Standard time is back again
We are now on Standard Time, boys and girls. You should have set your clock back one hour at 2:00 a.m. Sunday. Daylight Saving Time is gone for this year.
Two photos: Joe CalisiAmtraks Lake Shore Limited No. 48 meets its counterpart, No. 49, at the newly opened Albany-Renssealer station in New York State. No. 48s head-end cars will depart first as No. 448 enroute to Boston, and No. 48 will continue southward to New York Citys Penn Station. Meanwhile, No. 49 will await No. 449s arrival from Boston; the trains will join up, and continue to Chicago as No. 49. At right, the new stations interior.
Amtrak, freight railroads
go on terrorist alert
WASHINGTON, October 25 The nations railroads will not be a soft target for terrorists.
That statement by Edward R. Hamberger, President of the Association of American Railroads (AAR) summed up the industrys response to an FBI warning late Thursday that the railroads might be the target of an attack.
Meanwhile, a rail labor leader wants an anti-terror summit to focus on the threats to Americas trains.
Specifically on the passenger side, this comment: Based on information from the Federal Transportation Security Administration, Amtrak has taken measures to increase its vigilance and security on our trains, at our stations and other facilities. However, there has been no specific credible threat against Amtrak, Amtrak spokesman Dan Stessel told D:F on Friday.
Amtrak CEO David Gunn said federal transportation officials notified him of the warning and that the threat, like a lot of others, is not specific. Its not targeted at anything per se.
Last month around the first anniversary of September 11, Amtrak announced and then reconsidered a plan for random ID checks on its properties. The proposal appears to be on hold for now.
The caveats appeared to be aimed at avoiding undue alarm among rail passengers. In the past, the FBI has issued other warnings of terrorist threats that have not been carried out. Government officials have indicated that heightened alerts in those instances may very well have averted disasters that otherwise would have occurred.
Gunn said the heightened security and safety steps would not be evident to riders. The FBI says Amtrak and the freight railroads have tightened security.
An AP dispatch quoted officials as warning that, based on information obtained from al Qaeda prisoners, the terrorist organization that was responsible for the September 11 attacks, has considered directly targeting passenger trains in this country. Taking out bridges, key sections of tracks, or train engines might be used to cause derailments and widespread damage.
The FBI warning mentioned the possibility that in going after passenger trains, terrorists had considered using operatives who have a western appearance.
The key seems to be an al-Qaeda disposition to strike a target that is reflective of U.S. economic interests, according to the Bureau.
Recognizing the importance of the freight railroads to the nations economy and military preparedness, the AAR last year implemented a comprehensive security plan based on a thorough risk analysis of the industry, Hamberger said.
We continue to work closely with the USDOT and federal intelligence agencies to ensure that our current security actions are commensurate with the threat.
The AAR said that beefed up railroad security includes a 24/7 operations center that provides a secure communications link between railroad control centers and appropriate transportation and law enforcement agencies; restricted access to railroad facilities and equipment, heightened employee awareness and increased surveillance of critical infrastructure.
The heightened awareness on the part of the freight and passenger railroads is all well and good, said the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE), but the union believes more coordination is required.
BLE International President Dan Hahs issued an open letter to other labor organizations, the railroads, the FRA, and the National Transportation Safety Board asking for an immediate anti-terror summit to address these threats.
The BLE noted that although the warning was issued to the rail carriers on October 22, employee unions were not informed until two days later.
We received notice from one of our passenger rail general chairmen, expressing his outrage that he was not immediately informed of this threat, said Hahs, and as a result could not advise his membership properly. We need a meeting of all parties so that all can be informed. Our ability to do our jobs safely is at stake.
The Office of Homeland Security contacted state and local officials to urge their help and vigilance while at the same time, assuring the public that the American people should still ride our nations rails, knowing that heightened security had been implemented right down to their own community levels across the country.
New York Gov. George Pataki said he had put out an advisory across the state to [protect] public services and infrastructure points The AP indicated the governor had talked directly to Homeland Security boss Tom Ridge.
In a separate alert, an anonymous source told The AP that intelligence officials had learned al-Qaeda supporters may be planning strikes on ships in the Persian Gulf and nearby seas. Port facilities, oil facilities, nuclear power plants, and other energy-related targets were mentioned in the report.
As with Americas railroads, military vessels and commercial shipping are symbols of American economic and military interests.
Unlike the airlines, where security risks are mainly internal, railroad vulnerability is mostly external and involves an industrial plant that is spread out all across the landscape. While a train is not likely to crash into a building, it is a widespread security threat that the rail industry is seeking to avert through action on many fronts.
Return to index
Some Bears go back to work
Amtrak oks 19th Acela Express trainset
Amtrak has accepted delivery of its 19th Acela Express train and expects the 20th and final one soon, a sign of progress for the high-speed service. Over the summer the passenger railroad declined to accept delivery of a 19th train, citing modifications that were not made; but Gunn said Amtrak recently accepted delivery of an additional train that had most of the modifications Amtrak was seeking. The 20th train will be delivered soon, he said.
Gunn also said Thursday that the railroad is calling back 47 furloughed workers to its repair and maintenance facility in Bear, Delaware. Repairing damaged cars and returning them to service has become a priority for the Amtrak president, The APs Laurence Arnold reported.
Amtrak president and CEO David Gunn said on October 24 that the passenger railroad and the Acela Express builder, Bombardier Transportation of Montreal, have agreed on a schedule in which trains first sidelined in August because of cracks in the mounting assembly to which the yaw dampers were attached beneath locomotives are being rotated out of service for repairs and necessary equipment modifications. Gunn said both companies still need to agree on a permanent fix to the problem.
The high-speed service has still not returned to full strength in the Boston-New York-Washington Northeast Corridor.
Amtrak said it would begin this week offering nine daily weekday round trips between Boston and New York, up from eight. Acela Express trains were making nine weekday round trips between those cities before the cracks were discovered.
Rather than putting additional trains into service, Amtrak is cutting down on the layover time before the trains begin their return trip, Gunn said.
Acela Express service on the south end of the Northeast Corridor, between New York and Washington, continues at less than full strength.
There are 18 daily weekday round trips between Washington and New York, but six of those are covered by conventional Metroliner trains rather than the faster and more expensive express trainsets.
Return to index
California is next big market
for worlds trainset builders
With dollar-sign dreams tempting them, rail equipment manufacturers worldwide are eyeing California, where notions of a $25 billion high-speed passenger train service are moving nearer to reality.
Bombardier Transportations new 5,000-horsepower JetTrain is perfect for aspects of the California system that planners envision will whisk people from San Diego and Los Angeles in the south to San Francisco and Sacramento in the north, Bombardier officials said recently when they unveiled their new locomotive.
Californias high-speed rail plan is one of about a dozen across the country that are moving forward, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Florida issued a request for proposals for its rail project two weeks ago, and Californians will vote on a $9.95 billion high-speed rail bond issue in November 2004 to get construction started.
The New California Gold Rush is how Californias High-Speed Rail Authority bills its ambitious plan. It envisions creating hundreds of thousands of jobs building railroad track and cars. A high-speed rail system would relieve congestion in the air and on the states major north-south freeways by someday carrying 32 million passengers annually and making the downtown San Francisco-Los Angeles trip in 2 _ hours.
We want to have as many bidders as we can, said longtime rail advocate and ex-Santa Clara County Supervisor Rod Diridon, who now heads the state authority. Im sure in the end the work will go to a consortium. This will be a large-scale enterprise and the companies will figure its best to spread the risk.
Bombardier, which is already the worlds largest supplier of high-speed rail cars and engines, is preparing for the challenge, and keeping watch on its competitors, including Frances Alstom and Germanys Siemens. All have built systems in Europe and Asia.
The main line of the California bullet train, which is designed to enter downtown San Francisco from the Peninsula, will feature electric trains powered by fuels that result in zero emissions and go faster than 200 mph.
Companies that make high-speed engines and passenger cars will line up to supply the electric trains, many of which will get their power from catenary.
The 2004 bond issue also calls for spending $950 million on branch lines for the high-speed system, such as on the coastal route from San Diego to Los Angeles Union Station. The authority already admits that coastal communities in Orange County are unlikely to accept the overhead wire, so it is searching for other options.
Return to index
|Congress is apparently mostly to blame for Ohio steel makers closing|
Meager federal funding for Amtrak contributes to the closure of large Ohio steel company, states the Ohio Association of Railroad Passengers last week in a press release.
