Vol. 6 No. 51
December 12, 2005

Copyright © 2005
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Destination:Freedom
The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass      Editor - Molly McKay
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

A weekly North American rail and transit update

For railroad professionals
Political leaders at all levels of government
Journalists from all media

* Now in our Sixth Year *

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IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

  News Items... 
Warning: Possible Amtrak strike ahead
Weyrich appoints fired Amtrak chief to
   Free Congress Foundation faculty
Southern observations
The Amtrak 2006 Calendar
  Safety lines… 
Congressman Lynch (D-MA) introduces Rail Worker Emergency Training Act
Several accidents at grade crossings reported this past week
Utility to pay $565,000 to settle train crash case
  Environmental lines… 
States to move on cutting emissions Reluctant Mass.
   may be left behind
  Commuter lines… 
MBTA Purchases 155 new buses
BART extension fund request withdrawn for now
Design finished, new train cars are put out to bid- Metro North
Extra hearing set for RTA’s budget
  Across the Pond… 
French TGV Begins Operational Trial Runs in Germany
Deutsche Bahn Begins High Speed Trials of Newest
   Rail Corridor Nürnberg - Ingolstadt
  Friday Closing Quotes… 
  Opinion… 
Gunn did fine job improving Amtrak
  Guest Commentary… 
All Aboard: Aggravation for Amtrak
  End notes… 

Continuing improvements to Keystone corridor

For NCI - Photo: Mike Brotzman

Improvements on the Keystone Corridor continue. Here a freight bypass track is being installed at Cork Interlocking in Lancaster, PA. Could a strike bring a halt to these system improvements?

 

Warning: Possible Amtrak Strike Ahead

From the Internet

NEWARK, NJ -- The head of Amtrak’s maintenance union says a strike that would cripple train service between Boston and Washington, D.C., may now be “inevitable,” NJBIZ, A New Jersey business publication, is reporting.

A strike would shut much of the NJ Transit system as well, since many of its trains run on Amtrak-owned rails.

Reporter Brian Quinlan wrote that Jed Dodd, president of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Workers, said that Amtrak management hasn’t negotiated for more than a year, even though the contract for the 2,500 union employees expired six years ago. The talks have been under the auspices of the National Mediation Board since then. The parties would have to be released from mediation before a strike could begin.

Members of the maintenance union and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen picketed Newark’s Penn Station for a day last month to protest the stalemate in contract talks. The picketers also protested Amtrak’s plan to split off the 457-mile Boston-to-Washington Northeast Corridor line from the rest of the railroad.

More than 3.8 million New Jersey riders boarded Amtrak trains last year. Meanwhile, 100,000 passengers ride NJ Transit trains each day. Dan Stessel, a NJ Transit spokesperson, says the system is a tenant of Amtrak’s and couldn’t legally run its trains if the maintenance workers walked out.

NJ Transit pays Amtrak $110 million a year to use its rails. In New Jersey, a strike would halt Northeast Corridor service between Trenton and New York City, plus Atlantic City-Philadelphia service and portions of the North Jersey Coast, Raritan Valley, Morristown and Montclair-Boonton lines. All NJ Transit service into New York City would be stopped. “Our trains rely on the Amtrak infrastructure,” Stessel says.

A strike would have an enormous impact on New Jersey commuters, says Dave Johnson, a spokesperson for the National Association of Rail Road Passengers, in Washington, D.C. “If the trains are shut down, it would force people to spill over onto the roadways and the PATH Trains [from New Jersey to New York City], which are already at capacity.”

Dodd doubts that other maintenance workers could be recruited to fill in for strikers in the event of a walkout. Railroad workers are “very loyal to one another,” he says, and would refuse to cross picket lines.

“We’re the ones that keep the tracks parallel. It’s a very delicate balance,” Dodd says. “I wouldn’t run an engine down [the track] if we’re not there.”

Amtrak Spokesperson William Schulz says Amtrak wants to negotiate a contract “that is fair to workers, contains costs and make us more efficient.

“Such an offer was made last year,” Schulz says, but the union rejected it without comment. The offer covered pay increases and co-payments for medical expenses. Schulz says he doesn’t know when new talks will be scheduled.

Schulz says the notion that Amtrak executives want to force a strike “couldn’t be further from the truth.” He says Amtrak recently reached comprehensive agreements with three unions that represent food-service workers, baggage handlers, reservation agents and onboard service supervisors.

At the heart of the protracted dispute, says Dodd, are Amtrak’s plans to eliminate overtime and reduce compensation for union employees who are injured on the job. About one-third of the workers’ salaries come from overtime.

The maintenance workers have agreed to contribute up to $100 a month for medical insurance and are demanding retroactive pay increases of 3% to 4%. Dodd says the average maintenance worker earns about $19 an hour. He says the union is willing to go to binding arbitration if Amtrak would accept it.

Meanwhile, he says the union has asked to be released from mediation “several times,” but the three-member National Mediation Board has refused to grant it.

Once the parties are released, there would be a 30-day “cooling off period,” Dodd says. President Bush would then appoint an emergency board that would have another 30 days to make recommendations. If Amtrak and the union refused to accept the recommendations, a walkout could begin.

