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

Vol. 6 No. 17
April 25, 2005

Copyright © 2005
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass      Editor - Leo King
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

A weekly North American rail and transit update

For railroad professionals
Political leaders at all levels of government
Journalists from all media

* Now in our Sixth Year *

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IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

  News Items… 
Amtrak: $1.82 billion, please
Senate panel hears from Amtrak
Lott wants Amtrak bill by summer
Labor calls for Amtrak directors to resign
Acela Express trains remain sidelined
  Commuter lines… 
Will Cranston, R.I. get a station?
  APTA Highlights… 
TANK’s Braun Accepts New Position at First Transit
Transit to Receive $130 Million in DHS Security Grants
Turcotte Is New General Manager in Ithaca, N.Y.
TTC, Union Come to Tentative Agreement
  Freight lines… 
Rail freight traffic sets weekly record
CSX loses hazmat case; appeals
Protesters win, for now. Uh-uh, says UP; Aw, c’mon, say others
  Wall Street lines… 
BNSF elects its directors
UP income falls
  Selected Friday closing quotes…  
  Across the pond… 
Wuhan China Trains
Many German car builders may lose jobs
Deutsche Bahn chases ticket abusers
Deutsche Bahn revives branch line
Shinkansens’ run for years with faulty speed controls
La Ciotat, France; Fast trains whiz by small town
Amtrak is not the enemy
  We get letters… 
  End notes… 

SNCF seen thru window

NCI: Leo King

One of many frequent commuter trains at La Ciotat, France, pauses briefly en route to Marseilles. A feature on the south coast of France appears this week in Across the pond along with reports from Germany and China.


Acelas stuck in the shop at DC

For NCI: Jeff Lubinsky

Acela Express trains remain inside Amtrak’s Boston, New York and Washington D.C. yards getting their brakes fixed. In June 2002, this was the scene at Washington’s Ivy City high-speed facility. Meanwhile, the directors have finally asked Congress for $1.3 billion to run the railroad in fiscal year 2006.


Amtrak: $1.82 billion, please

By Leo King

Thursday was a big day at Amtrak in Washington – it finally made a budget request of $1.82 billion from the Congress, and made public its so-called strategic reform initiatives, including getting the states to contribute to the till. The carrier is pursuing legislation “to improve service and competition.”

Amtrak is seeking $1.82 billion in federal funding in fiscal year 2006.

Laney detailed some items. He said, “This request includes $787 million for capital infrastructure projects, $560 million to support train operations, $278 million for service on existing debt, $175 million in working capital and $20 million for transition costs associated with the reforms.”

Current federal funding for Amtrak is $1.2 billion, but Amtrak cautioned that “an appropriation at this level would be insufficient in the next fiscal year to sustain operations and the backlog of capital projects the railroad is working to erase.”

He said the board and management agree that Amtrak “cannot continue to operate at the current funding level of $1.2 billion.”

Board Chairman David Laney and President and CEO David Gunn told reporters they are beginning “a series of bold and comprehensive strategic reform initiatives” through legislation “to revitalize U.S. passenger rail service.”

The initiatives seek to transform the funding and development of passenger rail service, and introduce competition, efficiency and cost-savings. “These are dynamic measures to strengthen passenger rail service at a time when our nation needs it most,” Laney said.

He said there are four fundamental objectives – Developing passenger rail corridors “using a federal and state matching approach common to all other modes, generally 80/20.”

Laney added, “States, not Amtrak, would lead the development of the corridors, a number of which have already been federally designated, and Amtrak may, among others, competitively bid to provide the service.”

Echoing Gunn’s remarks of a couple of years ago, he said “Return of the Northeast Corridor infrastructure to a state-of-good-repair and operational reliability, with phased-in financial responsibility for capital and operating costs assumed on a proportionate basis by all users, including Amtrak, freight and commuter railroads” is among the four objectives.

Another objective is to establish “phased-in financial performance thresholds for Amtrak's existing 15 long-distance trains and any future similar proposed service.”

Laney said Amtrak is “initiating actions to improve the financial performance of these trains. Services falling below the thresholds could be continued through support by states or other authorities, reconfigured or eliminated.”

He said the directors also want to create markets for competition, private commercial participation and industrial reforms in various rail functions.

“This includes competition among operators, including Amtrak, for new corridor routes.”

Laney said, “Despite the record number of passengers being served by the railroad today, Amtrak cannot continue business as usual, nor can the snail pace of passenger rail development continue to lag behind the growing need in high-demand regions of the country.”

He said, “These initiatives will both continue fundamental reform at Amtrak and help spur a rational and much-needed growth of the passenger rail network. It is Amtrak's belief that the leadership of such development is the role of states and the federal government – not Amtrak. Instead, Amtrak must, in the long run, transform itself into a competitive provider of passenger rail services, with the recognition that in the near term it will remain the steward of the national passenger rail system as it is today.”

Laney also presented a brief history lesson in Amtrakonomics.

“In 2002, Amtrak eliminated its unwieldy business-unit structure and began a series of other reforms – reduction of management layers, zero-based budgeting, strict generally accepted accounting principals and other cost controls, including reducing and eliminating several routes. He added, Amtrak also returned its focus to the railroad’s core business of passenger service and asset rebuilding.

“More than 5,000 positions were eliminated and the growth in operating costs was brought under control,” Laney noted.

“Building on these efforts, Amtrak will, for fiscal 2006, align financial accounting, planning and management accountability along five business lines to facilitate future decision-making. The five business lines are Amtrak-owned infrastructure management (principally the Northeast Corridor), NEC operations, state corridor operations, and national long-distance operations and ancillary businesses.”

The board chairman, who is a Texas lawyer, stated, “These lines are not a return to the business unit structure and do not separate NEC operations and capital project management. Amtrak has reviewed various proposals to separate the management of NEC operations and infrastructure, but concluded that complexities and risks of separation outweigh the benefits, and therefore that such a separation is not advisable at this time.”

Portraying a rosy future, at least to some degree, Laney remarked, “With an ultimate goal of a vibrant passenger rail system with multiple service options and a competitive supply industry, Amtrak will undertake a wide range of reforms, including the clarification of individual business activity costs, increased outsourcing, and the initial facilitation of competition for selected routes and functions.”

He did not spell out details of what he meant by “outsourcing.”

Laney said legislative reforms are required.

“While internal reforms at Amtrak will help provide a foundation for a competitive and efficient national passenger rail system, strong federal and state leadership is essential if passenger rail is to meet the demand for service.”

Required legislative changes include establishing a federal and state capital match program for passenger rail development, “comparable to other modes of transportation.” It is the “long-proven federal transportation funding mechanism through which the USDOT annually provides more than $40 billion for highway and transit projects,” he said.

