In this edition...
Washington -- Citing what USDOT Secretary Norm Mineta called an unusually severe indictment of Amtraks performance in a Government Accountability Office report, Amtraks Board has fired President David Gunn.
Gunn and others disputed the Boards statement and rationale, noting across the board improvements in Amtraks performance since Gunn took the helm in 2002, and the House Rails Subcommittee has ordered Amtrak Board Chair David Laney to appear before it to explain his actions.
The action has provoked a firestorm of criticism aimed at what some see as a politically motivated attempt to destroy Amtrak, even though the Bush Administration lacks the votes in Congress to make the changes it wants.
The GAO reported $1 billion in annual operating losses, and those losses would be growing, and emphasized the railroads need for outside help to address internal weaknesses.
The GAO recommended that the railroad submit a plan showing how it will improve its financial operations, monitor its progress, and report to Congress.
In September, Amtrak President David Gunn had sent a letter to the GAO putting forth the areas he has focused on to get the railroad on its feet: maintaining liquidity, cleaning up the books, rebuilding plant equipment and building an organization that can manage the budget and control costs.
The Bush administration has called for no subsidies for Amtrak, but the House has approved nearly $1.2 million for this year.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Senate voted 93-6 to authorize $11.4 billion for Amtrak over a six-year period.
U.S. Representative Steve LaTourette (R-OH), chair of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, has called a special hearing of his subcommittee for 10 a.m. November 15 in Washington to investigate Amtrak President David Gunns abrupt firing last week.
LaTourette, who is well regarded by industry professionals, is also the sponsor of House Bill 1631 to provide $60 billion for passenger and freight rail projects nationwide, to bring American ground transportation up to world standards. In combination with the Senates support for Amtrak in a 93-6 vote last week to approve the Lott-Lautenberg Bill, LaTourettes bill would be landmark legislation to at last create a world-class American ground transportation system.
In the meantime, nearly 30 members of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, so far, have signed a letter expressing outrage at Gunns firing, and demanding to know how Amtrak Board Chair David Laney could announce Gunns firing given the public record of consistent praise for Gunn.
Your action is shocking given the fact that, time and again, you have publicly praised Mr. Gunn for his hard work and successes since he has joined Amtrak in 2002. Less than two months ago you testified that David Gunns tenure as CEO has been splendid and terrific. You stated, Mr. Gunn has done, as far as I am concerned, a splendid job. He took Amtrak and righted a ship that was listing and about to spill over David Gunn is a terrific operator the letter continued.
The committee members note: moreover, the Administration and Amtrak Board reform proposals could not be implemented without legislation and neither the U.S. House of Representatives nor the U.S. Senate has expressed any support for either proposal.
We therefore demand to know the reasons that Mr. Gunn was fired, and we demand all documentation of any poor performance or personnel issues that would have led to his dismissal, the letter continued, Your firing of Amtrak President David Gunn was a mistake, and we urge you to immediately reconsider your decision.
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WASHINGTON, DC -- United States Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) issued the following statement expressing his outrage over the Bush administrations decision to fire Amtrak President David Gunn. Lautenberg, who has been an advocate for transit and Amtrak since he was first elected to office in 1982, said, A rogue Amtrak board made of up of the Presidents cronies and campaign donors has made a rash decision to terminate CEO David Gunn without any consultation with affected communities or other interested parties. Under David Gunns leadership at Amtrak it has cut its payroll, increased service and attracted a record number of riders, stated Sen. Lautenberg.
Surprisingly this action comes one week after the U.S. Senate voted 93-6 for a bipartisan plan to reform and modernize Amtrak with Mr. Gunns leadership. It is outrageous such action would come at a time when our country is beset with threats of terrorism or natural disasters where evacuation by rail might be required as it was on 9/11 when movement by air or vehicle was almost impossible, he continued.
Over two million people rode Amtrak last month alone, Sen. Lautenberg noted. Should we be pushing those people onto the roadways when the price of a gallon of gasoline is at $2.50? Or, into the crowded skies with all the delays we are facing at airports? In fact, near misses by airliners are up 30 percent over last year. This decision to fire Mr. Gunn is not only wrong, it is dangerous.
Sen. Lautenberg serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, which just last week passed the first long-term capital funding bill in Amtraks 32-year history, at six years and $11.4 billion.
