TRANSPLAN 21 conference and rally for rail
June 14, 15 on Capitol Hill Washington, D.C.

Vol. 6 No. 12
March 21, 2005

Copyright © 2005
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Destination:Freedom
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IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

 

BigBoy Why is this Union Pacific Big Boy moving from one part of Omaha to another? The answers appear in today’s “Off the main line.”


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Amtrak 303 at Kirkwood, MO

For NCI: John Witthaus

Amtrak’s southbound Ann Rutledge, No. 303, pauses briefly to pick up a few folks at Kirkwood, Mo., 13 miles south of St. Louis, on Union Pacific’s Jefferson City Subdivision on March 12. The train left Chicago’s Union Station – milepost 0.0 – at 8:25 a.m., and for anyone traveling end-to-end, it will be a nearly 12-hour ride. The train stops at MP 297 for a couple of minutes around 4:00 p.m., and, if it stays on time, will arrive in Kansas City at 9:10 p.m., MP 567. The Senate debated Amtrak funding last week, and Amtrak itself was concerned with timekeeping as well as funding. The stories are below.

 

Senate turns down Amtrak;
House finds friends for it

By Leo King
Editor

Last week was significant for Amtrak – the Senate debated funding the railroad at $1.4 billion for fiscal year 2006, but the measure failed, 46-52. The Bush administration brought to the table about a month ago when its board of directors failed to provide a dollar figure in the budgetary process.

The “Byrd Amendment” was introduced by Sen. Robert Byrd, Jr. (D-W.Va.), which would have authorized continued Amtrak funding for the next fiscal year.

Many Republicans, including Trent Lott (R-Miss.), stated they were committed to Amtrak, but did not feel this was the best venue in which to debate the issue.

The amendment was cosponsored by 23 senators, mostly Democrats. Two Republican senators from the Northeast, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, also voted for it, The AP reported.

In his 2006 budget, President Bush proposed eliminating Amtrak’s operating subsidy and setting aside $360 million to run trains along the Northeast Corridor if the railroad ceased operating. In the current budget year that ends September 30, Amtrak is getting $1.2 billion in operating subsidies and capital investment.

USDOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said, after the vote was recorded,

“The Senate’s rejection of the Byrd Amendment signals that it is ready to begin an earnest discussion on the best way to undertake desperately needed reforms to put intercity passenger rail on a stable footing for the future. I look forward to working closely with the Congress on the President’s proposal to rebuild the Northeast Corridor, revitalize Amtrak and partner with the states in improving passenger rail.”

One day earlier, Sen. John Carper (D-Del.) brought a rally to Washington’s Union Station, which is also where Amtrak’s headquarters are located. Among the speakers was Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. He told the pro-Amtrak crowd, “It is a rare day in Washington when elected officials, business leaders, and labor stand united on an issue, but it shows you not only how essential Amtrak is to this country, but how universally unpopular, how blatantly out of step, the Bush plan is with the needs of the American people.

The unionist added, “The Bush transportation budget that came out last month could be one of the worst transportation budgets by any President. It slashes airports and aviation by $600 million, and eliminates intercity rail service throughout the country. It’s a big country, Mr. President, you can’t always walk it.”

Wytkind added, “Bankrupting Amtrak would be a slap in the face to the 20,000 workers who have done everything possible to keep the carrier operating.”

Rumor mill says Amtrak
demise is close

Railroaders around Amtrak were upset last week by a persistent rumor that the Amtrak board of directors were working to dismantle the carrier.

An unnamed person allegedly attended staff meetings at the railroad’s operation center in Delaware last week.

The unconfirmed report stated there had been a board meeting there, and “within ten days the fulfillment of the requirement for a 180-day notice to the states for discontinuance of all the long distance trains will be announced.”

The unconfirmed report also stated David Gunn has been given a gag order. Another person allegedly added that a board meeting was officially scheduled for March 17 and therefore doubts that anything has been done (yet).

Yet another unconfirmed report stated board member Enrique Sosa is very angry with Gunn, and that he’s been under wraps ever since.

Responding to a query from D:F, Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black in Washington said, “If we responded to every rumor that went around, I supposed that's all we'd be doing. The last Board meeting was February 3; the next one is tomorrow, March 17. Neither of them at CNOC.”

A similar query to Amtrak chairman David Laney drew the response, “Interesting, entertaining questions. What on earth prompted them?”

The answer was, “A trusted source who works for the railroad, quoting others.”

Supporters of the measure said the White House plan would strand both urban commuters and residents of far-flung rural regions. The backers included Sens. Jon Corzine and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, and Carper – but Republican Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island also signed on as cosponsors, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services reported.

“The intent of the administration and some in Congress is not to improve intercity rail service,” said Corzine.

“It is not about promoting economic growth, reducing road congestion or promoting American commerce either. It is ideological and it is wrong.”

The New York Times noted Amtrak supporters staged the rally, saying talk of bankruptcy might become a self-fulfilling prophecy, even if Congress eventually allocated money.

“You talk bankruptcy, and you cause bankruptcy,” said Patrick H. Hays, the mayor of North Little Rock, Ark., speaking on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

President Bush proposed in February that Amtrak’s federal funding be eliminated and the rail line be placed in bankruptcy as a prelude to restructuring. While the White House had proposed sharp funding cuts in the past, it had never before suggested bankruptcy.

That tactic appears to have galvanized Amtrak supporters, who say it would disrupt service for intercity rail passengers and local mass transit trains that run on Amtrak lines.

“The idea of putting Amtrak into bankruptcy to reform it just doesn’t make sense,” Corzine said.

The White House has released few details of its proposal, but based on comments by Mineta, it appears to be modeled on a 2003 plan – which died from lack of support – under which the federal government would have ended Amtrak operating subsidies in favor of grants to the states to upgrade tracks, bridges and other rail infrastructure.

States would have had the option of joining with one another to provide long-distance service, and of contracting with private companies to run the trains – but they would have had to shoulder some operating costs, the thinking being that well-patronized long-distance lines would survive while state governments would abandon little-used, marginal ones.

Earlier in the day, Corzine joined Sens. Carper, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Max Baucus of Montana and Chafee at the rally.

The Wall Street Journal observed that Amtrak is dependent on the federal government for about a third of its annual operating budget, as well as occasional bailouts.

Commuter trains could be sharply affected by the new Bush administration proposal. Those trains, from California to Illinois to Pennsylvania, depend on Amtrak tracks, facilities or personnel for all or part of their trips. Amtrak owns big downtown stations in Chicago, New York and Washington where commuter trains stop for passengers, and Amtrak dispatchers direct some of Boston’s commuter trains.

“They talk about shutting down Amtrak, but the hurt would be on the commuter side,” says Dale Zehner, chief executive of Virginia Railway Express, which uses Amtrak crews to operate its trains between northern Virginia and Washington’s Union Station.

Beyond commuter trains, the current pressures would certainly have ramifications for Amtrak’s intercity service, including long-haul trains that connect hundreds of cities and smaller towns around the country.

The National Assn. of Railroad Passengers reported shortly before the Senate vote that Lott pledged not to let Amtrak fall into bankruptcy.

“He said he wanted to develop an Amtrak reauthorization bill that provided funding certainty for fiscal 2006 and beyond,” said NARP executive director Ross Capon.

Some Republican offices, he said, complained that the Byrd amendment “simply raised the discretionary cap” (i.e., spending) and that the “offsets” were bogus. Offsets are spending reductions needed to make an amendment “revenue neutral.”

In this amendment, the offsets were increasing revenues by closing corporate tax loopholes. Also, there was said to be no guarantee that the money would go to Amtrak.

The pro-passenger rail organization noted, “To quote a scroll on the bottom of C-SPAN today, “This is an internal document that does not set funding levels and does not go to the President for his signature.”

Reuters reporter John Crawley noted, “While the decision is not the final word, Amtrak supporters said the sentiment of the Senate and the administration’s insistence on striking the subsidy could make it much harder to compete against other funding priorities and win substantial funding as the budget process evolves this spring.”

Delaware’s Carper said, “With this amendment we had a chance to send a strong signal that we were opposed to the Administration’s plan to bankrupt Amtrak.”

Amtrak had no comment on the Senate vote.

Byrd said before the vote the Bush administration’s plan will not create a more streamlined railroad. “It’s a recipe for a dead, dead, dead railroad,”

Sen. Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican who is a long-time Amtrak supporter and chairman of a Commerce subcommittee with authority over rail issues, signaled that substantial rail funding was possible.

“I am committed to trying to find a way to find a reliable stream of funds for Amtrak so its future can be certain and it does not have to depend on annual appropriations,” Lott said.

Meanwhile, while most reporters were concentrating on the Senate, pro-Amtrak forces were busy in the House. Ted Mann of the New London Day reported on March 17 Amtrak supporters scored a preliminary victory Wednesday when powerful U.S. House Republicans bucked President Bush and included $1.2 billion in operating subsidies for the national rail line in their proposed budget.

The late-afternoon announcement was a coup for Connecticut Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.), and a score of other House Republicans who have publicly criticized Bush’s proposal to eliminate Amtrak’s federal subsidy, which would effectively bankrupt the system.

The House Budget Resolution being debated last week includes the $1.2 billion for train operations, Simmons’ staff said, the same amount being spent by Amtrak in the current fiscal year.

