Vol. 6 No. 31
August 1, 2005

Copyright © 2005
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Destination:Freedom
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 gets a big break
It’s okay with Smith
‘Safetea-LU’ gets nod
New stipulations
House passes $286 billion highways, transit bill
Mead suggests ending sleepers, diners
NTSB blames CN for Amtrak derailment
Some railroaders, too AFL-CIO breaks up
All Acelas to run again this month
Professor pooh-poohs a fast trains idea
At Beech Grove: Locomotive overhauls keep good time
Amtrak to pay for Massachusetts land
Overnight hard work keeps bridge open
  Labor lines… 
Study confirms BLET stance on remote control operations:
   the FRA needs to provide oversight
  Builders’ lines… 
Siemens expands Sacramento facility
  Commuter lines… 
Transit cash redirected, official says
Utah commuter rail construction begins
Florida county demands governmental ownership
Bay State gains from transportation bill
  APTA Highlights… 
Peters Announces Departure as FHWA Administrator
BART’s 2 Largest Unions Approve Four-Year Contract
  Freight lines… 
New Jersey targets waste sites
UP discriminated, says federal judge
  Wall Street lines… 
CP
CSX, NS
FEC
P&W
RailAmerica
UP
Sluggish week for rail freight traffic
  Friday closing quotes… 
  Across the pond… 
The view from London: British rail upheaval starts again
Alcatel gets Dubai job
Faster ‘bullet’ travels in Japan
  Editorial… 
Bipartisanship really does matter, and both Amtrak
   and America will benefit
  We get letters… 
  Off the main line… 
Comparing Raffaello to a box car
  Endnotes… 

Roses as train passes by

For NCI: Aaron B. Hockley

It is around 9:00 a.m. as Amtrak Cascades No. 500 fans the roses at the carrier’s Vancouver, Wash. station on May 29. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is fanning financial support for the passenger railroad in Washington, D.C.

 

Amtrak gets a big break

Senate panel okays a spending bill; floor is next     

By Leo King
Editor

Amtrak’s operating subsidies would be cut but the railroad would receive more money for improvements to tracks and equipment, The AP reported on Wednesday after a subcommittee took up a bipartisan rail bill and a Senate committee okayed on Thursday. The vote was 18-4.

The bill, Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2005, S. 1516, as written in the staff working draft dated July 25, calls for reducing Amtrak’s operating subsidy by 40 percent, leaving the railroad $3.3 billion in subsidies over six years. Those cuts would be absorbed through cost cutting, restructuring and reform.

The railroad would receive $4.9 billion over six years for capital grants, and the bill would create a grant program giving states $1.4 billion for intercity passenger rail service.

The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Sens. Trent Lott, R-Miss.; Ted Stevens, R-Alaska; Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.; and Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii – got the green light from the Commerce Committee, where Stevens is chairman.

Lott said the bill aimed to reform Amtrak but also to “financially support Amtrak so it can do its job.” Referring to a provision that makes the Amtrak president a voting member of the board, Lott said, “I like David Gunn and I think if we give him more power he will be able to get more accomplished.”

Lautenberg, who worked closely with Lott on developing the bill, noted Amtrak’s national security value, which he said was vividly demonstrated after September 11, 2001, when only Amtrak kept running. He called Amtrak “an essential part of our lives,” and reminded critics of federal aid that airlines get.

Barbara Boxer, (D-Calif., said Amtrak and the Northeast usually are mentioned in the same breath. She emphasized Amtrak’s importance in California, where she said Amtrak’s ridership is the second highest in the nation.

It’s okay with Smith

Former Amtrak Board chairman John Robert Smith was happy about last week’s developments in the Senate Commerce committee, which also oversees transportation.

He told D:F on Friday, “The Senate Amtrak authorization bill introduced to the full Senate sends a strong and welcome signal that the Senate leadership is serious about the future of passenger rail in America, and that it is willing to make the commitment necessary to its success and endurance.”

Smith, who was an Amtrak board member from 1998 to 2003, said, “The bipartisan nature of support for Amtrak, which runs so deep that two-thirds of the Senate committee voted for the bill, also bodes well for the future.”

Smith has been a National Corridors Initiative board member since 1995 and its chairman since 1996. A licensed pharmacist, he was recently re-elected to his fourth consecutive term as Mayor of Meridian, Miss.

“The Senate action validates the need for a national system, while simultaneously advancing needed reforms which will only strengthen Amtrak in the long run. I am particularly pleased that Amtrak President and CEO David Gunn, who was brought in by the Amtrak board during my tenure and that of former Amtrak vice-chair Michael Dukakis three years ago, has already undertaken Amtrak reform and has proved to be an indefatigable manager and reformer, who has improved Amtrak’s efficiency and operations while reducing its operating costs.”

Smith added, “Amtrak is, in my view, now poised to become the truly world-class transportation system it should always have been, but was never allowed to become. That will be a function of follow-through and leadership, but I believe we have those elements in place and a consensus on Capitol Hill that this is the right thing to do for America’s growing transportation needs.”

“We rely on Amtrak; without it we’d have much worse gridlock,” she said.

Burns lamented that the USDOT has always treated Amtrak like a “step-child,” which he said hurts the morale of Amtrak management and employees alike. He said this bill “and its reforms allows for a lot of discussion; that’s where we have to start.”

The committee defeated 7-15 an amendment from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to delete “placeholder” language allowing bond funding, which would depend on action by the Senate Finance Committee.

Before that vote, McCain said, “Amtrak has never paid back a single penny of any money that has been loaned to them.”

In fact, Amtrak has serviced its debt reliably for many years. Standard & Poor’s had a stable rating on that debt until March 29, when the Bush Administration’s zero budget request for Amtrak led to a negative rating. Continuing funding uncertainty caused S&P in early May to put Amtrak’s debt ratings on “CreditWatch with negative implications.” Also, Amtrak is repaying its newest loan – $100 million from USDOT in 2002 – in five equal, annual installments starting this year.

Regarding bonding, Lott said, “I think we’re going to have to go that route eventually not just for passenger but also for freight rail.” Stevens saw the need for bonding also in aviation, “where traffic is going to double.”

The measure is now headed to the Senate floor. If it passes, it will be sent to the House for consideration.

Amtrak received a $1.2 billion subsidy for the current year. Another Senate measure would give Amtrak a $1.4 billion subsidy next year, but the Bush administration and some lawmakers have pushed to eliminate Amtrak subsidies.

Amtrak President David L. Gunn took a positive view of the bill.

He said, upon learning of the Senators’ actions on Wednesday when the measure was presented in the subcommittee, “Amtrak has made considerable progress in the past three years to operate more efficiently and, with increased federal support, invest in maintenance and capital projects too long deferred. However, neither this progress nor the reforms we announced earlier this year can substitute for the clear direction of federal policy and resources to match it, and, as such, we commend the bi-partisan introduction of this legislation.”

Sen. Lott website

Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., was the principal architect in writing the Senate’s Amtrak bill. It is now headed to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote.

‘Safetea-LU’ gets nod

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved bipartisan legislation, which will provide $286 billion in funding for highway and transit projects through fiscal year 2009, on Friday. The legislation contained in H.R. 3 – The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy For Users (SAFETEA-LU) – was approved by a 412-8 vote. The Senate was scheduled to vote on the legislation late Friday.

See separate story below. –Ed.

Gunn added, “It is heartening to see a truly inclusive and bi-partisan approach to chart the future of passenger rail service in this country. We look forward to working with these legislators, as well as with policymakers in the Administration, the states and elsewhere as the process gets underway with renewed urgency and seriousness.”

He told reporters, “Amtrak has operated without a federal authorization since October 2002. The time to chart the future is long overdue as the present model is not sustainable. Amtrak’s responsibility must be to inform this process with expertise and in good faith, and we will do so. While I realize that the process is at the beginning, I think this is a very positive first step.”

USDOT secretary Norman Mineta was not so positive. He remarked on Wednesday, “I am encouraged that Chairmen Stevens and Lott and Senator Inouye have entered this debate with a thoughtful bill that requires greater accountability for Amtrak. However, I am concerned that this bill does not provide the fundamental changes Amtrak needs if it is to survive.”

Mineta added that he looked forward to working with the committee “to ensure that the final version of this bill includes the structural, financial and managerial reforms required to make Amtrak sustainable over the long term.”

“Amtrak as an organization must change culturally to think and run more like a business,” said Lott, chairman of Commerce’s Surface Transportation Subcommittee.

“That is why our bill requires Amtrak to develop much better financial systems and be held accountable for its use of federal funding.”

Lautenberg said the bill provides needed funding to national passenger rail service, which he called a necessity, not a luxury.

An attempt by the House Appropriations Committee to cut the railroad’s budget by more than half and cut off subsidies for every cross-country route was reversed by the full House in June.

Some specific language in last week’s 111-page bill requires Amtrak to write a five-year financial plan which will include “all projected revenues and expenditures… including governmental funding sources, projected ridership levels for all Amtrak passenger operations, revenue and expenditure forecasts for non-passenger operations, and capital funding requirements and expenditures necessary to maintain passenger service which will accommodate predicted ridership levels and predicted sources of capital funding.”

Other requirements will include “operational funding needs, if any, to maintain current and projected levels of passenger service, including state-supported routes and predicted funding sources, projected capital and operating requirements, ridership, and revenue for any new passenger service operations or service expansions” as well as an assessment of the “continuing financial stability of Amtrak, as indicated by factors such as the ability of the federal government to fund capital and operating requirements adequately, Amtrak’s ability to efficiently manage its workforce, and Amtrak’s ability to effectively provide passenger train service.”

The bill also requires estimates of long-term and short-term debt and associated principle and interest payments – both current and anticipated – annual cash flow forecasts, and “a statement describing methods of estimation and significant assumptions.”