All Aboard Ohio, a nonprofit association, is calling for the immediate reinstatement of Amtrak President David Gunn, and for the resignation of U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.
All Aboard Ohio considers Gunns firing earlier this week as a direct threat to Ohios passenger trains, and to the future of the proposed Ohio Hub System. Gunn was fired by Amtraks board of directors who were appointed by President Bush at the behest of Mineta, said the organization, joining scores of enraged transportation advocates condemning Mineta and the Bush Administration.
This was a power play, plain and simple, between Gunn, who was striving for a more stable Amtrak, and Mineta, who said he wants to bankrupt Amtrak, leading to its disbanding, said Bill Hutchison, president of All Aboard Ohio.
Hutchison noted that this act of desperation by Mineta came only days after the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed Amtrak reform legislation 93-6.
In addition to structurally reforming Amtrak and requiring it to compete with other railroads to operate publicly funded trains, the legislation would also permit an increase in capital funding to modernize Amtraks trains, tracks and stations while reducing its debt burden and lowering its annual operating subsidy by 40 percent, Hutchison noted
Congress recently turned down Minetas request to eliminate dining- and sleeping-car services on trains essentially reducing them to steel-wheeled buses that would have eroded ridership, Hutchison observed.
Mineta clearly saw he was losing ground in his efforts to dismantle Amtrak, Hutchison said. Bush and Minetas delusional desire to sell pieces of Amtrak to private enterprise, which cannot compete with the tens of billions in federal funds given each year to air and highway modes, reveals their double-standard that only passenger trains should live or die in a transportation free-market which does not exist.
If Amtraks future was so important to the Bush Administration, why did Mineta go on a nationwide tour to bash Amtrak rather than attend a single Amtrak board meeting even though he is on the board to seek reforms? Why didnt Mineta instead seek public hearings to learn what Americans want from their rail system? Why is the Bush administration continuing to leave vacant three Amtrak board seats for so long? Why are two of the four board members recess appointments and whose terms expire at years end? demanded Hutchison.
Hutchison noted that at 10 a.m. Nov. 15, U.S. Representative Steve LaTourette (R-Concord, OH), chair of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, will hold a hearing on Gunns firing. Also, LaTourette is sponsoring House Bill 1631 to provide $60 billion for passenger and freight rail development projects nationwide. This bill would allow American travelers and freight to travel as quickly and inexpensively as our competitors in Europe and the Orient.
We support Rep. LaTourettes inquiry, as well as his legislation, Hutchison concluded. A world-class rail system will allow this nation to better compete, but only if its first-class executives arent thrown off the train after finally getting it on the right track.
For further information D:F readers can contact All Aboard Ohio President Bill Hutchison at (614) 882-1716.
It was an ill wind
Natchez, MS --- Katrina, the most destructive hurricane in American history, did terrible damage to the Gulf Coast and South, but the Natchez Democrat reports that some of that damage appears to be creating jobs.
According to a report by Nita McCann, the Canadian National Railroad has agreed to postpone the closing of its Illinois Central Railroad subsidiarys Natchez-to-Brookhaven line for at least one year.
Apparently, the enormous number of trees felled by Katrina has required the opening of some nearby sawmills, and the railroad serves those. While not enough to justify the delay in closing of the line, CN decided to keep it open as a good corporate citizen in the words of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who negotiated the agreement.
For the full story go to: www.natchezdemocrat.com/articles/2005/11/11/news/news92.txt
Bostons Lechmere, Science Park
stations reopened on Saturday.
After 17 months of riding shuttle buses from North Station to various locations in downtown Boston and in Cambridge, commuters will now stay on the train, according to The Boston Globe.
In a story by Mac Daniel, the Globe reported that this link of the Green Line from North Station to Science Park and Lechmere was shut down in June 2004 for repairs and dismantling of the elevated tracks at TD Banknorth Garden. It was scheduled to re-open last summer but work on the ancient viaduct delayed the project. These tracks, which dated back to the early 1900s, have been replaced by a tunnel, under TD Banknorth Garden.
This project has included improvements to track and signal systems, all of which will result in higher speeds. The upshot is this is going to be much improved service .., said Daniel Grabauskas, general manager of the MBTA. When you think back a couple of years, there was the old, elevated screeching noise of the Green Line over Causeway, which you would have to reach by going out into the elements and across four lanes of traffic. This is a major improvement.
