Vol. 7 No. 45
Copyright © 2006
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Political leaders at all levels of government
In this edition...
Amtrak offers low fares from Northeast Cities
WASHINGTON, OCT 18 This fall, Amtrak is offering low fares to select destinations and double points for Amtrak Guest Rewards members. Low fares and convenient schedules from northeast cities--Washington, DC, New York and Philadelphia and more are being featured in advertising along with the double points offer that is good for travel between now and December 16.
Whether it is a trip to view fall foliage or visit family and friends, Amtrak is doubling the benefits of traveling by train this fall, said Barbara Richardson, vice president of Marketing & Sales.
Amtrak Guest Rewards (AGR) members will earn double points on all trips, between all city pairs for travel taken between now and December 16 (excluding blackout periods). In addition to free Amtrak travel, AGR points may be redeemed for hotel and car rental awards, airline miles and retail certificates from a wide variety of participating companies. Points for unreserved Amtrak travel, certificates and partner rewards are redeemable online at www.amtrakguestrewards.com, or by calling 800-307-5000.
Examples of available low fares are: Washington, DC to Chicago for as low as $73; or to Orlando for as little as $86 one-way. Low fares are also available from New York to cities such as Montreal and Pittsburgh, and from Philadelphia to Miami, New Orleans and many more. To take advantage of these everyday low fares, call 1-800-USA-RAIL or visit www.amtrak.com to make a reservation.
To take advantage of these everyday low fares, call 1-800-USA-RAIL or visit www.amtrak.com to make a reservation.
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OAKLAND This fall, Amtrak is offering low fares to select destinations and double points for Amtrak Guest Rewards members. Low fares and convenient schedules from west coast cities Los Angeles, Emeryville, Portland, Seattle and more are being featured in advertising along with the double points offer that is good for travel between now and December 16.
To take advantage of these everyday low fares, call 1-800-USA-RAIL or visit www.amtrak.com to make a reservation.
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WASHINGTON, OCTOBER 20 Beginning today, businesses can earn free rail travel through a frequent traveler program designed just for them -- Amtrak Guest Rewards for Business. Targeted specifically to small and mid-sized businesses, the new program allows companies to earn points toward free travel every time one of their employees travels on Amtraks Northeast Corridor service.
Businesses with five or more travelers who spend a minimum of $5,000 annually on Amtrak along the Northeast Corridor are eligible to participate. Points are earned for travel on Acela Express, Regional, Keystone, and Empire services as well as the Downeaster. All travel must be booked online at Amtrak.com or using a Quik-TrakSM self-ticketing machine.
Many small and mid-sized businesses already rely on Amtrak for convenience and to stretch their travel budgets. This program was designed to give them more reason for choosing the train by rewarding the business and its individual employees through Amtrak Guest Rewards for Business, said Barbara J. Richardson, Amtraks vice president of marketing and sales.
Amtrak Guest Rewards for Business members earn matching points on a sliding scale beginning at 25 percent and increasing up to 40 percent based upon the amount of qualifying travel completed by their employees, who must be Amtrak Guest Rewards members. Individual employees continue to earn credit on their personal Amtrak Guest Rewards accounts at the same time that their employer earns credit for the employee travel. The employees do not forfeit any of their points earned when linked to the companys Amtrak Guest Rewards for Business account.
Amtrak Guest Rewards for Business accounts are managed solely online. Enrolling is as simple as logging onto www.Amtrakguestrewards.com/forBusiness.
Once enrolled in the program, each participating business receives a virtual Welcome Kit that outlines the details of the program and provides information on earning and redeeming points.
Managing the account is easy. Using the program website, traveling employees are linked to the companys account by the business program administrator. Their travel activity is automatically posted to the business account and match points are applied. Periodic activity statements and program updates are sent to the business program administrator and point activity may be accessed online. When making a reservation, employees must include their individual Amtrak Guest Rewards membership number in order for their company to receive points for their travel. Amtrak Guest Rewards for Business points may be redeemed for Amtrak rewards including free travel, service upgrades, and Club Acela passes. Redemption levels for the program are the same as those for the Amtrak Guest Rewards individual program.