The bill also sets out specific dollar amounts for the railroad to repay its debts. The highest payment would come in fiscal year 2011 at $193.5 million, and the lowest in fiscal 2006 at $130.2 million. The rates rise annually until they end in 2011.

Interest on debt would decline between fiscal 2006 and 2011 with $148.1 being paid out next year, and $103.8 by 2011.

Excess railroad retirement payments were also considered. It is convoluted legal language that states, “There are authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary of Transportation, beginning with fiscal year 2006, such sums as may be necessary to pay to the Railroad Retirement Account an amount equal to the amount Amtrak must pay under section 3221 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 in such fiscal years that is more than the amount needed for benefits for individuals who retire from Amtrak and for their beneficiaries. For each fiscal year in which the Secretary makes such a payment, the amounts authorized by section 101(a) shall be reduced by an amount equal to such payment.”

New stipulations

Some new stipulations will affect future dining car and other first-class services and amenities.

Amtrak will be required to “develop a performance improvement plan for its long-distance passenger rail routes based on the data collected through the application of the financial and performance metrics.”

The plan will address on-time performance, scheduling, frequency, routes, and stops, and “the feasibility of restructuring service into connected corridor service.”

Other topics to be looked at closely include “performance-related equipment changes and capital improvements, on-board amenities and service, including food and sleeping car service.”

State or other non-federal financial contributions and other aspects of Amtrak’s long distance passenger rail routes that affect the financial, competitive, and functional performance of service on its long-distance passenger rail routes will also be examined.

Amtrak will implement the plan beginning in October 2007 “for those routes identified as being in the worst performing,” and beginning in fiscal 2008 for those routes identified as being in the second best performing, and beginning in fiscal 2009 for those routes identified as being in the best performing.

The USDOT inspector general will be required to review the plan.

Within two years after the act becomes law, Amtrak’s directors, the USDOT secretary and each state governor will be required to “develop and implement a standardized methodology” to “establish and allocate operating and capital costs among the states and Amtrak associated with trains operated on routes” described in other sections of the new law “that ensures, within five years after the date of enactment… equal treatment in the provision of like services of all states and groups of states, and allocates to each route the costs incurred only for the benefit of that route and a proportionate share, based upon factors that reasonably reflect relative use, of cost incurred for the common benefit of more than one route.”

If Amtrak and the states do not voluntarily adopt and implement the methodology, the STB “shall determine the appropriate methodology required for such services.”

On the operations side of the house, the bill specifically describes what is “high-speed” rail, and what is “long-distance.”

The national rail passenger transportation system is defined as “The segment of the Northeast Corridor between Boston, Mass., and Washington, D.C.,” and also “Rail corridors that have been designated by the Secretary of Transportation as high-speed corridors… but only after they have been improved to permit operation of high-speed service.”

Long-distance routes are described as lines “of more than 750 miles between endpoints operated by Amtrak as of the date of enactment of the bill, and short-distance corridors, or routes of not more than 750 miles between endpoints, operated by Amtrak or another rail carrier that receives funds under chapter 244.’’

Amtrak will be able to continue providing non-high-speed services.

“Nothing in this act is intended to preclude Amtrak from restoring, improving, or developing non-high-speed intercity passenger rail service.”

Its board of directors will have nine members, including the Secretary of Transportation, Amtrak’s president, and seven members appointed by the President who have “general business and financial experience, experience or qualifications in transportation, freight and passenger rail transportation, travel, hospitality, cruise line, and passenger air transportation businesses, or representatives of users of passenger rail transportation or state government.”

Stevens chairs the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; Lott chairs its Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine; Inouye is the ranking member on both; Lautenberg continues his special interest in rail matters.

Amtrak will also be required to “conduct a one-time evaluation of the Pioneer route formerly operated by Amtrak to determine whether a level of passenger demand exists that would warrant consideration of reinstating the entire Pioneer service or segments of that service.” The requirement must be met within two years of passage.

The Pioneer, train Nos. 25 and 26, according to a winter 1983 Amtrak timetable, operated from Chicago to Seattle via Omaha, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Boise and Portland, Ore. It was a 1,141-mile journey from end-to-end, and took about 52 hours.

NARP Executive Director Ross B. Capon said, “We are particularly pleased to see the bill’s endorsement of Amtrak’s national network, and provision of a robust capital investment program – both for infrastructure and rolling stock – to permit more reliable and frequent service, and more capacity. We are gratified that the bill directs the Secretary of the Treasury to negotiate restructuring of Amtrak’s legacy debt, which currently costs about $276 million a year to service.”

All three senators were positive about Amtrak.

Stevens remarked, “Just last weekend, I rode Amtrak to New York City and found a much tighter organization than several years ago.”

Lott added, “I’ve always felt that we needed a national passenger rail system. Under Gunn, Amtrak has made improvements. I’m a fan of Gunn.”

Lott also said the bill recognized that if Congress expects Amtrak to be innovative, to provide quality service, and to “change culturally,” Congress has got to provide funding because “this is not something that’s going to be a great, big profit maker. It isn’t profitable anywhere in the world and it won’t be here.”

Lautenberg said, “We have a wonderful leader, I think, in David Gunn.” The Senator lamented the fact that Gunn must spend so much “time fixing things that are worn out, lots of time on repair and rehabilitation to make up for past neglect.... As part of a security matrix, I think it’s essential to have a national passenger rail system. With rail service, we’ll improve the quality of our air, and reduce the amount of oil we need for our cars.”

Stevens said, “There are a great many provisions in this bill that give... options to expand the use of railroads in a creative and innovative way.”

Lott said, “Enacting legislation to reform and improve Amtrak is one of my top legislative priorities this session.”

The bill also empowers the Surface Transportation Board to address on-time performance problems with the freight railroads, and requires the FRA and Amtrak to develop standards to measure the performance and service quality of train operations.

“Ideally, we would like to see a new agency charged with planning an improved rail network. However, we are hopeful that, should this provision become law, FRA will work aggressively to improve and expand the national passenger rail network,” Capon said.

“Finally, we applaud the requirements that the Surface Transportation Board issue a quarterly on-time service report, make recommendations to Amtrak and freight railroads on how to fix intractable on-time performance problems, and take appropriate action to enforce Amtrak’s legal priority access where the STB finds that a freight railroad has failed to reasonably address delay problems.”


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House passes $286 billion
highways, transit bill

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved bipartisan legislation, which will provide $286 billion in funding for highway and transit projects through fiscal year 2009, on Friday.

The legislation written into H.R. 3 – The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy For Users– was approved by a 412-8 vote. The Senate was scheduled to vote on the legislation later on Friday.

The bill has an odd nickname – ”SAFETEA-LU,” an acronym.

The House-passed version of the highway and transit funding bill was originally sponsored by Reps. Don Young, R-Alaska, who is the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chairman; Democrat James Oberstar of Minnesota who is the ranking committee member; Tom Petri, R-Wis., chairman of the Highways, Transits & Pipelines Subcommittee; and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., ranking member on the Highways & Transit Subcommittee.

“H.R. 3 provides a funding level of $286.45 billion in guaranteed funding over six years for federal highways and transit programs, as well as highway safety and motor carrier safety programs,” said Young.

“This legislation will strengthen this country’s ability to move people and freight, he added.

“The American people need to know that SAFETEA-LU increases funding for constructing and improving our nation’s highways by 30 percent over TEA 21. This legislation improves transportation project delivery by insuring better coordination among state departments of transportation and federal permitting agencies, he declared.

Young said, “It improves the rate of return and scope for donor states, and donee states have minimum growth of not less than 19 percent over TEA 21. It improves highway safety with a new program designed to increase safety belt use. In the area of transit we have created the New Freedom initiative to give more mobility for the disabled and increased transit funding over TEA 21.”

Petri noted, “Modern highways and efficient transportation are essential to maintaining America’s competitive edge. It has been a struggle to craft this bill and to be fair to every region, but its importance would be hard to exaggerate.”

“Today we come to the end of a two-year odyssey as we have worked to put together a transportation reauthorization bill. We faced tremendous expectations and pressures with a finite amount of money – much less than is necessary to meet the overwhelming transportation needs across this country. During this reauthorization effort, I have traveled to cities across the nation and have met with governors, mayors, business interests and others, and saw first-hand the many critical and necessary infrastructure projects that we as a nation need to complete.

“The conference report before us today is a step forward in helping us meet those needs,” Petri said.

Legislative details are online at the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee website, www.house.gov/transportation.


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Mead suggests ending sleepers, diners

Amtrak should explore eliminating its first-class sleeper and dining-car services on some or all of its long-distance trains to save money, Kenneth Mead, the USDOT’s inspector general, recommended on last week.

The railroad’s long-distance trains, those that operate on routes of more than 500 miles, are in the cross-hairs of Bush administration budget cutters who are trying to force a reduction in government subsidies to Amtrak.

Some Amtrak critics have called for the railroad to eliminate its long-distance trains, a move the railroad has resisted for years.

Mead proposed, Reuters reported on July 26, that Amtrak first analyze its long-distance routes more closely and consider eliminating some services while preserving routes.

More than a dozen long-distance trains operate in 41 states. In 2004, long-distance trains carried 3.9 million passengers but incurred operating losses of more than $600 million.

Mead targeted first-class sleeper and dining cars on these trains for cost cuts, saying Amtrak could save between $75 million and $158 million annually by getting rid of them and their related amenities, including checked bag and high-end food and beverage service. First-class sleepers have private rooms with shower, and entertainment options, including movies.

What was not said was that by eliminating these services was that it also would tend to kill off passenger trains.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who has been pressuring Amtrak to reform its business practices, said Mead’s report identified several “clear, practical and effective steps” Amtrak could take to save money while maintaining routes.


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NTSB blames CN for Amtrak derailment

The National Transportation Safety Board said last week Canadian National Ry. is at fault for and Amtrak derailment last year. The federal agency charged CN with “failure to properly maintain and inspect its track” which resulted in a rail shift that derailed an Amtrak train” near Flora, Miss.