The Ohio ARPs administrative director, Stu Nicholson in Columbus, said, Years of subsistence level funding for Amtrak is now contributing to the near demise of an Ohio steel supplier that provides the passenger railroads fleet with most of its undercarriage assemblies. This may result in the loss of hundreds of good-paying jobs.
The Ohio ARP is a non-profit railroad advocacy association.
Buckeye Steel Castings Corp. of Columbus said it had suspended operations as it negotiates for financing to continue operations.
Buckeye once employed more 1,400 people, but that number shrank to as few 400 two years ago. Business had begun to turn around slightly and employment rose to almost 700 as of last week.
The post-September 11, 2001 downturn in the economy and railroad industry saw the domestic demand for Buckeye products drop.
This drop in business is due in no small part to the fact that action to fully fund Amtrak, one of Buckeye Steels major customers, has been sidetracked by Congress and the Bush Administration, said Nicholson.
Buckeye Steels closure and layoffs follows the loss of another major Ohio rail industry supplier a Timken bearings plant in Columbus, which also had Amtrak as an important customer. Ohio has more than 100 rail industry suppliers, many of which serve Amtrak and commuter rail agencies nationwide.
When the federal government starves Amtrak, it also starves Amtraks suppliers, their employees and local economies which depend on these manufacturing jobs, said Nicholson.
Amtraks trains dont even serve Columbus, and yet the ripple effect from starving Amtrak has had a direct and serious impact on our local economy. If the federal government provided enough funding to create a world-class passenger rail system, world-class economic development would be an obvious result, Nicholson added.
Buckeye Steel, an OARP corporate member, began 121 years ago as the Murray-Hayden Foundry. Ironically, President George W. Bushs great-grandfather, Samuel Prescott Bush, was president of Buckeye Steel from 1907-1927.
Yet, President Bush proposes a $571 million budget for Amtrak in 2003 that would result in its shutdown. Amtrak said it needed at least $1.2 billion for 2003 just to survive, Nicholson added, but the General Accounting Office reported earlier this year that Amtrak needs $2.4 billion per year to run the system as-is and begin returning the condition of its physical assets to a state of good repair. That includes the replacement of hundreds of worn-out trucks that Buckeye Steel would likely provide, as well as assemblies for new rail passenger cars.
Buckeye Steel officials say that would immediately improve its financial situation and preserve valuable jobs.
Its ironic that President Bushs lack of support for Amtrak is contributing to the fall of a company that his great-grandfather helped make a success, Nicholson said.
President Bush and Congress can change this tomorrow by working to give Amtrak the funding it needs to rebuild.
Return to index
|Amtrak adds Chicago-Milwaukee trains|
Beginning October 27, Amtrak added another round-trip train on the Hiawatha Service operating between Chicago and Milwaukee. The new trains leave Chicago and Milwaukee at the beginning and end of the workday, and will bring the total number of round-trips in the corridor up to seven from Monday through Saturday, while remaining at six round-trips on Sunday.
We are excited that Amtrak will offer even more options for travelers in this key corridor, stated Acting Secretary Tom Carlsen of the Wisconsin DOT.
Carlsen added, With almost 1,100 people using the Hiawatha Service every day, we have one of the busiest intercity passenger train routes in the country. We also have the best on-time performance rate, 94 percent, of any Amtrak route, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Northbound No. 329 operates Mondays through Saturdays, leaving Chicagos Union Station at 6:00 a.m.; Glenview at 6:22 a.m.; Milwaukee at 6:59 a.m.; and arriving Sturtevant, Wis. (Racine) at 7:29 a.m.
Southbound No. 342 leaves Racine daily at 7:30 p.m.; Milwaukee, 7:54 p.m.; Glenview, 8:31 p.m.; and arrives Chicago 8:59 p.m.
By adding the new service, Amtrak will be making more efficient use of its equipment. Previously, the six roundtrips required the use of three trainsets to correctly position the equipment to meet the timetable. By adding the seventh roundtrip, Amtrak will use just two trainsets that are rotated more frequently.
Wisconsin contributes about $3.9 million each year, which is added to the $1.3 million provided by the state of Illinois, to support the Hiawatha Service. Wisconsin is in the middle of a $2.6 million renovation and private development partnership at the passenger rail station in downtown Milwaukee, and is planning a new $7.5 million train station at Milwaukees General Mitchell International Airport. The village of Sturtevant is also developing a new train station to serve that community.
Amtraks new service fits very well into our long-term goal to make the Hiawatha Service more efficient while at the same time expand opportunities for ridership growth, Carlsen noted.
More frequent train service is essential to providing good connections for business and leisure travelers and, ultimately, airport connections. The potential growth in ridership also improves the viability for our public and private development partnership at the Milwaukee station, which is already among Amtraks top 20 busiest stations. This also keeps us on track for eventual high-speed passenger rail service to Madison and other parts of Wisconsin.
Return to index
|Fast trains for Quebec?|
Canadian Transport Minister David Collenette said hes taking a serious look at a proposal for a fast-train rail system on the Quebec City-Windsor corridor and is investigating whether Via Rail Canada Inc. could borrow money on the open markets for such a project, which could cost up to $3-billion.
One issue I am taking a serious look at, and I hope my [cabinet] colleagues do, is whether Via would be permitted to raise money on its own hook like the airport authorities, Mr. Collenette said in an interview, according to the Canadian Press.
I think its quite reasonable to explore ways that Via can raise money on the private market so it doesnt come right out of government expenditures.
Via has sent Ottawa proposals for upgrading Canadas central railway corridor to carry faster trains, and federal sources say the Crown corporations proposals would require between $2 billion and $3 billion in investment.
Collenette praised the Via proposal, saying what Via has come up with is probably the most reasonable approach short of going for a full TGV [high-speed rail system], which I dont think the country can afford at this time.
The Transport Minister said he hasnt yet decided if he will take the proposal to cabinet to get federal funding for at least part of the upgrade bill, but acknowledged government has a role to play.
Passenger rail around the world has to be subsidized; I know of only two lines that make money, he said.
Federal sources said the proposals would ultimately require a big chunk of money from Ottawa but Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. would be expected to chip in as well.
CN and [CPR] have been co-operating with Via in their proposal and its anticipated they would be willing to participate to some degree, a federal source said. If they are going to benefit because its on their track, they have an ongoing capital budget for upgrades and improvements and they can apply that to it, the source said.
Return to index
Cincinnatians debate light rail issue
Cincinnatians are debating the merits of a light rail system for their city, to be decided in the ballot boxes on November 5.
We dont even agree on the facts or on what facts to use, said Hamilton County Commissioner John Dowlin, one of three panelists to present positions in a debate on October 23 against the issue that would raise the Hamilton County sales tax by one-half cent, reports The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The two-plus hour debate at Xavier University included several sharp exchanges over everything from the impact of the proposed plan on air quality to how to calculate the percent of transit ridership.
If passed, the ballot initiative would cover the local portion of the 30-year $2.7 MetroMoves plan, which includes a proposed 60-mile light rail system that would cost $2.6 billion and another $100 million in expansion and improvements to the existing Metro bus system.
One of those exchanges came after a question over air quality, with Glen Brand of the Sierra Club, speaking for the pro-light rail side, claiming that the system would pull enough cars off the road to eliminate hundreds of thousands of tons of air pollution from the skies.
That brought a quick response from County Auditor Dusty Rhodes, co-chair of the Alternatives to Light Rail Transit, the committee campaigning against Issue 7.
Maybe we ought to go to the Draconian measure of limiting each family to one car, Mr. Rhodes said. Thats the road were heading down now. Its like if you dont live where and how they want you to live, youll be thrown in a gulag.
Each side had a three-member panel, and after each panelist gave a presentation, they took questions from the audience of about 60-70 students and local residents.
Another point of contention arose over the issue of how many riders use mass transit or light rail in other cities.
Stephan Louis, chairman of the Alternatives to Light Rail Transit, said that the light rail system would only reduce the amount of vehicle miles traveled in the seven-county metropolitan area by 1 to 2 percent.
Thats just not worth it, and those numbers are the same or even dropping in other cities, Mr. Louis said.
Light rail advocate John Schneider said that Louis was distorting that number by including the entire region, even though mass transit is only available in parts of Hamilton County.
Hes twisting the numbers, Mr. Schneider said. When you look at the one place where transit is readily available in our region, downtown Cincinnati, the market share is more like 30-35 percent, which is a significant number.
Return to index
|NYC subway fares may rise after elections|
There is a chance that subway and bus fares will rise in New York City.