It was the end of a long day of train negotiations for Simmons, who also hammered out a deal with Amtrak officials in Washington to delay by six months a multi-billion-dollar increase in the access fees charged to the state of Connecticut for the right to operate Shoreline East service.

Simmons was jubilant Wednesday, beginning a telephone interview by blowing repeatedly on a train whistle.

“We had a long ‘come-to-Jesus’ meeting with them this afternoon,” he said of his meeting with officials from Amtrak’s planning and government affairs departments, “and we got some good news.”

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell had publicly appealed to Simmons, who sits on the railroad subcommittee of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, for help last week, as the state faced a more than 600 percent increase in the access fee for Shoreline East.

The state’s operating agreement with Amtrak expires June 30, and Amtrak officials had proposed an increase in the fee from $847,000 to $5.3 million per year.

Under the agreement reached Wednesday, the current operating agreement will be extended six months, and the two sides will continue to negotiate a new access fee, according to Simmons, state officials and Amtrak.

“In the process of extending the deadline, we are ensuring continuity of service to our partners and customers in Connecticut,” said Cliff Black, Amtrak’s spokesman in Washington.

In a statement released through her office, Rell expressed appreciation for what she called a “major achievement.”

“The governor asked the Congressman to do it,” said a spokesman, Rich Harris, “and he did it.”

The continued subsidy for Amtrak operations, meanwhile, is far from a done deal.

Simmons was among 21 Republicans who wrote to Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, to protest that approach and ask for “sufficient funding” for the railroad, which ran 46 trains per day carrying almost 1.4 million riders in Connecticut alone last year. That figure showed a significant increase in ridership since 2003, despite what Amtrak says is a barely adequate budget.

(The system also is hampered in southeastern Connecticut by the state Department of Environmental Protection, which limits trains in the summer to accommodate boat traffic at five moveable bridges, according to an Amtrak analysis.)

Simmons has fought to protect the Amtrak system but also has expressed interest in reforming the system, including the possibility of detaching the popular Northeast Corridor from longer, less-efficient routes or asking states to take ownership of the rails, stations and infrastructure.

Other rail supporters, such as former Massachusetts governor and Amtrak Chairman Michael Dukakis, have said such a break-up scheme would be “chaos.”

“It’s not a surprise that we are at our best in that part of the country where we own the infrastructure,” Dukakis said this week, referring to the Northeast Corridor.

Simmons sees dividing up some of Amtrak’s assets as a possible way to eliminate the burden of maintaining infrastructure from the cost of operating the train system, and argues that some of the longer train lines are wasting needed money.

“I think that Amtrak is running routes that are very expensive and have very low ridership, and there doesn’t appear to be a reason to run those routes,” he said.

But Bush’s solution, he said, was “kind of like killing the patient before taking him in for major surgery.”

“I think that there’s a pretty good understanding here on Capitol Hill that running a company like Amtrak into the ground is not the best way to bring about reorganization,” Simmons said.

The complete Senate roll call is at http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=109&session=1&vote=00051.


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Amtrak board okays repair plans

Amtrak president and CEO David Gunn told employees on Friday the board of directors “has still not arrived at a grant request to Congress for the next fiscal year.”

Gunn said they “had a productive meeting in Washington yesterday [Thursday]. The board authorized management to procure materials and award contracts in advance that will allow us to go forward with numerous capital projects in fiscal year 2006.”

He noted the “board-approved $223 million advance-order plan is just a portion of the total plan for fiscal 2006, but includes replacement of the lift span of the Thames River Bridge, the second phase of the Oakland maintenance facility, the Baltimore tunnel cable replacement project.”

It will also include “the long-lead materials” for Amfleet and Superliner overhauls and remanufacturing, P-40 and P-42 locomotive overhauls, electric traction and track projects, along with other projects.


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Boardman expected to head FRA

President Bush intends to nominate Joseph H. Boardman, the head of the New York State DOT, to be the federal railroad administrator, the White House said March 17, The New York Times reported Friday.

The FRA is a safety regulator and a conduit for grant money. Boardman, transportation commissioner in Albany since 1997, has taken a special interest in rail transportation and is chairman of the rail committee of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, both Democrats, praised the choice.

“Joe Boardman is an excellent pick to re-energize the slumping FRA,” said Schumer. “He has told me that two of his priorities would be saving Amtrak and strengthening our weak rail safety and security system.”

Boardman has been involved in a protracted dispute with Amtrak over a $185 million plan to improve rail service between New York City and Albany, unveiled in 1998.

New York and the federal government spent about $70 million on the project, but the planned improvements to trains and roadbed have not occurred. Boardman accused Amtrak of intentionally delaying the project and trying to get more money from the state.

AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger said on Thursday, “We are delighted” with Bush’s nomination.

“He is a national leader and visionary in transportation, as demonstrated during his tenure as Commissioner of the New York State DOT. He was also the driving force behind the AASHTO ‘Freight-Rail Bottom Line Report,’ a groundbreaking assessment of our nation’s rail infrastructure.”

New York Gov. George Pataki said Boardman was “a key member of my administration from day one. I know that he is more than up for the challenge of managing our nation’s rail system.”

Boardman, a career transportation professional, was confirmed as NYDOT commissioner in July 1997.


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Fast trains for New York State?

A public authority in partnership with private interests could operate high-speed passenger rail service to Albany, New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno (R) said Thursday.

If an agreement cannot be worked out to use existing tracks, Bruno suggested the state might construct its own rail system along the right-of-way of the state Thruway, the Troy Record of Troy, N.Y. reported on Friday. Bruno envisions trains zipping along at 200 mph from Buffalo to Albany to New York City. The travel time between Albany and New York could be sliced to 90 minutes, he said. Currently, the trip takes two hours and 20 minutes.

If Congress fails to support continued subsidy of the Amtrak rail service, Bruno suggested the state could take the lead to not only save but also upgrade passenger rail service.

Bruno said he has approached unnamed private interests about joining the state as partners in implementing and operating the new system.

“It can be done with public-private partnership, if that makes sense.”

The collapse of the current Amtrak system could provide an opportunity to rebuild with a new system, Bruno speculated.

“That leaves them bankrupt. They take out the pieces that are profitable. You either buy it from them or you multiply the resources if you have a private partner,“ Bruno said.

Bruno delivered his remarks in front of business leaders from the Center for Economic Growth of Albany at Albany International Airport.

WXXA News noted state Assemblyman Sam Hoyt (D) said Bruno’s rail plan is “extremely ambitious,” but Hoyt also applauded the Senate Majority Leader for “thinking big.”

Hoyt is chair of the Assembly task force on high-speed rail. He said any high-speed rail plan would cost several billion dollars, but is feasible.

The Albany Times Union observed that Bruno’s plan s plan would put New York in a small club of states seriously considered spending billions of dollars to create “bullet trains” resembling those in Europe and Japan. While he acknowledged potential roadblocks ahead, he expressed confidence Thursday that he and other supporters of fast trains can overcome them – even if it means creating a new public authority to handle financing and construction and going ahead without Amtrak.

“Sometimes, you have to recognize that horse isn’t going to go where you want it to go as fast as you want it to go, and it does no good to keep flagellating that horse,“ Bruno told the business leaders.

The only cost Bruno was willing to mention during his announcement Thursday was $5 million in state money for a feasibility study. Estimated price tags for similar lines in California and Florida have reached the tens of billions.

A key player in the plan could be CSX, which owns the routes now used by Amtrak in the state. A CSX spokeswoman cautioned that trains traveling at such high speeds wouldn’t be able to share the current tracks.

“That would have to happen on a separate, sealed corridor,” said Jane Covington, adding further investigation and discussion would be needed to determine whether that corridor could share the current CSX right-of-way.

A sealed corridor means there would be no grade crossings or points where tracks and highways meet.

“The sealed corridor would have to be constructed at public expense,” Covington said, adding, “Those are important things to understand coming into this.”

While Bruno suggested the state might opt to run rail lines along the New York State Thruway right-of-way if CSX does not allow its property to be used, Hoyt said that could be problematic.

“Running it down the Thruway is terribly complicated,“ he said. “Right now, the CSX right-of-way goes into every city along the way. Stations exist.”


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FRA delays whistle rule date

The FRA reported on Friday it has changed the effective date of its interim final rule on the use of locomotive lorns at highway-rail crossings to June 24 from April 1.

It’s detailed in Friday’s Federal Register, the federal agency stated, giving communities additional time to complete the required approval process of the final rule

“We are keenly aware that communities nationwide are eagerly awaiting publication of the final rule,” said FRA Acting Administrator Robert D. Jamison.

“We are confident that it will satisfactorily address the varied concerns and interests of communities throughout the country regarding the use of train horns at highway-rail grade crossings,” he said.

The delay is expected to give public authorities additional time to “establish the necessary conditions that will permit them to preserve pre-existing whistle bans or establish new quiet zones within their respective jurisdictions,” according to Jamison.


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Côté named new VIA president, CEO

Paul Côté is the new president and CEO of VIA Rail Canada, Inc., said Transport Minister Jean-C. Lapierre on March 14.

Lapierre proposed Côté’s appointment on February 1, and referred the appointment to the Standing Committee on Transport for review. The review process was completed on March 9.