In its July 26 report, the NTSB recalled that On April 6, 2004, Amtrak train No. 58, the City of New Orleans, was traveling northbound “at about 78 mph when it passed over a shift in the rail and the entire train consisting of a locomotive, a baggage car, and eight passenger cars derailed.”

One person died as a result of the derailment.

The board’s report identified safety concerns with CN’s continuous welded rail maintenance and inspection procedures, Amtrak’s emergency response training of its employees, and the FRA’s oversight of both.

NTSB Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker stated, “Rules and regulations exist to promote safety. What we have here is less than adequate work done by both CN and the FRA, and sadly, it resulted in a fatal accident.”

The federal agency explained what happened in detail.

In January 2004 CN welders removed a 12-foot, 11-inch portion of the east rail near the point of derailment. Because of the cold temperatures, when the piece of rail was removed “the remaining rail contracted and as a result the replacement plug needed to be 2 inches longer to fill the opening. According to CN’s policy, the additional rail was to be removed ‘prior to the onset of warm weather.’ CN failed to remove the additional rail and warmer temperatures around the time of the accident caused the rail to expand.”

A post-accident examination of the rail near the accident site found that about half of the rail anchors were ineffective. The safety board concluded that “The inadequately restrained rail lifted out of the tie plates because of expansion caused by warm temperatures, resulting in the rail shifting and the gauge widening, allowing the wheels of the train to drop between the rails.”

During the investigation the board learned that CN’s continuous welded rail policy required the welder to assess the rail anchors for 200 feet on each side of the repair. The work report submitted by the welder for the January 2004 repair did not indicate any problems with the rail anchors at the accident site.

Additionally, a CN track inspector, the track foreman, and the track supervisor visited the repair site on separate occasions at least one month before the accident. None of the CN employees indicated any necessary repairs to the rail anchoring near the repair site “even though the anchoring pattern clearly was not in accordance with Canadian National’s policy.”

The board concluded that track employees at multiple levels did not follow or ensure adherence to CN’s written instructions for maintaining continuous welded rail.

“Had the employees who maintained the track followed the written procedures the rail shift likely would not have occurred,” the report stated.

The board recommended that CN establish an audit program to verify that employees follow current written track maintenance and inspection procedures.

The FRA’s track inspector had conducted two recent track inspections prior to the derailment. Although the inspector noted track deficiencies no defects were filed, so CN was not required to make any repairs.

The board’s report concluded that “FRA oversight was not effective in ensuring corrective action would be taken,” and recommended that the FRA emphasize to track inspectors the importance of enforcing a railroad’s own continuous welded rail program.

Although it was not a factor in this accident, the board’s investigation also examined Amtrak’s crewmember emergency preparedness training and determined that four of the 12 crewmembers involved in the accident had not received emergency preparedness training in accordance with FRA requirements.

The Amtrak crew performed their emergency tasks well; however to promote safety in the future, the board recognized that “Amtrak was not assuring that all of its crewmembers received emergency preparedness training” and recommended that Amtrak provide to the board, within 90 days, a schedule for training all employees who are not currently in compliance with FRA regulations for emergency preparedness training.

The board also cited the FRA for not conducting periodic audits of Amtrak’s emergency preparedness training program and recommended that the FRA establish an audit and enforcement program to verify that Amtrak complies with the FRA’s emergency preparedness training regulations.


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Some railroaders, too

AFL-CIO breaks up

By staff and press reports

The AFL-CIO splintered one week ago today, leaving Democratic Party leaders and the ranks of organized workers and their futures in the hands of labor rebels who bolted the 50-year-old federation, vowing to reverse the steep decline in union membership.

“Our goal is not to divide the labor movement but to rebuild it,” said Andy Stern, president of the 1.8 million-member Service Employees International Union, The AP reported. He and Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said their unions would leave the AFL-CIO, paving the way for other unions to follow.

Their action drew a bitter rebuke from AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, who called it a “grievous insult” that could hurt workers already buffeted by the global economy and anti-union forces in Congress.

“The labor movement belongs to all of us,” Sweeney said, “and our future should not be dictated by the demands of any group or the ambitions of any individuals.”

The future of the labor movement could be greatly affected by the success or failure of Stern’s effort to build a coalition outside the AFL-CIO that dedicates more money and manpower to recruiting union members while adjusting to demands of the global economy.

His Change-to-Win Coalition consists of seven unions, four of which boycotted the AFL-CIO convention: The SEIU, Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers and UNITE HERE, a group of textile, hotel and restaurant employees.

Labor officials expect the UFCW and UNITE HERE to leave the AFL-CIO later.

Several railroad unions, which are part of the Teamsters organization, also bolted from the AFL-CIO, including the American Train Dispatchers Assn., the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Brotherhood of Maintenance-of-Way Employes.

AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department is remaining with the parent union, TTD spokesman Mike Buckley told D:F.

BLET president Don Hahs said from Cleveland, “As president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the founding member of the Teamsters’ Rail Conference, I respect the decision of General President Hoffa and the Teamsters General Executive Board to disaffiliate from the AFL-CIO.”

He explained, “It was a difficult decision and was not made lightly. Some nine months of failed negotiations between Change-to-Win and AFL-CIO representatives went into the decision. Change-to-Win believes labor must organize more members and grow the labor movement. Change-to-Win also requested several AFL-CIO constitutional changes. AFL-CIO was not willing to make the requested changes.”

He said the decision to withdraw was made in mid-July.

“I was present at the July 20 meeting in Chicago when, subsequent to a thorough report from the IBT’s Change-to-Win negotiators, the GEB unanimously authorized General President Hoffa to withdraw from the AFL-CIO if no agreement was reached.”

According to the United Transportation Union website “The decision was made by the truck-driver-dominated union’s General Executive Board, which has no representation from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) or the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes (BMWE),”

Teamsters president James P. Hoffa explained why the disaffection.

He said, “We submitted proposals to dramatically change the direction of the AFL-CIO to stem the losses that we have endured over the past decade.”

He added, the Teamsters proposed that the AFL-CIO “embark on a new course of action” to protect existing Teamster members and their families, and to “lead to thousands of new working men and women” to have “the opportunity to organize into a strong union that would give them the chance to achieve the American dream – to own their own home, send their kids to college and plan a strong retirement.”

He emphasized, “We must have more union members in order to change the political climate that is undermining workers rights in this country. The AFL-CIO has chosen the opposite approach.”

The four parent unions represent one-third of the AFL-CIO’s 13 million members. The SEIU and Teamsters alone account for more than $20 million of an estimated $120 million AFL-CIO budget.

Much of that money goes to Democratic candidates and to political operations that benefit the Democratic Party. Stern, Hoffa and their colleagues in the Change to Win Coalition pushed the AFL-CIO to shift focus from such political activity to recruiting new union members, contending that a growing union movement would naturally increase its political and bargaining power.

“They said no,” Hoffa said at a coalition news conference held a few blocks from the AFL-CIO convention site. “Their idea is to keep throwing money at politicians.”

Democratic politicians catch most of the AFL-CIO donations, one reason why party leaders worry about a weakened federation. The AFL-CIO also spends millions of dollars on programs that help get Democratic voters to turn out on Election Day.

Some Democrats said July 25 they hoped the warring factions would come back together. Others suggested the competition would jolt organized labor out of its decades-old slumber.

“We’re in uncharted waters,” said Democratic consultant David Axelrod of Chicago. “Obviously, you have to believe a unified and coordinated effort is better than a disparate one and, obviously, the labor movement is a vital part of the Democratic coalition.”

Some Democrats cast the breakup in apocalyptic terms. “It’s the worst thing that could happen to us as a party,” said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic strategist with long ties to labor.

Others welcomed the challenge to the status quo.

“The approach represented by progressive reform organizations like the SEIU represents the future – they grow in size, they have fresh ideas, they understand message in the media age, they connect with the middle class,” said Democratic strategist Chris Lehane, adding, “These groups are on the right side of history.”

While this is the biggest rift in organized labor since 1938, when the CIO split from the AFL, supporters of the breakup note that labor made big gains when the two groups competed.

One of every three private-sector workers belonged to a labor group when the AFL-CIO merged in the 1950s. Now, less than 8 percent of private-sector workers are unionized.

Globalization, automation and the transition from an industrial-based economy have forced hundreds of thousands of unionized workers out of jobs, weakening labor’s role.

A number of Democratic lawmakers made their traditional pilgrimage to the AFL-CIO convention, urging unity while being careful not to take sides in the fight.

“What divides us pales in comparison to what unites us,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., pointing to efforts to fight the Bush administration on behalf of union workers.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said business interests might think the divide will make organized labor vulnerable.

“We have news for them. It’s not going to happen,” he said to cheers. “Our unity is our strength. We will stand together and fight for working families.”


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All Acelas to run again this month

More Acela Express trainsets returned to service over the weekend and today, and the entire fleet is expected to be running by August 22, according to sources.

More premium trains to and from Boston to New York and Washington began today – former eastward Metroliners Nos. 2118, 2126, 2172 and westward 2133 and 2151. Completely new trains will be the 2150 and 2171.

Train Nos. 141 and 148 will revert to Washington to New York and Springfield, no longer traveling to Boston.

A new timetable change package will replace the May 2 timetables, and numerous regional schedules north of New York City will be adjusted.

On Saturdays, as of July 30, former Metroliner: 2253 and 2298 became Acela equipment, and Metroliner 2263 reverted to Acela Express 2253.

On Sundays, starting yesterday, Acelas 2205, 2212, 2250 and 2259 started running. No. 2250 replaced Metroliner 2200, and Metroliner 2220 was renumbered 2230.

Elsewhere, CSX can now speed up some schedules on Amtrak’s Empire Service now that its trackwork is complete, and adjust schedules of the Silver Star and Silver Meteor. The next expected schedule change is to be on August 22, when normal Acela trainset availability will resume, allowing operation of the full Acela schedule.

