NCI: Leo KingAfter FRA completes its track inspection, a 40 mph speed restriction is expected to fall by the wayside and allow speeds up to 79 mph on Guilford's "Eastern Route" line in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine as passenger service prepares to operate between Portland and Boston. The story is below.
Capitol Hill works to give back
passenger trains to Americans
President Bush told a cheering crowd at Washington's Dulles International Airport Thursday that Americans "would get their airlines back." During the same week, lawmakers of both parties and in both houses on Capitol Hill were forging legislation aimed, in another context, at giving Americans their passenger trains back.
Mr. Bush announced he and his cabinet officers would be flying around the country "to conduct their business." That morning, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta had boarded a United Airlines flight to Chicago, partly as a sign of defiance against the terrorists.
Rail passenger service has been limping along for years because government policy-makers had decided to sink taxpayer cash into nothing but airways and highways. The September 11 murderous attack by terrorists on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon has caused many Americans to rediscover passenger trains, some with pleasant results, others with a less appealing story to tell. More on that later.
In Congress, Reps. Don Young (R-Alaska) and Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.) on Tuesday formally introduced The Rail Infrastructure Development and Expansion Act for the 21st Century or RIDE-21, as it will be known.
Backed by the Republican majority on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which Young chairs, the landmark legislation provides $71 billion for "new high speed passenger, commuter, and freight rail improvements." In other words, it seeks to strengthen the railroad infrastructure of the United States.
"The events of September 11 have forever altered our transportation infrastructure," said Quinn.
"During the past two weeks, thousands of Americans have come to depend on passenger rail service as an essential component of our transportation network. While the traveling public slowly regains its confidence in aviation, passenger demand for rail service will reach an all-time high." Providing this service is a congressional "duty" the GOP lawmaker believes.
"Simply stated," added Young, "it is time for the United States to make high-speed rail a transportation priority."
Young proclaimed his bill, HR 2950, as "the first truly credible high-speed passenger rail proposal to be introduced this session. It gets the job done."
The chairman believes the more modest House and Senate bills calling for $12 billion over ten years fall short of the mark. He lists three reasons why they don't "get the job done."
First, they do not provide enough funding. He notes that the Northeast Corridor alone would require $20 billion to upgrade the New York-to-Washington portion. Additionally, Virginia and North Carolina estimate a need for $2.5 billion just to build a high-speed infrastructure from Washington to Charlotte.
Beyond that, Young said, the Congressional Budget Office has expressed doubt Amtrak could pay off the face value of the bonds in later years. Of course, that causes some reluctance among bond buyers to purchase the bonds. Besides which, the Alaska lawmaker says, "Amtrak should concentrate on its core business of operating passenger trains and carrying mail and express and premium traffic." That is a point that has been spotlighted many times in this space.
They also do not provide sufficient flexibility in the hands of the states in making transportation decisions, and, beyond that, what little money is provided comes at too high a cost to the federal treasury.
Young noted the Quinn subcommittee hearing July 25, which was covered by D:F, elicited an Amtrak estimate that $70 billion was needed to build high-speed rail in the United States.
Ride-21 generates more than $71 billion for a high-speed rail infrastructure through the sale of bonds and the approval of federal loans and loan guarantees.
The states would benefit from RIDE-21, Young said, and so does Amtrak.
"As the only operator of high-speed passenger trains in the United States, Amtrak will be a partner with states in many projects. And it will have a clear competitive advantage when it comes time to bid on contracts to operate trains on this new rail network."
Young, who is a powerful voice in the House, vowed that he "will be aggressively lobbying my colleagues for swift passage of this vital legislation."
Quinn's name is on both RIDE-21 and the more modest $12 billion bill.
Meanwhile, not to be outdone, the Democrats, who now enjoy a slim 50-member plurality in the 100-member Senate, have begun considering a $37 billion investment in rail passenger service. This would be a part of an overall package to beef up the U.S. economy whose slide was well underway even prior to the terrorist attack.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was taking the lead in the Senate effort, working with his leader, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). Reid's aim is to forge a bipartisan coalition with Senate Republicans. Reid, the Senate Democratic Whip, wants to expand Amtrak service and improve security, and establish high-speed rail corridors "to augment air travel between major cities."
Reid spokesman Andrew Kennealy told D:F Thursday that the bill was "still on the drawing board," but that he contemplates that high-speed rail and even super-speed magnetic levitation (maglev) are contemplated. He said the idea of high-speed rail or maglev might even be in the works for a Las Vegas to Southern California line, a proposal that has had many times over the years of in a controversial on-again, off-again debate.
Las Vegas, which has been bereft of passenger train service since the 1997 cancellation of Amtrak's Desert Wind, was especially hard hit when the airlines shut down because many tourists could not get there and tourism is what Vegas is all about. That may give some impetus to a Las Vegas-Southern California high-speed program, even though California has historically dragged its feet, complaining the idea would benefit Nevada at the expense of California.