Paul Côté was granted a bachelor of arts degree by l’Université de Montréal in 1970. Following six years with Canadian National Railways in their passenger rail division, he began a long career with VIA Rail in 1978 and the carrier’s marketing group. He held three different vice-presidencies with VIA between 1992 and 2000 prior to assuming the position of COO in 2001. In February 2004, Côté became interim president and CEO of VIA while maintaining his COO responsibilities.


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Why are we stopped?

‘OTP’ remains a top bugaboo at Amtrak

No doubt about it, poor on-time performance (OTP) – lousy timekeeping – is by far the biggest driver of Amtrak customer dissatisfaction. Delays irk passengers, but also seem to amplify other shortcomings.

It’s Amtrak’s biggest service challenge, writes Amtrak Ink in its March edition. It’s a monthly newspaper for employees.

While the railroad continues to shorten its lengthy backlog of deferred maintenance on infrastructure and equipment, the progress is incremental, writes the paper, which points our failure-prone bridges on the Northeast Corridor could sever the route on any given day.

Chronically poor on-time performance on some routes doesn’t seem to be getting any better, and the reality of the delay, faulty climate control or dirty equipment is shouldered by Amtrak’s front line service employees aboard the trains.

The company, according to Ink, “continues to strive to make progress on some of these fronts; its five-year plan for restoring the fleet has yielded fewer equipment complaints, showing a 1 percent decline in the first quarter.”

Meanwhile, the railroad is also dedicating training resources to better equip its front line employees with the skills to better problem solve, and to manage difficult situations without compromising customer service.

“Our front line employees bear the brunt of whatever goes wrong. Whether it’s a freight delay, broken refrigerator, or a dirty bathroom, they have to manage it, up close and personal, and are expected to do so with smiles on their faces,” said Ed Walker, Amtrak’s vice-president for transportation.

Walker said this winter, Amtrak invited current and former customers to participate in 15 focus groups across the country to better understand the key service issues that influence ridership and to single out ways to address problem areas.

The research revealed that customers in the groups said they enjoy long-distance travel because of the relaxing and social nature of their trip. Friendly employees who are courteous and helpful, and the comfort and privacy of sleeping car accommodations add to the pleasurable experience.

Short-distance customers prefer travel on Amtrak because the trains generally leave on time, offers convenient city-to-city travel during which people can plug in their laptop and get work done. For those who choose not to work, the train offers a comfortable environment in which to relax or a peaceful ride in the “Quiet Car” – no cell phones, no loud chattering.

On-time performance and delivering on-board services were popular subjects of discussion, but in the end, it is the bad news that puts ridership and revenue at risk.

According to the members of the groups, poor on-time performance, the lack of announcements and information, rude and uncaring service, an unsatisfactory on-board environment (including bathroom cleanliness), and inefficient food service are all factors that don’t make it worth the price of the ticket.

Essentially, the bad experiences undermine the value of the trip.

“People make deliberate choices about how they’re going to travel, and base their opinions on past experience,” said Barbara Richardson, vice president for marketing and sales.

“We must offer an appealing product from start to finish, if we expect people to continue to ride our trains and build customer loyalty.”

Not surprisingly, the focus group participants identified on-time performance as the biggest factor that affects ridership.

First-quarter customer comments about on-time performance rose 27 percent over the first quarter of last fiscal year.

The average system OTP hovers around the 73 percent range, reflecting the fact that some trains enjoy a respectable performance record, while poor on-time performance continues to curse many trains.

In some cases, the unpredictability has caused passengers to expect delays; in other cases passengers simply don’t rely on Amtrak and choose another mode of transportation.

Acela Express riders were the least forgiving because they expect premium service for a premium price.

As Amtrak continues to work toward minimizing minutes of delay over the road while making capital improvements to its infrastructure, it also strives to improve running on time when traveling over its freight partners’ territory. A modified incentive program piloted earlier this year and continued negotiations with the freights are aimed at reducing delays. So far, it hasn’t worked.

While timekeeping may be the most aggravating factor, is it made worse when customers are not kept informed about the status of their train. The focus group participants said that during delays, no timely information or none at all only upset them more, and described a lack of honesty, compassion, and concern by onboard personnel during delays.

According to the group, this has an effect of rendering what should be and is advertised as — a relaxing way to travel, a very stressful way to travel. Many long-distance customers understood that Amtrak often faces delays out of its control, but noted that they became annoyed about not being informed of the nature of the delay.

“People simply want to know why they’re not moving and what to expect,” said service delivery chief Kevin Scott, whose group develops the On-board Service Standards Manual, and updates that include on-board announcements.

“Customers have told us that when we respond to their need to be kept in the loop about delays, they feel that they – and their money – are valued. This is a great example of a service issue we can address with better training and consistent follow-up that can make a big difference to customer satisfaction and the bottom line.”


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Carrier teaches employees
how to keep passengers informed

One of the Amtrak focus groups’ recommendations is to provide more training. The Transportation department’s main goal this fiscal year is to focus on hiring, training and evaluating its employees.

“We are really concentrating on our hiring and training strategy. Working with Human Resources, we’re taking a good hard look at how we bring people in, train them and measure their performance,” stated Walker.

Previously, hiring needs were not centralized, so staff planning took place on an ad-hoc basis. Working with the people-finder folks, the department developed a plan that helps it to better plan for vacancies and attrition, and more productive allocation of work systemwide, in addition to better hiring and evaluation practices.

Gripes mainly focus
on timekeeping

Amtrak’s Customer Relations department says between last October and December, customer complaints about on-time performance were up significantly, the number of commendations increased, and the number of complaints about equipment declined slightly.

A total of 39,124 phone calls, e-mails and letters were received in the during the period, much lower than the 49,922 in the previous quarter, which included the peak summer travel season during which Amtrak experienced severe freight congestion problems.

The numbers represent the total number of contacts received by Amtrak, but not the number of items or issues raised. For example, a passenger may speak to a Customer Relations representative about an employee whose performance was commendable, while complaining about on-time performance. Out of the 39,124 contacts, 1,886 commendations were received, 5 percent more than the same period last year.

On average, Amtrak receives anywhere between 6,000 and 15,000 contacts each month, and the numbers tend to be higher during the summer and holiday periods.

Passengers logged 52,537 complaints in the first quarter, nearly 12 percent more than they did in the first quarter of fiscal year 2004 – October-December 2003.

The biggest area of increase in customer comments was related to on-time performance, which historically is also the largest complaint category, comprising 43 percent of all feedback. On-time performance comments rose 27 percent over fiscal 2004, an increase partly attributable to continued freight congestion as well as winter storms in the West.

A modest 1 percent decrease in equipment complaints over the same period suggests a correlation between the company’s fleet maintenance program and the comfort of Amtrak passengers.

Additionally, the trend for equipment-related complaints per 1,000 passengers has remained relatively flat over the last eight quarters.

The second-largest comment category was related to train equipment. In this category, the top five grievances were associated with the condition of the restrooms, climate control, unsatisfactory or unavailable accommodations and unacceptable equipment substitutions.

About 60 percent of the complaints and commendations were concerning on-train employees, who often get the heat as a result of other shortcomings. Perceived rudeness, unhelpfulness and communication problems were the major complaints.

Most of the comments are received by Customer Relations via phone, with letters making up 9 percent and e-mail messages 5 percent.

“Not just anybody can walk up and become an lead service attendant, for instance,” explained Walker. “These are tough jobs that not only require technical training but training and skills associated with managing people and stressful situations.” Walker added that his department’s training objectives this year include more training for on-board services and station employees.

“In the past, we’ve trained our employees in an inconsistent manner – and we’ve paid for it,” Bill Crosbie, the carrier’s operations senior vice-president, told Amtrak Ink for its March edition.

“We’re as good as how well we train our employees – good, consistent and continuous training is essential.”

He said the key components of the transportation department’s training program are new-hire training, Block training for recurrent training, and Passenger Services’ supervisor workshops. In addition, a chef certification program was launched in September. Block training earned its name from the fact that employees attend a three-day block of instruction, which may have previously been spread out over the course of a year.

Once hired, front line employees enroll in new hire training, which takes place every month, across the system. This year, the company anticipates training 143 assistant conductors, 438 on-board services employees, 50 station employees, 66 chefs and 70 engineers.

Assistant conductors participate in a seven-week training program at the Wilmington, Del. training facility, on-board service employees undergo four weeks of training at their respective crew bases, and new ticket agents take three weeks of instruction at designated training locations where ticket office operations can be simulated.

Curriculum for these classes is continually improved, based on participants’ feedback and observations in the field.

Effective March 30, a new version of the Service Standards Manual incorporates revisions to the current manual. The manual provides train service On-board Service employees detailed information about how to carryout policies and procedures.

Railroaders already on the job take part in block training. Launched in January, these three-day classes are designed to provide all train and engine (T&E) and on-board service employees all of the required recurring training in one session, once a year. More than 6,000 employees will participate in block training this spring – of which the first day covers security awareness and personal safety.

Last month, the one-day class for service craft employees began. The second and third days are reserved for separate, job-specific instruction for T&E employees. Job-specific instruction for service craft employees is currently under development.

Both the T&E and the OBS and station curriculums include a section on the principles of leadership. The purpose of this session is to hone employees’ communication, teambuilding, conflict resolution and similar leadership skills to empower employees to manage a range of situations.