The current basic fare is $1.50, but since the subway opened in 1904 at a nickel a ride, fares have risen 13 times, five of those in the last two decades.
Not much is expected to happen until after Election Day, November 5. Gov. George E. Pataki and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which he controls, are not expected to make any changes until then, wrote the The New York Times of October 22.
Some transit officials say they expect a dangerous operating deficit for next year of more than $600 million, but the most recent figures show subway and bus revenues actually running $33 million ahead of budget. Questions have been raised about how those numbers came to be, as well as how last years equally dangerous deficit projection of more than $700 million, vanished.
At a City Council hearing in March, the MTAs budget director, Gary G. Caplan, stressed that it has been seven years since the last increase, and added that MetroCard discounts have driven the cost of an average subway or bus ride down to $1.06.
He did not add an important related point, but his critics quickly did: the drop does not mean that the agency now collects less money. Ridership has increased, so fare revenue has remained actually about the same over the last five years.
Returning to the Council this month, Mr. Caplan appeared to place another important brick in his foundation, contending that New York riders pay slightly less than half of the transit systems operating costs.
Return to index
|Metra looks for two-county extensions|
Out in Illinois, with development moving west from Kane County into Kendall County, Metra, the regions commuter railroad, is eyeing plans to extend commuter rail service beyond Aurora and some communities are already feeling left out.
A recent feasibility study by Chicago consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. found that ridership volume warrants extending service to Montgomery and Oswego, west of Aurora, but the study stopped short of recommending an extension into the Kendall towns of Yorkville and Plano, where big subdivisions are planned.
Huge tracts of land are being bought up by developers here and were facing significant population growth, says Yorkville Mayor Arthur Prochaska. Wed like to have a commuter station here as soon as possible, Crains Chicago Business News reported on October 19.
Dennis Gary, a Parsons Brinckerhoff vice-president who co-authored the study, conceded that some of the new subdivisions were not taken into account.
We used past growth rates to project into the future, he said. Our data showed that ridership would drop off considerably if train service were to be extended as far as Plano.
Technically, Metras parent, the Regional Transportation Authority, covers only the six-county metro area. To reach into Kendall, new legislation would be required.
Officials, though, are keeping an open mind.
Were telling these areas to go ahead and do the planning work, said Philip Pagano, Metras executive director.
They may not have the population base at the moment to support commuter rail service, but that can change over time. Its good to get ahead of the population curve.
The curve could be substantial. Naperville-based Moser Enterprises Inc., for instance, has proposed a 2,700-home subdivision on Yorkvilles west side.
Train service here would definitely help us market our homes, said Moser CEO Arthur Zwemke.
Return to index
|BART runs extra World Series trains|
Bay Area Rapid Transit ran longer trains to accommodate baseball fans attending the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Anaheim Angels at PacBell Park in San Francisco.
PacBell Park is an easy walk from the Embarcadero or Montgomery stations. After the game, more BART trains were kept on standby for the homebound trip.
Return to index
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
Tampa returns streetcars to service
Birney streetcar service returned to neighborhoods in Tampa, Fla., when service began on October 19 on the new TECO Line Streetcar System. The system operated free for its opening weekend, with grand opening celebrations held along its full length.
Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, joined by other dignitaries and longtime streetcar supporters, launched the new service at Centennial Park in Ybor City. Invited guests then traveled down the line in a parade of streetcars, which broke through grand-opening banners at each station stop. Events held along the line included neighborhood outdoor fairs with art, food, and entertainment; open houses at sites of interest; discounts at area restaurants; and 5K runs and walks to benefit charity.
The system is being managed by Tampa Historic Streetcar Inc., a not-for-profit organization created by joint action of the city of Tampa and the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, and HART operates and maintains the system under contract to THS. The naming rights for the system were sold to TECO Energy, which is the title sponsor.
In the first phase of development, the streetcars run on a 2.3-mile-long route between the Ybor City Historic District and downtown Tampa, and the trip takes 22 minutes. The route operates with eight streetcars built by the Gomaco Trolley Company of Ida Grove, Iowa, from designs created by HART to resemble the double-truck Birney Safety streetcars used on Tampas streets between the 1920s and 1946.
Return to index
New Yorks MTA restructures services
New Yorks Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, said on October 9 the authority will restructure itself, intended to further improve services to its customers. The restructuring plan will be submitted to the New York State Legislature for its approval by the end of the year.
The initiative, with many sweeping changes, will result in the merging of various umbrella agencies into five distinct companies under the MTA, each with a single transportation mission.
The restructuring, which will begin after the legislature okays the plan, will be phased in over two years, and will result in some new companies.
As reported recently in D:F, the MTA Rail Road will be created from the former Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad.
Other new agencies will include MTA Subways, which will include the subway portion of MTA New York City Transit and MTA Staten Island Railway; MTA Bus, formerly Long Island Bus and NYC Transits buses; MTA Capital, in charge of overseeing system expansion projects for all MTA companies; and MTA Bridges and Tunnels.
The authority was created 37 years ago.
Return to index
Transit authority gets bus routes
Central Midlands Regional Transit Authority has taken over bus operations of a South Carolina local utility. CMRTA started up on October 15 after almost 70 years of operations by the utility, South Carolina Electric & Gas Co./SCANA.
Management operations for the system will not change, according to General Manager Curtis L. Hamilton. He formerly ran the system as a utility employee. He now is employed by Connex TCT, the operating company contracted to provide service.
Twenty new buses were introduced to service on Columbia area routes on October 15, and another 23 buses are expected to enter service by Thanksgiving.
Fares are increasing from 75 cents to $1 per ride, and new routes will be introduced on December 1.
Hamilton explained that SCE&G/SCANA had provided bus service in the Columbia area since 1934 under the terms of a court order. The South Carolina Supreme Court had required SCE&G/SCANA to provide transit service as a requirement for it to maintain its electric and gas franchise.
Return to index
BART engineer David Hammond dies
David G. Hammond, 89, an international expert in rail transit tunneling and underground construction and a former assistant general manager of engineering and operations with the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), died October 8 in Fort Belvoir, Va.
Hammond joined BART in 1964 as structures engineer, was promoted to director of development and operations in 1965, and to assistant general manager-operations and engineering in 1969. During his tenure, he had direct overall charge of the design of structures, facilities, and equipment; for construction; and for initial operation of the system, which entered service in 1972.
At the beginning of Hammonds career, he served for 25 years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, retiring as a colonel. In 1973, he left BART to join Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall as vice president and program director for rapid transit in the eastern region.
Hammond was named to the APTA Hall of Fame in 1986.
Return to index
Scanlan heads Massachusetts DOT
James H. Scanlan, an employee of Bostons Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for more than 20 years, has been named the states transportation secretary and MBTA chairman by lame duck Gov. Jane Swift. He had served as assistant secretary for three years, and had served in the top position on an acting basis since last February.
During his tenure at the MBTA, Scanlan managed a capital budget of more than $400 million. He has worked with other state and national transportation leaders to help the authority grow into the nations fourth largest transit system. Swift is not a candidate for reelection.
Return to index
NCI: Leo KingA local job departs northward from Baldwin Yard in Florida with engines 6913 and 2343 in August. The S Line dispatcher held the train until a track foreman cleared up, and then the red eye became a medium clear signal. CSX recently told its customer the price of diesel fuel has gone up in recent weeks, so the carrier has raised its charges by 2 percent.
|CSXs fuel cost recovery charge rises|
CSX told its customers earlier this month the rising cost of diesel fuel could force them to raise prices to shippers and receivers, and by October 17, they did.
In a note to customers, the freight railroad stated, As of October 4, the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil has been above $28 per barrel for 22 consecutive days. An additional eight consecutive days above $28 will change the fuel surcharge to 2 percent, effective October 17. Under this circumstance, an October 15 closing price of $28 or above would be published in the October 16 Wall Street Journal.
CSX spokesman Dan Murphy in Jacksonville, Fla., told D:F A 2 percent surcharge was applied to shipments having bill of lading dates beginning October 17.
In September 2000, CSX said it would join others in the transportation industry in implementing a fuel cost recovery charge of 2 percent. It became effective October 25, 2000, due to extraordinary increases in the cost of fuel, but with lower stabilized fuel cost, the carriers surcharge has remained at 0 percent between October 30, 2001, and today.
Oils prices in that market have been hovering around $28.00 a barrel. Murphy said, On October 24, West Texas Intermediate oil was priced at $28.03 a barrel. Two days earlier, it had been $27.93.