On the rail transit front in New York City, when it became feasible to assess the underground damage done in New York by the terrorist attacks, it was discovered that nearly 1,000 feet of the 1/9 subway line had collapsed and would likely take several years to rebuild. The N/R line near the World Trade Center was not as badly damaged as previously believed. That line could be up and running in three to six months. But the PATH subway line that operated between the World Trade Center and New Jersey would remain shut down for several years, possibly not returning until the Trade Center itself is rebuilt in whatever form. PATH still carries passengers on another line from New Jersey into midtown Manhattan near Penn Station, about 40 blocks north of the Trade Center site.
Other transit services around the nation are checking their security. In Salt Lake City, which is preparing to host the 2002 Winter Olympics, ridership is still up on the light-rail TRAX system, but security has been increased. Security cameras are being considered, and TRAX authorities are working more closely with law enforcement officials. Already, a decision had been made to stop the trains short of the Olympics site in favor of bus transfers during the Olympics, precisely out of a fear that the tracks might be vulnerable to terrorist plots. And this decision was made before September 11 focused everyone on the problem.
Although freight traffic is down on the Class I carriers, Association of American Railroads spokesman Tom White said that has been the case all year. Though he expects no direct impact because of the attacks, any indirect effect caused by a terrorist-related economic downturn is yet to be determined.
The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association canceled its meeting and show in Anaheim, Calif. Sept. 29-Oct. 2, in part because of "the current state of airline travel and the apprehension felt by many ASLRRA members," according to the group's president, Frank Turner.
Security is being upgraded on Amtrak.
On Tuesday, the national passenger train service announced that henceforth, "guests" will be required to show state-issued photo IDs when purchasing tickets from station ticket agents, as well as when checking baggage or sending packages, but "if [an] ID does not carry a photo, it must identify the presenter by physical characteristics."
Passengers using automated ticketing terminals in stations will not have to produce photo identification, as credit card information may be used for internal purposes. Additionally, people checking baggage or sending packages will be asked security questions "similar to those asked by commercial boarding agents."
That may or may not be useful. Some of the questions asked at airports were criticized as being so unverifiable as to be of limited use.
The Amtrak Police Department has enhanced security measures, including inspections and sweeps of stations, property, and trains as necessary, and increasing the presence of uniformed officers at trains and stations.
Congress, meanwhile, is beginning to focus on security for public conveyances beyond the airlines, whose problems have been well-publicized.
Chairman John Breaux (D-La.) has called a hearing of his Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine to examine rail and maritime security. The session is slated for tomorrow (October 2.)
The scheduled announced lead witness is Admiral James W. Underwood, Director of the office of Intelligence Security.
The panel that follows was to include Edward R. Hamberger, President and CEO, Association of American Railroads; George D. Warrington, President and CEO, Amtrak; Joseph J. Cox, President, Chamber of Shipping of America; and J. Michael Crye, President, International Council of Cruise Lines.
This past week has seen an outpouring of media attention to the passenger train as an alternative to airline travel. Some of it shows Amtrak is up to the job, while other spot checks indicate otherwise.
Editorially, the Washington Post, The New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer urged help for trains, as well as planes. This was prompted not just by the airline shutdown, but$15 billion in assistance Congress approved for the air carriers.
From the Washington Post:
"A national rail system should not be limited to profitable routes; public service still must be part of the Amtrak mandate. Federal subsidies for other transportation - by air or on the roads - have not been limited to the most heavily populated corridors, nor should they be.... More capital must be committed."
The New York Times noted that despite the current falloff of airline business, "Air travel is still projected to grow in the long run, intensifying gridlock. The current slowdown should not blind Congress to the need to upgrade the passenger rail system."
The Inquirer in Philly echoed those sentiments.
The Wall Street Journal reported on stories by frequent air travelers who switched to rail. One of them looked forward to his ride from Florida to New Jersey on the Silver Meteor. By the time he bailed out of the 30-hour ride, he concluded the only good thing about the train was getting off. Four hours late, slamming doors making sleep difficult, and rest rooms so filthy, he ended up refusing to use them.
I hate to say it, but this is the Amtrak that officials in Washington who give glowing reports about service improvements never see. The car attendant who let those rest rooms become so repulsive should seek employment elsewhere. But not to worry. And I also hate to say this, but encouraging him to leave would immediately put him at the center of a determined fight, possibly backed by political muscle, by his union to protect his job. That's why the late Amtrak boss, Graham Claytor, gave up trying to demand tough service standards of his employees. The politicized circumstances in which Amtrak operates have been a two-edged sword.
A businessman who worked near the World Trade Center caught Amtrak from New York to Chicago, and told the WSJ he found it quite pleasant, even though he was unable to secure sleeping space.