Minor changes will also allow Susquehanna River Bridge repairs to be completed and restored MARC service.

The next planned schedule changes will be in the fall timetable changes on October 31.


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Professor pooh-poohs a fast trains idea

High-speed rail has never found its niche in the U.S., but New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno wants to change that.

At least one transportation expert is casting doubt on the concept.

Bruno disclosed plans in March to conduct a $5 million feasibility study on bringing a bullet train to New York. He contends that connecting the state’s major cities with a train capable of traveling at speeds of nearly 200 mph would help New York grow economically by providing a fast, reliable way to transport people and goods.

Such a train also would encourage growth upstate, The AP reported on July 25, by making New York City accessible to commuters from the Albany area in less than 90 minutes. By making the city easily accessible to upstaters, more people will want to move north of the city, especially as the state tries to boost the high-tech sector through its Centers for Excellence at SUNY campuses.

President Bush has proposed ending the $1.2 billion federal subsidy to Amtrak, a move that many say would effectively kill the national passenger service.

Instead of a national rail service, the White House budget envisions the eventual creation of regional rail service compacts, overseen by states or collection of states, providing more locally based transportation.

Bruno says that would give New York the chance to make his vision work – but Univ. of North Carolina-Charlotte transportation studies professor David Hartgen says it won’t.

Hartgen, who spent 22 years working for New York’s DOT, said improvements to the country’s highway and air travel systems over the past 25 years have made long-distance rail travel nearly obsolete and a surefire money loser.

High-speed trains have not caught on in the U.S. because major cities with high populations are too far apart, he contends. Even if a high-speed train were built in New York, it would rarely hit 200 mph because of the number of stops it would have to make, Hartgen said.

“It’s been feasibility studied to death, and they’ve all concluded the same thing: The demand is not high enough and the cost involved in operating it could never be worth it,” he said.

Hartgen added, “It would be one of the most foolish things New York State ever did.”


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Repairing the train trucks

Two photos: Amtrak Ink

Its engine is removed from P-42 locomotive 167 at Beech Grove’s diesel shop. After a complete overhaul, the locomotive will undergo final testing before it rejoins the fleet.

 

At Beech Grove:

Locomotive overhauls keep good time

It’s all part of Amtrak’s five-year strategic plan aimed at returning its rolling stock “to a state of good repair.” That’s a phrase CEO David Gunn said a couple of years ago, and the railroader has been true to his word.

Mechanics at the carrier’s Beech Grove, Ind., major repair facility are overhauling 51 diesel locomotives, including Amtrak’s largest locomotive fleet – its P-42s.

Forty of the 207 GE engines are slated for overhaul in this fiscal year, which began last October 1 and ends September 30. With 29 completed through June, Beech Grove is right on target, writes Amtrak Ink, the railroad’s monthly newspaper. Employees have also completed four of the eight F-59 overhauls on this year’s production schedule, and the three P-32 dual-mode locomotives.

The P-32s are unique. They can be operated using the diesel engine to power the traction motors, or each can operate using electric current from a third rail collector system, allowing the diesel engine to be turned off.

Beech Grove machinists Bill Washington (left) and Dave Roberts rebuild the trucks for a P-42 locomotive. After the trucks are removed from under each locomotive, they are taken to a shop where everything from springs to frame get a thorough going-over.

 

Of Amtrak’s 207 P-42s, 158 are needed to meet its daily operating requirements, so the company must daily schedule 29 other units for overhaul, preventive maintenance or other repair work.

“We must carefully manage our diesel locomotive resources and our modest out-of-service margin for preventive maintenance so that service is not negatively impacted,” noted Director of Operations Michael Frazier.

“After accounting for the nine P-42s that are out of service this year due to wreck damage, we’re left with only 11 spare engines that allow Amtrak the flexibility to do things such as operate charter services, including our contractual agreement with the American Orient Express,” added Frazier.

There is even less wiggle room with F-59 and P-32DM availability. Of the 21 locomotives in the F-59 fleet, 13 are required each day, while six are scheduled out of service for maintenance – with only two to spare.

There is only one spare P-32DM. Out of the 18 engines in the fleet, 14 are in use and three scheduled for maintenance every day.

Beech Grove’s locomotive programs are budgeted at approximately $34 million this fiscal year to perform the extensive repairs and overhauls to the diesel fleet.

“By investing money and manpower in overhauling this equipment, we are helping to ensure that our locomotive fleet will be in good operating condition for the duration of its life – estimated at 20 years,” said Beech Grove Superintendent Lew Wood.

Under Beech Grove’s fiscal 2005 production plan, these units are scheduled for overhauls every five years, or preferably when the mileage reaches one million miles.

Bought in 1996, the 40 P-42s as well as the P-32DMs purchased a year earlier, are both entering their second overhaul cycle.

Although the six-year-old F-59s are cycling though for the first time, these units are scheduled for overhaul based on the mileage accumulated and a review of the component failure analysis to determine the component life cycle and the work scope required to keep these units performing and costs down.

When a locomotive first arrives at Beech Grove, it is inspected for physical damage, then several functions are tested, such as the airbrakes and the power supply, to determine if any mechanical failures exist. Next, the oil, water and fuel are drained from the unit and the oil is filtered and sold to local oil recyclers. The trucks are removed and completely rebuilt in-house and other rotating equipment including the main engine. Alternators and cooling fans are sent off-site for repair.

The unit is then washed and moved to the Trim Shop to paint the interior of the locomotive, including the machine room and cab.

Afterward, several required modifications are made. For example, to save fuel costs, an automatic engine start and stop system enables locomotives to automatically shut off when the engine idles about 30 minutes. The engine automatically restarts itself if there is a need for power or if the air pressure drops too low.

To reduce the locomotives’ out-of-service time, another improvement involves replacing the metal fabricated nose welded on the head of the engine with a replaceable composite nose. In the past, when the nose was damaged due to an accident or a debris strike, it could only be replaced at the Beech Grove or New Orleans maintenance facilities – and the repairs spanned a week or more. This modification allows the nose to be replaced at any mechanical facility by simply unbolting the damaged nose and bolting another that is a pre-painted composite, thereby significantly reducing the labor hours.

Next, the exterior is painted, the latest software is downloaded into the engine and the seats, floor panels, doors and other equipment are installed. After final testing and inspection, the locomotives are returned to their respective regions for operation.

The P-32DMs primarily operate in the Northeast, the F-59s operate on the West Coast and the P-42s power passenger trains from coast-to-coast.


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Amtrak to pay for Massachusetts land

Amtrak has agreed to pay a real estate trust owned by Mortimer Zuckerman, a publisher and chairman of the development firm Boston Properties, $126,000 for a sliver of land it took by eminent domain near the Route 128 train station in Westwood, Mass. The agreement, reached July 15, settled a lawsuit over compensation for the property, which borders the railroad, according to the Boston Globe of July 28.

Amtrak had seized the 5,100-square-foot parcel two years ago to relocate a CSX freight railroad spur that interfered with passenger tracks into the train station, jointly shared by Amtrak and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

The MBTA owns the tracks from South Station to the Rhode Island state line.

When neither side could agree on the land’s value, Amtrak took the landowners, Zuckerman and fellow real estate trust owner Edward H. Lined, to U.S. District Court. Amtrak initially offered to pay $50,000.

“I don’t believe there were questions as to the legality of the taking,” said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black. “We just couldn’t come to an agreement on the proper compensation.”

The tract connects to a nine-acre parcel in the Westwood Industrial Park, which is owned by the real estate trust. Neal Tully, a Boston lawyer representing the trust’s owners, said his clients were pleased with the settlement.


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Keeping the bridge safe

Amtrak Ink

Inspectors aboard the Clyde at Portal Movable Bridge, at milepost 6.0 – six miles west of New York following a fire on the bridge over the Hackensack River.

 

Overnight hard work keeps bridge open

Remember that bridge fire Amtrak sustained over the Hackensack River in New Jersey last May? Through the pages of Amtrak Ink, the railroad’s monthly employee news report, we’ve learned some details about what happened.

Quick response and a sophisticated recovery effort conducted by employees working for the New York division and the U.S. Coast Guard led to saving Portal Bridge and restoring train operations as well as marine traffic on the river following a fast-moving fire that struck the bridge on the evening of May 12.

According to Division Engineer Steven Falkenstein, “Our employees’ quick response to this crisis saved the track infrastructure, and temporarily restored signal service to the bridge in record time.”

Falkenstein added that Amtrak received an unexpected call from the governor of New Jersey and from officials at New Jersey Transit praising how effectively the employees managed the event.

As fire crews battled the flames, quick thinking by engineering department employees saved bridge timbers by requesting fire crews to focus their attention on wetting down specific timbers before they burned completely. Each bridge timber that supports the track is manufactured individually to fit like a glove.

“Because of the bridge specifications, you can’t just use any type of tie,” explained Staff Engineer Joseph Cyanic.

“Letting certain parts of a fire burn is a strategic decision. Our forces directed the firemen to the areas that were a priority, thereby preventing further restoration delays.”

Because the effect of the fire knocked out all power cabling on the bridge, engineers designed a temporary cabling system to restore power to the signal system and bridge. Meanwhile, New Jersey Transit worked with Amtrak to reduce traffic crossing the bridge until more cable could be installed.

Working throughout the night, crews repaired damaged rail, walkways and the catenary system, and a temporary cabling system was pulled across the bridge.

Reduced train service was restored by the next morning’s rush hour. Less than 48 hours later, full service was restored – but river traffic still remained a problem.

Water traffic was shut out because the temporary cables draped across the bridge prohibited the swing portion of the bridge from opening. Amtrak and the Coast Guard worked together to restore river traffic.

Two days later, a barge was on site to maneuver a new temporary underwater cabling system to continue signal power while restoring the bridge’s function to swing open. Divers and submarine cable experts were called in to assess cable placement, determine existing damage and to map out any debris on the bottom of the river that would interfere with new cable placement.