This is particularly important for conductors and other front line employees, to whom passengers look for assistance.

“In the past, this recurrent training was offered at different times and covered only regulatory requirements,” said Ron Robusto, senior director of operating practices.

“But today’s block training program involves a lot more than that – we’re taking the communications skills coursework as seriously as our other requirements.”

Management is being sent to classrooms, too.

Still new are the Transportation department supervisors’ workshops for both T&E and OBS managers, which concluded last month. The class was made up of two components. The first was leadership training, the other, facilitated by the general superintendents and superintendents of passenger services, covered policies and processes. A follow-up three-day refresher to the weeklong class started last month in Wilmington.

While these managers have a lot on their plates, part of their duty is to ride the trains.

“Part of what the supervisors learn in these classes is meant to be shared with the onboard staff,” said Sol Carey, who manages National Standards and Operations.

“The desired outcome of the training is better adherence to on-board policies, and that includes on-board announcements.”

“Training is no longer a one-time thing — we’re going to have these classes every year and keep following up to make sure that our employees have the guidance they need,” said Stephanie Pavlakis, senior director of Employee Development.

Evaluation Training is only 100 percent effective if what’s been taught is carried out on the job and progress is measured. In November, the Transportation department implemented the Transportation Department Reporting System (TDRS), which among other functions, tracks employee performance.

The department’s TDRS enables it, for the first time in recent history, to put into action a consistent systemwide mechanism to follow employee performance, both good and bad, and to step in when an employee needs assistance. The system includes remittance reviews, probationary checklists, safety and service delivery observations, an employee evaluation system, and a management accountability roster. Managers who ride the trains, whether to observe their own crews or to attend a meeting, are responsible for recording their comments in the TDRS.

The Management Accountability Roster eliminates any reporting ambiguity and helps field managers manage the employees reporting to them.

“We never had anything like this before,” said California Zephyr On-board service manager Prem Jain.

“We needed a tool that we can all use to track what is going on aboard the trains and how well employees are sticking to what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Since its inception, the vast majority of the managers’ comments on performance in the TDRS have reflected good work.

The annual employee review process, which begins this fiscal year, will include all Transportation department employees and will be based on the documentation of skills relevant to each employee.

The Transportation department’s general superintendents, superintendents and senior directors are convening this month at the John F. Welch Leadership Development Center in Crotonville, N.Y., to review the report’s findings.

The group will also learn more about the General Electric Change Acceleration Process “GECAP,” which helps businesses transition through significant changes. The program was chosen because of its success rate and its applicability to Amtrak, the carrier stated.

“Our plan reflects a whole different paradigm for the way we’ve managed the company. It’s still too soon to tell how these steps are going to affect service. We can’t set the expectation that this will happen overnight, because this involves some culture change,” noted Walker. “But this is no flash in the pan – we’re very serious about these changes.”


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Hiawathas show best timekeeping

The Hiawathas came in with the best record for the month, trailed by the Downeaster with the City of New Orleans close behind. The City and the Empire Builder, Cardinal, Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle and Three Rivers all exceeded the company’s goal for endpoint on-time performance by long distance trains.

The Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliners were affected by track outages in Southern California due to very heavy rainfall, which accounts for the Starlight doing better than usual, from having its route truncated Emeryville-Seattle only.

On the very last day of February, the California Zephyr arrived on time in both directions, thus avoiding the ignominy of a tie with the Zero On Time Sunset Limited.

The Sunset won’t repeat its zero performance in March, though. On its recently adopted new schedule, it has already arrived on time once.


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Timekeeping off for most trains

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited continues to be the worst timekeeping performer on the Amtrak system. The train was never on time on February. It operates over Union pacific and CSX. The Chicago-Milwaukee trains were the best systemwide, running on time nearly 96 percent. Second best were the Downeasters between Boston and Portland, Maine, at 92 percent.

 
Service
 
Operated
Late
Percent
On
Time
 
Goal
Acela Express67115077.694.0
AutoTrain563242.970.0
California Zephyr56543.670.0
Capitol Limited563832.170.0
Capitols62411381.985.0
Cardinal24675.070.0
Carolinian.563930.485.0
Cascades3079768.485.0
City of New Orleans56591.170.0
Clocker/Keystone61612579.790.0
Coast Starlight562358.970.0
Crescent561867.970.0
Downeaster2241892.085.0
Empire Service64415076.785.0
Empire Builder1121487.570.0
Heartland Flyer561376.885.0
Hiawatha3841695.885.0
Hoosier State322037.585.0
Illinois/Missouri2805978.985.0
Lake Shore Limited1125848.270.0
Metroliner1001486.094.0
Michigan28013551.885.0
Pacific Surfliner67118572.485.0
Piedmont552358.285.0
Regional150025583.090.0
San Joaquins33619043.585.0
Silver Service16811432.170.0
Southwest Chief541277.870.0
Sunset Limited24240.070.0
Texas Eagle561573.270.0
Three Rivers561573.270.0





ALL7,7782,03073.985.0


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Amtrak earnings off expectations

Amtrak’s cumulative numbers were a tad off at the end of January. Ridership was up and operating expenses were barely over budget, but revenues were a little off expectations.

The carrier stated 8.34 million people rode trains while it expected some 8.31 million between October 2004 and January. It cost $1.015 million to run the railroad, but the carrier had budgeted $1.011 million. Amtrak took in $605.3 million but had expected $625.4 million.


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BUILDER'S LINES...  Builders’ lines...


RailPower Technologies

Canadian Pacific Ry. said March 14 it is buying its first 35 “Green Goat” hybrid locomotives from RailPower Technologies Corp. of Vancouver, B.C. It will take four years to build and deliver them, the railroad stated in a press release. Green Goat’s nitrogen oxides (NOx) and diesel particulate emissions are reduced by 80-90 percent with the GG Series locomotives, according to RailPower. Neither the buyer nor builder stated how much CP was paying for the engines, nor which model CP is buying.


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Bombardier

Bombardier is building 36 freight engines for Angel Trains with options for many more.

 

Angel Trains buys new freight engines

Bombardier Transportation has received an order from Europe’s Angel Trains for 36 TRAXX electric locomotives, including 26 Bombardier TRAXX(i) F-140 MS multi-system locomotives and 10 F-140 DC locomotives. The deal is valued at about $202 million (€150).

A framework agreement offers Angel Trains an option to order up to 100 locomotives subject to the same general conditions, according to Bombardier.

The Canadian builder stated in a press release last week the purchase is “intended to complement Angel Trains’ existing fleet of diesel and TRAXX AC locomotives and to allow both parties to offer a quick response to the operator’s demand.”

The first 36 locomotives order includes a variety of types, country specific signaling equipment and options.

The DC engines should be delivered between October 2006 and March 2007, with the multi-system locomotives following between January 2007 and September 2007. The locomotives will be manufactured at the builder’s Kassel, Germany facilities.

Ten engines are earmarked for services between Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Another 10 will operate shuttle services between Germany and Poland, and six are intended for cross-border services between Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.

The 10 F-140 DCs, to operate in Italy, are designed for both DC and AC power supply systems.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Tri-Rail nears dispatching its own trains

More than 16 years after its inception, Tri-Rail is close to gaining control over the operation, maintenance and dispatch duties on the 71-mile rail corridor where its commuter trains run, reports the Palm Beach Post.

Once it happens, agency officials say, passengers will sit through fewer delays during the morning rush and see overall better service.

The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), which oversees Tri-Rail, held a workshop on March 11 to review the status of negotiations between the state and CSX Transportation on turning over the daily operating responsibilities to the Florida DOT. CSX retained the duties when the state bought the track from the company in 1988. The state, in turn, would assign these responsibilities to the RTA.

For many reasons, the current arrangement hasn’t worked in Tri-Rail’s best interests, officials said. It’s resulted in “ticklish issues” with serious legal and financial ramifications, RTA Chairman Allen Harper said.

For example, dispatchers at the CSX’s headquarters in Jacksonville frequently give priority to the company's freight trains during the morning rush, forcing the commuter trains to be delayed waiting on sidings.

That will change with Tri-Rail in control. Priority will be given to passenger trains, RTA Executive Director Joseph Giulietti said.

Another example of the ongoing friction is a dispute over the construction of a new Broward County bridge that threatens to delay the completion of the $334 million project to add a second track to the corridor.


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Northstar hires lawyer-negotiator
to keep talks with BNSF on track

The people putting together Minnesota’s Northstar commuter rail line are betting $520,000 that Clifford Greene can solve what may be the project’s biggest remaining hurdle.

With legislative funding for the often-stalled project moving closer to reality, reaching a complex agreement with BNSF Ry. to use a 40-mile rail corridor stretching from Minneapolis through the northwest suburbs has become critical, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported March 14.

While officials insist progress is being made, the behind-the-scenes negotiations have spanned eight years, started and stopped several times, and are likely to take three more years to complete.

Northstar officials are confident that a series of complex agreements with BNSF Railway, which has $9.4 billion in revenue and appears to hold considerable leverage in the negotiations, will be signed in time for Minnesota’s first commuter rail line to open as scheduled in late 2008.

