Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 4 No. 32, August 11, 2003
Copyright © 2003, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update

 

 

A note from NCI’s webmaster...

In recent weeks we have run into problems sending Destination:Freedom to journalists on our e-mail distribution list. The implementation of broadly defined e-mail filters geared toward inhibiting or reducing the reception of spam or viruses is the problem. In the process, some legitimate e-mail is sacrificed, including our e-zine newsletter.

We ran into one filter at a news outlet that was blocking all messages with the word “free” in the message title. Since our newsletter’s title has those four letters in “Destination:FREEdom,” our newsletter was rejected.

Of course, that same journalist is also missing any other legitimate e-mail with those four letters in the message title, as in “FREEdom of the press.”

One major network where we used to send our newsletter is rejecting all HTML attachments (i.e., all attached web pages). Still another major news conglomerate just hates any attachment over a certain size and is affecting close to a dozen subsidiary news outlets across the nation.

The only solution is for journalists to find a way to opt-out of these ill-configured filtering schemes if their publication will allow, or establish an off-site e-mail address that is not filtered where they can receive e-mail they both want and solicit without the company censor having a hand in what they may or may not receive.

Certainly NCI has its share of problems with spam as well but while we commiserate, we also know that some reporters out there aren’t getting information they want or need, and worse, they may not even be aware that their mail is being filtered.

In the meantime, we will continue to dispatch our weekly newsletter to journalists who have asked for it via e-mail attachment when and where possible. Those journalist’s addresses that refuse reception will start getting a hot link to the weekly edition at our web site, effective this week. There is little more that we can do on this end.

It’s a sign of the times, and a bad one at that.


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 Ann Rutledge arrives at Joliet, Ill

For NCI: Tim Huemmer

Amtrak’s Ann Rutledge arrives at Joliet, Ill., Union Station at 6:04 p.m. on July 25. The train is daily No. 304 from Kansas City, Mo., to Chicago. After traveling 529 miles, it has a scant 38 miles to go before completing its journey.

 

‘National or nothing,’ says Hutchison

Amtrak fight may pit NEC vs. heartland America

By Wes Vernon
Washington Bureau Chief

As four Republican senators figuratively thumbed their noses at the White House just before leaving Washington for the August Congressional recess (See D:F last week), a little-noticed part of the battle was taking shape. It became clear that the upcoming fight would focus not merely on the Administration’s convoluted “shut-down” bill vs. the legislation the four GOP senators propose to beef up Amtrak. The age-old issue of the Northeast Corridor vs. nearly everywhere else on the Amtrak map was also taking shape here.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), one of the sponsors of the pro-Amtrak legislation, said she intends to “address the inequities created by 30 years of putting Amtrak on the back burner.”

The Texas lawmaker, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and thus is in a position to carry her intentions well beyond the realm of empty rhetoric, drew a line in the sand:

“Either we commit to dramatically improving rail for the entire country or we abandon the pretense of a national system and turn it over to the states and private companies,” the senator said.

Just in case anyone missed the point, Hutchison gave her colleagues a challenge to ponder during the August heat:

“Our motto for passenger rail is ‘National or Nothing.’”

It is no accident that Hutchison’s co-sponsors include Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) who has said, “No national system, no Northeast Corridor;” or Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) whose constituents living along Montana’s highline near the Canadian border are virtually isolated without the Chicago-Seattle Empire Builder; or Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), whose state was denied any and all Amtrak service for years until the recent inauguration of the Downeaster service.

Hutchison has complained that the NEC is virtually the only part of the country that enjoys “full service” for Amtrak.

If you want to take a train from Washington to New York, for example, you can do it in under three hours – but if you’re in Texas and you want to go from Dallas to Austin, that’s a shorter distance, so theoretically you should be able to make it in less time.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

Texas ARP

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in Texas last week following a news conference where she explained her Amtrak bill. Texas Association of Railroad Passengers president Tim Geeslin accompanies her.

Right?

Forget it.

That Amtrak trip takes considerably more than four hours.

The Hutchison-Burns-Lott-Snowe bill aims to fix that.

The American Rail Equity Act (AREA) would grant Amtrak $12 billion in operating funds over six years and make $48 billion available in federally backed bonds that would provide for capital improvements.

The political reality is this: All four senators on this bill have constituents outside the Washington-New York-Boston NEC. They will not support any proposal that kills long-distance trains.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), whose state enjoys better passenger train service than most non-NEC regions, resents it that the state government back home has to shell out lots of money in order to get it, while the states on the NEC get frequent trains without having to put up similar funding. NEC states, however, argue that their commuter train operations on the NEC pay Amtrak for the privilege and pay for commuter infrastructure upgrades on the trackage that also benefit Amtrak.

Natioal or Nothing logo The Washington Post last week quoted Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del), a friend of Amtrak, as saying he would not “bet the ranch” on Amtrak getting the full $1.8 billion that CEO David Gunn says he needs for Fiscal Year 2004, given the “tight” transportation budget.

Gunn says even $1.4 billion would be “a real serious problem.” He has already ordered supplies for the new fiscal year and is already spending at the $1.8 billion rate, believing as he evidently does, that waiting for Congress to make up its collective mind can easily rival awaiting the arrival home of the proverbial cows.

“I’m not going to stop until the board stops me,” the Amtrak boss said, “Then they’ll have to tell me what to do.”

Just to keep operating and repaying debt, the company needs $870 million. $1.4 billion would cut funding for the capital budget from $794 million to $394 million. When you make that drastic a slash in capital costs, the passengers could notice it, possibly to their inconvenience.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Amtrak’s arch-enemy, chairs the Commerce Committee, the parent to Hutchison’s Surface Transportation Subcommittee. He is formally introducing the Administration bill, even though he has minor problems with some of its details. Lott has pronounced that bill “DOA”.

In a memo to the Amtrak board, Gunn said in all his 39 years of railroading, he had ever seen anything like the Administration bill. He cited such vulnerabilities in the plan such as “one year and no money” and no serious capital projects until the third year. The Amtrak chief did not come out and use the word “mess,” but clearly that was what his description implied.

Hutchison believes she has the votes to get Amtrak the $1.8 billion that Gunn has requested for fiscal 2004, which begins October 1. What comes after that inspires less confidence. That’s when the dueling Bush vs. Hutchison debate presumably will be going full tilt.

Scott Leonard, assistant director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), attributes part of the problem to those who view mass transit as “an icky form of socialism.”

There is in fact a debate between two conservative think tanks about mass transit. The Heritage Foundation has publicized writings by Wendell Cox who has gone from city-to-city trashing every light rail project that is proposed. He was frequently outvoted as a member of the Amtrak Reform Council.

On the other hand, the Free Congress Foundation has featured the opposite point of view as espoused by Paul Weyrich and Bill Lind, who have touted mass transit as very much in tune with the conservative worldview.

They have chastised Cox for quoting statistics that ignore mass transit’s absence in some communities or situations, i.e. that hauling a shopping cart filled with groceries on mass transit is not practical, and thus irrelevant to any meaningful measure of mass transit’s acceptance by the public. A similar measure would be trying to determine how many people fly an airline to the drug store to pick up a prescription.

Aside from the libertarian CATO Institute, which is critical of the passenger train service, Amtrak and related issues are not even on the radar screen of most think tanks, conservative and otherwise.

One of Amtrak’s big ongoing expenses is repairing equipment that has been damaged in train wrecks, including those that are not the fault of Amtrak itself.

An example of the latter surfaced this past week when the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) blamed an AutoTrain accident last year on a failure of CSX, the host freight railroad, to properly maintain its tracks near Crescent City, Fla.

(See a separate story in this issue. – Ed.)

CSX, on whose tracks the Amtrak train was running, doesn’t dispute the NTSB’s finding, but says it has already implemented its recommendations, complete with new methods of ensuring that maintenance personnel follow CSX standards. The board’s investigation was “a fair and thorough review of the accident,” a CSX spokesman told the Washington Post.