Once the divers were out of the water, the barge was used to move across the channel and unroll the weighted cables that would sink to the bottom of the river.

The divers then checked the underwater cabling system to ensure proper placement. With a thumbs-up from the diving team, engineering employees attached each of the cable wires to signal boxes and swing bridge components.

Eleven days after the initial fire, the Coast guard notified boaters the bridge was operational again.

Permanent cabling will require the bridge fenders to be replaced before it can be secured to the bottom of the river. Once the new fenders are in place, the cables will be buried into the riverbed.


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LABOR LINES...  Labor lines...

Study confirms BLET stance on remote control
operations: the FRA needs to provide oversight

Major U.S. railroad corporations should no longer be permitted to operate remote control locomotives free from regulatory oversight by the FRA.

That was one of several key findings in a report released last week by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), which presented the results of a study sponsored by the union’s National Division to investigate hazards created by remote control locomotive operations in the U.S. The study was conducted by railroad work organization expert Dr. Frederick C. Gamst and former FRA Associate Administrator for Safety George A. Gavalla, BLET stated in a press release.

Their work included a review of general information and comments, as well as details concerning remote control incidents, gathered over three-years from remote control operators and from others who work or supervise in areas where remote control operations have been introduced.

Among the study’s most significant findings was that because on-board computers ultimately control remote control locomotives, remote controls introduce a level of mechanical hazard into switching operations that does not exist in conventional switching operations.

Another finding was that certain design features of the “black box” actually may increase the likelihood that an unintended movement will occur.

Blind shoves become more hazardous, according to the report, because of the lack of a requirement to provide human protection at the leading point of a movement, which undermines, if not defeats, the purpose of designated “remote control zones.”

Training provided remote control operations were routinely criticized as lacking in sufficient time and detail. The authors recommended that the FRA audit accident and injury reports submitted by the railroads, so that reliable baseline data can be amassed for remote control accident and casualty rates.

The study recommended that the FRA refine existing accident investigation procedures to include studying technological or systemic factors that may cause or contribute to accidents, and the industry should no longer be permitted to regulate itself concerning remote control operations, the investigators said.

BLET National President Don M. Hahs said, “This is the latest piece of evidence that the industry’s hasty and ill-planned implementation of remote control technology – and the FRA’s decision not to grant our 2000 petition for rulemaking – have combined to diminish both safety and productivity in switching operations, which is precisely the result we have long predicted. The study also should have a sobering effect on those who continue to advocate a headlong rush to implement new and untested technologies.”


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

Siemens expands Sacramento facility

Siemens Transportation Systems, Inc. says it is expanding its California light rail manufacturing plant in Sacramento and will “insource” the train car shell manufacturing process.

The multi-million dollar investment is expected to add some 75 new jobs to the Sacramento economy.

“We must stay focused on providing competitive pricing and high-quality products for our customers,” said Siemens’ Oliver Hauck, president and CEO, at a recent company town hall meeting.

“We believe that building our presence here in Sacramento – and tapping into the workforce here – will help us achieve these goals.”

Siemens recently received repeat orders from Calgary and Denver for 33 and 34 new SD160 light rail vehicles, respectively, because of those cities’ light rail successes.

“Calgary doubled its ridership and Denver is now recognized as the national model for implementing light rail,” said Hauck. The light rail train carshells for both of these orders will be built in the Siemens Sacramento facility.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Mariner

Sound Transit

Seattle Mariners announcer Dave Niehaus, at left, and the Mariners Moose welcomed Sound Transit Vice-Chair Greg Nickels who is also and Seattle’s Mayor to Safeco Field last week, along with a “Home Run Special” locomotive as it pulled into King Street Station. Sound Transit and the Mariners unveiled the engine sporting the Mariners’ logo on the nose along with Sound Transit’s wave design. Baseball extras operate on Saturdays and Sundays. Sound Transit is online at www.soundtransit.org.

 

Transit cash redirected, official says

A Homeland Security Department official said on July 26 that the $8.3 billion available for transit security – a figure touted by the Bush administration since the London terrorist bombings earlier this month – has been used for other purposes, and only $20 million was used in fiscal 2004 to protect subways, buses, railways and tunnels.

The National Journal’s Technology Daily reported Timothy Beres, who oversees the department’s transit grants, conceded that states have opted to use the $8.3 billion available in the last three years for other programs.

“You and I both know that states have had to use most of those funds” for training and equipment for police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders, said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.

Since the London bombings last month, lawmakers have criticized the Bush administration for not giving states enough money to protect mass-transit systems. Senators attempted, but failed, to attach an additional $1.2 billion for transit security to a bill to fund Homeland Security in fiscal 2006.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has said that the department has provided adequate funding for transit security and that aviation is the agency’s greatest concern for transportation security. At a recent hearing, Beres said a separate government program has provided $250 million over the last three years specifically for transit systems.

Of that amount, the administration recently directed $108 million to bolster security for railways, $22 million for intracity bus systems and $4 million for ferryboat security. The department also plans to dole out $90 million this year to protect the area around 103 designated critical infrastructure sites, including 21 subways, 11 tunnels, 18 railways and two bus depots.

Robert Jamison, deputy administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), said money alone would not assure safety.

“Perimeter fencing, securing yards, tunnels and bridges, facial-recognition technology, and even use of security cameras did not and would not have prevented either the London or Madrid attacks,” Jamison said. “The fact is, good transit security is grounded in operations.”


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Utah commuter rail construction begins

The Utah Transit Authority has sent out construction notices to Clinton and Roy residents to warn of upcoming work on the commuter rail right-of-way between 4800 South in Roy and 1300 North in Clinton, east of Union Pacific’s tracks.

The work began today, though it will primarily be groundwork and preparation for the full-scale building of commuter rail, reports the Ogden Standard-Examiner.

“We want people to be aware that we’re working and we’re concerned about any impact,” said Justin Jones, UTA spokesman.

UTA has set up a hotline, from 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., for people interested in commuter rail construction. The phone number is (877) UTA RAIL or (877) 882-7245. There will also be construction updates online at www.rideuta.com.

Work will include clearing bushes and trees and removing UP signal masts where commuter tracks will be built.

The major work needs to begin in the Ogden rail yard, where the ground must be prepared for a bridge. A building will be demolished there in the next few weeks.

UTA is beginning between Roy and Clinton because UP has granted permits along there for now.

“The main focus will be in the Ogden yard, where it all needs to be formed,” Jones said. “We are going through preparation for an official groundbreaking later.”

UTA only recently received federal permission to begin the $450 million project. Officials are hoping to get a lot of the preliminary construction finished before the construction season ends in the late fall. Construction will resume in the spring and the 40-mile rail line from Salt Lake City to Pleasant View is expected to open in 2008.


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Florida county demands
governmental ownership

Seminole County, Fla., could jeopardize regional plans for a commuter rail, insisting on July 26 that government own the tracks or it won’t help fund the high-tech train system.

“This is a basic condition,” Seminole County Commissioner Randy Morris said, adding, “I would find it very imprudent to spend $40 million of [Seminole County] taxpayers’ money on a leased line.”

Other counties have not made purchasing the line from CSX a condition of funding, according to the Orlando Sentinel, but without Seminole County’s involvement, federal money would be at risk, and that could kill the $473.5 million project, said Steve Homan, a spokesman for the Florida DOT.

“We have to have local participation. That’s a requirement, divided equitably among the four counties,” Homan said. “If you don’t have the local commitment, the project goes away.”

Morris compared spending so much money to build stations along CSX-owned tracks to a renter investing in fixing up a house he doesn’t own.

Government ownership – whether local, state or some sort of regional authority – would ensure more control over when or if freight trains run on the tracks, and it also would make it easier to establish a light-rail system nearby, Morris said.

The state DOT has been negotiating with CSX on a deal that would allow use of the railroad tracks for commuter rail through Central Florida. CSX officials have talked about relocating some freight traffic away from Orlando, and one option under consideration would give DOT control of the tracks and keep freight trains away from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.

CSX officials would not comment about negotiations with the state.

“We continue to have an open dialogue with the proponents for commuter rail, and that will certainly continue,” CSX spokesman Craig Camuso said.

State and federal officials say they would prefer that government acquire the tracks, but DOT District 5 Secretary George Gilhooley told Seminole County commissioners that negotiating ownership is “a very complicated process” that may not be successful.

However, it has been done before. In South Florida, Florida DOT bought CSX tracks for the Tri-Rail commuter rail project there several years ago.

“We’re still going to continue negotiations with CSX to see what the best possible deal is,” he said after the Seminole meeting, where commissioners voted 5-0 to fund commuter rail with the condition of track ownership.

Seminole County is the third of four counties in Central Florida involved in the commuter-rail initiative to pledge money toward the project, though Volusia and Osceola did not make an issue of track ownership, Gilhooley said.

Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty said that, while he understands the desire to control the line “I don’t know that you need an amendment to your resolution that mandates government ownership... I’m not going to propose that.”

Orange County is scheduled to vote August 9 on whether to back the commuter-rail project. The county appeared poised last month to kill the deal because of questions about its cost. Since then, officials have warmed to the plan as they have focused on other aspects of the proposal, including the prospect that freight trains would be routed away from Orlando.

The four counties are being asked to put up a total of about $117 million, or about one-fourth of the cost, to get the project started. The state and federal governments would fund the rest.

Officials expect the first phase, from DeBary to Orlando, to be completed by 2009. The second phase, from Orlando to Poinciana, would be done by 2011. Double-decker trains eventually would run every half-hour during peak periods from Poinciana to DeBary, stopping between 15 proposed stations.

DOT would cover operating costs for the first four years. After that, participating counties would share the cost, though some state money could be available.

U.S. Rep. John Mica, who has championed the commuter-rail project, said he doesn’t think Seminole County’s caveat will be a deal-breaker.

