MTA Metro-North Railroad, is a suburban commuter rail service run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority(MTA), a public authority of the U.S. State of New York and under contract with the Connecticut Department of Transportation. In October 2022, we piloted the first operational 60-mph LaserTrain and safely cleaned over 12,000 miles.

Pilot Overview

Metro-North’s “Comet III” is the is the first ever LaserTrain worldwide deployed at 60 mph during service hours, and enabled Metro-North to clean territory at least once a day. The LaserTrain ‘Passenger Design’ was selected, which allowed for a standard retro-fit into a Bombardier Comet III MNCW 5010. Installation of the design took approximately 5 weeks.

In progress from October 12th 2022, the main objective of the 7-week pilot was to see if the LaserTrain can effectively clean leaf contamination from the rail at 60mph at 24-hour cleaning intervals. The LaserTrain ran 20 hours per day, 110 shifts in total.

In an effort to cover even more network and enable all vital parts of the network to be cleaned every 24 hours, we increased the power and cleaning speed from 60mph. To do this, a rethink of optical components was needed. We studied long-duration heat effects, improved cooling and reduction of contamination on the system itself while preserving the laser safety.  

Improvements were implemented in the third quarter of the season and significantly improved the quantity and quality of the cleaning process. The LaserTrain was effective, with best case scenario showed a 70% reduction was seen in slip-slides around 24 hours, with a 55% reduction at 48 hours.

Performance Results

• A 40% average decrease in slip and slide incidents, saving up to $1.6 million  
• 12,132 miles safely covered without incident to infrastructure
• The lowest number of cars shopped for wheel truing in seven years
• The lowest cost wheel true season on record
• On-time performance was at 97.0% in November (above the 94% goal)
• Improved safe braking

In addition, Metro North won the gold award for Rail Safety, Commuter/Intercity Rail from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Nominations are evaluated on four criteria: effectiveness, benefit level, innovation, and transferability. The top honour is the Gold Award, and a Certificate of Merit is given to organizations to recognize exceptional achievement in safety, security or emergency management.

Looking Forward: 2023 And Beyond

Following the success of the pilot, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board approved a contract that will allow Metro-North Railroad to continue to use the LaserTrain to fight the negative impact of fallen leaves during the fall season. The total contract includes a two-year base plus one year option.

Additional updates to LaserTrain software will minimise slip-slide to a manageable level. These include cutting the time it takes to start cleaning after crossing switches to 2 seconds. By leveraging Metro North's GIS team we can now clean even closer to known track obstacles by nearly 20%.

Moving into Slip-slide season 2023 Metro-North staff have received training to manage the LaserTrain maintenance, with LPS support on remote monitoring. The “Comet III” LaserTrain has been wrapped to make it more visible to passers-by.

2023 Results

More information to follow in 2024! 

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