Dining car service on the long-distance trains got glowing reviews from passengers interviewed for the story. Said the Journal article: "Passengers opting for overnight service find sleeping cars that, while in most cases modern, are a far cry from the gracious Pullman service of yore."
Yes, and that's another long story for yet another article, someday.
NCI: Leo KingThe train was traveling eastward, and this view is from the trailing end of the Portland Extra on September 18 passing MIT in Cambridge, Mass. Those people were not walking in front of the train; it had already passed.
Portland line tested;
Track testing between Boston and Portland was completed on Friday, and the results should be known shortly, but just how "short" the timeframe is remains to be seen. The goal is to raise the track speed from 40 mph to 79 mph, but, as D:F reported last week, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) required that a Track Loading Vehicle from the Association of American Railroads' Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colo. traverse the 77 miles between Plaistow, N.H. to Portland.
According to the FRA, the machine would run "over the line at very slow speeds for two days checking for locations where additional track support may be needed, and then, on a third and final day, measure these locations to ensure that the track meets the criteria set in the Board's 1999 decision."
The Associated Press reported the testing over the 115-pound rail was conducted in the worst possible conditions following several days of heavy rain that mimic conditions during the spring thaw. Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) executive director Michael Murray said the track was tested in extreme conditions following several inches of rainfall. The water will test the railbed's ability to shed water without affecting the performance of the tracks.
"You want to shed as much water as possible. With a couple of inches of rain, you're going to start testing the railroad substructure," Murray said. "I don't know what the results will be."
The results of the testing will determine when regular passenger service resumes between Portland and Boston. The track renewal program cost Amtrak, the state of Maine and the U.S. government $52 million. Guilford transportation, which owns the track, performed the work under contract with NNEPRA.
The 79 mph speed could increase the 114-mile Boston-to-Portland line's prospects of success, officials said. According to Amtrak, the train will take about 2 _ hours from Sewell Street, with three stops in Maine, three in New Hampshire, and two in Massachusetts, the last being at Boston's North Station.
The specific start date remains elusive. Educated guesses range from November to Thanksgiving to January. No one yet knows, for sure.
TTC engineers measured how much the track flexed while traveling at 10 mph, Murray said. If there are problems areas, then there will be additional stationary tests using the same equipment. The tests will take three days to complete, then the results will be analyzed in Colorado.
All indications are that the rail line should do well. It successfully completed an Amtrak test with the passenger railroad's track geometry car some weeks ago.
The Surface Transportation board ordered the testing to be done. In its order, it stated, "During the two days of dynamic testing, the TLV would be part of a three-car consist made up of a Guilford locomotive, the TLV, an AAR-100 test car that is permanently joined to the TLV, and an empty tank car."
The specific technical detail added, "As the consist moves over the line, test data would be generated by comparing rail head vertical position under the near-zero load provided by the empty tank car with that under the 33,000-pound wheel load of the TLV. As the in-motion track deflection measurements are not taken from a fixed-point reference, they would not measure 'absolute' deflection. However, the in-motion deflection is used to determine whether potential track support problems might exist and where a follow-up measurement of track modulus should be performed."
The federal agency cited "relevant AREMA maximum deflection criterion of 0.25 inches would be used as the limiting value beyond which a follow-up track modulus measurement would be performed. At points where the moving TLV detects deflection greater than this amount, it would place a paint mark. Then, follow-up, stationary track modulus measurements at the painted points would be taken by applying TLV wheel loads of zero, 10,000, and 33,000 pounds. The deflection difference between the 10,000 and 33,000-pound loads would be used to calculate the track modulus. At any locations where the modulus is found to fall below the value of 2,750 lb/in2, an inspection would be performed to determine the cause and potential solutions."
The line is expected to be maintained to FRA Class 4 standards, that it would be subject to routine FRA-mandated track safety inspections, and that it would be periodically inspected by Amtrak's track geometry car.
Wayne Davis of TrainRiders/Northeast, a rail advocacy group, said he's confident the trains could travel even faster than 79 mph.
"It's been our thinking all along that they've built a heck of a railroad and that it would pass the test with flying colors," Davis said.
Meanwhile, station construction has begun on Sewall Street in Portland, where two terminals are being built for Amtrak and part of the Concord-Trailways bus station.
The existing 3,200-square-foot bus station will be doubled in size, and a platform will be added.
Construction already has begun on a second facility, a layover terminal, also on Sewall Street, where Amtrak trains will be maintained and cleaned when they are not in service.
"Everybody's going through their final checklist," said John Melrose, state transportation commissioner. "Within a week or two, we'll know when the start-up will be."
Train service between Boston and Portland, originally scheduled to start in 1993, is the longest-delayed passenger rail project in Amtrak's history. But work on the tracks is nearly complete, just as interest in train travel has risen sharply in the wake of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
"This isn't the way anyone wanted to increase ridership," William Epstein, an Amtrak spokesman, said last week, "but, certainly, the events of the last few weeks won't do anything but increase ridership."