Future plans include the extension of the Green Line into East Cambridge, Somerville and West Medford as part of the states pledge to reduce air pollution caused by Big Dig traffic.
MBTA in rolling stock dilema
Bus manufacturer Neoplan USA may close soon, leaving Bostons MBTA in the lurch on a standing order.
The Denver-based bus manufacturer has said it cannot deliver 45 emission-control diesel buses due this month and has also advised the MBTA that it may be facing a production shut-down before the end of 2005 due to serious financial difficulties.
The MBTA and Neoplan have concluded the company will not be able to manufacture and deliver any additional units other than the 18 buses that have already been delivered.
The contract called for 45 due now and an additional 40 to be delivered by May of 2006.
The delay may force the MBTA to extend the life of older busses that it has marked for retirement or scrapping.
Earlier this year, the MBTA ceased accepting delivery of light-rail trolley cars it had ordered from the Italian manufacturer Breda. The trolleys have been plagued with a variety of mechanical issues as well as jumping the track. Despite efforts to apply modifications to both the trolleys and the rails they ply, a final fix has alluded the transportation agency and the manufacturer.
When faced with a trolly shortage in the past, the MBTA has been forced to temporarily close its shortest branch of the Green Line, the E line, which happens to have a parallel bus service (Route 39).
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Seattle monorail killed
The Seattle Times reports that the Seattle Monorail Project has been killed. The 10-mile extension of the existing downtown mono rail was voted down November 9 in a referendum.
A story by Mike Lindblom cites SMP Executive Director John Haley as saying, Transits Been Killed. Its an execution, after voters rejected the multi-billion project.
Bidders had spent about $10 million on the project, and the agency itself has a debt of about $100 million. The monorail was first built for the Seattle Worlds Fair and has served the downtown since 1962.
For the full story go to: www.seattletimes.com
Cleaner cars for New York
New York State announced Wednesday that it would adopt Californias strict new limits on automobile emissions of carbon dioxide, a major global warming gas. Governor Pataki had promised such a move in his State of the State address in 2003, the New York Times reported.
Under this law, car manufacturers must begin cutting carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2009 and reduce those emissions by 30 percent by the year 2012. Car manufacturers argue that these standards can only be mandated by the federal government, but Governor Pataki along with Governor Schwarzenegger believe the federal government is not taking the global warming threat seriously enough so they are taking the matter into their own hands.
Likewise, seven Northeastern states as well as Washington and Oregon have either adopted the California program or are moving in that direction.
The Bush administration has refused to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from any source -- cars, power plants or industrial sites -- preferring a voluntary approach. Congress also has refused to mandate significant increases in fuel efficiency.
( For the full story, go to NY Times.com November 11, editorial section )
Siemens lands major high speed train contract in China
According to a report on Deutsche Bahns cable news channel, Bahn TV, Siemens has received an order for 60 high speed train sets from Chinas national railroad. The train sets, designated CRH 3 by China Railways, are a derivative of the ICE-3 EMU train sets in operation in Germany, Holland and soon in France. Deutsche Bahn, German Railways, currently operates 63 trains sets of the ICE-3 family. This order represents the second international order for Siemens of the ICE-3 family, the first was from Spains RENFE, designated AVE-103, for 26 train sets.
The first three train sets will be built in Germany, while the remaining train sets in this order will be assembled in China by Tangshan Locomotive & Rolling Stock Works with systems and components from Siemens facilities in Erlangen and Krefeld, Germany. Final assembly will take place at China Northern Locomotive & Rolling Stock Industry Corporation (CNR). Siemens values its portion of the order at € 669 million (EUR). This is the second major high speed train order in the past 18 months from China, the first order was awarded to a Japanese and Korean consortium headed by Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. for high speed trains based on the latest versions of JNRs famous bullet train.
The new CRH 3 train sets will be operated on the Beijing - Tianjin corridor starting in 2008.
Deutsche Bahns chief of operations in the German state of North Rhine Westphalia, Karl-Friedrich Rausch, stated at the opening of Rail # tec 2005 (see below) that DB may increase frequencies of ICE-3 high speed trains on the relatively new Frankfurt - Köln high speed line from the current hourly departures to half-hourly as early as 2007. He added, it is not yet known if that rail corridor could handle the additional traffic. ICE-3 electric multiple unit train sets currently travel this corridor at speeds upto 300 km/h (186 mph). Due to the steep gradients on the Frankfurt - Köln high speed line, locomotive hauled trains are not allowed to travel on it under normal circumstances.