CSXT hoped that WTI fuel costs would stabilize at a price lower than $28.
The 2 percent fuel surcharge will remain at 2 percent until WTI oil prices rise or fall below the threshold levels for 30 consecutive days as published in The Wall Street Journal. CSX uses the Journal as its newspaper of record, at least for oil prices.
While the provisions of the fuel recovery charge remain in effect, CSXT will continue to provide daily updates on the price of WTI and status of the charge on the CSXT internet site, http://www.csxt.com/cus/fuel/index.cfm, a press release stated.
Return to index
|Amtrak ending express freight service|
Amtrak will end its five-year effort to haul cars of express cargo on its passenger trains, a service that it had hoped would pump life into the struggling rail line, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
Amtrak spokeswoman Karina Van Veen in Washington told D:F, We dont have a timeline, yet, but a plan is currently being formulated.
The move, approved by Amtraks board last week, had been under review by Amtrak for months, according to a report from the United Transportation Union.
Last summer Amtrak President David Gunn indicated he was unhappy with the express business, which he said was losing money and hampering on-time performance of Amtraks long-distance trains.
Amtrak spokesman William Schulz said eliminating the cargo business will be better for our finances, better for our service and better for our continuing customers, both passengers and mail. He said express cargo would be phased out during Amtraks fiscal year ending September 30, 2003. He declined to comment on how many jobs will be eliminated.
Amtrak launched the service in 1997, leased freight cars, opened cargo terminals and carried magazines, fruit juices, tuna fish, canned goods, apples, machinery parts and other products on the same trains that carry passengers.
Some Amtrak long-haul trains started carrying more freight cars than passenger cars, and the company even started some new trains based on anticipated revenue from express service.
Passenger services became an issue, however, because so much time was lost en route at terminals switching out the express cars.
Instead of generating hundreds of millions of dollars a year of additional revenue, the express business had a loss of about $7 million on revenue of about $35 million for the fiscal year ended September 30.
Eliminating express cargo was part of Amtraks $3.4 billion budget for the current fiscal year, approved by the board. The budget calls for a larger financial contribution from states to operate Amtrak services in their communities, repair of at least 22 damaged passenger cars sidelined as a result of recent accidents and a federal appropriation of $1.2 billion.
Return to index
|NS to install new gate systems|
Norfolk Southern Corp. last week awarded a contract to Nascent Technology, LLC to provide its Synapse automated gate system for a newly constructed terminal outside Atlanta.
Allen Thomas of Nascent Technology told D:F his firms automated gates will be deployed at several NS intermodal terminals and will automate the flow of truck traffic in and out of the facilities via the gate areas. They are unrelated to public highway crossing gates.
Nascent would not divulge how much NS is paying for the systems. Thomas said, The contract value is, unfortunately confidential.
Integrated Data Communication Systems (IDCS), helped in the negotiations.
The gate-builders system allows the terminal to increase the gate throughput of International Standards Organization and intermodal containers while reducing data entry error rates.
Thomas explained, The ISO long ago developed standards to label and identify intermodal containers, for example, SEAU123456. These containers arrive through the gate areas of a terminal and are loaded on trains for delivery elsewhere.
The system identifies equipment by combining high-resolution camera technology with optical character recognition software to electronically read the alphanumeric identification markings on containers, trailers, chassis and license plates. High-resolution images of the equipment are then used for damage inspection, augmenting the existing inspection and repair billing process provided by IDCS. Additionally, NS personnel will be able to remotely monitor and control all system operations.
Return to index
|CN to buy back some shares|
Canadian National reported on October 16 that its board of directors has authorized a normal course issuer bid to purchase for cancellation up to 13 million, or approximately 6.5 per cent, of the approximately 200 million outstanding common shares of the company not held by its insiders on October 15.
The price CN will pay for any common shares will be the market price at the time of the purchase, plus brokerage fees, the firm stated in a press release.
The share buy-back program, which began on October 25, will end no later than October 24, 2003, and will be conducted through the Toronto Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange, and will conform to the exchanges regulations.
Paul M. Tellier, CN president and CEO, said, CNs management and directors believe the purchase by the company of its common shares represents an appropriate use of its funds to increase shareholder value. Having successfully completed the integration of Wisconsin Central, and with a strong balance sheet and solid cash flow generation, CN can undertake this buy-back program while continuing to pursue other opportunities aimed at further enhancing shareholder value.
Return to index
|CN is first rail line to meet Customs needs|
Canadian National reported last week that it is the first North American railroad to gain membership in the U.S. Customs Services Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, C-TPAT.
C-TPAT is a joint government-business initiative designed to build cooperative relationships that strengthen overall supply chain and border security.
CN said in a press release C-TPAT membership is an extension of CNs existing participation in U.S. Customs Carrier Initiative Program that is directed at countering narcotics and smuggling.
CNs CEO Paul Tellier, said, CNs participation in C-TPAT demonstrates our commitment to ensuring the highest level of integrity in our security practices and making sure we communicate the security guidelines to all of our partners in the supply chain.
C-TPAT participants must agree to a series of initiatives, including: a comprehensive self-assessment of supply chain security; completion of a supply chain security questionnaire; development of a program to enhance security throughout the supply chain in accordance with C-TPAT security recommendations; and communication of C-TPAT security recommendations to other companies in the supply chain and working toward building the security recommendations into relationships with these companies.
Canadian National Ry. Co. has numerous entry points into the U.S. It spans Canada and much of the U.S., and serves New Orleans and Mobile, Ala. ports via the former Illinois Central. It enters Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Duluth, Minn., Superior, Wis., Green Bay, Wis., Minneapolis-St. Paul, Memphis, St. Louis, and Jackson, Miss.
Return to index
|KCS and TFM win tax case in Mexico|
Kansas City Southern Ry. and Grupo Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana, S.A. de C.V. reported on October 24 they had received a favorable ruling on TFMs value added tax claim, which has been pending in the Mexican courts since 1997.
The decision was reached on October 11. The claim arose out of the Mexican Treasurys delivery of a value-added tax (VAT) credit certificate to a Mexican governmental agency, rather than to TFM.
Since that announcement, both firms have received numerous questions regarding the amount and timing of the expected recovery on that claim, but by a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of the Court of the First Circuit (Federal Court) found that the Fiscal Courts ruling had violated TFMs constitutional rights. The Federal Court remanded the case to the Fiscal Court with specific instructions to vacate its prior decision and enter a new decision consistent with the guidance provided by the Federal Courts ruling.
The Federal Court ruling requires the fiscal authorities to issue the VAT credit certificate only in the name of the interested party and not in the name of any third party, to issue the VAT credit certificate only in strict accordance with the terms of the fiscal code, and to deliver the VAT credit certificate only to the beneficiary and not to any third party.
KCS attorneys said, The new decision of the Fiscal Court must be issued in accordance with the guidelines of the Federal Court. TMM and KCS have been advised that the Federal Courts order is not subject to appeal by the Mexican government. However, the Fiscal Courts new decision may be challenged by either of the parties if such party believes that the new ruling does not comply with the order of the Federal Court.
In addition, a third party who can establish that its rights have been adversely and improperly affected by the new ruling may seek to bring a claim against TFM, but TFM believes that it would prevail in any such action.
The face value of the VAT credit certificate at issue is approximately $206 million, and the amount of any recovery will reflect that principal amount adjusted for inflation and interest accruals from 1997. Based upon the language of the Federal Courts order and the advice of legal counsel, TMM and KCS remain optimistic about the ultimate outcome of this matter; however, the recovery, including the timing and final amount thereof, must await the conclusion of the legal process.
Return to index
|Intermodal rebounds after docks shut down, dockside trains stop|
Rail intermodal traffic was up sharply during the week ended October 19 as West Coast docks continued to clear up the backlog of containers that occurred as a result of their earlier shutdown, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Thursday (October 24).
Intermodal volume totaled 201,571 trailers and containers, up 7.4 percent from the comparable week last year and 32.8 percent from the previous week this year. Container volume was up 10.7 percent from last year, while trailer loadings declined by 1.2 percent.
Carload freight, which doesnt include the intermodal data, was off by 0.1 percent from last year, totaling 347,791 cars. Carload volume was up 0.1 percent in the East but down 0.3 percent in the West. Total volume was estimated at 30.1 billion ton-miles, up 1.0 percent from the 42nd week of 2001.
Eleven out of 19 carload commodity groups registered gains from last year, with metal and products up 14.2 percent from the comparable week last year; waste and scrap materials up 9.2 percent and motor vehicles and equipment up 8.4 percent.