Greene, the lead Northstar negotiator with the railway, said firmly last week that having the talks delay the rail line’s opening was “not an option.” A Minneapolis attorney, Greene regularly has briefed top state officials since talks with the railway restarted in late 2003. His negotiating team is being paid $520,000 over four years.

Much is at stake. Officials estimate that if the negotiations do not produce agreements by the time Northstar is scheduled to open, inflation will add $11 million to the project’s $265 million price tag every year it’s delayed. Though negotiators tentatively have identified $59.2 million in capital improvements needed for the rail line – a figure that is within the project’s budget – the railway has not agreed to anything formally and wants to discuss $38 million in additional projects.

BNSF Railway spokesman Steve Forsberg said the railway’s negotiating stance is simple: Anytime government wants commuter rail trains to share the tracks with the railroad’s profitable freight business, “you’ve just confiscated freight-train capacity that belongs to our shareholders.”

The pressure to reach a deal is highlighted by the fact that in other parts of the country where commuter rail has tried to operate on BNSF Railway tracks, signing an agreement has been difficult. “I think we retained almost every major law firm in the city,” said Lee Somerstein of Sound Transit of Seattle, which eventually reached two commuter rail agreements totaling $600 million with the railway.

“The negotiations were protracted. Part of it is the transit agency doesn’t have much negotiating leverage. It’s [the railroad’s] property,” he said.

Arriving at an agreement for a 30-mile Seattle-to-Tacoma commuter rail line, and a second agreement for a 30-mile Seattle-to-Everett line, took about three years in each case, Somerstein said. The talks concluded only after U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), became directly involved in brokering an agreement.

In Minnesota, Greene said, Northstar’s negotiators do not plan “to pull political folks out of our back pocket to close the deal.”

But Mark Stenglein, a Hennepin County commissioner and Northstar Corridor Development Authority member, said he believes otherwise. Northstar officials, he said, may be counting on Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, as “their ace in-the-hole.” Stenglein said the final agreement may rely on some horse-trading with the railway, which operates in 28 states. With Oberstar, “they can say [to the railway], ‘You really want that switching yard in Omaha?’”

Mary Kerr, an Oberstar spokeswoman, said the Congressman would be willing to help with the negotiations, but Northstar and the railway need to be closer to an agreement. “The numbers are really far apart, so there’s not much of a point,” she said.


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Tennessee takes long, hard look at rail

Riding the rails is a 150-year-old idea, but rail supporters say restoring passenger service in Tennessee and the Memphis-to-Bristol rail connection are the only ways to fix the modern-day problems of growing congestion and air pollution created by increasing traffic on Interstate 40 statewide.

Officials with the Nashville & Eastern Railroad Authority have been quietly lining up support from area officials and mass transit authorities and soon will launch a public relations campaign to sell the Tennessee DOT on the idea.

Sixty-two mayors, including Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell, are already backing the effort. A push to add even more mayors to the group, called the “Mayors’ Memphis-to-Bristol Rail Coalition,” over the next six to seven weeks is under way, according to Ben Smith, a consultant for the N&E.

What’s attractive about a competitive east-west railroad line in Tennessee is that it would provide 60 percent of the Tennessee population access to 68 cities and 39 counties, while diverting an estimated 350,000 trucks from Interstate 40 and Interstate 81, supporters of the rail proposal said. What’s less attractive is the cost involved. Capital costs alone are estimated at $1.24 billion.

That’s about one out of every 10 state tax dollars expected in the coming fiscal year. It’s also a bit less than Gov. Phil Bredesen has planned to spend running the state’s entire higher education system in 2005-06.

To operate passenger trains at competitive speeds would also require $210 million more for additional signal improvements, sidings, passenger stations, passenger cars and locomotives.

While that might seem shocking, traffic projection and other models show that without the rail plan, highway construction costs in Tennessee over the next 25 years would be about $4.2 billion, Smith said.

“We’ve got to come up with other alternative concepts of transportation,” said Mike Jennings, mayor of Watertown and chairman of the rail authority. “I know we’ll have to walk before we run with this, because it will take several years for this to come to fruition. It is definitely something that has to be explored.”

Dan Pomeroy, a huge Univ. of Tennessee football fan who lives in Nashville, said the thought of not spending $2 or more per gallon of regular gas to commute to Neyland Stadium with the “Vol” faithful makes the statewide rail plan attractive to him.

“I think it would be great,” said Pomeroy, who has two sons attending the university.

“As long as the price of the trip is worthwhile.”

Nashville & Eastern officials estimate passenger tickets would be $96 round-trip from Memphis to Bristol.

TDOT officials said last week the proposed statewide rail system plan is on their radar, though the cost is a concern.

“This is a perfect example of a big-picture rail program that we are looking at extensively,” said Kim Keelor, a TDOT spokeswoman.

“This one would be very expensive, and because there are no federally funded rail programs, it would have to be funded all by state money, which would make it a big challenge, but we are aware how important it is to a lot of people, and we are looking at it as part of our long-range plan.”

Other states are getting creative, including Virginia, not far from the terminus of Tennessee’s Memphis-to-Bristol line. In December, Gov. Mark Warner unveiled $824 million in new funding in his state to “jump-start promising public-private partnerships, promote greater use of rail and transit” and other initiatives.

Part of the proposal promotes upgrades in Virginia’s rail system and provides Virginia’s first-ever revenue source dedicated to improve rail, $23 million annually.

Supporters say the costs of a Tennessee rail line are also an investment in bringing jobs and industry to the heart of the state.

“We’ve been advocating for enhanced multimodal planning for several years …” said Ross Loder, deputy director of Tennessee Municipal League, which is supporting the plan. “Also, there is a major economic development issue, to the extent that you can keep cargo moving, and do so quickly and efficiently.”

N&E president Bill Drunsic likes to think big. In fact, part of the proposed rail plan would include a 4,325-foot tunnel near Oliver Springs.

“I think we can make this happen,” said Drunsic. “There seems to be an incredible amount of support for this, and it’s a desirable project for the state.”


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No VRE for Richmond

The Virginia Railway Express is growing in many parts of the state, but it won’t be going to Richmond any time soon, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

VRE is bursting at the seams, with plans to build parking lots and add trains in Northern Virginia, its CEO said March 15. With daily ridership of more than 16,000, the VRE’s commuter trains have more than doubled ridership over the past decade as traffic congestion has gotten worse in the Washington area, Dale Zehner told members of Virginians for High Speed Rail at the Science Museum of Virginia.

The “real issue is the demand for service outstrips our supply of seats and parking,” said Zehner, a retired Navy captain who has worked for the commuter railroad since 1995.

In Fredericksburg, the VRE’s southern terminus, “We’re turning away people because they can’t park.”

The publicly owned railroad is talking to Spotsylvania County about extending service there, with the county building a station and parking lots, he said.

The VRE also is eyeing an extension into western Prince William County – but Zehner said the commuter rail system, which is owned by two regional transportation commissions, has enough pent-up demand without expanding into other parts of the state, including Richmond.

“You know, we didn’t look at that,” he said in a response to a question about coming to Virginia’s capital.

Bringing regular VRE service to Richmond is on the wish list of local rail advocates, but Zehner said the numbers don’t add up because fewer than 100 people a day drive from the Richmond area to catch commuter trains in Fredericksburg.

He said early morning Amtrak trains leaving Staples Mill Station are not close to full, another sign that rail riders wouldn’t jump on board the VRE.

“We’re very concerned about going somewhere and not knowing how many may ride,” Zehner said. The rail executive described the customer focus of Alexandria-based VRE.

“If you lose a passenger for any reason,” he said, he or she probably won’t get back on the train.

The focus on service is another reason the VRE is careful about where it chooses to run, he said. “If you’re going to do it, you’ve got to do it right.”

That’s particularly true of the VRE’s customers. The average passenger is an affluent male with a household income of more than $100,000, he said.

“Most are Type A personalities who, once they get mad, get real mad,” Zehner said.

The VRE wants to run longer trains that serve more people and run on time.

“Instead of faster service, I think we’ll get more reliable service,” he said.

Most commuters don’t care if the coaches are brand new, only that they get them home on time, Zehner said.

“They’ll take the train because now they view the train as more reliable than the automobile,” he said. “We can do that now because the roads are so bad.”


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Bay State summary

‘Nope,’ says Dedham; Readville cool, too

Plans for a condominium complex atop a former rail yard on the Dedham-Boston line are drawing negative reviews from town officials.

Dedham selectmen say they fear the housing development would overburden town schools, roads, and other municipal services. They also say the number of units – 570 originally, now 264 – clashes with the town’s character.

“I don’t want Dedham to turn into a city,” Selectman Paul Munchbach said. “I want Dedham to stay a town.”

James E. McDonald, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said he worries that the development will increase the school-age population.

“Our schools are already bursting,” he said.

The developer, Baran Cos. of Boston, called off a scheduled informational meeting with selectmen last week after learning of the board’s objections.

George Bachrach, consultant to Baran, said the company wants to work with the town so the project is acceptable to all. The company decided to trim the number of units to 264 in response to town concerns, according to Bachrach.

“Baran Cos. is eager to engage in a dialogue with the town,” said Bachrach, a former state senator.

The 37-acre site, which the MBTA owns, is a partially contaminated rail yard that straddles the line separating Dedham and Boston’s Readville section. Railroaders called it “Five Yard.”