He said a federal agency would need “to oversee the transition to a competitive passenger rail environment, including the distribution of federal funding, selected assets and rights of access.”

Other requirements, in Laney’s view, are “revisions allowing the transition to a method by which all Northeast Corridor users fund their proportionate share of its costs, which will ultimately lead to extending Amtrak’s access rights on freight railroads to qualified competitors for state-managed services.

Labor relations were relegated to a muddy, single sentence: “Targeted revisions to allow labor agreements to terminate at the conclusion of the term of their agreement.” Perhaps “lawyerese” for no more agreements between Amtrak and labor, but its meaning is unclear.

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Senate panel hears from Amtrak

Several senators on Thursday criticized President Bush’s proposal to give Amtrak no money next year. Meanwhile, the railroad submitted a request to Congress for $1.82 billion – nearly three months late.

Amtrak is receiving $1.2 billion from Congress this year. Chairman David M. Laney said that without a boost in money, the railroad would have no cash by the end of fiscal 2005 in light of the brake problems that have sidelined the profitable high-speed Acela Express fleet until this summer, according to The AP.

Most senators on the Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine subcommittee were critical of Bush’s plan and sympathetic to Amtrak, favoring giving the railroad money next year. No specific amount was mentioned.

“How did the administration come up with such a ridiculous proposal?” asked Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), the subcommittee's chairman.

“I was extremely stunned and disappointed that such a proposal was made.”

Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) said the Bush administration's stance that zero funding of Amtrak is a "call to action" was baseless.

“Zero funding means you want to shut the place down," Dorgan said.

Jeffrey A. Rosen, USDOT’s general counsel, defended Bush's proposal, saying changes need to be made in Amtrak “before we spend one more taxpayer dollar to prop up a fundamentally broken system.”

Bush's proposal would set aside $360 million to run trains along the Northeast Corridor if the railroad stopped operating.

Two Republican senators, Ted Stevens of Alaska and John E. Sununu of New Hampshire, were critical of Amtrak, saying the railroad has not shown that its 15 long-distance train routes are profitable.

Lott said the subcommittee would study three proposals – from the Bush administration, Amtrak and Kenneth M. Mead, the Transportation Department’s inspector general – and work to present a bipartisan bill regarding Amtrak's funds.

Mead said Amtrak needs at least $1.4 billion to maintain current operations; $2 billion would put Amtrak in a better operating position in the long run, he said.

All the plans included proposals calling for states to chip in to keep Amtrak running. Bush’s plan calls for a 50-50 federal-state partnership, Amtrak is asking states for 20 percent of funds, and Mead's plan seeks between 15 and 30 percent from states.

“States can’t afford at this time to simply pick up the federal contribution to Amtrak,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who supports funding Amtrak and criticized Bush’s 50-50 proposal.

“Expecting them to do so would be yet another unfunded mandate, and it would sink state budgets in a sea of red ink, he said.

On Friday USDOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta weighed in on the latest Amtrak financial developments, as did a labor organization.

He said, “As you know, I have been traveling the nation in the past few months, talking to railroad workers and governors, community leaders, mayors, and commuters, to deliver the message that Amtrak cannot continue on its present course. Today, happily, I am joined in this mission by Amtrak itself. After some 34 years and $29 billion of taxpayers’ money, Amtrak is now acknowledging that its current business model is unsustainable and in need of serious reform.”

He said he also “welcomed the news that the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is prepared to work to pass legislation that helps avoid a financial collapse of Amtrak – but we need action this year to guarantee that intercity rail passengers and taxpayers have the service and accountability that they deserve.”

Mineta said “Amtrak’s strategic reform proposal adopts a number of the same principles in the Bush reform proposal that was delivered to Congress last week. The important thing to note is that we have agreement in a number of areas and we all agree on saving intercity passenger rail.”

In short, not all.

The Secretary added, “Skeptics of our plan like to say that there is no place in the world where passenger trains run at a profit. I would like to seriously beg to differ.

“I just returned from a trip to Asia where I saw firsthand how the Japanese have transformed failed passenger rail into a model of efficiency. For decades, Japan National Railway was a heavily subsidized train service that operated routes that nobody used and was known for its inefficient structure and poor financial service, but in 1987, Japanese leaders had the courage to break up the railway into six smaller companies that are today known around the world for their on-time performance, cutting-edge technology, and high profit levels. So Japan has shown that there is a better way to run a railway, and I believe that we can also find a better way. I stand ready to work with the Congress to find that better way, and find it this year.”

Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, declared, “In a stunning display of self-destructive behavior, the Amtrak board has actually asked Congress to dismantle Amtrak and undermine its mission to provide national passenger rail service for millions of Americans. The Board has simply abandoned its fiduciary responsibilities to the company it is pledged to serve and advance and has demonstrated its inability to separate itself from the ideological directives of the White House.”

In strong language, Wytkind said, “Not even Enron’s board, with all its malfeasances, sought the destruction of its own company. It defies common sense that Amtrak’s Board would have the nation believe it can succeed by subjecting itself to destructive competitive bidding and privatization.”

The labor leader added, “The Amtrak board plan is also an assault on Amtrak workers and their families. Its attempt to use Congress to renege on its collective bargaining commitments is outrageous. Its call for legislative reforms to deprive newly hired Amtrak and other passenger rail employees of their pension, disability, unemployment and survivor benefits will create a financial train wreck for the Railroad Retirement System.”

He added, “Its not so veiled a threat to repeal Amtrak employees’ worker compensation protections is unconscionable.”

He offered that companies are not knocking each other out of the way to be first in line.

“Given the fact that Amtrak was created because private railroads shed passenger service, it is no wonder that corporations are not exactly lining up for the opportunity to run passenger trains. If any do get in the business, they are more likely to be politically connected, well-heeled government contractors, creating the potential for cronyism, corruption and Halliburton-style scandals.”

Wytkind observed that “states, suffering from their own fiscal crises, are hardly likely to put any more of their own money into intercity passenger rail.”

On the operating side of the house, he said “The Amtrak board's plan also sets the stage for the wholesale elimination of long-distance train service for 4 million passengers in 41 states, covering over 18,000 miles. The board's proposal to force the states to put up more money or lose long-distance service is nothing more than a good old fashioned shakedown.”

Wytkind promised “Transportation labor will do everything within our power to prevent Amtrak’s Board from destroying Amtrak from within. Our members and the 25 million passengers they serve will not allow politics and ideology to destroy our national passenger rail system.”

The United Trnsportation Union was equally adamant in condemning the Amtrak proposal based largely on White House ideas.

“Amtrak President David Gunn is seeking to make Amtrak a low-wage, poor-benefits, anti-union Wal-Mart on wheels,” said UTU International President Paul Thompson, following Gunn’s testimony.