On the downside, primary forest products declined by 13.4 percent from last year, while petroleum products were off 12.5 percent and grain was down 8.6 percent.
The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 42 weeks of 2002:
13,859,374 carloads, down 0.9 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 7,517,058 trailers and containers, up 3.9 percent; and total volume of an estimated 1.203 trillion ton-miles, up 0.9 percent from last years first 41 weeks.
Railroads reporting to AAR account for 90 percent of U.S. carload freight and 97 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 96 percent and 99 percent.
Intermodal volume was up but carload traffic was down on Canadian railroads during the week ended October 19. Intermodal traffic totaled 40,816 trailers and containers, up 2.2 percent from last year. Carload volume of 60,350 cars was down 4.0 percent from the comparable week last year.
The AAR also reported that carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended October 19 totaled 11,356 cars originated or received from connecting lines, up 15.4 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 4,363 trailers or containers, up 14.4 percent from the 42nd week of 2001. For the first 42 weeks of 2002, TFM reported cumulative volume of 442,196 cars, up 2.2 percent from last year, and 155,330 trailers or containers, up 8.1 percent.
Return to index
|Florida Express ends long-hauls|
Florida East Coast Industries, Inc., parent company of Florida East Coast Ry., will now provide existing and future customers with seamless intermodal services via its railroad along Floridas eastern seaboard instead of trucks with the Hurricane Train, a joint marketing venture with Norfolk Southern, from Atlanta to Jacksonville.
The firm added, in an October 22 press release, that intermodal drayage-servicing customers within a 250-mile radius of FECs terminal operations in Atlanta, Jacksonville and Miami would be affected.
FECIs trucking subsidiary, Florida Express Carriers, Inc. (FLX), is discontinuing its regional long-haul trucking operations and FLXs company drivers will be replaced by independent third-party contractors to provide the drayage services.
FLXs focus on providing intermodal service and the introduction of the Hurricane Train in 2001 have been instrumental in extending the railways reach beyond the Jacksonville railhead into Atlanta and the Southeast, and has provided incremental revenue to the railroad, said Robert W. Anestis, FECIs chairman and CEO.
Return to index
|Quarterly stock briefs...|
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Corp. last week reported third-quarter 2002 earnings of $0.51 per share compared with $0.56 per share excluding adjustments for an automotive contract settlement and non-operating investment losses in 2001, or $0.58 per share including those items.
BNSF posted its fourth consecutive year-over-year quarterly record for on-time performance, the firm reported.
Freight revenues for the 2002 third quarter were $2.28 billion compared with 2001 revenues of $2.31 billion or $2.28 billion excluding the $32 million automotive contract settlement. Consumer products adjusted revenues increased $27 million, or 3 percent, to $881 million, due to increased intermodal volumes in the international and truckload businesses, despite the work stoppage late in the third quarter at West Coast ports. Industrial Products revenues fell $11 million, or 2 percent, to $524 million, as general softness in the building, construction and petroleum products sectors was partially offset by new chemical traffic.
Coal revenues increased $16 million, or 3 percent, to $535 million, reflecting increased shipments compared with the same period in 2001. Agricultural products revenues declined $32 million, or 9 percent, to $342 million, primarily as a result of reduced export demand.
Operating expenses of $1.89 billion were $46 million, or 2 percent, higher than the same 2001 period. Compensation and benefits expense increased primarily due to a recently announced decrease in the long-term return on pension assets assumption. Additionally, most other operating expense categories were higher, except for fuel, which was lower than the previous year due to a reduction in fuel price per gallon.
Operating income was $421 million for the 2002 third quarter compared with operating income in the same 2001 period of $502 million or $470 million excluding the automotive contract settlement. BNSFs operating ratio increased to 81.6 percent for the 2002 third quarter compared with 78.3 percent or 79.4 percent excluding the automotive contract settlement in 2001.
During the third quarter, BNSF repurchased 2.9 million shares of its common stock at an average price of $28.09 per share. This brings total repurchases under BNSFs 120-million share-repurchase program to 113.0 million shares as of September 30, 2002, at an average price of $25.97 per share since the program was announced in July 1997.
Florida East Coast Industries, Inc. will hold its quarterly conference call to discuss third quarter results on November 6 at 10:00 a.m. EST. The call is being webcast by CCBN and can be accessed at www.feci.com. The dial-in number for the call is 877-679-9055. A replay of the call will be available approximately two hours after completion of the call on the company website and at 800-615-3210, access code 623-6695, until November 13 at 11:59 pm EST.
Return to index
Canadian National reported third-quarter 2002 net income of $268 million, a 12 per cent increase over adjusted net income of $240 million for the same quarter of 2001.
Diluted earnings per share for the quarter ended September 30 were $1.32, up 9 per cent from adjusted diluted earnings per share of $1.21 for the comparable period of 2001. Reported net income for third-quarter 2001 was $252 million, or $1.27 per diluted share.
Third-quarter 2002 operating income increased 13 per cent to $484 million. Revenues for the period rose 13 per cent to $1,503 million, while operating expenses were $1,019 million.
The firm reported it generated $444 million in free cash flow for the first nine months of 2002 and $88 million for the quarter, which was right on the companys target.
For the latest quarter, increased automotive revenues reflected stronger motor vehicle production in Canada and the United States, while petroleum and chemicals revenues benefited from the inclusion of Wisconsin Central revenues and continued strength in the petroleum segment, which experienced higher sulfur shipments and market share gains in various sectors. Increased intermodal revenues reflected improved domestic performance from growing markets in Canada and the U.S., and growth in the overseas segment despite stagnant trade. CN
Total carloadings for the third quarter of 2002 rose 14 per cent to 1,043 thousand.
CNs operating ratio for the most recent three-month period was 67.8 per cent, compared with 67.5 per cent for the year-earlier quarter.
The increase in operating expenses for third-quarter 2002 was largely attributable to the consolidation of WC expenses and higher expenses for labor and fringe benefits and equipment rents, which were partially offset by lower fuel costs.
Return to index
Norfolk Southern Corp. reported third-quarter net income of $126 million, or $0.32 per diluted share, an increase of 59 percent, compared with net income of $79 million, or $0.20 per diluted share, in the third quarter of 2001.
For the first nine months, net income increased 27 percent to $331 million, or $0.85 per diluted share, compared with net income of $260 million, or $0.67 per diluted share, in the same period a year earlier. Net income during the first nine months of 2001 included an after-tax gain of $13 million, or $0.03 per share from the 1998 sale of a former trucking subsidiary.
Third-quarter railway operating revenues rose six percent to $1.60 billion compared with third quarter 2001. Year-to-date railway operating revenues of $4.69 billion were up one percent compared to the same period a year earlier.
Third-quarter general merchandise revenues of $917 million improved six percent compared to the same period of 2001. All market groups reported increases, led by automotive and metals. For the first nine months, general merchandise revenues increased three percent to $2.73 billion compared with the year-earlier period.
Intermodal revenues of $310 million were the highest of any quarter in NSs history and climbed 11 percent compared to the third quarter of 2001. For the first nine months, intermodal revenues rose five percent to $875 million compared with the same period of 2001. The revenue growth reflects increases in both international and domestic business, particularly converting traffic from the highway.
Coal revenues improved one percent to $371 million in the quarter compared to a weak third quarter of 2001 but declined six percent to $1.08 billion in year-over-year performance.
Railway operating expenses for the quarter increased two percent to $1.29 billion compared to the third quarter 2001 but decreased two percent to $3.82 billion for the first nine months compared to the same period a year earlier.
For the quarter, the railway operating ratio improved 3.3 percentage points to 80.5 percent compared with 83.8 percent for the same period of 2001. For the first nine months, the operating ratio improved 2.8 percentage points to 81.4 percent compared with 84.2 percent during the same period of 2001.
Return to index
Court dismisses rail petition
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has dismissed a petition for judicial review of an earlier Surface Transportation Board order requiring that two railroads the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe and the Union Pacific maintain a rate for shipments of coal from mine origins in the Powder River Basin (PRB) of Wyoming and Montana to the Cochise, Arizona electric generation plant of Arizona Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. (AEPCO).
Surface Transportation Board Chairman Linda J. Morgan said in 2000, AEPCO challenged the reasonableness of joint rates (involving more than one railroad) charged by the railroads for moving shipments of coal from two mine origins in New Mexico to AEPCOs plant at Cochise.