Amtrak provides intercity passenger rail service to more than 500 destinations in 46 states on a 22,000-mile route system. For schedules, fares and information, passengers may call 800-USA-RAIL or visit www.Amtrak.com. Since its introduction in 2000, more than 10 million passengers from Boston-Washington have chosen the comfort and enjoyment of travel aboard Acela Express.
MATTOON, ILLINOIS, OCT. 17 --New train service triggered a festive spirit in Illinois towns last week as officials celebrated the start of eight new train runs on the Amtrak schedule across Illinois, reported the Journal Gazette in a story by staff writer Herb Meeker.
Kevin Kilhoffer (JG/T-C)A woman watches from a bridge as the new Saluki train leaves the depot at at Mattoon, Illinois.
In Mattoon, the Middle School Jazz Ensemble put a performance together in just a few days to celebrate the arrival of the Saluki train as it rolled into the historic depot on its ceremonial run from Carbondale to Chicago. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was not on it but there were plenty of other state, local and railroad dignitaries along for the ride.
Were excited about being here, said Amtrak President Alexander Kummant after stepping off the Beech Grove special train with red, white and blue bunting making it look like a political whistle-stop trip. It really is great how the state is working with railroad communities.
About 100 people gathered in the depot for music, coffee and baked goods from Common Grounds. The VIP train was late by about 40 minutes after being forced to wait for a freight train, but that did not dampen the enthusiasm.
Mattoon City Administrator Alan Gilmore said he was proud of the turnout. He rode the train from Carbondale in a special Amtrak car. He noted Carbondale christened the new Saluki train with a special vintage from a Southern Illinois winery.
They had a bottle of Weiner Dog White to christen the train. Part of the Southern Illinois University band was there to see the train off, too, plus the university mascot. Along the way up here, we had a lot of networking with everybody. And we had some fun, too, Gilmore said.
Prior to the trains arrival, many people involved in the railroad depot renovation project talked of the importance of adding Amtrak passenger trains to the schedule at Mattoon. They spoke of how it will help revitalize the community and provide an important link to the past and the future. Some remembered when the Mattoon depot was a hub of activity, crowded with people waiting to take trains many times a day.
There was one time when this place could be this crowded on any given day with people waiting to catch trains, said Mattoon resident Bill Grimes, who once worked for Illinois Central Railroad, which built the depot during the World War I era.
People want more public transportation if they can get it, said Jackie Record, who has helped coordinate many depot project efforts over the past few years. This depot brings the chance for a rejuvenation of the community. And there is a sentimental journey involved, too. I see a lot of retired railroaders here and their families.
Sometimes, crowds of Eastern Illinois University students are waiting in the passenger lobby to catch a train to Chicago during weekends or holiday breaks. City leaders hope to enhance student use of the depot by working with university officials to add shuttle buses between Charleston and Mattoon.
Mattoon Tourism Coordinator Angelia Burgett spoke of the importance of the depot as a selling point for Mattoon. We have as many as 1,600 people using this facility, she said.
Special cars with lounge and kitchen had been added for the VIP riders. When the train arrived, a toddler waiting with her grandparents got a chance to see the interior of those cars, exclaiming, Theres food in there!
OCT 18 -- Train tracks are lying on the ground in Illinois, widely under utilized. Last Tuesday Amtrak put more trains on those tracks for the first time in two decades.
A town not yet served by the additional Amtrak trains is being studied to see if bringing trains to Rockford, which at present has no service, is a good idea. Results should be released in late December or January.
Being the third largest city in Illinois and located within commuting distance of Chicago, Rockford is a likely candidate for passenger rail service. In 2006 governmental leaders proposed extending Metra train service from the western Chicago suburbs to Rockford. Additional passenger service is being considered via Amtrak through the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative. While service (via Amtraks Black Hawk) was cut in 1981, trains could begin carrying passengers in and out of Rockford as soon as 2010.