“Gunn and Laney had the opportunity to support the bi-partisan legislation of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which would keep our national intercity rail passenger network intact and ensure a loyal,competent and alert work force,” Thompson said.

“That bi-partisan effort proposes multi-year federal funding of Amtrak of $2 billion annually, with no adverse impacts on employees,” Thompson added.

“Instead, Gunn and Laney attacked Amtrak employees, who have kept Amtrak running for more than three decades in spite of perpetual morale-busting insufficient federal funding," Thompson said.

Among the Gunn-Laney proposals, in Thompson’s view, “are sacking assistant conductors, scrapping coverage of the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), canceling Railroad Retirement for new employees, opening some routes to private operators using non-union crews, and negotiating wages, work rules and working conditions free from provisions of the Railway Labor Act.

“I predict hell will freeze over before those proposals gain passage by Congress,” Thompson said. This is shameful, anti-union rhetoric one expects from Wal-Mart – not Amtrak management, which should celebrate the loyalty of their employees given the conditions under which they work.”

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Lott wants Amtrak bill by summer

Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi (R), chairman of the Senate Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Subcommittee, was so angered over the Bush plan to destroy Amtrak that he scolded the Bush Administration Thursday for its “stunning” proposal to zero out Amtrak’s operating subsidy, and said he expects to have a bipartisan Amtrak remedy ready to go to the Senate floor this summer.

Lott’s statements came during the Subcommittee’s hearing on the future of Amtrak during which Senators heard from the Administration’s representative to the Amtrak board, the USDOT Inspector General, and from Amtrak’s President and CEO.

Lott argued that the federal government should have the principal lead in supporting a national passenger rail system because the issue is interstate commerce and is vital to the national economy.

“I care a whole lot about transportation,” Lott said.

He added, “If we don’t have well-funded proposals for our highways, rails, airports, ports and harbors, we’re not going to be able to grow the economy. I don’t think the Administration is stepping up adequately to that responsibility."

By zeroing out Amtrak’s funding, Lott said, Administration officials were “kicking this ball to the states” because they can’t figure out what to do.

“I’m stunned that such a proposal would be sent up by this Administration," Lott said.” I want to work with the Administration, but I need you genuinely involved and your help to get this done. We need a little more innovative thinking on the part of the Administration than what we’ve already seen."

He asked, “Do we want a national rail passenger system??”

Lott challenged Administration and Amtrak officials.

“If so, how do we pay for it? Through a reauthorization with innovative ideas and new options? By identifying annual appropriations?”

Lott even suggested a different mechanism, a national transportation bond authority capability as a tool for providing a funding stream for Amtrak.

“If we’re going to have a national system, we’ve got to figure out a way to pay for it," he said.

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Labor calls for Amtrak directors to resign

By a staff writer

“The Amtrak Board of Directors must resign immediately before they succeed in killing Amtrak from within through destructive privatization initiatives,” declared Edward Wytkind on Friday. He is president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO.

Wytkind said, “A responsible board is needed to stop the Bush plan to kill Amtrak from within.” He added, “The board has clearly violated its fiduciary responsibilities by unveiling legislative reforms on Capitol Hill [on Thursday] designed to destroy the very company it has a duty to preserve.” His remarks came following a teleconference with rail union leaders, Amtrak Chairman of the Board David Laney and CEO David Gunn.

“These board members – heavy contributors to the Bush campaign – should be responsible and independent, not lapdogs to this Administration. Having failed the test of independence, they should resign to save Amtrak from itself and from the Bush Administration.” Laney is a Bush appointee, as are all the other members of the board.

Gunn did not escape Wytkind’s ire, either. He said Gunn’s “flip-flop on the best course needed to ensure a national Amtrak system is also stunning to Amtrak’s employees. In response to Amtrak privatization proposals, the candid David Gunn told Harvard magazine in 2002, ‘It all sounds nice, but when it’s done, there won't be any service.’”

Wytkind said TTD agreeed with that assessment.

“We agree with that David Gunn,” Wytkind said.

“If the Amtrak board’s proposal to subject Amtrak to senseless privatization is adopted, ‘There won't be any service,’ and 25 million Amtrak passengers, communities nationwide and 20,000 workers will suffer the consequences.”

Wytkind’s strong pro-Amtrak barrage continued.

“Any CEO of Amtrak must disavow any support for the Bush board’s recommendation to break-up Amtrak’s national system and dump the responsibility of funding passenger rail on cash-strapped states. This management team should stick to its guns and tell the truth as it always has about the folly of privatization or step aside for someone who will,” Wytkind added.

Transportation unions also called on Congress to reject the board’s proposal directed at Amtrak employees including calls for direct Congressional interference in labor-management negotiations at Amtrak and for repeal of pension, disability, unemployment, survivor, and worker injury protections for thousands of Amtrak employees.

“The board’s attempt to make scapegoats out of Amtrak employees is unconscionable and to no one's surprise borrows a page out of this Administration’s anti-labor handbook,” Wytkind said.

“We will fight with every ounce of our energy to protect the jobs and rights of Amtrak workers and the 25 million passengers they serve.”

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Acela Express trains remain sidelined

Amtrak will not be able to run any of its high-speed trains until the summer because of delays in getting replacement parts to correct brake problems on Acela Express cars, railroad officials said last week.

“The earliest you'll see trains back in service will be sometime in the summer and then you'll see a gradual return,” said Amtrak CEO David Gunn on April 20.

”What will control that is the availability of parts and the speed in which they come, and the time it takes to put them on,” The AP reported quoting Gunn.

Before Amtrak's showcase service resumes, Amtrak's chief operating officer, Bill Crosbie, said there must be agreement on how long the new brakes will last.

The brakes were expected to last 1 million miles but the Acela fleet has about half of that mileage.

Amtrak pulled all of its 20 Acela trains out of service on April 15 after finding millimeter-size cracks in 300 of the fleet’s 1,440 disc brake rotors. Each Acela trainset has 72 brakes.

“This part is unique to the Acela and there is no active production line casting them,” said Crosbie said. “The manufacturer has told me this will take some time.”

Crosbie said there are fewer than 70 disc brakes available now.

Starting Monday, Metroliner trains – slower than Acela but faster than regular trains – will operate 13 of the 15 Acela round trips between New York and Washington.

Between New York and Boston, regular trains will cover nine of the 11 Acela round trips, Crosbie said, and on May 2, Metroliner trains will operate 14 of the 15 Acela round trips between New York and Washington. The New York to Boston Acela Express route will be operated by four Metroliner trains and seven regular trains, Crosbie said. Amtrak pulled equipment from across the country to fill in for the Acela runs.

Bombardier, Inc., the Montreal-based company that builds the Acela trains, has only 80 disc brakes in stock, the company said. Alstom SA of France also makes the trains, and both companies were working on a delivery schedule with brake suppliers providing the replacement parts, Bombardier spokesman David Slack said last week.