The MBTA put the yard up for bid two years ago, and a pair of developers, Baran Cos. and First Highland Management & Development of Hyde Park were selected. Baran Cos. would develop housing on the Dedham part of the property, while First Highland would develop an industrial site on the Boston side. The sale of the parcel is contingent on the developers getting needed local approvals.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston has also criticized the housing development proposed for the Dedham side. He said, “All of the traffic would flow into Boston. It is an ill-conceived idea, and it should be put to a halt.”

MBTA General Manager Michael H. Mulhern said the deal would not go through if both Boston and Dedham are not satisfied. Mulhern said, “If the developer cannot accomplish this, it’s dead on arrival.”

A proposed transit-oriented village near the Westborough commuter rail station was thrown off track two weeks ago when town officials were unimpressed with the piece of land the developer wants to give the town in exchange for an increase in the number of units he can build.

Developer Francis Zarette of Shrewsbury wants to develop a 300-unit, condominium complex on Smith Valve Parkway opposite the MBTA station. About one-fifth of the units would be affordable, and the development would also include stores, reported the Boston Globe.

On February 16, the Open Space Preservation Committee (OSPC) voted 6-0 to recommend that the Planning Board not accept the 13.7-acre property at 18 Arch St. in exchange for a “density bonus” of 10 units, up from the four units developers are currently allowed, for every acre that is preserved as open space in a nearby residential zone.

Elsewhere in Greater Boston, the battle over a blockade fence between the inbound and outbound tracks at the Wellesley Farms commuter rail station has reached a fever pitch.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority installed the fence about six months ago under orders from the FRA, which had received complaints from Wellesley passengers that people were making dangerous dashes across the tracks to reach the parking lot or train platforms, but since then, a group of commuters who liked the open layout have been arguing that the fence actually makes the tracks more dangerous. Angry commuters flooded the T with letters, collected more than 200 signatures for a petition, and appealed to state Rep. Alice Peisch, a Wellesley Democrat, who lives a block from the station. Those efforts did not lead to any changes, and it appears the situation has escalated in recent weeks.

Despite the wintertime danger of snow and ice, many in-a-hurry passengers are darting along the tracks and circumventing the chain-link fence, GlobeWatch reader Patrick Pollino wrote in a recent e-mail.

Passengers refuse to use the station’s pedestrian stairway or overpass bridge to cross the tracks, either because they want to save a few minutes “or perhaps to prove their point,” Pollino said.

“This has all the elements of a tragedy in the making. Something needs to be done to remedy this situation before someone is seriously hurt.”

MBTA officials last week said the fence stays.

If Wellesley passengers continue to make forays around the fence, the T will lengthen it, said T spokesman Joe Pesaturo.

“We will absolutely look into extending the fence,” said Pesaturo. “The fence will stay up until the FRA tells us otherwise. If we hear about people trying to jump the fence, then we’ll grease it.”

Update The case of the Southborough Triangle is finally closed. In September, the MBTA was finally taking action on a two-year-old promise to clean up a 32,000-square-foot lot adjacent to the Southborough Jct. commuter line stop.

The litter-strewn lot at the corner of Cordaville and Southville roads has been cleared, and the T recently presented the town with the deed to the lot, in accordance with a 2002 promise made by the T to the town when the station was being constructed.

The MBTA plans to use proceeds from the sale to finish cleaning up the site, which for years was used for storage and cleaning of rail cars, and dates back to the turn of the 19th Century when the New York, New Haven & Hartford performed heavy repairs on its steam engines.

Trains were sandblasted there, contaminating the soil with lead paint. Arsenic also accumulated from repeated spraying to control weeds.

MBTA officials are proposing a swap with Braintree to acquire land to widen the planned connector road for the Greenbush commuter rail station at Weymouth Landing. The MBTA’s Joe Nolan said Braintree would give up a small parcel along the proposed connector road, which leads to Quincy Avenue. In turn, Braintree would receive a similar parcel to extend a nearby town parking area. The swap would have to be approved at the May 2 Special Town Meeting. Selectmen voted unanimously last month to support the plan.

In Cohasset, a town liaison to the Greenbush commuter rail project wants a portion of a granite railroad turntable foundation, unearthed during excavation of an MBTA parking lot, put on permanent display. Tom Gruber has met with the Village Revitalization Task Force and the Cohasset Historical Commission to discuss the former South Shore Railroad turntable. The South Shore Railroad was instrumental in Cohasset’s growth as a town, said Gruber.

“It connected the town to Boston and made it so people could move here. Many of them were railroad workers who built homes here.”

Gruber and fellow Greenbush liaison Mark Brennan said they will contact the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers about getting the turntable, which is listed as a historical site.


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APTA HIGHLIGHTS...  APTA Highlights...

Here are some other transit headlines, from the pages of Passenger Transport, the weekly newspaper of the public transportation industry published by the non-profit American Public Transportation Assn. For more news from Passenger Transport and subscription information, visit the APTA web site at http://www.apta.com/news/pt.


Omnitrans Contract Provides for 7 Percent Wage Increase

Coach operators for Omnitrans in San Bernardino, Calif., will see their wages increase 7 percent over three years through a labor agreement with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1704, which was ratified by the Omnitrans Board of Directors on March 2. Union members voted 229 to 53 in favor of the contract proposal on February 18.

The agreement provides for a 2 percent raise upon ratification, and 2.5 percent increases effective March 21, 2005, and March 20, 2006. It also includes a $400 signing bonus and increased benefits,

Passage of the measure comes 14 months after negotiations began and 11 months after the previous contract expired.


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Lane Transit Faces First Strike in Its History

Employees of the Lane Transit District in Eugene, Ore., represented by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 went on strike March 7, following negotiations that began in May 2004. The strike is the first in LTD’s 35-year history.

Union members voted in favor of the strike by 188 to nine on March 6, according to press reports. ATU Local 757 represents 236 drivers, mechanics, customer service representatives, and other LTD employees.

Representatives of LTD and ATU were scheduled to meet in a mediated session March 10 as Passenger Transport went to press.

According to the transit district, the disagreements between the two sides involve a number of contract areas. Although the strike has stopped regular bus service, LTD continues to operate its RideSource paratransit service for seniors and persons with disabilities.


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San Carlos, Calif., Votes Down Funding for Shuttle

By a margin of 55 percent opposed and 45 percent in favor, voters in San Carlos, Calif., defeated a measure that would have enacted a $59 parcel tax for five years to subsidize the city’s free shuttle service. Under California law, the measure would have needed two-thirds of the vote to pass.

San Carlos Optimal Operational Transit, or SCOOT, has provided free door-to-door service to the city on a pilot basis since 2002. SCOOT also operates nine fixed routes, including service to San Carlos schools.

Brian Maura, assistant city manager in San Carlos, said the defeat of the ballot measure means SCOOT will shut down operations on June 17.


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Picking up orders

For NCI: Jim Gerofsky

In years gone by, trainmen got their orders from a tower op who would hoop up instructions. Consider Chessie System’s JD Tower at Alexandria Jct. in Hyattsville, Md., in June 1976. The conductor (or maybe a brakeman) aboard B&O/C&O NE-84 takes the flimsies from the op. For folks too young to know, “B&O” was the Baltimore & Ohio, and “C&O” was the Chesapeake & Ohio. Radios were not in much use yet.

 

FREIGHT LINES...  Freight Lines...

UTU takes NCCC to federal court;
charges railroads won’t negotiate

By Leo King
Editor

Nearly a fortnight ago, the United Transportation Union accused the National Carriers Conference Commission of walking out of talks. That was March 9. Last week, the NCCC shot back and filed for mediation “after a Teamsters-led union coalition refused to bargain on issues of substance until a detailed set of needless ground rules are resolved,” said Robert F. Allen, NCCC chairman.

“We regret the necessity of filing for mediation at this time but…we are forced to do so to forestall potential service disruptions,” Allen wrote to members of the National Mediation Board.

Meanwhile, the union took the case to a federal court, surprising NCCC officials. UTU filed its case in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis, Ill.

In a statement dated March 16 and posted on its website, the UTU stated, it asked the court to “prohibit railroads from demanding the union collectively bargain about a carrier notice to abolish all conductor jobs aboard through-freight trains.”

UTU International President Paul Thompson said it “also asked the court to prohibit railroads from demanding that the union collectively bargain about a carrier notice to seek jointly from Congress legislation eliminating the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), a federal statute allowing injured railroad workers to sue carriers for damages arising from unsafe working conditions.”

Allen declared, “The nation’s major freight railroads are disappointed that the UTU has decided to misuse the legal process to raise issues that properly should be addressed at the bargaining table and not in the courtroom.” He added, “We are dismayed by the union’s irresponsible and false characterization of the nation’s rail system, which remains the safest in the world and the safest way to move goods and products on the ground – safer than trucks and safer than barges.”

UTU’s Thompson said it asked the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois to declare, “the UTU has no statutory duty to bargain or participate in mediation with respect to the carrier demands regarding abolition of conductor jobs or FELA.”

The railroads, which include BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific, are negotiating under the NCCC’s umbrella.

The unions are the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, American Train Dispatchers Assn., Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, Sheet Metal Workers International Assn., and International Brotherhood of Boilermakers.