NJBIZ Reporter Brian Quinlan may be reached at: E-mail to bquinlan@njbiz.com


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Weyrich appoints fired Amtrak Chief
To Free Congress Foundation Faculty

From published reports and by DF Staff

WASHINGTON – Influential conservative leader Paul Weyrich has appointed former Amtrak President & CEO David Gunn an adjunct faculty member of his Free Congress Foundation, a culture-wars oriented institute that seeks to restore traditional Western values to American political and cultural life.

In a statement making the announcement, Weyrich, who was angered by Gunn’s dismissal from Amtrak in November, revealed that he had sought to recruit Gunn as President of Amtrak more than a decade ago when the famed Graham Claytor Jr. announced his plans to retire. Weyrich, a long time rail advocate who has been a frequent commentator on the need for a balanced transportation system for America, served on the Amtrak Board at the time. Gunn at that time had turned him down, but acceded to a recruiting effort in 2002 when then-Amtrak Board Chairman John Robert Smith (who also chairs the National Corridors Initiative) and Vice Chair Michael S. Dukakis asked him to serve.

Weyrich stated: “There is no one like Gunn. He is tough yet kind. Before he took over the New York City transit system [one of several rescue jobs Gunn has undertaken over the years – editor’s note] the system had been considered ungovernable. Trains were so unreliable that residents of New York had begun to seek other forms of transportation. The subway cars were dirty and filled with graffiti. The unions were out of control and continually threatened to strike.

“Within a short period of time Gunn had cleaned up the trains. There was no more graffiti. He vastly increased the reliability of the trains. The New York subway system continues to rely upon the techniques instituted by Gunn and remains reliable. There is now four times the mileage a subway car travels before it needs to be overhauled, thanks to the Gunn system. He immediately proved his mettle with the labor unions and offered them reasonable contracts. Ridership increased so much that the New York subway system began to have capacity problems,” noted Weyrich [for Paul Weyrich’s complete statement see his Guest Commentary in this issue.]

Weyrich, who has spoken at a number of National Corridors Initiative conferences, is the founder of the Heritage Foundation as well as a former member of the Amtrak Reform Council. He has for many years been one of America’s most influential conservative voices.

He noted that many in Congress and elsewhere are calling for the re-instatement of David Gunn as President & CEO of Amtrak, although such an eventuality seems “unlikely”. Gunn’s firing is also seen as potentially illegal, since the current Amtrak Board may not have been correctly constituted.


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Southern Observations

By DF Staff

At least in Tennessee and North Carolina, rail transportation is showing that it has bi-partisan support in the just-passed fiscal year 2006 Federal spending bill. In the Volunteer state, Republican Senators Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander worked to get $6 million appropriated for Nashville’s Music City Star.

The projects future could have been in jeopardy without this federal funding, and I am pleased that we were able to help Nashville area residents score an important victory, said Frist in a story in Nashville’s City Paper,

Senator Alexander indicated that, for Nashville to continue to grow, investments in different transportation modes were needed in order to limit congestion and air pollution, saying “This funding is critical to ensure that the Music City Star leaves the station in 2006. ”

The Regional Transit Authority, or RTA, which is the entity that is building and will operate the Star, had hoped to begin service by the end of this year but was experiencing a $6.2 million gap in federal funding. The RTA has been working to secure a bridge loan to allow it to begin service in 2006, but Rail Project Manager Allyson Shumate was concerned that the interest rate was too high.

Now that we have the conference report showing the appropriation coming through, we will see if that can issue some kind of line of credit at a better rate, Shumate was quoted as saying in The City Paper article. The RTA will also look at whether it’s better to borrow the money now or just wait for the appropriation to come through. Shumate says that a bank loan back during the summer would have saved the RTA six-to-eight months and that a bridge loan now could save the project up to four months.

The Music City Star will serve six communities to the west of Nashville over 32 miles of track and is projected to cost $39.7 million. Start up is now scheduled for spring of 2006.

In North Carolina, Senator Elizabeth Dole has worked hand-in-hand with her Democrat House colleague, Rep. Davis Price, to secure $20 million for the Triangle Transit Authority’s $810 million regional rail project. In addition, the legislators were able to get the Federal Transit Administration to look favorably on the project by persuading the agency to evaluate the project under the less-stringent rules that were in place when it was proposed, according to the Charlotte News & Observer newspaper.

“We have some good momentum,” the paper quoted TTA General Manager John Calfin. “And when we get some issues worked out with the Federal Transit Administration, there’s no reason why this project shouldn’t move forward now. I think this was key.”

Triangle Transit will link 12 stations over 32 miles between Durham and Raleigh, North Carolina. Equipment will be DMUs made by Korean manufacturer Rotem, which had a mock-up of the proposed vehicle on display at the APTA Expo in Dallas last October.

Not all Republicans in NC get transit, however. According to an article in the November 20 edition of the Charlotte News & Observer, 15 of the state’s 57 House Republicans signed a letter written to Senator Dole asking that she not help get the money for the project.

“During the past several months, we have supplied your office with a complete file of very convincing factual information indicating what a boondoggle the train project is,” wrote the Republican House members, “and how ALL good Republicans in the area are adamantly opposed to spending the huge amounts on a train.”

The letter goes on to say that people will not ride the train and so it should not get tax money.

Following this logic, Republicans who do support the train project are now considered bad Republicans, at least by 15 members of the GOP in North Carolina.

In Georgia, the lack of news is deafening. That state’s 425-mile, 55 station Commuter Rail program has been trying to get off the dime for at least a decade, and just as it looked as if the very first, 26-mile, six-station Atlanta-to-Lovejoy Phase I baby step was about to get the green light, the federal infusion needed has not materialized.