The brake problem surfaced on April 14 when an FRA inspector found the defects after a high-speed run to test whether Amtrak could speed up the Acela Express trains slightly on curves between Trenton and Newark, N.J. He found cracks in the spokes that connect the disc brakes to the axle. Further inspections found cracks in about 300 of the 1,440 brakes in the fleet.

Amtrak chairman David Laney said on April 18 that the brake problem on the Acela Express trains would not seriously hurt the railroad in the long term, but that no one knew when the trains would be back in service because no one was sure what it would take to fix them.

Laney, who became the Amtrak chairman last May, told The New York Times, "We don't want to head down a path that requires a significant investment and then a significant reinvestment if you have to replace them again a month later or six months later.”

Apart from repair, the loss of the trains, he said, was costing Amtrak millions of dollars in revenue.

Amtrak ran just one of its 20 Acela Express trains one day earlier, from New York to Washington, after scavenging undamaged axles and brakes from the other 19, but as of the end of the day, it quit plans to run any more until permanent fixes can be made.

By the time the train arrived in Washington, around 11:00 a.m., a crew had discovered that the wheels did not match perfectly, and the train was sent to a wheel mill at Ivy City Yard in D.C.

Cracks in the cast steel parts are so unusual that Amtrak does not have the equipment to fix them, so the axles are being shipped to a special shop, said a spokesman for Bombardier, part of the consortium that built the trains – but there are only about 80 spares in inventory, according to the spokesman, David Slack. The parts are unique to Acelas.

Slack said the cause could turn out to be the rails on the Northeast Corridor, however, an Amtrak official, who asked not to be named because the issue is still under investigation, said that the problem might not be related to how long the trains had run on the rails, which could indicate a design flaw. The brakes are still under warranty. Since the trains were delivered, beginning five years ago, Amtrak and Bombardier have sued each other about other issues and settled.

While the immediate future of the Acelas is uncertain, Laney said that in the long term, “it's going to be as big a deal” as the problem that took all Acelas out of service in summer 2002. Faulty yaw dampers on the engines’ trucks, was responsible for that, but now that is largely forgotten, he said, and this will be too, if the Acelas can be returned to service without any additional major flaws being found.

The brake problem is “not debilitating on a long-term basis,” he said.

Also last week, Gunn sent a message to employees explaining that “Safety is our top priority, and no Acela Express train will be returned to service unless it is inspected and found to be safe.”

Gunn added, “We are just at the beginning of this situation, and there’s not going to be any significant return of Acela service any time soon,” but the railroad is taking several steps to deal with this situation.

He said, “We are re-working the Northeast Corridor schedule to slot in as many Metroliner trainsets as we can press into service. Some of this Metroliner Amfleet equipment is on the Adirondack, some of it is on the Downeaster service. These cars will be returned to the corridor. The Metroliner sets will be deployed in a manner that services the maximum number of our passengers.”

Amtrak’s CEO added, “We’re also moving as much Regional Amfleet equipment into the corridor as possible. New Jersey Transit is helping us by running a Clocker roundtrip with their equipment, freeing up our trainset. The West Coast Horizon charter equipment is coming east to free-up Amfleet equipment on the Empire Service. We are also suspending charter moves.”

Gunn said the mechanical department “is doing an excellent job keeping the conventional equipment shop counts low. For the foreseeable future, Amfleets are all we will have in any quantity for service on the Northeast Corridor, although a few Acela sets may be available from time to time.”

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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Will Cranston, R.I. get a station?

Someday, those sleek Amtrak Acela Express trains may not just breeze through the city on their way to Boston and Washington. If the city has its way, a conductor in the future may call out “Cranston, Rhode Island.”

More likely, though, it will be a Warwick-Boston commuter train.

The Providence Journal reported last week the city has petitioned the state to study building a station in Cranston, as a stop for Amtrak trains and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority commuter trains that will serve the planned Amtrak station near T.F. Green Airport, in Warwick.

In its proposal to the State Planning Council, Cranston targets a site along Route 95, in an industrial-zoned area between Elmwood and Wellington Avenues.

The city asserts that the site, nearly halfway between the Warwick station site and downtown Providence, would be an excellent depot location.

“We're going to push this very hard. It's very important to us,” said Mayor Stephen P. Laffey. “If it's going to stop somewhere, we think it should stop here.”

The study area covers 155 acres, and contains 125 small businesses and some housing.

City Planning Director Kevin Flynn said that the rail project could breathe life into the area, bringing multi-story office development and high-density residential properties.

“We think a train station here could revitalize the whole area,” Flynn said, and “change the face of the city” at one of its most visible points, its frontage on Route 95, often the only chance the New York-to-Boston travelers have to see Cranston.

The city estimates that a feasibility study would cost about $250,000.

East Greenwich and Pawtucket have also submitted plans to explore the possibility of hosting a station, Devine said. It’s possible, he said, that all three proposals would be considered in a single study.

In the state's long-term plan, the Warwick and Wickford stations are considered a first stage, and communities such as Cranston are naturals for expansion.

“We now see them as a phase two,” Devine said.

The state Transportation Advisory Committee will review Cranston's proposal over the next few months and is expected to decide by October whether to commission a study.

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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

TANK’s Braun Accepts New Position at First Transit

Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky General Manager David Braun has accepted a position in the Business Development Group of First Transit, effective May 1. The Fort Wright, Ky., transit system is operated by First Transit.

Braun is joining the Business Development Group, located in the company’s North American headquarters in Cincinnati, to work on proposal development, pricing, and new business outreach activities.

Braun has been employed with First Transit for more than 16 years. Prior to coming to TANK, he was general manager of CityLink, the operating name of the Greater Peoria Mass Transit District in Illinois. Braun came to TANK in October 2003.

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Transit to Receive $130 Million in DHS Security Grants

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced April 5 that public transportation will receive approximately $130 million of the $150 million provided in the DHS Appropriations Act of 2005 for transit, passenger, and freight rail security grants. This amount includes almost $108 million earmarked for rail transit and more than $22 million for bus. Ferries will receive an additional $5 million for security from a separate account.

The act allows for creating a new program within DHS’s Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness that specifically focuses on transportation security, building upon the work currently underway through the Urban Areas Security Initiative. According to DHS, the Fiscal Year 2005 Transit Security Grant Program reflects the intent of Congress and the Administration to create a sustainable effort for the protection of critical infrastructure and the commuting public against terrorism.

The formula for the allocation of rail transit funding includes ridership, track miles, number of stations, and threat. The bus funding allocation is based on ridership, while the ferry system funding is allocated on a competitive basis, with eligibility based on ridership and location within a defined UASI jurisdiction.

