Vol. 6 No. 28
July 11, 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… 
More than 50 die, 700-plus injured
     Subway blasts disrupt London
Amtrak raises its threat level
U.S. rails on alert nationwide
3 solons to offer transit security bills
In Frazier Yard Acelas to restart today?
Lawmakers raid USDOT budget to aid Amtrak
Gunn lobbies Philadelphians for funds
Amtrak slashes credit card expenses
FRA grants fund rail safety research
Empire State writes new rail plan
‘Black box’ requirements changing
  Labor lines… 
TCU merges with machinists’ union
  Commuter lines… 
Seattle monorail leaders resign
Central Florida commuter rail gains support
Sound Transit okays updating plans
URS gets Miami-Dade contract
  APTA Highlights… 
Charleston, S.C., Recovers Service After Serious Setback
Mineta Unveils Human Service Transportation
    Coordination Plan
Cotton Named Director for Phoenix Public Transit
  Freight lines… 
UP’s ‘Sunset Route’ has a long history
Two CSX Michigan lines for sale
CN locomotive engineers sign deal
CP upgrades some western track
Rail freight traffic up in June
  Friday closing quotes… 
  Across the pond… 
Spiffy trams roll in Barcelona grass
Japan tests new bullet train
Train of thought. Around the system
Oliver O. Jensen, 91
  End notes… 

Injured in london

AP Photo: Jane Mingay

Witnesses reported seeing dozens of people stumbling out of London subway stations, coughing and black with soot after three trains were bombed.


More than 50 die, 700-plus injured

Subway blasts disrupt London

Four blasts rocked the London subway and tore open a packed double-decker bus during the morning rush hour Thursday morning, sending bloodied victims fleeing in the worst attack on London since World War II. More than 50 people were killed and London hospitals reported more than 700 wounded in the terrorist attacks.

The Associated Press reported Prime Minister Tony Blair called the attacks “barbaric” and said they were clearly designed to coincide with the G-8 summit opening in Gleneagles, Scotland. They also came a day after London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics. A group calling itself “The Secret Organization of al-Qaida in Europe” claimed responsibility.

Amtrak raises its threat level

Amtrak increased the railroad's security threat level on Thursday in response to the terrorist bombings in London's transit system. Amtrak said it put more resources into its security efforts in stations, aboard trains and along the railroad. The heightened security involved deployment of more officers and K-9 teams as well as briefings to the railroad's employees reminding them to continue to be vigilant and on alert for suspicious activity.

Amtrak “takes the London train bombings very seriously and is taking extra security measures strictly as a precaution. There has been no specific or credible threat made against Amtrak,” the American railroad stated in a press release.

“The railroad will continue at this heightened security threat level until we have a better understanding of the events in London.”

Passengers are urged to contact Amtrak police at 1-800-331-0008 or to call 911 if they see any suspicious activity.

The explosions hit three subway stations and a double-decker bus in rapid succession beginning at 8:51 a.m. London time and ended about 40 minutes later when a blast ripped the bus.

Traces of explosives were found at two explosion sites, a senior police official said.

Explosions were reported at the Aldgate station near the Liverpool Street railway terminal, Edgware Road and King’s Cross in north London, Old Street in the financial district and Russell Square, near the British Museum.

“I saw lots of people coming out covered in blood and soot. Black smoke was coming from the station. I saw several people laid out on sheets,” office worker Kibir Chibber, 24, said at the Aldgate subway station.

Simon Corvett, 26, on an eastbound train from Edgware Road station, described “this massive huge bang... It was absolutely deafening and all the windows shattered.”

“You could see the carriage opposite was completely gutted,” he said. “There were some people in real trouble.”

On March 11, 2004, terrorist bombs on four commuter trains in Madrid killed 191 people. Implementing an emergency plan, authorities immediately shut down the subway and bus lines that log 8.4 million passenger trips every weekday.

“It was chaos,” said Gary Lewis, 32, who was evacuated from a subway train at King’s Cross station.

“The one haunting image was someone whose face was totally black and pouring with blood.”

As the city’s transportation system ground to a near-halt, buses were used as ambulances and an emergency medical station was set up at a hotel. Rescue workers, police and ordinary citizens streamed into the streets to help. At the scene of several blasts, specialist emergency workers in orange biochemical suits searched for evidence of biological, chemical or nuclear agents.

Blair, flanked by fellow G-8 leaders, including President Bush, said, “We shall prevail and they shall not.”

Earlier, a shaken Blair said, “Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilized nations throughout the world.”

He returned to London, but said the meeting of the world leaders would continue. The G-8 summit’s agenda got sidetracked, however, and they decided to delay declarations on climate change and the global economy.

Bush warned Americans to be “extra vigilant” as they headed to work after the deadly explosions in London. He said he had conferred with federal homeland security officials back in Washington.

Much of Europe also went on alert. Italy’s airports raised alert levels to a maximum. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia, the Netherlands, France and Spain also were among those announcing beefed-up security at shopping centers, airports, railways and subways.

A group calling itself “The Secret Organization of al-Qaida in Europe” posted a claim of responsibility, saying the blasts were in retaliation for Britain’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The statement also threatened attacks in Italy and Denmark. It was published on a web site popular with Islamic militants, according to Elaph, a secular Arabic-language news website, and Der Spiegel magazine in Berlin, which published the text on their Web sites.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick said there had been no arrests, and it was unclear whether suicide bombers were involved.

The authenticity of the statement could not be immediately confirmed, but terrorism experts said the coordinated explosions had the trademarks of the al-Qaida network.

“This is clearly an al-Qaida style attack. It was well-coordinated, it was timed for a political event and it was a multiple attack on a transportation system at rush hour,” said Lawrence Freedman, professor of war studies at King’s College in London.

British officials had received no prior warning nor did they have any advance intelligence that the attacks would occur.

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U.S. rails on alert nationwide

Compiled from press reports

The federal Homeland Security Department asked authorities in major cities Thursday for heightened vigilance of transportation systems after a series of explosions on transit systems in London.

President George W. Bush, in Scotland for a meeting of the Group of Eight leaders, conferred in a secure video conference with national security and homeland security officials in Washington.

“I instructed them to be in touch with local and state officials about the facts of what took place here in London,” Bush told reporters from a summit of world leaders at Gleneagles, Scotland. Bush said he urged caution “as our folks start heading to work” in the U.S.

In the nation‘s capital and several major cities, local authorities heightened security in transit systems. Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said there were no immediate plans to raise the general threat level to the country.

State troopers are riding Amtrak and Metro-North trains, and patrolling stations in the wake of blasts targeting London‘s transit system, Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Thursday.

Rell signed an order allowing New York troopers to make arrests on trains and at stations in Connecticut, and New York Gov. George E. Pataki gave Connecticut troopers the same power in his state.

“The current situation requires that all governors work together,“ said Rell, who said she was also in contact with New Jersey Gov. Richard J. Codey.

“Metro-North already has highly trained security personnel, but having our state troopers provide protection on the train is one additional layer of security we can provide. We want every commuter to know that they are as safe as they possibly can be.”

Though there has been no indication of any threat against the region, Rell said Connecticut must take every possible precaution in the wake of the London explosions.

In Boston, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Thursday raised the security level on Boston’s transit system.

Romney said there was no specific intelligence about any threat to Boston or the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority system. The heightened security level is similar to the “Code Orange” used by federal authorities.

The precautions include increasing the number of transit police officers and MBTA personnel on duty, with state police and federal agencies also putting officers in transit stations, said Romney, who met with his top public safety advisers on Thursday morning.