AEPCO later amended the complaint to include shipments from some Colorado and PRB mine origins, as well. At that point, the railroads cancelled their rates applicable to AEPCOs traffic from PRB mines, on the ground that AEPCO was not using those rates. The railroads then sought to dismiss the rate complaint to the extent it challenged PRB origins.
AEPCO then filed an emergency motion, claiming that it did, indeed, intend to ship coal from the PRB and asked the federal transportation board to require the railroads to establish rates for such shipments.
Based upon AEPCOs statement of its intent, the STB directed the railroads to establish common carriage (non-contract) rates for AEPCO traffic to move from PRB mines. The railroads complied, and one unit-train (dedicated to hauling one commodity) shipment of coal moved to Cochise.
AEPCO complained, however, that the railroads had failed to fully meet their responsibility to maintain PRB rates for its traffic because the rates did not cover PRB mine origins in Montana and because the rates were set to expire shortly. AEPCO explained that it had both an immediate and a long-term interest in securing a portion of the Cochise plants coal-supply requirements from PRB mines because AEPCO was investing in expensive equipment to blend PRB coals with coals from other regions.
In a decision issued to the public on December 31, 2001, the STB ordered the railroads to hold open the existing rates, or replace them with other rates covering the same service, and to provide rates from the Montana origins.
The railroads complied, but also sought judicial review of that order. The railroads subsequently chose to withdraw their petition for judicial review and submitted a stipulation for voluntary dismissal that was signed by all of the parties.
As a result, this litigation ended, Morgan said.
Return to index
|STB reverses TP&W rail sale|
The federal Surface Transportation Board has revoked an earlier approval allowing SF&L Ry., Inc. to buy a Toledo, Peoria & Western line in Illinois, citing the SF&L with merely wanting the property for scrap value.
STB Chair Linda Morgan said SF&L was buying a 71.5-mile segment of a rail line between La Harpe and Peoria, Ill., from the Toledo, Peoria & Western Ry. Corp. (TP&W).
SF&L is an affiliate of A&K Materials (A&K), whose owners describe it as The nations leading supplier of new and used rail, ties and track materials.
RailAmerica, Inc., a holding company controlling 25 small and medium-sized railroads, controls TP&W.
The STB directed the purchase to be undone after finding that SF&L and its owners abused the boards processes designed to maintain railroad service by using those processes to acquire track they really intended to sell for salvage, rather than operate.
In January 2000, RailAmerica incurred substantial debt as a result of its acquisition of several new railroad properties. To reduce debt, it then began disposing of them. Pioneer Railcorp, which controls several small railroads, offered to purchase a substantial portion of TP&Ws track connecting with Keokuk Junction Ry. Co. (KJRY), one of Pioneers subsidiaries.
Pioneer and RailAmerica, however, did not reach an agreement and, on December 21, 2000, RailAmerica began negotiating to sell the bulk of the involved track to the owners of A&K. A deal between RailAmerica and A&K for the purchase of the La Harpe Line was closed within eight days, on December 29, 2000. A&K paid for the Line on that same date and received for security a note from SF&L, which, like other A&K affiliates, has bought and then liquidated rail properties in the past.
Ownership of the track, ties and certain improvements on the Line and a permanent operating easement over the Line were transferred to SF&L, although ownership of the underlying real estate was kept by TP&W.
KJRY asked the board to revoke the exemptions to ensure its continued connection at La Harpe, giving it access to several other railroads. KJRY told the board its concern that SF&L had acquired the La Harpe Line not with the intent to continue rail service, but with the intent to downgrade service and increase rates, and then to obtain abandonment authority from the STB so that it could salvage the track, ties and other materials on the Line.
In its decision last week, the STB found that SF&L and A&K had abused the agencys processes because they had bought the Line to scrap it rather than to operate it as a going concern. The Board relied on a combination of factors to reach this conclusion.
Board members spelled out what they meant.
First, the board found that the deal had been intentionally structured to make the La Harpe Line unprofitable to operate, so as to facilitate abandonment of the Line which, in turn, would permit A&K to salvage the Lines track, ties and other materials. The Board noted that, although TP&Ws entire line west of Peoria was for sale, SF&L had limited its purchase to a line segment ending just a mile short of the connection to KJRYs line, thereby preventing a direct interchange of traffic between KJRY and SF&L, and producing rate increases making shipments over the La Harpe Line much more expensive. The Board found that SF&L and A&K knew, or should have known, that this action would play an important role in causing shipments over the La Harpe Line to cease.
The three-person panel noted that SF&L-A&K did not want to buy any of the bridges, trestles, and culverts associated with running the Line, and that they conducted no inspections and engaged in no studies, reports, or other research into the profitability potential of the Line before purchasing it, but instead simply obtained information on the Lines salvage value.
A purchaser intent on operating rather than salvaging the Line, the board found, would have exercised more diligence about the operational aspects of the Line before buying it, they wrote in their opinion.
Although it downgraded service, TP&W continued to operate the Line for nearly a year after the sale. The board found that, if SF&L had really wanted to acquire the Line as an ongoing business venture, it would not have paid for it in December 2000, obtained the necessary authority in January 2001, and then allowed TP&W to continue operating it for TP&Ws own account (and not as a contract service provider) through December 2001.
Such actions, the agency concluded, would make sense only if SF&Ls real intent had been abandonment and salvage of the line.
The STB noted that SF&L, as part of the deal, had an understanding that TP&W and RailAmerica would support the future abandonment of the Line; and SF&L, which had no apparent source of income other than revenues from the Line, could have repaid A&K only by abandoning the Line and then using the track, ties, and other improvements on the Line to extinguish its debt.
The board ordered SF&L to return the La Harpe Line to TP&W.
The board explained that current law is designed to facilitate continued service to shippers and continued maintenance of the transportation network. The integrity of that process is undermined by, and must be protected from, tactics such as those employed by [SF&L/A&K] in these cases, which have been detrimental to the shippers on the Line. We will not allow our processes to be abused by sales of active rail lines to persons whose intent is to degrade, abandon, and salvage those lines. Nor should the persons who engage in such abuses be allowed to profit from them. Accordingly, we revoke the exemptions granted in these cases.
Return to index
Hydrogen-propane fuel cell locomotives
as national energy policy insurance
as national energy policy insurance
Presented at the Fuel Cell Seminar, December 1, 1992. Republished with permission. We are publishing this scientific paper because although we have seen discussion about fuel cell vehicles, we have not seen anything dealing solely with locomotives. Even though this paper is ten years old, in our view, it is still valid. Ed.
Debates rage over fossil fuel availability during the coming two decades. Through renewable sunlight, electricity generation, and electrolysis, hydrogen fuel cells offer an alternative energy collection and distribution option which is sustainable and non-polluting. Equipping locomotives with fuel cells has received considerable attention, although most conclusions indicate rail-owners cannot justify the associated re-engineering costs. However, from a national policy perspective, there are three reasons full federal funding for this re-engineering could be demanded.
First, the hydrogen fuel cell has the near-term potential to double locomotive operating efficiencies, quite similar to the sweeping advantage of diesel over steam. Second, installing a hydrogen distribution network for the railroad would be as trivial as it is pioneering, because locomotives travel thousands of kilometers between fueling stops. Third, and most important, the rail sector is insignificant relative to other fossil fuel demands, yet capable of meeting most all national transportation needs if called upon. For the smallest investment, the federal government could purchase insurance against changes to world energy supply or policy. What is necessary is federal subsidy of the 1-5 MWe fuel cell for locomotive purposes, perhaps nothing greater then the money spent on diesel development during the two world wars. Given a united rail fuel cell commitment, the entire railroad sector could reap greater profits and national stature given any world energy scenario or crisis.
THE HYDROGEN/PROPANE FUEL CELL LOCOMOTIVES
The cart before the horse?
Consultants have had a field day for several years drawing up elaborate plans for high-speed rail lines criss-crossing the country at 150-200 mph. Amtrak President David Gunn says if you think thats going to happen in our lifetime, youre smoking funny cigarettes.
Basically, his message is you have to crawl before you and walk and walk before you can run. Given that stability at Amtrak is chaos anywhere else, as Gunn told the Railway Age conference this month, we get back to the old saying that when youre up to your ears in alligators, you may not have time to drain the swamp. One should not be surprised that Gunn, who entered the executive suite last May and was blindsided almost immediately with the prospect of missing a payroll, views the grandiose 25th Century whiz-bang plans for super-trains with a sense of earthly reality.