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Turcotte Is New General Manager in Ithaca, N.Y.

Joseph J. Turcotte has joined Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, Inc. in Ithaca, N.Y., as its new general manager. He succeeds Rod Ghearing, who left TCAT in the summer of 2004 to take a similar position in Grand Junction, Colo.

Turcotte comes to TCAT from the Charlotte Area Transit System in Charlotte, N.C., where he served as superintendent of transportation and administration. In that position, he provided strategic and operational guidance for the day-to-day operations of a 300-vehicle, 550-bus operator system, with direct responsibility for leading more than 40 supervisors, dispatchers, and radio operators.

Earlier, Turcotte was employed as service manager for Chatham Area Transit in Savannah, Ga., from 1994 to 2002, and as an engineering technician specialist for the Orange County Environmental Management Agency in Santa Ana, Calif., from 1987 until 1993.

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TTC, Union Come to Tentative Agreement

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 reached a tentative agreement April 11 with the Toronto Transit Commission, averting a threatened strike. The three-year deal was due to be voted on by union members April 14, as Passenger Transport went to print.

Had the union and TTC not reached the agreement, 8,400 workers had planned to walk off the job the morning of April 11. The two sides reached a collective agreement on April 10, following the union’s presentation of a new contract proposal on April 7 and the management negotiating team’s review and response. The workers’ previous contract expired April 1.

Briefly, the new agreement provides for wage increases of 2.75 percent in 2005, 3 percent in 2006, and 3.75 percent in 2007. Other elements in the tentative agreement will be released upon ratification. TEXT

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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

Rail freight traffic sets weekly record

Total freight traffic on U.S. railroads as measured in ton-miles was at its highest level ever during the week ended April 16, the AAR reported Thursday.

Total volume was estimated 33.3 billion ton-miles, up 4.7 percent from the comparable week last year. It also broke the record of 33.2 billion ton-miles which was set during the week ended November 20, 2004.

Carload freight totaled 353,864 cars, up 3.1 percent from last year, with volume up 5.6 percent in the east and 1.2 percent in the west. Intermodal volume for the week totaled 219,932 trailers and containers, up 6.4 percent from a year ago, with containers up 7.5 percent and trailers gaining 3.3 percent.

Thirteen of 19 carload commodities were up from last year, with coke up 36.2 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel up 13.5 percent; grain mill products up 12.5 percent; and farm products other than grain up 12.3 percent. Primary forest products were down 8.4 percent while metallic ores were off 8.5 percent.

Cumulative volume for the first 15 weeks of 2005 totaled 5,100,085 carloads, up 2.7 percent from 2004; 3,215,085 trailers or containers, up 7.4 percent; and total volume of an estimated 474.1 billion ton-miles, up 3.6 percent from last year.

On Canadian railroads, during the week ended April 16 carload traffic totaled 71,724 cars, down 4.0 percent from last year while intermodal volume totaled 44,486 trailers or containers, off 0.2 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 15 weeks of 2005 on the Canadian railroads totaled 1,048,924 carloads, up 1.4 percent from last year, and 624,493 trailers and containers, up 4.2 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 15 weeks of 2005 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 6,149,716 carloads, up 2.5 percent from last year and 3,839,578 trailers and containers, up 6.9 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended April 16 totaled 9,460 cars, up 9.7 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 4,534 originated trailers or containers, up 25.2 percent from the 15th week of 2004. For the first 15 weeks of 2005, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 129,148 cars, up 4.3 percent from last year, and 56,236 trailers or containers, up 9.0 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.

The AAR is online at

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CSX loses hazmat case; appeals

A federal judge refused on April 18 to block a D.C. law banning hazardous materials rail shipments through the city, saying that the District of Columbia is entitled to take steps to protect itself from a catastrophic accident because the federal government has failed to do so.

The next day, an appeals court knocked down the lower court ruling and granted an administrative stay.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan also ruled that CSX Transportation, Inc. and the federal government had not provided evidence that the railroad or rail security would suffer irreparable harm if the company were forced to reroute hazardous chemical cars around D.C., the Washington Post reported on the 18th.

CSX filed suit in February to overturn the D.C. ban, and the federal government joined on the railroad's behalf.

CSX sorts freight cars at its Cumberland, Md. Yard. D.C. officials want to keep hazardous materials from traveling through the city.

CSX Transportation lawyers said they disagreed with the District Court’s decision to uphold the District of Columbia’s hazmat act and would file an appeal to the federal U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The ruling, CSX stated, “rejects the legal opinions of the U.S. Departments of Transportation, Justice and Homeland Security, and an order from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) declaring this law invalid.”

CSXT is required by federal law to transport materials, including hazardous materials. Rail transportation is widely recognized to be the safest way to transport “hazmats.”

CSX spokesman Bob Sullivan said from the railroad’s corporate headquarters in Jacksonville the “decision sets up a clear conflict for CSXT between the court’s decision, which would require CSXT to abide by the District’s law, and the contrary legal positions of the U.S. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Transportation, and an order from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board declaring the District’s law invalid.”

He added, “CSXT believes that left unchallenged, the District’s law could establish a precedent that could lead to a patchwork of similar laws that could virtually shut down rail transportation of critical commodities in the U.S. The city of Baltimore is already moving forward on similar legislation, and other cities are considering similar bans as well.

CSX owns one of the largest rail networks in the U.S. over 21,000 route miles in 23 states, the District of Columbia, and two Canadian provinces.

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Protesters win, for now

Uh-uh, says UP; Aw, c’mon, say others

After protesters threatened to lie on the tracks, hang signs and file lawsuits, Union Pacific Railroad decided against allowing a day of passenger train service from Santa Cruz, Cal., to Watsonville and Davenport, all in California, next month, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel of April 20.

"Since there’s mixed feelings on running the train through the Santa Cruz area anyway, we don't think it's worth it to do it," said UP spokesman John Bromley.

Supporters of the May 22 festival haven't given up yet.

“We're still working to convince UP this is petty fringe, extreme NIMBYism going on,” said Piet Canin, program director of spring’s Bike Week and fall’s Bike to Work/School Day.

Still, Aptos resident and protester Sylvia Previtali, with Santa Cruz Coalition Against Recreational Rail, said she and fellow “SCCARRED” members see passenger rail as “The beginning of the end of life as we know it.”

Rail and Trail Day was planned by advocacy groups Friends of the Rail Trail and People Power to feature a return-trip passenger train from Santa Cruz to Watsonville for $3 a ticket.

At sunset, the train would cruise to Davenport for a more expensive dinner event, with proceeds to benefit the two groups.

The idea of more trains on the track is controversial, with neighbors of the rail line fighting recent proposals and others wondering if the service would make any money. The event next month, organizers said, could let residents see how a passenger train would work.