“Inspections or searches will occur where there is a reasonable level of suspicion,” Romney said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell raised his state’s threat level to “Orange” from “Yellow” for major urban mass transportation systems and maritime interests.

It affected regional and inter-city passenger rail, subway and bus systems in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia as well as ferries with more than 150 passengers. The alert did not include commercial rail or airport systems.

“Despite the cowardly attacks abroad on our allies in Great Britain, our mission remains clear: to protect the safety and security of all Pennsylvanians,” Rendell said.

Freight railroads raised their outlook as well. The AAR stated on Thursday “While no rail-specific threats have been identified, the nation’s freight railroads have moved to a higher state of readiness in light of the tragic London subway bombings.”

The increased measures include deployment of additional police officers and K-9 teams to key areas, as well as elevated vigilance along the U.S. freight rail network.

“This is a precautionary step that is part of the industry’s security plan,” said Ed Hamberger, AAR president and CEO.

“We continue to work closely with all government agencies to ensure that we are receiving and sharing the best possible information about potential threats and prevention measures.”

Throughout California’s Bay Area, home to the state’s most extensive public transit system, the London bombings served as a rallying cry for transit officials and politicians who have complained that transit security is underfunded.

Bay Area Rapid Transit District director Lynette Sweet said her agency alone needed $215 million to address weaknesses, far more than the $7 million that Bay Area transit agencies received in federal transportation security grants in the spring and have yet to divvy up. The rail system runs trains throughout the region, including underneath San Francisco Bay.

Though reluctant to address specific vulnerabilities, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said the funds were needed for “everything from adding more explosive-detecting dogs to new security cameras to something as simple as buying locks for a door that never needed to be locked in the past, buying fences and physically reinforcing buildings from bomb blasts.

Scarce funds for increased security have also affected MTA service in Los Angeles, officials said. A 2003 proposal to install turnstiles at Red Line stations, a move that would have freed up officers to focus on crime and terrorism, was never implemented.

“We do the best we can with the resources we have,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Capt. Dan Finkelstein, who heads policing for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Metrolink.

Except for days like Thursday, when two officers rode every train after the London bombings, there are just about 100 officers patrolling Red, Blue, Green and Gold line trains on any given day, Finkelstein said.

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3 solons to offer transit security bills

By Leo King

Three Democratic leaders are calling on the House and Senate to rewrite and beef up transit security laws following the London subway and bus bombings on Thursday.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Friday, “Yesterday’s horrific and senseless terrorist attacks in London once again focuses Americans on transit security. As its first order of business next week, Congress must address transit security.”

The California Representative was critical of Republicans.

“Members of Congress’ highest obligation is to protect the American people. Unfortunately, by failing to increase transit security, the Republican Congress is missing critical opportunities to protect the American people from terrorism. Since September 11, 2001, Republicans have funded less than half a billion of the $6 billion needed to secure America’s transit systems.”

Meanwhile, in New York State, Long Island train stations and commuter rail lines are still vulnerable to terrorist attack and need federal support to bolster security efforts, Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Rep. Steve Israel warned on Friday.

Schumer and Israel explained that the terrorist attacks on London’s mass transit should serve as a wake-up call to the federal government to tighten security on commuter rails outside New York City. With the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) having raised the terror threat level for commuter rails, the lawmakers discussed how LIRR lines are still lacking proper security infrastructure and will require significant security upgrades.

Schumer sail he will offer an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill that would double the $100 million in the bill for both mass transit and rail security and allocate $100 million for each. The proposed amendment would also double funding for bus security improvements from $10 million to $20 million.

“Following the attack on Madrid’s rail system, the terrible terrorist attacks in London are our second wake-up call to greatly improve our rail and mass transit security here in America. It is clear that we’re not doing close to enough and must do more.

The soft underbelly of buses, subways and railroads are fully exposed to similar terrorist attacks unless we take real steps to beef up mass transit security immediately,” Schumer said.

“In response to Thursday’s tragedy in London, we have police with machine guns at New York’s Grand Central Terminal and extra identity checks at random Amtrak stations, but what about next month, and the month after that? Rail security has been the redheaded stepchild in Homeland Security funding for too long. Since 9/11, the federal government has spent $18 billion on aviation security, but only $250 million on transit security. That is why I am introducing a companion bill introduced in the Senate to protect our rail passengers from terrorist attacks,” Israel added.

To combat the heightened threat, Schumer and Israel argued that federal funds should go toward additional patrols for the commuter stations on Long Island – and proposed a plan to speed up the development of bomb detecting sensors for rail stations.

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In Frazier Yard…

Acelas to restart today?

Unconfirmed reports say two Acela Express trainsets are set to go into service today, substituting for Metroliners. The trains are 7:00 a.m. departures – 2102 from Washington to New York City, and 2107 from New York to Washington.

No. 2102 will turn for 2123, the 3:00 p.m. from New York, and 2107 for 2120, the 4:00 p.m. departure from Washington.

Acela equipment continues to undergo periodic maintenance and inspection at Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA) shop in Frazier Yard. A report from unofficial sources reported at 8:55 p.m. on July 3, the Amtrak train director at Thorn reported an unauthorized block occupancy on No. 2 track of the Harrisburg Line at MP 23.9, Frazier Yard lead.

At 9:07, the Frazier yardmaster reported three Acela coaches, 3210, 3532 and 3531 from Set No. 11 had run away from yard track 4. The three cars stopped some eight miles away at MP 32.1.

An investigation revealed a SEPTA crew failed to properly chock wheels on the cars, and a crew bumped the cars while making other moves, setting them in motion. Also, SEPTA had failed to place derails on the yard lead, which would have prevented the Acela cars from getting onto the main line.

No one was injured in the mishap.

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Lawmakers raid USDOT budget to aid Amtrak

USDOT chief information officer Dan Matthews may not have a job if lawmakers sustain cuts that the House recently approved, reports Government Computer News of July 1.

The House gutted the entire funding – $11.9 million – for salaries and expenses for the Transportation CIO’s office in order to help keep the beleaguered Amtrak passenger rail system afloat another year.

Shrinking budgets are leading lawmakers to raid funds for one important mission to pay for another.

The House passed HR 3058, the Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, judiciary, District of Columbia and independent agencies appropriations bill.

The Senate must still vote on its version of the bill. Afterward, the House and Senate must reconcile the differences between the bills.

Lawmakers voted for an amendment introduced by Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, which would take funds from other programs to resuscitate Amtrak, which ended up with $1.2 billion. To fund Amtrak, his amendment also redirected $31.6 million out of a total $40.6 million from Transportation’s R&D and systems development and $59 million out of the $150 million transition costs associated with OMB Circular A-76 flight service station competition.

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Gunn lobbies Philadelphians for funds

Amtrak president and CEO David Gunn huddled with Philadelphia business leaders last week to help energize their campaign to save the national passenger railroad.

His main meeting was with the CEO Council for Growth, an affiliate of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, which has declared Amtrak’s busy Northeast Corridor essential to this region’s economic health and future growth, according to the Philadelphia Enquirer via Philly.com.

The Bush administration is pressing to cut off federal funding as a way to force reforms. Amtrak says this would force the national passenger-rail system into bankruptcy. Some business leaders have privately noted that airlines keep flying during bankruptcy, so trains would still run and Philadelphia would face no immediate threat.

So one of Gunn’s chief objectives in the meeting, in a Center City conference room of the Saul Ewing L.L.P. law firm, was to say bluntly that Amtrak is not like the airlines.

“We have a negative cash flow, so if you push us into bankruptcy, trains will stop running – for months,” Gunn said.

Service would eventually be taken over by a reluctant freight railroad, whose employees would be unfamiliar with the demands of high volumes of trains moving at high speeds on the Northeast Corridor, Gunn said.