Not all the news this past week was less than cheery at Amtrak headquarters at Washington’s Union Station.

Amtrak announced that after years of negotiations, it had reached a tentative agreement with one of its unions, the Transportation Communications International Union (TCU), rank and file workers must yet ratify it.

(A separate story appears elsewhere in this edition. – Ed.)

What is noteworthy about the contract is that it covers a contract period that is fairly close to its end. It runs from January 1, 2000 through December 31, 2004. So 3-_ of its 5 years in length has passed, and it still is not official until ratified.

Obviously, the labor and management talks started well before Dave Gunn assumed the helm at Amtrak last year vowing to tighten up some of the work rules of union labor.

Sources believe the delay may have been caused by a union predilection to get its ducks in a row with the freight railroads before settling with Amtrak. The freight contracts are generally more generous.


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Colorado Railcar DMU Demo

Colorado Railcar

Colorado Railcar’s “DMU,” or diesel multiple unit, comes close to what Amtrak is looking for. Amtrak issued queries in late July.

 

Amtrak looks for a few good, new RDCs

By Leo King
Editor

Amtrak is looking for a few good rail diesel cars – and made in the USA.

The carrier mailed its first request for possible suppliers for new rolling stock during the week of July 10.

The program is for 14 RDCs – eight motors and six trailers. The closest design to the Amtrak concept is the Colorado Railcar demonstration diesel multiple unit (DMU) displayed in the past 18 months. Colorado Railcar is headquartered in Fort Lupton, Colo.

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black told D:F “The specs for these RDCs emphasize compatibility with virtually all North American equipment – standard couplers, standard air brakes, AAR and FRA compliance – and the ability to mix and match these powered cars with their trailers for a variety of consist configurations, from one to several cars.”

The design is not for a European DMU trainset but more like the original Budd Co. RDCs built by the hundreds during the 1950s and 1960s.

An RDC is general-purpose rather than built for a specific operation or specific railway. The Amtrak specifications require the RDCs to comply with conventional FRA crash requirement strength and also to comply with AAR couplers and air brake compatibility.

Black noted, “This emphasis on North American compatibility is no mistake, since we wish to introduce an RDC that can be used universally throughout our system (or any North American system) with little or no alteration.”

Amtrak said the AAR requirement makes it much cheaper to move and deploy. The specifications require the use of many parts and systems that are already in wide use on the railroad’s coaches. It already has inventories and trained mechanics on hand, and wit also wants to avoid costly imported sole-source parts.

Colorado Railcar states its designs are “fully tested and ready for commuter transit service, and meet FRA 49 CFR Part 238 structural requirements to run in mixed freight service.”

Amtrak’s designers also discourage the use of proprietary software in on-board computers that operate the train.

Black would not say who the letters were sent to, nor how many firms were contacted.

Amtrak anticipates some resistance from globalized suppliers and consulting firms. The globalized suppliers have been trying to sell their typical European models to the U.S. for decades without much success. Amtrak is instead working on a design for a rail car that can be built by small firms out of North American parts.

Amtrak also drafted the specification with its own in-house staff of engineers. Its mechanical officials agree that outsourced consulting and project management efforts related to vehicle design are not always the right way to go.

The story originated in an obscure Swedish on-line publication, Erik’s Rail News (www.eriksrailnews.com).

Colorado Railcar’s 90 Seat Aero DMU list price is $2.9 million per copy. A 92-seat low-floor coach with cab is priced at $2 million, and a 185-seat double deck, low-floor coach with a cab is priced at $3 million, according to the builder’s 2003 brochure.

All car structures are made of low-alloy, high-tensile steel, according to the builder, and end windows are fixed, tinted double glazed, meeting FRA Type I standards while side windows, also fixed, are tinted, double-glazed, and meet FRA Type II standards.

Seats are also fixed in place and made of aluminum frames, molded fiberglass with upholstered inserts, but various models are available, the builder said.

Mechanically, two cast steel trucks are under each vehicle. Primary and secondary suspension is coil springs over 36-inch wheels.

Power supply is 480-volt, three-phase, 60 Hz, up to 175 kW internal generation from on-board generator or external head end power. Low-voltage power supply comes from a 12-volt DC emergency battery.

Multiple units can be controlled from end cab car. Its drive train begins with two Detroit Diesel series 60 motors with electronic fuel control. Each is rated at 600 hp. Transmission is via two Voith T212 BREs with a KB190 retarder. Final drive is two Voith KE553s.

All their designs can operate up to 100 mph, but the nominal top operating speed is 90 mph for all three pieces.

The empty weight of a powered DMU cab car is 175,000 pound for a single-level unit, and 194,000 pounds for a double-decker.

Seating in a low-floor powered or coach car without a cab is between 92-98 people, but 185 passengers for a powered double-decker and 190 riders for a double-decker without a cab. Maximum passenger capacity including standees, ranges from 246 to 412.

A single level or a bi-level car is 85 feet long over the couplers, and 10 feet wide over the side sheets. A single-level car is 14-feet, 10_-inches high – rail to roof – while a double-decker is 19-feet, six inches.

Production will begin this fall, and the expected delivery time will be 14 months.

Colorado Railcar is online at www.coloradorailcar.com.

Amtrak is online at www.amtrak.com.


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Amtrak’s Lang delivers message

Amtrak is taking a message about the need for passenger rail service to the people of Montana, and Ray Lang, director of government affairs for Amtrak in Chicago, is the messenger.

Lang met with Havre, Montana, leaders on July 29 on his way to talk to leaders in every town the Empire Builder serves from Minot, N.D., to Spokane, Wash.

”What I’d like to do is get you involved in the process,” he told them, according to the Havre Daily News of July 31.

President Bush’s budget request was only half what Amtrak says it needs to operate. David Gunn, president of Amtrak, requested $1.81 billion a year for the next five years, while Bush asked Congress for $900 million.

Last year, Gunn said that if Amtrak runs out of money, he would shut down the entire operation rather than eliminate parts of the system. Lang confirmed that Gunn is maintaining that position.

“As long as we’re around, we’ll be in Havre,” Lang said during a meeting with Havre Mayor Bob Rice, Havre Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Debbie Vandeberg and Havre Job Service Center manager Pam Harada.

Rice said he hopes that some long-term resolution to Amtrak funding can be found. The possibility of losing the Empire Builder seems to an annual situation on the Hi-Line, he said.

“Just when you think you’re out of the woods, you’re not,” Rice said. “For us to cry ‘wolf’ every year is fruitless.”

Lang, who has worked in his position with Amtrak for nine years, agreed.

”It’s deja vu all over again,” he said.

Lang said part of the reason he is traveling the route is to let people of the communities served by passenger rail service know that Amtrak officials realize how important passenger trains are to those communities. That is being reinforced on his trip this week, he said. The Empire Builder is the only public transportation for many towns in northern North Dakota and Montana, he said.

He is contacting the mayors and Chambers of Commerce in the communities the Empire Builder serves, so Amtrak can notify them when key debates and votes on Amtrak’s budget come up in Congress, Lang said.

The Bush administration’s plan for Amtrak would turn the operation of long-distance trains like the Empire Builder, which passes through Havre on its route from Chicago to Seattle and Portland, over to the states they operate in. That would require creating multi-state compacts to cover the operation, Lang said, which is a very difficult process. Different compacts would be required for each of the 16 routes. A compact for the Empire Builder would involve eight states, he said.

There does not appear to be any federal funding in the administration’s plan for the long-distance routes, he added.

Rice and Vandeberg both said the problem is not getting support along the Hi-Line or from U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Conrad Burns or Rep. Denny Rehberg. They said the problem is getting support from the southern part of the state, and firmer support from Gov. Judy Martz.


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Oregon House deletes Cascades;
Senate vote will make the difference

A budget for the Oregon DOT passed the Oregon House by a slim margin on August 5, but the spending plan did not include a $10 million subsidy for Amtrak’s Cascade passenger rail service. The trains operate between Portland and Eugene.