Capitola, Watsonville and Santa Cruz city councils all supported the event.

SCCARRED is also attempting to derail the county’s deal to buy the 32-mile Santa Cruz branch rail line. Transportation officials signed a letter of intent last December, agreeing to a $19 million price.

The group – composed of about 20 Aptos neighbors – is especially against any plans for more trains on the tracks, citing noise, safety, environmental, monetary and other concerns.

Organizers and supporters of Rail and Trail Day said they were frustrated a few people could stop the entire event.

UP would have had to upgrade the tracks for Rail and Trail Day, Bromley said, and if the event had community support, that probably would not have been a problem. Without it, though, Bromley said, the day is off.

“Our goal here is to sell the line, that’s what we want to do,” Bromley said. “One of the reasons we want to sell the line is to get out of all the controversy that seems to arise there in Santa Cruz.”

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

BNSF elects its directors

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. shareholders elected 10 directors, including Matthew K. Rose, chairman, president and CEO at the company's annual shareholders meeting held April 20 in Fort Worth.

Other directors were elected to a one-year term, including

Alan L. Boeckmann, 56, chairman and CEO of Fluor Corp; Vilma S. Martinez, 61, partner in the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson, LLP; Marc F. Racicot, 56, partner in the law firm of Bracewell & Patterson, L.L.P.; and Roy S. Roberts, 66, managing director of Reliant Equity Investors, L.L.C.

Also Marc J. Shapiro, 57, retired vice-chairman for finance, risk management, and administration of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.; J.C. Watts, Jr., 47, chairman of J.C. Watts Companies L.L.C., and J.C. Watts Enterprises, Inc.; Robert H. West, 66, retired chairman of the board of Butler Manufacturing Co.; and J. Steven Whisler, 50, chairman and CEO of Phelps Dodge Corp.; and Edward E. Whitacre, Jr., 63, chairman and CEO of SBC Communications Inc.

Michael B. Yanney, chairman of America First Companies L.L.C., retired from the board and did not stand for re-election.

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Canadian National Ry. posted a 42 percent increase in first quarter earnings on Wednesday, as acquisitions and a strong economy boosted freight revenue.

The company said it had a net profit of C299 million, or C1.04 Canadian cents per diluted share, compared with a profit of C210 million, or 73 Canadian cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago, Reuters reported.

CN’s results in the first quarter of 2004 had been weighed down slightly because of a labor dispute.

Operating income was C526 million on revenue of C1.7 billion in the quarter, compared with an operating income of C$395 million and revenues of C$1.4 billion in the first quarter of 2004, the company said.

E. Hunter Harrison, CN president and CEO said last week, “CN had an exceptional quarter, achieving an operating ratio of less than 70 per cent for the first three months of the year” – and for the first time. It was “all the more striking given a severe winter and weather-related disruptions on parts of our network early in the quarter,” he added.

“Our strong performance was driven by a number of factors – a solid economy, revenue gains from CN’s 2004 acquisitions, a higher fuel surcharge, freight rate increases, and a return to more normal traffic levels following the first-quarter 2004 Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) strike. This resulted in double-digit revenue increases at five of our seven commodity groups, with particular strength in metals and minerals, forest products, and intermodal traffic.”

Commodity groups that registered revenue gains during the quarter were metals and minerals (49 per cent); forest products (26 per cent); intermodal (26 per cent); coal (18 per cent); petroleum and chemicals (10 per cent); and grain and fertilizers (8 per cent). Automotive revenues declined by 6 per cent.

CN's first-quarter 2005 performance benefited from $121 million in revenues from the rail and related holdings of Great Lakes Transportation LLC (GLT) and BC Rail, whose operations CN consolidated on May 10, 2004, and July 14, 2004, respectively.

Operating expenses for first-quarter 2005 increased by 13 per cent to $1,180 million, largely because of the inclusion of $96 million in GLT and BC Rail expenses, higher labor and fringe benefits, and increased fuel costs, all of which were partly offset by lower equipment rents.

The continued appreciation of the Canadian dollar affected the conversion of CN's U.S. dollar-denominated revenues and expenses, and, accordingly, reduced the company's first-quarter 2005 revenues, operating income and net income by approximately $60 million, $25 million, and $15 million, respectively.

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Kansas City Southern will pay a cash dividend of $5.3125 per share on the outstanding 4.25 percent Redeemable Cumulative Convertible Perpetual Preferred stock. The dividend is payable on May 16 to stockholders of record at the close of business on May 2.

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Norfolk Southern Corp. (NSC) on Friday said its regular quarterly dividend of 11 cents per share on its common stock would be paid on June 10 to stockholders of record on May 6.

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UP income falls

Union Pacific Corp. (UNP) said Thursday first-quarter net income fell to $128 million, or 48 cents a share, from $165 million, or 63 cents a share in the year-earlier quarter. The railroad posted a 9 percent increase in revenue to $3.15 billion, but blamed network problems for the drop in income. The average analyst forecast from Thomson First Call was for 47 cents a share.

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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...


  Friday One Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)48.9447.22
Canadian National (CNI)58.9357.00
Canadian Pacific (CP) 35.9134.10
CSX (CSX)39.5938.22
Florida East Coast (FLA)42.5539.20
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)24.9823.50
Kansas City Southern (KSU)19.6118.66
Norfolk Southern (NSC)32.7230.65
Providence & Worcester (PWX)13.9013.33
Union Pacific (UNP)64.4862.97

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

Two photos: David Beale

A diesel-hauled intercity train from Zhengzhou and going to Guangzhou approaches the main Wuhan passenger station.


By David Beale
D:F Foreign Correspondent

WUHAN, China – Some China railways are electrified, and they run fast trains.

In mid-March, my job (not for a railroad) took me to Wuhan, a large city in the east-central part of China, some 600 miles north of Hong Kong and 800 miles southwest of Beijing.

It is a rail line which runs more or less just north of the downtown area and about two kilometers (1 mile) east is a large freight yard. To the west is one of the city’s three main passenger stations.

Most mail rail lines appeared to be electrified, similar to lines in Europe – but the presence of many diesel locomotives in the stations and rail yards suggests there is a substantial amount of their network which is not electrified.

The passenger train stations in China are nearly impossible to access, unless you are actually taking a train somewhere. They operate more like an airport, rather than a train station, much like what is common in Europe and used to be common in the U.S.

Passengers must pass airport-style security screening just after entering the station, they then must check in for the trains they are riding on in various waiting lounges. Trains are boarded similarly to the way airliners are boarded – no passengers are allowed down on to the platform until station personnel open doors or gates to allow them onto the platforms. Tickets and ID are checked as passengers start down the stairs or escalators.

Officials take boarding passes as passengers enter the jetway to get on the plane.