The disruption, he warned, would dismantle a technically competent group of employees, “the working stiffs who know how to put the lines back up when they go down,” Gunn said.

When trains eventually start running again, there will be far less service than what is required to handle demand that has been growing in recent years, he said.

Gunn said the national passenger railroad needed $1.6 billion a year for four or five years to catch up on deferred maintenance and repair its “creaking and outdated systems.”

He also stressed that Amtrak was already being reformed. Over the last three years, it has cut costs, improved productivity, and made sweeping changes to make it easy for the public and Congress to see how it spends money, Gunn said. The workforce has been cut from 24,700 to 19,600 in that period, he said.

“I’m reforming what I control,” Gunn said. He said he needed action by the Congress to change railway labor laws to end costly jurisdictional conflicts in maintenance shops, and shrink the size of train crews.

“I need the ability to write job descriptions based on modern equipment, not steam engines,” Gunn said.

He also proposed that Congress establish minimum revenue standards for long-distance trains. If not met, trains would be canceled unless state governments made up the shortfall.

The long-distance trains remain popular in the states they serve. They are essential to getting congressional support for the major high-traffic corridors on the East and West Coasts.

“Long-distance trains are a political reality,” he said, and the nation’s transportation system is in crisis and needs intercity passenger trains more than ever, Gunn added.

“There has never been a greater need for intelligent allocation of federal transportation dollars. Oil prices are rising. Highways are increasingly congested.

The airlines are losing more money than we do. The freight railroads are in real trouble,” Gunn said.

The nation also needs to focus more on technical competence in managing Amtrak and other public transportation systems, Gunn said. “There is a tendency to hire political managers,” he said. When systems get in trouble, he said, they hire “someone like me to come in for a while... then I get too outspoken and get replaced by a political person.”

After listening to Gunn for an hour, Thomas A. Caramanico, chairman of the CEO Council’s infrastructure working group, said his group needed to work harder to “get the word out that Amtrak is making real reforms.”

“As an engineer, I think they know what they’re doing,” said Caramanico, president of the engineering firm McCormick Taylor, Inc.

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Amtrak slashes credit card expenses

Amtrak says expects to save more than $3 million this year by cracking down on credit card fraud, renegotiating credit card contracts and streamlining transactions and other credit card transactions, according to the June edition of Amtrak Ink, a monthly publication for employees.

David Smith, the railroad’s chief financial officer, said Amtrak processes more than 50,000 credit transactions through over 500 locations, including 230 ticket counters, two call centers in the U.S. and another in Canada (the Amtrak desk at VIA Rail Canada), two ticket-by mail offices, the voice-response unit – “Julie” – 175 “Quik-Trak” machines, and Amtrak.com.

“Bringing the railroad to a state of good repair should include smooth customer payments,” Smith said, “not just smooth train travel.”

Also, conductors sell tickets and lead service attendants sell refreshments on board the trains, and these transactions are later entered into the credit card system by staff at stations and in offices systemwide. Additionally, travel agencies and tour operators sell Amtrak tickets, and the Western Folder Distributing Co. sells Amtrak merchandise, such as mugs, hats and posters.

Smith said in 2001, credit card sales topped $1 billion, but fraud cost the company $4.4 million. By 2004, the company had made changes that reduced fraud losses to $1.3 million and with additional changes this year, fraud losses are expected to decline to $900,000 for 2005.

The finance group’s treasurer’s department began a major effort in 2002 to reduce credit card costs, with a focus on fraud. Working closely with credit card companies, the group determined that the majority of the fraud was happening at distribution channels other than the ticket counters.

Systems and procedural changes were made that require customers to enter a credit card verification code and zip code when making a purchase on the internet, at a call center and from Julie, and soon at Quik-Trak machines. These preventive measures, which began in 2002, have led to a $3.5 million annual drop in fraud losses.

Last year, a detailed review of the entire credit card process at Amtrak identified many other ways to improve revenues, streamline the credit card process and reduce company costs with more effective monthly reports that capture, report and analyze credit card activity.

Negotiation of a five-year renewal contract with the company’s credit card processor resulted in a 40-percent reduction in transaction fees and provides Amtrak with savings of more than $1 million over five years.

A review of the company’s payment-acceptance policies and contractual relationships resulted in changes that brought further cost-savings. Credit card authorization fees were cut by 40 percent when Amtrak upgraded from an obsolete Visa system to a more efficient system provided by a new vendor.

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FRA grants fund rail safety research

Two recent grants from the FRA should go a long way in improving rail safety. One is a modest grand of a little more than one-quarter million, the other more than $6 million.

The FRA awarded a safety research grant to the Univ. of California at San Diego to develop new technology that helps detect rail defects on July 5.

The university will receive a $237,794 grant to research technology that will use ultrasonic waves and a pulsed laser to inspect the entire rail from top to bottom.

Through this evaluation, the technology will be able to identify certain types of defects often missed by current inspection methods. Once the prototype is developed, the technology will be installed on FRA’s newest track research vehicle, the T-18, which was recently added to the agency’s fleet of automated track inspection vehicles.

“Better inspections equal fewer train wrecks,” said FRA Administrator Joseph H. Boardman. He added, “Improved track safety means increased safety for communities where railroads operate.”

The agency’s new National Rail Safety Action Plan calls for better rail inspection procedures as part of an aggressive effort to improve safety throughout the railroad industry. Track-caused accidents are the second leading cause of all train accidents, according to an FRA statement.

While the rail industry experienced a reduction in the overall number of track-caused accidents in recent years, the continued growth of rail traffic and heavier freight car loads increases stress on the rails.

FRA also has studies underway to determine the effect of fatigue on different types of rail steels and how cracks develop and spread within rail; to review railroad crosstie construction design to ensure the rails stay in place and remain properly aligned; and to develop technologies to warn train crews of broken rails that lie ahead.

Elsewhere, a technology designed to prevent train collisions and other types of rail accidents moved another step forward last week following a $6.4 million grant to the Railroad Research Foundation in Washington, D.C. It will help fund completion of field testing of a Positive Train Control (PTC) system. PTC technology improves rail safety by automatically keeping trains within track speed limits, helping to identify trains and other obstructions on the track ahead, and bringing a train to a stop if the engineer fails to take corrective action when warned of a safety hazard.

“PTC technology promises fewer train accidents and increased safety for the communities where railroads operate,” said Boardman.

“PTC systems can play a critical role in achieving a safer and more efficient national railroad network,” he noted.

The field testing consists of a full scale operation on a 120-mile segment of track between Springfield, Ill. and St. Louis, Mo. involving both a freight and passenger train to verify the proper and complete transmission of electronic data between equipment on board the locomotives, along the tracks, and from the dispatch center to safely and automatically control the movement of the trains.

Boardman noted the future capabilities of PTC systems, which can potentially make highway-rail grade crossings safer by giving motorists in-vehicle advance warning of the approach of a train. Additionally, PTC may increase railroad efficiency by safely increasing the capacity of high-density rail lines.

The grant also supports the FRA’s National Rail Safety Action Plan.

Also, the FRA revised federal signal and train control safety regulations earlier this year so railroads can better utilize the tremendous technological innovations that have occurred since these rules were last updated in 1984. Specifically, the new rules establish a minimum performance standard for PTC systems and provide for a uniform base to guide railroads as they implement this technology on portions of their rail networks.

The research funds will support the ongoing North American Joint PTC program begun in 1998 involving the FRA, the state of Illinois, Union Pacific Railroad, the Association of American Railroads, and Amtrak.