Officials had estimated that 320,000 riders a year would use the Portland-to-Boston service, but that was in 1994. Unease about flying after the terrorist attack, combined with population increases in southern New Hampshire and Maine, could increase that number significantly, many believe.
"Now that you have to be at the airport two hours before departure, many people will prefer to be on the train sleeping, or reading or looking out the window mindlessly," said Davis.
Meanwhile, Amtrak sustained its first motor vehicle incident at a grade crossing, in Dover, N. H. on September 22. A woman and her son escaped injury after their car smashed through the Central Avenue railroad crossing gate as an Amtrak train slowly approached it.
Amtrak officials said one of two trains consisting of a cabbage car leading, a cafÈ car in the middle and a P-40 4,000 horsepower locomotive in the rear, were traveling the Boston-to-Portland route.
Vic Salemme, Amtrak's Maine Service general manager, said Amtrak engineers and conductors are making practice runs on the route to become more familiar with it. (See D:F for November 24).
Two test trains travel up to 40 mph between Plaistow, N. H. to Portland, but slow down to 5 mph when they cross Central Avenue, according to Salemme.
The first of the two trains, scheduled to return to Dover from Portland just after 1:30 p.m., displayed American flags on either side of the front power unit as it neared the crossing.
The railroad crossing gate, red signal lights and warning bells all worked properly, at least 30 seconds before the train was set to cross the busy downtown street.
The Dover woman and her son said they were talking in her Dodge Aries as they turned from Broadway Street onto Central Avenue and headed north. Before they realized the gate had already been lowered, the son said they drove right through it, smashing the car's windshield.
Dover police would not release the names of the mother and son.
As police and firefighters rushed to the scene, Amtrak engineers and conductors directed traffic and tried to secure the damaged gate.
"This is the first time I have ever seen that happen," said Arthur Timpson, the train's conductor. He said the crew was able to stop the train immediately after seeing the woman crash the gate because the train had slowed down so much before the accident.
Timpson acknowledged that railroad crossings pose the most safety concern for railroad officials.
"That's primarily how a lot of them get killed," Timpson said. "They all try to beat the gate because they think they can cross the tracks in time."
A Guilford Transportation Industries repair crew repaired the crossing gate over the weekend.
Dover Fire Capt. Ken Brennan said firefighters secured the damaged gate so it would no longer be a safety hazard for motorists.
In the meantime, a bulletin was issued to other freight trains that frequently pass through Dover that they would have to come to a full stop before they reach the crossing and manually halt traffic so they can safely pass.
Sources included Mainetoday.com, Foster's Sunday Citizen and The Associated Press.
Midwest sees large passenger gains
Amtrak continues to see its ticket sales up 10 percent nationwide two weeks after terrorist attacks rocked the country and the airline industry, but, reports Crain's Chicago Business for September 25, Chicago-based corporations and the travel agents that serve them suggest they are not booking many business travelers on the passenger rail company's trains.
Most give the same reason for not opting for Amtrak: it takes too long to get to a destination, and there are not enough trains from Chicago to nearby cities, such as Detroit, Milwaukee and St. Louis.
"We certainly have not seen an increase in selling tickets," said Kelly Kuhn, regional president for Navigant International Inc. in Chicago, which does corporate travel for the likes of Diamond Cluster International Inc., Walgreen Co. and William Blair & Co. LLC. "(Amtrak) is not really a viable option. It's not like European trains like from London to Paris that take approximately 3-_ hours."
Amtrak last week asked the federal government for about $3 billion in emergency funds for the next 18 months to improve tracks, buy more passenger cars and improve security measures. Much of that money, if appropriated, would be targeted at improving Amtrak's service in the Northeast Corridor, which stretches from Boston to Washington D.C.
Funds for infrastructure are crucial to better Amtrak's service, an executive there said.
"There needs to be parity between rail and highway and air, so that we can be a significant player," said Don Saunders, acting president for Amtrak Intercity, which oversees service in 41 states.
More funds for high-speed rail initiatives would improve service, advocates suggest. There is a $4.1 billion proposal to connect 200 Midwest cities in nine states by high-speed rail.
"(The terrorist attacks) kind of made it clear that we need something in addition to airports and highways," said Rick Harnish, executive director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Coalition. "You need to have a backup."
Amtrak runs about 50 trains daily in and out of Chicago's Union Station. The company said ticket sales rose 40 percent nationwide in the days immediately following the attacks. Amtrak trains typically might handle 60,000 U.S. passengers on a normal day this time of year.
Capacity on most long-distance trains out of Chicago also jumped one-fourth by adding more coaches, essentially adding the equivalent of about 15 passenger jets or 2,000 extra seats per day.