This works in China, since from what I could see, most passenger trains here are long-distance trains, commuter or suburban regional trains, and do not appear to exist except for Hong Kong, Beijing and Guangzhou and maybe a couple of other mega cities.

Local mass transit in most urban areas appears to be buses, either diesel or trackless trolleys powered by power lines running above the streets. Regional mass transit is also by bus, similar to long-distance highway buses are used in Europe and elsewhere in Asia and Australia.

The city train stations all have large bus terminals just next to the railway station facilities.

The diesel locomotives I saw appear to be quite similar to, if not copies of, locomotives used in Russia, Ukraine, and some other east European countries. They also appear to have tremendous pulling power, one locomotive pulling 60 to 70 freight cars, or in the case of the passenger train I photographed, one locomotive for about 20 cars including coaches, dining cars, baggage cars and sleepers. In comparison, the very few long-distance trains which Deutsche Bahn still operates with diesels always have two locomotives for such a train length.

An electric locomotive-hauled freight train moves west through Wuhan.

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Many German car builders may lose jobs

Special to Destination:Freedom

The German rail transit manufacturing industry fears that up to 6,000 jobs could be eliminated due to a lack of orders for new rolling stock and construction projects. Domestic orders for new rolling stock at Germany’s

major train manufacturers is down by one-third compared to a year ago. In comparison, business in other countries for railroad suppliers is relatively good.

The president of the German train manufacturer’s association, Friedrich Smaxwil, stated that the industry currently employs about 40,000 people in Germany, which is already 2,000 less than in 2004. The industry in Germany has seen domestic sales drop from €5.4 billion to €3.5 in the past 12 months. Foreign sales rose to €4.5 billion from 4.2 billion during the same period.

Deliveries within Germany of new railroad cars and locomotives is down by 40 percent so far this year. Deutsche Bahn – German Railways – will acquire hardly any new vehicles this year or next year for its own operations. Most new rolling stock to be delivered in the next three years in Germany consists of local and regional passenger trains purchased or leased by local or state governments rather than Deutsche Bahn itself.

Some of DB’s local competitors are buying or leasing new locomotives and rolling stock, but that sales volume currently is relatively low. A decision at Deutsche Bahn to buy up to 500 new heavy-haul diesel locomotives has been withdrawn temporarily due to received quotations being far more costly than DB expected, while an order for approximately 600 new conventional locomotive-hauled intercity passenger coaches has been indefinitely postponed as DB fights to keep capital costs low and its market share slipping away to a growing group of low cost airline competitors such as Ryanair, easy jet, Air Berlin and dba-Germania.

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Deutsche Bahn chases ticket abusers

German Railways said recently it is aggressively enforcing existing rules governing the use of certain excursion fare tickets which are typically valid for an entire day regardless of how far or on how many trains one travels. Included in this are so-called “Länder” and “Schönes Wochenende” tickets.

The “Schönes Wochenende” ticket is valid for unlimited travel on a weekend day all day long for travel anywhere in Germany except on ICE, EC, IC, AutoTrain or night sleeper trains and costs 30 Euros. The “Länder” tickets are similar, except they are valid on weekdays after the end of the morning commute time at 9:00, and are limited to certain geographic areas roughly corresponding to the state boundaries in Germany and typically cost 13 Euros. One to five persons may travel on either ticket type.

DB will enforce rules with these tickets which state they are not transferable and may not be given nor sold to another person after completing a journey. Customers will be required to write their names on the ticket before starting travel and once travel is started, members of a traveling group using one ticket may not be changed during the day. DB said violators will be handled as “Schwarzfahrer,” German for stowaway, will lose the ticket and will be subject to a 40 Euros fine per person.

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Deutsche Bahn revives branch line

Starting on June 12, Deutsche Bahn will reopen a rail line between Osnabrück to Bielefeld via Dissen/Bad Rothenfelde named “Haller Willem” for hourly passenger train service. The 23 km-long branch line, closed since 1992 to all traffic and since 1984 to passenger trains, was renovated at a cost of 16 million Euros. The German state of Lower Saxony paid 11 million of the reconstruction costs.

Operations will be with new “Talbot Talent” diesel powered light rail passenger vehicles from Bombardier operating on an hourly schedule between Osnabrück and Bielefeld. The diesel LRVs will operate initially at a maximum speed of 80 kmh between stations.

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Shinkansens’ run for years with faulty speed controls

Series 300 bullet trains have been running for years with faulty speed control equipment, Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) officials said in March, reported Mainichi Shimbun, of March 23.

Automatic Train Control (ATC) devices that prevent Shinkansen trains – Japan’s so-called “Bullet Trains,” from exceeding certain speeds have been faulty on the Series 300 trains, with 52 malfunctions reported this year alone.

In one case, a train traveled at 280 kph (174 mph) between Shin-Yokohama and Odawara stations in Kanagawa Prefecture on March 3, even though the speed limit on the line is 270 kph 168 mph.

JR Tokai says the error came from faulty software supplied by the makers of the devices and that the glitch was not even detected during test runs.

Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry officials have asked JR Tokai to provide a complete explanation of the case.

JR Tokai said one of the cases involved a Series 300 bullet train driver being forced to reduce speed manually after the ATC on the train he was driving on March 19 failed to work.

A check of the ATC later revealed that software supposed to detect train speeds was not working properly. This caused the ATC to estimate the train was traveling slower than it actually was.

JR Tokai has stopped using the faulty equipment.

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La Ciotat station in France

NCI: Leo King

Now more than a century old, La Ciotat station in France serves SNCF.


La Ciotat, France

Fast trains whiz by small town

By Leo King

Photos by the author

Back in 1895, a couple of fellows named Lumière in the south of France brought two things to the world: the discovery of how to make photographs appear to move, and the first railroad movie photography. They used a French steam-drawn train to demonstrate their new invention when they created the motion picture camera, as well as a means to see the film projected onto a wall. The movie lasts about a minute.

Lumière brothers’ experiment

Serie Centenaire du Cinema 1895-1995

This is a frame from the Lumière brothers’ experiment – the world’s first movie.

Voila! A movie and a train!

Louis and Auguste stood by the tracks in front of La Ciotat (pronounced see-oh-tah) station as the train approached, and filmed their historic silver nitrate images.

TGV passes through

Fast TGV expresses fly by La Ciotat – and many other small stations.

That wonderful old station still exists in southeastern France, some 1,000 kilometers (about 621 miles) and 61.5 meters (201 feet) above sea level – and in this case, the bluish-green Mediterranean Sea, just a couple of kilometers away – and it services local commuters between Marseilles, Aubagne (oh-bon-yuh), Toulon, Hyères and 13 lesser places, including La Ciotat. A ticketseller works inside the La Ciotat station, operated by Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français, or SNCF, as virtually everyone calls it.

