ENSCO, United States, has confirmed it will begin the transition of management of the Transportation Technology Centre (TTC), located in Pueblo, Colorado, from April 1, with full operation commencing on October 1.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) had managed the site since 1982, predominantly through its wholly-owned subsidiary Transportation Technology Centre Inc (TTCI). The site is owned by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and consists of more than 80km of test tracks and specialised laboratories for testing locomotives, vehicles, track components and communications and signalling devices.

During a webinar on February 23, Mr Ron Lang, Ensco director, track inspection services, said that the contract is initially for five years, with three five-year extensions available. He said that all services that have been provided at the TTC will continue to be offered by Ensco “plus some new and expanded services.”

Lang said Ensco was currently recruiting staff to work at TTC from October 1, including locomotive engineers, maintenance staff and in operations.

He said that Ensco will introduce its own software modelling programmes, replacing those in use, which are the intellectual property of TTCI.

Lang said that Ensco has “developed partnerships with key organisations” for the site, with Sharman & Associates providing experience in rolling stock, operations and vehicle design. Atkins will provide train control and communications and Ambipar will operate the hazmat response school located at the site. Ensco has also partnered with the Centre for Surface Transportation and Academic Research (C-STTAR) consortium, a group of eight universities and academic research centres from across the United States, to provide the consortium with an opportunity or location to conduct field research and testing.

The SRI programme

AAR’s Strategic Research Initiatives (SRI) programme is being conducted at the TTC by TTCI.

Lang told the webinar that Ensco has made an offer to TTCI to stay on the site to continue the SRI programme, with competitive rates. “We believe the best place for the SRI programme is at the TTC,” he said.

However, TTCI president and CEO Ms Kari Gonzales told IRJ on February 24 that it had rejected Ensco’s proposal. “With all due respect to what Ensco’s understanding of what is commercially reasonable in this market and for this programme, TTCI concluded that the terms it was offered to continue to run the AAR SRI programme at the TTC under the new and distinctly different contract were unacceptable,” Gonzales says.

TCCI announced plans for a new Pueblo facility on April 26 2021 and Gonzales confirmed that PuebloPlex will open in autumn 2022 as planned. This will be a dedicated engineering and laboratory facility and involves forming a new partnership with the Public Economic Development Corporation (PEDCO). The site will feature a high tonnage loop for accelerated service testing, curve negotiation loops as well as additional track infrastructure necessary to support AAR certification testing. A new Security and Emergency Response Training Centre (SERTC) will also be in operation at the new facility and this will serve as TCCI’s hazmat response training facility.

“Relocating TTCI’s operations to PuebloPlex allows us to continue to serve the industry and conduct research in an environment that protects the confidentiality and integrity of our research and our rail customers’ interests," Gonzales says. “The success of the SRI programme is built upon TTCI’s experts and our relationships with industry stakeholders. Our team is excited to keep our industry moving forward throughout this transition and when our new facilities open in fall 2022.”