The high-speed rail movement in this country, with all the plans and conferences and the cheerleading for almost two decades, has exactly 18 miles to show for it: a 150 mph stretch of New England trackage on the Acela Express. Elsewhere on the Boston-New York-Washington line, the Acela does not go much faster than the Metroliners that have plied the NEC since the pre-Amtrak Penn Central introduced them in 1969, as that railroad was nearing bankruptcy.
It all comes down to money.
It is not there, says Gunn.
Not to say that there cannot be incremental progress, working with the freight railroads for 90-100-110 mph trains, perhaps adding new tracks to some freight railroad rights-of-way, but building new rights-of-way? Forget it, he says. Not in your lifetime or mine.
Those conferees who heard the Amtrak boss outline where he believes reality begins and ends must have thought they had been transported to another planet by a panel that same morning of Capitol Hill staffers who discussed very extensive legislation for high speed rail, and a reception the previous evening at Union Station where Bombardier Transportation unveiled the first 150-mile per hour non-electric rail locomotive designed for the North American market, powered by a jet-engine a JetTrain, if you will. That is, in fact, how Bombardier is marketing it.
The post-Gunn panel started off with moderator Don Itzkoff, former high FRA official in the Jolene Molitoris regime there, announcing it was no mistake that John Scheib, Assistant General Counsel for the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure was seated on my right.
Though the quip was intended half in jest, it gets us back to the question of whether there is a right-wing, left-wing, Democrat or Republican way to run a railroad.
It has long been argued in this space that theres enough overlap in both directions on this issue that we ought to be wary of political stereotypes in dealing with it simply because it can get in the way of solving the problems involved.
Allowing as how David Gunn had made a good start, Scheib touted Committee Chairman Don Youngs (R-Alaska) legislation for a $71 billion Ride-21 program to implement high-speed rail, much of it coming from bond issues and input from the states.
His counterpart on the panel, Frank Mulvey, Chief of Staff for Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.-the committees ranking member) argued that the $12 billion bill that his boss is pushing, with lots of support in the House and Senate, is more realistic. The total tab is considerably less, but unlike the Young bill, it provides more in the way of writing out federal checks.
Even supporters of this measure, however, acknowledge that $12 billion is just a start. That drives planners crazy the tendency not to lay out the whole picture so the project can be assessed in a realistic way. The Young bill tries to do that. In fact, at one hearing several months ago, Amtrak Reform Council chairman Gil Carmichael said the main problem with the Young bill is that its $71 billion price tag still falls short of reality. $100 billion would be closer to mark, he said. Oberstar replied that $100 billion would be laughed out of the House.
Scheib said Young believes $12 billion is not enough to get the job done. That may be true, responded Mulvey, but with all the loans involved in the Young bill that would have to be paid back, the states, which at the present time are experiencing shortfalls in a lagging economy, would be burdened with enormous debt that theyre not in a mood to assume right now.
There was some discussion of efforts to reauthorize the T-21 bill in the year ahead, and that high-speed rail might be part of that. In fact, Mulvey said it was his hope that rail would play a more important part in T-21 than it did last time around. Scheib said he was cautiously optimistic about the position of rail for the T-21 reauthorization.
A rail trust fund? Gunn had said there should be one (See D:F last week A Rail Trust Fund: Does it Have legs?), but he also stated he had no silver bullet solution as to how to structure it. Nor does anyone else have trust fund plan that can surmount political and/or economic hurdles.
NARP (National Association of Railroad Passengers) last month filed a statement on this issue with the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. NARP Executive Director Ross Capon concluded that the key to realizing upgraded rail service, both freight and passenger, will be a long-term federal partnership with states, and an adequately supported Rail Trust Fund that would bring balance into national transportation policy, and ultimately benefit the users of every mode of transportation.
The statement candidly assessed the arguments for and against trying to create a trust fund through such methods as ticket taxes (on commuter rail and Amtrak), equipment taxes, and applying the 4.3-cent fuel tax the railroads pay. The biggest drawback to the latter is that the freight railroads, which pay the lions share of this tax, believe the feds have put them at a disadvantage by making them pay the fee while allowing highway and airway competitors off the hook.
In the panel discussion, Scheib, the staffer for Youngs committee, said, From a personal perspective, I dont buy it (the trust fund concept).
Scheib added, Its really easy to make an argument that highways have a trust fund, air has a trust fund, and by symmetry rail should have a trust fund, but that ignores the differences in those industries. Trucks operate on highways. When you pay at the pump, you pay for those highways as well. When you buy a ticket on an airplane, you pay into the Aviation Trust Fund. Those private companies use federally financed and federally developed infrastructure. Railroads are private companies that operate on privately owned, privately financed, privately maintained infrastructure. The moment you take the 4.3-cent tax and put it into a trust fund, and you let the government pick who gets money, youre cross-subsidizing one competitor against another.
Secondly, the money that would accrue (about $170 million) is just not enough to do the job, Scheib argued, as he went on to disparage a trust fund proposal by Rep. Bill Lipinski (D-Ill.) who wants to take the 4.3-cent fuel tax and add another tax on new rail cars. Still not enough, since there isnt that much construction of rail cars right now, Scheib said.
The argument that rail needs a trust fund just because air and highways have that advantage amounts to whining, according to Scheib.
Whining? Does he mean, for example, press releases put out by his committee and other entities that might as well read, Help! Murder! Police! The hundreds of billions weve sunk into highways are not enough! Our roads are falling apart. We need billions more, or well all be back on dirt lanes! Help! Is that the kind of whining Scheib is talking about?
Some questions from the audience noted that in 1893 the New York Centrals Empire State Express upped its speed to over 100 mph with no cross-subsidy in transportation, that some Japanese passenger railroads are profitable, and that taxing passengers is counter-productive.
David Gunns statement that we wont see TGVs criss-crossing the country in our lifetime may be a bit overdrawn. Gunn is trying to build up what we already have, and so it is understandable that he would be focused on that. I believe, though, that some of our younger (and perhaps middle-aged) readers may very well live to see a highly developed high-speed rail program in the U.S. Even if I dont live to see it, I would want my children and grandchildren to have it available as a quality-of-life option as urban populations expand to high projected levels. Nonetheless, we should face the reality of serious hurdles we will need to overcome.
The drive toward-high speed rail is going to be a slowly evolving deliberative process. Notwithstanding that we have tweaked Scheib on the issue of whining, he is dead right when he outlines some simple political realities.
Heres the real [inside] dope, he says.
If you think youre going to get into the Highway Trust Fund without a fight from the truckers, youre crazy, because they will fight tooth and nail to see that rail doesnt get in there.
Similarly, he adds, using the 4.3 cents to create a rail trust fund is not going to have the backing of the AAR, the voice of the freight carriers.
If I were a CEO of one of the Class Is, and I believed that I was being asked to kick in a disproportionate amount of money to a trust fund that provides more benefits to other entities other than the one for which I was responsible, I would resist rolling over and playing dead on this one lest I be faced with a shareholder or board of directors revolt for my scalp.
A trust fund may or may not be in the offing. Expect that it will come from careful negotiations with the freight railroads, which are not all on the same page as to exactly what they are willing to do.
David Gunn and Gil Carmichael have said (separately) that in private conversations, the freight boys, as Carmichael calls them, understand that something is going to have to give. It is harder for them to get the loans they need for infrastructure buildups because the banks and Wall Street are skeptical of their ability to stay afloat in the long run without some government assistance. Carmichael has said UPS would give more business to the freight railroads if they could get more of their trains up to 90 mph.
At the same time, AARs member railroads are skittish lest they be taken for a ride, so to speak. Someone somehow will need to seek out common ground. That will take time.
As Gunn has said, the money isnt there. Thus, his incremental approach is the best bet for the immediate future. Mutually beneficial agreements between freight and passenger carriers are not impossible.
The Capitol Corridors project (See last weeks report on the conference) is a prime example of what can be done to accommodate the best interests of both. There is no deep dark wave of a magic wand involved here. Gene Skoropowski who heads the Capitol Corridor passenger line in Northern California made it clear from the outset that he did not expect Union Pacific to shortchange its shareholders by trying to assume the role of a charity. A mutually beneficial agreement means, after all, that both sides gain.
Of all the Class I carriers, UP is generally most skeptical of cooperation with passenger agencies. That they can sign on to a dense corridor with frequent passenger and freight operations indicates there is hope for the future of passenger train expansion.
Dont underestimate the NIMBY factor. There is a lot of resistance in towns and neighborhoods that resent not just new rights-of-way close to their homes, but faster trains on already established track, as well. That, too, will require patience and a certain amount of political diplomacy and give-and-take.