Working with host railroad Norfolk Southern, the state has been developing a plan to run three trains inbound in the morning and out at night along the railroad’s former Central of Georgia line. The state has $106 million in federal and state funds, and in a 2004 letter to the Governor, the railroad said that they could work within that limit. However, CSX, which jointly operates six miles of track with NS in downtown Atlanta, was not willing to play ball without some improvements to its infrastructure.

Apparently, NS went to Georgia’s Senator Johnny Isakson, who has been crucial in getting funds for High Speed Rail studies in the Southeast, to find $8 million to satisfy CSX’s concerns. That $8 million was to be attached to $5 million the railroad was seeking to improve its infrastructure at the Hapeville, Ga. Ford Motor plant. But instead of the expected $13 million, only $3 million was appropriated.

No one at the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority or either of the railroads will comment, except to say we are working on it.

All of this comes as the Georgia legislature prepares to begin its 40-day meeting in January. Georgia’s legislature has some people with similar attitudes to North Carolina’s and it is expected that legislation will be introduced to kill the Commuter Train project, so that its funds can be re-directed, as a spokesperson for the right-wing Georgia Public Policy Foundation has said, into needed road projects.

On the bright side, the City of Atlanta finally approved the transfer of some derelict property it owned to the state for the purpose of building the first phase of the planned Multimodal Passenger Terminal in downtown Atlanta. The effort to get the property transferred has been on-going for seven yeas.


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The 2006 Amtrak ®
Wall Calendar

 

Order your 2006 full-color wall calendar featuring the Amtrak ® Empire Builder as photographed by Thomas Cerwin, winner of the Amtrak “Picture Our Train” Wall Calendar Photo Contest.

Dimensions: 23.5 x 34 inches vertical

Price: $8.00 each for Wall Calendar

$5.00 for 11“x17” Calendar

(Bulk quantities and pricing available)

Call 1-800-400-1229 or visit
http://amtrak.com/store/ for details.

 

Amtrak Logo

 

Photo: Amtrak’s Empire Builder
as it passes near Bison, Mt.

Photographer: Tom Cerwin of Bartlett, Ill.


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SAFETY LINES...  Safety lines...

Congressman Lynch introduces
Rail Worker Emergency Training Act

From News Stories and DF Staff

Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA) this week introduced legislation to provide “comprehensive emergency training” for rail workers.

The “Rail Worker Emergency Training Act of 2005,” (H.R. 4372) would establish a comprehensive emergency training program for all rail workers.

Lynch filed his bill in response to reports that an overwhelming majority of surveyed rail workers indicated that America’s railroads are still highly vulnerable to a terrorist attack, natural disaster, and other emergencies due to a number of security gaps and lack of training.

In September, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Rail Security Conference issued a special rail security report entitled “High Alert: Workers Warn of Security Gaps on Nation’s Railroads.”  The report was based on over 4,000 surveys completed by members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED). 

According to the report, “there is a significant lack of adequate rail worker training” for rail workers; 84% of the rail workers surveyed indicated that they had not received any or additional terrorism prevention and response training within the last 12 months; 99% reported that they had not received specific training related to the monitoring of nuclear waste shipments; and 62% indicated that they had not been trained on their role in their railroad’s Emergency Action Plan or Emergency Response Plan. 

Congressman Lynch, in whose district Amtrak’s large Southhampton Yard is situated, has been a leader on the issue of rail security in the 109th Congress.  Earlier this year, Lynch introduced the “Rail Transit Safety and Security Act of 2005,” legislation that would overhaul training for rail workers, expand safety and communications systems, and improve emergency preparedness of America’s rail networks and personnel.  Because the Republican leadership has refused to take up the bill, Lynch introduced the new legislation that focuses on those provisions that improve training for rail workers.

“Four years after September 11th, two years after the Madrid bombings, and six months after the bombings in London, the United States has still not taken the necessary steps to improve rail security,” said Congressman Lynch.  “Our rail workers haven’t received terrorism prevention and response training, and we are wholly unprepared to prevent and respond to a terrorist attack or disaster on the rails.  It’s inexcusable.  This is a low-cost, and enormously effective step we can take to heighten security and preparedness on our railways.  It’s a matter of common sense.”

The Rail Worker Emergency Training Act of 2005 would:

Lynch added, “There are five times as many people who travel by train as compared to those who use airplanes. But since September 11th, the United States has spent 60 times more dollars on airline security than on rail security.  Many of our rail systems have emergency response plans, but they’re worthless if rail workers don’t know they exist.  It’s time to establish clear guidelines for emergency training, and prepare our rail workers to respond to a terrorist attack.”

This week, Lynch’s legislation received letters of support from both the Teamsters Rail Security Conference and Transport Workers Union of America.


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Several accidents at grade crossings reported this past week

From the Internet

In Northbrook, Illinois, December 9, an Amtrak train struck a car that was on the tracks. The driver of the car was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

In the San Diego area, a man in a wheel chair rode onto the tracks in front of a northbound Amtrak locomotive and was killed, reported sheriff’s Capt. Glenn Revell.

“ All safety equipment at the intersection -- including lights and roadway barriers -- was operating properly at the time. The victim apparently ignored the signals and attempted to cross the tracks and was fatally struck by the train,” Revell said.

On Friday, December 2, a 52-year-old man died in the same neighborhood when he rode in front of an Amtrak train in the late morning.