Illinois has already agreed to double its funding for Amtrak next year to partially pay for the current expansion.
Mayor Lawrence Morrissey says all levels of government need to keep this ball rolling because the time to act is well overdue.
Excursions signal high hopes for revitalizing long lost train service in Maine and Connecticut
BRUNSWICK, MAINE, OCT 18 -- Eighty-five people gathered at the Cedar Street train yard for an excursion along the Lower Road, an old rail line that goes from Brunswick to Gardiner, with views of the Kennebec River along the way. The purpose was not just for nostalgia but rather to get people talking, said Gordon Page Sr., director of passenger operations for Maine Eastern Railroad.
And talk they did. Gerri Skinner remembers when her mother would put her on the train in Gardiner to go visit her aunt in Brunswick. It was back in the 1930s and Gerri was only 8 years old.
It was a thrill, she recalled. To be a little girl alone on a train. In those days it was safe enough a mother would put her daughter on a train and be assured shed be taken care of.
We used to take trains all the time to come down here to Brunswick or Bath, she said. During the war (World War II) I lived down here and stayed with my aunt while I worked at Bath Iron Works. I met my husband there and for our honeymoon we took the train to Iowa to meet his family, took the train back to Maine.
Two coach cars and a restored Pullman car that contained four bedrooms not used on this trip and a lounge with a real piano, conveyed the riders smoothly and quickly through the autumn foliage of Topsham, Bowdoinham, Richmond and Gardiner.
The travelers made a brief stop in Gardiner, at the unused but nostalgic train station a stones throw from downtown, then it was a box lunch and the return trip.
Page said the summer and fall excursions to Rockland are doing very well.
We would like to see an Augusta-to-Boston link, Page said, as the train slowed through Richmond.
We have the basis for such service, the Downeaster between Portland and Boston, Page said. The gap is the Brunswick-to-Portland run. But I think what a trip like this shows is that its entirely feasible to have passenger service on these lines.
Maine Transportation Commissioner David Cole, who was also a passenger on the excursion, spoke of the importance of preserving the rail corridors, so eventually you could get on a train in Augusta or Auburn or Rockland and end up in Portland or Boston.
In Eastern Connecticut, the town of Putnam, a renowned antique dealers destination, has renovated the area around their former train station to welcome future train passengers, a service that the town fathers and their state senator Don Williams urgently wish to see restored. In the 90s, Senator Williams, who is now Connecticut State Senate President, joined with advocates in Southeastern Connecticut to organize a series of rail tours along the rivers from Norwich to Putnam on the Providence and Worcester line. The first such excursion sold out all 500 seats in five days. So many locals, who remembered passenger service in days gone by, spoke of the need for it to be revived. All the small towns on the rail line requested a stop in their town center, although for some the station was no longer there. One had been converted to a bike shop, but it still had the look of a little train depot. Between the stops, farms and woodlands dominated the landscape, reinforcing the fact that transportation by rail helps preserve town and countryside.
During this period, Senator Williams successfully steered a bill through the legislature calling for the state to study the revitalization of passenger rail in Eastern Connecticut from New London to Worcester, MA. The CT Dept of Transportation stopped the study at the Connecticut border, omitting the potential ridership of the City of Worcester.
Today, thanks to Don Williams, that study is being rectified, and a 2006 state funding bill for transportation projects includes a required implementation plan for restoration of New London/Worcester passenger rail.
As for Maine, the governor has formed a committee that will issue a report in December about starting to work on the corridor that would link Augusta, Auburn and Rockland to Portland and Boston; that would include the missing link between Brunswick and Portland.
Such linkage is one of the goals of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which oversees the Amtrak Downeaster service between Portland and Boston. Patricia Quinn Douglas, the authoritys executive director, said the state is making progress in closing the gap between Portland and Brunswick. And the Downeaster service, which faces the end of federal money in 2009, has proved itself.