Still, Kevin Mahoney, the owner of Lake Shore Travel in Chicago, said he booked only a few Amtrak tickets during the days U.S. airlines were grounded. When the airlines are operating normally, Amtrak is not competitive for the business traveler, he said. A trip to Minneapolis is eight hours on the train and it is about an hour on a plane.
"Most of the corporate people have to be some where by a certain time," said Pat Black, a travel consultant at Burnham Park Travel in Chicago. "Their business depends on it."
Janice Lewis' story is an example of the patience needed to do a long-distance trip on Amtrak. The retired teacher from Santa Marie, Calif., on Friday sat in Chicago Union Station waiting for a train to take her closer to home.
It was about 9:45 a.m. and she had recently finished the 17-_-hour first leg of her trip from Philadelphia to San Luis Obispo, Calif. Her daughters asked her to take the train, in the wake of the terrorists' attacks. She said she was enjoying her journey, which started at 3 p.m. Thursday, but she was not expected to make it home until Monday at 5:30 p.m.
Sitting not far away was Peter Rogowski, who used to travel Amtrak to Milwaukee for work. For 18 months, he took the approximately 90-minute train ride to Milwaukee and found it relaxing and generally convenient. But scheduling could be difficult, he said. There was a train at approximately 8:30 a.m. to Milwaukee, but if he missed it, the next one was not until approximately 10:30 a.m.
"They really need to look at commuter runs," said Mr. Rogowski, a self-employed consultant.
Amtrak's recent track record for on-time arrivals for its intercity service also is mixed.
"It's bad and getting worse," said James Coston, a Chicago attorney and a member of the Amtrak Reform Council.
In August, Intercity trains, those running in states outside of the Northeast, California and a few Pacific states, were on time 52.3 percent of the time. During the same time, service from Chicago to St. Louis ran on time 43.1 percent of the time, while the train from Chicago to Detroit was on schedule 38.7 percent of the time. An Amtrak spokeswoman said trackwork intended to improve service in the future may have caused at lease some of the delays on lines, such as Chicago to St. Louis.
"Lackluster would be accurate for the Amtrak experience in the Midwest," said Coston.
'The Mind' Ventura says he'll push
for improved transportation in 2002
Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura said September 20 that he will place a "high priority" on transportation in his 2002 legislative proposals, which he hinted could include an initiative for a high-speed rail link to Chicago.
Establishing 200-mile-per-hour train service from the Twin Cities could reduce Minnesotans' dependence on airplanes and automobiles, he said, and it could even help combat terrorism, reported the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
You can hijack a train, but the only place you can drive it is on the track," he said, "and the only thing you can crash it into is what's at the end of the track."
With airport delays expected to lengthen as security tightens, he added, trains might provide faster and more convenient travel to Chicago than airplanes in the long run.
Ventura's comments came in response to an audience question after his address to a Duluth Rotary luncheon. The retired pro wrestler said his first priority for 2002 would be to "lead Minnesota through the difficult times ahead," a reference to the U.S. war on terrorism. The only other issue he mentioned was transportation, which he said is vital to a healthy state economy. He wrestled under the name "Jesse 'The Body' Ventura," but when he entered the Minnesota gubernatorial race two years ago, his moniker became "The Mind."
Minnesota Democrats in Congress have introduced bills this year to promote high-speed rail, but the estimated costs are high: $12 billion for a national system, $4.1 billion for the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, a nine-state network that would include a Twin Cities-Chicago line.
The Minnesota Legislature rejected a comprehensive transportation funding package Ventura offered in 2000, he recalled Thursday. But he said that next year might be the time to propose something similar, with an emphasis on what he called "multimodal" transport.
He said lobbying from the oil, rubber and auto industries helped push the Twin Cities to dismantle its trolley system in the 1950s, but some of those trolley cars are still in use in New Jersey.
Ventura later brushed off reporters' questions for specifics on his transportation plan, saying it hasn't been developed yet.
|NTSB faults Amtrak, UP, others in derailment|
There's plenty of blame to go around is a major conclusion of the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, after investigating a 1998 Amtrak derailment on the Union Pacific in Arlington, Tex.
Amtrak's train No. 21, the Texas Eagle, traveling over UP rails on December 20, went on the ground at about 7:00 p.m. (CST) within Arlington city limits. The train was en route from Chicago to San Antonio.
The NTSB reported it was "was traveling westbound at a reduced speed of about 36 mph due to reports of rough track near milepost 231. Three locomotives and six cars derailed in a curve at milepost 230.62.
Of the 198 passengers and 18 employees on the train, "12 passengers and 10 employees were injured. No fatalities resulted from the accident. Damages were estimated at about $1.4 million," the NTSB stated.
The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the derailment included "Track conditions that were inadequate for the speed of the train," the dispatcher's decision "to delay notifying track department personnel that a train crew had reported encountering rough track," and the "inadequate effort on the part of the [Amtrak] engineer... to contact the dispatcher to report the observed track defect and its location."