Officials reported that he had been wearing an audio headset at the time of the collision so had probably failed to heed warning lights and signs.

Also, in the Midway section of San Diego, a pedestrian ran in front of an oncoming commuter train and was then hit by a trolley travelling alongside the train.

[ Editor’s note: NCI’s position for ten years has been that at-grade crossings should be closed, tunneled or bridged. ]


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Utility to pay $565,000 to settle train crash case

From the Internet

KISSIMMEE -- The Kissimmee Utility Authority has agreed to pay more than $600,000 in liability costs for the utility’s part in a 1993 train accident, ending the longstanding case, The Osceola (FL) News Gazette reports

Reporter Bryan McBride wrote, “The KUA board of directors voted to approve paying $565,000 in liability costs owed by CSX and Amtrak to American Home Assurance Co., an insurance company covering General Electric.

CSX and Amtrak were found partially liable by the Florida Supreme Court in the train derailment that was caused after a train slammed into GE’s $11 million gas turbine that was on a flatbed truck stuck on the tracks on Old Tampa Highway.

[Editor’s note: grade crossing accidents kill more than 400 people every year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics see: www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/2000/html/2-1.htm ]

Because KUA and CSX had previously signed an agreement that the utility would pay for any damages to any train equipment in the railroad crossing area, the Supreme Court ruled that the utility should pay the insurance liability cost, said KUA spokesman Chris Gent.

While the court ruling was in 2000, KUA had just received the invoice from GE’s insurance company, Gent said.

“It’s just been a long and drawn out process,” the paper reported.

Rountree Transport and Rigging Inc. of Davie, which was also found liable, was transporting the 82-ton turbine to KUA’s Cane Island power plant on a tractor-trailer when it got stuck trying to cross the tracks on Old Tampa Highway in Intercession City.

Minutes later, the eight-car Amtrak train carrying 98 passengers and crew members arrived. It slammed into the immobile truck at a speed of up to 79 mph.

Four train cars and the engine derailed after the accident, and about 64 passengers and crew were treated for mostly minor injuries.

KUA was never found liable for the crash, Gent said.

KUA President and General Manager Jim Welsh, who was standing by the turbine at the tracks before the impact, recalled that day during the board meeting Wednesday..

“I peeked around and saw about 100 yards away, a train moving toward us at 80 mph,” Welsh said.

After the crash he turned and saw “crumpled up passenger cars.”

“How that occurred without anyone killed or maimed is a mystery to me,” he said.


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES...  Environmental lines...

States to move on cutting emissions
Reluctant Mass. may be left behind

By Beth Daley, Globe Staff

December 2 -- Seven Northeast states decided yesterday to move forward without Massachusetts on a landmark agreement to limit power plant emissions, because of the Romney administration’s reluctance to act on the pact, according to two government officials involved in the negotiations.

However, officials for the seven states told Massachusetts officials in a conference call yesterday that they hoped the Bay State would still sign on before the pact is formally announced by Dec. 15, according to the two officials, who were on the call and declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the negotiations. They said that after the other states made their intentions clear, the Massachusetts officials left the phone call.

Governor Mitt Romney has raised concerns in recent weeks over the cost of the greenhouse gas reduction program for businesses, among other issues. Romney has proposed that the agreement cap the price that power plants would pay to emit pollution. Other states and environmentalists have strongly opposed a cap.

After the call yesterday, Romney’s environmental chief said the state was still working hard to negotiate a compromise acceptable to Massachusetts for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. But he gave no timetable.

‘‘We are fully interested in working on these issues with our counterparts in the other states,” said Stephen R. Pritchard, secretary of environmental affairs. ‘‘We don’t have a resolution or deadline. . . . We continue to work hard on it and resolve some of the issues.”

Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, are released from power plants and automobiles, trapping heat in the atmosphere. Many scientists say the earth is heating up more rapidly because of release of the bases caused by human activity. While a group of industrialized countries has signed on to a global pact to reduce emissions, called the Kyoto Protocol, US officials have refused to do so, saying they want developing countries to also be part of the agreement.

It is still unclear if Rhode Island, which has also wavered in recent weeks on joining the pact, will follow the lead of Massachusetts, according to the two government officials on the call who spoke to the Globe. They said the Rhode Island officials indicated during the call that they were not in favor of Romney’s price cap, although they had other concerns. Rhode Island officials could not be reached for comment last night.

The development is the latest in the 2 1/2 years of negotiations over the pact, which would freeze power plant carbon dioxide emissions at their current levels and then reduce them 10 percent by 2020. In addition to the other New England states, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware would be part of the agreement.

The initiative is the first major effort to bypass President Bush’s refusal to enact strict limits on greenhouse gases. Massachusetts is considered a pivotal player in the pact and has helped lead negotiations. Participants had hoped to announce the agreement yesterday to coincide with a key climate-change meeting going on through next week in Montreal.

Romney spoke enthusiastically about the proposal early last month, calling it ‘‘good business” and a way to encourage an investment in clean technology, although he raised some concerns at the time. Then two weeks ago, Massachusetts officials asked the other states to delay yesterday’s planned announcement until Dec. 15 to sort out disagreements.

But since then, the two government officials said, Romney has not put anything in writing for the other states to work with to move the pact forward. While the call was cordial, the two officials said other states said they had no choice but to move forward.