Advocates for the trains included Democrats and Republicans. Portland Democrat Mitch Greenlick wore a train engineer’s cap as he called the cut a ”tremendous loss.”

Oregon Public Radio reported Greenlick said, “This bill eliminates a critical piece of the transportation infrastructure at a time when we should be increasing support for transportation alternatives.”

Republican leaders say the state doesn’t have the money for the train service. The Oregon DOT budget passed 31 to 25, and now heads to the Senate.


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Auto train

NCI: Leo King

An Amtrak crew is making up the AutoTrain in its Sanford, Fla. yard for its August 5 run. The NTSB blamed CSX for the train’s 2002 disaster.
NTSB blames CSX for 2002
AutoTrain wreck; four died

The National Transportation Safety Board said last week, in effect, that Earl Karper, the Amtrak engineer on the AutoTrain was right – a heat kink caused his train to go on the ground near Crescent City, Fla. on CSX track. The federal safety outfit blamed CSX for poor track maintenance. Four people died in the wreck.

The NTSB adopted its report on August 5. It stated a “heat-induced track buckle developed because of inadequate CSX Transportation track surfacing operations.”

The report explained, “These operations included the misalignment of the curve, insufficient track restraint, and failure to reestablish an appropriate neutral rail temperature.”

NTSB Chairman Ellen G. Engleman said, “The Safety Board must focus on safety on our railways. In 2002, twice as many people died in rail-related accidents than aviation-related accidents. Maintenance is a critical element of the entire transportation system. The recommendations we have made from this investigation are steps closer to closing the loop toward a safe railroad industry.”

The northbound AutoTrain derailed 21 of 40 cars on April 18, 2002. The train, carrying 413 passengers and 33 Amtrak employees, derailed in a left-hand curve while traveling about 56 mph. The accident resulted in 4 fatalities, 36 serious injuries, and 106 minor injuries. The equipment and track costs associated with the accident totaled about $8.3 million.

Safety Board investigators noted that the track buckle that caused the derailment probably originated during the passage of a CSXT coal train over the accident curve. Track buckles may be induced or triggered by the passing of a train when the compressive dynamic forces are added to preexisting thermal forces. Once a track begins to buckle out of alignment under a train, the buckle will become progressively more severe as each wheel impacts the rail.

Furthermore, the investigators found that the track buckled because of its instability. Contributing to its instability was the roadbed width of the track on the curve embankment, the ballast condition of the track, the rail anchoring in the area, the surfacing operations undertaken by CSXT at this location, and the temperature controls used during and after the surfacing operations. These conditions led to the derailment, the report concludes.

The board’s report stated that at the time of the accident CSXT did not provide adequate requirements for ensuring effective rail anchoring and “monumenting.”

Monumenting consists of establishing known reference points against which any subsequent movement of the track can be measured. The report also noted that CSX failed to ensure that its track maintenance workers routinely fulfilled the requirements of its existing track standards. The safety board concluded that CSXT did not provide adequate oversight to ensure that its track maintenance activities were carried out in accordance with its own standards.

Amtrak also received some criticism, but nowhere nearly as harsh as CSX.

The safety board investigators reported, “The engineer saw the track defect and initiated braking action,” but due to “being jolted in the cab, the engineer placed the train into emergency a few seconds later. The brakes on the rear cars did not go into emergency until 7 seconds after the emergency application was initiated.”

The AutoTrain was equipped with a two-way end-of-train device (EOT), capable of receiving a radio signal from the lead locomotive to initiate an emergency application of the brakes from the rear of the train.

Event recorder data indicated “The engineer activated the emergency feature of the two-way EOT 15 seconds after placing the train in emergency.”

The NTSB explained that on long trains, the radio signal to the EOT travels faster than the pneumatic signal through the trainline, the air brake line. During a derailment, the pneumatic signal may be blocked by a kinked or damaged trainline – which was the case in this instance, investigators concluded.

“Trainline obstruction prevented the emergency signal from reaching the rear of the train. After additional equipment derailed, derailment forces parted the trainline and the rear cars went into emergency. While the cars at the head-end of the train were derailing, the rear of the train continued forward for 7 seconds without any braking. These unbraked cars moved into the forward cars which were braking and stopping rapidly due to the derailment.”

The investigators said the engineer “could have immediately activated the two-way end of train device. Systems have been developed that will cause the two-way EOT to be activated automatically by the locomotive brake system.”

The investigators concluded “Had the two-way end-of-train device been activated when the AutoTrain’s air brakes were put into emergency, the severity of the injuries resulting from the derailment might have been lessened, because the continued forward momentum of the majority of the train’s cars into the stopped passenger cars would have been reduced.”

They also took a dim view of unsecured folding armchairs located in the Superliner sleeper cars.

The board stated in their present unsecured configuration, the seats constitute an unwarranted hazard.

They cited an FRA regulation that states, “Passenger seats must be securely fastened to the carbody,” but a loophole in the ruling stated the rule applied to passenger cars “Ordered on or after September 8, 2000, or placed in service for the first time on or after September 9, 2002.”

All the passenger cars in the accident were placed in service before September 2000.

The NTSB made several recommendations to the FRA, the Transportation Security Administration, CSX Transportation, Inc., and Amtrak.

The federal agency recommended the four entities “Work together to develop and implement an accurate passenger and crew accountability system for all passenger trains (long distance, overnight, and reserved) that will immediately provide an accurate count and identity of the people on board the train in case of emergency at any time during the trip.”

The board also recommended that CSX “Require all track maintenance employees, including large system-wide track maintenance team members and local maintenance-of-way crewmembers, to use a consistent rail anchor standard that includes a requirement that rail anchors be maintained snug against ties.” Another idea aimed at CSX was to “develop a systematic quality control program to ensure that track-surfacing personnel consistently conduct track-surfacing operations in accordance with CSX Transportation standards.”

Amtrak was advised to “Install automatic two-way end-of-train emergency activation devices on all Amtrak locomotives equipped with manual devices.”


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UP convention folks ride on Amtrak train

Nine Superliners and one P-42 locomotive were leased to Union Pacific last week for its 79th Annual Employee Club Convention special, departing Chicago on August 3 for Spokane, Wash.

The train ran via Omaha, Cheyenne and Ogden on UP, and also included UP engines and passenger equipment. The convention ended Friday.

Amtrak cars on the train included transition sleeper 39008, coaches 34062, 34063, baggage coach 31006, smoker coaches 31511, 31514, and diners 38015, 38022.

Last year’s convention was in Houston, and used some single level Amtrak cars.


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NS track repairs affect Amtrak Michigan schedules

Amtrak has made temporary schedule changes to two Michigan trains while Norfolk Southern conducts track maintenance between Battle Creek and Dearborn. The modified schedules will be in effect Mondays through Thursdays until October 9.

Amtrak’s Wolverine, train 350 and the morning departure out of Chicago, will operate only to Battle Creek, arriving 15 minutes later than normally scheduled. Service will not be available to stations east of Battle Creek, which include Jackson, Ann Arbor, Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Detroit, Royal Oak, Birmingham., and Pontiac, Mich.

Similarly, the return of this equipment, as the mid-day Lake Cities, No. 353, will operate only from Battle Creek to Chicago, arriving about 30 minutes later than normal.

Westbound, buses will operate to Battle Creek from four stations – Detroit, Dearborn, Ann Arbor, and Jackson – on the same schedule as the train, but the bus will not call at Albion or Greenfield Village.

Both trains will operate on their regular schedules and make all regular stops on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Service should be back to normal by October 10.


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LABOR LINES...  Labor lines...

Amtrak, TCU settle; votes lay ahead

After several years of bargaining, Transportation Communications International Union (TCU) negotiators reached a tentative agreement with Amtrak on August 5 for clerical members employed by the carrier. The contract affects some 5,000 TCU members, or approximately 25 percent of Amtrak’s unionized workforce.

