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VIA Rail Canada to begin testing fuel-saving software in train operations

By | November 25, 2022

Move comes after test of AI program in simulators shows potential 15% reduction in fuel use

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Passenger train on multi-track main line
Passenger train on multi-track main line
A Toronto-bound VIA express from Montreal near Kingston, Ontario, in 2012. VIA will begin testing fuel-saving software using artificial intelligence on some trains. Bob Johnston

MONTREAL — VIA Rail Canada will extend a pilot program using artificial intelligence to reduce fuel consumption, following a six-month trial that showed potential fuel savings of up to 15%.

VIA, in a collaboration with Transport Canada and Innovative Solutions Canada Testing, originally started working with start-up company RailVision Analytics to test EcoRail software that provides recommendations to locomotive engineers to reduce fuel usage.

The six-month trial was conducted in simulators. The program will now be extended to test the application in actual train operations.

“This AI pilot project perfectly exemplifies our determination to find new and different ways to reimagine the way Canadians travel from reservation to destination,” Michael Brankley, VIA vice-president, railway operations, said in a press release. “I would like to thank Transport Canada for their support and collaboration and RailVision Analytics for accompanying us on our journey to contributing to a more sustainable future.”

The software monitors driving behavior between stations to seek improvements that will allow for reduced fuel use, considering factor such as equipment use, season, and schedule, to recommend train-handling behavior without impacting travel time.

7 thoughts on “VIA Rail Canada to begin testing fuel-saving software in train operations

  1. Yes. It will also mean a rougher ride for passengers as engineers will now be penalized for stretch braking and anything else conducive to controlling slack. It doesn’t matter if you knocked 80 y.o. grandma down. You saved us a couple of dollars in fuel. As for TO I find it interesting when the railroad gets in a bind a certain unnamed Class 1 will tell the engineers to run manually. And lets not forget that wonderful German dispatcher Otto Router. One dispatcher says that AI dispatching system is like a bad child. He had things all lined up and went to the restroom. When he came back he discovered auto router had changed all his work and trains were stopped everywhere. Mine was one of them.

  2. Just like the class 1’s in the US and the horrible, mis-named “Trip Optimization”. “TO” runs trains significantly slower all for fuel savings. Trip Rates are a loss now for TYE Crew’s. Trip rates were initially implemented to get crews out the door, on their trains, and across the road as quickly as possible. Now, the RR’s look at the crews as a 12 hour captive employee and they turn a 6 – 8 hour trip into a full 12 hour’s, slowing every train down, to save fuel. Fuel savings trumps everything out here, be it customer satisfaction, delivery times, crossings blocked, crew shortage, you name it. I’ve been on 60 MPH intermodal trains that run no faster than 20 – 25 MPH in notch 2 or 3, adding hours on to each leg of the trip. We would be much better off working on an hourly rate now that we’re forced to use this TO. TO absolutely SUCKS.

    1. When Trip Optimizer was first being promoted (forced by penalties) for use by engineers, some train dispatchers derisively coined the term “Trip Lobotomizer”.

  3. Don’t you love newspeak? “…ways to reimagine the way Canadians travel.” Would have made a great skit on SNL, years ago when SNL was still funny.

    1. I can reimagine that Canadians fall over each other to ride the only train to the Maritimes or the only train west. Which run triweekly or whatever I no longer even know the schedules

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