One of the officials who spoke to the Globe said that while Romney originally raised one issue, the administration kept bringing up new issues. ‘‘They were given two extra weeks,” the official said. ‘‘We agreed to delay it two weeks, but they did not put a proposal on the table.”

The nine-state plan pivots on a program called cap and trade, similar to the successful national acid rain program that has greatly reduced pollution. Under a cap and trade program, an overall limit of emissions is set. Companies would get some right to pollute, but they would have to buy or trade credits for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit over that limit. Companies that pollute more could buy credits from companies that emit less. No price would be set for those credits in order to encourage the market to determine a cost for each one. If the price to pollute gets high enough, power companies would be encouraged to invest in and develop low-pollution technology.

Romney wants a price cap on how much power plants would pay for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit over the allowed amount. Many businesses like the idea because it would provide certainty of how much they would pay to do business. In recent weeks, businesses have lobbied hard for Romney to reject the pact, with Robert Ruddock, general counsel for Associated Industries of Massachusetts, saying it would have ‘‘in our view significant price impacts.”

Environmentalists, some businesses, and the negotiating states, however, have rejected the idea of a price cap, saying it merely places a tax on power plants and allows them to buy the right to pollute beyond the emission limit. Environmental groups have been lobbying equally hard for Massachusetts to join the pact and to reject the insistence on a price cap, saying it would discourage companies from investing in pollution-control equipment.

In recent weeks, three analyses conducted for the participating states have indicated that the annual electric bills for households would rise between $3.01 and $33.23 for the next 15 years without a price cap because companies would pass along the cost of the program. If money collected for pollution credits was used to offset that cost, consumers could see household bills fall by more than $100 annually.

Environmentalists said yesterday they held hope that Massachusetts would join the pact, but that a system with price caps would undermine its integrity.

‘‘It would be better to have a real market system to encourage investment into clean technology with fewer states than to have the whole program converted into a carbon tax,” said Environmental Defense president Fred Krupp.

Beth Daley can be reached at bdaley@globe.com


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

MBTA Purchases 155 new buses

Developed from Press Releases

The MBTA Board of Directors has unanimously approved the purchase of 155 new, environmentally friendly buses with low floors and automated stop announcement systems. Under a $52.8 million contract, the forty-foot buses will be manufactured and delivered by the New Flyer of America, Inc. of St. Cloud, Minnesota.

The announcement comes on the heels of word that Neoplan Bus of Colorado will cease operations in January of 2006. Neoplan had been under contract to supply the MBTA with low-floor buses but was not able to meet its contractual obligations. To date, only a portion of the order has been delivered from Neoplan with delivery of remaining units in limbo.

This procurement will bring to 768 the number of new buses purchased by the MBTA over the last three years.

“This is the new face of the MBTA,” said Transportation Secretary John Cogliano. “Building on the Romney Administration’s call for better transportation infrastructure and customer service, these new buses will offer modern amenities and dramatically increase the reliability of our bus fleet. Our customers deserve the right to expect that the T does all it can to provide on-time performance, and this procurement delivers on that expectation.”

“Due to the Board of Directors’ massive investment in the future of MBTA Bus Operations, service has never been more reliable, safer, and more comfortable than it is today,” said MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas. “For the hundreds of thousands of daily customers who use MBTA buses, the days of wondering whether the next bus will be accessible or equipped with air conditioning and heating units are over. Forever.”

Manufactured with emissions control diesel technology and powered by Ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, the 155 buses will allow the MBTA to further enhance the quality of life in the areas it serves by continuing to significantly reduce the levels of emissions from engine exhaust.

In addition to the hundreds of new buses, the MBTA has opened a state-of-the-art Bus Operations Control Center that allows dispatchers to closely monitor the movements of all vehicles and has also built or improved maintenance facilities that give machinists and repairers the tools and equipment needed to keep the fleet operating at peak performance levels.


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BART extension fund request withdrawn for now

SAN FRANCISCO --The Valley Transportation Authority will not be seeking funds right now for the BART extension from Fremont to San Jose and Santa Clara, reported the San Francisco Business Times.

Hoping to avoid a final rejection by the Federal Transit Administration, Jayme Kunz, Communication Director for the VTA told Times writers Timothy Roberts and Andrew Hamm, “We are temporarily withdrawing our request for funding for the BART extension. We want to take some time to address several concerns.”

The FTA has questioned the desirability of the 16-mile, $4.2 billion project.

Santa Clara County taxpayers voted in 2000 to extend a 1/2 cent sales tax for 30 years to pay for their cost - $2.6 billion. The VTA is hoping for $834 million in federal funds and eventually $649 million from the state. They also may ask voters to approve a second 1/4 cent sales tax boost, reported the Times.

John McLemore, who serves on the VTA board, was quoted as saying that the decision to withdraw the request was”an earthquake. It will really shake people up.” But he said the VTA would come back with another request in a year or two after working out differences with the FTA.


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Design finished, new train cars
are put out to bid - Metro North

By Mark Ginocchio
Staff Writer, Stamford Advocate

December 6 -- Heralded by Gov. M. Jodi Rell as a “significant step forward,” the state Department of Transportation and Metro-North Railroad have completed designs for new rail cars on the New Haven Line.

The technical specifications for the car’s electrical and mechanical parts have been passed on to three companies qualified to bid on the new rail cars, the DOT announced yesterday.