The investigators also cited "the failure of the tamper operator to adequately resurface the track four days before the accident," UP for "inadequate oversight of track maintenance work on this section of track," as well as "inadequate UP requirements for restricting train speed over track with reported rough conditions until track department personnel can assess track condition."
Some safety issues the board found included "the adequacy of the UP's procedures for responding to train crews' reports of track problems; the adequacy of the UP's oversight of track maintenance; and the adequacy of the UP's procedures for communicating changes in track classifications."
The board made several recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration, the Association of American Railroads, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association and Union Pacific.
|Trinity's 'FW' debut is rained out|
The scheduled first run of the Trinity Railway Express into Fort Worth, scheduled for Oct. 29, has been rained out, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram .
"Enormous weather and construction complications" have delayed completion of the line, which will connect Fort Worth to Dallas via Northeast Tarrant County and Irving, until December 3, according to a news release from the Fort Worth Transportation Authority. Heavy rain slowed construction on the final two stops in Fort Worth, the Intermodal Transportation Center at Ninth and Jones streets and the Texas & Pacific Station at Lancaster Avenue. The Alarm Supply Building tunnel also needs more work, officials said.
Some 32 inches of rain has been recorded at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, almost 7 inches more than average, a meteorologist said.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram in online at http://web.star-telegram.com.
STB looks for small shippers' ideas
The Surface Transportation Board has begun a proceeding that, among other things, seeks public comment to help the agency to develop a public record that would assist Congress in considering whether binding arbitration should be legislatively prescribed for small shippers' railroad rate cases and, if so, how such a requirement would best work.
Chairman Linda J. Morgan said, "The board favors private-sector dispute resolution, but the availability of binding arbitration is limited under the statute the board administers."
She added, "The proceeding addresses the situation of railroad customers who do not ship a substantial amount of traffic by rail and believe that the STB's formal rate complaint procedures are impractical for the limited amounts of traffic that they ship."
The STB is looking for comments on how best to identify such shippers, suggesting that they would be those lacking effective transportation alternatives for their shipments and who do not originate or receive more than a certain number of rail cars (for example, 200 or 500 cars) annually.
The STB also wants comments on the appropriate form of arbitration (such as baseball-style "final offer" arbitration that would limit an arbitrator to selecting either the rate charged by a railroad or the rate proposed by a shipper) and other relevant issues, such as arbitral criteria and appeal rights.
Comments are due on November 23, with replies due 30 days later, on Christmas Eve, December 24.
In a New England railroad decision, the STB has given its approval for the New Hampshire Central Railroad, Inc., a Class III rail carrier, to operate 36.1 miles of rail lines owned by the State of New Hampshire by and through the New Hampshire DOT.
The lines include routes in Grafton and Coos Counties, N.H., which includes parts of the Berlin Branch and Groveton Branch.
The carrier will operate from milepost 113.0 in Littleton to MP 125.0 in Whitefield, and from MP 125.0 in to MP 130.9 in Jefferson (Waumbec Junction), all in New Hampshire; and from milepost 130.9 (Waumbec Jct.) to "a point in Groveton (Northumberland) at the whistle post located south of the West Street crossing, that point being the point of intersection with tracks of the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad Co."
The transaction was completed on August 31.
NHCR replaced the New Hampshire and Vermont Railroad, which had operated under an agreement with New Hampshire DOT that was terminated effective December 31, 2000.
The Surface Transportation Board is online at http://www.stb.dot.gov.
BNSF, CSX join intermodal forces;
CPR, NS join their 'seamless' rails
The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Co. and CSX Intermodal began offering "seamless intermodal service" between Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston to Cleveland and Columbus. The carriers stated in a press release 'This new service cuts rail transit times in half, from about seven days to three days" between the Texas cities and the Ohio Valley; and to four days between Houston and the Ohio Valley.
"Historically, railroads have focused on providing service to the interchange point," says Steve Branscum, group vice president, Consumer Products Business Unit.
"Over the past year, through these types of partnerships, we are reaching beyond our core network to design seamless service offerings that directly compete with over-the-road transportation- giving shippers more value for their transportation dollar."
CSX Intermodal President Clarence Gooden added, "Our goal is to provide shippers the precision of truck and the value of rail, with three-day service between Texas and Ohio, we are doing that."
Not to be left in the dust, Canadian Pacific and Norfolk Southern are joining rails to launch joint intermodal services between the Port of New York and New Jersey and Eastern Canada that slices one-third off the standard rail transit time. The service begins Oct. 1.
"For the first time, import-export shippers will have an expedited rail service option that is competitive with truck transit times between the U.S. port and Montreal and Toronto," said Lawre Allen, Vice-President of Intermodal and Automotive, CPR. "Our new service will provide shippers with consistent second-morning destination arrival."
Norfolk Southern's vice president for intermodal marketing, Mike McClellan, said, "Shippers have been demanding better service between the U.S port and Canada. This service provides an improved link between three of the largest markets in North America."
