Railway Improvements with Little Environmental ImpactWed, 10/21/2015 - 17:31
Railways have proven to be responsible for significant energy savings by effectively replacing thousands of road transport units. A train can move a tonne of freight over 700km with less than 4l of fuel. However, while Mexico’s strategic location gives it access to some of the largest markets in the world, its railway system still leaves much to be desired. This is why Kansas City Southern (KCS) is spearheading the environmentally-friendly development of Mexico’s railway infrastructure, of benefit to many industries, including mining.
Kansas City Southern de México (KCSM) provides a direct connection between the US and the country’s logistical nerve centers. Its International Intermodal Corridor begins in the port of Lazaro Cardenas and runs throughout 15 Mexican states, connecting the main industrial areas with the rest of North America. It also provides the shortest route from the Pacific coast to the US border at Nuevo Laredo. KCSM has poured continuous investment into the strengthening of its infrastructure as it works to address the logistical needs of its customers on both sides of the Mexico-US border. One example of this dedication was the expansion of its intermodal terminals, providing a greater capacity for loading and unloading as well as a new control system for entering and exiting terminals. The company is convinced that Mexico has the potential to attract public-private investment schemes that will stimulate new rail projects around the country. This belief instigated a plan to build four new bypasses, specifically for freight trains passing through urban areas, between 2013 and 2018. An additional 371km of railways will also be built and upgraded during this period of time. KCSM expects these improvements to have wide-ranging impacts, such as improving security and providing better support for nearby communities. Outside of its own offerings, the company also cites the transformation of Mexico’s ports as being a major shot in the arm for the railway sector. “Veracruz, Altamira, Manzanillo, and Lazaro Cardenas have all become world-class ports, contributing an additional nine freight terminals with varying specializations. More terminals mean more potential capacity, something which KCSM intends to capitalize on by increasing its annual movement of containers from 5 million to 5.8 million,” says José Zozoya, President of KCSM.
In 2013, KCSM’s investments amounted to more than US$137 million, marking a 6% increase in overall investment over the past five years. In total, it has invested over US$3 billion in the concession, as well as on the maintenance of its network, the purchase of new technology and equipment, and its transport infrastructure. Even with such massive growth and development, Zozoya says that KCSM operates under a commitment to health, safety, security, and the environment (HSSE). “Our HSSE commitment outlines the guiding principles which make KCS a greener and cleaner company. KCS is also combining its efforts with other Association of American Railroads members to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 1% on an annual basis. We have proved our capability to be environmentally friendly when, between 2002 and 2011, we decreased our rate of emissions by 30.5%, whilst seeing a revenue-to-miles increase of 51%.” Additional internal changes include a fuel savings program, the replacement of mercury vapor lights with high output fluorescent lights, the introduction of propane powered vehicles, solar powered switches, diesel-electric locomotives, and the retrofitting of old engines with a system called Auto Engine Start Stop (AESS), which will reduce fuel consumption by an average of 7,000 gallons per locomotive a year.
Zozoya is also proud of the way that KCSM instills environmental responsibility within its customer base. It does so by recognizing and rewarding customers which have avoided the most emissions with an environmental award. This incentive has helped the railway company’s clients achieve a reduction of approximately 500,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases from being released during operations. “KCSM invests in and develops programs that help us, and indeed our customers, to complete the important task of reducing carbon emissions,” explains Zozoya. “Avoiding the generation of CO2 emissions is a goal that businesses, governments, and the public must embrace on their own. The implementation of small changes in our day-to-day activities, or our big projects, will allow us to achieve a sustainable future for all of Mexico.”