“I think they’re trying to influence the negotiations. They’re influencing them in the right direction. It’s to the benefit of Central Florida to obtain and control that corridor,” said Mica.


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Bay State gains from transportation bill

Federal tax dollars will help rebuild the Lechmere Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority station in Boston. The measure also provides $20 million toward construction of a tunnel that will connect the two sections of the MBTA’s Silver Line, a subway bus route in downtown Boston, and about $15.5 million toward the proposed expansion of commuter rail service to New Bedford and Fall River.

Overall, Massachusetts is in line to receive $5.23 billion over six-years, according to the Boston Globe of July 29.

The money will bring the state about 8,000 construction jobs and will mean a significant upgrade to the state’s highways and mass transit systems, said Democratic Rep. Michael E. Capuano, who serves on the House transportation committee.

The bill also earmarks $9 million to upgrade passenger-rail service between Worcester and Boston, a major priority for central Massachusetts residents who commute to the Boston area, said Democratic Rep. James P. McGovern.

“This is a big victory for Massachusetts – for our commuters, environment, and economy,” said Senator Edward M. Kennedy. “With these funds, we’ll be able to address key transportation challenges in every corner of the Commonwealth.”

In most cases, the federal money represents only a portion of the full cost of the projects, with most of the funding coming from state and local governments. Some of the projects are already underway, while others, such as the expansion of rail service into southeastern Massachusetts, are still on the drawing board, and federal funds could boost their prospects.


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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.


Peters Announces Departure as FHWA Administrator

Mary E. Peters, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration since 2001, said she will step down from the post at the end of July to return home to be with family in Phoenix.

Peters was director of Arizona DOT when nominated to the FHWA post by President Bush four years ago. She received the 2004 National Woman of the Year Award from the Women’s Transportation Seminar.

FHWA Deputy Administrator Rick Capka will serve as acting administrator when Peters leaves the agency.


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BART’s 2 Largest Unions Approve Four-Year Contract

Members of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District’s two largest unions – Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 and Service Employees International Union Local 790, representing a total of almost 2,300 BART employees – voted July 19 to approve a four-year contract reached tentatively July 6 by their leaders and BART management.

Published reports stated that SEIU, representing 1,450 BART employees, voted 784 in favor and 197 against the contract, while ATU, representing 830 train operators and station agents, voted for the contract by a margin of 310 to 114.

The contract provides BART employees with a combined 7 percent raise in the second, third, and fourth years, although the current fiscal year will have no wage increase.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

New Jersey targets waste sites

Acting New Jersey Gov. Richard J. Codey and Sen. Jon Corzine have unveiled a two-track campaign to deal with unregulated railway waste transfer sites.

Codey launched “Operation Safety Net” – a multi-agency, state level enforcement effort designed to crack down on sites like one in North Bergen’s Meadowlands, where a potentially deadly chemical was discovered earlier this month.

“We’re going to harass the hell out of them,” Codey said at a press conference, the Bergen Herald News reported on July 26.

Codey said the state Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Community Affairs Division of Fire Safety, New Jersey State Police, and the Port Authority Police Department will be involved in inspecting and enforcing safety standards at the sites.

Operators of the unregulated waste sites, located along rail lines, have been using federal charters exempting railroads to evade state and local regulations.

There are five such sites located within two miles of each other in North Bergen, all owned by the New York, Susquehanna & Western Ry. There are several other solid waste transfer sites under construction or operation by several railroads in North Jersey, including one in Paterson and one in Passaic.

The sites, some of which are close to homes, have raised health, environmental and safety concerns. Thousands of pounds of phosphorus pentasulfide, a flammable chemical used making lubricants and insecticides, were found at the NYS&W’s North Bergen site. Though the chemical has since been removed, officials were concerned because the chemical can become explosive and produce poisonous gases when it’s exposed to water.

The railroad maintains that state regulations do not apply because they are involved in interstate commerce under federal jurisdiction.

Codey acknowledged that state enforcement is not enough.

“We will do as much as the law allows us to protect New Jersey,” he said, “but the state cannot close this federal loophole. This is not a problem New Jersey can solve by itself.”

Corzine pledged that he and Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg would draft legislation closing the loophole under which railroads deny state and local oversight.

“This just has to stop,” Corzine said to the room full of reporters and environmentalists. “This was never the intent of those who wrote the law.”

Corzine said the proposed legislation would allow state and local government jurisdiction over solid waste transfer, giving them the power to regulate existing sites and stop new ones from popping up.

Alan C. Marcus, a spokesman for the NYS&W, called the Codey-Corzine efforts “nothing really all that new,” since the railroad is already being harassed by the state, he said.

“The reason for the federal pre-emption is to ensure that local officials cannot interfere with our national railroad system. Without a functioning rail system, all cargo will be shifted to trucks,” Marcus said. He said the railroad would oppose the proposed legislation but continue to abide by federal regulations.


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UP discriminated, says federal judge

Union Pacific Railroad discriminated against women by not covering contraceptives in its health care plan, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp ruled in a class-action lawsuit that claimed the company discriminated by providing a range of preventive health benefits, including impotence drugs, but no contraceptive care.

The policy is discriminatory “because it treats medical care women need to prevent pregnancy less favorably than it treats medical care needed to prevent other medical conditions that are no greater threat to employees’ health than is pregnancy,” the judge wrote in his July 22 ruling.

UP spokesman Mark Davis said the ruling would be appealed because, among other things, the decision to exclude contraceptives in the benefits package was negotiated with the company’s unions.

He said nonunion employees have had prescription contraceptive coverage for “some time.”

The lawsuit, backed by Planned Parenthood, alleged that the railroad’s action violated the federal Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employers with 15 or more workers from making decisions based on gender or pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood said recent studies show that 88 percent of employer health plans provide coverage for all methods of prescription contraception, compared with only 64 percent in 2001.

The lead plaintiffs in the class action were Brandi Standridge, a 25-year-old UP trainman and engineer who lives in Pocatello, Idaho, and Kenya Phillips, a 32-year-old engineer who lives near Kansas City, Mo.


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

CP

Canadian Pacific Ry. Ltd. reported on July 26 second-quarter earnings rose 46 percent, as stronger freight revenue more than made up for higher fuel costs.

CP earned C$123 million ($101 million), or 77 Canadian cents per share, up from year-earlier C$84 million, or 53 Canadian cents a share, Reuters reported last week.

Excluding foreign exchange losses on long-term debt, earnings per share would have been 87 Canadian cents, the company said.

Analysts surveyed by Reuters Estimates were looking for CP Rail to report earnings of between 78 Canadian cents and 91 Canadian cents a share. The average estimate was 83 Canadian cents a share.

The company, which operates in Canada and the United States, said revenue rose 10 percent to C$1.1 billion in the period, driven by increased coal, grain, and intermodal shipping.

CP Rail’s operating ratio improved to 75.5 percent from 78 percent in the second quarter 2004. Operating expenses rose 6.5 percent, mostly because of soaring fuel prices.

CP said it expects revenue to grow in the range of 12 percent to 14 percent in 2005.

Diluted earnings per share are expected to be in the range of C$3.15 to C$3.25, excluding foreign exchange gains and losses on long-term debt and other specified items, and assuming steady oil prices and U.S.-Canada exchange rates.


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CSX, NS

The largest railroad operators in the eastern U.S., CSX Corp. and Norfolk Southern Corp., reported surging profits on July 27, helped by rising transportation prices and the U.S. economy’s healthy demand for commodities and manufactured goods, according to a Reuters report last week.

CSX, which serves every major population center east of the Mississippi river, said net income grew 39 percent to $165 million, or 73 cents a share. Excluding one-time items, the results topped the average analyst forecasts.

NS’s quarterly profit nearly doubled to $424 million, or $1.04 a share. NS shares rose more than 3 percent, while CSX shares were up less than 1 percent.

While both companies reported stronger results, some analysts said NS’s performance was superior.

NS’s freight volume rose 4 percent, while CSX’s freight volumes fell in the quarter. Since the companies operate on similar lines, some analysts said CSX appears to be losing customers to NS.

Donald Broughton, the transportation analyst with AG Edwards, said CSX managed to increase profit only by raising prices.

“Their assets are not productive. Their customers are not getting good service, but they’re charging them more for it,” said Broughton, who has a “hold” rating on CSX shares. “You’ve got to ask yourself how sustainable a business model that is.”

CSX executives said their service quality improved in the quarter, with average train speeds rising sharply since the end of June and accident and injury rates falling.

Andrew West, the transportation analyst for Standard & Poor’s, said the entire freight industry, both trucking and rail, have pushed through rapid price increases over the past year. Only about half of the increase, he said, can be attributed to higher oil prices.

“This is the most rapid change I’ve seen going back as far as I’ve had data for,” he said. Such pricing increases, paid for by shippers and receivers in the power, retail, manufacturing and other big industries, have allowed the rails to post record profits. West said, however, that the rate of increases may have peaked.

“I don’t think we’ll be seeing this rate of pricing increases going on for a whole lot longer,” he said. “This could very well be the peak quarter in terms of year-over-year pricing increases.”

Both railroads were helped by much higher demand for coal by electrical utilities. CSX said coal revenue rose nearly $100 million from the same period last year, while NS said coal operating revenue rose by more than $150 million.

CSX forecast an annual profit of $3.15 to $3.25 a share, excluding certain one-time items. That was above the average analyst forecast, although much of the difference could be accounted for with the second quarter’s higher-than-expected results.


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FEC

Florida East Coast Industries, Inc. reported a strong second quarter, which ended on June 30.

Adolfo Henriques, who is chairman, president and CEO Florida East Coast Industries as well as its railroad, said, “Our businesses delivered very strong results for the second quarter. The railway posted double-digit percentage growth in revenues and operating profit.”

Rocks continue to be big business on the Florida East Coast Ry.