Terms of the pact were not publicly disclosed. The unions’ membership will have to ratify the pact first.

The clerical agreement is the first to be reached among union contracts in this current round of negotiations.

“Because of Amtrak’s unstable financial situation, it has taken years of tough negotiations to finally get to this point,” said TCU President Robert A. Scardelletti.

He added, “Now I am happy to say that despite these difficult times, TCU clerical members at Amtrak have a solid contract to consider.”

The union stated in a press release a summary of the tentative agreement “is now being prepared and ratification ballots will be provided to affected members in the near future.”

Pending ratification, the updated terms will stretch from January 1, 2000 through December 31, 2004.

TCU represents about one-fourth of Amtrak employees.

Reuters reported Amtrak was looking for concessions from its employees on work rules as part of an aggressive drive to cut costs, improve efficiency and obtain another round of federal subsidies.

The tentative deal with the union, which covers clerical employees, baggage handlers and a host of other positions.

Amtrak began negotiating earlier this year with its 13 unionized bargaining groups.


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CP, dispatchers reach settlement

Canadian Pacific Ry. and the Rail Canada Traffic Controllers (RCTC) Union jointly stated on August 6 they reached a three-year contract agreement, ending a seven-week labor dispute.

The first RTCs were scheduled to return to work last Saturday (August 9).

The RCTC represents approximately 220 Canadian rail traffic controllers – dispatchers who monitor and oversee train operations on CP’s network.

RCTC members in Calgary, Winnipeg and Montreal ratified the memorandum of settlement on August 5 to end the dispute.

In a press release, labor and management stated, “The agreement, which extends to December 31, 2005, provides for wage, pension and benefit improvements. RTCs will see 2, 3 and 2 percent wage increases over each of the next three years along with some additional adjustments. The company has realized work rule flexibility that will help to improve rail traffic control.”

Darrell Arnold, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers National Advisor, said, “Ratification today gets our members back to work and we are happy about that. While many of our targeted improvements have been met, the strike has taken its toll on the union-management relationship. The company has made a solid commitment to address some outstanding issues and they have assured us that the work will get underway immediately.”

Ed Dodge, CP’s executive vice-president and COO, said, “This agreement provides a constructive end to a long period of negotiation and delivers benefits to both the employees and the company. We look forward to welcoming the RTCs back to work and moving forward under this new agreement.”

RCTC members had been without a contract since January 1. The union went on strike and the company locked them out on June 18 after negotiations broke down.

The RCTC is a division of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, which represents about 500 dispatchers on four different railways in Canada.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

1,200 sign Greenbush petitions

The pro-train group “Greenbush On Track” presented Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s administration with petitions on August 4 signed by more than 1,200 South Shore residents in favor of restoring the long-dormant train line.

The petitions called the proposed 17.7-mile Greenbush line ‘‘a vital project for the South Shore - the only region in Greater Boston without sensible, reliable public transportation service,” according to The Patriot Ledger of July 5.

The $470 million project is in the waning days of a six-month construction moratorium instituted by the MBTA in February. Few permitting and land-use issues remain, as does a final price tag.

The Romney administration is currently analyzing and prioritizing all state construction projects.

The petitions urge Gov. Mitt Romney’s administration to uphold promises made by his three Republican predecessors and complete the project.

‘‘In 1991, the state promises to restore Greenbush. We urge you to fulfill that pledge,” the petition reads.

Trains stopped rolling along the Greenbush line in 1959. Greenbush is the third and final leg of the Old Colony Line. Train service to Plymouth and Middleboro resumed in 1997.


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Trains may go to Jersey sports complex

A $400 million rail proposal that would bring trains to the Meadowlands sports complex in New Jersey for the first time is nearly complete.

The plan calls for a 2.5-mile rail loop that would circle the Meadowlands and connect with the soon-to-open Secaucus Transfer station and the Pascack Valley, Main, and Bergen lines, The Record of Bergen County reported August 5. The report stated several key state agencies are supporting the plan, and it could become a reality in five to seven years if funding is approved.

A rail link is vital to the “Xanadu” redevelopment proposal offered by the Mills Corp. and Mack-Cali, who plan to build a 4.8 million-square-foot entertainment, office, and retail complex at the East Rutherford site.

”I believe we are very close to having an agreement by all parties that this (rail plan) is something that is achievable and that can be accomplished,” New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority President George Zoffinger said, adding that New Jersey Transit and the state DOT are already onboard.

Zoffinger said the state would seek funding help for the rail plan from a variety of public and private groups, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and state and county governments, but the amounts they would be asked to contribute have not been determined.

“We think [this option] is in fact the best alternative right now.”

Plans call for the rail link to be built in two phases. The first, which would cost about $150 million, includes a 1.5-mile spur that would branch out from the Pascack Valley Line in East Rutherford. A $39 million elevated station also would be built in the center of the triangle formed by Giants Stadium, a racetrack, and Continental Arena.

The second phase, which will cost about $244 million, includes an elevated 1-mile stretch heading south from the new train station.


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Ceiling crumbles at Grand Central

Part of a ceiling over a platform off the main concourse at Grand Central Terminal collapsed Wednesday night (August 6), damaging an empty train and causing neither injuries nor schedule delays, authorities said.

Marjorie Anders, a spokeswoman for Metro-North Railroad, said the collapse occurred about 9:30 p.m. It involved a large electrical junction box, or vault, which was suspended from the ceiling.

When that fixture gave way, chunks of plaster and sections of wiring fell on a commuter coach. Debris also fell on a platform, between Tracks 27 and 28, which was empty at the time, Anders told The New York Times.

She said train service would not be affected the next day because trains that would normally use those two tracks could be rerouted.

Anders said the only effect on riders last night was that lights went dark on platforms throughout the concourse level of the station, and passengers had to rely on the dimmer lights from inside trains. The cause of the collapse was unclear.


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Ottawa in quandary over light rail

Canada’s foremost transportation lobby group is calling on Ottawa to scrap its $300-million light-rail plan. Transport 2000 President David Jeanes says the municipality should keep its $30-million “O-Train” or create a program whose first priority is to bring light-rail downtown.

If Transport 2000’s recommendations can’t be implemented, Jeanes said keeping the O-Train in its current diesel form at $30 million is much better than wasting $300 million on a flawed project.

The $300-million plan is part of a scaled-back, interim vision prepared for city staff. Council has not voted on the proposal, which will be discussed at a committee meeting on August 20.

“Doing the $300 million isn’t really doing anything, because all that does is replace the existing O-Train with an electric version,” Mr. Jeanes said July 28.

The lobby group president said, according to The Ottawa Citizen of July 29, in addition to not bringing light-rail into the core, the current proposal by consultants McCormick Rankin Corporation fails to extend light-rail into Riverside South, doesn’t go to the airport and fails to use the Prince of Wales rail bridge to connect into Gatineau.

Those four omissions will mean the $300 million will be wasted, Jeanes said. Fixing those omissions will bring the cost of electric light trains far beyond the $300 million suggested in the McCormick-Rankin proposal.


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Norfolk light rail gets new starting point

Norfolk, Va.’s proposed starter light rail line has a new end point that makes the route shorter and cheaper and, consultants say, should attract more riders.

The new eastern terminus also spares a center for youth with emotional and behavioral problems, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported on August 4.

Hampton Roads Transit now wants the 8-mile rail line to stop near the intersection of Newtown and Kempsville Roads instead of turning up Kempsville Road to Barry Robinson and Sentara Leigh Hospital. Instead, a feeder bus would serve the hospital and other offices.

City and transit officials said the change was made to qualify for federal funding. It shaves about $8 million and about a third of a mile off the project. Because the new station would be more accessible from Interstate 264, it would also pick up a few more riders than the other station, consultants say.