“This is a new day for the state of Connecticut and our 110,000 daily commuters who ride the New Haven and branch lines,” DOT Commissioner Stephen Korta said in a statement yesterday. “This next step in the procurement process is a very important component that will start the selection of a vendor to build the new rail cars.”

The bid specifications were completed close to the timeline estimated by the DOT and Metro-North when Rell announced her $1.3 billion legislativ transportation initiative in February. The initiative includes $667 million for 342 new rail cars.

“We are aggressively moving forward to modernize the Metro-North commuter rail system as quickly as possible,” Rell said in a statement. “This milestone was reached on time -- and that is my expectation for the rest of this extensive project.”

Metro-North President Peter Cannito said he expects to sign a contract for the new cars by spring. The first 50 rail cars could be delivered by the end of 2008.

Specifications for the state’s new M-8 rail cars are similar to the cars recently deployed by New York state on Metro-North’s Hudson and Harlem lines, DOT officials said.

Those cars were built by Quebec-based manufacturer Bombardier Transit Corp., one of the three qualified bidders for the Connecticut rail cars.

The other two bidders are Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. of Yonkers, N.Y., and Siemen’s Transportation Systems of Sacramento, Calif.

The Hudson and Harlem line cars have proven reliable, routinely operating more than 200,000 miles between failures, DOT officials said. They are designed to shelter weather-sensitive components; the New Haven Line’s rail cars were designed with critical components underneath the car and exposed to the elements.

Transportation advocates said the completion of the specifications is good news for commuters.

“I’m very pleased to hear this and I hope plans for the new rail cars continue to stay on time,” said Karen Burnaska, co-chairwoman of the Coastal Corridor Transportation Investment Area, an advisory group to the state’s Transportation Strategy Board.

Burnaska was curious whether the specifications addressed the rail car’s energy efficiency, an issue that was raised earlier this year by the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council.

DOT spokesman Chris Cooper said the specifications include language asking the contractor to explore “reasonable ways to be energy efficient.” But there are also important performance standards that must be met, he added.

The state also announced that a consultant has been retained to help design the rail car’s interior. A design could be completed in the next month and tested by Metro-North consumer focus groups at the beginning of next year, railroad spokesman Dan Brucker said.

Copyright © 2005, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.


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Extra hearing set for RTA’s budget

CHICAGO AREA -- The Chicago Tribune reported that the Regional Transportation Authority will hold an additional hearing next week to give the public more time to review and provide input about next year’s mass-transit budget for the Chicago region, according to RTA Executive Director Stephen Schlickman.

Hearings to receive public feedback on the proposed 2006 RTA budget are scheduled for Tuesday at nine locations throughout the Chicago region. But the Tribune reported Monday that the RTA budget had not been released yet.

The budget book was supposed to be made available to the public no later than Friday. It was posted on the RTA Web site, www.rtachicago.org, on Monday after the Tribune story ran.

Schlickman said Tuesday’s hearings will go on as scheduled, despite a period of only hours for the public, watchdog groups and financial experts to review the proposed budget and offer changes for the final budget when the RTA board votes late next week.

But an extra hearing will be held, probably Dec. 13, at RTA headquarters in downtown Chicago to give the public more time to offer feedback before the RTA board votes, Schlickman said.

The Civic Federation of Chicago on Monday called on the RTA to provide at least 10 business days for review.


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

Two installments by David Beale
NCI European Correspondent

TGV Train Set of Underway to Lille

Photo courtesey of Alstom

TGV Train Set of SNCF French Railways - POS Version - Underway to Lille

 

French TGV begins operational trial runs in Germany

The TGV, the famous French high speed train begins today (6 Dec. 2005) an extended tour of Germany. SNCF, the French state railroad, will begin a comprehensive test program in Germany lasting several months with the goal of qualifying the TGV for daily revenue-service operations on the German rail network.

A newly built POS (Paris - Ost - Süd) version of the TGV, equipped to operate on the 15 kV 16.7 Hz German power supply standard and outfitted with German SIFA and LZB train protection and cab signaling systems, arrived in Munich today and will begin a series of functional tests on the rail network around Munich as well as on the Augsburg–Ulm and Karlsruhe–Freiburg corridors up to speeds of 140 km/h (87 mph). The functionality of the brake system, current collectors (pantographs), train control and cab signaling systems and eltro-magnetic compatibility with track side equipment will be evaluated during this phase of testing.

In mid to late December the TGV will move over to the Hannover - Würzburg high speed line (Germany’s first dedicated high speed rail line opened in 1991) for additional testing at speeds up to 250 km/h. The entire test program is planned to last through late spring 2006. The test program is being paid for by SNCF with technical assistance provided by SNCF, Deutsche Bahn and by Alstom, the prime contractor and builder of the TGV series of high speed trains. SNCF plans sometime in 2007 to operate the TGV POS train sets in regular services from Paris to Frankfurt and Munich via Strasbourg on the new LGV Est high speed rail line currently in final stages of construction. Future TGV services could be extended from Frankfurt to Berlin, part of which runs on a section of the Hannover - Würzburg high speed corridor.

Deutsche Bahn together with Siemens have already completed a similar qualification program for the ICE-3 high speed EMU train set so that it may operate in regular service on the SNCF rail network. That test program resulted in a number of modifications to be made to ICE-3 train sets for operation on the French rail network beyond the obvious multi-voltage capability to accept the 25 kV 50 Hz power standard in France. Siemens and Deutsche Bahn are still discussing terms and conditions for a modification package to be installed in a group of ICE-3 train sets for use into France. DBAG is planning to operate the ICE-3 on the same Frankfurt - Paris route as SNCF will do with its TGV trains in a joint venture with SNCF.