Ridership is up, theyve increased speeds and added another trip, up to five a day. So were hopeful, said Douglas.
So is Gerri Skinner, who can see her house from the train as it passes through Richmond on its way back to Brunswick.
Its a wonderful way to go, she said.
Train project to roll through Ironton
IRONTON, OHIO, a small city that calls itself the Gateway to Southern Ohio, is one of four towns where Norfolk Southern Railway wants to have double-stacked container trains rolling through by the end of the decade. But the infrastructure in Ironton, Ashville, Lunbeck and Glen Jean prevents this. It will require major engineering work to cut and re-lay tracks so double stacks can fit through.
In the bigger picture, Norfolk Southern Railway Co. is building a more direct route from Columbus to the Atlantic Ocean port with a $150 million project called the Heartland Corridor.
Part of the project involves trains carrying double-stacked containers to cut down on expenses.
To put it mildly, this is a major engineering and reconstruction project, the likes of which we havent seen in this area for a long time, said Stu Nicholson, the public information officer for the Ohio Railroad Development Commission. But the benefits are going to be tremendous.
Although the total project cost is $150 million, the railroad company estimates the new and expanded double-stack service in the Chicago to Norfolk, and Columbus to Norfolk, Va. corridors will generate a present value of over $200 million in benefits to the users of the service and to NS, according to a state briefing.
Many of the engineering details of how they will lower tracks in the four towns are not yet known. Rudy Husband, director of public relations for Norfolk Southern, said there are two methods to remove some of the ground under the track.
We have something called an unde-cutter, and that literally slices a layer of the roadbed out and the tracks just drop down, Husband said. The other option is to remove the tracks and get the excavators in to get the dirt out and re-lay the tracks.
Norfolk Southern is also going to realign some of the tracks in the Ironton area.
All of that is on the drawing board, its being engineered, Husband said. If the tracks were not going to be re-aligned, we would probably just undercut it but since we are going to be moving the track anyway, it may just be easier to move the dirt and put the tracks back in.
Husband said the project would not affect train travel or transportation.
As part of the project, West Virginia is going to carve sections of tunnels to allow the double-stack trains access.
The railroad will save money because the trains will have a shorter route, thereby cutting down on fuel. Also this will help get trucks off the highways.
Nicholson said he expects the Ohio part of the Heartland Corridor to take a while to complete, although the longest time will be to carve out space to allow the double-stacked trains to go through the West Virginia tunnels.
Theyll either lower the tracks or carve out the top of the tunnels so they are higher and more square, he said. This is going to be a lengthy project, more so because of the tunnel work in West Virginia.
They expect to start construction in late spring or early summer. The entire Heartland Corridor project will take until 2009, but the Ohio improvements should be completed by the end of 2007.
Selected Rail Stocks...
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Canadian National 3rd-quarter
net rises 21% on rates
MONTREAL, OCT. 19 -- Canadian National Railway Co., the countrys largest railroad, said third-quarter profits increased 21 percent, more than analysts expected, as the company raised prices and carried more freight.
Net income climbed to C$497 million ($444.7 million), or 94 cents a share, from C$411 million, or 74 cents, a year earlier, the Montreal-based company said in a statement today. Canadian National also boosted its full-year earnings forecast to C$3.40 and said per-share profit may rise 10 percent next year. The company didnt say what its 2006 forecast had been.
Canadian National boosted sales 9.4 percent to C$1.9 billion, helped by higher fuel surcharges and freight volume that rose 6 percent. Cargo from Asia carried by a combination of rail with ships or trucks, known as intermodal, and rising exports of Canadian grain and coal contributed to the revenue increase.
It was what I was expecting in character, but more than I was expecting in quantity, said Dan Ortwerth, an Edward Jones & Co. analyst in St. Louis who rates Canadian National a buy and doesnt own the stock. Rails are becoming an increasingly preferred choice by shippers because of fuel efficiency. They have pricing power and its not going away.
Canadian National said its rates per load during the quarter increased an average of 7 percent.