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Empire State writes new rail plan

Former Albany International Airport CEO John Egan will head a new New York State study charting a course to develop high-speed rail service in the state, reports the Albany Times Union of June 30. Egan’s three-person staff, which will work from offices at the Rensselaer Rail Station, is to deliver its findings and recommendations to a new Senate Task Force on High-Speed Rail chaired by Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno within six months.

While countries in Europe, Asia and South America have built high-speed rail lines, U.S. governments have for too long failed to view development of fast train service with a sufficient sense of urgency, Bruno said during a news conference at the train station.

“We are in the Dark Ages. We are in the era of the Erie Canal with our trains,” he said.

Bruno insisted the rail study, which will be funded with $5 million in state money, will launch a more successful effort to hasten rail travel in New York than a now-defunct $185 million initiative announced by Gov. George E. Pataki in 1998.

Three 1970s-era Turboliners reconditioned by Super Steel Schenectady as part of that plan have been mothballed by Amtrak at its Wilmington, Delaware facility; the state has terminated the contract for modernization of the remaining trains in the fleet and is suing Amtrak for failing to complete necessary track work and operate the Turboliners.

“Don‘t talk to me about eight years ago,“ Bruno said when the previous failed effort was mentioned. “Talk to me about this minute that we are presently experiencing.”

Bruno and Egan said a primary focus of the study would be improving rails and infrastructure before locomotives and trains, which also will be considered. Even incremental infrastructure work, such as eliminating grade crossings where rails meet roads, could greatly reduce the time to travel between cities in New York, Egan said.

The six-month study will focus primarily on cutting travel time between Albany and New York City but also may include recommendations for further study in other parts of the state, Egan said.

Egan, who served as commissioner of several state agencies, including the state DOT, will not be paid for his work on the study and will remain in his current job as president of the philanthropic Renaissance Corp. of Albany.

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‘Black box’ requirements changing

Freight and passenger railroads must upgrade black box recorders in locomotives to include more data on train performance and make the devices more reliable and crashworthy, the FRA said June 30.

The federal agency said the rule is intended to improve the quality of data analyzed in crashes. The changes, which were prompted by federal safety investigators, must be completed by October 2009.

“We are making sure that investigators have more and better information available when working to find the cause of an accident,” FRA Administrator Joseph Boardman said in a statement.

Black box recorders will be required to be more resistant to water and fire and magnetic tapes will be upgraded to digital technology. The boxes will record data on horn and cruise control functions in addition to train speed and brake performance currently recorded.

The agency estimates the changes will cost the industry’s 700 railroads $39 million over 20 years. Regulators estimate $45 million in benefits from cheaper maintenance of digital recorders and insight into how certain accidents occur.

FRA spokesman Warren Flatau said the additional information gathered will help to prevent future crashes, and is expected to help reduce the human factors, which resulted in 38 percent of train accidents between 2000 and 2004. Track problems are the second-biggest cause of accidents.

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said the passenger rail service had not yet received any specifications for the new recorder requirements.

“We’ll work with the FRA to comply,” Black said. “Cost is the key, money is tight here.” Financially strapped Amtrak is the only nationwide passenger service between big cities.

Peggy Wilhide, spokeswoman for the Association of American Railroads, said the freight rail industry supported the changes and concurred with the cost estimate.

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LABORLINES...  Labor lines...

TCU merges with machinists’ union

Railroad labor union Transportation Communications International Union (TCU) is merging with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). The IAM said on Thursday the move would bring nearly 46,000 members of the Maryland-based Transportation TCU into the Machinists Union.

Neither union explained why they agreed to merge.

The agreement concludes months of discussions between leaders of the two AFL-CIO unions and will boost the IAM’s membership to nearly 700,000 active and retired members, according to an IAM press release.

“This affiliation makes sense on so many levels,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger.

“We’re joined by our common heritage as rail unions founded more than a century ago and by our growth over the years to include workers throughout the transportation industry. This ‘union of unions’ will also give us greater strength to face the economic challenges that confront our members and workers everywhere.”

TCU represents workers at virtually every major rail company in North America, including Amtrak, CSX, Norfolk Southern, BNSF, Union Pacific, Canadian National and most commuter rail lines. The IAM represents more than 11,000 rail workers among its 140,000 airline and railroad members across North America.

TCU was founded in 1899 as the Brotherhood of Railway Clerks and grew over the years to include a diverse roster that includes clerks, carmen and supervisors.

Among the unions that joined the TCU since its founding were the Order of Railway Telegraphers, the American Railway Supervisors Association, the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen and the legendary Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

“The men and women of TCU come from many backgrounds, but we share the dreams of working people everywhere,” said TCU International President Bob Scardelletti. “This affiliation with the IAM gives each one of us a better shot at turning those dreams into reality.”

The Machinists Union was founded by railroad workers in 1888 and today represents workers in dozens of industries under more than 4,000 individual agreements. Both unions are politically active, calling for fair treatment for rail workers governed by the Railway Labor Act. “That law is being undermined by an anti-worker political agenda aimed at rolling back hard-won collective bargaining rights,” said IP Buffenbarger. Earlier this year, the IAM sued the National Mediation Board (NMB), charging the federal agency with obstructing negotiations for rail workers.

The IAM-TCU action comes as AFL-CIO member unions debate voluntary affiliations versus forced mergers.

“This voluntary affiliation between two AFL-CIO unions serves as a good example of the kind of consolidation that honors our democratic traditions and avoids the complications of forced mergers,” said Buffenbarger.

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COMMUTERLINES...  Commuter lines...

Seattle monorail leaders resign

The Seattle Monorail Project reported on July 4 that board chairman Tom Weeks and executive director Joel Horn resigned, “accepting full responsibility for the current situation,” according to the Seattle Times.

The departures follow the board’s decision a fortnight ago to abandon its financing plan for the $2.1 billion project, which would have levied taxes over 50 years and required debt payments totaling $11.4 billion, including interest. The costs for the 14-mile line from Ballard to West Seattle prompted public outrage, leading even some of the monorail’s original backers criticizing the current contract and financing plan.

Monorail officials have defended the project, arguing, in part, that interest costs for public projects are rarely discussed.

State Treasurer Mike Murphy and others assailed the monorail’s financing structure, which relies in part on high-interest, 40-year bonds. Several Seattle City Council members two weeks ago pushed the monorail board to rethink its strategy and threatened to reject the necessary permits. Councilman Richard Conlin, chairman of the council transportation committee, called for a “monorail exit strategy.”

When the monorail’s governing board met June 30 on the financing plan, members also reviewed Horn’s performance in a closed-door session. Horn had received an $8,789 merit raise six months ago, which increased his salary to $187,000, while other employees got a cost-of-living raise.

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Central Florida commuter rail gains support

Volusia, Fla., on Thursday became the first county in Central Florida to pledge big bucks for the region’s next major step toward making commuter rail a reality.

County Council members, who have long supported transportation alternatives to take cars off I-4, approved a resolution pledging $11.7 million – the smallest portion of all four counties involved in an ambitious project to run high-tech trains on existing tracks from DeBary in Volusia County to Poinciana in Osceola.

The Orlando Sentinel reported July 8 County Council members showed no hesitation in pledging their support after getting an update about the $473 million project from George Gilhooley, District 5 secretary for the Florida DOT.

“We’ve been discussing commuter rail for a good number of years, and I’m just happy that we’ve gotten to this point today,” County Chairman Frank Bruno said.

“It’s been technically a goal of the County Council’s to come up with alternatives to I-4, and so I’m very much supportive.”

About 30,000 Volusia residents commute to jobs in Seminole and Orange counties, and most of them depend on I-4.

The agreement approved Thursday calls for Volusia County to chip in $1.5 million in December. It also calls for the county to allocate another $10.2 million in October 2006.