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Nürnberg - Ingolstadt NBS (new high speed rail line) Construction August 2005

Photo courtesy of Deutsche Bahn AG

Nürnberg - Ingolstadt NBS (new high speed rail line) Construction August 2005

 

Deutsche Bahn begins high speed trials of
newest rail corridor, Nürnberg - Ingolstadt

Deutsche Bahn (DBAG) began to run a special test train called ICE-S on the newly built Nürnberg - Ingolstadt high speed line on 1st December. The 89 km (56 mi.) long route is the latest all-new high speed rail corridor to be built in Germany. The ICE-S test train, initially consisting of two ICE-2 locomotives coupled at either end of a single ICE-1 passenger coach loaded with measuring equipment and test stations started the first high speed operational test of the brand new rail line on the 1st of December. DBAG will couple additional ICE-1 coaches into the ICE-S test train as the test program of the newly built high speed rail corridor progresses.

DBAG engineers along with officials of the EBA (Germany’s equivalent of the FRA) will conduct a series of test runs with the ICE-S test train to verify ride quality, stability, and track forces at various speeds up to 330 km/h, which represents a 10% overspeed condition above the planned 300 km/h revenue service speed limit for the double track rail line. The test program will also verify track side and cab signaling system operation, train control and protection operation as well as mechanical and electro-magnetic stability of the overhead power supply and catenary.

Deutsche Bahn plans to place the newly finished Nürnberg - Ingolstadt high speed rail line into regular scheduled operation with ICE trains starting with the June 2006 summer time schedule revision.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)67.0066.65
Canadian National (CNI)80.0280.93
Canadian Pacific (CP)42.1044.50
CSX (CSX)49.0548.85
Florida East Coast (FLA)42.5044.87
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)35.3333.98
Kansas City Southern (KSU)24.6125.00
Norfolk Southern (NSC)42.9144.13
Providence & Worcester (PWX)15.0514.40
Union Pacific (UNP)75.8277.19


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OPINION...  Opinion...

Letter to Editor of Baltimore Sun

Gunn did fine job improving Amtrak

December 7 -- No one in the rail industry accepts the ludicrous assertion that David L. Gunn “stood in the way of reform” (“Fired Amtrak chief stood in the way of reform” (Opinion Commentary, Dec. 1). In three years at Amtrak, Mr. Gunn eliminated 20 percent of Amtrak’s work force and 75 percent of its vice presidents and generated positive cash flow from operations, things that no predecessor had achieved.

Mr. Gunn was fired because he refused to go along with the incompetent Bush administration’s hare-brained scheme to copy the discredited British privatization model for railroads.

Amtrak gets a far smaller subsidy than any other transportation mode in America, and always has.

A decent rail system is possible for America. But it will take money - not rhetoric, and certainly not phony “reforms“ - to achieve it.

Mr. Gunn did a brilliant job with the resources given him.

And let me add that this debate is far from over, because those of us who have fought for better rail service, and balanced transportation, are not yet done.

James P. RePass Providence, R.I.


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GUEST COMMENTARY...  Guest Commentary...

All Aboard: Aggravation for Amtrak

By Paul M. Weyrich
November 30, 2005

Paul Weyrich, one of America’s leading conservative voices who founded the Heritage Foundation and who leads the conservative Free Congress Foundation, has appointed former Amtrak CEO to a position at the FCF; herewith Paul’s commentary on Amtrak and Gunn from this past week.

You can find the original on the Free Congress website: www.freecongress.org/commentaries/2005/051130.asp

 

Readers of this commentary know that over the years I have had a fair amount to do with Amtrak. I worked on its creation with the then General Counsel of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Robert R. (Bob) Kessler. Later, three Secretaries of Transportation appointed me to a total of six one-year terms on the Amtrak Board. The Majority Leader of the United States Senate subsequently appointed me to the newly created Amtrak Reform Council, upon which I served as Vice Chairman for five years, first under Governor Christine Todd Whitman and then under former Federal Railroad Administrator and Amtrak Board Member Gilbert Carmichael.

Our recommendations later were echoed by the Bush Administration, which has shown little interest in Amtrak. For example, the Amtrak Board is to comprise of seven seats. One Member had been appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Two Members are recess appointees whose terms expire on December 31, 2006. The status of another appointee has been questioned in Congress. There have been vacancies - three right now - through much of the Bush Presidency.

The present Board terminated Amtrak President David L. Gunn.

When I was on the Board, the legendary W. Graham Claytor, Jr. was president of Amtrak. In 1992, Claytor announced his retirement and I was appointed to a committee chaired by Philadelphia lawyer David Girard DiCarlo to find a replacement. I reached David Gunn at his home in Nova Scotia and pitched the Amtrak Presidency to him. Had he accepted I would have gone to the wall for him. Alas, he declined. When President William J. Clinton was elected, Claytor chose not to retire and remained Amtrak President for another year, illness then forcing his retirement.

Meanwhile my membership on the Board was not renewed. A new Board gave the Presidency to George D. Warrington, who drove Amtrak to the point of bankruptcy. Warrington left to head New Jersey Transit, from whence he had come to Amtrak.