Ortwerth had expected the company to report per-share profit of 86 cents. UBS analyst Fadi Chamoun in Toronto also had estimated earnings at 86 cents, excluding any one-time costs or gains. The average was 84 cents among seven analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial, which doesnt give a basis for its figures.
The average estimate for full-year earnings had been C$3.26 a share in a Thomson Financial survey of 12 analysts. In 2005, Canadian National earned C$1.56 billion, or C$2.77 a share.
Canadian Nationals operating ratio, also called profit margin, rose to 43 cents per dollar of sales before taxes and interest, from 37 cents a year earlier.
Revenue from the intermodal business, Canadian Nationals second-largest behind forest products, rose 14 percent to C$376 million. Revenue from grain and fertilizer shipments rose 16 percent to C$365 million. Forest-products business was little changed at C$449 million as shipments to the U.S. declined.
The biggest sales gain was 20 percent, to C$96 million, for shipments of coal, the companys smallest freight category.
Canadian National said profit was reduced by C$15 million, or 3 cents a share, by the strengthening of the Canadian dollar against the U.S. currency. About 60 percent of its revenue is in U.S. dollars.
No plans for income trust
The company has no plans to follow the lead of BCE Inc. and Telus Corp., the two largest Canadian telephone companies, and convert to an income trust, Chief Financial Officer Claude Mongeau told analysts on a conference call.
Those companies are converting to reduce their taxes and receive a higher valuation for their equity from investors. An income trust is a high-yield security that pays almost no tax by distributing most of its cash flow to shareholders either on a monthly or quarterly basis.
Canadian National shares fell 39 cents to C$50.85 at 4 p.m. in Toronto trading and have climbed 23 percent in the past year. The company released its earnings after the close of trading on the Toronto exchange.
David Kaplan has some advice for Tennessee regional leaders
David Kaplan has some advice for Tennessee regional leaders. In an editorial entitled Tennessee Should Follow North Carolinas Plan for Passenger Rail Service in The Chattanoogan, he describes his experience on the Carolinian, a train operated by Amtrak but funded by the state of North Carolina.
Atlanta can enjoy efficient, pleasant rail service, he says, without pie-in-the-sky, multi-billion dollar cost, and a ten-year wait that Maglev service would require.
Reading a newspaper over a cup of coffee in a comfortable reclining chair while the scenery slips by presents an attractive alternative, Kaplan writes after riding the Carolinian passenger train round-trip between Greensboro and Rocky Mount, N.C., part of the daily run from Charlotte to Rocky Mount, N.C.
The ride was pleasant, timely, and well patronized - briefly with standing room only. Minor delays resulted only from large numbers of passengers boarding and leaving the train. In addition, immaculate rail stations enhanced the overall experience.
He says that similar passenger service could be initiated in phases between Chattanooga, Atlanta, Nashville and Knoxville in a relatively short time with the cooperation of Amtrak. This would address current needs in that corridor and permit many older citizens, whose taxes will help pay for the operation, to actually utilize the service during their lifetime. Such a project would not have to derail future Maglev.
Kaplan urges Tennessee planners to investigate North Carolinas accomplishment and develop a similar passenger rail plan for their state.
At the end of the article about InnoTrans (DF Oct 16, 2006), there is a paragraph that reads: In both cases the DMUs are more or less off the shelf designs already in use in Europe. NJ Transit operates the Stadler DMUs on rail lines where no freight trains operate at all. The rail line in Oceanside, CA. is used by the Siemens DMUs for a fixed time over normal working and business hours and the rest of the night and early morning hours the line is exclusively used by freight trains, the DMUs are not permitted on the right of way.
In fact, NJT also uses uses a time sharing agreement on most of the Camden-Trenton line. If you ride the line, the DMUs actually pass through a freight yard, with real live freight trains waiting for nighttime when they can use the line. Only the southern section in Camden (36th Street and southward) and the terminal in Trenton are exclusive to the DMUs.
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