Eastbound 1607 and Westbound 1615

While the eastward 1607 stopped at La Ciotat and a few minutes off the mark, westward 1615, also a minute or two late, met at La Ciotat. The trains run left-handed in France.

Fast east-west TGV trains whiz by here as well in left-handed operations, but they don’t stop here. They are en route from Pepignan on the west end near Spain over routes to Paris, Marseilles, and Vintimille just over the border in Italy. Trainsets are often doubled. If Europe unites itself into a single nation, for which residents will be voting on May 29, it will be a borderless region of the world, like the U.S. among the states.

Toss into the mix fret trains as well. I saw what appeared to be empty container cars on two freight trains, but nowhere near the sizes of those we operate in the U.S. They were only capable of hauling single boxes.

On April 19, my first chance to watch and photograph trains in France, was at La Ciotat station, which translates literally to The City. All trains operate under catenary, which is similar in design to that used on the Northeast Corridor in the U.S. with its counterweights providing tension on the overhead wires. The passenger trains are unnumbered in the public commuter timetables, so a rider must go by what time a train is due to stop at his or her station, or gare, in French.

The station sign

A fast Freight (fret)

NCI: Leo King

Fast fret trains travel at commuter train speeds

In between commuter trains, which I estimated were about three to five minutes off their carded times, a half-dozen TGVs whizzed by in both directions. Those fast westbound freight trains were back-to-back.

What was astonishing was the train frequency I saw over a two-hour span. Eventually I lost count of how many TGVs flew by. Even some local trains were expresses and ignored La Ciotat. I can only guess how mad it must be in the dispatchers’ offices.

The city – which is really a town of about 30,000 people, is on the edge of the Mediterranean, as are many of the communities SNCF serves. La Ciotat once had a busy shipbuilding yard, but it folded in 1988. All its facilities remain in place in case it is ever needed in wartime, including an SNCF branch line off the main near La Ciotat station. I guessed it to be about two or three miles long, snaking its way down to maybe 10 feet above sea level.

For a retired Amtrak train director and block operator, it was an incredible show to watch. La Ciotat is not a junction point, but a great deal of mainline running passes by. In a future look-see, we’ll take a look at Marseille, about 10 miles west of La Ciotat – and a major junction.

Rail Map

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EDITORIAL...  Editorial...

Amtrak is not the enemy

By James P. RePass
President and CEO
The National Corridors Initiative

Amtrak’s latest equipment crisis has brought out the predictable round of “end of the line” headlines and blame-Amtrak columns and quotes from the usual suspects, as well as a torrent of telephone calls and e-mails from journalists around the country to NCI.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Amtrak is struggling to present a coherent solution to the long-running saga of not-so-benign neglect that has characterized its existence, all the while trying to fend off the malicious, elitist ideologues in the Bush Administration who simply don’t believe in government, but who hide behind the veneer of “marketplace” surface validity to cover their partisan hatred for anything that might serve the shrinking American middle class, as Amtrak does.

The Acela trainsets brake rotor defects are not the problem, and the wildly popular Acela Express service is not the problem either. Both are merely symptoms of what happens when a society chooses to systematically disinvest in one type of transportation, as we have done in America, and over-invest in another.

The problem has been and is the funding mechanism for Amtrak, which provides almost no capital, but mandates trains that operate where politicians want them. It is a formula for failure, and what is worse, it does nothing to address the crying need for transportation mobility – freight and passenger – that is raising the cost of doing business in America, especially combined with the growing congestion on the nation’s highway system.

By utterly neglecting rail for over 60 years, while building tens of thousands of miles of taxpayer financed highways that compete for both freight and human transport, the government has created a slow-moving but deepening crisis that wiped out the American passenger rail industry, so that when we finally do make a purchase, for the newly electrified Northeast Corridor – Acela Express was the first purchase of its kind in 35 years – we have to use European designed but heavily modified technology, and then try to operate on American tracks under American operating conditions. What you get is what we’ve got: a brilliant train whose basic suspension components are getting their prototyping in the field, with highly predictable results. If you don’t have a rail car industry, or enough money to re-invent one, you do what Amtrak did, or else you get nothing, ever, in the way of new equipment. Could things have been done better?


Would the outcome have been different?

No, not with the resources at hand.

Out of all of this movable famine, there is at least one and possibly more bright news item: the proposal by the Senate’s Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to create a national bonding authority for infrastructure to issue low-interest, government-backed bonds to build rail infrastructure.

“If we’re going to have a national system, we’ve got to figure out a way to pay for it,” Lott said.

Lott has been a transportation advocate for many years, and was the principal force behind the National Forum for Passenger Rail a decade ago, which called for similar action. It is time to move on those ideas, and stop pretending that we can have a national rail system on the cheap.

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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

In the latest issue of Destination: Freedom [April 18], Jim RePass writes, “The Federal Railroad Administration, in its infinite wisdom ten years ago, imposed American buffering (sic) standards on the European-designed trainset, effectively doubling its weight, therefore quadrupling the physical forces sustained by the undercarriages during operation.”

He goes on to bash the “ignorant” people who will use this latest equipment failure to lay blame at Amtrak's feet.

The actions and policies of the FRA are certainly debatable; however, if Mr. RePass is going to make broad accusations about the ignorance of others, he ought to be a more careful with the facts himself. To wit: his dubious assertion that doubling the mass of a moving object quadruples the braking force required to slow or stop it. The following formula applies:


Expressed in plain English, kinetic energy of a body in motion equals one-half its mass times the square of its velocity.

The “SI” unit is the Joule, expressed as “kg*(m/s)^2”.

So, doubling the mass doubles the kinetic energy of the body, while doubling the velocity quadruples its kinetic energy. So the high speeds are imposing more demands on the braking system than the added mass. In other words, you want to reduce stress on the braking gear.

Slowing down is twice as effective as shedding mass.

This kinetic energy must be dissipated somehow to slow the train. A bit of it gets scrubbed off by friction in bearings and so forth, in addition to aerodynamic drag, which is considerable at high speeds. The rest of the kinetic energy is converted to thermal energy by the friction of brake pads on rotors to slow the train; those are the physical forces Mr. RePass is talking about.

This is not higher-level physics. The velocity-squared formula is a pretty basic concept, and it lies behind those diagrams they passed out in driver's education classes showing how much farther it takes to stop based on higher speeds.

Paul Wilson

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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 Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.

Destination: Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images that appear in Destination:Freedom may do so at a nominal fee of $10.00 per image. “True color” Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG or JPG) images average 1.7MB each. Print publishers can order images in process color (CMYK) or tagged image file format (.tif), and are nearly 6mb each. They will be snail-mailed to your address, or uploaded via file transfer protocol (FTP) to your site. All are 300 dots-per-inch.

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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