comment about Hollysys's products, as we do not have any information as to what kind of end product Hollysys developed using our devices. We also provided technical explanation regarding those components, and we believe Hollysys, as a result, fully understands them."
The official confirmed that Hitachi supplied Hollysys some equipment for the signaling systems used aboard trains.
At least one installation of Hollysys components didn't go smoothly, according to one Europe-based engineer who worked on the job. An onboard Hollysys computer, part of the ATP called a driver machine interface, kept freezing, displaying old information.
Technical bugs aren't unusual when fine-tuning a train system, but the temporary fix was, according to the engineer. To avoid the embarrassment of canceling an opening ceremony, operators decided to begin passenger service on the high-speed line and assign one person in the train's cab the exclusive task of watching that the seconds continued to scroll on the computer's clock—thereby ensuring the device was functioning.
The problem was later fixed, the engineer said.
"It was a random failure that was not managed very well."
Dominique Pouliquen, head of Alstom SA's China operations, said China and its rail-equipment suppliers remain in the learning stages. Mr. Pouliquen told a small group of reporters last week. For China,
"You acquire the technology. Then you need to absorb it; you need to master it. I think it's all about absorption and fully mastering the whole technology that has been acquired over the last 10 years."
Alstom supplied, through a local joint venture, hardware for train dispatchers on the line where July's collision occurred. Mr. Pouliquen said the JV didn't provide any of the signaling technology that the Chinese government has said was possibly flawed.
In an August letter to shareholders, Hollysys Chief Executive Wang Changli cited the "tragic" Wenzhou accident and reiterated that Hollysys equipment wasn't to blame. China's biggest signaling company, Beijing-based China Railway Signal & Communication Corp., originated within China's railways bureaucracy. Shortly after the crash, a CRSC unit, Beijing National Railway Research & Design Institute of Signal and Communication, issued a statement of "sorrow" and pledged to "shoulder our responsibility."
CRSC hasn't commented about the accident directly, aside from a statement Aug. 23 stating that its top executive, 55-year-old Ma Cheng, collapsed and died during questioning by crash investigators.
Below is a video of Tifa, the very hot and busty Asian chef and star of the YouTube "Hot For Cooking" channel riding on one of the China's bullet trains. I just became a fan. Beats the hell out of those other celebrity chefs.
COMMENTARY: Hitachi's patent description is for a "Signaling safety system" or Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system and is protected by Japanese patents (2004, 2005) and in the U.S. by patent #7,201,350 issued on April 10, 2007.
According to Hollysis, Hitachi's signaling safety system or ATP is incorporated into their High-speed Rail Signaling System (300~350km/hr) which consists of an onboard component (installed on the trains) and ground-based (installed along the train tracks) and described on the Hollysis website as follows:
"The high-speed rail signaling system is mainly consisted of two products, one is on-board ATP or Automatic Train Protection) which is installed at the front and tail end of each train, the other is ground-based TCC (Train Control Center) stationed along the rail way track. TCC collects all the information about the track condition, speed limit, and etc., compiles it into a digital file and sends it over to on-board ATP, which generates a driving instruction curve, so that the high-speed rail train knows exactly what is expected in terms of speed, slope or turn before it enters the next radio block. ATP also functions as the last line of defense in safety, as it can trigger emergency break if it detects a danger ahead or potential collision. ATP in combination with TCC provides the crucial control elements in the high-speed railway signaling systems to ensure the safety and reliability of the high-speed railway traffic and operation. There are only four 300-350km/h high-speed rail lines in commercial operation in China today, which are Wuhan-Guangzhou, Zhengzhou-Xi’an, Shanghai-Nanjing, Shanghai-Hangzhou high-speed rail lines, among which Zhengzhou-Xi’an line was commissioned by Hollysys. Hollysys will continue to play a leading role in China’s 300-350km/h high-speed rail market, following our great success in 200-250km/h segment. Hollysys will leverage on this leading position to capture its fair share in China’s unprecedented high-speed rail build-out going forward."
If Hollysis engineers deliberately tried to "jimmy rig" or modify Hitacfhi's ATP components as a way to backward engineer it to meet their specific requirements, this could be a Hitachi patent violation. In any event, Hollysis' CEO has already reiterated that Hollysis equipment was not to blame.
Hollysis, is a publicly-traded company listed under NASDAQ:HOLI. HOLI's stock was battered in early trading, with investors dumping sharesfor unexplained reasons, and causing its price per share to drop by nearly 6% to $5.50. The company has dramatically improved its revenues, gross profits and after-tax profits over the last two years ending June 30 and appears to be financially sound.
On August 12, 2011, China's Ministry of Railways put a halt to further high-speed train projects while the bullet train crash is being investigated.
China CNR Corp Ltd has recalled 54 bullet trains used on the Beijing to Shanghai line for safety reasons.
The government’s handling of the crash triggered bold media coverage and public outrage.
Railway officials have blamed design flaws in the rail signal equipment as the cause of the accident.
The Minsitry of Railways also put a halt to further high speed projects whilst the crash is being investigated.
Operational bullet trains will run 40 to 50 kilometers below their top design speed as a safety precaution. The fastest speed one of these high speed trains is currently around 350 km p/h.