County Manager Cindy Coto said she is including the first payment in her proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which starts October 1.

She said county staffers are exploring the likelihood of taking out a short-term loan during the following budget year to provide the $10.2 million payment. The county’s share will pay for a train station in DeBary and for a portion of the cost to extend Saxon Boulevard to reach the station, said Tawny Olore, rail-transit project manager for the Florida DOT.

The other three counties, Seminole, Orange and Osceola, will be asked to chip in their shares totaling $106 million during the next few weeks, Olore said.

Seminole and Osceola have given indications they would support the request, but the biggest unknown is Orange County, said Ken Fischer, general manager of Votran, Volusia’s public-transit agency.

The resolution the County Council approved Thursday stipulates that the agreement will be “null and void” if one or more counties fail to finalize financial commitments for the project.

Orange County officials have raised concerns about its capital costs, estimated at $44.2 million. Seminole’s share is pegged at $39 million. Osceola will be asked to chip in $22.3 million.

The entire project is expected to cost $473 million, with the state and federal governments picking up 75 percent of the cost, or about $355 million. It’s up to the other four counties to put up the remaining $118 million.

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Sound Transit okays updating plans

The Sound Transit Board in Seattle unanimously approved an amended long-range plan on Thursday that sets the stage for determining the next round of service and construction projects for the regional agency.

“Now we have to roll our sleeves up and get down to specifics,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg.

He said, “This Long Range Plan gives us the ‘big picture’ of what regional transit should look like by the year 2030. Over the next several months, we will be working with communities within the transit district to determine from the long-range plan the highest priorities in technology, service and construction. This will help the board shape ‘Sound Transit 2,’ the ballot item that will go to the voters in 2006.”

Sound Transit says it is successfully delivering the first wave of projects. Sounder trains are running daily between Tacoma and Seattle and Everett and Seattle, and the service is expanding. Sound Transit’s extensive ST Express bus network includes 19 routes, more than 10,000 new Park-and-Ride slots, and new infrastructure such as direct access freeway ramps allowing buses to avoid congestion. Tacoma Link light rail is attracting more riders than expected, and Sound Transit remains on track to deliver Central Link light rail on time, on budget, and all the way to the airport.

“This is an incredibly important time for our region,” added Ladenburg. “This process will determine how we will connect communities not only for our existing residents, but also for the more than the 1.2 million people who will move here over the next 25 years. Our future depends on expanding the Sound Transit system.”

Some rail-related highlights of Sound Transit’s plans include narrowing the high capacity transit options on Interstate-90 to light rail or bus rapid transit service (convertible to light rail) operating in exclusive right-of-way, light rail running all the way from Everett to Tacoma, as well as a westward extension of the existing Tacoma Link light rail system, and potential light rail service on Interstate 405 and a potential extension to Burien.

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URS gets Miami-Dade contract

URS Corp. said July 6 Miami-Dade Transit has named the firm to provide preliminary and final design services for a 2.6 mile aerial rail line that will link the existing Earlington Heights Metrorail Station with the planned Miami Intermodal Center at Miami International Airport. The three-year contract will cost $16 million.

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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.

Charleston, S.C., Recovers Service After Serious Setback

Seventeen months after cutting its operations by 75 percent in order to remain in service, the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority in Charleston, S.C., is preparing for July, when it will restore much of the service it had been forced to eliminate.

“We’ve had our ups and downs, with mostly downs for the past two and a half years,” said CARTA Executive Director Howard Chapman. He was referring to the fallout from a November 2002 ballot victory that was overturned by the courts, and then the referendum win last November that will enable CARTS to restore much of its service.

Around July 1, they put out 17 routes where there were seven, he added. Published reports stated that CARTA plans to add other services in January 2006.

In addition to the radical cutback of routes, CARTA also eliminated night, weekend, and holiday service, and operated paratransit only within three-quarters of a mile of fixed routes.

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Mineta Unveils Human Service Transportation Coordination Plan

USDOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta released a White House report on Human Service Transportation Coordination on May 24, highlighting recommendations that would simplify the coordination of federally funded local transportation programs for persons with disabilities, lower income families, and older adults, as part of the federal United We Ride initiative.

In his remarks at the Community Transportation Assn. of America EXPO in St. Louis, Mineta outlined the five key recommendations in the report:

• Coordinated transportation planning, bringing together representatives of the various federal programs to plan their participation in community human service transportation needs;

• Vehicle sharing, coordinating the use of the same vehicles for more than one federally supported transportation program, to reduce duplicative services and make more productive use of vehicles and drivers;

• Cost allocation, the development and endorsement of standard principles for transportation by federal human service and transportation industries, where statutorily permitted;

• Reporting and evaluation, using a method to permit cross-agency checks for the effectiveness, efficiency, and progress of states, communities, and tribes toward improved coordination of transportation programs, as determined by improvements in the quality and cost-effectiveness of human service transportation; and

• Consolidated Access Transportation Demonstration Program, to test the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of the new approach, a statutory authority be sought to permit the development of demonstration projects in metropolitan, rural, and tribal areas.

The vision, said Mineta, is to develop a “one-stop shopping [resource] where a customer will need to call only one number for a ride, regardless of where they are going or which agency will provide the funding.”

U.S. Chamber Study Shows Transportation Funding Shortfalls The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a new study that shows current revenues at all levels of government—federal, state, and local—devoted to transportation investments are not sufficient to maintain or improve the nation’s highways and transit systems.

The Future Highway and Public Transportation Finance Study was commissioned by the National Chamber Foundation, the chamber’s public policy think tank, to identify funding mechanisms to meet national highway and transit investment needs. The study’s first phase was released May 18 at a Capitol Hill news conference. APTA is a co-sponsor of the study.

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Cotton Named Director for Phoenix Public Transit

The Phoenix Public Transit Department has named Debbie Cotton its director on a permanent basis, after serving in an acting capacity since November 2003. She oversees 84 city employees in a department with an annual operating budget of $140 million, which contracts with several private companies to provide fixed route (local, commuter, and circulator) and Dial-a-Ride services.

Cotton has more than 12 years of local government experience, including administering the department’s technology programs, implementing technology standards, and leading regional transit projects.

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FREIGHTLINES...  Freight lines...

Sunset Limited at Mississippi River

For NCI: Brian LaFleur

Eastbound Amtrak No. 2, theSunset Limited, descends onto the east bank having just crossed the Mississippi River approaching East Bridge Junction. The train is transitioning from UP to CSX. It is on New Orleans Public Belt’s Huey P. Long Bridge in Metairie, La., USA on April 19.


UP’s ‘Sunset Route’ has a long history

Railroaders call it the “Stormy” for its wild summer thunderstorms. Historians call it the Sunset Route. It has become a vital link handling booming traffic. To address this growth, the 760-mile Union Pacific corridor between Los Angeles and El Paso is in the midst of an on-going effort to add capacity.

UP’s John Bromley said last week, “The route’s strategic importance was recognized more than 150 years ago. The treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo that ended the Mexican War in 1848 resulted in Mexico giving up Texas and ceding most of what are now Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah and Nevada to the United States.”

James Gadsden, president of South Carolina Railroad Co., dreamed of connecting his railroads to a southern transcontinental railroad to California, linking the West directly with the Southern states.

Historian Bromley said, “The best route, however, was determined to be south of the new U.S. border. Congress paid Mexico $10 million in 1852 for the Gadsden Purchase, a strip of land south of the Gila River, for the proposed railroad route.”