The unionists noted that negotiations for rates of pay, rules and working conditions are governed by the Railway Labor Act (as Amended). It was originally enacted in 1926.

The UTU lawsuit was filed “following a second bargaining session with the carriers following the carriers’ November 1, 2004, notice to the UTU proposing changes to existing collective bargaining agreements.

The changes, said the union, “included a provision that ‘crew size shall be based on operational needs as determined by the railroad.’ The wording of this demand could eliminate every conductor aboard through-freight trains.”

The NCCC said it filed mediation applications after the coalition refused to begin negotiations until the carriers addressed their demands for bargaining ground rules that were unnecessary and, in many cases, inappropriate.

Allen said the NCCC was left with no choice but to request mediation on behalf of the nation’s railroads to preclude any self-help action by the union coalition after talks on March 9 ended abruptly. The filings blocked any possible strikes or job actions.

The union coalition had insisted on first negotiating a list of process-oriented ground rules even though such matters “are nothing new and have been successfully managed informally by the parties in decades of past bargaining rounds,” the NCCC said in a letter accompanying the applications.

Allen said the carriers had suggested that the process issues be set aside, without prejudice to either side’s position, in order to continue work on the substantive issues of pay, benefits and working conditions as mutually agreed in their January introductory meeting.

“The Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition refused, insisting that its proposal on ground rules be resolved before commencing bargaining,” Allen wrote. As a result, the negotiating session was ended, and no further meetings are scheduled.

The union said two weeks ago the NCCC negotiators abruptly said they would not negotiate any ground rules.

Allen countered, “Railroads provide their workers with one of the safest working environments in the country. By suggesting otherwise, the UTU strains credibility. The incontrovertible fact is that it is safer to work in the railroad industry than it is to work in a grocery store, the airline industry or the water transportation industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

Allen said, “We hope that during the course of these negotiations the UTU will commit to helping the railroads meet the transportation challenges of the future rather than defending the outmoded work rules of the past… It’s time to put rhetoric and tactics aside and get on with the real business at hand – working toward voluntary agreements that fairly and equitably address the serious challenges to the future success of the railroad industry and its employees.”

The carriers, said UTU’s Thompson, are barred by law from violating existing moratoria provisions in local collective bargaining agreements – so-called crew-consist agreements – that provide for at least one conductor being assigned to every through-freight train.

Crew consist agreements were negotiated on a property-by-property basis by UTU general committees of adjustment during the 1980s and the 1990s in exchange for a then-reduction in crew size that was agreed necessary to permit railroads to become more competitive with trucks. General committees of adjustment have authority to make local or system agreements with representatives of railroads, said Thompson.

Those locally negotiated crew-consist agreements provide for at least one conductor being assigned to every through-freight train – and on some properties, a brakeman on some assignments – and that no UTU member assigned to train service would lose their job involuntarily, Thompson added.

Crew consist agreements are “a local issue as a matter of law and changes to crew size must be negotiated with the UTU general committees of adjustment on the appropriate railroad property,” the UTU told the court. “In other words, the issue of crew consist is not subject to national handling.”

Thompson said, “It should shock every American in this age of terrorism that the railroads, which haul millions of tons of deadly chemicals and even nuclear weapons and atomic waste, and whose dreadful safety record has become regular and frightening reading on the front page of The New York Times, want the flexibility to run trains with only one person aboard.

“Mark Twain warned that when you pick up a cat by the tail, you learn a lesson that cannot be learned in any other way,” Thompson said. “The lesson that must now be scratched into the carriers’ faces is that they cannot play roulette with the nation’s safety and security or with their employees’ well being for the sole purpose of fattening the bottom line and executive bonuses.”


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Rail crossing deaths rise to 369

Crossing deaths rose somewhat this year after falling steadily in recent years. Last year, 369 people died at rail crossings, with three of the four major freight railroads reporting a rise in deaths, federal figures show. Norfolk Southern registered a 50 percent increase, the most of any major railroad, with 60 deaths. Seventy-seven more people died at Union Pacific-owned crossings.

Deaths at railroad grade crossings rose 11 percent last year, according to new federal figures, and the government missed its 10-year goal of no more than 300 crossing deaths by 2004, according to a The New York Times report of March 13.

In all, more than 3,000 accidents occurred at grade crossings last year, which is about one every three hours. Some rail-safety experts say the figures suggest that the railroads and the government are not doing enough to make grade crossings safer.

“I find that disconcerting, because we had a history of slow but steady decline of grade crossing fatalities over the years,” said George Gavalla, a former Federal Railroad Administration safety official.

“We worked hard to encourage railroads to invest in crossing safety programs, and looking at these statistics, I wonder if that level of investment was being maintained.”

Federal transportation officials declined to respond specifically to questions about the failure to achieve their 10-year goal.

Tom White, a spokesman for the Association of American Railroads, said, “We very much regret the increase, and we wish it had not occurred,” but the AAR and FRA said the rise in deaths needs to be viewed in the context of heavier rail traffic last year.

White said the association was “committed to working with all of the authorities to bring those numbers down.” One way to do that is through more driver education, he said.

Harvey Levine, a former AAR vice-president – who is an advocate for rail crash victims – said railroads should examine their own conduct, pointing to sight obstructions that make it difficult to see approaching trains.


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Riverport line gets $5.5 million FRA loan

The Riverport Railroad, LLC, a short- line operator located in Northwestern Illinois, is receiving a bit more than $5.5 million loan from the FRA to rehabilitate rail related infrastructure and facilities that were once part of the Savanna Army Ordnance Depot.

Funding from the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program, the FRA stated in a press release on March 14, the money will be used “to improve and consolidate about six miles of existing track to make operations more efficient and install new, heavier track to handle the industry standard 286,000-pound railcars.”

Also, yard storage capacity “will be increased by 33 percent (from 3,000 to 4,000 railcars) and real estate will be acquired to support its planned business expansion,” according to the carrier.

Currently, Riverport primarily provides switching operations for BNSF Ry., and stores, cleans and maintains empty railcars. The loan will help the railroad expand its business “to include a bulk commodity yard where trainloads of product will be stored until sold, and a transload facility where product is stored in on-site warehouses or transferred directly between train and truck, as well as a yard where trains up to 110-units long can be stored.

Some cash will also be spent to remove and relocate about 9.6 miles of track from land owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Riverport Railroad was created in 1995 when it gained control of 68 miles of rail and related assets following closure of the former Savanna Army Ordnance Depot. Its operations began in 1999, employs eight people, serves some 30 customers. Flagship Capital, LLC, owns it.


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WALL STREET LINES...  Wall Street lines...

NS says growth is driving industry

The ability to respond to unprecedented growth in demand for rail transportation services produced excellent returns for investors, David Goode, chairman and CEO, said in a letter to stockholders in the 2004 annual report of Norfolk Southern Corporation (NSC).

“When customers needed us at a rate that surpassed all our predictions, our people stepped up and provided service for the business our shippers brought us,” Goode said.

He added, “Increasing the value of our services to customers enabled us to raise the yield for our business. Adding in our improving productivity and efficiency spelled good results in the bottom line, and our stock value improved.”

Goode said the North American transportation market is shifting toward significantly increased demand for rail freight.

“We are at the threshold of a new growth-oriented, growth-driven business model for the railroad industry. Norfolk Southern will be prepared and is determined to seize the opportunity,” he said.

President Wick Moorman said in a companion letter that 2004 “marked the beginning of a new era at Norfolk Southern in terms of growth and profitability.

Market shifts in global trade, along with highway transportation constraints here in the U.S., are creating unprecedented opportunities for us to provide transportation services for more and more customers, and to capture the value that we provide.”

The railroad’s annual report and Form 10-K are posted on the company Web site. Created in-house, some 195,000 printed copies are distributed to stockholders, the financial community, news media and libraries. To request a copy, call 800-531-6757, e-mail annualreport@nscorp.com.


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Bear Stearns raises UP rating

Bear Stearns upgraded shares of Union Pacific (UNP), Thursday to “peer perform” from “underperform” after examining the railroad’s freight price increases and its recovery from track washouts in California and Nevada earlier in the year.

MarketWatch reported, “While we are reluctant to read too much into this recovery, our sense is that this provides some hope of potential for a trend of improving network operation in ‘05,” the analysts wrote


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: CBSMarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)55.0053.17
Canadian National (CNI)63.1862.48
Canadian Pacific (CP) 36.2836.55
CSX (CSX)42.6642.50
Florida East Coast (FLA)44.0042.90
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)26.2825.54
Kansas City Southern (KSU)19.5219.95
Norfolk Southern (NSC)37.6637.76
Providence & Worcester (PWX)14.4115.45
Union Pacific (UNP)66.3966.18


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Rail Traffic volume rises again

Freight traffic on U.S. railroads registered its seventh consecutive weekly increase during the week ended March 12 in comparison with the corresponding week a year ago, the AAR reported Thursday.

Intermodal volume for the week totaled 205,770 trailers and containers, up 3.1 percent from a year ago, with containers up 2.9 percent and trailers gaining 3.6 percent.

Carload freight totaled 346,435 units during the week, up 3.7 percent from a year ago with loadings up 5.7 percent in the West and 1.2 percent in the East. Total volume was estimated at 32.2 billion ton-miles, up 4.2 percent from 2004.