The bi-annual German Rail Transt conference and exposition rail # tec ended this week in Dortmund with a 7% increase in visitor attendance and 30% increase in exhibitors compared with the last conference in 2003. Bahn TV, Deutsche Bahns in-house news channel, broadcasted frequently from the DBAG pavilion at rail # tec.
Among the highlights at this years conference was Swiss Bundesbahns presentation about its rail tunnel construct projects under the Alps, when finished, these tunnels at 57 km (35 1/2 miles) will be the longest in the world. Rail car OEMs Bombardier, Siemens, Stadler and Alstom were present. Many rail equipment subcontractors from Germany and elsewhere in Europe were well represented. Germanys minister of transport, Manfred Stolpe, opened the conference.
Although the conference was mostly a German event, 14% of the visitors and 27% of the exhibitors were from other countries. The rail # tec conference in Dortmund is the last major German railroad industry meeting before the 2006 World Cup football championship series starts next summer in various German cities. The 2006 World Cup is viewed as both a major challenge and opportunity for rail transit in Germany, when it will be required to safely and efficiently move hundreds of thousands of soccer fans to and from various game venues all around Germany within just a few weeks time. The challenges posed by the 2006 World Cup series featured prominently on the agenda of rail # tec. The next major rail industry fair and conference will be in autumn 2006 in Berlin, when InnoTrans returns.
Photo courtesey of Deutsche Bahn474 Series DC powered EMU of Hamburg S-Bahn network
Hamburg opens bidding for operation of S-Bahn commuter rail system
The northern German city-state of Hamburg published a Request for Proposal (RFP) for rail operators to bid for operating the classic portion of its S-Bahn commuter rail system, classic meaning the currently existing S-Bahn commuter train routes which operate on third-rail DC power over rail lines mostly separated from the multi-use AC cantenary electrified and non-electrified DB Netz rail lines in and around the city, which are used by DBAGs DB Regio and by Metro Rails Metronome regional commuter trains. The S-Bahn network is currently operated by Deutsche Bahn on behalf of S-Bahn Hamburg GmbH.
The terms of the contract specify that the winning service provided assumes operations in December 2009 through 2017. The affected routes correspond to a traffic volume of 10.5 million train-kilometers. Hamburgs S-Bahn urban/suburban commuter rail network is one of only two DC-third rail powered regional rail networks in Germany (aside from metro / subway trains in Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin, Stuttgart and elsewhere), the other is the large S-Bahn rail network in and around Berlin. Due to the DC third rail power feature, rolling stock used on the Hamburg S-Bahn network is unique and is not readily interchangeable with AC powered EMUs or locomotive hauled rolling stock used in other German and European cities, which will present an extra challenge to the bidders who may be accustomed to bidding on operations of more conventional regional rail lines.
|Burlington Northern & Santa Fe||(BNI)||64.31||64.77|
|Florida East Coast||(FLA)||42.88||43.22|
|Genessee & Wyoming||(GWR)||33.90||33.97|
|Kansas City Southern||(KSU)||23.86||23.87|
|Providence & Worcester||(PWX)||14.04||13.00|
The Bush Administration is self-destructing.
Thats the only possible conclusion from this weeks ham-handed assassination of Amtrak President David Gunn, which anyone outside the Administrations world of cronies and clubs will recognize as the fraud that it is.
Admired as a superb manager by anyone and everyone who has actually run a railroad, and by those who know the industry, Gunn was fired because he refused to agree to the dismemberment of Amtrak --- yet another Bushwhacked plan to damage America while claiming it is an improvement.
As the Bush Administration races towards irrelevancy in its obvious attempt to rule without bothering with impediments like the law or fairness or concepts of right and wrong, it would do well to remember that the people are going to speak again in less than 12 months. We wonder how many will look back with fondness on the behavior of this Administration, which really seems to think it can fool all of the people all of the time.
Blowing up Amtrak to improve it is exactly like burning down a village in order to save it, and betrays precisely the same kind of mentality. America deserves better.
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