Gadsden didn’t live to see the line built, but Central Pacific pioneer Colis P. Huntington saw the value of the route and ordered his Southern Pacific Railroad to begin building east from Los Angeles in 1877 with rails reaching Tucson in March 1880. A stub line was extended to Tombstone where the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral was fought in 1881.

“The railroad reached El Paso in May 1881. It was quickly dubbed the Sunset Route, and the Southern Pacific’s circular logo showing a setting sun over a railroad track soon became the company’s trademark.”

The UP bought up SP a few years ago.

SP’s premier passenger train on the route was named the Sunset Limited, and now Amtrak carries on the name over the same route.

“Copper deposits in Southern Arizona were an initial traffic attraction, but by 1894 winter resorts in Tucson, Phoenix and Pasadena soon filled the passenger trains with affluent vacationers,” added UP’s man in Omaha.

“Vegetables grown in California’s Imperial Valley soon became an important commodity as well with Southern Pacific running the first solid train of refrigerated cars loaded with produce from the valley in 1884. The valley nearly was lost in 1906 and 1907 when the Colorado River broke out of its banks and began filling the lower-than-sea-level Salton Sea. By then, UP’s E. H. Harriman had control of Southern Pacific, and he launched a massive effort using trainloads of rock to contain the river, succeeding in early 1907.

Today, with “24 percent of all the freight cars handled by UP originating or terminating in Southern California,” the Sunset Route is handling its share of the record traffic volumes on North American railroads. Marine containers stacked two high on “double-stack” trains dominate the route, but construction materials including lumber, plywood, steel and cement, are important to the region’s growth, Bromley said.

Gasoline additive ethanol is another important commodity as well as automobiles and automobile parts moving through the Mexico gateways at Nogales, Ariz. and Calexico, Calif. The Sunset Route also is an important transcontinental route for package express business, as well as finished automobiles in addition to Midwest grain for feedlots in Southern California.

Less than one quarter of the Sunset Route had a second double-track when Union Pacific acquired it in 1996 as part of the merger with Southern Pacific. Since then, Union Pacific has built more than 100 miles of new main line double-track on the Sunset route to handle the nation’s growing freight traffic. Union Pacific currently plans to invest $105 million this year to complete an additional 69 miles of double-track. The ultimate goal is to double-track the entire route.

“Trade between the U.S. and Asia is projected to double by 2020, and Union Pacific will strive to meet the demand that growth brings,” said Jim Young, UP president.

“We will continue to expand and improve our rail infrastructure if we receive appropriate levels of return on our investment. Our nation’s highways are becoming more and more congested, and we can help alleviate this problem by increasing our capacity,” Young added.

(For a Sunset Route map, visit http://www.uprr.com/newsinfo/railroad/2005/0630_sunset.shtml)

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Two CSX Michigan lines for sale

CSX employees along two rail lines are getting ready for big changes, reports The Grand Rapids Press in Michigan of June 28..

The lines – one from Grand Rapids to Ludington and another from West Olive to Fremont – are for sale. Deals appear to be in the works for both, although nothing is final.

Both subdivisions comprise 175 of the 812 miles of track that CSX, a Jacksonville, Fla.-based railroad, operates in the state.

Under deals yet to be negotiated, Marquette Rail Corp. is expected to pick up the Ludington sub, 127 miles of track going north from Grand Rapids to Ludington and Manistee.

Marquette, a partnership of Progressive Rail Corp., Lake States Ry., Farm Rail Systems and TranSolutions, Inc., will own the tracks, but lease the land from CSX.

In a separate arrangement with CSX, Michigan Shore Railroad is expected to lease both land and tracks on the Fremont sub – 48 miles stretching from West Olive to Fremont.

Steve Kauffman, chairman of United Transportation Union Local 1765, sent a letter to CSX employees letting them know about the proposed sale.

He said CSX employees won’t lose jobs, but will have to “follow the work.”

Employees might be able to find CSX jobs as close as Grand Rapids, or they could have to move out of state, to areas such as Cincinnati or East St. Louis, Ill.

“Our jobs are being outsourced,” Kauffman said. “They may not be outsourced overseas, but they’re at least being outsourced to another company.”

Kauffman has been a conductor and yard foreman with CSX in Ludington for 40 years.

He said employees are not bitter about the change, just disappointed they will have to uproot.

“They know that there’s going to be a job somewhere for them on CSX,” he said. “It’s just going to be somewhat of an inconvenience for them to move.”

Michigan Shore Railroad bid on the Ludington sub and another line on the east side of the state, in addition to the Fremont sub.

Mike Bobic is manager of marketing and sales for Rail America, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based firm that owns Michigan Shore. He says the company has been told unofficially it will get the Fremont sub.

“That was probably the least desirable of the three we were bidding on, because we handle a good percentage of the traffic on that line anyway,” Bobic said.

CSX is shedding the lines as part of a larger program to redistribute its resources, said Kim Skorniak, a spokeswoman for the rail carrier.

CSX employs 1,149 in Michigan and ships 186,000 carloads on state tracks annually.

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CN locomotive engineers sign deal

Canadian National Ry. and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) said on July 4 locomotive engineers had ratified two five-year collective bargaining agreements by TCRC members.

The agreements provide wage, benefit and quality of work-life improvements to TCRC members. One agreement applies to CN locomotive engineers across Canada, while the other agreement covers engineers working on CN’s Northern Quebec Territory. Nationally, the TCRC has about 1,600 active members at CN, with 1,490 in freight service. Its Quebec unit represents some 65 employees.

E. Hunter Harrison, CN president and CEO, said, “The TCRC contract ratifications represent a milestone for CN, bringing to a close national labor negotiations in Canada. CN has renewed eight labor contracts, the majority of which expired at the end of 2003. With bargaining complete, management and unions across the company today now are focused squarely on providing our customers with superior transportation service.”

Gilles Halle, president of the TCRC, said: “These agreements are good for our members, who voted in record numbers to approve them. The five-year term of the contracts assures long-term labor stability for the company’s locomotive engineers – a clear benefit to our members, to CN and the rail industry, and to the businesses and commuter agencies that rely on CN for dependable transportation.”

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CP upgrades some western track

Canadian Pacific Ry. is installing more than 530,000 feet of heavy premium rail, 137,000 crossties, and 300,000 tons of rock ballast as it carries out a $160-million program to expand freight capacity this year between the Canadian Prairies and the Vancouver Gateway.

The track materials are required for expansion work in 25 critical locations to meet growing demand for rail service, thee carrier stated July 3. When the work is completed in the fourth quarter of 2005, CPR will have enough capacity to run 38 trains a day between the Prairies and the Vancouver Gateway, an increase of four trains a day, or more than 400 freight cars, over current capacity.

CP is installing premium chrome-alloy rail to support the long, heavy trains that increase productivity in rail operations. CP is also installing on mountain grades a new generation of premium rail that is highly resistant to wear and fatigue under heavy loads and demanding operating conditions. The new rail has high chromium content and the steel in the railhead is hardened to a greater degree and depth than in standard rail. The new rail’s longer service life reduces maintenance and replacement costs.

Laid end to end, the 530,000 feet of rail would stretch from Calgary to Lethbridge.

Rail is handled in quarter-mile lengths weighing almost 60,000 pounds. When installed, the joints are welded to produce a continuous, seamless and smooth rail that reduces wear on freight car wheels.

CP says it is using hardwood and concrete crossties in its expansion program. About 25 percent of the 137,000 crossties being installed are a recently developed concrete tie that is cast with an imbedded steel plate to reduce abrasion, extending its life. It is being installed in high curvature track to support long, heavy trains. CP expects the concrete tie to last up to 40 years, compared with a hardwood tie lifespan of 20 to 25 years.