Twelve of 19 carload commodities were up from last year, with coal up 8.6 percent; metals up 8.4 percent; and farm products other than grain up 12.8 percent. Commodities registering declines included waste and scrap, down 7.0 percent; motor vehicles, down 5.6 percent; and primary forest products, off 5.1 percent.

Cumulative volume for the first ten weeks of 2005 totaled 3,362,713 carloads, up 2.8 percent from 2004; 2,145,405 trailers or containers, up 9.5 percent; and total volume of an estimated 312.2 billion ton-miles, up 3.7 percent from last year.

On Canadian railroads, during the week ended March 12 carload traffic totaled 67,075 cars, down 2.6 percent from last year while intermodal volume totaled 41,993 trailers or containers, up 9.8 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first ten weeks of 2005 on the Canadian railroads totaled 659,304 carloads, up 2.6 percent from last year, and 411,637 trailers and containers, up 6.4 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first ten weeks of 2005 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 4,022,017 carloads, up 2.7 percent from last year and 2,557,042 trailers and containers, up 9.0 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended March 12 totaled 8,566 cars, down 5.0 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,696 originated trailers or containers, down 1.6 percent from the tenth week of 2004. For the first ten weeks of 2005, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 86,571 cars, up 6.4 percent from last year, and 38,588 trailers or containers, up 14.0 percent.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 88 percent of U.S. carload freight and 95 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 95 percent and 100 percent. The Canadian railroads reporting to the AAR account for 90 percent of Canadian rail traffic. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of U.S. intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

The AAR is online at www.aar.org.


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ACROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...

Saudi rail earns 236 million

Saudi Railroads Organization earned $236 million last year, according to a report from the Middle East last week.

Mena Financial News reported Saudi Arabia will be laying out 420.9 million SRs for their next fiscal year – which is 1425-1426 in the Arabic calendar, but 2006 in the West.

Saudi Arabia’s transport minister Jabara Al Siraisiri, who is also chairman of the board of Saudi Railroads Organization, presided over the board meeting aboard a train during its journey from Dammam to Riyadh.

The budget projected total revenue of SR 236 million, an increase of 21 percent over the previous year. There are also several proposals for new railroads, introducing automatic control systems, and setting up a new workshop to repair freight cars in Dammam.

The SRO is also expected to restructure its operations by creating new departments and units, and abolishing some others.

The board members also reviewed progress in the ambitious Saudi Land Bridge project that comprises a land route linking Jeddah to Dammam via Riyadh and a rail link, between Makkah and Madinah via Jeddah. The projects were presented before investors at a January conference held in London at the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS).


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OPINION...  Opinion...

Critical questions are unanswered

By Rick Harnish
Midwest High-Speed Rail Assn.

President Bush has proposed a complete restructuring of the nation’s intercity passenger rail program.

The Midwest High-Speed Rail Assn. welcomes any change that results in faster, more frequent and more dependable trains serving more places. Unfortunately, however, the Administration has left critical questions unanswered. The success or failure of the Administration’s proposal turns upon the answers:

What is the total amount the Administration will seek for interstate rail service? USDOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta has recently suggested an amount similar to Amtrak’s most recent budget request. However, the Administration’s plan will cause increased administrative and other overhead expenses, so additional funds would be required.

What will be the source of those funds? The reauthorization for existing highway and transit programs is years behind schedule because trust fund revenues will not meet the projected need. Perhaps interstate rail service can be included in a comprehensive package of revenue enhancements.

Will interstate rail service receive a dedicated long-term funding stream similar to highways and transit? Being dependent on an annual appropriation has made Amtrak unable to create long-term capital plans. Any new program must solve this problem.

What role will the railroads play? Unlike highways and airports, railroads are privately owned. Amtrak’s right to incremental costs has not motivated these private owners to maintain their tracks to passenger train standards. Simply transferring Amtrak’s rights to other operators will make the situation worse.

Are there any good examples of multi-state cooperation on this scale? There are very few examples of locally funded passenger trains crossing state lines. The association is not aware of any examples of more than two states sharing operating costs. “Closing the doors” while traveling through an intermediate state will destroy the train’s unique ability to generate volume and revenue by making multiple stops.

Which parts of the country do people not want to visit? The Secretary has suggested that Amtrak runs trains to places that people do not want to visit. Could he be suggesting that people don’t want to travel to the central Texas cities served by the Texas Eagle?

The Midwest High-Speed Rail Assn. urges the Secretary to resolve these issues quickly. We also recommend that the following short-term actions be included in his proposal:

Stabilize existing routes and services.

Remove NEC infrastructure costs from Amtrak’s budget and fund them outside of annual appropriations process.

Also, the USDOT should create a vision for an intercity rail network that connects all regions and metropolitan areas and serves all important transportation routes. It should be similar to the vision adopted for the Eisenhower Interstate and Defense Highway system in 1956.

The design would:

Combine fast and frequent service in high-density short haul markets with lower frequency long haul service to unite all routes into a single integrated system.

Set policies for allocating public funds to regions and services.

Establish guidelines for balancing volume growth with farebox recovery.

Provide criteria for developing public-private partnerships with the freight railroads to ensure shared goals for improving both passenger and freight services,

Authorize the creation of new, publicly owned high-speed rail segments in those routes where frequency and speed make joint use with freight operations impractical.

The USDOT should then create an agency to perform the same core functions for rail that the federal aviation and highway administrations do for their respective modes – promotion, planning, funding and oversight. This agency would translate the general vision into specific actions.

The country is facing many transportation challenges. With the proper federal policies, fast, frequent and dependable passenger trains can play a major role. We hope that Secretary Mineta will set those policies in motion.

The Midwest High Speed Rail Assn. is a member-supported non-profit educational organization. Its members include business leaders, mayors and individuals who want the option of traveling by train.


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OFF THE MAINLINE...  Off the main line...

Big Boy getting moved

Two photos: UP Historical Society, Mike Connor

Union Pacific’s retired Big Boy 4023 atop 144 tires inches its way toward its new home in Omaha.

For a larger image (1024 pixels across) click the above picture. To return to Destination: Freedom use your “Back” browser button - Webmaster

 

A Big Boy takes a ride in Omaha

No Big Boy ever made a more sluggish journey.

The legendary steam locomotive, built to carry heavy materiel – like tanks – during World War II, trundled Saturday from Kenefick Park along Abbott Drive with aching slowness south of downtown Omaha. Union Pacific hired an expert in moving buildings and huge objects to take one of the biggest locomotives ever made from Eighth and Pacific Streets to a bluff that overlooks Interstate 80 at Lauritzen Gardens on March 12.

David Scribner, owner of that David City, Neb., hauling company, said Saturday afternoon that he would park it on Bancroft Street just outside Lauritzen Gardens.

“We’ve got all day tomorrow (Sunday) to rassle with it,” Scribner said.

Hundreds of train buffs and simply curious folks lined the 1.8-mile route. The process was terribly slow, and the only things that ran were noses in the cold air.

“At least they’re saving a piece of history instead of junking it,” said resident Tom Workman, reported the Omaha World-Herald.

“That’s a big piece,” said Susan Zarp, who hustled up and down the street taking photographs of Big Boy for her grandchildren’s photo books. Cameras were everywhere. People took pictures of one another near the locomotive.

The locomotive, resting on 18 dollies, often sat still as utility lines were raised, streetlights were moved and corners were negotiated.

Big Boy stuck crossing the main line

A broken axle on the third bogey as retired 4-8-8-4 Big Boy 4023 crosses the BNSF main in Omaha.

 

Barely out of its former Kenefick Park resting place, the third axle broke on a bogey. It took time to fix it – and it was stalled on BNSF’s main line.

Six of the 18 dollies supplied the hydraulic power used to move the l.2 million pound locomotive. Each dolly contained eight tires, which meant this Big Boy sat atop 144 tires.

Scribner has moved churches, houses and a 100-foot-by-420-foot metal building, but he admitted this was a challenge. “Yeah,” he said, “she’s a weird duck.”

The locomotive had been on display before the city redeveloped the riverfront, then it was moved behind the Durham Western Heritage Museum, and now to the bluff, where it will be visible from Interstate 80.

A second locomotive, Centennial, will be moved to the same spot early next month. That spot, just southwest of the Lauritzen Gardens parking lot, also will be called Kenefick Park.

Former U.P. Railroad President John Kenefick, 83, watched the process Saturday morning. He sympathized with Scribner’s task.

“You don’t whiz around with this thing on the streets,” Kenefick said.

Bill Kratville, a U.P. historian, said 25 Big Boys were built, and eight remain in existence. The rest were scrapped for their metal.

The powerful locomotives generally carried heavy loads efficiently between Ogden, Utah, and Evanston, Wyo., over the Wasatch mountain range.

U.P. spokeswoman Brenda Mainwaring said the Big Boys were built primarily to transport ammo and other loads during World War II. They were out of service by 1959.

“These were phenomenal locomotives when they ran,” Mainwaring said. “That’s why they’re such a big deal now.”


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End Notes...

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail the crew at leoking@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.

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In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other rail travel sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives – state DOTs, legislators, governor’s offices, and transportation professionals – as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.

If you have a favorite rail link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) to the webmaster in care of this web site. An e-mail link appears at the bottom of the NCI web site pages to get in touch with D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster in Boston.


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