Rail transit time between the Port of New York and New Jersey to Eastern Canada is typically three days. But the new CPR-NS package uses the Port Authority's fast-throughput on-dock "ExpressRail" intermodal terminal with priority passage through rail terminals along the route.
"This service blurs the line between train and truck," Allen said.
"In fact, truckers have already been asking to use it. With second-morning arrival, they're interested in putting their container loads on our trains, saving the cost of fuel and drivers, and avoiding the risk of highway congestion and border delays that can delay deliveries and drive up their costs."
Initially, it will operate three days a week in each direction with departures on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. CPR also will provide a connecting service at Montreal for import-export container shipments between the Port of New York/New Jersey and Western Canada.
Launch of the service by CPR and NS coincides with a period of major redevelopment of the Port of New York and New Jersey, which serves as the gateway to the largest, most affluent consumer market on the continent. The Port Authority has a capital program to increase rail freight capacity, expand intermodal terminals including ExpressRail, and deepen shipping channels.
Container traffic through the port, measured in 20-foot equivalent units, climbed more than 8 per cent during the first half of 2001, compared to the same period of 2000.
Elsewhere, in Canada, Canadian Pacific Ltd. shareholders are set to meet in Calgary Wednesday to vote on a restructuring plan, a vote that could be the beginning of the end of one of North America's most storied conglomerates.
If the plan is approved, as expected, the company that built the first railroad across Canada and subsequently became one of that country's most powerful concerns, will be divided into five separate companies.
Under the plan, Canadian Pacific investors would exchange their stock for shares in what are now the company's five main businesses: oil and gas, shipping, coal mining, and hotels, as well as the original railroad business, which now involves only freight and one luxury car service.
Canadian Pacific Railway and some other units will operate independently and will trade on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges.
Canadian Pacific became a conglomerate in 1885 when, in an epochal moment in Canadian history, the last spike was driven into the transcontinental railroad, which provided a springboard for a chain of Canadian Pacific hotels.
Sources included the Toronto Globe & Mail.
NS gets STB okay to close fabled car shops
The Surface Transportation Board last week made an about-face decision over a lingering issue: Norfolk Southern can close its Hollidaysburg Car Shops.
Morgan said the board agreed that, while not requiring NS to keep open the Hollidaysburg Car Shops in Hollidaysburg, Pa., near Altoona, beyond October 1, 2001, it does provide, among other things, that "closure would be subject to enhanced labor protection for the shops' employees."
In approving the 1998 joint acquisition of Conrail, giving control to NS and CSX (and the subsequent assets division), the board required both carriers to adhere to all of the representations they made during the course of the Conrail merger proceeding, which included keeping the shops open. That has all changed.
The STB determined last week, "After considering the responses it received from NS and others, during the course of the Conrail merger proceeding, NS had made a general commitment to the future economic well-being of the Altoona-Hollidaysburg area and to the well-being of the employees of the Car Shops and the nearby Juniata Locomotive Shop that NS would make these shops an important part of its post-merger operations."
The Board found that, for more than two years following the division of Conrail's assets, NS operated the car shops and Juniata, continued to devote resources to Juniata and made the shops "an integral part of NS' operations." The three-member panel agreed NS continued to work with the Altoona-Hollidaysburg community, "in light of its planned shutdown of the car shops, on economic development."
NS' economic circumstances worsened as part of the declining national economy, forcing the railroad to make numerous operational and financial adjustments, the board members stated.
"Accordingly, the board ruled that it would not require NS to invest previously promised funds in the car shops or keep them open after October 1, 2001."
The board members explained that there appears little basis to expect that there will be sufficient work ‚ whether NS-generated or "insourced" for the shops to operate at the capacity levels needed to make them viable.
The board members also noted that, "particularly in view of current economic conditions, protecting the car shops and their employees by requiring NS to continue operations there for some time could adversely affect other NS shops and other NS employees, causing the idling or shutdown of those shops instead."
The board members said they were concerned, that "in view of the unique circumstances presented by this matter - including the generally perceived commitment made by NS to the Altoona-Hollidaysburg area and to the car shops employees made largely to gain important local and statewide support for the Conrail merger from business, labor, and political interests in Pennsylvania, Conrail's home state, "a commitment upon which those interests reasonably relied, the normal procedures of the New York Dock labor protective conditions imposed by the board in its approval of the Conrail merger might not adequately protect the car shops' employees.
The Board supplemented those original conditions by requiring NS, should it proceed to close the car shops, to extend to all shop employees transferred to other NS facilities the "automatic certification" for New York Dock benefits that NS had previously negotiated with certain car shops employees, with remaining details to be worked out through negotiation between NS and the involved unions.
The Board also stated that it expects NS to honor its promise that every car shops' employee will have the opportunity for continued NS employment.