“All of the carload commodities that the railway moves enjoyed higher revenues, and volumes with the bulk of the growth continuing to come from the railway’s movement of crushed stone which supports infrastructure and construction growth throughout Florida’s vibrant economy,” Henriques said.

Intermodal revenues registered their eighth consecutive quarterly increase, up 16.7 percent in the second quarter compared to the second quarter of 2004.

“Given the strong performance of the railway during the first half of the year, we are increasing the 2005 full-year outlook for the railway’s revenues and operating profit growth,” he added.

For the second quarter 2005, FECI reported consolidated revenues of $83.1 million from all business units, compared to $70.5 million for the second quarter 2004. Revenues for the second quarter 2005 included realty sales of $1.9 million, compared to $2.6 million in the second quarter 2004. FECI reported consolidated second quarter 2005 net income of $10.4 million, or $0.32 per diluted share, which includes $1 million of after-tax profit from land sales, compared to $8.4 million, or 22 cents per diluted share, (which includes $250,000 of after-tax profit from land sales), for the prior year quarter.

“The company’s outlook for full-year 2005 financial results assumes continued strength in the national and Florida economies during the second half of the year,” Henriques said.

“Given the railway’s strong results for the first half of 2005, the company is increasing its 2005 full-year outlook. Railway segment revenues are now expected to range between $222 and $230 million, an increase of 11 percent to 15 percent over 2004, and the railway segment operating profit is now expected to range between $56 and $58 million, an increase of 18 percent to 23 percent over 2004.”

Capital expenditures for the railway, before the purchase of any strategic land parcels to be used for industrial development activities, are expected to range between $32 and $36 million. He said the company expects Flagler Development’s 2005 rental and services’ revenues to range between $81 and $85 million, an increase of 16 percent to 22 percent over 2004.

Included in the second quarter 2005 revenues were $2.6 million of fuel surcharges, compared to $1.0 million in 2004.

Total carload revenues grew 17.6 percent, primarily due to a 16.1 percent increase in aggregate revenues, reflecting a combination of strong construction demand, new business from existing customers and improved pricing. In addition, revenues derived from the movement of paper & lumber and construction materials were up significantly in the quarter due to the hurricane rebuilding efforts.

Intermodal revenues, including drayage, increased 16.7 percent compared to the prior year period, reflecting new customers, improved pricing, continued improvement in the parcel/LTL, retail and international segments, and the Hurricane Train.

Railway segment’s operating profit increased 25.7 percent to $15.9 million in the second quarter 2005 versus $12.7 million in the second quarter of 2004 due to revenue growth, partially offset by higher compensation and benefits expense and increased expenses in support of higher revenue.

Fuel expense was $2.2 million higher in the second quarter 2005 compared to the prior year’s quarter.

Approximately $500,000 of the increase was related to volume and $1.7 million was related to price, which is generally recaptured through fuel surcharges.

The railway’s operating ratio improved to 73.0 percent in the second quarter 2005, compared to 74.7 percent in the prior year quarter.


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P&W

Providence and Worcester Railroad Co. declared a 4 cents per share dividend on the outstanding common stock of the company, payable August 22 to shareholders of record on August 8.


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RailAmerica

RailAmerica reported second quarter 2005 earnings on July 28 from continuing operations of $9.3 million, or 24 cents per diluted share, compared to a loss of $13,000 in the 2004 comparable quarter. The 2005 results include a one-cent per share benefit from a change in Ohio tax laws. The 2004 results include a $6.7 million ($5.6 million net-of-tax, or 16 cents per share) charge for the former CEO’s retirement.

Consolidated revenue from continuing operations for the second quarter of 2005 increased $14.7 million, or 15.3 percent, to $110.8 million, from $96.1 million in 2004. On a “same railroad” basis, revenue for the second quarter of 2005 increased $9.6 million, or 10.0 percent, from the second quarter of 2004.

“Same railroad” totals exclude revenue associated with railroads, or portions of railroads, sold or acquired by the company after January 1, 2004.

Consolidated operating income for the second quarter of 2005 was $15.0 million, compared to $10.7 million in 2004. The operating ratio for the second quarter of 2005 was 86.4 percent compared to 88.9 percent in the 2004 quarter.

For the six months ended June 30, 2005, the company reported earnings from continuing operations of $15.5 million, or 40 cents per diluted share, compared to earnings from continuing operations of $4.7 million, or 14 cents per diluted share for the 2004 quarter. The 2005 results include a 1-cent per share charge from the sale of the LaHarpe-Hollis line of the Toledo, Peoria & Western Ry. and a 1-cent per share benefit from a change in Ohio tax laws. The 2004 results include the 16 cents per share charge for the former CEO’s retirement.

Consolidated revenue from continuing operations for the six months ended June 30, 2005 increased $28.8 million, or 15.0 percent, to $220.9 million, from $192.1 million in 2004. On a “same railroad” basis, revenue for the six months ended June 30, 2005 increased $18.3 million, or 9.5 percent, from the six months ended June 30, 2004. Consolidated operating income for the six months ended June 30, 2005 was $26.7 million, compared to $26.5 million for the six months ended June 30, 2004.

CEO Charles Swinburn said, “Our earnings were in line with our forecast. More importantly, we are now seeing the results of the safety and training initiatives that we began late last year. Our casualty and insurance expense decreased to $4.6 million in the second quarter of 2005 from $5.1 million in the same quarter of 2004, and from $6.2 million in the first quarter of this year.”

Swinburn added, “We have noticeably improved the operations of the Ohio Midland Subdivision.”

He noted the operating ratio improvement from the first quarter of 2005 to the second quarter “was significant, and was in large part due to our accomplishments regarding safety and the Ohio operations.”

Michael Howe, a RailAmerica vice-president and its CFO said, “Earlier this year, we provided 2005 guidance in the range of 94 cents to $1.02 per share. We are taking a cautious outlook for the second half of the year because of the possible negative effects of Class I congestion, equipment supply issues and decreases in traffic from the Powder River Basin.”

Howe said, “This may be partially offset by an increase in our expected benefit from a track maintenance tax credit. On balance, we now anticipate that our annual earnings will be 93 cents per share, plus or minus 3 cents.”


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UP

Union Pacific Corp has declared a quarterly dividend of 30 cents per share on its common stock, payable October 3 to stockholders of record September 14.


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Sluggish week for rail freight traffic

Freight traffic on U.S. railroads was sluggish during the week ended July 23, with carload freight off slightly and intermodal volume up in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the AAR reported Thursday.

Carload freight for the week totaled 323,332 cars, down 1.2 percent from last year. Carload traffic was up 3.7 percent in the West but down 7.1 percent in the East.

Intermodal volume, which is not included in the carload data, totaled 232,013 trailers or containers, up 4.9 percent from last year, with containers up 6.5 percent and trailer volume flat.

Total volume was estimated at 32.0 billion ton-miles, up 0.3 percent from last year.

Nine of 19 carload commodity groups were up from last year with grain mill products, up 11.4 percent; coke up 9.0 percent; and crushed stone, sand and gravel up 5.0 percent. Among commodities registering declines were metals, off 16.6 percent; nonmetallic minerals, off 12.5 percent; and primary forest products, down 11.1 percent.

Cumulative volume for the first 29 weeks of 2005 totaled 9,614,646 carloads, up 1.5 percent from 2004; 6,311,319 trailers or containers, up 6.1 percent; and total volume of an estimated 916.9 billion ton-miles, up 2.3 percent from last year.

On Canadian railroads during the week ended July 23, carload traffic totaled 71,853 cars, down 4.1 percent from last year while intermodal volume totaled 42,562 trailers or containers, up 2.8 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 29 weeks of 2005 on the Canadian railroads totaled 2,198,476 carloads, down 0.5 percent from last year, and 1,222,495 trailers and containers, up 2.2 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 29 weeks of 2005 on U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 11,813,122 carloads, up 1.1 percent from last year and 7,533,814 trailers and containers, up 5.4 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended July 23 totaled 7,802 cars, down 8.2 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,597 originated trailers or containers, down 12.9 percent from the 29th week of 2004. For the first 29 weeks of 2005, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 248,147 cars, up 0.3 percent from last year, and 110,140 trailers or containers, up 6.5 percent.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 87 percent of U.S. carload freight and 96 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 96 percent and 100 percent. The Canadian railroads reporting to the AAR account for 91 percent of Canadian rail traffic. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of U.S. intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

The AAR is online at www.aar.org.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)54.2552.14
Canadian National (CNI)66.4563.76
Canadian Pacific (CP) 38.8436.35
CSX (CSX)45.5445.55
Florida East Coast (FLA)47.0045.25
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)30.2729.37
Kansas City Southern (KSU)22.5622.07
Norfolk Southern (NSC)37.2134.89
Providence & Worcester (PWX)14.5114.25
Union Pacific (UNP)70.4668.46


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

The view from London:

British rail upheaval starts again

By Guy Senior
Special to Destination:Freedom

London, July 27 – Hardly had the virtual ink dried on my last contribution to D:F, when the United Kingdom government decided to upend the rail industry again.

The biggest change is that the Strategic Rail Authority will be abolished. In my view, no bad thing. It is difficult to identify any achievements, and with 600 staff this ‘strategic’ organisation employed more people than all of central management at the old British rail. Its responsibilities are being split between the “not for profit” Network Rail (which owns and runs the tracks) and the government. This makes Network Rail more powerful, but there are signs that it is more interested in improving existing track rather than any new schemes to increase capacity and remove bottlenecks. Indeed, its capital expenditure forecasts indicate that very little will be spent on capacity enhancement – and capacity is beginning to run out (not surprising in view of the huge increase in usage since privatisation).

Network Rail has, however, made some good progress in reducing the delays it causes by 16 percent over the last year. Trains on time now amount to 83.5 percent on average and 570 miles of replacement rail are being laid annually.

The number of franchises continues to decrease, with existing franchises being amalgamated into larger units. This may be more efficient but may also reduce competition. One of the last acts of the SRA is to propose that the specialist Gatwick Express franchise, which runs non-stop to London’s second airport, Gatwick, be abolished, which will free up capacity but leave arguably lower quality service.