Rock ballast provides a safe, solid bed for the rail and crossties. CP is using more than 300,000 tons of mostly granite in this year’s capacity expansion – enough to fill 14,000 dump trucks. The crushed rock must meet hardness and durability specifications, be no larger than two-and-a-half inches and have sufficient fractured faces and angularity that they virtually interlock when tamped in place. These characteristics produce ballast that distributes the load from passing trains, allows water to drain and resists plant growth that can destabilize the track.

The Prairies-to-Vancouver track, which crosses the rugged Rocky Mountains, is CP’s busiest corridor and volumes continue to grow with heavy demand in Asia for Canadian commodities and resources and increasing imports of consumer goods made in Asia and destined for store shelves.

CPR’s $160-million expansion program this year is in addition to planned capital investment of approximately $760 million.

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Rail freight traffic up in June

U.S. freight railroad carload traffic rose 0.1 percent (2,245 carloads) while U.S. intermodal traffic rose 4.0 percent (42,134 trailers and containers) in June 2005 compared to June 2004, the AAR reported Thursday.

In June 2005, U.S. freight railroads reporting to the AAR originated 1,652,010 carloads (up from 1,649,765 in June 2004) and 1,106,134 intermodal units (up from 1,064,000 in June 2004). For the second quarter of 2005, U.S. rail carloadings of 4,366,293 were 0.9 percent higher (39,098 carloads) than the second quarter of 2004, while intermodal traffic of 2,884,803 units was 4.9 percent higher (134,769 units) than the same period in 2004. For the first six months of 2005, U.S. railroads originated 8,687,334 carloads (up 1.7 percent, or 142,387 carloads) from 2004, and 5,666,057 intermodal units (up 6.2 percent, or 330,978 units) from 2004.

Total volume was estimated at 825.4 billion ton-miles, up 2.5 percent from 2004.

In June 2005, 10 of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload increases on U.S. railroads, including crushed stone and gravel (up 8.2 percent, or 8,760 carloads) and grain mill products (up 10.0 percent, or 4,307 carloads). Commodities seeing carload declines on U.S. railroads in June included primary metal products (down 11.2 percent, or 7,823 carloads) and waste and scrap material (down 8.3 percent, or 4,154 carloads). Coal carloadings were up 0.3 percent (1,652 carloads) in June 2005 compared with June 2004.

In the second quarter of 2005, 12 of the 19 major commodity categories saw U.S. carload increases, including crushed stone (up 9.3 percent, or 26,499 carloads), metallic ores (up 13.6 percent, or 13,212 carloads), and grain mill products (up 9.3 percent, or 10,489 carloads).

For the year to date, 12 of the 19 major commodity categories saw carload increases on U.S. railroads, including coal (up 2.7 percent, or 92,477 carloads), crushed stone and gravel (up 8.0 percent, or 42,564 carloads), and metallic ores (up 11.8 percent, or 19,115 carloads). Carloads of motor vehicles and equipment were down 3.5 percent (21,930 carloads) in 2005 through June, while carloads of waste and scrap materials were down 5.6 percent (15,114 carloads).

“In late May and June, U.S. coal carloadings were negatively affected following two weather-related derailments on track in Wyoming that carries an enormous amount of coal from the Powder River Basin, while a slowdown in U.S. steel production relative to last year has led to lower carloadings of primary metal products” noted AAR Vice President Craig F. Rockey.

“Despite these challenges, railroads are continuing to meet extremely heavy traffic demand, including moving record volumes of intermodal traffic,” Rockey added.

Canadian railroads originated 373,570 carloads in June 2005, down 1.9 percent (7,388 carloads) over June 2004. Commodities showing carload gains on Canadian railroads in June 2005 included coal (up 18.9 percent, or 7,212 carloads) and farm products excluding grain (up 42.9 percent, or 2,195 carloads). Canadian grain traffic was down 19.1 percent (8,485 carloads) in June. In the second quarter of 2005, Canadian railroads originated 999,962 carloads (down 2.0 percent, or 20,542 carloads). For the first six months of 2005, Canadian carload traffic of 1,988,649 carloads was down 0.1 percent (1,473 carloads) over the same period in 2004.

Canadian intermodal traffic of 209,681 units in June 2005 was down slightly (732 units, or 0.4 percent) from June 2004, while second quarter intermodal traffic of 558,056 units was up slightly (1,041 units, or 0.2 percent) from last year.

For 2005 to date, Canadian intermodal traffic was up 2.5 percent (26,443 units) to 1,096,740 trailers and containers.

Carloads originated on Transportación Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM), a major Mexican railroad, were down 3.1 percent (1,372 carloads) in June, down 2.0 percent (2,343 carloads) in the second quarter, and up 0.7 percent (1,566 carloads) for the year to date. Intermodal originations on TFM were up 0.1 percent (14 units) in June, up 9.9 percent (4,796 units) in the second quarter, and up 7.2 percent (6,723 units) for the year to date.

For just the week ended July 2, the AAR reported the following totals for U.S. railroads: 335,610 carloads, up 0.9 percent (2,841 carloads) from the corresponding week in 2004, with loadings up 1.3 percent in the East and up 0.5 percent in the West; intermodal volume of 233,277 trailers and containers (the sixth highest weekly total ever), up 6.9 percent; and total volume of an estimated 32.1 billion ton-miles, up 2.2 percent from the equivalent week last year.

For Canadian railroads during the week ended July 2, the AAR reported volume of 73,397 carloads, up 0.1 percent from last year; and 41,293 trailers and containers, up 3.2 percent from the corresponding week in 2004.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 26 weeks of 2005 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 10,675,983 carloads, up 1.3 percent (140,914 carloads) from last year; and 6,762,797 trailers and containers, up 5.6 percent (357,421 trailers and containers) from 2004’s first 26 weeks.

The AAR is online at www.aar.org.

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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: CBSMarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)49.3347.99
Canadian National (CNI)58.6958.30
Canadian Pacific (CP) 34.8434.60
CSX (CSX)43.9942.92
Florida East Coast (FLA)44.9543.99
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)28.7227.38
Kansas City Southern (KSU)21.4120.46
Norfolk Southern (NSC)32.1531.45
Providence & Worcester (PWX)14.5014.30
Union Pacific (UNP)65.3565.02

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

Trams in Barcelona

Two photos – NCI: Leo King

A tram in Barcelona, Spain nears the end of its journey in June. The line is unique because the tracks have been buried in grass, except the rails. The view is from a double-decker tour bus.


Spiffy trams roll in Barcelona grass

There’s a tram in part of Barcelona, Spain, that is the ultimate in environmental design – after the tracks were laid, the gardener plated grass above the ties and all not only right up to the rails but also between them.

We’re sure is makes for hard track maintenance, but it certainly looks nice.

As Graham Hill wrote, “The Barcelonian Engineers that designed these tracks clearly subscribe to a similar vision to TreeHugger. What a great idea! Instead of hard, ugly, impervious asphalt we get lovely, green, air purifying, water filtering, micro-habitat creating, sigh inducing grass.”

His remarks appear in http://public-transport.net/bim/Bcn.htm where David Llorca wrote a brief history of tramways in the Catalunya capital.

The main operator is Autoritat del Transport Metropolità (ATM) for two tramway projects, Trambaix and Trambesós.

“The latter was built in one year and began service in April 2004. Trambaix will follow later. Both projects have the same provider and use the same trams,” Llorca writes.

Earlier tramways had disappeared by the 1970s, resulting in traffic jams. By the end of the 1980s, the Entitat Metropolitana del Transport, considered building a new tramway line in the “Diagonal” to connect this the towns of Esplugues, Cornellà, Sant Joan Despí, Sant Just Desvern, and Sant Feliu de Llobregat.