“It makes sense on all fronts,” said HRT chairman W. Randy Wright, a Norfolk city councilman.

The station change, plus some other tweaks, have decreased the total project cost from $222 million to $207 million.

The changes have also brought HRT closer to a new federal standard, which uses a complex formula to calculate a “user benefit.” The required benefit must be no more than $25. Norfolk has reduced its user benefit from $49.92 to $26.58. HRT and its consultants are still working to reach the $25 threshold by an Aug. 29 deadline.


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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.


 

STPP Report: Rising Transportation Costs Hurt Working Families

A report released July 22 by the Surface Transportation Policy Project shows the negative effect of increasing transportation costs on American families, which now spend more than 19 cents of every dollar earned on transportation—a budget component second only to housing, and greater than food and health care combined.

According to the STPP report, titled Transportation Costs and the American Dream: Why a Lack of Transportation Choices Strains the Family Budget and Hinders Homeownership, the nation’s poorest families must spend more than 40 percent of their take-home pay for mobility, a 25 percent increase since 1992. These costs add to the problems of lower-income families in affording housing, health care, and other critical services.

The report uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to rank metropolitan areas according to the portion of household expenditures devoted to transportation. It lists the following metropolitan areas as the top 10 in high transportation costs: Tampa, Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Diego, Cleveland, Houston, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and St. Louis.

The report concludes that shifting government priorities to increase public investment in public transportation and improve existing assets to better accommodate more transportation choices can greatly reduce household costs of transportation, helping American families save hard-earned money during tight economic times.


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U.S. DOT Awards Transportation Research, Education Grants

A total of 13 grants valued at more than $14.7 million were recently announced by U.S. DOT to support advanced transportation-related research at University Transportation Centers nationwide.

The grants, administered by the Research and Special Programs Administration, must be matched by recipients on a dollar-for-dollar basis at a minimum, leveraging the value of the federal investment.

U.S. DOT awarded $2 million to the University of Minnesota for its Intelligent Transportation Systems Institute. The department also awarded $1.8 million each to the Univ. of South Florida-National Center for Transit Research and George Mason University-National Intelligent Transportation Systems Implementation Research Center.

Receiving $916,300 each are South Carolina State Univ. Transportation Center and Rutgers Univ. Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation.

Awarded $906,000 each are Pennsylvania State Univ. Mid-Atlantic Universities Transportation Center; Univ. of Idaho-National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology; San Jose State Univ. Mineta Transportation Institute; North Dakota State Univ. Mountain-Plains Consortium; Univ. of Missouri, Rolla-Center for Infrastructure Engineering Studies; Univ. of Central Florida-Center for Advanced Transportation Systems Simulation; Univ. of Southern California-National Center for Metropolitan Transportation Research; and Univ. of Arkansas Mack Blackwell Transportation Center.


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Joyce Foundation: Midwest Not Keeping Up on Congestion Issues

The Midwestern U.S. is falling behind in efforts to address traffic congestion, air pollution, and other critical transportation problems, according to Keep It Moving, a report released in June by the Joyce Foundation, an organization that funds efforts to improve the quality of life in the Great Lakes region.

The study examines spending on Midwestern transit, rail projects, road repair and other improvements since the 1991 passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. ISTEA was succeeded in 1998 by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which expires September 30. It shows that more than $42 billion in federal transportation dollars has gone to the region, funding major projects in Chicago, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and other cities to improve bus service, create bike paths, and repair roads.

However, the study says, the region has lagged in vital areas such as increasing transit ridership and improving air quality. It also shows more than $10 billion in annual traffic congestion costs for the region; the negative effect of freight rail tie-ups in Chicago, the world’s third largest intermodal port; and delays of light rail and high-speed rail projects because of lack of funds. The report uses data provided by the Surface Transportation Policy Project.


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FTA Kicks Off Mentor-Protégé Program at USDOT

USDOT has established its first contract award under the mentor-protégé program, which is designed to enhance economic opportunities for small, disadvantaged business owners.

The first protégé firm to be selected is Interactive Elements Inc. IEI is also the first women-owned business in 20 years to receive a Project Management Oversight contract with the Federal Transit Administration.

Minority-owned Delon Hampton and Associates has been selected as the mentor firm.

Last August during a forum for small and women-owned businesses, FTA Administrator Jennifer L Dorn promised that FTA would provide additional economic opportunities. In less than a year, FTA’s mentor-protégé initiative was developed and launched.


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Tulsa Transit Names Cartwright as General Manager

Bill Cartwright was recently named the new general manager for the Metropolitan Tulsa Transit Authority in Tulsa, Okla. Cartwright, who has been with Tulsa Transit for three years, has been serving as the assistant general manager and chief financial officer.

He replaces Doran Barnes, who was named executive director of Foothill Transit in West Covina, Calif.

Before joining Tulsa Transit in 2000, Cartwright served as corporate controller for Hope Lumber and Supply Co., a multi-state building materials retailer. Cartwright is a member of the 2003 Leadership APTA class, an APTA program designed to identify and develop tomorrow’s transit leaders.


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CUTA Report: Public Transit a Major Economic Driver in Canadian Cities

The Canadian Urban Transit Association has released a report confirming the importance of public transportation in creating economically vibrant and competitive cities in Canada.

According to the report, titled Transit Means Business, transit contributes in large measure to the economic vitality, prosperity, and growth of Canada’s cities in ways ranging from congestion reduction to property impacts; from increased labor mobility to personal productivity; and from job creation to public health and safety benefits.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...


NCI: Leo King

“InCharge” is expected to make dispatching easier for CSX’s dispatchers, all of whom work in Jacksonville, Fla. Consider coal train N151-29, headed northward on August 5 after leaving Tampa, stuck in the hole at “A Line’s” Satsuma Siding, MP. 708.1. Conductor Charlie Cross is waiting for Amtrak’s southbound No. 91, running 47 minutes late from Jacksonville, some 69 miles distant. The AA dispatcher is also juggling a local freight ahead of the coal train. Some 125 empty hoppers are enroute back to Kentucky mines.

 

CSX tries new computer to run trains

System Management Arts, Inc. – with an acronym of “SMARTS,” said last week CSX will monitor and manage key components of its core information technologies infrastructure using “InCharge™.”

CSX will use the mainframe computer system in its Next Generation Dispatch Network, the core infrastructure that controls dispatching and operations of 1,700 trains and more than 20,000 carloads daily. More than 2,000 routers back the CSX network, each with multiple points of connectivity and multiple layers of redundancy.

“In the rail business, any outage of our core network can be a problem, as it immediately impacts the timely flow of our trains,” said Dan Pinkley, network control director for CSX.

He added, “We need a management system with the ability to identify and correct potential threats before they cause an outage. No other solution was able to match the auto-discovery and root cause analysis that InCharge brought to the table.”

SMARTS is online at http://www.smarts.com.

CSX is online at csxt.com.


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Tornadoes briefly disrupt FEC traffic

Tornadoes hit the West Palm Beach, Fla., area on August 7 causing widespread damage and some injuries. No deaths were reported.

The Florida East Coast Ry. did not escape harm. An unofficial source, who lives in the area, reported the heavy weather “started at my place about 5:05 p.m.” The railroad apparently didn’t fare too badly, in all.

Another source said, “It’s the worst lighting I have seen in two or three years.”

The Palm Beach Post reported the next day the storm hit at 5:13 p.m. and lasted 27 minutes. Lightning struck about 800 times accompanied by thunderstorms with heavy rain, hail, and strong winds.

About 30,000 people were without electricity at one point, and 500 homes were damaged or destroyed, cars flipped, power poles snapped, and roofs were torn off businesses.

Jim Lushine of the National Weather Service said the storm was an F1 category storm. Tornadoes are measured on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 being the strongest. An F1 tornado ranges from 73 to 112 mph.