The government’s other major announcement was to refuse all further funding for light rail in the UK, due to the spiralling cost of some of the schemes. This is not entirely unreasonable, but part of the reason for the high costs is the Government’s own insistence that they be part financed by very complicated public-private partnerships which drive up costs. Some elements of some schemes may also be over-engineered. It looks likely that some cut back version of some schemes will eventually come about.

Another disappointing decision was to refuse the application by Grand Central Railways to start operations. Grand Central, a so called “open access” train operating company, wanted to provide an express service between northern cities in competition to the existing TOC. Its application was rejected because the unsubsidised Grand Central would be too much competition for the existing, subsidised TOC. This is nonsense. The entire object of the British model for privatisation is to allow competition. The first and only open access TOC, Hull Trains, is a great success, providing unsubsidised services with rapidly growing passenger numbers, and others should follow.

Good progress is being made on the second phase of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. A new fleet of 140 mph trains has been ordered (from Hitachi – a first for the UK) to run what will probably be the world’s fastest commuter services on the line. This service was a key element in the successful London bid for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Other new trains continue to come into service, although the place is slackening. So far, all new passenger trains are either diesel or electric multiple units (EMUs/DMUs), which are more fuel efficient and best suited to shorter journeys. Work is now starting on a new generation of high-speed (125 mph-plus) diesel locomotives for long distance, non-electrified routes.

Cost and subsidy levels are very variable. Taken together, express intercity routes (comparable to Amtrak) now receive little subsidy. Indeed, the reappointed franchisee for the London-Edinburgh service is paying a premium of about £120,000,000 (about $200,000,000) a year for the right to run that service. Only the Virgin West Coast and Cross Country services are still subsidised (partially because, in my view, Virgin ordered the wrong sort of trains). Commuter rail to the north of London is now also unsubsidised or paying a premium, and in the next five years the remaining London commuter lines might become unsubsidised, although possibly with a poorer service to achieve this.

However, “rural” lines and shorter distance urban rail outside London continue to require subsidy. There is simply not the density of population to provide the necessary custom and income. Indeed, in some cases, subsidy is increasing. Scotrail is expected to be receiving an average subsidy of about £4 ($7) per journey by 2010. Of course, this is low by some American levels, but unlike in the USA road users are heavily taxed, with only a one-third of the amount raised in tax actually spent on roads, so subsidy has to be justified.

Not surprisingly, this has lead to talk of closure of some less used stations. New stations continue to open at a slow pace (usually next to new developments or on new lines) but are hindered by safety requirements that require that they be built only on long, flat and straight lengths of line.

New lines are currently confined to Scotland and Wales where the devolved administrations are willing to add more funding. Lines are either freight only lines improved to passenger standards (a length has just opened in south Wales with another to come in central Scotland) or reinstatement of abandoned lines (as is happening on a 35-mile route south of Edinburgh). Whether these will be a commercial success remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the very expensive modernisation of the London to Glasgow line continues. Speed limits have been raised to 125 mph into northern England with the rest of the line to Glasgow now being improved. In central England, work has just started to quadruple double track, which will allow constant 125 mph operation on some services from London for the first 175 miles north. Eventually, some sections may be able to run at 140 mph, as was originally intended.

Freight continues to increase, but slowly. The most disappointing aspect is the low level of freight through the Channel Tunnel – partially caused by the high charges and frequent strikes on the French freight lines. In contrast to the U.S., freight trains normally have to be capable of moving at at least 75 mph to avoid disrupting passenger services, although average speeds may be lower.

Passenger numbers continue to rise, with 1.05 billion in 2004 – the highest since 1959, when the rail network was twice the length. An absolute record is only a few years’ off. London Underground adds another 950 million and light rail over another 100 million.

Comparisons are strange things, but to compare the UK and the U.S. can be interesting. There are about 90 million intercity rail journeys every year in the UK, with a population of one-fifth of that of the U.S.

Imagine if 450 million people used Amtrak every year, as opposed to 25 or 30 million! Most intercity “pair” routes get a service for 16 to 18 hours a day, with half-hourly service. Imagine Chicago-Milwaukee getting more than 25 round-trip trains a day, instead of seven.


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Alcatel gets Dubai job

Alcatel says it has been awarded a global contract valued at approximately $250 million by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) to supply, integrate and deploy its driverless train control and telecommunication systems for the Dubai Metro in the United Arab Emirates.

MHI is part of the Dubai Rapid Link – the DURL Consortium – headed by MHI, which is in charge of the Dubai Light Rail Transit Project for the municipality.

The project is expected to enable Dubai to overcome severe traffic congestion issues.

The objective of the new metro, consisting initially of two lines and scheduled to go into revenue service in 2009, is a 16,000 people per hour per direction capacity for the Red Line and 7,400 for the Green Line, by 2015. When completed with about 70 kilometers (45 miles), this will become the longest driverless metro in the world.

“This is a very significant win for Alcatel. We are very proud to see our urban rail solutions entering the Middle East market to equip the state-of-the-art Dubai Metro,” said Olivier Houssin, President of Alcatel’s private communications activities.


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Faster ‘bullet’ travels in Japan

A next-generation bullet train made its first test run on the 515 kilometer route from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka on July 24.

The N-700, the Japan Times reported last week, targeted at entering commercial operations in spring 2007, moved into JR Tokyo Station shortly before 10:00 a.m. Sunday.

Due to its design and technology, the train is able to take curves without slowing and keep passengers comfortable by tilting itself. The train will shave about five minutes off the travel time between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, which is currently around two-and-one-half hours.

“Test runs have been going well so far,” said Kazuto Tsujimura, an official in charge of bullet train operations at Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai). “We will check the tilting function and try running at 270 kph on a curve,” he said.


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EDITORIAL...  Editorial...

Bipartisanship really does matter,
and both Amtrak and America will benefit

The Senates vote last week both to fund Amtrak and to require its reform is a visionary, bipartisan step that we hope is echoed in the House, and elsewhere.

The Senate’s six-year, $3.3 billion bill provides a 40 percent cut in operating subsidies, but increases capital investment to improve operating efficiencies.

It also creates new ways for states to fund trains that serve them, while maintaining a basic national system which will be nevertheless be held to account by Congress and the Office of the Inspector General, and which will be governed by a transparent accounting system that will replace the current inadequate and often misleading system, which has made Amtrak look far more subsidized than it actually is (airlines and highways both get a much greater subsidy, and always have).

For many years, Amtrak has been simultaneously deprived of significant capital, yet has been expected to operate trains wherever and whenever told to do so by Congress. We hope those days are over, and that passage of this six-year bill by the full Congress will put Amtrak on the path to growth and success, and eliminate the annual “perils-of-Pauline” sideshow that each year has consumed so much Congressional and staffer time. That will be a good thing for all, because, to borrow a phrase, what’s good for Amtrak is good for America, and vice versa.


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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

I am very skeptical that the picture in the July 25 D:F labeled as the “Susquehanna River Bridge” is actually said bridge (“Maryland bridge gets new rails, ties.”

The train crossing it is clearly not Amtrak (not the center door, which is clearly a commuter rail car) or even MARC, but rather appears to be New Jersey Transit.

Also, the structure of the bridge looks entirely different than other pictures – there are solid metal boxes supporting the tracks rather than cantilevered boxes.

Finally, the background looks very industrial, like around Newark, rather than the Havre de Grace/Perryville area, and the highway bridge visible in the maintenance truck’s side view mirror is not consistent with any bridge near Havre de Grace or Perryville.

Sincerely,
Michael Anderson


Dear Editor:

Isn’t the bridge in question, labeled as being in Maryland, in fact Portal Bridge in Secaucus, N.J? I believe that is a New Jersey Transit car crossing the bridge, as well. You can almost see the logo by the center door (and Amtrak has no center door cars).

Ryan Novosielski

Both sharp-eyed readers were correct. The proper photo was inserted late Thursday, and the misplaced photo appears in its proper place in today’s edition. – Ed.


Dear Editor:

Re: “Empire Builder prepares for upgraded relaunch,” July 25 D:F. Nice story, minor quibble. The Spokane-Portland segment was Spokane, Portland & Seattle trackage until the Burlington Northern merger. Of course, like CB&Q, GN and NP co-owned it.

David Vartanoff
Oakland Calif.


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OFF THE MAIN LINE...  Off the main line...

Comparing Raffaello to a box car

Discovery Liftoff

NASA: KSC

We suppose it would be a real stretch of the imagination to call NASA’s STS mission 114 a freight train, yet that was exactly what its purpose was as America returned to space last Tuesday with the launch of the space shuttle Discovery and its payload.

It was in November 2002 that the shuttle Columbia broke up on its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

STS-114 is the third trip of the “Multi Purpose Logistics Module” – a boxcar – named Raffaello to the International Space Station orbiting Earth. Discovery delivered a pressurized cargo container full of 15 tons of supplies to the space station for the station’s Expedition 11 crew, Commander Sergei Krikalev and Flight Engineer John Phillips, and a key spare part that Cmdr. Eileen M. Collins and her crew of six other astronauts installed during one of the mission’s three spacewalks.

It will return, when it is safe to do so, with about 13 tons of garbage.

On the fourth day of the mission, more than two-and-one-half years since a shuttle has delivered supplies to the station, the crew used the station’s robotic arm to lift the Italian-built Raffaello out of the shuttle cargo bay and attach it to the station.

This is the third trip to the station for Raffaello, the second of three such cargo carriers to be put into service. Raffaello flew aboard Endeavour on STS-100 and STS-108 in 2001. The crew had planned on a 12-day mission, but NASA bosses have put a hold on that until they are sure the spacecraft will be safe to return to the home planet.


 

For additional information and pictures from the
Space Shuttle program see the NASA web site below.

 


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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.

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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