"But, to assure the equitable treatment of those employees not afforded the opportunity to transfer to new NS employment elsewhere (or of those unable to exercise their seniority to obtain such a position), the board further supplemented its previous conditions by deeming such employees to be eligible, upon their dismissal, for dismissal allowances pursuant to the New York Dock conditions.
Finally, the Board required NS to report, on a quarterly basis beginning on January 2, 2002, on its efforts to keep open the nearby Juniata engine shop, and on its efforts to work with the Altoona-Hollidaysburg area on alternative economic development projects.
|Rough ride for BLE, UTU|
The proposed merger between Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and United Transportation Union is beginning to unravel based on recent barbs each union lobbed at the other.
After a U.S. District Judge's decision Sept. 17 to grant three BLE members a preliminary injunction, and thus halting a merger vote count, UTU the next day asked the National Mediation Board to order a representation election on Kansas City Southern Ry., enabling KCS train and engine service employees to decided whether to be represented by UTU or BLE.
"At the very time that the memberships of UTU and BLE should be coming together through merger, our diligent efforts have been thwarted once again," said UTU International President Byron Boyd Jr. in a prepared statement.
He said, "The merger vote was agreed to by the elected leaderships of both unions... [and] UTU met every demand of the BLE for a merger vote. UTU has no real choice other than to pursue a parallel action at the mediation board to ensure that the nation's operating employees on the railroads have the opportunity to choose unified representation."
UTU plans to follow the KCS election with requested winner-take-all representation elections on all the other Class Is.
After a UTU-BLE merger attempt broke down in 1999, UTU won similar elections on The Texas Mexican Ry., Manufacturers Ry., Paducah & Louisville Ry., and Terminal Railroad Assn. of St. Louis.
SNCF orders 300 electric freight locomotives
French National Railways (SNCF) has ordered 300 electric freight locomotives, plus 80 more on option, from Alstom. The railway's board placed the order on September 27.
The order follows an earlier order for 180 locomotives, and confirms an option from an earlier order for 120 units, which are currently being built.
The total value of this order is 737 million euros.
Alstom's "Primatm" locomotives will be assembled in its eastern French facility at Belfort. Delivery of the first 180 units will begin in late 2002. The other 120 locomotives will be delivered between 2005 and 2007.
With the completion of this order, the SNCF will operate a total of 500 Primatms.
New Jersey Transit Corp recently awarded Alstom an order for 33 Primatms plus an option for five more.
In a press release, Alstom stated the order represents a further growth on the line. Its engines are in service in Israel, Sri Lanka, Syria and France, and in production for customers in Iran and Spain.
The American Shortline and Regional Railroad Association reports it has cancelled its annual meeting and show planned for September 28 thru October 2, as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Participants may donate their registration fees ($325 and up) to the American Red Cross relief effort. The association is online at http://www.aslrra.org
October 14, 15
Southwest Assn. Of Rail Shippers semi-annual meeting
October 16, 17
Passenger trains on freight railroads
Railway Age conference
Guest speakers to include White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card (and former USDOT secretary). Claytor award for distinguished service to HEW Secretary Tommy Thompson, former Amtrak board chairman. Register at http://www.railwayage.com or call Jane Potereala at (212)-620-7209.
October 17, 18
FRA Technical Symposium -
Nation Center for Atmospheric Research
RPI annual meeting, banquet
Washington Hilton and Towers
Regarding last week's "Attleboro remembered" (The way we were) - How quickly we forget. The gray levers were "dead" levers, in other words, no longer in use. The locks were blue levers. Otherwise a great job on the news and the Downeaster article.
Mr. Perry is a retired Amtrak dispatcher - Ed.
Amtrak Train No. 473, from Springfield, Mass., leaves track 1 on the Inland Route and enters the Shore Line's track 1 for the remaining two-mile journey to New Haven, Conn., and transits newly redesigned and rebuilt Mill River Junction Interlocking.
The date is October 2, 1996.
The six-week old signal bridge, No. 735, is loaded with automatic signals for westward trains at MP 73.3, east of New Haven Station. They rise some 23 feet above the tracks. The eastward and northward home boards are directly behind the camera. One-half mile to the east are the home boards for westward and southward trains.
Shore Line dispatcher Can Perry is sending the trains to and fro this day.
In the distance, both tracks to the left become northbound iron to Hartford, Conn. and Springfield, Mass., while the middle track becomes the "Air Line Lead" to Cedar Hill Yard. Two tracks diverge to the right as the beginning of the Shore Line and continue the route to Boston.
The track at the far right is the Providence & Worcester's lead to Belle Dock. The rusty iron in the foreground is track 4 from New Haven station, and was temporarily out of service until the track department could install a new switch, and surfacing gangs could finish their work.
Amtrak forces designed and built the Mill River Junction interlocking machine, located in a nearby bungalow, and those people did the entire plant redesign and construction.
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