A source reported the twisters hit U.S. Highway 1 and Donald Ross Road, “damaging a mall and a few other businesses over there. It lifted back up, going a little bit to the west of me and back down at PGA. I guess it did a little damage at North Lake and the Trail then headed back east to 95 flipping two semis and hitting Riviera Beach – and boy did it hit there.”

FEC runs through the county between mileposts 280.5 to 326.5. Hialeah Yard in Miami is about 43 miles south.

At a track along Old Dixie Highway, two containers were blown out of container cars. One hit and burst a water line, but stopped short of a light pole at a baseball field.

Much later, a railroader reported train 222 went by St. Augustine “running about 4-_ hours late.”

“Dispatchers issued ‘Forms S,’ permission to pass red stop signals all night long” according to a source.

The net effect was that trains ran late all night.

Train 191 rolled through Fort Lauderdale about 6:20 a.m., Friday while train 193 was so far behind that it had a relief crew waiting at controlled point “Airport” in Fort Lauderdale.

Other trains were similarly affected by red signals in Palm Beach and Broward counties.

Containers were reported flipped on their sides, and one landed about 200 feet from the tracks.

There were some power lines down across the main line, but not a siding.

“No. 208 was going by there right after the storm started, but a defect detector, at milepost 290 got him.

“They figured it was the storm, but I think he stopped at Jupiter to check it out.”

He added, “Nos. 101 and 105 went down the siding. The gates were off at three crossings.” The trains were operating at 10 mph at grade crossings.


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For D:F: Michael Rayman

A handful of GE locomotives are headed for Mexico's Ferrocarriles Mexicanos (FerroSur) Railroad, and are trailing behind BNSF power, an EMD SD-70MAC, near Welder Street in Chattanooga, Tenn., on August 2. The five FS engines are passing Debutts Yard.

 

CSX, Florida Central start new
service to ease highway congestion

CSX and the Florida Central Railroad announced new joint rail service on August 1 to serve the Florida Auto Auction. The Auto Auction is one of the nation's largest auto auction businesses, annually transporting more than 300,000 automobiles and other vehicles to and from its resale facility in Winter Garden, Fla., outside Orlando.

The new service began August 6.

The rail service will enable vehicles to be moved to and from the auction via rail, lessening highway congestion. Florida Central Railroad interchanges with CSX, which operates in every major market in the eastern United States and interchanges with both major western U.S. railroads.

The new service, made possible by a $1.2 million grant from the Florida DOT, enabled construction of a rail spur off Florida Central's nearby main rail line into the facility. The spur is approximately one mile long, and the total cost of the project was approximately $3 million.

Florida Central will transport vehicles from the auto auction to CSX's Taft Yard in Orlando. CSXT will then transport the vehicles throughout its eastern network and interchange with rail carriers serving the western U.S.


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Special train to make Southland stops

A special “purple suit” train with equipment to teach first responders how to deal with rail emergencies will make display demonstrations in October.

The train will consist of equipment from Norfolk Southern, Amtrak and other carriers, including rail training tank cars, other tank cars, an Amtrak training car, emergency response equipment and other exhibits.

The Whistle Stop Tour is designed to increase community understanding of the importance of emergency planning, and to provide local emergency response groups an opportunity to receive some light hands-on training and schedule more detailed training.

Demonstrations and presentations will be focused on rail, barge, truck and chemical-specific information.

The tour offers an opportunity to help community members, distributors and emergency responders to dialogue about distribution related topics.

The discussions include chemicals transported through various regions, and how risks pertaining to transporting chemicals are managed.

Jacksonville, Fla.
October 7, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
NS Simpson Yard
7330 Old Kings Road

Forsyth, Ga.
October 8, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Georgia Public Safety Training Center

Savannah, Ga.
October 9, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Norfolk Southern Dillard Yard
1 Charlie Gay Drive
Intermodal Facility

Augusta, Ga.
October 10, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Taylor Street, off Gordon Hwy at Walton Way

Charleston, S.C.
October 11, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Norfolk Southern Intermodal Facility
I-26 at Goer Drive off Montague Road


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NCRR dedicates elderly enginehouse

The only remaining original building of the North Carolina Railroad’s company shops complex is set to be officially dedicated on August 19 at 10:00 a.m. at the building’s 101 North Main Street address.

The company shops were a railroad maintenance and repair community, dating to the 1870s, that was renamed Burlington when the railroad facility was moved to Spencer, N.C.

The “Company Shops” building, which once served as the engine repair house for the North Carolina Railroad Co. (NCRR), has been redeveloped to serve as Alamance County’s passenger rail station, with commercial space available for lease, some of which is already occupied by a division of the City of Burlington’s Police Department.

“The redevelopment and reuse of Company Shops Station is a vital step forward for Burlington, NCRR and the state,” says Brad Wilson, NCRR board chairman.

“The building was a keystone in the development of the city when it was known as Company Shops. Today, it is our hope that it will once again serve as the catalyst for redevelopment and revitalization of this part of Burlington. That the same building could play an important role in economic development in two different eras is remarkable and exciting and accurately reflects the vision and mission of the NCRR. We are grateful that the people of Burlington have shared our enthusiasm for this project.”

The dedication event is open to the public and will feature former Gov. Jim Hunt as the keynote speaker. North Carolina Secretary of Transportation Lyndo Tippett, Burlington Mayor Joseph P. Barbour and Charles Canaday, Chairman of the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce, will also speak.

The 17,300 square foot Company Shops Station was built in the 1870s and could accommodate 15 engines. The doors were wide enough for trains to pass through. Light for the engine work came from skylights and large windows. Much of the original brick has been hand-cleaned and reused in the current structure. Architect William D. Moser, of Moser, Mayer Phoenix Associates, designed the restoration and renovation project for NCRR.

A fire in June 1918 burned all the remaining Company Shops buildings except the engine house. The building passed through several different companies and was used for a variety of purposes; most recently plumbing supplies were stored there.

Plans to restore the building were put into motion in 2001 and the project was completed in July with income from NCRR’s railroad lease with Norfolk Southern Ry.

The North Carolina Railroad Co. owns and manages the 317-mile rail corridor from Morehead City to Charlotte that serves as the backbone of the state’s rail system. The railroad carries more than 60 freight trains operated by Norfolk Southern and eight Amtrak passenger trains daily.

The State of North Carolina owns NCRR, and operated as a private company. The NCRR’s mission is to manage, improve and protect the state’s rail properties and corridors in a manner that will enhance freight and passenger service and promote economic development.


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L. Stanley Crane

L. Stanley Crane, 87, the retired board chairman and CEO of Southern Ry., who became head of Conrail and led it to success, died of pneumonia July 15 at a hospice in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Crane was born in Cincinnati and raised in Washington. He later lived in McLean, Va., before moving to Philadelphia in 1981.

He began his career with Southern after graduating from George Washington Univ. with a chemical engineering degree in 1938. He worked for the railroad, except for a stint from 1959 to 1961 with the Pennsylvania Railroad, until reaching the company’s mandatory retirement age in 1980. He was head of Consolidated Rail Corp., the old federally subsidized freight carrier, from 1981 until retiring altogether in 1988.

Crane joined Southern as a laboratory assistant and worked his way up the supervisory ranks in its engineering, operating and mechanical departments. He became executive vice president for operations in 1970, was named president and chief executive in 1976, and retired as the company’s board chairman and chief executive.

During his years leading Southern, it became the second-most-profitable railroad in the nation. It operated more than 10,000 miles of track in the Southeast. It concentrated on freight hauling, selling its last passenger train route, the legendary Southern Crescent, to Amtrak in 1978.

When he joined Conrail, that venture seemed doomed. Formed from a half-dozen failed railroad systems in the Midwest and Northeast, it had too much bad track, too many employees and no profits. Crane put more than 40 years of railroading expertise to work.

He lobbied Congress for the freedom to cut unprofitable rail lines, and he convinced union leaders of the need to end outmoded work rules and make economic sacrifices – which he also imposed on Conrail’s management. He instituted sound railroad management and abandoned the system’s remaining, and very unprofitable, passenger operations.