The Board asked Gunn to take the job and Gunn accepted. I was among the first people Gunn called about that proposal. I asked, “Dave, why didn’t you take the job a decade earlier?” Gunn, known for rescuing transit systems in impossible shape, jokingly replied, “Amtrak wasn’t in bad enough shape for me to take it over when you asked me.”

Gunn faced a terrible situation. The railroad had put up its part ownership of New York’s Madison Square Garden Terminal as collateral for a loan for operating expenses. Debt was at the brink of disaster. Ridership and revenues had declined. Unions made unreasonable demands considering the condition of Amtrak.

In a few years Gunn reduced the work force from 24,000 to 19,000. He reduced the debt. He increased ridership and revenues. And he tamed the unions. Productivity increased immensely. That record caused the Amtrak Chairman to label Gunn “brilliant” a few months before he fired him.

Gunn recommended reforms based upon those proposed by the Amtrak Reform Council. It was a good plan and would have achieved many objectives of the Amtrak Reform Council initiative. Several of us former Reform Council Members embraced the Gunn plan. The plan was based upon what Gunn felt, with his decades of railroad experience, was achievable.

Rather than working with Gunn to find a satisfactory solution, the Amtrak Chairman demanded Gunn’s resignation on the grounds that he was implementing the reforms too slowly. Gunn was stunned. He told the Chairman that he would not resign, that Amtrak would have to terminate him. Upon doing so, Amtrak fired its most competent president.

Upon interviewing some Amtrak management, I learned that management profoundly had respected Gunn. One Amtrak manager said, “Gunn worked well with the employees. When he became Amtrak President, employees were fearful because of his reputation. But Gunn became the best President we ever had.” Another employee, who preferred anonymity because the Amtrak situation is unsettled, said, “Gunn kept his word and always explained everything to us so we knew what he intended to do.” Gunn asserted that he was not inflexible, as the Amtrak Chairman would have had him appear to be. “If the Chairman had been willing to work things out together, I am confident we could have gone forward with the needed reforms.”

There is no one like Gunn. He is tough yet kind. Before he took over the New York City transit system, the system had been considered ungovernable. Trains were so unreliable that residents of New York had begun to seek other forms of transportation. The subway cars were dirty and filled with graffiti. The unions were out of control and continually threatened to strike. Within a short period of time, Gunn had cleaned up the trains. There was no more graffiti. He vastly increased the reliability of the service. The New York subway system continues to rely upon the techniques instituted by Gunn and remains reliable. There is now four times the mileage a subway car travels before it needs to be overhauled, thanks to the Gunn system. He immediately proved his mettle with the labor unions and offered them reasonable contracts. Ridership increased so much that the New York subway system began to have capacity problems.

Gunn similarly improved the Philadelphia transit system. Philadelphia was more hopeless than New York where Gunn’s techniques continue to be used. Although Gunn improved the Philadelphia system in less than three years, the Philadelphia system reverted to its former operating procedure following Gunn’s departure. Philadelphia endured another strike, its second in four years. The relationship between the Philadelphia transit agency, “Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA)”, and the unions is not good.

Gunn spent a few years in both Washington, D.C. and Toronto. In each case, he found it impossible to deal with the Boards. Both transit system boards are unwieldy and bow to local interests. The Washington METRO Board is comprised of representatives from the District of Columbia and five counties in Virginia and Maryland. The large Toronto Board represents every section of Metropolitan Toronto. It nearly is impossible to accomplish change in that city. Gunn left his mark on both cities.

What is the fate of Amtrak now? It is a fatally flawed corporation which was established to fail. We need a reliable rail system in this country as an alternative to the airlines. But the Amtrak system as presently constituted is untenable. The Amtrak Board allegedly is conducting a nationwide search to find a new President. Good luck. Republican Congressman Steven C. LaTourette of Ohio has held hearings questioning the legality of the Amtrak Board action. Some Members of Congress want Gunn re-instated as Amtrak President. That is unlikely to happen.

Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta knows little and cares less about Amtrak. For a suitable reform plan to work, we would need a Secretary of Transportation who could work hand in glove with the Amtrak Board and its President to make things happen. That is unlikely considering Mineta and his disinterest in Amtrak.

I believed that President George W. Bush demonstrated sound judgment when he asked certain cabinet secretaries to serve a second term. The selection of Mineta did not reflect that. Bush had promised to choose a Democrat for his cabinet. Considering the hatred of many Democrats for Bush, Mineta may have been his only choice.

The future of Amtrak looks bleak. Without reform, Congress would be pouring money into a lost cause. Congress wants a rail system. Amtrak has strong support in Congress. But Congress is not willing to approve enough money to make the transit system work. We need a system of high speed corridors, such as those recommended years ago by the Department of Transportation. We need those corridors to be interconnected so longer trips could be taken within the system. That would relieve the airlines of unprofitable routes and permit the railroads to do what they do best, serving corridors from 300 to 500 miles. The success of the Acela trains between Washington and Boston proves that point.

Congress could see to it that Amtrak would limp along until we have a new administration. Hopefully, the next administration will pay attention to Amtrak. I think presidential candidates could run on the platform of reforming Amtrak and establishing high speed corridors. Let’s see if we have any forward thinking candidates who could make Amtrak an issue. Short of that Amtrak is a dead letter. And the one guy who knew how to run Amtrak returned to Nova Scotia.

Paul M. Weyrich is the Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.


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End Notes...

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail the editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

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