The JetTrain is wonderful but it may take a while to get some corridors to that point. Again, the freight railroads that own the rights-of-way will have to benefit as well.
Getting to where high-speed rail supporters want to be is going to require the patience of a kind best known in other parts of the world. We Americans arent temperamentally or culturally attuned to that ethic. Our can do approach has geared us toward an expectation of instant gratification. We missed the train (No pun intended) after World War II when our transportation decisions were made for us and before most of us paid attention to what was going on. We are now paying for that, and getting out of that hole will be a long-range proposition.
Making plans on a drawing board is relatively easy, and theres nothing wrong with that, but drawing lines on a map is easy. Now comes the real world.
Return to index
|Do water taxis and trains go together?|
Neal Pierce, a writer in the Washington Post Writers Group, wrote a column for October 20 looking at sealane commuting, instead of taking a train, a bus, or least of all, driving.
In NCIs view, all modes of transportation should work together, to give commuters seamless transportation just as the freight railroads try to do with their freight cars.
In his column, titled, Water transit: our urban future? Pierce wrote, A small fleet of jaunty water taxis, 53-foot catamarans painted yellow with a checkerboard strip reminiscent of Manhattans old Checker cabs, has just begun to ply the waters daily between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, and then asked rhetorically, Are these boats harbingers of choice and change in urban transportation, an alternative to the gridlock, fumes and frustration of normal land routes?
He noted that Zipping on a clear, windy Saturday morning from Brooklyns historic Fulton Street landing, past the Brooklyn Bridge, catching a great view of the Statute of Liberty, touching in quickly at Battery Park City, the World Financial Center, Chelsea Piers and West 44th Street all within a few minutes I turned into a true believer.
He explained that New York already has big ferries bringing thousands of workers from New Jersey and State Island to Manhattan. But Tom Fox, New York Water Taxi founder, and his billionaire backer, real estate mogul Douglas Durst, have an even wider vision.
Fox and Durst say high-quality water taxis can fill a vital niche, not just serving tourists and commuters but bringing new life and connectivity to sometimes-isolated neighborhoods as well as opening up new parks and cultural institutions along the waterfront.
Pierce had known Fox since the 1980s, who fought Westway, the proposed mega-highway development on Manhattans west side.
He wanted a park.
Foxs water taxis specially designed with low wake hulls and spunky but environmentally friendly engines are running right along it.
Its an especially sweet moment for Fox, because hed tried water taxi service in 1997 but failed for lack of sufficient backing or powerful enough equipment. With Dursts hefty financial support, the prospects are now brighter. Plus, Lower Manhattan needs radically improved transportation links to complete its post-September 11 recovery.
On the fiscal side, theres the market of the millions of tourists who continue to pour into New York even more now to visit the World Trade Center site, directly on Foxs route.
Pierce notes other water taxi services exist, like the 25-minute commuter boat run from Hingham, 17 miles south of Boston. He also takes note of federal funding available,
No sitting for hours on expressways, he notes.
He also cites the San Francisco Bay Water Transportation Authority, which is well into a 10-year plan that will have 70 ferries operating out of 28 terminals. From Seattles fabled ferry fleets to proposed service on the Intracoastal Waterway at Palm Beach, Fla., from Louisville, Ky. to Lake Tahoe, Nevada, proposed new ferry and water taxi services are sprouting up broadly.
Return to index
I am an M.A. student in Railway Studies at the Univ. of York in England, although I am of American nationality.
I have a question regarding where one can find statistical data on passenger and freight traffic figures for the United States, as well as technical data on the amount of CO2 emitted by various models of diesel locomotives at different levels of load. Would the AAR be the best people to consult on this?
Also, any economic figures would be useful as well, such as the percentage of revenue from different services the railroads provide, especially in relation to operating expenses.
I am also looking for any figures on other transport modes in the U.S.
Jonathan G. Searles
Return to index
Midwest High Speed Rail Coalition
Airports around the world are using high-quality commuter and regional rail service to improve their service offerings and strengthen their competitive position.
Find out how high-quality rail service can benefit OHare and the regions other airports
$15 includes boxed lunch, $5 if you bring your own.
RSVP at 312-409-7723, or go to: www.oharedirect.org
Boston to Montreal High Speed Rail Meetings
Public meetings to hear the findings of the Boston-Montreal high-speed rail study have been scheduled at the following locations: All meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m.
New Hampshire: November 12, New Hampshire DOT John O. Morton Building on Hazen Drive, Concord.
The second round of meetings will provide a review of the draft results and study recommendations.
Surface Transportation and Sprawl:
This seminar is designed to help reporters and editors get beyond the clichés and enrich that work, even as Congress begins to debate the next big highway bill.
Topics will include Building a highway with asphalt and influence, Are cities designed for humans any more? Also, transportation and the environment; the politics of transportation; the ups and downs of passenger rail; the social costs of a commuting life.
The 15 expenses-paid fellowships are available to qualified journalists. Fellowships include airfare, hotel and most meals.
There is no application form. You can apply by mail, e-mail or fax. To apply, send a letter making your case for attending, a letter of support from your supervisor, a brief bio, and a clip (not a web site reference) or VHS or audio tape (if youre an editor send a sample of work youve edited). Applications will not be returned. Applications must be received by 5 p.m., October 11. Send applications to National Press Foundation, Transportation 2002, 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 310, Washington, D.C. 20036. E-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Fax is 202-530-2855. Call for information at 202-663-7280, ext. 106. Check out http://www.nationalpress.org for more information.
Underwritten by the Kiplinger Foundation, with support from the NPF Program Fund (Times Mirror Foundation, ABC Inc., and others).
The National Press Foundation is a non-profit educational foundation.
Return to index
EBT may be chugging away for good
Clouds of white steam change to thick gray smoke, filling the air with the greasy smell of burning coal as the East Broad Top Railroads Locomotive No. 14 chugs and churns into motion in Rockhill Furnace.
Hundreds of rail enthusiasts come to this tiny central Pennsylvania town for the railroads annual Fall Spectacular, writes The APs Dan Lewerenz. His story appeared in the Penn State Universitys Centre Daily Times online on October 21.
They ride in red velvet seats on the same passenger cars that once carried people from towns like Robertsdale and Orbisonia to Mount Union, where they could meet up with the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad.
They inspect the engines in the roundhouse that are undergoing renovations. They examine tools that were left in the shop when the East Broad Top stopped operating almost 50 years ago.
Whats really great about this place is its not just a ride on a train. Theres lots of places you can ride a train, said Fred Cox, 56, of Newark, Del., who attended the Fall Spectacular with his son, Stephen.
Here, you can get a real feel for what the railroad was like. Its all here.
While visitors revel in the past, the sites future is less certain.
Tourist traffic is falling off at this out-of-the-way junction about 60 miles southeast of Altoona, and recent talks between the owner and potential buyers have broken off.
Although owner Joe Kovalchick, of Indiana, Penn., talks in loving terms about the railroad, he refuses to say whether it will even operate next season.
Chartered in 1856 to move coal from the mines on Broad Top Mountain, near the spot where Huntingdon, Bedford and Fulton counties meet, the East Broad Top carried both passengers and freight for more than 80 years.
By World War II, the railroad was falling victim to greater economic forces. Roads were replacing rail for carrying both passengers and cargo, and oil and natural gas were replacing coal. The last passengers rode in 1954, and the railroad went out of business in 1956.
In 1960, officials in Orbisonia asked Nick Kovalchick if he would take one of the engines out of retirement for the boroughs bicentennial.
Kovalchick did one better he called out some of the old train crews and ran a train from Orbisonia Station north a few miles to Colgate Grove. That tourist train has been operating every June through October ever since.
Joe Kovalchick says the line is losing money, as visitation has dropped from some 20,000 riders per year in the 1960s to about 10,000 in recent years.
Several attempts since to sell the railroad have failed in the last 20 years. Kovalchick rejected the most recent offer, saying it was millions of dollars below what the railroad was worth.
The last trains of the season will run Sunday, and Kovalchick wont say whether the East Broad Top will operate next year.
To give you specifics on the future, I dont have any, he said. Under the right circumstances to the right people, it could be sold.
Return to index
NCI: Leo King collection Great Northern Ry.A 1,000hp diesel-electric combination road and switch locomotive on Great Northern Ry. Thats all the GN publicist wrote for the cutline to go with this 1950s era publicity photo. His office was in St. Paul, Minn., but no indication where the train was located.
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 email@example.com. 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.