In March 1987, the government sold Conrail in a public offering. That sale, for $1.65 billion, made it the largest public stock offering in history. The stock went for $14 a share shortly after the sale. When CSX and Norfolk Southern purchased Conrail in the 1990s, they paid $115 a share.

Washington Post, August 2


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AAR offers new Analysis of Class I Railroads

Did you know that Class I railroads in the U.S. laid more than 13 million crossties last year? Or that they placed 745 new locomotives into service? Or that they used 3.7 billion gallons of diesel fuel, at an average cost of 74 cents per gallon?

That and much more information is included in the 25th annual edition of Analysis of Class I Railroads, which is now available from the Association of American Railroads’ Policy and Economics Dept.

The Analysis presents comprehensive 2002 data about each of the seven Class I railroads that operated in the U.S. last year in an easy-to-use format. It contains more than 750 financial and operating statistics for each Class I railroad, plus data aggregated by Eastern and Western districts and for the United States as a whole. Data categories include financial results, employment, plant and equipment, traffic, fuel consumption, other operating statistics, and rankings.

Copies of the Analysis of Class I Railroads are available to the general public for $250 and to AAR members for $100. A diskette version is also available. There is a $6 handling charge for each order. To order copies of the book, visit the AAR Web site at www.aar.org.


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Rail traffic mixed in July, says AAR

U.S. rail carload traffic fell 1.6 percent (25,637 carloads) while intermodal traffic rose 4.3 percent (38,624 trailers and containers) in July 2003 compared to July 2002, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported August 7.

Coal (down 2.9 percent, or 18,288 carloads), metallic ores (down 18.5 percent, or 16,153 carloads), and motor vehicles and equipment (down 8.4 percent, or 7,157 carloads) were responsible for most of the downturn in carloadings in July. Commodities showing carload gains in July included coke (up 37.5 percent, or 6,753 carloads), chemicals (up 4.1 percent, or 5,646 carloads), and crushed stone and gravel (up 4.7 percent, or 4,880 carloads). Excluding coal, U.S. rail carloadings were down 0.8 percent (7,349 carloads) in July 2003.

For the first seven months of 2003, U.S. rail carloadings totaled 9,949,454 units, down 0.1 percent (10,991 carloads). During this period, carloads of coke were up 33.3 percent (35,238 carloads), carloads of waste and scrap were up 5.2 percent (14,035 carloads), and carloads of pulp and paper were up 5.5 percent (13,869 carloads). On the down side, coal was down 1.5 percent (61,851 carloads), motor vehicles and equipment was down 2.7 percent (20,209 carloads), and grain was down 3.1 percent (20,020 carloads). Excluding coal, U.S. rail carloadings were up 0.9 percent (50,860 carloads) in 2003 through July.

U.S. intermodal traffic totaled 5,772,723 trailers or containers, up 6.0 percent (328,653 units) in 2003 through July. Total U.S. rail volume was estimated at 877.1 billion ton-miles, up 0.6 percent from the first 31 weeks last year.

“The decline in coal volumes is attributable in part to cooler-than-normal summer weather in much of the eastern half of the country, while the drop in automotive carloadings is a reflection of lower sales and production,” noted AAR Vice President Craig F. Rockey. “Meanwhile, intermodal growth remains solid, as retailers and others combine the long-haul economy of rail with the door-to-door convenience of trucks.”

Canadian rail carload traffic was up 2.3 percent (6,570 carloads) in July 2003. Commodities that saw rail carload gains in July included chemicals (up 11.9 percent, or 6,653 carloads) and farm products excluding grain (up 24.5 percent, or 1,211 carloads).

Commodities seeing declines in Canadian rail carloads in July include motor vehicles and equipment (down 6.2 percent, or 1,604 carloads) and pulp and paper (down 4.1 percent, or 1,123 carloads). Canadian intermodal traffic was up 7.5 percent (14,768 units) in July 2003 compared with July 2002.

For the first seven months of 2003, Canadian carload traffic totaled 1,896,277 units, down 1.1 percent (21,330 carloads), while Canadian intermodal traffic totaled 1,279,829 trailers or containers, up 9.2 percent (107,379 units).

Carloads originated on Transportación Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM), a major Mexican railroad, were down 0.8 percent (311 carloads) in July, while intermodal originations were down 1.9 percent (307 trailers and containers). For the first seven months of 2003, TFM carloadings totaled 265,017 units, up 1.7 percent (4,495 carloads), while intermodal traffic totaled 109,220 trailers or containers, up 26.9 percent (23,137 units).

For just the week ended August 2, the AAR reported the following totals for U.S. railroads: 332,890 carloads, down 1.6 percent from the corresponding week in 2002, with loadings up 1.0 percent in the East and down 3.7 percent in the West; intermodal volume of 197,780 trailers and containers (the highest weekly total so far in 2003), up 3.1 percent; and total volume of an estimated 29.3 billion ton-miles, up 0.3 percent from the equivalent week last year.

For Canadian railroads during the week ended August 2, the AAR reported volume of 60,616 carloads, up 2.0 percent from last year; and 43,649 trailers and containers, up 4.3 percent from the corresponding week in 2002.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 31 weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 11,845,731 carloads, down 0.3 percent (32,321 carloads) from last year, and 7,052,552 trailers and containers, up 6.6 percent (436,032 units) from 2002’s first 31 weeks.


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BUSINESS LINES...  Business lines...

KCS, TMM continue merger

Kansas City Southern Ry. (NYSE: KSU) and Grupo TMM, S.A. (NYSE: TMM; BMV: TMM A) reported August 1 that they are proceeding with their merger plans.

A waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976 for their proposed NAFTA Rail transaction expired without a formal request from the U.S. Department of Justice for additional information of documentary material, allowing the two carriers to “consummate their transaction without any further delays that could have resulted from requests for additional information.”

Under the antitrust act process, the Justice department had 30 days after a notice was filed to issue a second request asking for various documents and information.

The waiting period expired July 31.

Now, the transaction placing TFM, S.A., de C.V. under common control of NAFTA Rail must still be approved by the Foreign Investment Commission in Mexico, the shareholders of both companies, and TMM bondholders.

The transaction has already received approval from the Mexican Competition Commission, which looks at antitrust issues in proposed transactions in Mexico.

“We are very gratified that the U.S. Department of Justice has determined to allow the transaction to proceed without a request for additional information under the antitrust laws," said KCS’s chairman, president, and CEO Michael R. Haverty.

Haverty said, “We believe that NAFTA Rail will enhance rail competition in Mexico and the U.S. and improve rail service for shippers in the vitally important North American rail corridor. This is one more step in our effort to make NAFTA Rail a strong competitor in the NAFTA trade corridor.”

Jose Serrano, Chairman of Grupo TMM, said, “The expiration of the waiting period removes another hurdle to our ability to complete the transaction.”

In a separate but related proceeding, Haverty and KCS executive vice-president and COO, Gerald Davies, testified July 31 before the STB at a public hearing held to discuss and take evidence on KCS's plans to place KCS, Gateway Eastern Ry. Co., and The Texas Mexican Ry. Co. under the common control of KCS, the applicant in the proceeding.

The STB has published a procedural schedule that will result in a final decision by October 17.


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S&P affirms UP ratings; upgrade possible

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services affirmed its ratings of Union Pacific Corp. (BBB/Positive/A-2) after UP said its board of directors approved the sale of the company’s less-than-truckload trucking subsidiary, Overnite Corp., through an initial public offering.

S&P said the previously reported IPO plan would allow UP to concentrate on its core rail operations and also could generate significant cash. At this time, the sale proceeds aren’t known and the company hasn’t said how it will use them, the ratings company said. If the IPO succeeds and UP uses proceeds along with expected strong levels of free cash flow to strengthen the capital structure, ratings could be reviewed for a possible modest upgrade, it said.