Trams in Barcelona

The motorman will change ends at the end of the line at Placa de Francesc Macia and Avenida de Josep Tarradellas.


To test the modern tramways, in 1997 a little sections between the Pl. Maria Cristina y Entença along the Diagonal was built (only two trams-stop). Later, tests started to circulate with one tram which came from Grenoble in June 1997. A month later, tests were made with a “Combino” tramway of Siemens.

The tests were successful, and EMT decided to start with the construction of a new tramway line, according to Llorca. Then ATM was founded for the construction works and another new enterprise, Tramvia Metropolità became responsible for operations. The trams are Alstom Citadis Barcelona with all low floors.

They have five articulated sections, and are 32.5 meters long, or a little more than 106 feet.

Three lines will eventually run – Line T1 operating from Francesc Macià to Avenida Diagonal, L’Hospitalet, Esplugues, Cornellà, and Sant Joan Despí (centre).

Line T2 from Francesc Macià to the Avenida Diagonal, L’Hospitalet, Esplugues, Cornellà and Sant Joan Despí (Hospital Comarcal). Line T3 includes Place Francesc Macià to Avenida Diagonal, L’Hospitalet, Esplugues to Sant Just and Sant Feliu.

The other tram network, TramBesos began service in 2004 to run from the FORUM 2004 exhibition. This line is 14 kilometers (eight miles) long and will run from Estacio de Nord (city coach station) to the RENFE station Sant Adria de Besos.

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Japan tests new bullet train

A new “bullet” train is set to start commercial service in 2011.

Japan’s largest railway company began a test run for a new bullet train that it eventually aims to operate at a record-breaking 223 mph – faster than many propeller airplanes – according to recent news reports, The AP reported last week.

The Fastech 360S, developed by East Japan Railway Co., successfully made its first test run between Sendai and Kitakami stations in northern Japan at a more leisurely 170 mph, Kyodo News agency reported.

The train, painted in jade and white colors, has cat ear-shaped air brakes that pop up from the rooftops to help slow the train in an emergency.

By the time the test ends in early 2008, the operator hopes to hit the maximum speed of 250 mph, faster than the train will travel during regular operation.

French company Alstom SA’s TGV, or Train a Grande Vitesse, is currently the world’s fastest train, operating at a top speed of 218 mph.

The new “bullet” train is set to start commercial service in 2011, when a new section on the Tohoku bullet train line currently under construction is completed.

The train is expected to make the 360-mile trip between Tokyo and Aomori, about the distance between San Francisco and Los Angeles, within three hours, half of the amount of time it currently takes.

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OPINION...  Opinion...

Train of thought

Around the system

Editor’s note: David Gunn, Amtrak’s President and CEO, wrote the following article for the June Amtrak Ink, the railroad’s monthly news publication for employees. It has been slightly edited.

By David Gunn

While I make sure that I keep you informed about what’s going on with respect to our funding situation in the Employee Advisories [weekly news briefs], I thought I’d share with you a couple of the experiences I’ve recently had on the road.

In mid-May, I rode the Empire Builder from Seattle to Chicago, which was very full. From Whitefish to Cut Bank I was joined by two U.S. Senators — Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Kit Bond (R-Mo.) — both of whom are on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

As we ate breakfast in the dining car, we talked about the importance of preserving passenger rail.

The remanufactured sleepers on the train looked good, and the new shower modules are really great – particularly the public one. I was also glad to see that some of the crewmembers I talked to shared my enthusiasm for the margin improvement project for the service that we’ll launch in August.

Not long ago, I was also in Lancaster County, Pa., visiting one of the more exciting projects we have underway. As you may know, we’re working with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to restore the Keystone Corridor (between Philadelphia and Harrisburg) to an electric railroad with faster trip times, more frequencies, and a smoother ride.

Both the Commonwealth and we have dedicated a lot of resources to this project. Along with various local officials, members of the state legislature and others, I visited the Track Laying System (TLS) while it was laying track at Paradise, Pa. Our engineering gangs have achieved remarkable progress – by the end of the project, we will have installed 83 track miles of concrete ties, 105 track miles of welded rail, renewed two interlockings and 74 miles of new signal system.

This is really exciting stuff for a number of reasons. For one thing, that stretch of railroad had been an orphan too long, was badly in need of repair and housekeeping, and was atrocious. Recognizing the value of having this corridor revitalized, Gov. Ed Rendell put his support behind developing it. Together, we have almost literally breathed new life into a dying railroad, and it is full of promise. Last year we carried 900,000 passengers between Harrisburg and Philadelphia and I will bet that once we get the work done and the speeds and frequencies up, we will double the ridership.

There are plans for renovating two beautiful stations along the route. We visited the Elizabethtown station – a real gem – that has been closed for decades (passengers wait on the platform). The Lancaster station, another beauty, is open, but in need some of renovations. With the state and local communities leading the way, these stations will not only be returned to their glory, but will help invigorate the area.

When it’s done in the fall of 2006, I really think the corridor will take off. This project and our partnership with Pennsylvania DOT is a model for corridor development done right.

Not only has the governor been extremely supportive, but we have – and appreciate – the support of all the communities along the route.

I had a chance to visit the Communications & Signals (C&S) facility in Lancaster as well. It is a great shop. I was impressed with the work and the employees there. All of the signal huts you see along our right-of-way begin their life right in the shop. Our folks are so good, that they are routinely visited by others in the business to see how they do things.

I was also in Vermont recently and I had a chance to visit our stations in that state. I was impressed with the cleanliness and the dedication of our employees. I also met with Dawn Terrell, the Vermont transportation secretary the state of Vermont is very proud of its trains and the service we offer.

Speaking of impressive, I found the stations and our facilities clean and orderly. The Harrisburg Line used to be littered with debris and it’s been cleaned up and looks like a railroad again.

As we enter the summer season, remember that it’s always spring-cleaning season. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, keeping a neat working area is not just about appearances – it’s about safety, it’s about security (a disheveled environment is breeding ground for people up to no good), it’s about staying organized, and making the best use of our resources. So please tend to your desk, shop, or crew base. That goes for the trains, too.

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OBITUARY...  Obituary...

Oliver O. Jensen, 91

Oliver O. Jensen, 91, died June 30 in Chester, Conn. He was a founder of the Valley Railroad, where he was president and chairman. The Valley Railroad is a restored ex-New Haven Railroad steam line that he helped start and make a popular tourist attraction.

Born on April 16, 1914, in Ithaca, N.Y., he grew up in New London, Conn., where he developed a lifelong fascination with trolleys, railroads and steamships. Upon graduation from Yale in 1936, he eventually landed a job with the then-new Life magazine, which had earlier purchased an article he wrote about a new and popular lady named Katharine Hepburn.

During World War II he served as a Naval officer and later drew upon some of his experiences in the Pacific for his first book, Carrier War (1945). He returned to Life as a writer and editor after the war and stayed until 1950. In 1954, along with two partners and the historian Bruce Catton, he founded American Heritage, a no-advertising, hardcover magazine that was an instant success and spawned two other magazines (Horizon and Americana) and many large illustrated books.

His The American Heritage History of Railroads in America became a popular book. In the 1970s and ’80s.

His wife, Alison (Pfeiffer) Jensen, died in July, 2000.

“He had two great passions,” his close friend Ellsworth Grant said recently.

“One was British history. He could recite every king and queen of England. The other was railroads. He was an authority on all U.S. railroads and wrote books about them,” said Grant, who was a neighbor of Jensen’s in Fenwick borough for decades.

“He spent most of his time writing on an Underwood manual typewriter. He never even learned to use an electric one,” Grant recalled.”

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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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