UP already has a positive outlook, reflecting an improving financial performance trend. The Omaha, Nebraska-based railroad has about $11 billion of debt (adjusted for operating leases and accounts receivable sales), S&P said, according to an August 5 report by Reuters.


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Alstom wins bailout; EU warns of probe

The troubled French engineering group Alstom said it has agreed with the French government and a group of 30 banks on a major support package that will give the government a nearly one-third stake in Alstom.

The Commission of the European Union had warned two days ahead of the announcement that a bail-out would touch off a probe focusing on whether the rescue was anti-competitive.

Alstom makes high-speed trains, cruise ships and power turbines. It was the manufacturer, along with Canadian-based Bombardier, of Amtrak’s high-speed Acelas.

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s conservative government promised it would divest its interest in Alstom as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, as one French analyst said, “Alstom can’t fail; it’s too big.” The company employs about 20,000 people in France alone.

The company said worries about its future were hurting business. It said that orders were slow in the fiscal first quarter partly because of such concerns among potential customers.

The rescue package consists of a ¤300 million equity investment by the government. Alstom said that outside the government share it will issue ¤1.2 billion in equity, and said it has obtained a six-year loan of ¤1.3 billion.

Alstom said it got loan guarantees from a banking syndicate of ¤3.5 billion, with a 65 percent governmental counter-guarantee.

As a result of official participation in the package, the government will wind up with a 31.5 percent temporary share of the company.

Alstom’s new CEO Patrick Kron said, “Alstom still faces considerable challenges to deliver adequate and reliable profits and cash generation: the severe downturn in the power and marine markets, the implementation of the necessary strong restructuring and cost reduction programs, improved control of risks on large projects. The financing package…gives us the foundation on which to rebuild.”


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UP to spin off Overnite trucking unit

Omaha-based Union Pacific Corp. (NYSE:UNP) said it plans to divest its big trucking firm Overnite Corp. through an initial public offering (IPO).

While UP didn’t specify Overnite’s price, Reuters quoted one analyst as saying the railroad could realize $500 million to $700 million after paying IPO expenses.

Richmond-based Overnite hauled in revenues of $1.35 billion last year. It specializes in “less-than-truckload” cargoes, or those of 10,000 pounds and less. Overnight has a fleet of 6,000 tractors and 21,000 trailers and a staff of 14,400.

Announcement of the planned IPO comes within weeks of a $1 billion merger agreement between two rivals, Yellow Corp. and Roadway Corp.

A UP spokesperson, Kathryn Blackwell, said on August 4 that the subsidiary is being sold because of a stronger initial public offering market, the end of a Teamsters’ strike against the unit, and a better outlook for trucking companies like Overnite. Less-than-truckload trucking companies generally have done better since the collapse last September of Consolidated Freightways, Reuters said.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services affirmed its ratings of UP (BBB/Positive/A-2) after the announcement.

The New York-based S&P said the spinoff would allow UP to concentrate on its core rail operations and also could generate significant cash. At this time, the company hasn’t specified how it will use the proceeds, the ratings company said.

If the IPO succeeds and UP uses the sale proceeds along with expected strong levels of free cash flow to strengthen its capital structure, ratings could be reviewed for a possible modest upgrade, it said. UP already has a positive outlook, reflecting an improving financial performance trend. UP has about $11 billion of debt (adjusted for operating leases and accounts receivable sales), S&P said.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: Bloomberg.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)27.41027.520
Canadian National(CNI)52.41052.100
Canadian Pacific(CP)24.14024.470
CSX(CSX)30.86030.890
Florida East Coast(FLA)29.05028.160
Genessee & Wyoming(GWI)21.73023.390
Kansas City Southern(KSU)11.82012.050
Norfolk Southern(NSC)18.97018.930
Union Pacific(UNP)61.24060.710


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

EWS fights for subsidy on tunnel freight

EWS, the British rail freight company, is negotiating with the UK government over future payments for freight through the Channel tunnel and has warned it would be difficult to continue services without state subsidy.

The company, whose biggest shareholder is Canadian National, is discussing with the Department for Transport and the Strategic Rail Authority about payment for its use of the tunnel after November 2006, the expiration date for arrangements written in 1994, when the tunnel opened.

The talks come against the background of a looming row between EWS and Eurotunnel, the tunnel operator, which opposes an extension of EWS's present exclusive deal for use of the tunnel.

EWS is the only British company operating freight trains through the tunnel, and has its tunnel user fees paid by the SRA under a deal reached when it bought British Rail's international business at privatization.

EWS runs its service in co-operation with SNCF, the French national railway.

Graham Meiklejohn, media and public affairs manager for EWS, said the talks would determine whether there would be successful growth of British rail freight to and from the Continent after 2006.

It would be an enormous burden on EWS’s international business if it had to start paying all the user fees for the tunnel itself. Although the SRA is thought to have paid £26 million to Eurotunnel for EWS’s tunnel use last year, it is not clear how high the bill might be after 2006.

EWS's international business is still recovering from eight months' disruption in late 2001 and early 2002 when asylum seekers regularly tried to stow away on its trains in France. As a result, only 1.46 million tons of freight were carried through the tunnel last year, against 3.14 million in 1998.

Eurotunnel said it intends to start its own freight operations, including a service from Dourge, near Lille in France, to Daventry, in the English Midlands. The heavily indebted company is trying to boost its income ahead of the expiration of the present financing arrangements, which guarantee it a minimum fee from freight and Eurostar passenger trains.

The company would strongly oppose continuation of an exclusive deal between the government and EWS.


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Beijing rebuffs Tokyo’s bullet train pitch

Chikage Ogi, Japan’s transport minister, returned to Japan from a three-day visit to China after apparently receiving a cool reception for her efforts to offer the bullet train, or Shinkansen, as the main high-speed rail link between Beijing and Shanghai.

The deal, estimated to be worth ¥1,500 billion ($12.5 billion, ¤11 billion, £7.7 billion), pits Japanese companies against those from Germany and France, and also Chinese railway manufacturers, for a contract which could set the standard for fast trains throughout China.

Despite reports naming Japan as the leading contender, Ogi got little access to Chinese leaders, failing to secure meetings with Wen Jiabao, the prime minister, and the senior officials from the Railways Ministry and the State Development and Reform Commission (SDRC).

Chinese press reports said China had given Ogi the “cold shoulder”.

The Shinkansen had firmed in the race after indications that Beijing was moving against the consortium backing the German maglev (magnetic levitation) train, which had built a commercial track in Shanghai as a showcase for other contracts in China.

Junichiro Koizumi, Japan’s prime minister, followed up Ogi’s visit by writing to Wen pushing the case for the Shinkansen, according to NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster.

China hopes to complete the link connecting two of the country’s largest and wealthiest cities in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympic games, and cut the traveling time from 12 hours to about three.

Despite this apparent deadline, Zhang Guobao, the deputy of the SDRC, said China was in no hurry to decide which system it would choose, nor would it commit to using solely foreign technology.

The negotiations between Beijing and Tokyo are fraught in any case, because of Japan’s invasion of the mainland in the 1930s, making China wary about public reaction to the choice of the Shinkansen.


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THE WAY WE WERE...  The way we were...

Track Crew at old Providence Station

NCI: Leo King

Where would railroads be without their track departments? The trains would not move very long on bad track, so one of the most labor-intensive segments of all railroads fixes the tracks so the trains can run at what is deemed to be “track speed.” In the 1850s, 25 mph was fast. By 1900, trains were pushing 80 and 90 mph. By the 1950s, primitive mechanization was tamping ballast and ties, each machine handled by a man, as in this scene at Union Station, Providence, R.I. Fifty years later, Enormous on-track machines replaced many laborers in the track gangs – and on FRA class 6 track, trains travel at 150 mph or better.

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" .jpg images average 1.7MB each, and are 300 dots-per-inch for print publishers.

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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